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Mrs. F. M. Foster 






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COFYKIGHT, I90I y 1907, 


Set up and elect retyped. Published September, 1901. Reprinted October, 
1909; July, 1904; July, 1905; January, October, 1906. 
New edition June, 1907 ; May, 1908. 


J. 8. Gushing & Co. Berwick A Smith Co. 
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. 


./? 6 



I HAVE tried in the present volume to give an account 
of philosophical development, which shall contain the most 
of what a student can fairly be expected to get from a 
college course, and which shall be adapted to class-room 
work. What I have attempted to accomplish will be 
sufficiently covered in the following statements : 

i. The chief aim has been simplicity, in so far as this 
is possible without losing sight of the real meaning of 
philosophical problems. In summing up the thought of 
any single man, I have left out reference to the minor 
points of his teaching, and have endeavored to emphasize 
the spirit in which he philosophized, and the main prob- 
lems in connection with which he has made an impression. 
Similarly, I have passed over many minor names without 
mention, unless some literary or historical interest creates 
the presumption that the student is already acquainted 
with them in a general way. Of course, the relative space 
that can most profitably be given to different topics is a 
matter of judgment, and I cannot hope that my choice will 
always be approved. But it is clear, I think, that the same 
principle can hardly be used in an introductory work that 
would suit more advanced students. I have tried con- 
tinually to keep in mind the results that can reasonably 
be hoped for from a college class. So, for example, the 
mediaeval period is intrinsically of great importance. But, 
from the standpoint of an introductory course, it has also 
marked disadvantages, and I have, accordingly, only given 
it a brief space. Similarly, I have not attempted to trace 


vi Preface 

the more technical lines of influence from one philosopher 
to another, as they are almost impossible for the student 
to grasp. 

Whatever the success of the present attempt, I think 
there is a place for a book with this selective purpose, 
alongside such a volume as, e.g., Weber's. The attempt 
to give a summary of all the important facts which a stu- 
dent with a more technical interest in philosophy would 
find useful, serves a valuable end, and an end with which 
the present volume does not pretend to compete; but it 
seems to me that the two aims are not altogether com- 
patible in the same book. The wealth of material is 
bound to confuse the beginner, no matter how clearly it 
is put. I have attempted rather to create certain broad, 
general impressions, leaving further details to come from 
other sources. 

2. Whenever I could, I have given the thought of the 
writers in their own words, particularly where the literary 
interest can be made to supplement the philosophical. In 
this way it is possible to give the exposition an attractive- 
ness which no mere summing up could have, and it will 
often supply, I think, by its suggestion of the personality 
back of the thought, a needed clew for the understanding 
of the thought itself. I hope also it may be the means 
of arousing an interest in the masterpieces of philosophy 
at first hand, and may suggest that they have a really 
human and vital side. The desirability of a considerable 
amount of such reading at first hand it is hardly necessary 
to insist upon. The literary interest is also responsible 
for my giving one or two things an amount of space which 
is perhaps not entirely proportionate to their philosophical 

3. I have assumed that the study of the history of phi- 
losophy will centre about the systems of individual men ; 

Preface vii 

but I have tried also to bear in mind the need of relating 
these to the more general history of civilization. This 
I have attempted through the medium of a somewhat 
mild reproduction of the Hegelian philosophy of history. 
Doubtless this might have been made much more attrac- 
tive and illuminating; but I do not think that, given the 
concrete knowledge that can be presupposed in the aver- 
age student, it would be wise to attempt to make this 
aspect of the study otherwise than subordinate in a text- 

In the lists of references which are added to nearly 
every section, the aim has been to give such as the stu- 
dent is likely to find helpful. The list might have been 
enlarged indefinitely, especially by the addition of French 
and German books ; but these can so seldom be made use 
of by the college student to advantage that a reference to 
them did not seem necessary. I have to acknowledge my 
own obligation to very many of these volumes, perhaps to 
Windelband most of all. 

Acknowledgments are due to the following publishers 
for their permission to utilize various translations of philo- 
sophical works : Macmillan & Co. ; Geo. Bell & Sons ; 
A. & C. Black ; Paul, Trench, Triibner & Co. ; Cambridge 
University Press ; Henry Holt & Co. ; Chas. Scribner's 
Sons ; G. P. Putnam's Sons ; Houghton, Mifflin & Co. In 
several cases acknowledgments are due also to the authors 
for a personal permission. 


IN the present revision I have corrected some errors of 
fact, and a large number of mistakes of judgment and 
infelicities of expression. In several cases the exposition 
has been in greater or less part rewritten. I have also 
added references in connection with passages quoted, and 
have brought the bibliographies down to date. I have in 
the revision tried to profit by the criticisms that have come 
to my notice. I have not considered it advisable, however, 
to add essentially to the fulness of the treatment, even in 
the case of matters which in themselves are well worthy 
of greater emphasis. Any number of things of interest 
could have been brought in, but it seemed unwise to 
increase the bulk of the volume. Of course the teacher 
who uses it as a text will naturally in any case supplement 
it to a greater or less extent. In the concluding sections 
only has there been a slight expansion. 

Most of my critics have recognized what were intended 
to be the limitations of the book, and have not blamed me 
too severely for failing to do what I have made no pre- 
tence of attempting. That there was a legitimate field for 
a work of the sort would appear to be indicated by the 
kindly reception which has been given to it; and I trust 
that it is now a little more adequate to its purpose. 




i. The Nature of the History of Philosophy. Primitive Con- 
ceptions of the World i 


2. The Origin of Greek Philosophy 8 

3. The Milesian School Thalcs 12 

4. Heracleitus . . 14 

5. The Eleatic School. Xenophanes, Parmenides, Zeno . . 20 
6. The Mediators. Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Leucippus and 

Democritus 24 

7. The Pythagoreans 33 


8. The Sophists '.'.'.'. ... . .37 

9. 'Socrates '.'...'.'. . ' . . . 49 
10. The Schools of Megara and Elis. Aristippus and the Cyre- 

naics. Antisthenes and the Cynics 59 


11. Plato. The Academy 67 

1. Ethical Philosophy 69 

2. , Social Philosophy . . 82 

3. .The.Nature of t Knowledge. The Theory of Ideas . 86 
12. Aristotle. The. Peripatetics 101 

I. , Metaphysics, Logic, Psychology .... 102 

2. Ethics, Politics, Esthetics 109 


xii Contents 



13. Introduction ng 

14. Epicurus and Epicureanism 122 

15. Zeno. The Stoics 137 

16. The Sceptics . 160 

17. The Scientific Movement. Eclecticism. Philo . , .165 


18. Introduction . . 170 

19. Plotinus and Neo-Platonism 174 

20. Christianity. The Church Fathers. Augustine . .184 



21. Introduction 197 

22. The First Period. Scotus Erigena, Anselm, Abelard . 202 
23. The Second Period. The Revival of Aristotle, Thomas 

Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William of Occam . . .213 


24. The Renaissance. Bruno 223 

25. Bacon . . 231 

26. Hobbes 242 

27. Introduction . , 251 


28. Descartes. The Cartesian School 257 

29. Spinoza ... 278 

1. Spinoza's Metaphysics 283 

2. The Doctrine of Salvation 294 

30. Leibniz 305 

Contents xiii 


31. Locke 322 

1. The Source of Knowledge 325 

2. The Nature and Extent of Knowledge . . . 339 

32. Berkeley 346 

33. Hume 365 

34. The English Enlightenment. Deism. The Ethical Devel- 
opment 386 

35. The French Enlightenment. Voltaire and the Encyclo- 
pedists. The Materialists. Rousseau. Lessing and 

Herder 395 


36. Kant 412 

37. The Idealistic Development. Fichte and Schelling . . 440 

38. Hegel 445 

1. The General Nature of Hegel's Philosophy . . 446 

2. The Stages in the Development of Spirit . . . 452 


39. Schopenhauer 468 

40. Comte and Positivism 479 

41. Utilitarianism and Evolution. Spencer .... 487 

42. Conclusion 501 

INDEX 507 



I. The Nature of the History of Philosophy. Primi- 
tive Conceptions of the World 

i. WHEN we at the present time first begin to think 
about the world in a conscious and systematic way, we 
discover that our thought already has a tendency to fol- 
low certain general lines, which seem to us natural, and 
sometimes almost inevitable. We find ourselves familiar, 
e.g., with the conception of a world of nature a world 
wherein lifeless and unconscious bits of matter group them- 
selves according to unvarying laws. There are a multitude 
of words which we use in speaking of this material world 
thing or substance, cause and effect, force, law, mechan- 
ism, necessity ; and we suppose, ordinarily, that these words 
convey a well-defined and obvious meaning. In like man- 
ner, there is the very different world of the mental or con- 
scious life, described by such terms as will, intellect, feeling, 
sensation. This also has laws which it follows ; only they 
are what we call psychological, or logical, or ethical laws, 
in opposition to the physical laws of the outer world. 
Finally, while there is no general agreement in our ultimate 
religious or philosophical attempts to sum up the facts of 
reality, here too there are a few main attitudes, or types of 
theory, within which our choice is confined, and which go 
by such names as dualism, theism, idealism, materialism, 
pantheism, agnosticism. We do not find it very difficult 

2 A Student's History of Philosophy 

to understand in a general way what these words mean, 
even if we do not accept the theories for which they 

These concepts, then, or notions which we frame to serve 
as shorthand expressions for certain facts, or aspects of 
reality, come to us with so little labor on our part, that 
we often are tempted to regard them as self-evident, and 
certain to present themselves as the manifest points of 
view whenever men stop to think. But a little examina- 
tion will show that this is a mistake. We are the heir of 
all the ages in our intellectual life, and so can utilize the 
results of those who have gone before us. In their origin, 
however, these results were reached in no such simple way 
as their obviousness to us would seem to suggest, but were 
wrought laboriously with pain and travail. It is a com- 
mon experience, after we have arrived at the solution of 
some problem that has been engaging us, to be struck 
with wonder that we should so long have been baffled by 
it, when in reality the matter is so plain ; yet, as a matter 
of fact, it did baffle us. Now every point of view from 
which man regards the world, is thus at some period of his 
history a hard-won acquisition. It may stand for a truth 
an obvious truth even when it comes to be recog- 
nized. But the mere existence of a truth is nothing to us, 
until we have brought it into connection with the current 
of our own experience and knowledge ; and this requires 
special circumstances and conditions. 

The History of Philosophy attempts to give an account 
of the more important and comprehensive of these concep- 
tions, in terms of which we are accustomed to think of the 
world, and to trace the mental and social conditions out of 
which they took their rise. It is an account of the growth 
of man's power to formulate the universe. To give some 
connected view of this growth is the object of the present 
volume. But now, when we consider the field which it 
covers, it will not be strange if there are to be found in 
the History of Philosophy no such clearly visible lines of 

Introduction 3 

development as certain other branches of human knowledge 
seem to reveal. When the subject-matter of investigation 
is so enormous, we can only expect to approach the goal 
by zigzag courses, hitting now upon one aspect of 
the world, now upon another. In two obvious ways, 
nevertheless, we may look for an advance. It may con- 
sist simply in bringing to light some new point of view 
which before had been neglected, in abstracting some 
aspect of things which had not hitherto been clearly iso- 
lated from the rest of experience. Or, instead of striking 
out such a new conception, we may try to combine more 
organically those which the past history of philosophy has 
already succeeded in elaborating. Now, while progress in 
philosophy follows no single well-marked path, and we are 
very likely to lose our way on account of the infinite com- 
plexity of the material, yet in both these directions it is 
possible to discover a real development. The very con- 
fusion of many points of view, which makes the introduc- 
tion of order and unity so hard a task, is itself evidence of 
the fact that a real development has taken place. Each of 
these standpoints represents some significant feature which 
the world presents ; and it is not till all the manif oldness of 
the world has been distinguished, and grasped in an intel- 
lectual form, that we are in a position to sum up our 
knowledge so that it shall fairly represent the truth. And 
in the other way, also, philosophy has progressed. Ideas 
get a richer and more adequate content, systems become 
more comprehensive, as thought proceeds ; and while they 
may go by the same names as former systems, in reality 
they mean something very different. In spite of its being 
so frequently asserted, it is untrue that nothing definitive 
has been the result of so much pains and labor. Many 
opinions which were once dominant are now finally super- 
seded, and no one but the amateur in philosophy would 
think of going back to them. They are superseded, how- 
ever, not in the sense that they have been proved entirely 
false, and rejected, but in that they have taken their place 

4 A Student's History of Philosophy 

as a subordinate factor in a larger conception, and have 
been interpreted in accordance with this. 

2. If, now, we throw off the prejudices which we have 
inherited from a long past of intellectual effort, and at- 
tempt to look at life through the eyes of one who comes 
fresh to its problems, we shall find ourselves in a new and 
strange world. We get some notion of what this would 
be, when we look at uncivilized man as he exists at the 
present day. The sharp lines of cleavage into which, for 
us, the universe divides, melt away into a vague whole of 
indistinctness and intermixture. That fundamental sepa- 
ration of the universe into dead matter, and living, con- 
scious soul, has not yet been brought about, and this alone 
makes necessary an entire reconstruction of our notions. 
What the primitive man is conscious of is not a material 
body, and an immaterial mind, but rather an acting, feel- 
ing, thinking body. And if such phenomena as dreams 
and ghost-seeing made him conceive the possibility of a 
separation of himself from his earthly body, yet this con- 
ception never took the form of anything we should call 
immaterial. The inner self, the soul or ghost, is still only 
a thinner and more tenuous body. 

And as no clear separation was made between the man's 
own body, and the life and consciousness which inform it, 
so neither could this separation be carried over into the 
outer world. Knowing his own body as a living thing, 
which acts according to desires and purposes, other things 
also are interpreted by him after the same pattern. Stones, 
trees, and streams are living creatures, animated by the 
same vital impulses that dwell in men and animals. This 
animistic view of things is universal among primitive peo- 
ples. Of course it carries with it an absence of that con- 
ception of the reign of law, which is so familiar at the 
present day. The world is an anarchic world, a world of 
miracles, in which anything whatever may be expected to 
happen. Gods, spirits, and demons inhabit it. These act 
after their own arbitrary will, which can never be predicted 

Introduction 5 

with certainty; and they must, therefore, be won over 
with bribes, or forced into acquiescence by charms and 

This indistinctness in the lines of objective nature is, 
however, counterbalanced by a sufficiently exact marking 
out of the limits within which man's own personal and 
social life moves. Here there is little of the freedom 
which is sometimes attributed to the savage life, but an 
all-pervading spirit of regulation. From birth to death, 
the life of the savage is ordered for him by custom and 
tradition. There is no free play of the mind about the 
sanctions of conduct, no sense of proportion in it, and of 
the relative importance of things. In every department 
of life, custom attaches to itself the sanction of a religious 
rite, and any deviation from it carries the stigma alike of 
religious impiety, and social treason. Of course there is a 
reason for this. Savage customs are, normally, survivals 
which become fixed because they stand in some utilitarian 
relation to the needs of economic life or tribal organiza- 
tion. And since men are not yet in a position where they 
can be trusted freely to use their reason, and to discrimi- 
nate and choose, their habits have to be riveted upon them 
mechanically and irrevocably for their own salvation. Of 
course, in such an atmosphere, there can be none of that 
sense of individuality, or personality, which marks the 
modern conception of selfhood. The man is swallowed 
up in the tribe. So, also, the intellectual side of his life, 
as represented in his beliefs about the world, and his reli- 
gious conceptions, is bound down so closely to the lowest 
and most pressing needs of his nature, that it lacks entirely 
the freedom and disinterestedness of spirit, the largeness 
of view, which the acquisition of solid truth demands. 
There is in it, morever, no possibility of self-directed 
growth. This cannot come about until the individual is 
emancipated from his bondage to custom and tradition, 
and recognizes himself as a free agent, with rights and a 
value of his own, who can freely question accepted dogmas, 

6 A Student's History of Philosophy 

and freely modify his social actions to meet new de- 

This, then, will suggest the general course which the his- 
tory of civilization is to follow. Things can be changed 
for the better, only as man ceases passively to acquiesce in 
the dogmas and institutions that come to him from without, 
on authority external to him. He must become himself the 
centre of initiative, who can trace all these objective crys- 
tallizations of thought and conduct back to their source in 
his own nature, and control and modify them accordingly. 
This, however, necessitates an intervening period of stress 
and change. Existing beliefs and social forms have to be 
disintegrated to give room for the expanding spirit ; and 
for a time there will be chaos and anarchy, until man has 
learned how to use his new-found liberty. Of this progress 
of civilization, the history of philosophic thought is one 
aspect ; and this is the third and more ultimate way in 
which we can took to find a unity in it. Thought is but an 
instrument by which man attempts to bring himself into 
harmony with life ; and therefore the inner spring of 
thought's movement will be found in that underlying pro- 
cess of life, which we know as history. The final goal, on 
the philosophic side, is such a statement of the world as 
shall enable man to feel at home in it, and see himself as a 
unified and harmonious being in all the expressions of his 
nature. On the side of life itself, or history, trie goal con- 
sists in realizing this unity practically, a unity, not of 
mere confused feeling, as in the beginning, but of clear 
and conscious knowledge, which grasps the principles of 
its own action, and so can direct it freely to rational ends. 


Erdmann, History of Philosophy, 3 vols. 
Hegel, History of Philosophy, 3 vols. 
Lange, History of Materialism, 3 vols. 
Lewes, Biographical History of Philosophy. 

Introduction 7 

Draper, History of the Intellectual Development of Europe, 2 vols. 

Schwegler, History of Philosophy. 

Weber, History of Philosophy. 

Windelband, History of Philosophy. 

Turner, History of Philosophy. 

Sidgwick, History of Ethics. 

Ueberweg, History of Philosophy, 2 vols. 

Hunter, History of Philosophy. 

Davidson, A History of Education. 

Janet and Se'ailles, A History of the Problems of Philosophy. 

Articles in Encyclopaedia Britannica. 


Benn, The Greek Philosophers,.?, vols. 

Benn, The Philosophy of Greece considered in Relation to the 

Character and History of its People. 
Burt, History of Greek Philosophy. 
Grote, History of Greece. 
Ferrier, Lectures on Greek Philosophy, 2 vols. 
Mayor, Sketch of Ancient Philosophy from Thales to Cicero. 
Windelband, History of Greek Philosophy. 
Zeller, Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy. 
Marshall, Short History of Greek Philosophy. 
Gomperz, The Greek Thinkers, 3 vols. 

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers (Bohn's Library). 
Bussell, The School of Plato. 

Caird, The Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophers. 
Hyde, From Epicurus to Christ. 


Hb'ffding, History of Modern Philosophy, 2 vols. 

Royce, Spirit of Modern Philosophy. 

Burt, History of Modern Philosophy, 2 vols. 

Falckenberg, History of Modern Philosophy. 

Cousin, History of Modern Philosophy, 2 vols. 

Lecky, History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism 

in Europe, 2 vols. 

Adamson, The Development of Modern Philosophy, 2 vols. 
Levy-Bruhl, History of Modern Philosophy in France. 
Dewing, Introduction to the History of Modern Philosophy. 


2. The Origin of Greek Philosophy 

I. THE beginnings of philosophy are commonly attrib- 
uted to the Greeks. Of course before the time of the 
Greeks, men had thought about the meaning of things ; but 
the conditions had been lacking which were necessary to 
precipitate their thought into sufficiently well-defined con- 
cepts to serve as effective intellectual tools. The task of 
forging the intellectual framework, in the shape of abstract 
ideas or generalizations, by means of which it should be 
possible to analyze, and bring into order, the incoherency 
of the world as it makes its first impression upon us, fell 
to the Greek mind. And for this task it had special quali- 
fications. Its sanity, its healthy human interest, its clear- 
ness of vision and hostility to confusedness of every sort, 
its sense of measure, and the single-heartedness with which 
it confined itself within the field of concrete fact where 
it felt at home, enabled it to leave behind, as no previous 
race had done, an articulate objective expression of itself 
which survived its own existence, and could enter into the 
spiritual history of mankind. All these qualities relate 
themselves closely to the artistic temperament of which 
Greece is pre-eminently the type, and between which and 
the philosophic spirit there is an intimate connection. The 
same sense for form and proportion which enabled the 
Greek to originate the art types that have stood as models 
ever since, kept him within the bounds of clearly defined 
ideas in his philosophical thinking, and prevented him from 
losing himself in the realm of vague feeling, and adumbra- 


Greek Philosophy 9 

tions of the infinite, which have brought shipwreck to so 
many attempts at philosophizing, and which, whatever their 
meaning to the individual, have no objective significance, 
until a foundation at least of clear conceptions has first been 
acquired. The Greek frankly moved within the realm of the 
finite, where definition and order reigned, and he could 
know just what he was talking about. The infinite was to 
him the region of chaos, and stood on a distinctly lower 
plane of reality. 

So also, along with its feeling for form, the artistic spirit 
involves a certain disinterestedness of mood. Beauty, as 
Kant has said, gives us pleasure in the mere contemplation 
of itself, apart from the vulgar thoughts of possession and 
use. And this quality, too, enters into the philosophical 
attitude. Long before the time of the Greeks, there had 
been a very considerable development of knowledge in the 
Orient, particularly in Egypt and Chaldaea ; and the Greeks 
were able to presuppose and to build upon this. But the 
attitude which they adopted toward this knowledge was 
their own. Previous science had been on the empirical and 
rule of thumb order, not based on essential principles ; it 
had remained largely bound down to the concrete particu- 
lars, and to the practical uses from which it had sprung. 
Geometry, e.g., was cultivated in Egypt, whence the Greeks 
derived it ; but it was cultivated as little more than a set 
of approximate rules for use in land measuring. We do 
not have philosophy proper until we can get clear of the 
entanglement of special cases, and practical utility, and 
take a disinterested delight in principles on their own 
account; and this the Greek temperament was able to 
accomplish. It could find pleasure in the free play of 
ideas for their own sake, could treat them as a work of art, 
apart from their immediate practical bearing; and the 
existence of this attitude is marked by the rise of Philoso- 
phy, or disinterested love of wisdom as such. 

It was not, however, in Athens, which stands to us as the 
centre of Greek culture, nor in any other of the cities of 

io A Student's History of Philosophy 

Greece proper, that the new intellectual movement began. 
It was rather in the Greek colonies, which the mother 
country had from very early times begun to throw off, 
first in the Eastern colonies of Asia Minor, and then in 
Southern Italy. Athens itself, even at the height of its 
power, never took very kindly to freedom of philosophic 
speculation, and was inclined to treat its prophets with a 
full measure of the traditional severity. The political 
fickleness incident to a popular government, and the reli- 
gious intolerance on the part of the masses, resulted in 
more than one act of injustice, of which the judicial mur- 
der of Socrates is of course the most famous instance. 
"Then I must indeed be a fool," Socrates is made to 
say to Callicles in one of Plato's dialogues, " if I do not 
know that in the Athenian state any man can suffer any- 

In the cojonies, however, tendencies were at work 
which already had greatly weakened the force of these 
unfavorable conditions, long before the breath of the new 
spirit had touched Greece itself. The transplanting of 
Greek life to a new home, necessarily resulted in a gen- 
eral shaking up of former habits of thought. Ceremonial 
observances, and the religious beliefs embodied in the na- 
tional mythologies, could not fail to lose something of their 
rigidity and inevitableness, as their roots were torn from 
the local environment, and the concrete spots and objects 
to which they were attached ; and the further adjustment 
that would have continually to go on, as they came into 
competition with more or less antagonistic traditions, would 
tend still further to beget a temper of openness and flexi- 
bility. In Asia Minor, moreover, the colonists were brought 
in contact with the highest culture and learning of the day. 
The new knowledge of the world, which was open to them 
in their character as a race of seafarers and traders, was 
also continually enlarging their ideas, and breaking down 
the superstitions of mythology. Their active and adven- 
turous life gave them a versatility and alertness of mind, 

Greek Philosophy n 

which was as yet wanting to their less enterprising kins- 
men ; while the rapid fortunes which were thus built up in 
trade by the merchant princes, offered the possibility of 
the leisure which the intellectual life demands. It was at 
Miletus, the wealthy and active Ionian capital, on the coast 
of the ^Egean, that the new intellectual movement found its 
centre ; and accordingly the earliest school of Greek phi- 
losophy is known as the Milesian School. 

2. Our knowledge of the beginnings of Greek philosophy 
is very fragmentary, and it is only with difficulty that it 
can be pieced together to form a connected whole. Still it 
is possible to read into it a certain amount of unity. At 
any rate, it is clear that, within this century and a half, 
there gradually emerged the more fundamental of those 
distinctions and terms, by which the mind attempts to intro- 
duce order and connection into the processes of the world. 
They were grasped in a definite, even though rudimentary 
way, and were consciously employed in attempts to build up 
a comprehensive view of the universe. This took place, 
however, within certain limits, which need to be kept in 
mind continually. It is necessary to recall, once more, that 
the fundamental distinction between consciousness and 
matter has not yet been clearly attained. Mental qualities 
and physical qualities are still more or less mixed up 
together. There is, consequently, as yet no conception of 
a strictly immaterial existence. Real existence is that 
which lies outside us in space, which we can see and touch ; 
and nothing else is real. It is true that this material and 
spatial existence is not wholly identical with the modern 
conception of matter, for it has to find room within itself 
for qualities which we call conscious and mental. But if 
matter was not regarded as dead and unconscious, at least 
there was no way of separating mind, or thought, from its 
spatial embodiment. To attempt to think of anything that 
was not material in its nature, and so space-filling, was to 
think of nothing. Within the limitations of this inability 
to conceive of anything as real, which did not have tangible 

12 A Student's History of Philosophy 

and visible reality, the first period of philosophical thought 
moved. Arid the outgrowing of the assumption which this 
involves, may be regarded as one of the main results, for 
the development of thought, of the entire period. The 
speculative difficulties which philosophy meets on the 
basis of this assumption, pave the way to a recognition, in 
Plato, of the possibility that a thing may be real, with- 
out being identical with spatial reality ; and when this 
point is reached, an entirely new field is opened up to 

3. The Milesian School. Thales 

I. The first attempts at philosophy, then, are occupied 
with the only world which men can present clearly to them- 
selves the world of nature. In general, these attempts 
take the shape of a search for some unitary principle for ex- 
plaining the wojld, some one kind of real existence out of 
which the diversity of the universe has sprung, some per- 
manent ground lying back of the never ending process of 
change. The decisive step is attributed to Thales, a mem- 
ber of one of the leading families of Miletus, and a man 
apparently versed in the learning current at his time. 
He is said to have predicted the eclipse occurring in the 
year 585 B.C., which put an end to the war between the 
Lydians and the Medes. 

All that is known of Thales 1 answer is this : that he 
found the ultimate substance in water. In the light of 
modern science, this may seem to be absurdly inadequate 
as a statement of the universe ; but the new attitude which 
it involves, gives it a real significance. There had been cos- 
mologies from time immemorial, which attempted to ac- 
count for the origin of the world by all sorts of fancies, and 
which had gathered about them the sanctions of religion. 
Thales broke from the sway of religious tradition, and from 
its whole method, by adopting what was essentially a scien- 
tific, as opposed to a mythological, point of view. Instead 

Greek Philosophy 13 

of a supernatural, he attempted a natural explanation ; 
instead of telling a mythical story of what might have hap- 
pened in the past, he looked to the world of fact as it actu- 
ally lay before his eyes, in order to find there his principle 
of interpretation. And it is possible to see reasons why he 
should have hit upon the answer which he did. Water has 
that mobility which might seem to go along with the power 
of universal transformation. It is easily changed to steam, 
and solidified to ice. It is essential to growth and genera- 
tion everywhere. The process of transformation might 
appear to be taking place visibly in nature. The sun draws 
water, which then is given back in the form of rain ; and 
the rain, in turn, sinks into the ground, where it completes 
the process by turning into earth, and the manifold prod- 
ucts of the soil. Of Thales' followers, it is enough to men- 
tion the names of Anaximander and Anaximenes. The 
school as an organization came to an end with the destruc- 
tion of Miletus by the Persians in 494 B.C. 

2. In their beginnings, philosophy and science are thus 
identical. The Milesians are physicists and astronomers, 
bringing their hypotheses to bear, first of all, upon the natu- 
ral processes which constitute the subject-matter of science; 
and the same interest continues also to play a large part 
in the work of their successors. Each has his more or less 
novel theories to propound concerning the general course 
of the world's development, and the explanation of the 
phenomena which it presents; particularly of such facts 
as might naturally be expected to interest a seafaring peo- 
ple meteorological phenomena, and the movements of 
the heavenly bodies. It would only be confusing to give 
an account of these theories here ; but it should never be 
forgotten that we are dealing throughout with what is essen- 
tially a physical and scientific philosophy. 

But also there begins, at this point, a development with 
a more purely philosophical interest. This development 
occupies itself, not only with the explanation of concrete 
physical processes, but also with the ideas which are 

14 A Student's History of Philosophy 

presupposed in the intellectual formulation of these pro- 
cesses, and with the logical and metaphysical implications 
of such ideas. These ideas, it is true, are not yet fully ab- 
stracted from their physical embodiment, and looked at 
wholly apart from the physical processes which imply them; 
but the interest is in the ideas, nevertheless. And the 
centre about which the controversy turns is the concept of 
change, a concept which involves one of the most funda- 
mental problems with which metaphysics has to deal. 
The Milesians had assumed the fact of change as some- 
thing self-evident, and they had assumed, too, that there 
must be an underlying unity to this changing world. But 
here are two ideas which are sure to make trouble as soon 
as they are distinctly recognized. The reality which 
changes must all the time be one and the same reality at 
bottom, or there is no meaning in the statement that it 
changes. Nothing changes, except as it becomes different 
from what it was before ; and there is no " it," no "something 
which changes," unless there is an identity, or sameness, 
which persists through the successive moments of change. 
And yet if it changes, it must be different from itself, and 
so not one reality, but more than one; it must at once 
persist, and pass away. How are these seemingly very op- 
posite notions the one and the many, sameness and dif- 
ference, permanence and change to be reconciled and 
combined ? The next step in Greek philosophy, was to 
bring about a clear recognition of this problem. In Her- 
acleitus, and in Parmenides, the two opposing factors re- 
ceive each a formulation, one-sidedj indeed, but for that 
reason all the more impressive and influential. Later on, 
in the mediating schools which succeeded, the attempt is 
made to bring about a reconciliation. 

4. Heracleitus 

The side of multiplicity and change was championed by 
Heracleitus, one of the profoundest thinkers of ancient 

Greek Philosophy 15 

times. Heracleitus was an Ephesian, of aristocratic fam- 
ily and high position, who lived about 536-470 B.C. There 
was much, indeed, in the political condition of the cities 
of Asia Minor, to force the stern reality of change upon 
men's notice. This shows itself in the lyric poetry of 
the period, with its graceful melancholy, and its fond- 
ness for dwelling upon the endless vicissitudes of fortune, 
and the uncertainty of human life and happiness. Apart 
from the perils which grew out of external relations to the 
great Oriental powers, there was also, within each city, an 
ever present danger from civil strife. The aristocratic gov- 
ernments which had replaced the monarchies of Homeric 
times, were themselves now in conflict with the people ; 
and everywhere tyrants were springing up, who made use 
of the popular favor to overthrow existing authority, only 
to retain in their own hands, by force, the power they were 
thus enabled to usurp. Heracleitus was among those who 
had suffered from these conditions, and it was his con- 
tempt for the democratic tendencies of his day which 
turned him from public life to philosophical pursuits. His 
reputation for gloomy misanthropy gave him in antiquity 
the title of the Weeping Philosopher; while the Delphic 
character of his writings they require, says Socrates, a 
Delian diver to get at the meaning of them caused him 
to be designated as Heracleitus the Obscure. 

Heracleitus gets rid of the difficulty of reconciling per- 
manence with change, by the simple denial that any such 
thing as permanence exists at all. There is no static Be- 
ing, no unchanging substratum. Change, movement, is 
Lord of the universe. Everything is in a state of becom- 
ing, of continual flux (Trdvra pel). " You cannot step twice 
into the same rivers, for fresh waters are ever flowing in 
upon you." 1 Man is no exception to the general rule ; he 
is "kindled and put out like a light in the night-time." 
Heracleitus formulates this conception by saying that 

1 This, and succeeding quotations from the earlier philosophers, are taken 
from Burnet's "Early Greek Philosophers" (A. & C. Black). 

1 6 A Student's History of Philosophy 

not Water or Mist, but Fire is the ultimate ground of 
the world. " All things are exchanged for Fire, and Fire 
for all things, as wares are exchanged for gold, and gold 
for wares." This is not intended to be figurative ; Hera- 
cleitus means literal fire, just as Thales meant literal 
water. But it is fire as embodying primarily the fact of 
change; that is why he chooses it, rather than earth or 
water. Nor could his thought have found a better embod- 
iment than in the all-transforming, shifting flame, ever 
passing away in smoke, ever renewing itself by taking up 
the substance of solid bodies, which are undergoing destruc- 
tion that it may live. We have the appearance of perma- 
nence, just as the flame seems to be an identical thing ; in 
reality, however, its content is every moment changing. 

Now this doctrine that everything, as Plato mali- 
ciously puts it, is in a flux like leaky vessels, that there 
is no rest or permanence anywhere in the universe, no 
solid foothold which is not, the very moment we try to 
occupy it, silently shifting beneath us seems at first to be 
paradoxical and unwarranted. We are not satisfied to give 
up all identity and permanence in things. If what we 
call a white object, e.g., has already come to be something 
different before we can give a name to it, how are we to 
make any articulate utterance at all? When we reflect, 
however, we see that, in spite of the difficulties, this is 
very similar to the doctrine of modern science. For sci- 
ence, too, there is nothing that stands still. The stone 
that seems to lie unchanged and motionless is, on the 
one hand, whirling through space along with the planet 
which bears us with it on its surface, while, on the other 
hand, it is itself a little world of quivering molecules, a 
battle-ground of struggling forces, where the most intense 
activity reigns. Our own bodies, likewise, are changing 
every moment of our lives, and our minds are changing 
with them. There is no such thing as stopping the flow 
of consciousness, without blotting it out altogether. Hera- 
el eitus has, accordingly, emphasized a very important fea- 

Greek Philosophy 17 

ture of reality, which will need to be taken account of in 
every future attempt at philosophizing. 

Is there, then, no unity at all to the world ? If so, how 
can we account for even the appearance of permanence ? 
Heracleitus does not deny that there is a unity, and here 
also he anticipates the conception of modern science. For 
the unity is not one of unchanging substance, but of law. 
The process of change does not take place in an un- 
regulated and lawless way, but it is rhythmical change, 
kept within the bounds of definite proportions, and ruled 
by an immutable law of necessity. As the heavenly fires 
are transmuted successively into vapor, water, earth, so a 
corresponding series of transformations ascends upward to 
fire again, only to start once more on the same ceaseless 
round. The universe is, therefore, a closed circuit, in which 
an ascending and a descending current counterbalance 
each other. It is this opposition of motions, and the 
measured balance between them, which produces the de- 
lusive appearance of rest and fixity. 

Nothing in the world, then, is self-contained and self- 
complete. Everything is forever passing into something 
else, and has an existence only in relation to this process. 
" Fire lives the death of earth, and air lives the death of 
fire ; water lives the death of air, earth that of water." 
We have, accordingly, in Heracleitus, the first philosophic 
statement of the famous doctrine of relativity, which, in 
one form or another, has played an important part in sub- 
sequent thought down to the present day. Heracleitus' 
conception of the two contrary currents of change, enables 
him to formulate his doctrine more precisely ; not only is 
everything passing into something else, but it is forever 
passing into its opposite. All reality is born of the clash 
of opposing principles, the tension of conflicting forces. 
" Homer was wrong in saying : Would that strife might 
perish from among gods and men ! He did not see that 
he was praying for the destruction of the universe; for, 
if his prayer were heard, all things would pass away." 

1 8 A Student's History of Philosophy 

Strife is "father of all, and king of all." This relativity, 
and union of contrasts, Heracleitus is never weary of trac- 
ing out. Organic life is produced by the male and the 
female ; musical harmony by sharp and flat notes. " The 
sea is the purest and the impurest water. Fish can drink it 
and it is good for them ; to men it is undrinkable and de- 
structive." " God is day and night, winter and summer, war 
and peace, hunger and satiety ; but he takes various shapes, 
just as fire, when it is mingled with different incenses, is 
named according to the savor of each." 

The same thought enabled Heracleitus to round out his 
philosophy by a suggestive treatment of the ethical life. 
Just as the light and the heavy, the warm and the cold, 
plenty and want, are relative terms, so likewise are good 
and evil. " Physicians who cut, burn, stab, and rack the 
sick, then complain that they do not get any adequate 
recompense for it" " Men would not have known the 
name of justice if there were no injustice." "It is not 
good for mep to get all they wish. It is disease that 
makes health pleasant and good; hunger, plenty; and 
weariness, rest." Good implies evil to be overcome, con- 
quests to be made, a life of unremitting endeavor. It is no 
gift that we may sit and wait for with folded hands, but 
an achievement. So also the bad has no existence, except 
in relation to a possible better. Were either of the related 
terms wanting, the moral life would cease to exist. 

One other problem begins faintly to emerge in Hera- 
cleitus the problem of knowledge. Since the vulgar notion 
is that the things which the senses reveal to us are more 
or less solid and permanent, a distinction has to be drawn 
between sense knowledge, and the higher thought knowl- 
edge which is open to the philosopher. True knowledge 
is no easy transcript of popular opinion, but the scanty 
gleanings of hard intellectual labor : " Those who seek for 
gold dig up much earth, and find a little." Sense experi- 
ence is fallacious, and the source of all sorts of illusion ; it 
is only by thought that we can rise above the realm of 

Greek Philosophy 19 

changing appearance, and attain to true reality the gov- 
erning Law. But it is not at all apparent how we are to 
account for this difference of value. Knowledge is due to 
the response between the inner Fire which constitutes our 
rational nature, or soul, and the outer Fire which is the re- 
ality of the world. But since the two can only commingle 
by the pathway of the senses, there is no means as yet 
of drawing a psychological distinction between sensation 
and thought. The objectivity and necessity of knowl- 
edge is given, however, a certain explanation. Man can 
know objective truth, because in essence he is identical 
with that truth ; he is no mere separate individual, but a 
part of the all-comprehending Fire which constitutes the 

The answer which Heracleitus gave to the problem of 
philosophy, is one which is likely to grow in force the more 
one thinks of it. But can we ever be really satisfied with 
it ? Can the fact of law furnish all the unity and perma- 
nence that we require? Will not the conception of law, 
in connection with the material world, only raise new ques- 
tions ? What is a law, over and above the multitude of 
particular facts and changes, each distinct and unrelated ? 
If it is only an ideal fact in our minds, it has no relation to 
the material world without; and if it is a material fact, 
does it not furnish simply another element to be brought 
into unity, and not a unifying bond at all ? At any rate, it 
hardly satisfies our first feeling of what the situation de- 
mands. We instinctively require a solid and permanent 
background for this universal flow of events, an unchanging 
subject of change, which shall bind the multiplicity into a 
real whole, and give us a definite something to grasp and 
rest upon, that shall not be forever slipping from us. This 
factor of permanence, of static Being, which Heracleitus 
denied, is brought into an equally one-sided prominence by 
an opposing group of thinkers, whose connection with the 
city of Elea, in Southern Italy, has given them the name 
of the Eleatic School. 

20 A Student's History of Philosophy 

5. The Eleatic School. Xenophanes. Parmenides. Zeno 

I. The reputed founder of the Eleatic school was Xenoph- 
anes (570-480 B.C.), a native of Colophon, whence he fled 
in consequence of the Persian conquest of Ionia. He 
maintained himself as a wandering poet, or rhapsodist, and 
finally settled down in Elea, where he died at an advanced 
age. In spite of his place among philosophers, Xenoph- 
anes seems to have been not so much a metaphysician, 
as a poet turned satirist and reformer. As a satirist, he 
sets himself against the somewhat florid culture of Magna 
Graecia, with its luxuries, its purple garments, its fops 
" proud of their comely locks, anointed with unguents of 
rich perfume," in favor of an ideal of plain living and high 
thinking, of Greek simplicity, moderation, and artistic good 
taste. He ridicules the exaggerated athleticism of the day, 
the preference of muscle to brains, " strength to wisdom," 
the immaturity and affectation of the intellectual interests. 
"There is nothing praiseworthy in discussing battles of 
Titans, or of giants and centaurs, fictions of former ages, 
nor in plotting violent revolutions." In opposition to this, 
he strives to exalt the true intellectual life; and the very 
modern tone which pervades his conception of what such 
a life is, shows clearly how far Greek thought has already 
advanced. It is modern in its sceptical caution, and its 
feeling for the necessity of sober truth-seeking and in- 
vestigation. "There never was nor will be a man who 
has clear certainty as to what I say about the gods and 
about all things ; for even if he does chance to say what 
is right, yet he himself does not know that it is so. 
But all are free to guess." "The gods have not shown 
forth all things to men from the beginning, but by seeking 
they gradually find out what is better." It is especially 
modern in its thorough naturalism. And here Xenophanes 
comes in contact with religious beliefs, in connection with 
which his influence was to tell most directly on the future. 
At the start, philosophy had grown directly out of reli- 

Greek Philosophy 21 

gious speculations. It was not the independent work of sin- 
gle men, but rather of schools, or guilds, which had, and 
continued to have for some time, a religious or semi-reli- 
gious organization. There will be occasion to notice again 
the close connection of religion and philosophy in the 
Pythagorean school. But when the change to the scientific 
attitude was once effected, the tendency was necessarily 
away from the religious dogmas. The whole philosophical 
movement was, from the religious standpoint, a scepti- 
cal one. Within the schools, belief in the old polythe- 
istic mythology was quietly dropped, as suited only for the 
masses ; and in its place were set up more or less purely 
naturalistic explanations. Xenophanes was not content to 
leave this as a mere esoteric doctrine. His impatience 
of the intellectual futility, and low moral grade, of many 
of the old beliefs and stories about the gods, leads him to 
a fierce polemic against the popular theology. " Homer 
and Hesiod have ascribed to the gods all things that are 
a shame and a disgrace among men, thefts and adulteries 
and deceptions of one another." " But mortals think that 
the gods are born as they are, and have perception like 
theirs, and voice and form." "Yes, and if oxen and lions 
had hands, and could paint with their hands and produce 
works of art as men do, horses would paint the forms of 
the gods like horses, and oxen like oxen. Each would 
represent them with bodies according to the form of each." 
" So the Ethiopians make their gods black and snub-nosed ; 
the Thracians give theirs red hair and blue eyes." Let us 
rid ourselves, then, of the paltry notion of a multitude of 
gods made after the likeness of man, and subject to the 
same ignoble passions : " There is One God, the greatest 
among gods and men, comparable to mortals neither in 
form nor thought." This is evidently not a statement of 
monotheism, in the ordinary religious sense, for the One 
God of Xenophanes is expressly said to exclude all anthro- 
pomorphic elements. Besides, he is declared to be ' great- 
est among gods,' so that other gods seem also to have a 

22 A Student's History of Philosophy 

certain reality. What Xenophanes is trying to assert is, not 
that the reality of the universe is God, as the religionist 
uses the term, but, rather, that what we name God is the 
one immutable and comprehensive material universe, which 
holds within it and determines all those minor phenom- 
ena, to which an enlightened philosophy will reduce the 
many deities of the popular faith. The conception is not 
unlike that of Spinoza in later times : God is the world of 
nature, regarded as absolutely one, eternal and unchanging. 
2. This conception of the identity and permanence of 
reality, which with Xenophanes was largely the result of a 
poetic insight, becomes, with Parmenides of Elea (about 
470 B.C.), a clearly defined philosophical doctrine, with 
important consequences. Of all philosophical systems, 
that of Parmenides is, perhaps, the most paradoxical. It 
is based on the absolute denial of change and multiplicity 
in the world, and their reduction to pure illusion. Only 
the One exists, and that One is eternal, immutable, immov- 
able, indivisible. Now the practical refutation of this, 
by facts, is perfectly easy ; it does not describe the 
world as we actually know it, and if the world really were 
such a world, then all philosophies, and their reasonings 
about Being, would immediately be wiped out, along with 
everything else that is partial. The illusions which philosophy 
attempts to correct would be impossible, even as illusions. 
Parmenides' philosophy, however, does not pretend to be 
based upon facts ; it declares that facts themselves must 
be subjected to the laws of thought, or logic, and, if they 
prove to be self-contradictory, must be rejected. If we can- 
not think them, we have no right to say that they are facts. 
Now, to Parmenides the idea of change is unthinkable. 
That a thing should arise out of that which is different 
from itself, seems to him a contradiction. Even that form 
of change which apparently is most simple change in 
place, or motion, Parmenides declares is inherently impos- 
sible. Motion implies the validity of a certain concept 
the concept of empty space, within which the move- 

Greek Philosophy 23 

ments may take place. But is empty space thinkable ? Is 
it not mere emptiness, mere absence of being Not-being, 
in a word ? And so long as thought is true to itself, can 
any effort make the being of Not-being intelligible ? And 
if it is not intelligible, if it is incapable of being thought, it 
does not exist. Only Being exists ; and since Being is still 
thought of as identical with body, the absence of Being, or 
empty space, has no reality. Hence Being is a solid block, 
immovable and unchanged. "Being cannot be divisible, 
since it is all alike, and there is no more of it in one place 
than in another to hinder it from holding together, nor less 
of it, but everything is full of what is." There can be no 
break between its parts ; if such a break is real, it is itself 
Being, or body ; and so body is continuous after all. It is 
without motion ; for it could only move in space, and space 
either is or is not. If space is, it is Being, and Being 
moves in Being, which is equivalent to saying it is at rest. 
If space is nothing, it does not exist, and so nothing can 
move in it. If sense perception tells us the contrary, then 
the testimony of the senses must be rejected. 

3. The paradoxical arguments of Parmenides, appear- 
ing as they did at a time when the human mind was first be- 
ginning to taste the delights of metaphysical inquiry, had an 
immense influence. Among his adherents, the best known 
were Melissus of Samos, a politician and general who gained 
a victory over Athens in 442 B.C., and Zeno of Elea (about 
490-430 B.C.). Zeno undertook to strengthen his master's 
position by showing, on the negative side, that the diffi- 
culties which it involves in the eyes of common sense, are 
matched by difficulties quite as great in the views of those 
who assert the reality of change and motion. Of his argu- 
ments, which became famous, it will be enough to mention 
the two which are known, respectively, as the flying arrow, 
and Achilles and the tortoise. In order that an arrow fly- 
ing through space should reach its destination, it must suc- 
cessively occupy a series of positions. But at any moment 
we may choose, it is in a particular place, and therefore is 

24 A Student's History of Philosophy 

at rest ; and as no summing up of states of rest can result 
in motion, it can never move. The other argument involves 
the relation of two different motions. Achilles never can 
overtake the tortoise, because, while he is reaching what at 
any moment is the starting-point of the tortoise, the latter 
will have gained a certain amount of ground ; and as 
Achilles always must reach first the position previously 
occupied by his competitor, the tortoise will forever keep 
just a little ahead. 

Of course the character of the Eleatic conclusions ren- 
dered it impossible that they ever should produce any great 
advance in substantial knowledge ; and in Gorgias of Leon- 
tinum (483-375), whom we shall meet again as a Sophist, 
the same style of reasoning that had proved so destructive 
was turned against the Eleatic doctrine itself, and made to 
prove the non-existence of Being as well. Indirectly, how- 
ever, this later development of the Eleatic doctrine had 
certain valuable results. The polemical interests of Zeno 
and his associates caused them to direct a good deal of at- 
tention to the processes of argument and refutation ; and in 
this way a beginning was made of what afterward was to 
be one of the special divisions of philosophy, namely, Logic. 

6. The Mediators. Empedocles. Anaxagoras. Leucippus 
and Democritus 

i. Empedocles, the first to be mentioned of the more 
independent successors of Parmenides, was a native of 
Sicily (490-430 B.C.), and a man of note and political 
influence. He sided with the popular party, and was 
offered the leadership of his city, but refused the honor, 
perhaps from a just estimate of the value to be placed 
upon popular favor. His extensive knowledge, and his 
skill in medicine, caused him to be regarded as the pos- 
sessor of supernatural powers, and he may himself have 
helped to foster this belief ; according to tradition, he met 
his death by throwing himself in the crater of Mt. 

Greek Philosophy 25 

that the mysteriousness of his disappearance might give 
rise to the belief that he was a god. A mixture of char- 
latanism, with what is essentially a true scientific spirit, has 
not been uncommon at periods when new possibilities of 
knowledge are beginning to dawn upon men's minds ; Par- 
acelsus is a more modern illustration. At such times, there 
seem no limits to what science can hope to accomplish. 
" And thou shalt learn," Empedocles says at the beginning 
of his great philosophical poem, "all the drugs that are a 
defence against ills and old age, since for thee alone shall 
I accomplish all this. Thou shalt arrest the violence of 
the weariless winds that arise and sweep the earth, laying 
waste the cornfields with their breath ; and again, when 
thou so desirest, thou shalt bring their blasts back again 
with a rush. Thou shalt cause for men a seasonable 
drought after the dark rains, and again after the summer 
drought thou shalt produce the streams that feed the trees 
as they pour down from the sky. Thou shalt bring back 
from Hades the life of a dead man." If science has not 
done precisely these things, it has actually enabled men to 
perform wonders almost as great in the way of controlling 
natural forces. It is only the desire to reach these results 
by short cuts, and the failure to perceive that they require 
a long process of patient investigation, that turns men's 
thoughts in the direction of magical and occult powers, in 
the manipulation of which they are partly self-deceived, 
in part conscious deceivers. 

The significance of Empedocles, however, depends upon 
his real perception, underlying all this, of the value and 
necessity of true scientific knowledge. Man is by nature 
weak, ignorant, and self-deluded. " For straitened are the 
powers with which their bodily parts are endowed, and 
many are the woes that burst in on them, and blunt the 
edge of their careful thoughts. They behold but a brief 
span of a life that is no life, and, doomed to swift death, 
are borne away and fly off like smoke. Each is convinced 
of that alone which he has chanced upon as he is hurried 

26 A Student's History of Philosophy 

to and fro, and idly fancies he has found the whole. So 
hardly can these things be seen by the eyes or heard by 
the ears of men, so hardly grasped by their mind ! " 
Man's only salvation, his only road to freedom, is knowl- 
edge, or science. 

" Mind is the spell which governs earth and heaven ; " 
and in his own philosophy, Empedocles thinks that he has 
found the key to the true explanation of things. 

It would seem that Empedocles had known the reason- 
ings of Parmenides, and been strongly impressed by them. 
But he could not rest content with their one-sidedness. 
Change and generation undoubtedly exist, and have to be 
explained. Now, even if Parmenides' proof of the non- 
existence of empty space be allowed, one possibility of 
motion still remains. The parts of this solid mass might 
conceivably change their position with reference to one 
another, without the need of empty space between them ; 
one slipping continuously into the place left vacant by its 
neighbor, just as to the ordinary vision the parts of water 
seem to do. There would, indeed, be no gain in this, if 
each part were exactly the same as every other. But if 
we conceive a primitive difference in the nature of the 
parts, then their shiftings of position with regard to one 
another might be utilized to account for the changing 
phenomena of the sensible world. This is Empedocles' 
new thought : generation is merely change of composition. 
" There is no coming into being of aught that perishes, 
nor any end for it in baneful death, but only mingling, and 
separation of what has been mingled." " When the elements 
have been mingled in the fashion of a man, and come to 
the light of day, or in the fashion of the race of wild 
beasts or plants or birds, then men say that these come 
into being ; and when they are separated, they call that, as 
is the custom, woful death." "Just as when painters are 
elaborating temple offerings, men whom Metis has well 
taught their art, they, when they have taken pigments 
of many colors with their hands, mix them in a har- 

Greek Philosophy 27 

mony, more of some and less of others, and from them 
produce shapes like unto all things, making trees and men 
and women, beasts and birds and fishes that dwell in the 
waters, yea, and gods that live long lives, and are exalted 
in honor, so let not the error prevail over thy mind, 
that there is any other source of all the perishable crea- 
tures that appear in countless numbers." 

This, accordingly, marks out the path by which the rec- 
onciliation of change and permanence was to be attempted. 
If reality is One, as Parmenides had assumed in common 
with all previous philosophy, then, indeed, his arguments 
are irrefragable, and the world of generation has no exist- 
ence. But if reality is Many, and not One, then we can 
account for both factors; permanence belongs to. the ele- 
ments in themselves, change to their shifting relations. 
So by setting up four separate elements, Earth, Water, Air, 
and Fire, Empedocles thought that he could explain, 
through their varying combinations, all the apparent differ- 
ences in the world of individual objects, which Parmenides 
had left himself no way of accounting for even as illusion. 
It was not until, in Plato, the idea of Being had been freed 
from its materialistic implications, that the unity of reality 
could be reasserted in an intelligible way. 

In another direction, also, Parmenides' influence seems 
to have been felt. Heretofore it had been assumed that 
matter is itself alive, and that it possesses in its own na- 
ture the principle of movement. But Parmenides, by his 
doctrine of the absolute immobility of Being, had detached 
the quality of motion from the conception of matter. Em- 
pedocles, accordingly, finds it necessary to have recourse 
to a separate principle, in order to get bodies to moving 
again. So he is led to postulate, in addition to his four 
elements, two other agencies to manipulate them. He 
gives to these agencies the names of Love and Hate. 
Love acts in a way to bring about a complete intermixture 
of the different elements, "as a baker cementing barley 
meal with water." Hate breaks up this intermixture, and 

28 A Student's History of Philosophy 

brings elements of the same kind together. The history 
of the universe is thus an oscillation to and fro between 
complete discord, and complete harmony. It is difficult 
to interpret this obscure conception of Love and Hate with 
any great precision. In modern terms, it perhaps stands 
most nearly for what we should name the forces of attrac- 
tion and repulsion, with which, however, certain elements 
of the ethical and rational life are confusedly intermingled. 
But at any rate, we are not to look upon these forces as 
strictly immaterial. Empedocles is still unable to think of 
anything as real which does not occupy space; and so, 
when he tries to define Love and Hate more closely, he 
makes them, after all, as material as his other elements. 

One other problem, which had already appeared in Her- 
acleitus, receives a somewhat fuller treatment at the hands 
of Empedocles the problem of knowing. We can know 
everything, because we are ourselves compounded of every- 
thing. All the elements enter into our make-up earth to 
form the solid' parts, water the liquid, air the vital breath, 
fire the soul. We perceive any particular thing, then, 
because we are that thing ; like is known by like. " For it 
is with earth that we see earth, and water with water ; by 
air we see bright air, by fire destroying fire. By love do 
we see love, and hate by grievous hate." In its materialis- 
tic form, it is impossible to make this really intelligible. 
Knowledge is not, and cannot be, a spatial and material 
function. In the thought, however, that it is our ultimate 
kinship with the world we know, which makes the bond of 
knowledge possible, there is the germ of an insight which 
later on has a fruitful development, and finally breaks 
down the materialism which conditions its first appearance. 

2. With the name of Anaxagoras, we come for the first 
time into connection with the city of Athens. Anaxagoras 
(500-429 B.C.) was a native of Clazomenae in Ionia, but 
about the middle of the fifth century he emigrated to 
Athens. There for a number of years he was one of the 
most prominent figures in the brilliant circle which raised 

Greek Philosophy 29 

Athens to its position as the intellectual centre of Greece. 
He became the intimate friend of Pericles, the leader of the 
new movement, and of such men as Euripides, Thucyd- 
ides, and Protagoras. Popular feeling, however, was 
aroused by the naturalistic and sceptical tendencies which 
Pericles and his friends represented. This feeling, accen- 
tuated by the growing political bitterness between the 
democracy, and the aristocratic few within whose ranks 
alone the new learning was affected, chose Anaxagoras as 
a victim. His natural explanation of the sun as a red-hot 
stone not, therefore, a divine being was made the pre- 
text for an accusation of impiety. He was thrown into 
prison, and forced to save his life by leaving the city. 

Empedocles had thought that by the admission of four 
distinct elements, the infinite variety of the world could be 
explained. He does not seem, however, to have attempted 
seriously the difficult task of showing how this could be in 
detail. And it appeared to Anaxagoras that the task was 
impossible. How one substance can change into another, 
how, i.e., there can be a change of quality, it is impossible 
to conceive ; all that we can understand is change in position. 
Since, therefore, the qualities revealed in the world are in- 
finite in number, we cannot stop short with four elements, 
but must postulate an unlimited multitude of them, as 
many as there are distinct qualities. This may be called a 
qualitative atomism, as distinguished from the quantitative 
atomism to be mentioned presently. Reality consists of a 
countless number of "things," or qualitatively simple ele- 
ments, representing every distinguishable aspect of the 
world. These elements are infinitely divisible, and are 
everywhere diffused in the universe ; so that in each indi- 
vidual particle of matter all elements whatsoever are rep- 
resented, everything is in everything else, and objects 
are not separated strictly, or "cut off from one another 
with a hatchet." Nevertheless, the varying proportions in 
which the elements appear, and the fact that in any par- 
ticular object some of them are present in such infinitesi- 

30 A Student's History of Philosophy 

mal quantities as to be unrecognizable, render possible the 
apparent differences that meet the eye. The only change 
is change of spatial position, by which the qualities are 
intermingled in varying proportions. 

Along with this atomistic hypothesis, Anaxagoras is 
celebrated in antiquity as the originator of another concep- 
tion, which was to play a very important part in the devel- 
opment of philosophy. Parmenides' arguments, which 
resulted in stripping matter of every principle of change 
or motion, had left Anaxagoras, as it had left Empedocles, 
in a position where he needed some outside source of move- 
ment. Now Anaxagoras was impressed by the fact that 
the movement of the elements has not taken place in a 
purely haphazard way, but has given birth to an ordered 
and harmonious world. In the motions of the heavenly 
bodies, in particular, there had long been recognized an 
inner law and rhythm. This had brought about, indeed, 
the rise of science ; and to the harmony-loving mind of the 
Greek it was Especially impressive. But law and order is, 
to unsophisticated thought at any rate, a product of intelli- 
gence ; and when it is considered, further, that only things 
possessing life or consciousness have the power of self- 
movement, it will not appear strange that Anaxagoras 
should have been led to identify the moving and ordering 
principle of the universe with intelligent Mind. In this 
way a dualism was set up. On the one hand are the ele- 
ments, entirely inert; while over against them stands Nous, 
or Reason, which alone is self-moved, and which is the 
cause of motion in everything else. 

This is the first conscious separation of the rational 
life of mind, under its own proper name, from its en- 
tanglement with the rest of the universe; and as such, 
it marks an important step. It gives an intimation of 
that view of the world which subordinates material pro- 
cesses to a conscious rational purpose, and which, under 
the name of teleology, has ever since been contesting 
with the mechanical theories of science the right to the 

Greek Philosophy 31 

supreme place in the interpretation of the universe. With 
Anaxagoras, indeed, the conception still remains confused 
and obscure. In spite of his separation of reason from 
the material elements, Anaxagoras cannot get clear of the 
limitations of his predecessors ; and when he comes to a 
description of the Nous, it still retains among its rational and 
ideal qualities others that we should have to call material. 
So, too, he fails to put his principle to any practical use in 
explaining natural phenomena ; it serves only to give the 
initial fillip which sets the elements in motion. Socrates, 
in one of the Platonic dialogues, tells of the disappointment 
he met when he came to the study of Anaxagoras' system. 
He had been told that here everything was accounted for 
by Mind. Accordingly, he had expected to have the pur- 
pose of things pointed out to him the reason for the 
earth's shape, e.g., or the motions of the planets, explained 
by reference to the end they serve. And instead of this, 
he found Anaxagoras having recourse to just the same ele- 
ments of air and earth and water, in mechanical interaction, 
which were to be met with in other philosophers. What- 
ever we may think of Anaxagoras' consistency, however, it 
was a significant thing merely to have asserted the suprem- 
acy of Reason in the universe. It was left for others to 
point out more clearly what the assertion meant. 

3. Meanwhile atomism took a different, and what was 
afterward to prove a more fruitful direction, in Leucippus, 
and in his greater pupil, Democritus of Abdera. Leucippus 
denied the differences in quality among the elements, which 
Empedocles and Anaxagoras had supposed, and went back 
to the Eleatic conception of Being as mere body, stripped 
of all qualitative characteristics. As he did not go further, 
however, and give up the reality of change, he had to have 
some explanation of the apparent qualitative facts which 
make up the phenomenal world ; and the only agency 
open to produce them was change in spatial position. But 
this made it necessary to admit what the Eleatics denied 
the real existence of Not-being, or empty space. Ac- 

32 A Student's History of Philosophy 

cordingly, the solid lump of existence, which for Parmen- 
ides had constituted reality, was broken up into an infinite 
multitude of reproductions of itself in miniature, or atoms. 
These atoms, too infinitesimal to be visible to the eye, and 
differing from one another only in shape and size, are 
eternal and unalterable, and possess, indeed, individually, 
the characteristics of Parmenides' Being, except its im- 
mobility. They, and their changing relations, alone are 
real ; all else is appearance, which is explained ultimately 
by these real movements in space. 

In Leucippus, we have the first clear statement of phil- 
osophical materialism the reduction of true reality to 
what afterward came to be known as the primary qualities 
of body. This proved to be a point of view of the greatest 
value for scientific thought ; by its reduction of qualitative 
to quantitative differences, it opened the way for the 
mathematical treatment of phenomena, which belongs to 
scientific method. The same result flows from its rejec- 
tion of teleology and final causes, in favor of a mechanical 
explanation. Since all reality alike is qualitatively indif- 
ferent, there is no room for a special kind of existence 
which shall impart motion and direction to the rest; 
motion, therefore, has to be restored to each atom as its 
original possession. And as thus all the data necessary 
for understanding the world are immanent in the notion 
of matter itself, it is not necessary to appeal to purpose, 
or intelligence, or to anything except the necessary laws of 
mechanical interaction. Mind, or soul, is no exception 
to the rule ; it is composed of the fire atoms, which are the 
finest and most active of all. These soul atoms exist 
everywhere ; but they are only endowed with sensation 
when they come together in certain quantities, as they do 
in the human body. Consciousness, therefore, disappears 
with the dissolution of the body. 

The scientific elaboration of this standpoint at the 
hands of Democritus (about 460-360 B.C.), was one of the 
great philosophical achievements of antiquity. Democritus 

Greek Philosophy 33 

is to be classed, indeed, not with the earlier philosophers, 
but rather with Plato and Aristotle, whose older contem- 
porary he was, and whom he rivals in the comprehensive- 
ness of his system. In particular, he goes beyond his 
predecessors by the more elaborate treatment which he gives 
to the philosophical doctrine of knowledge. His whole theory 
compels him to insist upon a difference between our ordi- 
nary perception, which gives us the unreal appearance of 
things as qualitatively distinct, and thought, which discloses 
their true atomic structure ; and it only is in thought terms 
that science deals. On the other hand, his materialism 
forces him to explain knowledge in terms of contact, and 
so to reduce it ultimately to the form of touch. He does 
this through the theory of effluxes, or images, a theory 
which remained influential even down to the time of 
Locke. External objects shed minute copies or images 
of themselves. These enter the sense organs which are 
fitted to receive them, and, by setting in motion the soul 
atoms, give rise to perception. How, then, does false 
knowledge differ from true, sensation from thought? 
This question, which the earlier philosophers had been 
unable to answer, Democritus seems to have solved with- 
out admitting any difference in kind between them. 
Thought is caused by those finer images which copy the 
atomic structure of things, and which, as they give rise to 
a gentler motion of the soul, are able to affect us only as 
more violent disturbances are prevented. Sensation, on 
the contrary, being due to the larger and coarser images, 
which aggregates of atoms give off, throws the soul into 
the violent commotion which results only in confused per- 
ceptions, i.e., in subjective and phenomenal appearance. 

7. The Pythagoreans 

I. At the same time with the development which has just 
been traced, another interconnected movement was gain- 
ing numerous adherents. The originator of this movement 
is the semi-mythical figure of Pythagoras, a native of 

34 A Student's History of Philosophy 

Samos, who lived about 580-500 B.C., and who, after many 
travels, finally settled down at Crotona in Italy. The 
facts about Pythagoras are not easy to discover, but it is 
apparent that, besides being a philosopher, he had also 
certain practical aims. He was the founder of a religious 
society, in which more or less ascetic ethical and social 
ideals appear to have been at least as important as scien- 
tific doctrines. The school was a brotherhood, bound 
together by common beliefs and rules, and common intel- 
lectual pursuits. Some of the rules of the order have 
come down to us, and they throw an interesting light on 
its character. Apart from the injunction of celibacy and 
ascetic practices, of meditations, devotions, and the social 
virtues, there are other requirements of a more ambig- 
uous nature. Do not sit on a quart measure ; do not eat 
the heart ; do not stir the fire with iron ; do not look in a 
mirror beside a light ; when you rise from the bedclothes, 
roll them together and smooth out the impress of the 
body : these are a few that are sufficiently characteristic. 
So, also, the prohibition of animal sacrifices, of the use of 
wool, of the eating of beans. Most of these rules seem 
so trivial, that the later Pythagoreans were driven to inter- 
pret them metaphorically, and to find in them all sorts of 
hidden wisdom. But anthropology throws a different 
light upon them, and makes it plain that they are simply 
survivals of primitive savagery, based on the notion of 
taboo, and similar customs and superstitions. They seem 
to have appealed to Pythagoras as a suitable instrument 
for bringing about a reform of the widespread luxury and 
license which marked the age, and which have made the 
neighboring city of Sybaris a byword for self-indulgence. 
There are other indications that a wave of religious revival 
had been passing over Greece, marked by a deepened 
sense of guilt, and of the need of expiation. Such a 
revival always tends to turn back to the authority of 
ancient customs, with which the religious feeling is deeply 
implicated, particularly on its more gloomy side. This 

Greek Philosophy 35 

sense of guilt shows itself in the doctrine of the trans- 
migration of souls, which plays a large part in the Pythag- 
orean teaching, and which has its chief attraction in its 
emphasis on the fact of moral retribution. The rapid 
growth of the new society, its inner coherence, and its 
possession of scientific knowledge, soon gave it a pre- 
ponderating political influence in Crotona, and other Ital- 
ian cities. Its exclusiveness, however, and its rather 
supercilious and self-righteous attitude, gave strength to 
its opponents, and finally resulted in its overthrow at the 
hands of the popular party. 

2. Deprived of political power, the movement continued 
to exert a more permanent influence through the medium 
of those philosophical and scientific aspects which probably 
had been present to some extent from the start. The doc- 
trine of the Pythagoreans is summed up in the statement 
that the reality of things consists in number. If we take 
number in the modern sense, as distinguished from the 
concrete objects to which it applies, this is too abstract a 
conception to mean anything, even to us ; and it certainly 
would not have been intelligible at so early a period. It 
is necessary to interpret it, therefore, if it is to be made 
consistent with the rest that is known of Greek thought ; 
and the most probable interpretation seems, briefly, to be 
this : It is the common presupposition of the Greek type 
of mind, that the real is the definite. It is only as Chaos 
takes on ordered and harmonious form, that we have any- 
thing deserving to be called a world. But if existence is 
spatial and material, then such regularity is most obvi- 
ously to be found in the geometrical forms to which space 
lends itself. With the Pythagoreans, this takes shape in the 
doctrine that the Cosmos is the result of bringing together 
two factors the Unlimited, or infinite and formless empty 
space, and the Limit which is given to this. The result is 
the world of definite forms, which partake of the character- 
istics of both. They are spatial in their nature, but it is 
limited space. It was with this ascending series of geomet- 

36 A Student's History of Philosophy 

rical forms regarded, however, not as abstractions, but as 
concrete physical facts that the number series seems to 
have been identified, and so to have got its entrance into the 
theory. Thus, the number one is the point, two the line, 
three the surface, four the cube, and so on. The interest 
of the Pythagoreans in musical theory, and their discovery 
of the numerical relations of the length of the strings, may 
have helped to emphasize this identification. 

Of course, the actual scientific results which they had to 
show from their investigations, were scanty. The inquiries 
just mentioned, concerning the numerical relations involved 
in musical harmony, had some value ; but the extension of 
the same idea to phenomena on a larger or a different scale 
for example, their fancy about the " music of the spheres," 
and their theory that the soul is merely the harmony of the 
body, as a melody is the harmony of the lyre led them 
into the realm of pure guesswork, or poetic imagination. 
For the most part, their procedure consisted in attempting 
to discover, through the use of more or less fanciful analo- 
gies, a special number for every sort of existence. Thus, 
opportunity is represented by the number seven ; marriage 
by the number five the first harmony between the male 
(odd) and the female (even). The triviality of these results 
should not lead us, however, to ignore the real value of 
their fundamental thought. The recognition that the aim 
of scientific inquiry is the discovery of numerical relation- 
ships, was destined, under more favorable conditions, to 
be taken up again, and, in connection with the atom- 
ism of Democritus, made the basis of all modern 


Burnet, Early Greek Philosophers. 

Blackie, Horae Hellenicae, p. 255. 

Grote, History of Greece. 

Fairbanks, The First Philosophers of Greece. 

Symonds, Greek Poets, Vol. I. 

Zeller, The Pre-Socratic Schools, 2 vols. 


8. The Sophists 

i. The Growth of Critical Inquiry. So far, the 
powers of the Greek mind have been directed chiefly to 
the theoretical solution of the objective, cosmological 
% problems that are connected with processes in nature. 
And along this line the results have been somewhat re- 
markable. In the space of a few generations, a concep- 
tion has been elaborated which is strikingly similar to what 
has been, up to within a short time at least, the hypothesis 
of the most modern science. The reduction of qualitative 
to quantitative differences, the connection of mathematics 
with scientific method, the resolution of all phenomenal 
bodies into a multitude of minute moving particles, or 
atoms, of all change into change of position on the part 
of these- atoms, and all efficiency into mechanical impact, 
is expressed with a definiteness that leaves little to be de- 
sired. Nevertheless, this development now stops abruptly, 
and for nearly two thousand years the course of human 
thought takes, in its dominant aspects, an altogether dif- 
ferent line. How does Greek atomism differ from modern 
science, that the one should be so barren, and the other 
so rich in results ? 

Evidently the most far-reaching difference consists sim- 
ply in this : that modern science is no mere guess at the 
ultimate nature of things in general, but an experimental 
investigation of the way in which things really act in de- 
tail. It is this which gives it its immense influence on 
modern life. To know the actual laws of things is to con- 


38 A Student's History of Philosophy 

trol them; and this practical service which it renders, is 
what has made of science one of the most powerful instru- 
ments of growth in civilization that has ever been devised. 
The Greeks, on the contrary, had not reached the point 
where they could master the concrete behavior of objects. 
Their atomism is less a science than a mere philosophy, in 
which the chief interest is the theoretical one of reducing 
all the complexity of life to a single formula. And as such, 
it has no great contribution to make to the concrete human 
ends, out of which the larger movements of human thought 
always flow. It is not far enough advanced to touch human 
life on the practical side, like modern science ; and in rela- 
tion to the more spiritual interests of man, it is plainly 
inadequate. The mechanical view of the world tries to re- 
duce things to a statement which ignores all reference to 
the facts of conscious life, of spiritual value, of aesthetic, 
and ethical, and social ideals. And because it is such an 
abstraction, it has no real interpretation to give of the as- 
pects which it leaves out. But philosophy cannot long 
ignore what interests men most; and as the physical 
theories of the early period had thus no great contribution 
to make to the good of human life, it was natural that 
they should be laid aside for the time being, and attention 
directed to the more concrete facts of individual and social 
conduct, i.e., to Ethics. It was only when this more press- 
ing problem had to some extent been worked out and 
formulated, that philosophy was able to come back with 
profit to the mechanical and physical aspects of the uni- 

Meanwhile, in a negative way, the theories of the phys- 
ical philosophers had helped prepare for this subsequent 
movement a movement which represents most characteris- 
tically the genius of Greek thought, and of which the 
Sophists were the immediate precursors. At first, philoso- 
phy had directed its criticism only against such ideas as 
were primarily theoretical in their nature, and had left com- 
paratively untouched the realm of conduct. Any real 

Greek Philosophy 39 

tampering with the foundations of social life would, indeed, 
at the start have been vigorously resented. A society 
which is still based upon the morality of custom and tradi- 
tion, cannot afford to allow too free an examination of its 
foundation and sanctions, if it does not wish to disinte- 
grate. Indirectly, however, philosophy had served seri- 
ously to weaken these sanctions. Morality and the social 
life always stand for the mass of men in close connection 
with religious ideas and practices, and this is particularly 
true of early society, where religion is still intimately bound 
up with every detail of life. The physical philosophy had 
thoroughly shaken the hold of the popular religion for a 
multitude of educated men. The stories of the gods, offen- 
sive alike to the scientific and to the moral sense, were 
rationalized and explained away; and while philosophers 
might not go to the length of denying outright the gods' 
existence, even the materialist Democritus supposed that 
the interplay of atoms had given rise to beings, not immor- 
tal indeed, but far more perfect than ourselves, whom we 
call gods, still the clearly defined conceptions of the 
past were all the time being attenuated into a vague 
naturalistic pantheism, which lost all grip on the concrete 
conduct of life. The growth of naturalism, and the decay 
of an active belief in the old mythology, shows itself plainly, 
e.g., in the Greek historians. Instead of the Homeric gods, 
who concern themselves with the smallest details of human 
life, and are called in to explain even that which obviously 
needs no explanation, there is already in Herodotus a fair 
development of the historical spirit, which tries to get at 
true causes, and which stops to weigh the evidence even 
in the case of stories that are sacred. In spite of a good 
deal of native piety, Herodotus is glad to rationalize when 
he sees his way to it. So, e.g., he explains the legend of 
the rape of Europa, as perhaps growing out of what was 
historically a capture by pirates. And when we reach 
Thucydides, we have a thoroughly modern historian, whose 
narrative has become purely secular, and who has nothing 

40 A Student's History of Philosophy 

to do with anything except human and natural motives. 
When, therefore, the ideas of conduct came themselves in 
turn to be criticised, they had already lost a large measure 
of their sacredness and solidity. 

There had already been a certain amount of ethical 
reflection among the Greeks. The writings of the so- 
called Seven Wise Men, e.g., were largely moralistic. The 
early moralists, indeed, had been content for the most part 
with the enunciation of disconnected ethical and prudential 
maxims of which moderation is the key-note on the 
basis of the customary morality ; while their social and 
political applications were partisan, rather than theoretical 
and fundamental. Nevertheless, the mere fact that such 
a literature was called forth, indicates a growing unrest, 
and a feeling of the insecurity of the foundations of con- 
duct which demanded counteracting forces. In particular, 
the appearance everywhere in the Greek cities of the 
Tyrant, usually a vigorous personality, who, from the r61e 
of a popular "hero, ended by setting up his private will as 
superior to the whole state, had impressed a stamp of 
egoism and individualism upon the age. A new literary 
movement gave expression to this individualism ; it was 
fostered especially at the courts of the new rulers, and its 
characteristic was the personal note of lyric poetry. The 
tendency to make criticism more thoroughgoing, was par- 
tially checked by the Persian wars. The pressure of a 
national crisis, and the wave of moral enthusiasm called 
forth by the heroic way in which it was met, lent a new 
life to traditional institutions and beliefs. But as the dan- 
ger passed, and Greece, especially Athens, entered upon 
a career of prosperity unknown before, the tendencies 
already present in the Greek life became more and more 

This result was inevitable. The tacit acquiescence in 
the status quo, the unquestioning acceptance of law as 
divine and obligatory, the merging of one's individual life 
as a matter of course in the community and civic life, and 

Greek Philosophy 41 

the recognition of the superior claims of the latter, could 
not long remain unchallenged under the conditions which 
marked Greek political life during the fifth century. The 
constant revolutions and changes of government growing 
out of the struggles of the popular party with the aristoc- 
racy, and the wide extension of democratic principles, made 
it impossible that the old attitude should be persevered 
in. No one could permanently preserve a feeling for the 
divinity and inviolability of laws which were changed from 
year to year, laws which he had seen his neighbors tinker- 
ing at in the popular assembly, under the influence of 
prejudices and passions, and which he himself had had a 
hand in constructing. In this turmoil of social conditions, 
when the old ideals, based on the life of custom, were 
slowly yielding to new circumstances, it could not fail to 
come about that there should be an effort to discover the 
real basis of social life as such, of law, and justice, and 
morality, and to justify at the bar of individual reason the 
institutions which hitherto had been accepted on authority. 
It is the sense of this conflict between the new and the old, 
which gives rise to some of the characteristic problems of 
the drama. The old tribal conceptions of guilt and retribu- 
tion, comparatively unmoralized and external, are being 
undermined by the new feeling for the worth of the in- 
dividual, and the need that his acts should be grounded in 
his personal will and choice to become ethically signifi- 
cant. In ^Eschylus the old ideals still largely maintain 
themselves; it is only when we get to Euripides, with 
his pervasive scepticism, and individualism, and modernity, 
that we realize how far thought has advanced from its 
primitive caution. 

2. The Sophists. It was largely the class of men known 
as the Sophists, who were responsible for bringing this 
change of attitude to clear consciousness. The Sophists 
were an outgrowth of the peculiar political conditions of 
the time. For the young man of good birth, who had to 
keep up the rdle of "gentleman," the natural, almost the 

42 A Student's History of Philosophy 

only, career to look forward to, was connected with the 
political life of his city. Now for this, the most obvious 
and indispensable qualification was the ability to speak well 
and persuasively. In the small states of Greece, where 
each citizen had an immediate voice in determining public 
policy, political preferment, success in carrying one's meas- 
ures, and even self-preservation against the attacks of op- 
ponents, depended directly on one's skill in carrying his 
audience with him. A demand arose, accordingly, for 
teachers who should train men for public life; and the 
Sophists came forward to meet this demand. The repre- 
sentatives of the higher education of the day, they made, 
like the modern university professor, the teaching of wis- 
dom a profession. As there were no settled seats of 
learning, they wandered from city to city, picking up their 
pupils, mostly the sons of rich men, wherever they could 
find them, and supporting themselves by the fees they re- 
ceived. The basis of their work was apt to be rhetorical, 
but with the abler Sophists, this was broadened out to cover 
the field of an all-round and liberal culture. Any knowl- 
edge that was available of the workings of the human 
mind, of literature, history, language, or grammar, of the 
principles underlying the dialectic of argument, of the 
nature of virtue and justice, was clearly appropriate to 
the end in view. And so in the case of the greater Soph- 
ists Protagoras, Hippias, Prodicus, and Gorgias are the 
names best known to us we meet with men possessed of 
a varied, in some cases of an encyclopaedic, learning, and 
able to present this systematically and skilfully. 

Now all this seems to be innocent enough, and to supply 
no justification for the extreme hostility and suspicion with 
which the Sophists were regarded by the populace, and by 
such reactionary upholders of tradition as Aristophanes. 
In reality, however, there were some grounds for this sus- 
picion. On the practical side, merely, there always was a 
danger lest the Sophistic skill be prostituted to unsocial 
ends. In Aristophanes' Clouds, the worthy Strepsiades, 

Greek Philosophy 43 

driven to his wits' end by the debts in which his son has 
involved him, is represented as turning to the Sophist Soc- 
rates, for the means to extricate himself by cheating his 
creditors. And when, after he proves too stupid himself 
to master the new learning, his son takes his place, and 
ends by winning his suits in the court, the latter shows 
himself a proficient disciple by ill-treating his own father 
in turn, and then justifying his actions in true Sophistic 
style. Apart, however, from such chances for abuse, 
which no doubt were often taken advantage of, there was 
a more fundamental reason for the popular distrust. The 
habit of unrestricted inquiry and discussion which was crys- 
tallized by the Sophistic movement, the free play of the 
mind over all subjects that interest men, meant the over- 
throw of much in the existing civilization. But men do 
not like to have the foundations of their lives shaken; and 
when these foundations have never been rationalized, and 
have no better warrant than unthinking custom, the mere 
motion to examine them critically, seems to be risking the 
solidity of the whole social structure, and is resented 

Nor, indeed, was there very much in the thought of the 
Sophists to counteract this disintegrating tendency. In 
so far as their teaching implied a criticism of existing 
things, it was negative in its effects. Thought had not 
yet been exercised sufficiently to discover a rational stand- 
ard, to take the place of the standard of authoritative tra- 
dition which was being destroyed. Just the admission 
that each man has the right to test the truth of anything 
whatsoever, by referring it to his own private judgment, 
seems at first to do away with the possibility of an abso- 
lute criterion, and to resolve society into a mass of ele- 
mentary units, each recognizing no principle of authority 
outside himself. This was strengthened, as has been said, 
by the practical aim of the Sophistic teaching. The goal 
of the politician was not so much truth, as victory. This 
made it necessary that, like the modern lawyer, he should 

44 A Student's History of Philosophy 

be nimble-witted enough to take any side, to seize any 
loophole of argument, to be able, if need be, to make the 
worse appear the better reason a procedure likely to 
obscure rather than clarify the ultimate principles of truth, 
if any such there be. 1 On this basis, it was easily possible 
for a conception to arise which should reduce society to a 
mere complex of individual men, each looking out primarily 
for his own private interests, a conception which had its 
counterpart in that atomism in the outer world, with which 
the theories of the physical philosophers had already fa- 
miliarized men's minds. 

In the case of the earlier and greater Sophists, there is 
no evidence that there was any intention thus to under- 
mine the foundations of society, or to promote an extreme 
scepticism and individualism. For the most part, these 
were men of excellent moral ideals, who honestly meant 
to train their pupils to a life of virtue and usefulness in 
the state ; the famous Choice of Hercules by Prodicus, and 

1 This, for Aristophanes, is all that the Sophist stands for, and no doubt in 
many cases the emphasis in their teaching looked sufficiently in this direction 
to give grounds for his strong dislike. Cf. the following lines from the Birds 
(Frere's translation) : 

" Along the Sycophantic shore, 
And where the savage tribes adore 
The waters of the Clepsydra, 
There dwells a nation, stern and strong, 
Armed with an enormous tongue, 
Wherewith they smite and slay : 
With their tongues, they reap and sow, 
And gather all the fruits that grow, 
The vintage and the grain; 
Gorgias is their chief of pride, 
And many more there be beside 
Of mickle might and main. 
Good they never teach, nor show 
But how to work men harm and woe, 
Unrighteousness and wrong; 
And hence the custom doth arise, 
When beasts are slain in sacrifice, 
We sever out the tongue." 

Greek Philosophy 45 

the eloquent discourse of Protagoras, in Plato's dialogue of 
the same name, are examples of what their teaching could 
be at its best. Nevertheless, the forces which they set in 
motion inevitably led beyond their own position. The first 
step had been to abandon the na'fve acceptance of the 
obligatoriness of law as such. The growing recognition of 
the great diversity in the practice of different communities, 
and the habit, which democracy fostered, of setting up the 
citizen himself to judge the laws, gradually tended to break 
down their sanctity. As, however, men were not ready 
all at once to give up their old feeling about law, there 
resulted an important distinction. This was the distinc- 
tion between merely statute law, and those ultimate prin- 
ciples on which the moral life and society rest ; or, as it 
came to be expressed, between what is right only by cus- 
tom or convention, and what is right by nature. This 
latter was at first found somewhat vaguely in the law of 
the ethical life, or " justice," which thus was still taken 
largely for granted. 

But the same criticism which had destroyed the abso- 
luteness of ordinary law, was presently extended to the 
conception of moral law as well. The almost universal 
assumption which lay back of moralizing reflection and 
ethical exhortation in early times that virtue and justice 
are the only safe way of getting on in the world, and 
should be sought as a matter of far-sighted prudence 
became less obvious the more it was pondered over. Such 
an assumption needs, perhaps, to be made by the majority 
of men, if they are to remain held by the traditional 
virtues ; but does it approve itself to reason ? To the 
intelligence enlightened by the casting off of unthinking 
habits of moral judgment, as to the writer of the book of 
Job, it does not seem evident that the righteous always 
prosper, and the wicked come to grief. Injustice has its 
full share, if not more than its share, of the good things of 
life, and apparently enjoys them none the less for the 
crimes that have been committed to procure them. If, 

46 A Student's History of Philosophy 

then, the motive of conduct is our own advantage and 
happiness, and what other end can maintain itself ? 
and if the fear of the gods, whose very existence is in 
question, is no longer before the eyes of the emancipated 
man, have virtue and justice themselves any other title to 
our respect than mere convention ? It may be advisable 
often to yield to the prejudice in favor of these things ; 
but if we can disregard them safely, and it clearly is to our 
interest to do so, it is only folly to allow mere words like 
"right" and "good," "injustice" and "evil," to stand in 
our way. 

There were not lacking men to draw this final conclu- 
sion. In the last resort, might is right. The law of nature 
is to satisfy, if we can, those appetites which nature has 
implanted in us, in common with the rest of her creatures. 
Moral terms, with their implication of praise or blame, are 
only conventional, either the invention of the many to 
restrain the more powerful few, or of rulers who wish 
thereby to rivet the chains of their subjects. " For nature 
herself intimates that it is just for the better to have more 
than the worse, the more powerful than the weaker, and 
in many ways she shows among men as well as among 
animals that justice consists in the superior ruling over and 
having more than the inferior. If there were a man who 
had sufficient force, he would trample under foot all our 
formulas and spells and charms, and all our laws, sinning 
against nature ; the slave would rise in rebellion and be 
lord over us, and natural justice would shine forth." J 

The outcome of such a tendency was bound to be fatal 
to the welfare of Greek society ; and the perception of the 
danger is one of the main things which justify us in 
separating Socrates and Plato from the Sophists in the 
narrower sense. It is true that these conclusions were not 
often expressed so nakedly; but they were in the air. 

1 Plato, Gorgias, 483. This, and the subsequent quotations from Plato, 
are from Jowett's translation. (Oxford University Press. American ed. by 
Chas. Scribner's Sons.) 

Greek Philosophy 47 

Their real source lies, not in any group of individual 
thinkers, but in the whole state of political life, in " that 
great Sophist, the Public," as Plato expresses it. The 
utter unscrupulousness and rapacity which had invaded the 
relations of the different Greek states to one another, could 
not fail to be carried over into the realm of private morals ; 
it is no Sophist, but a practical politician and man of the 
world, a despiser of all philosophy, who stands in Plato 
as the most extreme and outspoken representative of the 
gospel of force. The Sophistic movement was not a cause, 
but a symptom ; its danger lay in its stimulation of pre- 
cisely those tendencies which needed control. " The Soph- 
ists do but fan and add fuel to the fire in which Greece, 
as they wander like ardent missionaries about it, is flam- 
ing itself away." J 

If, now, we attempt to estimate the value of the move- 
ment, it may be said that, in spite of its failings, it represents 
an important stage in the growth of human intelligence. 
The attitude which accepts without question the moral and 
social obligations of the society into which a man is born, 
avoids a vast amount of friction and unrest, but it has its 
drawbacks as well. In such a society, there is no inward 
principle of conscious and self -directed growth. Because 
men have simply inherited the forms of their belief and 
conduct, and have not been accustomed to ask why these 
are accepted, and whether they really perform the service 
that would justify the tenacity with which they are held, 
there is no way of going to work consciously to change 
conditions. And when changes are forced upon society 
through the stress of outward circumstances, men are 
helpless to adapt themselves to the new situation. This 
power of adaptability, which is so necessary to progress, 
implies that the individual man is no longer swallowed up 
in his tribe or state. It implies that he has recognized his 
own individuality, his right to appeal from the bar of mere 
authority, and justify to himself the grounds on which he 

1 Pater, Plato and Platonism. 

48 A Student's History of Philosophy 

is to believe and act. So long as primitive social condi- 
tions are fairly satisfactory, and maintain themselves in 
a reasonable degree of integrity, the positive advantages 
which they offer, as the safeguards of a settled life, are of 
too much value to be lightly trifled with. But as soon as 
this stability begins to weaken, as it was commencing to do 
in Greece, a change of attitude is a necessity of self-pres- 
ervation. Men can no longer rest upon the traditional 
forms that have served their day ; and so they have to 
fall back upon themselves, and upon their ability to strike 
out paths in a measure different from the old. And the 
first step is, to recognize their independence of the old ; to 
recognize that there is at least a sense in which man is 
greater than society, and has the right to make society, 
with all its creeds and institutions, subservient to his own 
needs and wishes. 

But in coming to recognize this, there is great danger 
of swinging to the other extreme, which itself stands in 
need of correction. Let it be granted that no mere author- 
ity of gods, or king, or fellow-citizens, has, as such, any 
absolute claim on the individual man ; that he is essen- 
tially free, and in his freedom can demand that every- 
thing claiming authority over him, should first approve 
itself to his reason. In what, nevertheless, does this reason 
and this freedom consist ? Is man the measure of all 
things, in the sense that each man has his own private 
reason, incommensurable with that of any one else ? And 
is freedom, similarly, the mere right to do as one individ- 
ually pleases? It is to this that the Sophistic thought 
tends to swing ; and in so doing, it opens up one of the 
central problems of philosophy. What, namely, do we 
mean by the Individual ? Is he simply the self-centred 
unit which at first glance he seems to be ; a body distinct 
from all other bodies, with its private appetites and desires, 
seeking to compass its own preservation and gratification, 
without reference to any one else ? Is he a reality quite 
outside his relation to society as a whole, whose existence, 

Greek Philosophy 49 

therefore, is immaterial to him, except as it serves to further 
his individual and sensuous interests ? Or, is man's nature 
to be taken as something wider than this ? Is it possible, 
without falling back upon the purely external restraints of 
custom and authority, to find in man's own self the laws 
that shall connect him again with the larger life of the 
world, and enable him to establish securely once more the 
concrete institutions of society and the state ; not now as 
something impressed upon him from the outside, but as an 
outgrowth of his own needs, and an expression of his own 
inmost being ? 

In opposition to the growing individualism of the 
age, Socrates is the starting-point for another tendency, 
which became more clearly conscious in his successors, 
Plato and Aristotle. This is the tendency to emphasize 
the more universal and objective sides of man's life and 
knowledge. Socrates is, in the large sense of the word, 
himself a Sophist. He is as convinced as any one, of the 
necessity of subjecting the grounds of conduct to a rational 
examination, instead of accepting them uncritically on the 
basis of tradition. And so Aristophanes, as an adherent of 
the Old School, selects him as the arch-Sophist, to pillory 
in his comedy of the Clouds. But Socrates also is fully 
and consciously possessed of the unwavering conviction 
that morality and society can stand the test of this inquiry. 
Far from landing us in scepticism and ethical anarchy, 
criticism will establish all the more firmly the subordina- 
tion of the individual man to the larger social order. In 
his dawning perception of the way in which this result is 
to be brought about, Socrates is the forerunner of some of 
the most important philosophical tendencies of the future. 

9. Socrates 

Socrates (469-399 B.C.) was the son of an Athenian 
sculptor, but early abandoned his father's profession for 
the more congenial pursuit of philosophy. There is no 

50 A Student's History of Philosophy 

more picturesque figure in the history of Greece. In per- 
sonal appearance the very opposite of the Greek ideal, 
with protruding eyes, thick lips, and snub nose, all this 
was forgotten when one came under the charm of his per- 
sonality and his conversation. And conversation was the 
one business of his life. Living in the most frugal man- 
ner, his meat and drink of the cheapest sort, without shoes 
to his feet the whole year round, and clinging to a single 
threadbare cloak that served for summer and winter alike, 
he spent his time in the market-place, or wherever men 
came together, satisfied if only he could find some one with 
whom to discourse upon the questions in which he took a 
perennial interest. " I have a benevolent habit," he says 
jokingly in one of Plato's dialogues, " of pouring out my- 
self to everybody, and I would even pay for a listener if I 
couldn't get one in any other way." 

It is to no lack of seriousness, however, on Socrates' 
part, that we^ are to attribute this mode of life. It is rather 
due to a genuine moral purpose, which he followed consist- 
ently from beginning to end. As he tells the story in 
Plato's Apology, the report had come to him- that Chaero- 
phon, a friend of his, had put to the oracle at Delphi the 
question : Is any man living wiser than Socrates ? and the 
reply had been, that Socrates was indeed wisest of man- 
kind. Unable, in the consciousness of his own ignorance, 
to understand this, and yet not wanting to doubt the word 
of the god, Socrates had gone from one man to another 
who was reputed wise, that he might test this wisdom; 
and in every case he had found a conceit of knowledge, 
with nothing in reality back of it. A little questioning 
had quickly brought to light that each man was as igno- 
rant as he of all the higher concerns of human life ; the 
only difference lay in the fact that all the rest supposed 
themselves to be very wise indeed, whereas Socrates, 
though he was as ignorant as they, at least knew that he 
knew nothing. He concluded, therefore, that it was this 
consciousness of his own ignorance to which the oracle 

Greek Philosophy 51 

had been referring, and that, by thus commending him, 
the god had chosen him out as an instrument for pricking 
the bubble of universal self-deception. Convinced pro- 
foundly that knowledge alone is salvation, he saw that the 
first and the essential step toward getting rid of the con- 
fused mass of opinion going by the name of knowledge, 
was to make its inadequacy apparent. He was the divinely 
appointed gadfly given to the state, " which is like a great 
and noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing to his 
very size, and requires to be stirred into life." 

This condition of ignorance was to Socrates, however, 
always to be a prelude to something better, not an end in 
itself. In spite of his insistence upon his own ignorance, 
no one can be more thoroughly convinced that there is 
truth, and that this truth is attainable by man. It is moral 
truth, however, not scientific or metaphysical. " This is 
the point in which, as I think, I am superior to men in 
general, and in which I might, perhaps, fancy myself wiser 
than other men that whereas I know but little of the 
world below, I do not suppose that I know. But I do 
know" and this suggests the positive side "that in- 
justice and disobedience to a better, whether God or man, 
is evil and dishonorable, and I will never fear or avoid a 
possible good rather than a certain evil." * As regards 
the problems with which the physical philosophers had 
been busy, he is as sceptical as any one. But if we cannot 
know the movements of the heavenly bodies, or the number 
of the primitive elements, at least we may console our- 
selves with the thought that such knowledge would be of no 
use to us if we possessed it. All that man really needs is 
the knowledge of himself, his own duty and end : yv&Oi, 

It was of the things, therefore, that lie nearest to man's 
human interests, that he was all the time questioning and 
debating piety and impiety, the beautiful and the ugly, 
the noble and the base, the just and the unjust, sobriety 

1 Apol. t 29. 

52 A Student's History of Philosophy 

and madness, courage and cowardice, what a state is, and 
what a statesman, what a ruler over men. Of anything 
whose practical bearing was not at once manifest, he was 
openly impatient. All that really concerns man is how to 
live to live his concrete life as citizen in a state. So long 
as there is ignorance almost complete on this all-important 
point, we have no energy to spare for guesses about non- 
essentials. The carpenter, the smith, the flute-player, the 
pilot, each knows his own business. He trains himself for 
one definite thing, and he can tell you just what that thing 
is, and what purpose it serves. For citizenship alone, in 
spite of its being vastly more complicated, and vastly more 
important, there is no special training, and there is no defi- 
nite formulation of the end in view. Here every man is 
supposed to be competent by nature to pronounce on the 
most abstruse questions. If a man were to imagine that 
his mere inclination to be a physician, was a sufficient 
qualification Jo justify him in hanging out his sign, he 
would be laughed at. But men will aim at an important 
office in the state, on no more solid grounds than that they 
desire the office, and think they can get enough of their 
friends to vote for them to secure it. If we need knowl- 
edge, then, for the simplest and humblest pursuits, most 
of all do we need it for that pursuit which is the supreme 
end of man's life. And given adequate knowledge, nothing 
else is needed. No man will voluntarily do that which is 
against his best interests ; since, then, right, or justice, and 
these best interests of his nature, are identical, man has 
only to know the right, and he will do it freely. Virtue is 
knowledge this is, of all the doctrines that go back to 
Socrates, perhaps the most characteristic. 

Socrates' mission is, therefore, in his own eyes, funda- 
mentally a moral and religious one. " Men of Athens, I 
honor and love you ; but I shall obey God rather than you, 
and while I have life and strength, I shall never cease from 
the practice and teaching of philosophy, exhorting every 
one whom I meet after my manner, and convincing him, 

Greek Philosophy 53 

saying : O my friend, why do you, who are a citizen of the 
great and mighty and wise city of Athens, care so much 
about laying up the greatest amount of money and honor 
and reputation, and so little about wisdom, and truth, and 
the greatest improvement of the soul, which you never 
regard or heed at all?" * He aims at knowledge, accord- 
ingly, not on its own account, but that it may be put in 
practice ; and since, in the field of ethics, there is no break 
between knowing and doing, in making men wise, he is at 
the same time making them good. Such a close connec- 
tion between knowledge and action may seem, indeed, to 
overlook certain obvious facts the many times we see 
and approve the better, and yet choose the worse. Per- 
haps there is more truth than we commonly admit in the 
answer, that such knowledge is no real knowledge, and 
that, when knowledge is truly vital and realized, it always 
carries action with it. But at any rate, there is one point 
which stands out with sufficient clearness. The statement 
that virtue is identical with knowledge has at least this 
meaning : that virtue does not merely consist in following 
the customs of our forefathers, but is rationalized conduct. 
And so it has nothing to fear, on the contrary it has every- 
thing to hope, from the most thorough scrutiny of reason. 
The method by which Socrates attempted to secure these 
results, had a twofold aspect. He begins by shaking the 
foundations of a false assurance of knowledge. Starting in 
with an appearance of agreement, and a depreciation of his 
own wisdom, as compared with that which his interlocutor 
undoubtedly possesses, he induces the latter to offer a defi- 
nition of the matter in hand. Then, by a series of skilful 
questions, he develops the most contradictory conclusions 
from this, until, as Euthyphro says, "somehow or other 
our arguments, on whatever grounds we rest them, seem to 
turn round and walk away ; " and the one with whom he is 
arguing is compelled to confess that he has never carefully 
considered the subject, and that his notions about it are 


54 A Student's History of Philosophy 

indefinite, and based on mere confused opinion. This is 
the famous Socratic irony. For example, Euthydemus is 
very certain that he knows what an upright and righteous 
man is. I see, he says, you are afraid I cannot expound 
the works of righteousness ! Why, bless me, of course I can, 
and the works of unrighteousness into the bargain. Very 
well, replies Socrates, let us write the letter R on this side, 
and the letter W on that; and then anything that appears 
to us to be the product of righteousness, we will place to 
the R account, and anything that appears to be the prod- 
uct of wrong-doing, to the account of W. Where, then, 
shall we place lying ? Euthydemus is quite confident that 
this will go under W ; and so also will deceit, and chicanery, 
and the enslavement of freeborn men. It would be quite 
monstrous to put these on the side of right and justice. 

But now, says Socrates, suppose a man to be elected 
general, and suppose he succeeds in enslaving an unjust 
and hostile state ; or he deceives the foe while at war with 
them, and pillages their property : are we to say that he is 
doing wrong ? And if he is not, shall we not be compelled 
to set these same qualities down also to the account of R ? 
As Euthydemus is forced to admit this, it becomes neces- 
sary to change the definition ; we will say now that it is 
right to do such things to a foe, but it still is wrong to do 
them to a friend. But stay a moment, Socrates goes on ; 
suppose a general invents a tale to encourage his demoral- 
ized troops, or a father uses deceit to get his sick child 
to take some medicine under the guise of something nice 
to eat, or you rob a friend of a knife which he is liable to 
use against himself ; are these things wrong too ? Is a 
straightforward course to be pursued in such cases, even 
in dealing with friends ? Heaven forbid ! the young man 
exclaims ; if you will let me, I take back my former state- 
ment once more. And so Socrates continues, until Euthy- 
demus comes to the conclusion that it is high time for 
him to keep silence altogether, or he will be proved to 
know absolutely nothing; and he goes off with his self- 

Greek Philosophy 55 

confidence entirely shattered, though for that very reason 
in a much more teachable spirit than at the start. 1 

Along with this negative aspect, however, there was a 
more positive side. Socrates' method rests on the assump- 
tion that every man has within him the possibility of knowl- 
edge. If the elements of knowledge did not exist down 
below the surface of opinion, he would have no standard by 
which to correct his first thoughts. Socrates' questioning 
serves only to disentangle what implicitly is there already ; 
he is an intellectual midwife, to bring truth to its birth. 
This is noteworthy by reason of the fact that it brings 
to the front the value of clear and exact definition, in 
opposition to the confused, self-contradictory, altogether 
loose and popular character of most that goes under the 
name of thinking, faults belonging not merely to com- 
mon opinion, but even to such pretenders to scientific 
knowledge as the Sophists, with their fondness for florid 
rhetoric and exhortation. But, furthermore, this emphasis 
on definition had other and far-reaching results. It has al- 
ready been noticed that the earlier philosophers were com- 
pelled to make a distinction between ordinary opinion, and 
philosophic thought, without, however, being able to define 
this very clearly. Since there was often a complete contra- 
diction between their own views, and the popular beliefs, the 
two evidently could not be on the same plane. The method 
of Socrates supplied a way of conceiving in what the dis- 
tinctiveness of thought consists. If knowledge is possible, 
then down beneath the unessential differences due to in- 
dividual prejudices and opinions, there is something in 
which all men agree, or can be led to agree. The method 
of philosophy will consist in stripping off these outer 
husks, and laying bare the common, universal element 
which they conceal. Thought, i.e., deals with what we 
call the concept, or general notion. This gets away from 
mere special cases and illustrations, and sums up the 
essential nature of the thing, which marks its point of 

1 Memorabilia, IV, 2. 

56 A Student's History of Philosophy 

identity with other things of the same sort, and without 
which it would cease to be what it is. Instead, then, of 
taking our terms for granted in a dogmatic way, we need to 
criticise and test them, and find out what we really mean 
by them ; only when we have brought out this universal 
and essential element have we anything that can be called 
science, or true knowledge. It was left to Socrates' suc- 
cessor, Plato, to recognize the full importance of this 
idea. But even in Socrates it clearly points away from 
the sceptical and individualistic tendency. Instead of 
finding man's essential nature in those private desires, 
feelings, and sensations, which in a way separate him 
from other men, Socrates looked rather to the rational and 
universal elements in him, which bind all men together in 
the bonds of a valid knowledge, and in subjection to the 
dictates of an authoritative conscience. 

Socrates himself was never able fully to justify this view 
of man in a theoretical way. His surety rather took 
the form of ,f aith a faith that in obedience to the laws 
of conscience and of society, man's true life would be 
found to consist. It was in large measure this unswerving 
confidence in the truth of the ethical ideal, which does not 
tolerate the least paltering with duty, even while our 
theoretical inquiry is still incomplete, that gave Socrates 
his great influence. He himself was a living and most 
impressive embodiment of the ideal which he preached, 
simple in his manner of life, unflinching in his courage, 
exercising the most rigid self-control over his desires and 
appetites. "It must have been," so he declared, "by 
feeding men on so many dainty dishes, that Circe produced 
her pigs." In consequence of this moderate and abste- 
mious life, his powers of endurance were remarkable. On 
military campaigns, besides showing great bravery in bat- 
tle, he had an extraordinary power of sustaining fatigue, 
and going without food ; " and when during a severe winter 
the rest either remained indoors, or, if they went out, had 
on no end of clothing, and were well shod, and had their 

Greek Philosophy 57 

feet swathed in felts and fleeces, in the midst of this 
Socrates, with his bare feet on the ice, and in his ordinary 
dress, marched better than any of the other soldiers who 
had their shoes on." * His courage was shown in peace as 
well as in war. When acting as president of the prytanes, 
he had declined, in face of the popular clamor, to put to 
vote illegally the resolution condemning the generals at 
Arginusae ; and once again, in the perilous times under 
the Thirty Tyrants, he had, at the risk of his life, refused 
to act contrary to the laws at their bidding. This combi- 
nation of rectitude of character, with striking intellectual 
gifts a combination which his personal peculiarities 
served rather to heighten than obscure gave to Socra- 
tes an influence on the thought of his day equalled by that 
of no other man. 

It is not strange, however, that he should have raised 
up enemies as well as friends. Few people can bear 
with equanimity the public exposure of their own igno- 
rance ; and Socrates' conception of his moral mission made 
him careless of the hard feelings he might excite. He 
fell, too, under the public suspicion which the sceptical 
and irreligious tendencies of the Sophistic movement had 
aroused in the minds of lovers of the old way of things, 
although he was himself of a deeply religious nature, and 
an observer of the customary forms of worship. Not long 
after the overthrow of the Thirty, therefore, he was pub- 
licly accused of denying the gods of the city, and of 
corrupting its youths, and was brought to trial. If he had 
been willing to adopt a conciliatory tone, he probably 
would have escaped ; but he refused to lower himself by 
flattering the people, when he was conscious of no guilt, 
and by a narrow vote, he was condemned to drink the 

" And Crito made a sign to the servant ; and the ser- 
vant went in, and remained for some time, and then 
returned with the jailer carrying the cup of poison. Soc- 

1 Symposium, 220. 

58 A Student's History of Philosophy 

rates said : You, my good friend, who are experienced in 
these matters, shall give me directions how I am to pro- 
ceed. The man answered : You have only to walk about 
until your legs are heavy, and then to lie down, and the 
poison will act. At the same time he handed the cup to 
Socrates, who in the easiest and gentlest manner, without 
the least fear or change of color or feature, looking at 
the man with all his eyes, as his manner was, took the cup 
and said : What do you say about making a libation out 
of this cup to any god ? May I, or not ? The man an- 
swered: We only prepare, Socrates, just so much as we 
deem enough. I understand, he said ; yet I may and must 
pray to the gods to prosper my journey from this to that 
other world may this, then, which is my prayer, be 
granted to me. Then holding the cup to his lips, quite 
readily and cheerfully he drank off the poison. And 
hitherto most of us had been able to control our sorrow ; 
but now when we saw him drinking, and saw too that he 
had finished J:he draught, we could no longer forbear, and 
in spite of myself my own tears were flowing fast ; so that 
I covered my face and wept over myself, for certainly I 
was not weeping over him, but at the thought of my own 
calamity in having lost such a companion. Nor was I the 
first, for Crito, when he found himself unable to restrain 
his tears, had got up and moved away, and I followed; 
and at that moment Apollodorus, who had been weeping 
all the time, broke out into a loud cry which made cowards 
of us all. Socrates alone retained his calmness : What 
is this strange outcry ? he said. I sent away the women 
mainly in order that they might not offend in this way, 
for I have heard that a man should die in peace. Be 
quiet, then, and have patience. When we heard that, we 
were ashamed, and refrained our tears; and he walked 
about until, as he said, his legs began to fail, and then he 
lay on his back, according to the directions, and the man 
who gave him the poison now and then looked at his feet 
and legs ; and after a while he pressed his foot hard, and 

Greek Philosophy 59 

asked him if he could feel ; and he said, No ; and then his 
leg, and so upwards and upwards, and showed us that he 
was cold and stiff. And he felt them himself, and said : 
When the poison reaches the heart, that will be the end. 
He was beginning to grow cold about the groin, when he 
uncovered his face, for he had covered himself up, and 
said (they were his last words) he said: Crito, I owe a 
cock to Asclepius ; will you remember to pay the debt ? 
The debt shall be paid, said Crito ; is there anything else ? 
There was no answer to this question ; but in a minute or 
two a movement was heard, and the attendant uncovered 
him ; his eyes were set, and Crito closed his eyes and 

Such was the end, Echecrates, of our friend, whom I 
may truly call the wisest, and justest, and best of all the 
men whom I have ever known." 1 


Plato, esp. Charmides, Lysis, Laches, Ion, Meno, Euthyphro, Protago- 
ras, Gorgias, Apology, Crito, Phcedo, Symposium. 
Xenophon, Memorabilia, Apology, Banquet. 
Grote, History of Greece, Vol. 8. 
Zeller, Socrates and the Socratic Schools. 
Forbes, Socrates. 

10. The Schools of Megara and Elis. Aristippus and 
the Cyrenaics. Antisthenes and the Cynics 

The influence which Socrates left behind him, while 
it was widespread and profound, was not so much the influ- 
ence of a definite philosophical doctrine, to which, indeed, 
he never wholly attained, as of an impressive personality. 
There are, accordingly, a number of distinct schools trac- 
ing their origin to him. In addition to the more impor- 
tant development of Socrates' teaching in Plato, there were 

1 Phado, 117. 

60 A Student's History of Philosophy 

also the relatively unimportant schools of Megara and Elis, 
founded respectively by Euclides and Phcedo; and the more 
striking tendencies represented in the Cynics and Cyrena- 
ics. In these latter, we meet the first definite formulation 
of the two great types of ethical theory, which ever since 
have been contending with each other in the history of 
thought. Both of them profess to go back to Socrates. As 
we have seen, Socrates' own conception of the true end of 
human life was vague in its outlines. That virtue is the 
highest good, and that virtue is intimately bound up with 
the possession of knowledge or insight of this he was 
assured. But virtue, or insight, is good for what? For 
its own sake ? That leaves no content to virtue. To say 
that the supreme good is virtue, and that virtue is insight 
into the good, seems to be going in a circle ; good for what ? 
we ask again. Now the one obvious and seemingly unam- 
biguous answer to this is : pleasure, or happiness. This 
gives at last a definite content. All men will agree that 
pleasure is a good in its own right, needing no justification 
by reference* to a more remote end ; and it is the only good 
about which they would so agree. 

i. The Cyrenaics. Socrates himself had had a leaning 
toward this solution, although he had not been altogether 
satisfied with it ; but with Aristippus of Cyrene, it is elevated 
to the position of a central doctrine. Pleasure is man's sole 
good pleasure in the most concrete form, and so, first of 
all, the more intensive pleasures of the body, although not 
such pleasures exclusively. If we could live from moment 
to moment, filling each with the fullest delight that sense and 
mind alike are capable of receiving, that would be the ideal 
of life. Unfortunately there are difficulties practical diffi- 
culties in the way of this. Our acts have consequences 
that we do not intend, and so in our well-meant pursuit of 
pleasure, we are apt nay, we are sure continually to be 
blundering upon pain and loss. Here, therefore, is the 
place for the Socratic insight. Only the wise man can be 
truly and permanently happy, he who does not let him- 

Greek Philosophy 61 

self be carried off his feet by the rush of his passion ; who 
can enjoy, but at the same time be above enjoyment, its 
master. Wisdom is thus no sober kill-joy. It means 
simply the ability to weigh and compound our pleasures 
well ; the ability, while we seize the fleeting moment, at 
the same time, in full possession of ourselves, to look be- 
yond the moment, foresee the consequences our acts will 
entail, and choose accordingly. Since, then, it is the part 
of wisdom to avoid pain, as well as to win pleasure, the 
life of purely sensuous enjoyment will have to be checked 
and moderated in some degree, in favor of the less intense, 
but safer, joys of the mind. We are not to suppose that 
there is any shame attaching to the life of the senses as 
such, or any higher law to which this is subordinate; 
" nothing is disgraceful in itself." The necessity is based 
merely on prudential grounds, because to the abuse of such 
bodily pleasures, more definite penalties are attached. 

This conception of the end of life is known as Hedonism, 
and it never has been formulated more consistently and 
forcibly than in this statement of it first given by Aristip- 
pus. It is true that it affords no room for the play of those 
finer sentiments about the good and the just, the beauty of 
righteousness, the nobility of duty. But in compensation, 
it offers a well-defined view of life, with no nonsense about 
it, which lends itself to what is intellectually the simplest 
and most clear-cut of theories, and which, besides, appeals 
powerfully to the natural man. Naturally, this cutting 
away of the roots of the moral sentiments also carried 
with it religion. Theodorus is known as the Atheist ; and 
Euhemerus is the originator of a philosophy of religion on 
a naturalistic basis, in which the stories of the gods are 
carried back to historical events in the lives of human kings 
and heroes, misinterpreted by tradition a theory which 
had great notoriety in ancient times. 

Evidently, in all this, the really characteristic element in 
Socrates' thought has been lost. The universal factor 
in human life and knowledge, on which Socrates had so 

62 A Student's History of Philosophy 

strongly insisted, has no place in the Cyrenaic scheme. Pleas- 
ure is essentially an individual matter, and the Cyrenaics 
were too logical to try, as more modern Hedonists have done, 
to make it yield as a result the desirability of the common 
good the greatest happiness of the greatest number. 
The pleasure which each man should seek for is, of course, 
his own. He is an individual looking out for number one, 
and beyond this has no obligations to society or the state. 
Society, in consequence, breaks up into a bundle of indi- 
vidual units. It is a mere name, with which the wise man 
will not concern himself. " I do not dream for a moment," 
says Aristippus to Socrates, " of ranking myself in the class 
of those who wish to rule. In fact, considering how serious 
a business it is to cater for one's private needs, I look upon 
it as the mark of a fool not to be content with that, but to 
further saddle oneself with the duty of providing the rest 
of the community with whatever they may be pleased to 
want. Why, bless me, states claim to treat their rulers pre- 
cisely as I treat my domestic slaves. I expect my attend- 
ants to furnish me with an abundance of necessaries, but 
not to lay a finger on one of them themselves. So these 
states regard it as the duty of a ruler to provide them with 
all the good things imaginable, but to keep his own hands 
off them all the while. So, then, for my part, if any one 
desires to have a heap of pother himself, and be a nuisance 
to the rest of the world, I will educate him in the manner 
suggested ; but for myself, I beg to be enrolled amongst 
those who wish to spend their days as easily and pleasantly 
as possible." x So also Theodorus : " It is not reasonable 
that a wise man should hazard himself for his country, and 
endanger wisdom for a set of fools." 

The difficulty of this is, that the universe does not seem 
to be arranged for the purpose of enabling gentlemen to 
avoid all disagreeable duties, and live " as easily and pleas- 
antly as possible." It is this logic of experience, which 
leads the Cyrenaics to a recognition of the impossibility of 

1 Xenophon, Memorabilia, II, I. Dakyn's translation. (Macmillan & Co.) 

Greek Philosophy 63 

getting pleasure unmixed with pain, and so to a growing 
tendency to substitute mere freedom from pain, for posi- 
tive happiness. This reaches its issue in the open pes- 
simism of Hegesias. Hegesias feels so strongly how 
ill-calculated life is to yield even a balance of pleasure, 
except for the favored few, that he denies to it all value : 
" Life only appears a good thing to a fool, to the wise man 
it is indifferent." He finds his only comfort in the utter 
painlessness of death ; and he presents this thought so per- 
suasively, that he is known as Treia-iQdvaros the inciter to 
death, or suicide. 

2. The Cynics. In opposition to Aristippus' one-sided in- 
sistence on pleasure, Antisthenes and the Cynics fastened on 
another aspect of Socrates' doctrine, which might be taken 
to represent his real spirit more adequately ; although in their 
hands it becomes equally one-sided. It has been seen that 
while Socrates is quite sure that man's chief good is virtue, 
and that virtue is bound up with knowledge, this leaves the 
content of virtue undetermined, and, consequently, gives 
no practical guidance for the direction of our lives. But 
another hint also had been offered by Socrates to supply 
the deficiency. When Socrates is taunted by Antiphon 
with his frugal way of living, and with the absence of all 
pleasures from his life, Socrates concludes his reply in 
these words : " Again, if it be a question of helping our 
friends or country, which of the two will have the larger 
leisure to devote to these objects ? he who leads the life 
which I lead to-day? or he who lives in the style which 
you deem so fortunate ? Which of the two will adopt a 
soldier's life more easily ? the man who cannot get on with- 
out expensive living, or he to whom whatever comes to 
hand suffices ? Which will be the readier to capitulate and 
cry mercy in a siege ? a man of elaborate wants, or he who 
can get along happily with the readiest things to hand ? 
You, Antiphon, would seem to suggest that happiness con- 
sists in luxury and extravagance ; I hold a different creed. 
To have no wants at all is, to my mind, an attribute of 

64 A Student's History of Philosophy 

godhead; to have as few wants as possible, the nearest 
approach to godhead. And as that which is divine is 
mightiest, so that is next mightiest which comes closest to 
the divine." 1 Now if virtue, as the rational conduct of life, 
is to be an end in itself, and bring satisfaction quite apart 
from all external aids, it follows that the course of our life 
must be freed as much as possible from the chances of the 
outer world, which are constantly liable to interfere with 
our happiness, if this is dependent upon them. It must 
be freed, that is, from everything which does not lie wholly 
within the power of the mind itself. And this can only 
be done by suppressing the desires which make things 
attractive or fearful. According to Antisthenes, then, that 
is the truest, and the only rational and virtuous life, which 
has the fewest possible wants, and which is thus, in so far 
as may be, self-centred, and independent of all external 

Such an ideal as this might be interpreted in a way to 
make it decidedly inviting to a mind with any tinge of 
moral enthusiasm. As it is exemplified in Socrates him- 
self, e.g. y it possesses a high degree of charm. Socrates 
does not inveigh against the pleasures of life as such ; in- 
deed, he commends his own life as in reality yielding more 
solid pleasures than the self-indulgent man ever can attain. 
The zest of a healthy appetite will give a relish to the 
coarsest and most moderate fare, which no spices can 
afford the jaded palate. But the wise man never will fall 
a slave to his appetites, and let them become necessary 
to his existence ; he estimates the worth of his own man- 
hood too highly for that. And he will find his main de- 
light rather in those higher pleasures which belong more 
intimately to his nature as a man friendship, conversa- 
tion, the joys of the intellect, and of service to the com- 
munity. His independence of the world is not the casting 
away of all obligations to his fellow-men, but rather the 
steadfast pursuance of duty regardless of its consequences. 

1 Xenophon, Memorabilia, I, 6. 

Greek Philosophy 65 

But this, again, implies a concrete and positive content 
to virtue. If virtue is really made to consist in a purely 
negative freedom from wants, it loses at once its inspiration, 
and lands us in the same individualism that had resulted 
from Aristippus' doctrine of pleasure. The ideal of the 
Cynic is to rid himself, not only of those artificial wants 
which complicate and enervate life, but of all ties whatso- 
ever that relate him to the rest of the world. He places 
himself deliberately outside the current of the world's life, 
but it is not because, like the early Christian, he finds here 
no abiding city, and so looks for another and a heavenly. 
He breaks all national and civic bonds, not to enter into 
some higher life, but to be free from bonds altogether. 
Like the Cyrenaic, he is a cosmopolitan, a citizen of the 
world; but in neither case does this term stand for any 
enthusiasm for humanity, but only for a negation of social 
duties. In the midst of civilized society, he tries to live in 
a state of nature, and lead the existence of a savage. Diog- 
enes wanders about Greece with no other shelter than a 
tub, and throws away his cup as a last useless luxury, on 
seeing a child drink from his hands. 

This attitude might call for sympathy as a somewhat 
ostentatious acceptance of an enforced exclusion from the 
goods of civilization. Cynicism was, indeed, essentially 
the philosophy of the poor man, who already knew what 
it was to feel wants unsatisfied, before he made a virtue 
of his necessity. But the Cynic did not stop here. Decency 
itself he places among the conventions of which he prides 
himself on being rid ; and even such doctrines as the com- 
munity of women, and the harmlessness of eating human 
flesh, are propounded in the most offensive way. Under 
such conditions, ethical and intellectual ideals cannot long 
survive. When the human relationships which constitute 
the central fact of the ethical life are torn away, it is not 
strange that there should have resulted a moral temper, 
which sometimes approached the grossness of the animal ; 
and with no content for the intellect to feed upon, it, too, 

66 A Student's History of Philosophy 

could have no healthy growth. The dominant characteristic 
of the Cynic came to be a Pharisaic pride in his own 
spiritual poverty, which showed itself in a flaunting of his 
peculiarities in the face of every one, and in sneers at the 
practices which he condemned. The independence which 
he prized almost more than anything else, was the freedom 
of a sharp tongue, which held no man in reverence ; and 
his apparent self-abasement was only the mask for an arro- 
gant criticism of others. I see your pride, says Socrates to 
Antisthenes, through the holes in your cloak. The typical 
figure of Cynicism is Diogenes in his tub, ordering Alex- 
ander to stand out of his sunlight. The truth in Cynicism 
passed over to the later Stoics, as the Cyrenaic philosophy 
was revived in Epicureanism ; but in Stoicism this is so 
much more impressively formulated, that we may postpone 
any further consideration of it for the present. 


Watson, Hedonistic Theories. 

Grote, Plato and the Other Companions of Socrates. 

Seth, Study of Ethical Principles . 

Zeller, Socrates and the Socratic Schools. 


ii. Plato. The Academy 

For the history of philosophy, however, the movements 
which have just been considered represent only by-paths; 
the main development from Socrates passes through Plato 
and Aristotle. Plato, who stands among the supreme men 
of genius that the world has produced, was born in 427 B.C. 
He was a thorough aristocrat, alike by birth and in his 
whole temper of mind. He has a profound contempt for 
the opinions of the masses, and a true aristocrat's dislike 
of any taint of the shop or the workman's bench. Accord- 
ingly, in spite of exceptional opportunities for a political 
career, he never entered public life in Athens, choosing 
not to sacrifice his own freedom of thought and action to 
an ambition which must make him the servant of a fickle 
and Philistine democracy. In Plato, consequently, phi- 
losophy begins to take on that character of remoteness 
from practical concerns, and absorption in the affairs of 
the pure intellect, which, save in certain exceptional periods, 
it has had a tendency to retain ever since. 

This is very different from the spirit of Socrates. Soc- 
rates, himself a man of the people, was, in spite of his own 
disinclination to meddle very much in matters of practical 
politics, all the time looking toward the practical life of 
citizenship in his speculations. It is the end of life in its 
most concrete sense that he is endeavoring to formulate. 
This end is attained, not in the philosopher who stands 
aloof from the world, absorbed in transcendental dreams 
and abstractions, but in the citizen and man of affairs, who 
has something definite to do in the actual life about him, 


68 A Student's History of Philosophy 

and needs to do it in the best way. This, however, implies 
a confidence in the ability of social institutions to meet 
the strain to which they were being subjected; and this 
confidence became less easy to maintain as time went on. 
The growing revelation of the insecurity of a civilization 
founded on custom, and the signs that the Greek states 
were already beginning to break down, are registered in 
this difference of attitude in the case of Socrates and of 
Plato. Plato still holds, in a way, to the Greek conception 
of true life as essentially a life in the state, although this 
already is being hard pressed by the opposing ideal of dis- 
interested philosophic contemplation, which finds salvation 
in the kingdom of the mind alone. But at least he no 
longer expects to find the conception realized in actual 
conditions in Greece, and turns instead to an ideal state, a 
Utopia, a pattern laid up in the heavens, which there is 
only a faint hope will ever be embodied upon earth. 

Plato came under the influence of Socrates when he 
was about twenty, and remained with him until Socrates' 
death, eight years later. We have little knowledge of him 
during this period, though he seems to have been within 
the inner circle of Socrates' disciples and friends. After 
his master's death he left Athens, and spent ten years in 
travel. During this time he became acquainted with 
other philosophical tendencies of the day, particularly at 
Megara, and among the Pythagoreans in Southern Italy. 
These influences tended to modify and broaden his own 
thought, and to lead him away from the exclusively ethical 
interests of the Socratic philosophy. In Sicily he came 
in contact with the celebrated tyrant Dionysius, and got 
along with him so ill, that he is said to have been sold into 
slavery, from which he was ransomed by a friend. On his 
return to Athens, a group of disciples gathered about him, 
and he became himself the founder of a school. This took 
the name of the Academy, from a gymnasium just outside 
the city, where Plato had a small estate, and where the 
members of the school were accustomed to meet. Here 

The Systematic Philosophers 69 

he spent an uneventful life as a teacher, broken if we 
can accept the accounts that have come down to us by 
two more visits to Sicily. Dion, the brother-in-law of 
Dionysius, had become an ardent disciple of Plato's. 
After the tyrant's death, he induced Plato to come to 
Sicily, and undertake the education of the weak and dis- 
solute Dionysius the Younger. Here was an opportunity 
such as Plato had looked forward to : the combination of 
the supreme power in a state, with the possibility of a 
true philosophical training, might conceivably result in 
the philosopher-king of Plato's imagination, and the con- 
sequent establishment of the ideal government which 
should regenerate men. At first he was measurably suc- 
cessful, and made an impression on the better side of the 
young king's nature. For a time philosophy was the 
fashion in the Sicilian courts ; the floors were strewn with 
sand, and the courtiers suspended their revels, and busied 
themselves tracing geometrical figures. But Dionysius's 
nature was too feeble, and court influences too profoundly 
opposed to a reign of virtue and reason, to allow the 
experiment a very long life ; and Plato finally returned to 
Athens. He died in 347 B.C. 

I. Ethical Philosophy 

i. The Problem of Ethics. Perhaps we can best get 
hold of the spirit of Plato's thought, by starting from the 
ethical problem which he inherited from Socrates, since the 
ethical conception of the ultimate end of life, the highest 
good, is closely bound up with even his more purely meta- 
physical speculations. Now, when we begin to ask what con- 
stitutes the end of human life, the most obvious suggestion 
will be, once more, that it consists in happiness, or pleasure. 
There is, however, a difficulty here at once, unless we guard 
ourselves ; for no one will deny that pleasure may quite as 
well be an evil as a good, and may even be the most serious 
of evils. A moment of enjoyment may bring in its train a 

70 A Student's History of Philosophy 

swarm of disastrous consequences, which vastly overbalance 
it ; and that pleasure is rare indeed, which has not some 
attendant ill. " How singular a thing is pleasure," says 
Socrates, as his leg is released from the chain, before he 
takes the poison, " and how curiously related to pain, which 
might be thought to be the opposite of it ; for they never 
come to a man together, and yet he who pursues either of 
them is generally compelled to take the other. I cannot 
help thinking that if Esop had noticed them, he would have 
made a fable about God trying to reconcile their strife, and 
when he could not, he fastened their heads together ; and 
this is the reason that, when one comes, the other follows, 
as I find in my own case pleasure comes following after 
the pain in my leg which was caused by the chain." 1 We 
need, then, to modify our first unqualified statement that 
pleasure is the good, and at least restrict it to such pleas- 
ures as are regulated by wisdom. There is nothing which 
men call desirable money, position, beauty which may 
not, if it fall into the hands of a fool, bring about his ruin, 
and so be the greatest of evils to him ; of what avail is it to 
possess a gold mine, if we do not know how to use our 
wealth except to bring harm on ourselves ? We are all the 
time misjudging thus what is best for us. A pleasure 
close at hand looks larger than far weightier ones in the 
distance, and so, misled by passion, we choose to our own 
hurt. Pleasure, then, apart from wisdom, has no right to 
be exalted to the place of the supremely good. 

Can we, then, say that wisdom is the good, to the 
exclusion of pleasure ? Evidently not, if wisdom is to be 
accompanied by positive pain. About a state of wisdom 
that is neither pleasurable nor painful, there might be more 
chance for debate. Such we may deem the felicity of the 
gods to be ; and Plato evidently feels a drawing toward such 
an ideal. But he is ready to admit that to the natural man 
the thought has no attractions, and that wisdom, divorced 
from the feeling side of life, is as little to be set up to 

^Phcedo, 60. 

The Systematic Philosophers 71 

strive after, as pleasure unregulated by judgment. The 
supreme end, therefore, will combine the two. " Here are 
two fountains that are flowing at our side ; one, which is 
pleasure, may be likened to a fountain of honey ; the other, 
which is a sober draught in which no wine mingles, is of 
water pure and healthful. Out of these we may seek to 
make the fairest of all possible mixtures." 1 But how is the 
mixture to be made ? Are we to let in all pleasures on the 
same footing ? And if not, on what principle are we to 
draw a distinction ? 

Now it is clear that pleasure is a word which applies to 
a very wide diversity of facts. " Do we not say that the 
intemperate has pleasure, and that the temperate has 
pleasure in his very temperance ? that the fool is pleased 
when he is filled with foolish fancies and hopes, and that 
the wise man has pleasure in his wisdom ? and may not 
he be justly deemed a fool who says that these pairs of 
pleasures are respectively alike ? " 2 Roughly, then, we 
may make these two divisions Plato adds still another : 
pleasures that belong to temperance, and wisdom, and 
virtue ; and those so-called lower, bodily pleasures, which 
appeal to the ordinary sensualist. We feel instinctively 
that these do not stand precisely on a level ; the pleasure 
of the saint in sacrificing himself for others, is not an 
equivalent of the pleasure of the debauchee, although 
they may go by the same name. But how are we to decide 
between the two ? Plato makes the suggestion, which has 
been repeated in modern times, that we are bound in 
reason to accept here the judgment of the expert, the man 
who knows them both. The sensualist and the fool know 
nothing of the pleasures of self-control and of the mental 
life, and so their preference for the bodily pleasures stands 
for nothing. To the philosopher, however, the joys of the 
body are open equally with the joys of the mind ; and if he 
chooses the latter rather than the former, this means that 
the higher pleasures are the greater. 

, 61. 2 Philebus, 12. 

72 A Student's History of Philosophy 

And the more we examine into the nature of pleasure, 
the more we see this judgment verified. How poor a 
thing, indeed, is that which we call pleasure of the senses, 
how fleeting in its existence, how compounded with pain. 
In truth, there is some reason to believe that it is noth- 
ing at all outside this relation in which it stands to pain. 
When our bodily functions have gone wrong, we feel a 
relief when the equilibrium is restored ; but this relief is 
only pleasant, in contrast with the pain which has preceded. 
Indeed, how can we conceive that that has any positive 
value, whose whole existence depends upon desires, and so 
upon the longing for something which we lack ? If the 
want is removed, the pleasure ceases; and if it is still 
present, we are still unsatisfied, and in pain. He, then, 
who thinks to satisfy himself with a life of bodily indul- 
gence, is like one who, as his ideal, should desire that he 
might be ever itching and scratching. The act of scratch- 
ing gives pleasure, but only as it affords relief to a positive 
evil behind it. 

The wise man asks, therefore, not merely for pleasures, 
but for pleasures that are pure, i.e., unmixed, so far as 
possible, with pain. As a little pure white is whiter and 
fairer than a great deal that is mixed, so man would do 
well to seek in his pleasures, not quantity, but quality. 
The so-called greater pleasures, by their very vehemence 
and lack of restraint, entail upon us all sorts of irremedi- 
able ills ; " a sage whispers in my ear that no pleasure 
except that of the wise is quite true and pure, all others 
are a shadow only." * If, then, neither pleasure alone, nor 
wisdom alone, is to be admitted as the final good, at least 
wisdom is far nearer to this than pleasure. Pleasure can 
only be admitted as it is tempered and controlled by wis- 
dom ; and the highest pleasure is not of the bodily appe- 
tites, but of the mind. Those who enslave themselves to 
the former never know what real existence means, nor 
do they taste of true and abiding pleasure ; " like brute 

1 Republic, 583. 

The Systematic Philosophers 73 

animals, with their eyes down and bodies bent to the 
earth, they fatten and feed and breed, and in their exces- 
sive love of these delights they kick and butt at one 
another with horns and hoofs that are made of iron, and 
they kill one another by reason of their insatiable lust. 
For they fill themselves with that which is not substantial, 
and the part of themselves which they fill is also unsub- 
stantial and incontinent." 1 

But after all, if we leave the matter here, and agree 
that the life of philosophy and virtue should be chosen in 
preference to the sensual life, because, after taking every- 
thing into account, it turns out to be the pleasantest life, 
we have not reached the goal for which Plato is striving. 
If pleasure continues to be our final term, and it is but 
one pleasure balanced against another that turns the scales 
in the end, we are still at the mercy of a purely individual 
taste in morality. The philosopher may prefer the joys 
of the mind to those of the body, temperate pleasures to 
immoderate indulgence ; but how if other men have a 
different taste ? And they surely do have a different 
taste, or we should all be philosophers and virtuous. If, 
then, they claim the right to gratify this taste, who is it 
that shall say them nay ? 

Now Plato evidently feels, not simply that the life of 
reason is on the whole the most pleasurable life, but that 
it is our duty to prefer this life, whether in point of fact we 
do prefer it or not. Above pleasure, i.e., there is a higher 
principle by which pleasures are to be judged. One pleas- 
ure is purer and truer than another, not merely in the sense 
of being greater in quantity, or of being less intermixed with 
pain, but by reason of an absolute qualitative difference, 
which carries with it the obligation to prefer the one to the 
other. It is just as in the case of aesthetic taste. The excel- 
lence of music may be measured by pleasure, but the pleas- 
ure must not be that of the chance hearer; " the fairest music 
is that which delights the best and best educated, and espe- 

1 Republic^ 586. 

74 A Student's History of Philosophy 

daily that which delights the one man who is preeminent 
in virtue and education." 1 It is not, accordingly, the great- 
ness of the pleasure which constitutes what is best. It is 
knowledge of the best, which decides what judgment we 
are to pass on the various pleasures. In such a contest, the 
numbers of the contestants, or the quantity or intensity of 
their feelings, are as nothing when compared with worth. 
Pleasure, then "ranks not first, no, not even if all the 
oxen and horses and animals in the world in their pursuit 
of enjoyment thus assert, and the many, trusting in them, 
as diviners trust in birds, determine that pleasure makes up 
the good of life, and deem the lust of animals to be better 
witness than the inspirations of divine philosophy." 2 Ulti- 
mately, we cannot express the highest good in terms of pleas- 
ure at all, although no doubt happiness, or felicity, in some 
sense enters into it. Pleasure is subordinate to the good, 
and, far from forming the one end of existence, is often a 
thing which we have resolutely to fight against and subdue. 
But now, again, there comes up the question : How are 
we to define the good, if not in terms of pleasure ? Men 
say, e.g., that justice, which is the typical virtue, is honor- 
able and good ; what is their ground for such a statement ? 
In point of fact, unless they simply take it for granted on 
the evidence of a general moral agreement among man- 
kind, they always go to work to substantiate and to 
recommend it by an appeal to consequences, and to self- 
interest. It is assumed that a just life is counselled by 
the dictates of prudence, and an enlightened regard for 
one's own welfare. The just man will get along better, 
get rich faster, attain more surely to positions of honor 
and trust in the state, than the unjust. And if for any 
cause these results seem to be delayed, the gods stand 
ready to restore the balance by dispensing punishments, 
either in this life or another. " Parents and tutors are 
always telling their sons and their wards that they are to 
be just; but why? Not for the sake of justice, but for 

1 Laws, 658. 2 Philebus, 67. 

The Systematic Philosophers 75 

the sake of character and reputation, in the hope of ob- 
taining some of those offices and marriages and other 
advantages that Glaucon was enumerating as accruing to 
the just from a fair reputation ; and they throw in the good 
opinion of the gods, and will tell you of a shower of 
blessings which the heavens, as they say, rain upon the 
pious. And this accords with the testimony of the noble 
Hesiod and Homer, the first of whom says that for the 
just the gods make 

" * The oaks to bear acorns at their summit, and bees in the middle, 
And the sheep are bowed down with the weight of their own fleeces.' 

And Homer has a very similar strain; for he speaks of 
one whose fame is 

" ' As the fame of some blameless king, who like a God 
Maintains justice, for whom the black earth brings forth 
Wheat and barley, whose trees are bowed with fruit, 
And his sheep never fail to bear, and the sea gives him fish.* 

Still grander are the gifts of heaven which Musaeus and 
his son offer the just; they take them down into the world 
below, where they have the saints feasting on couches with 
crowns on their heads, and passing their whole time in 
drinking; their idea seems to be that an immortality of 
drunkenness is the highest meed of virtue. But about the 
wicked there is another strain ; they bury them in a slough, 
and make them carry water in a sieve ; that is their por- 
tion in the world below, and even while living they bring 
them to infamy." 1 

But now what if one sees fit to doubt the cogency of 
this appeal? What if, as he looks about the world, he 
sees the wicked triumph and the righteous man despised, 
injustice seated in high places tyrannizing over the just, 
and making their lot miserable ? What if his reason tells 
him that the gods of whom the poets sing are only 
myths, or, if they exist, have no concern with human 
affairs; and so men can look beyond the grave, with 

1 Republic, 363. 

7 6 A Student's History of Philosophy 

no fear of meeting there with any punishment for their 
misdeeds ? Is there still any reason why a man should 
follow justice rather than its opposite? Doubtless the 
reputation for justice passes current in the world for a 
certain value ; but if one could keep the appearance, with- 
out being hampered with the reality, would he not be so 
much better off ? Suppose we take the most extreme case 
imaginable: an unjust man who possesses all the things 
that men call blessings, and who, in spite of his inner 
corruption, contrives that every one should deem him 
righteous, and passes to his grave full of years and honors ; 
and, over against him, the just man, who has no reward 
whatever beyond his own consciousness of rectitude, who 
goes through life a prey to every kind of wretchedness and 
misfortune, brought on him by his very righteousness, and 
who, moreover, has the reputation everywhere of being 
actually unjust. Can we still say in such a case, that the 
life of the just man alone is truly blessed, or that justice is 
anything but an evil ? 

Yes, says Plato; in spite of all, it is only the just life 
that has any real worth. The consequences in the way 
of pain or pleasure make not the slightest odds. The 
good man who suffers unjustly, is still more to be envied 
than the tyrant who persecutes him. The wrong-doer who 
enjoys his ill-gotten gains unmolested is not the happier 
for his immunity ; nay, rather, he is the more miserable, if 
he be not made to meet with retribution. This, then, is the 
paradox which Plato's theory of the good must establish : 
how will he go about it ? 

2. The Psychology of the Soul. Clearly it will be 
necessary to know, first, what it is we mean by justice, and 
the just life ; and the necessity of answering this, leads 
Plato to make the first serious attempt at an adequate psy- 
chology of the human soul. For if virtue is an attribute 
of man's nature, we must be able to define in what this 
nature consists. 

The beginnings of a science of the soul, or of psychol- 

The Systematic Philosophers 77 

ogy, had already been made along two separate lines. On 
the metaphysical side, there was the primitive conception 
of the soul, or ghost, as a sort of fine matter, which in Ho- 
mer may be seen separating itself from the body like a 
smoke at death, and about which there centred such vague 
notions as the Greeks possessed of immortality, and future 
retribution or rewards. Closely connected with this strain, 
is the modern idea of a soul substance a something, pos- 
sessing faculties, which underlies the conscious life. But 
the soul in this sense is of very little account as an expla- 
nation of the concrete processes that make up our actual 
consciousness. Toward a psychology in this latter sense, 
also, the Greeks had made some progress in an unsystem- 
atic way. It had been a necessity, indeed, of their politi- 
cal life. When political affairs are carried on by free 
discussion, and influence won, not by arbitrary force, but 
by persuasion, a certain rough knowledge of the workings 
of the human mind is indispensable. The successful 
orator must to a certain extent have classified men in 
types, and made himself familiar with the sort of motive 
that is likely to appeal to each ; and thus there had 
grown up a considerable body of practical wisdom that 
dealt with psychological processes. A union of the two 
tendencies, and the beginnings of a more scientific treat- 
ment of both, had likewise been attempted by the philoso- 
phers, but hitherto without any great insight into the 
actual complexity of the conscious life. They had singled 
out the more obvious fact of sensation, and assumed, rather 
than proved, that everything was reducible to this. Plato's 
ethical motive compels him to dissent from this sensational- 
ism, and, consequently, to undertake a more complete 
analysis of the real nature of the mind. 

The method of psychology is still, however, too little 
developed to permit him to go at his task directly, by an 
examination of the individual consciousness; and so he 
approaches it in a roundabout way. What we are after, is 
to get an understanding of what virtue, or justice, is, as 

78 A Student's History of Philosophy 

applied to the human soul. But the word "justice" is also 
used in an objective sense, in connection with the life of 
the state. If we turn first, then, to the study of justice 
as it is writ large in the state, we shall make our task an 
easier one ; afterward, unless the two are quite distinct, 
we can transfer our results to the more obscure problem, 
or, at any rate, can get a clew for its solution. What, then, 
is justice in the state ? 

Without going into detail, it is enough to say that Plato 
finds the essence of justice in order. The end of the state is 
the common good, and injustice makes this unattainable. 
It sets men at variance with their neighbors, and renders 
harmonious action for the welfare of the state impossible. 
Justice, then, is the condition in which each man has his 
own work to do, and does it without trying to go outside 
his proper sphere, and take on himself the function which 
some one else is better fitted to perform ; it is " minding 
one's own business." Now in any self-sufficing state, there 
will be three classes of citizens needed. First there is the 
working class, the farmers and artisans, on whose shoulders 
rests the burden of providing the material goods without 
which life and civilization are impossible. The special 
virtue which belongs to this class is obedience, self-control, 
or temperance. Above them is the warrior class, on whom 
devolves the defence of the state against attack ; and their 
chief virtue is, of course, courage. And, finally, there are 
the rulers, who must be possessed, first of all, of wisdom, 
since upon them rests the decision as regards the policy of 
the state. Justice will consist in the proper coordination 
of these separate classes, each with its characteristic virtue. 
When each attends to its own business, and does not try 
to step outside the sphere which belongs to it, we have an 
ordered and harmonious whole, in which all the parts work 
smoothly together, not in the interests of one individual, or 
of one class only, but for the common good of all the citi- 
zens alike. And such a state is what we call a just state. 

When we take this clew, and apply it to the individual 

The Systematic Philosophers 79 

soul, we find that an analogy exists. To the lower class 
there corresponds, we may say, that more ignoble part of 
man's nature, the sensations, desires, and appetites. These 
have in themselves no principle of order, and are only tol- 
erable as they are brought under the sway of some foreign 
and higher faculty, which shall rein them in, and subject 
them to the rule of temperance. This higher power is the 
mind, or reason, wherein wisdom resides, and as it is the 
function of the appetites to obey, so it belongs to the mind 
by divine right to rule. Between these, and corresponding to 
the warrior class in the state, there is a third faculty, which it 
is less easy to define. This is the forceful, energetic side 
of man's nature, which Plato calls spirit (as we use the 
adjective " spirited "), and which we may think of as active 
impulse, or will. This is not in itself evil and ignoble, 
as are the sensations and appetites. It is the basis of 
certain very admirable virtues the heroic virtues, as 
opposed to those that are due to wisdom ; and, when 
properly directed, it is the instrument of great achieve- 
ments. Since, however, it is in itself unintelligent, and 
liable to turn into blind passion, it stands on a lower level 
than reason ; it also is the servant of mind, but a servant 
which is meant to be used for taming the unbridled desires 
of the lower nature, and which thus is an ally rather than 
a hindrance. The seat of the lower faculty is in the breast 
below the midriff ; that of the mind is in the head ; while 
between them, just below the neck, is the abode of the spirit, 
which thus is in a position to help restrain the appetites, 
and still be under the control of the mind. These three 
faculties are, according to Plato, in a real sense distinct. 
If man's nature were a unity, it would be impossible to 
explain how it comes to pass that the reason often 
has to fight with all its strength against the sensuous 
desires. It is the mind which constitutes what properly 
may be called the soul; the senses, on the other hand, 
are mere functions of the body. Still we are not to think 
of them as entirely unrelated. " We are not Trojan horses, 

8o A Student's History of Philosophy 

in which are perched several unconnected senses," J but our 
lower faculties are intended to be subject to and used in 
the service of the higher ; the body is for the sake of the 

3. The Ethical Ideal. This relation Plato expresses in 
the famous figure of the charioteer and the winged horses. 
One of these is of noble origin, and the other of ignoble ; and 
so naturally there is a great deal of trouble in managing 
them. The noble element is striving continually to mount 
to the region of the heavens, where it may look upon the 
images of divine beauty and wisdom that are proper to its 
nature ; but the body is ever dragging it down to the earth 
and earthly delights. Now just as, in the state, justice con- 
sists in the proper subordination of the different classes, so 
the just soul is one in which a similar subordination of parts 
exists ; where the charioteer has got control of his steeds, and 
can guide them to the heights of heaven ; where the body 
submits itself to the sway of the soul, the beast in man to 
that in him which is truly human. " For the just man does 
not permit the several elements within him to meddle with 
one another, but he sets in order his own inner life, and is 
his own master, and at peace with himself ; and when he 
has bound together the three principles within him, and is 
no longer many, but has become one entirely temperate and 
perfectly adjusted nature, then he will begin to act, if he 
has to act, whether in a matter of property, or in the treat- 
ment of the body, or in some affair of politics, or of private 
business ; in all which cases he will think and call just and 
good action, that which preserves and cooperates with this 
condition, and the knowledge which presides over this, 
wisdom; and unjust action, that which at any time de- 
stroys this, and the opinion which presides over unjust 
action, ignorance." 2 

Why, then, is virtue honorable and to be desired ? Just 
because man is man, and not a brute ; because he cannot 
win any true and lasting satisfaction, except as he realizes 

1 Theatetus, 184. 2 Republic, 443. 

The Systematic Philosophers 81 

his own essential nature, that which constitutes his truest 
and deepest manhood. What advantage is it to a man if 
he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ? " How 
would a man profit if he received gold and silver on the 
condition that he was to enslave the noblest part of him 
to the worst ? Who can imagine that a man who sold his 
son or daughter into slavery for money, especially if he 
sold them into the hands of fierce and evil men, would be 
the gainer, however large might be the sum which he 
received ? and will any one say that he is not a miserable 
caitiff who sells his own divine being to that which is most 
godless and detestable, and has no pity. Eriphyle took 
the necklace as the price of her husband's life, but he is 
taking a bribe to compass a worse ruin." J Mere life is in 
itself of no account; it is only the good life which pos- 
sesses any worth. Virtue is the health of the soul ; with- 
out it there is nothing but disease and deformity. "If 
when the bodily constitution is gone, life is no longer en- 
durable, though pampered with every sort of meats and 
drinks, shall we be told that life is worth having when the 
very essence of the vital principle is undermined and cor- 
rupted, even though a man be allowed to do whatever he 
pleases, if at the same time he is forbidden to escape from 
vice and injustice, or attain justice and virtue?" 2 The 
wicked man vainly imagines that his is the life of liberty. 
It has neither order nor law, and this he deems joy, and 
freedom, and happiness. He does not know that he is in 
reality a slave a slave to his passions, and no longer 
master of himself. In spite, then, of appearances, and all 
that men may say, it is only the virtuous life that brings 
true happiness. The wicked man may start out well, but 
he never reaches the goal ; only the just can endure to the 
end, and receive the crown of victory. Such is Plato's 
ideal of character, the statement of which may fittingly be 
brought to a close with the beautiful prayer of Socrates at 
the conclusion of the Ph&drus : 

Republic, 589. Republic, 445. 


82 A Student's History of Philosophy 

"Beloved Pan, and all ye gods who haunt this place, 
give me beauty in the inward soul, and may the outward 
and inward man be at one. May I reckon the wise to be 
the wealthy, and may I have such a quantity of gold as 
none but the temperate can carry. Anything more? That 
prayer, I think, is enough for me." 

2. Social Philosophy 

I. It is clear that in such an ideal, individualism and 
scepticism in the moral life have been transcended. In- 
deed, they are transcended so completely, that we run the 
risk of losing the element of value which they contain. 
The individuality of a man, in the interpretation which 
Plato goes on to give, has all the time a tendency to be 
thrust into the background by that universal, rational 
element, which he has in common with other men, and 
which makes him first of all a member of the state, and a 
part of the universe. It is, indeed, no longer the purely 
traditional order of society which Plato exalts to a position 
as arbiter of man's life. His Republic is an ideal fashioned 
by reason, and differing widely in many respects from any- 
thing that history has to show. But when the ideal has 
once been set up, it is to rule with a rod of iron. Instead 
of the conception of man as a mere unit complete in 
himself, we have what appears sometimes to be at the very 
opposite extreme. Man has no real life at all apart from 
his direct participation in the life of society and the world ; 
and, therefore, it is the state which logically is supreme, 
rather than the individual. Why should man prate of his 
rights and his liberty ? the right to forfeit his birthright as 
a man, the liberty to do things to his own hurt. Since, 
then, men cannot be trusted always to know their true 
rational interests, and to prefer them to those which are 
more specious and evanescent, the state must have the 
authority to compel them to the ways of righteousness, to 
weed out all tendencies and desires that are merely private, 

The Systematic Philosophers 83 

and to enforce the interests of the whole, as against those 
of the individual. 

All this goes to intensify his natural aristocratic dis- 
like of democracy. Of all the forms of government that 
are not entire perversions, a democracy is the worst. 
Its liberty is only license. " No one who does not know 
would believe," he says, with a touch of satire, "how 
much greater is the liberty which animals who are under 
the dominion of men have in a democracy than in any 
other state. For truly the dogs, as the proverb says, are 
as good as their she-mistresses, and the horses and asses 
come to have a way of marching along with all the rights 
and dignities of free men, and they will run at anybody 
whom they meet in the street, if he does not get out of 
their way, and everything is just ready to burst with lib- 
erty." 1 With this talk of liberty and equality, Plato has 
no sympathy. Men are not equal, and it is but a perver- 
sion that the worst should rule the best. The mass of 
men have not the brains to know what is for their own 
good, and inevitably they will make shipwreck of the 
attempt. Accordingly, they will be vastly better off if 
they cease bothering their heads about affairs of state, and 
turn over the conduct of their lives to those whose wisdom 
gives them the right to rule the philosopher, or the 
" hero " of Carlyle. Then only, with a philosopher-king 
who knows what is best, and a state that will submit 
itself to wise direction, shall we have a remedy for the ills 
of the world, and a chance for man to realize his highest 

The ideal of such a state Plato sets forth in the Republic, 
and also, in a less Utopian form, in the Laws. Based as 
it is upon the thought that the claims of the state come 
first, and that the mass of men are not of themselves ca- 
pable of living the true life of reason, Plato's Republic 
represents the carrying out, in the strictest and most logi- 
cal way, of paternalism in government. Everything must 

1 Republic, 563. 

84 A Student's History of Philosophy 

bow to the supposed interests of the whole. We have 
already seen that the citizens are to form three classes, or 
castes : the artisans, on whom the material foundations of 
the state rest ; the warriors or guardians ; and the rulers. 
These castes are not, however, entirely hard and fast; 
according to the promise which children show, they are to 
be advanced or degraded with reference to the caste in 
which they happen to be born. The lower class receives 
least attention ; its duty is to obey the rulers blindly, 
and perform its work faithfully. No free citizen is 
allowed to earn his living by an illiberal trade. The in- 
dustrial life is for Plato, as for ancient thought generally, 
a degradation, and renders attention to the true art of 
living impossible; and, consequently, society has neces- 
sarily to be built up on the basis of a large class of men, 
who fail to share in its spiritual benefits. 

To produce the right kind of citizen, there is devised a 
most elaborate social machinery. In the first place, chil- 
dren are to be examined at birth, and those who do not ap- 
pear physically strong and perfect are to be put out of the 
way, with due regard to decency and order. The survivors 
are then to be subjected to the most rigid system of state 
education, whose provisions, when once established, are not 
to be altered by a hair. Even the playthings for children 
are carefully selected, and no innovations are to be allowed 
under severe penalties ; for if change once begins even 
in small things, no one can set limits to it. The same 
paternal supervision follows the citizen throughout his life ; 
for it is of no avail, so Plato thinks, to make laws concern- 
ing the public relations of men, unless we regulate their pri- 
vate life also. In the case of the warrior class, especially, 
extraordinary precautions are to be taken. " In the first 
place, none of them should have any property beyond 
what is absolutely necessary; neither should they have 
a private house, with bars and bolts, closed against any 
one who has a mind to enter ; their provisions should be 
only such as are required by trained warriors, who are 

The Systematic Philosophers 85 

men of temperance and courage; their agreement is to 
receive from the citizens a fixed rate of pay, enough to 
meet the expenses of the year and no more, and they will 
have common meals and live together, like soldiers in a 
camp. Gold and silver we will tell them that they have 
from God ; the diviner metal is within them, and they have 
therefore no need of that earthly dross which passes under 
the name of gold, and ought not to pollute the divine by 
earthly intermixture, for that commoner metal has been 
the source of many unholy deeds ; but their own is unde- 
filed. And they alone of all the citizens may not touch 
or handle silver or gold, or be under the same roof with 
them, or wear them, or drink from them. And this will 
be their salvation, and the salvation of the State." * Ideally, 
even wives should be held in common, and children should 
be brought up by the state, and kept in ignorance of their 
real parents. By doing away with private interests in this 
wholesale fashion, and by compelling men to have their 
pleasures and pains in common, Plato hoped to eliminate 
those occasions of discord, which grow out of separate and 
clashing aims among the citizens. The history of the 
Roman Catholic priesthood shows how powerful an instru- 
ment it is actually possible to create in this way. 

So in every direction, the state was to be guarded carefully 
from all influences that might seem in any way harmful. 
It was to be isolated as much as possible from foreign trade 
and foreign intercourse. Amusements and the arts were to 
be under strict supervision. All music that was emotional 
and exciting in its nature was to be prohibited, and the theatre 
to be put under the ban. So in the case of poetry, a strict 
censorship was to be preserved, and everything whose 
moral tendency was not immediate and apparent, was ruth- 
lessly to be rejected, no matter what its artistic excellence. 
The poet was to be confined to singing the praises of vir- 
tue, and hymns to the gods. The suggestion that the 
way of vice might have its attractions, or that virtue some- 

1 Republic, 416. 

86 A Student's History of Philosophy 

times proves a thorny road, was not to be tolerated. And 
of course religion is, likewise, absolutely under the control 
of the state. 

3. The Nature of Knowledge. The Theory of Ideas 

I. The World of Ideas. In the conception of human 
life which has thus been briefly sketched, we may notice, 
once more, two aspects in particular, that will serve as a 
transition to Plato's more general theory of knowledge and 
of reality. Plato has been concerned throughout with the 
search for ends, or ideals; and this same thing it is which 
continues to guide him when he comes to his wider and 
more fundamental problems. The real continues always 
for him to be in terms of the Good. We know reality in 
its essence only as we grasp its meaning ; Ethics is the 
starting-point of Metaphysics, and suggests the form which 
a final philosophy is to take on. 

But now, furthermore, the ideal can be regarded as no 
fleeting, shifting matter of individual preference. By the 
very nature (5f an ideal, it seems to claim universality, 
coercive validity. The entire search has been for that 
which shall rise above the world of particularity and rela- 
tivity, for something which is authoritative and abiding. 
How, then, are we to make the transition ? How, in the 
world of change in which we are immersed, are we to 
grasp the truth that is eternal ? To answer this question, 
we need to turn to Plato's theory of knowledge. 

The starting-point of the theory, as has been said, lay 
in Plato's certainty that truth, particularly ethical truth, 
exists, and that truth is steadfast and abiding. There were 
theories current in Plato's day which denied this. Such 
theories, which usually related themselves more or less 
closely to the " flowing philosophy " of Heracleitus, empha- 
sized the thoroughgoing relativity of knowledge, to the 
exclusion of any absolute standard of truth. Such a 
theory Plato connects, probably without historical warrant, 
with the name of the Sophist Protagoras. There was a 

The Systematic Philosophers 87 

famous utterance of Protagoras', that " man is the measure 
of all things." This Plato interprets in the sense that each 
individual man is the measure of all things, that that is true 
for each man which seems to him to be true, and that for 
the opinions of different men there is no common meas- 
ure. This pretty certainly was not Protagoras' meaning ; 
but, as has been said, some of Plato's contemporaries, 
and particularly Aristippus the Cyrenaic, had been led to 
just this position as the outcome of an attempt to reduce 
all knowledge to the changing and subjective facts of 
sense perception. 

Now to such a philosophy Plato was unalterably op- 
posed. In denying the existence of absolute truth, the 
theory is suicidal. Let us retort upon Protagoras with 
the argument ad hominem. " If truth is only sensation, 
and one man's discernment is as good as another's, and 
each man is to be the sole judge, and everything that he 
judges is true and right, why should Protagoras be pre- 
ferred to the place of wisdom and instruction, and deserve 
to be well paid, and we poor ignoramuses have to go to 
him, if each one is the measure of his own wisdom ? " 1 
Why should the "truth" that all truth is relative, be more 
true than its opposite ? It is true to the man who thinks 
it so, and that is all. "The best of the joke is, that Pro- 
tagoras acknowledges the truth of their opinion who be- 
lieve his opinion to be false; for in admitting that the 
opinions of all men are true, in effect he grants that the 
opinion of his opponents is true." 2 We cannot, then, give 
up our belief in knowledge; even the sceptic assumes 
some truth the truth of his scepticism. A consistent 
scepticism would have to be completely speechless. And 
knowledge implies fixity, an abiding nature somewhere ; 
for it would no longer be knowledge, if a transition were 
going on in it continually. 

Now already Socrates had pointed out where this fixity 
is to be found. It is present, not in the flux of sense ex- 

1 Theatctus, 161. 2 /*</., 171. 

88 A Student's History of Philosophy 

perience, but in thought, or the concept. Philosophy, ac- 
cording to Socrates, has to do with the common nature 
which makes a thing what it is; with those essential 
characteristics which are present in individuals, and which, 
when detected, go to form what we call the concept, or 
general idea. If we want to know what a man is, or what 
is virtue, it is not enough to name this or that man, or to 
enumerate a string of virtues ; different men are not dif- 
ferent in kind, but each is a man by reason of certain char- 
acteristics which belong to man as such. 

Such fixed and universal ideas, then, constitute the 
" truth " of which the scientist and the philosopher are in 
search. But, now, if they are true, may we not naturally 
ask true of what? Where is the object to which they 
refer, of which they are valid ? In the sense world we 
can find no such object ; there everything is ephemeral, 
in constant process of change. Is, then, the Idea a mere 
fiction ? Does it point to nothing in the world of reality ? 
This would be intolerable. Are there to be real objects 
corresponding-" to our sensations, and nothing real to cor- 
respond to thought, whose dignity is so much greater, and 
to which we bring our sense perception to be tested ? No, 
over against the world of perception, with its change and 
unrest, there must be another realm. This is the realm of 
Ideas, of concepts, of true and abiding existence. Accord- 
ingly, instead of the one world of previous philosophers, 
the universe has fallen apart into two sections. On the one 
hand is the world of individual things, which we see when 
we open our eyes ; and this is given over without reserve 
to change, multiplicity, relativity, the Heracleitean flux. 
To this sense world belongs all the uncertainty that the 
individualist and the sensationalist had found in knowl- 
edge. It is in very deed a perpetual process of change, 
as Heracleitus had said, and there is no such thing as 
absolute truth or fact in its shifting play of appearances. 
It will not stand still long enough to give rise to the possi- 
bility of an authoritative standard. But for just this reason 

The Systematic Philosophers 89 

it can be only a phenomenal world, and not the world of true 
being. This latter is the world of the Idea absolute, abid- 
ing, without variableness or shadow of turning, which sensa- 
tion never can attain to, but thought alone. " Over against 
that world of flux, 

" < Where nothing is, but all things seem,' 

it is the vocation of Plato to set up a standard of unchange- 
able reality, which in its highest theoretic development be- 
comes the world of eternal and immutable ideas, indefectible 
outlines of thought, yet also the veritable things of experi- 
ence ; the perfect Justice, e.g., which if even the gods mis- 
take it for perfect injustice, is not moved out of its place ; 
the beauty which is the same yesterday, to-day, and for- 
ever. In such ideas, or ideals, eternal as participating in 
the essential character of the facts they represent to us, 
we come in contact, as he supposes, with the insoluble, 
immovable granite, beneath and amid the wasting torrent 
of mere phenomena." 1 The ordinary man may be con- 
tent to dwell in this lower world, and put up with mere 
empirical knowledge of things as they come to him in their 
particularity. He is ready to stop with virtuous actions, 
and beautiful objects, and not bother his head about Virtue 
or Beauty as such. But not so the philosopher. " He who 
has learned to see the beautiful in due order and succes- 
sion, when he comes toward the end will suddenly perceive 
a nature of wondrous beauty, not growing and decaying, 
or waxing and waning, not fair in one point of view and 
foul in another, or in the likeness of a face, or hands, or 
any other part of the bodily frame, or in any form of speech 
or knowledge, nor existing in any other being ; but Beauty 
only, absolute, separate, simple, everlasting, which with- 
out diminution and without increase, or any change, is im- 
parted to the ever growing and perishing beauties of all 
other things. He only uses the beauties of earth as steps 

1 Pater, Plato and Platonism. 

90 A Student's History of Philosophy 

along which he mounts upward for the sake of that other 
Beauty, going from one to two, and from two to all fair 
forms, and from fair forms to fair actions, and from fair 
actions to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at 
the notion of absolute Beauty, and at last knows what the 
essence of Beauty is." 1 

In knowing, then, this supersensible world, we are in pos- 
session of ideas that go far beyond the mere data of sense 
experience ideas that are perfect and immutable. The 
very fact that we can judge particular things to be imper- 
fect, shows that we already have a standard with reference 
to which they fall short. Take an instance from geometry : 
We never have seen a perfect circle, and yet we know that 
any given circle comes short of perfection ; how can we 
know this, except as we can compare the circle which we 
see, with the idea, or ideal, of the circle which it calls up, 
and which we never can see with the bodily eye ? If, then, 
such ideas are not revealed to us through the channels of 
sense, how do we attain them ? The answer which Plato 
gives takes the form of the famous doctrine of thought as 
recollection. Since the idea is nothing that can come origi- 
nally from sense experience, and since, again, it evidently 
has not been consciously present in our minds from birth, 
we can only conjecture that thought represents the traces 
left upon our souls by a previous existence. Before that 
union with the body which has immersed it in the world of 
sense, the soul lived in the realm of true reality, and beheld 
with unveiled eyes the changeless Ideas which constitute 
this realm. Such a former vision may even now on occa- 
sion be restored ; and the process of recalling it to con- 
sciousness, is what we know as thought. Perhaps Plato 
does not intend his statements here to be taken too literally. 
But what is thus expressed in more or less mythical form 
adumbrates, at any rate, an important truth, which is taken 
up again and again in later philosophy. Somehow or other, 
the mind by which we think the universe is the source of 

^Symposium, 21 1. 

The Systematic Philosophers 91 

an interpretation of things which cannot be reduced to any 
mere collection of sense particulars. 

2. Interpretation of the Theory. What, now, are we to 
think of the stand which Plato has taken ? Can we actually 
suppose that man is more real than men, beauty than beauti- 
ful objects, equality than things which are equal ? A man I 
can see, and hear, and touch ; but what is man in the ab- 
stract ? What can beauty be like which is not embodied in 
some beautiful form, but which is just beauty, and nothing 
else ? Well, Plato says, people find a difficulty in this, 
simply because they are so enamoured of the senses, and 
because they have not trained the only organ by which the 
Idea is to be attained the organ of conceptual thought. 
For the outer barbarians, who "believe in nothing but what 
they can hold fast in their hands," the Idea may be unreal, 
but this is only because there is lacking in them the sense 
through which it is perceived ; for the philosopher, the 
object of thought is the most real thing in the world. 

But still, from our modern standpoint, we are compelled 
to ask again : How can that exist which is nothing in par- 
ticular, but only something in general ? Is the concept 
"man" anything more than the abstraction of a certain 
number of characteristics, which we have seen in individual 
men, and which now are held together in the mind ? The 
thought of man is real, indeed, as my thought ; but has it 
any other reality, except as we go back again to the par- 
ticular men from whom the qualities were abstracted? 
How, indeed, are we possibly to conceive of that as having 
any actual existence, which is neither an inch, nor a foot, 
nor a yard long, nor possessed of any definite length, but 
which is only length in general ? To us there seems to be 
but little meaning to the statement that it is beauty which 
makes things beautiful, or duality which makes them two 
in number. What is this beauty or duality, apart from the 
concrete individual objects themselves ? 

But now, on the other hand, when we try to go a little 
deeper, it seems clear that Plato's problem was by no means 

92 A Student's History of Philosophy 

a wholly artificial one. Do we not constantly assume that, 
through the thought which transcends particular objects, we 
are getting nearer to the truth ? For whom is the tree or the 
flower more real, the child who sees it barely in its separate- 
ness in space, or the naturalist, to whom it epitomizes the 
history of ages dead and gone, and sends forth lines of 
relationship to all living things ? And yet it is in 
terms of " ideas " that this wider knowledge is embodied. 
We are stating more and more adequately what "kind" of 
a thing it is, interpreting it in terms of general notions. 
That our ideas are valid of reality, we cannot possibly get 
away from, without destroying the worth of thinking alto- 
gether. And if valid of the real world, must they not some- 
how be represented in that world ? We come closer to the 
real force of Plato's thought, if, instead of such a concept 
as "man," we substitute the notion of a scientific law. 
Put in such terms, we find ourselves even at the present 
day led naturally to think of the "idea" as something real, 
something actually belonging to the world beyond us, and 
not a mere fact in our private minds. The law of gravita- 
tion is a " universal," an unchanging truth, which we distin- 
guish from the particular events which are the expression 
of the law. And yet we hardly feel satisfied, ordinarily, 
to suppose that the law has no reality beyond our mere 
faculty of generalization, that it represents nothing in the 
outer world over and above the separate events themselves. 

Or, again, we may turn back to the aspect of Plato's prob- 
lem, to which reference has already been made. Plato's Ideas 
are also " ideals." Now for our ideals, too, we tend to claim 
objective validity, and not a mere particular and subjective 
existence. Ideals are, or pretend to be, universal, superior 
to bare phenomenal fact, exercising sovereignty over our 
present and fleeting desires. And unless we can find some 
place for them in reality, their whole function would seem 
to fall away. 

We may, then, interpret, somewhat broadly, Plato's em- 
phasis on the world of universals, of Ideas, as fundament- 

The Systematic Philosophers 93 

ally the demand for an ethically significant world, as 
against a reduction of reality to nothing save a string of 
particular events. Is the universe no more than a col- 
lection of individual things, in which alone reality inheres ; 
or do these things depend on the more ultimate reality of 
the one world to which they belong, and which has its 
final interpretation in ethical terms ? Is the world a mere 
world of particular facts, or is it a whole of meaning, by 
reference to which the particular facts get their significance? 
In opposition to the individualism of the later Sophists, and 
the materialistic atomism of the scientific philosophers, 
Plato asserts, with all the strength of a profound conviction, 
that the truth of the world lies in its universal and abiding 
significance, in the Idea, or the Good; and that no 
particular thing retains for a moment any validity apart 
from this all-embracing whole. " The ruler of the universe 
has ordered all things with a view to the preservation and 
perfection of the whole, and each part has an appointed 
state of action and passion. And one of the portions of 
the universe is thine own, stubborn man, which, however 
little, has the whole in view ; and you do not seem to be 
aware that this and every other creation is for the sake of 
the whole, and in order that the life of the whole may be 
blessed, and that you are created for the sake of the whole, 
and not the whole for the sake of you." * In its highest 
aspect, the world is not mechanical, but ideological. Every- 
thing comes within the compass of an end or meaning, 
which is at once the supreme fact, and the highest good, 
and perfect beauty. 

3. Diffictdties of the Theory. But now in the form in 
which Plato has cast his theory, there are serious difficulties. 
And the great difficulty is this, that, as he conceives it, 
there is altogether too sharp a distinction between the 
Ideas, and the particular facts. Plato's tendency has been 
to think that within the same world there is no way of rec- 
onciling the One and the Many, Permanence and Change, 

1 Laws, 903. 

94 A Student's History of Philosophy 

Sameness and Otherness. And the result is, that in at- 
tributing to the Ideas only the first terms of these pairs of 
correlates, he has to thrust into the outer darkness all the 
concrete matter that makes up the stuff of experience as 
we actually know it. But this is suicidal. We demand, 
for knowledge, that which will explain things, not that 
which leaves them inexplicable. And the more the lower 
world is cut off from the Ideas, the more impossible it is 
to understand even its partial and derivative reality. The 
Good, instead of being the concrete whole of life, which trans- 
forms all the desires and facts of sense by bringing them into 
connection with a worthy end this is what Plato is feel- 
ing after is, instead, hardly more than a name, which in 
the nature of the case he finds it impossible to define, and 
fill out with a real content. Such a content could only come 
from the particular facts which he has rejected. In 
the human soul, again, a parallel division is made neces- 
sary between the organs through which these different 
realms are apprehended, between thought, i.e., which 
is the soul proper, and the senses, which are the organs 
of the body. 

Accordingly, there appears in man's nature a cleft, which 
to all appearance is impassable. Not only when man turns 
to true knowledge, does he get no help from the senses ; 
they are an actual hindrance to him. To behold the Idea, 
he must get rid, so far as he can, of eyes, and ears, and the 
whole body, and rely solely upon the pure light of the mind. 
To the body are due only our aberrations and failures to see 
the truth : " it draws the soul down into the region of the 
changeable, where it wanders and is confused : the world 
spins around her, and she is like a drunkard when under 
their influence. " x "For the body is a source of endless 
trouble to us by reason of the mere requirement of food, and 
also is liable to diseases which overtake and impede us in 
the search after truth, and, by filling us so full of loves, and 
fears, and fancies, and idols, and every sort of folly, pre- 


The Systematic Philosophers 95 

vents our ever having, as people say, so much as a thought. 
For whence come wars, and fightings, and factions ? whence 
but from the body, and the lust of the body?" 1 We 
are shut up behind the bars of a prison, whence we can 
only catch an occasional glimpse of the fair sights which 
our soul desires. This conception of the sense world as 
a mere appearance, which only serves to veil the reality 
behind it, Plato expresses in the famous figure of the 

" After this, I said, imagine the enlightenment or igno- 
rance of our nature in a figure : Behold ! human beings 
living in a sort of underground den, which has a mouth 
open toward the light, and reaching all across the den ; 
they have been here from their childhood, and have their 
legs and necks chained so that they can only see before 
them. At a distance above and behind them the light of a 
fire is blazing, and between the fire and the prisoners there 
is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall 
built along the way, like the screen which marionette players 
have before them, over which they show the puppets. And 
do you see men passing along the wall carrying vessels, 
which appear over the wall ; and some of the passengers, as 
you would expect, are talking, and some of them are silent ? 

" That is a strange image, he said, and these are strange 
prisoners. Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only 
their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which 
the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave. 

" True, he said ; how could they see anything but the 
shadows, if they were never allowed to move their heads ? 

" And if they were able to talk with one another, would 
they not suppose that they were naming what was actually 
before them ? And suppose, further, that the prison had 
an echo which came from the other side ; would they not 
be sure to fancy that the voice which they heard was that 
of a passing shadow ? And now look again, and see how 
they are released and cured of their folly. At first, when 

i Phado, 66. 

96 A Student's History of Philosophy 

any one of them is liberated, and compelled suddenly to 
go up and turn his neck round, and walk, and look at the 
light, he will suffer sharp pains ; the glare will distress 
him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in 
his former state he had seen the shadows. And then im- 
agine some one saying to him, that what he saw before 
was an illusion, but that now he is approaching real being; 
what will be his reply ? Will he not fancy that the shad- 
ows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects 
which are now shown to him ? " * 

By practice, however, he can accustom his eyes to the 
new conditions. First he will perceive only the shadows 
and reflections in the water ; then he will gaze upon the 
light of the moon and the stars; and at last he will be able 
to see the sun itself, and behold things as they are. How 
he will rejoice then in passing from darkness to light; how 
worthless to him will seem the honors and glories of the den 
out of which he came! And now imagine further that he 
descends into his old habitations. In that underground 
dwelling he will not see as well as his fellows, and will not 
be able to compete with them in the measurement of the 
shadows on the wall; there will be many jokes about the 
man who went on a visit to the sun and lost his eyes ; and 
if those imprisoned there find any one trying to set free 
and enlighten one of their number, they will put him to 
death if they can catch him. Of course philosophy is 
the means through which this enfranchisement is to be 
attained. ''When returning into herself the soul reflects, 
then she passes into the realm of purity, and eternity, and 
immortality, and unchangeableness, which are her kindred ; 
and with them she ever lives, and is not let or hindered. 
There she ceases from her erring ways, and being in com- 
munion with the unchanging, is unchanging ; and this 
state of the soul is called wisdom." 2 

Only partially, indeed, can we reach this in our present 
life, for we are still clogged by the weights of the body. 

1- Republic, 515. 

The Systematic Philosophers 97 

But we shall reap the perfect fruits of wisdom in another 
and truer life. The immortality of the soul thus enters 
into Plato's philosophy, and he supports it by a number 
of proofs, most of which seem to us rather fantastic. It 
is, however, not easy to say to what extent Plato has 
in mind an individual immortality in the ordinary sense, 
or indeed to sift out, in his whole treatment of the matter, 
what is intended to be mere 4 myth and poetry, from the 
philosophical truth that underlies it. After the separation 
of the soul from the body, the former undergoes various 
adventures, which Plato describes in a mythical vein in the 
Phcedo. Only the soul of the philosopher may pass at 
once to the realm of the Ideas, and be purged completely 
from the taint of earth ; others, after undergoing purifica- 
tion, are subjected to a new incarnation, in which they 
take on the body for which their previous life has made 
them most fitted. 

It will be apparent that such a conception carries with 
it a decided disparagement of the body, and of the world 
to which the body belongs. This, no doubt, is due in part 
to. the wise man's perception of the futility and worthless- 
ness, when judged by the true standard, of many of the 
interests which seem so important to us, when our immer- 
sion in trivial things deprives them of their true perspec- 
tive. " Political ambition and office-getting, clubs and 
banquets, revels and singing maidens, do not enter into 
the philosopher's dreams. Whether any event has turned 
out well or ill in the city, what disgrace may have 
descended to any one from his ancestors, male or female, 
are matters of which he no more knows, than he can tell, 
as they say, how many pints are contained in the ocean." * 
And even when this attitude passes to the extreme of 
asceticism, it has a sufficient justification in the facts of 
life, to give it a certain measure of plausibility. " Each 
pleasure and pain is a sort of nail, and rivets the soul to 
the body, and engrosses her, and makes her believe that 

^Thecetetus, 173. 

98 A Student's History of Philosophy 

to be true which the body affirms to be true ; and from 
agreeing with the body, and having the same delights, she 
is obliged to have the same habits and ways, and is not 
likely ever to be pure at her departure to the world below, 
but is always saturated with the body." * 

But, also, there are serious consequences which flow 
from such an attitude. It implies that the philosopher 
is isolated from the common joys and common activities 
of his fellow-men. Occupied with the high things of 
the mind, absorbed in the beatific vision, he has no real 
interest left even for the political assemblies, the laws 
of the state, or " what has turned out well or ill in the 
city." "He is like one who retires under the shelter 
of a wall in the storm of dust and sleet which the 
driving wind hurries along, and when he sees the rest of 
mankind full of wickedness, he is content if only he can 
live his own life, and be pure from evil or unrighteous- 
ness, and depart in peace and good will, with bright hopes." 2 
It is evident how far this has travelled from the Greek 
ideal accepted without question by Socrates of man's 
life as essentially a social life, a part of the state. With 
the separation that Plato makes, everything that pertains 
to this world becomes logically a matter of indifference. 
" The truth is, that only the outer form of him is in the 
city ; his mind, disdaining the littleness and nothingness 
of human things, is flying all abroad, as Pindar says, 
measuring with line and rule the things which are. under 
and on the earth, and above the heaven, interrogating the 
whole nature of each and all, but not condescending to 
anything which is within reach." 3 

It is this very marked dualism, then, between the world 
of Ideas and the world of things, the thought life and the 
life of the senses, the realm of moral activity and that of 
the natural desires and passions, the state and the indi- 
vidual, which is the greatest difficulty for Plato's philoso- 
phy as a system. How are we to bring the two sides into 

, 83. 2 Republic, 496. 3 Tkeatetus, 173. 

The Systematic Philosophers 99 

relation ? for clearly they must have a relation of some 
sort. There is no being satisfied with a theory which 
calmly denies the validity of the larger part of our nature. 
Why were senses and desires bestowed upon us? just 
in order that they might hinder us, and prevent us from 
attaining our true destiny ? And if we carry the difficulty 
back to the more ultimate problem, and lay the blame on 
the inherent depravity of matter, why should there be a 
material world at all alongside the world of Ideas, and 
what is their connection ? If the Ideas alone have a true 
reality, why should anything else exist ? What is the na- 
ture of that which is not real, and yet is real enough to 
furnish a problem. 

4. Plato's Later Philosophy. It is not to be supposed 
that these difficulties did not appeal to Plato himself. It 
is, indeed, not wholly fair to attribute outright to him the 
theory which leads to them. On the whole, his tendency 
is toward a dualistic separation. But to some extent he 
feels its unsatisfactoriness all along ; and he constantly is 
coming back to a tardy recognition of the rights of concrete 

In the later years of his life, this recognition led Plato, 
in the opinion of some modern scholars, to at least a par- 
tial recasting of his theory. At any rate, it is clear that 
he saw its difficulties very plainly. In the Parmenides, 
he marshals these objections against his own philosophy. 
The connection between the Ideas, and things, on the sup- 
position of their essential duality, is shown to be unin- 
telligible. To say, as Plato has done, that things " imitate," 
or "participate in," the Idea, is to convey no concrete 
meaning. How, e.g., can the Idea of man be spread out to 
form the essence of a multitude of individual men, unless it is 
divisible ? and if it is divisible, where is its unity as an Idea ? 
Nor, again, is the knowledge of the Ideas by the human 
mind conceivable, if they exist thus in a realm apart; 
whatever they may be for God, they are beyond our reach 
entirely, and so they help us not at all in explaining things. 

ioo A Student's History of Philosophy 

Whether, or to what extent, Plato has succeeded in over- 
coming the defects of his earlier standpoint, is a matter on 
which there is a difference of opinion. There is some 
ground for thinking that in his later works, influenced 
very possibly by his pupil Aristotle, he has attempted to 
get away from his previous dualism, to remove the Ideas 
from their isolation and bare self -identity, and make them 
give an account of themselves as actual principles for ex- 
plaining things. So, in the TimcBus^ Plato takes in hand 
for the first time the problem of the physical world of 
science, though, again, in a more or less mythical form. 
By postulating over against the true and positive exist- 
ence of the Ideas, a second principle, with at least a nega- 
tive sort of reality, Plato attempts, through its union with 
the true reality of the Idea, to explain the phenomenal 
world, which we could not explain as coming from the 
Idea alone. This relationship is expressed as a timeless 
act of creation, by which God, the Demiurge, informs 
the chaos of Not-being with order and harmony, after the 
pattern which is represented in the Idea. Through the 
relation of the world of phenomena to this pattern in 
which it participates, the explanation of facts is ultimately 
teleological, as opposed to the mechanical explanation of 
the Atomists. Things exist for the sake of the whole ; 
and since this whole is in the form of reason, and so of 
meaning, they can only be accounted for by being placed 
in their relation to the idea which represents the End, or 
Highest Good. In other dialogues, Plato deals more di- 
rectly with the problem of knowledge as such. Since, 
however, his later theory, if he has one, is decidedly un- 
certain, and at any rate did not determine the direction of 
Plato's historical influence, we shall perhaps be justified in 
not considering it further. 

5. The Academy. The school which Plato founded, 
and which was called the Academy, continued in existence 
several centuries after his death, although it passed through 
a number of vicissitudes. At different periods of its exist- 

The Systematic Philosophers 101 

ence, it represents different tendencies, and is known suc- 
cessively as the Older Academy, the Middle Academy, and 
the New Academy. Plato's real successor, however, and 
the one who succeeded in developing his thought in a 
genuinely significant way, is not found among the more 
orthodox followers who formed the Academy, but rather 
in Aristotle, the originator of a new and rival school. 


Plato, Dialogues, esp. Protagoras, Gorgias, Phcedo, Phcedrus, Re- 
public, Euthydemus, Parmenides, Theatetus, Timcsus. 
Van Oordt, Plato and his Times. 
J. Seth, Study of Ethical Principles. 
Nettleship, Philosophical Lectures and Remains, 2 vols. 
Nettleship, Theory of Education in Plato* s Republic (in HelUnicd). 
Bryan, The Republic of Plato. 
Bosanquet, A Companion to Plato^s Republic. 
Zeller, Plato. 

Pater, Plato and Platonism. 
Ritchie, Plato. 

J. S. Mill, Essays and Discussions. 
Martineau, Types of Ethical Theory. 
Martineau, Essays. 
Grote, Plato, 3 vols. 
Grote, History of Greece. 
Collins, Plato. 
Shorey, The Unity of Plato' 1 s Thought. 

12. Aristotle. The Peripatetics 

Aristotle was born at Stagira, in 386 B.C. His father 
came of a family of physicians, and was himself physician 
to the king of Macedon. Aristotle received his philosoph- 
ical education at the Academy in Athens, but owing to 
certain differences of standpoint, he ceased later on to call 
himself a disciple of Plato, and became in a way his rival. 
He was, however, profoundly influenced by the teachings 
to which he had listened, and perhaps is inclined, in the 
interests of his own originality, to exaggerate the real ex- 
tent of the difference between himself and his former mas- 

IO2 A Student' s History of Philosophy 

ter. In 343, he became the tutor of Alexander, afterward 
to be called the Great a position which he held for three 
years with marked success. In 335, he founded a school, 
in the walks of the Lyceum at Athens. After the death 
of Alexander, he was accused by the patriotic party of fa- 
voring the political pretensions of Macedon, and was com- 
pelled to go into exile on the island of Eubcea, where he 
died in 322 B.C. 

In passing from Plato to Aristotle, we are conscious of 
a marked change of atmosphere. Instead of the deeply 
poetic temperament, which sees all things in relation to a 
unitary ideal, fuses them to form a single picture, and en- 
deavors, by all sorts of partial lights, to adumbrate the infi- 
nite and unspeakable, we have what is more closely allied 
to the scientific type of mind, parcelling out the universe 
into its several spheres, untiring in its search for facts, fer- 
tile in explanations which are marked by practical good 
sense, and which are based on historical and scientific con- 
siderations. However, this does not mean that Aristotle 
is no metaphysician. Indeed, he combines in himself, as 
few other philosophers have done, the scientific and the 
metaphysical interests. And we may, accordingly, turn 
first to his more general point of view for regarding the 
universe, since this makes itself felt in all his other work. 

i. Metaphysics, Logic , Psychology 

I. The Conception of Development. Aristotle's philo- 
sophical system grows out of the problem which he had 
inherited from Plato, and is presented most systematically 
in a number of writings collected under the title of Meta- 
physics. The name is probably derived from the fact that, 
in the collection of Aristotle's works, this volume came 
after the writings on physics (pera ra <f>vcriica). Plato had 
left his two worlds the world of the Idea, and the world 
of matter standing in strong opposition, and practically 
separate. How is it possible, now, to get rid of this dual- 

The Systematic Philosophers 103 

ism? Aristotle's answer is technical in its nature, and 
when arrayed in the special terminology which he uses, it 
is apt to seem rather formidable. Perhaps, however, 
the essential part of his thought may be simplified, to make 
its bearing more obvious. 

To begin with, Aristotle recognizes clearly the impossi- 
bility of setting up Ideas apart from things. We could 
not prove the existence of such Ideas, if they were wholly 
separate from the world in which we have our being, and 
to which our knowledge extends ; nor, if they existed, should 
we be able to explain by reference to them, anything what- 
ever in this lower world, since we have so carefully removed 
the two from contact. The statement that things partici- 
pate in the Idea is, if the Idea has a separate being, only a 
metaphor, which conveys no intelligible meaning. But it 
does not follow that the Idea has no existence, and that 
the only reality is the world of individual objects. The 
Idea does exist, and it forms a very essential part of real- 
ity ; only it exists in the world, and in things, not outside 
of and apart from them. 

The best way to gain a clear notion of what Aristotle 
means by this, is to take a concrete illustration. We shall 
find such an illustration in what we call an organism. What 
is it we mean, e.g., by an oak tree ? Is it merely a collec- 
tion of the particular parts which go to make it up as an 
object in space? But where shall we start to make such 
an analysis ? If we take the acorn and there surely is a 
sense in which the oak already exists in the acorn we 
shall get one result ; if we wait till the tree is full grown, 
we shall get another and a very different one. The idea of 
the tree i.e., evidently includes more than can be summed 
up in any one moment of the tree's existence ; all the pro- 
cesses by which it changes from one stage to another 
from the acorn to maturity, from maturity to decay also 
belong to the complete notion of what a tree is. Nor is 
this all. The mere description of the parts, misses com- 
pletely the unity of the organism, that which makes it a 

IO4 A Student's History of Philosophy 

single object ; we must also bring in the use which each 
part serves, in relation to the other parts, and to the entire 
organism to the Idea of the tree as a whole. If there 
were no Idea, if the particular facts were everything, there 
would be no tree, but only a series of molecular changes. 

There are two things especially to be noticed in this con- 
ception. In the first place, the reality becomes a process 
of development. Any complete definition of the tree, will 
have to include in some way the whole course of its life; for 
only by reference to this entire process can the particular 
stages and organs be placed and understood. It is by means 
of this notion of development, that Aristotle overcomes 
the dualism of Plato. Just as long as reality is regarded 
as something unchanging and complete, we are obliged to 
separate it from the material world, where there is no such 
perfect fulfilment, but only approximation. But, further- 
more, this process is no mere series of disconnected 
changes ; it is a real development, or growth. Looked at 
from the standpoint of physical science, the tree can be 
reduced to a succession of molecular changes, entirely 
continuous with all the other changes in the universe. 
But a tree is, for our knowledge, more than this ; it is a 
single process, possessing as an organism its own peculiar 
unity of end. Only, again, it is not an end which comes 
literally at the finish such an end is but the end of death ; 
nor does it exist in any sense outside the life of the tree. 
That life process is itself the end. The tree fulfils the 
purpose which it embodies, in the very act of growing. 

Now this is essentially what Aristotle means. As the 
tree is nothing outside the whole process of growth and 
decay, regarded as bound into a unity by its relation to 
the type or Idea of the tree, so the concept in general 
does not exist separate from the material world of gen- 
eration, but only in that world. Matter, and concept, 
or Idea, are relative terms, neither of which has any real 
existence apart from the other. Matter is the organic pro- 
cess looked at from the side of potentiality, of what as yet 

The Systematic Philosophers 105 

is unrealized, as the acorn is the material from which the 
oak will spring. It is the possibility of the realization of 
the Idea. There is no such thing as pure matter ; it 
always has some definite characteristics, or form. Form, 
or the concept, is the same process on the side of 
actuality, fulfilment. It is the inner meaning expressing 
itself concretely in material form ; the end which governs 
the series of particular changes. It is only as it thus em- 
bodies the Idea, that anything becomes an object of knowl- 
edge. The transition from the potential to the actual is 
motion, or evolution, or development. True existence is 
thus not something apart from the phenomenal world, but 
realized in it ; it is possibility made real, the potential 
actualized, Aristotle's entelechy. 

Such a conception involves, if it is taken seriously, an 
important change in philosophical standpoint ; it substitutes 
a changing, or dynamic, reality, for the purely static and 
all-complete perfection with which ultimate existence had 
been identified by Plato. Heracleitus, indeed, had sug- 
gested the same thought, when he made reality a process 
of Becoming; but by introducing the concept of end, or 
purpose, into the process, Aristotle succeeded in giving 
it a unity beyond anything that Heracleitus had been 
able to formulate. There is, however, another side to 
Aristotle's theory, which would seem to prevent our taking 
this too strictly. A different type of illustration will sug- 
gest the point more clearly. Instead of taking his examples 
from organic life, where matter and form are in truth only 
distinguishable, and not separate, Aristotle also turns fre- 
quently to illustrations from human workmanship, especially 
in artistic creation. Take a statue, e.g. : the reality of the 
statue is the marble shaped to body forth the sculptor's 
ideal. Here evidently we have two sides again the 
material which furnishes the conditions for the artist's 
work, and the idea in his mind which represents the cause 
of his activity, and the end toward which it is directed. 
But there is a separation here which did not exist in the 

io6 A Student's History of Philosophy 

organism. From the standpoint of the statue, the two 
things are related, it is true. The marble is not mere 
brute mass, for the sculptor sees in it, even in the rough, 
the possibility of the realization of his ideal; his ideal, 
too, is not a mere dream, but something to be actualized 
in the marble. Still, in the illustration, the idea, or 
form, and the matter, are two distinct things, before 
they meet in the statue ; and the idea exists in a certain 
degree of completeness, or it could not guide the artist's 

Now if we apply this to the world at large, it leads to the 
conception of a graded series of realities. Each step in 
this series reveals more and more those universal relation- 
ships which go to render it intelligible, an object of true 
knowledge. In the actual world of generation, we have 
not, indeed, anything more than -a relative purity of the 
formal element. Everything is alike matter and form 
matter to what lies above it in the scale, form to what is 
lower down. The marble is matter to the statue ; but it is 
not pure matter. It also has definite characteristics, and 
so, in relation to a lower grade of matter, it stands itself as 
form. The tree is form in relation to the elements that 
are taken from the soil to further its growth, matter in rela- 
tion to the house which is made from its timber. 

But now, from another point of view, the Reason which 
reveals itself in the world process is not, for Aristotle, 
actually generated by the process as such. Rather, it is 
eternally implied as the necessary condition for the world's 
intelligibility. At the end of the series, therefore, lies that 
which no longer is relative merely, but absolute. It is pure 
form, the pure Idea, since there is nothing beyond it to 
which it can stand in the relation of matter. God is thus 
absolute Spirit, with no touch of the corporeal. His is the 
life of pure thought, which has as its content no foreign 
matter, but only thought itself. Unmoved himself, he is 
the mover of the universe, not as an active agent, but as 
the final end of all, the ideal toward which the whole 

The Systematic Philosophers 107 

creation moves by an inner necessity, as the beautiful and 
the good stir up. our endeavor to realize them, not by 
anything they themselves do, but by the appeal they make 
to our desires as worthy of being realized. Whether, 
in this final outcome of his philosophy, Aristotle has wholly 
escaped the difficulties that beset Plato, may be ques- 
tioned. But the entire conception is in any case a remark- 
able achievement, to which the modern philosopher may 
still return with profit. 

2. Logic. Leaving his general standpoint, we may turn 
next to an examination of some of the details of Aristotle's 
system. And we are struck, first of all, by the great ad- 
vance which has been made in the distinction of problems, 
and their accurate definition. Even with Plato, the various 
different aspects of the world are still largely bound up 
together ; in Aristotle, however, this gives place to a divi- 
sion into separate fields, each with fairly well-defined boun- 
daries. Logic, Ethics, Metaphysics, Physical Science, 
Psychology, Political Science, Rhetoric, ^Esthetics, all 
are thus subjected to treatment by themselves, in an essen- 
tially modern way. 

Aristotle's most perfect achievement is his Logic, found 
chiefly in the collection of writings called the Organon. 
Of course there had been, before his day, some isolated 
treatment of logical details, especially among the Sophists ; 
but there was no connected body of logical doctrine. 
Aristotle not only succeeded in creating such a science, 
but he did his work so thoroughly that, in the field which 
it professes to occupy, it has remained practically un- 
changed ever since. The so-called Formal Logic, the 
analysis of the processes of deductive argument as this is 
taught to-day, does not differ essentially from the formu- 
lation which Aristotle gave it over two thousand years ago. 
But while, with us, this Logic is regarded as in truth 
purely formal, and as representing a somewhat abstract 
method of proof or argumentation, rather than the actual 
process of scientific inquiry and explanation, in Aristotle's 

io8 A Student's History of Philosophy 

mind it had no such restriction. We have seen that, for 
Aristotle, all changes are determined by reference to the 
realization of an end the Idea or form. The form is 
thus also a cause ; and the form is ' equivalent to what we 
call the concept. Scientific procedure, then, consists in 
bringing about a proper subordination of concepts ; the 
logical process, instead of being only a method of proof, 
constitutes a scientific explanation as well. 

Logic, accordingly, centres about the syllogism the 
process by which there is deduced the relation of two con- 
cepts, in the way of logical subordination, through the 
medium of two premises and a middle term. This latter, 
by standing in a relation to each concept separately, dis- 
covers their relation to one another. Aristotle worked out 
the different forms which it is possible for the syllogism 
to assume, in practically an exhaustive way. 

3. Natural Science and Psychology. With Aristotle, 
Logic was not so much a special science, or branch of 
knowledge, as an introduction to all sciences, a determina- 
tion of the form of the mind's action, which might be 
applied to every subject-matter alike. If we turn now 
to these special branches to which Aristotle's encyclo- 
paedic activity directed itself, it will be sufficient merely 
to notice those writings, which to-day we should class 
under the head of science in the strict sense. Most im- 
portant, from the philosophical point of view, is the 
relation of this mass of knowledge, to his metaphysical 
doctrine of matter and form. Since every two successive 
grades of complexity in the world process stand to each 
other in the relation of matter and form, the result is a 
well-knit theory of teleological evolution. As we pass 
upward from purely mechanical changes, to chemical 
changes of quality, and thence to organic life, involving 
growth and decay ; as, in organisms, we advance from the 
vegetative life of the plant, to the animal soul, capable of 
sensation and motion ; and from the animal soul to man, 
from sensation to reason : we find each step governed by 

The Systematic Philosophers 109 

an upward impulse toward the succeeding step, which 
constitutes its perfection, or entelechy the goal toward 
which it is striving. The whole world is moving toward 
the realization of the Idea ; reason is everywhere present 
and working in it. The lower reality is not destroyed in 
the higher, but is utilized. Mechanical and chemical 
changes still take place in the organism ; but a new form is 
impressed upon them, which causes them to realize the 
organism's life. The vegetative soul the mere life prin- 
ciple is not lost sight of in the animal, but, again, is 
directed and utilized for something higher. 

The most significant application of this conception comes 
out in Aristotle's treatment of psychology, a treatment 
which, though somewhat slight, is very interesting and valu- 
able. By considering the human soul as the entelechy of 
the body, in whose service the whole body is enlisted, Aris- 
totle is in the way of getting rid of the dualism of the two, 
and attaining the modern position, which takes the whole 
psycho-physical man as the subject-matter of psychology, 
not mere mind by itself. Man is still an animal ; the 
vegetative and animal souls still exist in him. But they 
exist now for the sake of the higher life of reason ; and so 
mere impulses, and mere sensation, become transformed, 
and take on the specifically human character of knowledge 
and will. The different aspects of the soul thus form a 
real unity, and do not simply exist in juxtaposition, as with 
Plato. In detail, Aristotle's treatment of the conscious life 
is in general very suggestive ; and many of the things he 
has to say about memory, desire, the processes of sensa- 
tion, the unity of consciousness, the association of ideas, are 
striking anticipations of modern psychological doctrines. 

2. Ethics, Politics, ^Esthetics 

I. Ethics. It is, however, Aristotle's treatment of Ethics 
and Political Science, which is of greatest interest to the 
modern reader. Here, again, we start from the same ques- 

no A Student's History of Philosophy 

tion which Plato had raised : What is the highest good, the 
end of life ? If we were to ask the opinion of men in 
general, we probably should find most of them agreeing, 
both that happiness, and virtue, enter into the composition 
of the good. But what is the content of these terms? 
Here Aristotle's metaphysics helps him out. The end of 
a thing is the fulfilment of its Idea, the realization of the 
potentialities of its own peculiar nature. If, then, we are 
able to define that which constitutes a man as such, we 
can determine what is for him the Summum Bonum. 

" Perhaps it seems a truth which is generally admitted, 
that happiness is the supreme good ; what is wanted is to 
define its nature a little more clearly. The best way of 
arriving at such a definition will probably be to ascertain 
the function of Man. For as with a flute player, a 
statuary, or any artisan, or in fact anybody who has a 
definite function and action, his goodness or excellence 
seems to lie in his function, so it would seem to be with 
Man, if indeed he has a definite function. Can it be said, 
then, that while a carpenter and a cobbler have definite 
functions and actions, Man, unlike them, is naturally 
functionless ? The reasonable view is, that as the eye, 
the hand, the foot, and similarly each several part of the 
body, has a definite function, so Man may be regarded as 
having a definite function apart from all these. What, 
then, can this function be ? It is not life, for life is appar- 
ently something which man shares with the plants, and 
it is something peculiar to him that we are looking for. 
We must exclude, therefore, the life of nutrition and 
increase. There is, next, what may be called the life of 
sensation. But this, too, is apparently shared by Man 
with horses, cattle, and all other animals. There remains 
what I may call the practical life of the rational part of 
Man's being. But the rational part is twofold ; it is 
rational partly in the sense of being obedient to reason, 
and partly in the sense of possessing reason and intelli- 
gence. The practical life, too, may be conceived of in two 

The Systematic Philosophers 1 1 1 

ways, but we must understand by it the life of activity, as 
this seems to be the truer form of the conception. The 
function of Man, then, is an activity of soul in accordance 
with reason, or not independently of reason. Again, the 
functions of a person of a certain kind, and of such a 
person who is good of his kind, e.g., of a harpist, and a 
good harpist, are in our view generically the same, and 
this view is true of people of all kinds without exception, 
the superior excellence being only an addition to the 
function ; for it is the function of a harpist to play the 
harp, and of the good harpist to play the harp well. This 
being so, if we define the function of Man as a kind of 
life, and this life as an activity of soul, or a course of action, 
in conformity with reason, if the function of a good man 
is such activity or action of a good and noble kind, and if 
everything is successfully performed when it is performed 
in accordance with its proper excellence, it follows that the 
good of Man is an activity of soul in accordance with vir- 
tue, or, if there are more virtues than one, in accordance 
with the best and most complete virtue. But it is necessary 
to add the words 'in a complete life.' For as one swal- 
low or one day does not make a spring, so one day or 
a short time does not make a fortunate or happy man." * 

Virtue, then, or the supreme end of man's life, con- 
sists in the unobstructed realization, or exercise in 
conscious and voluntary action, of his rational nature. 
And since pleasure is but the accompaniment of suc- 
cessful activity, and the pleasure is better in proportion 
to the excellence of the faculty exercised, the highest 
virtue is, by that very fact, the greatest happiness. 
Aristotle, with his characteristic love of common-sense 
opinions, is careful not to depreciate the importance of 
happiness. " Happiness is the best and noblest and pleas- 
antest thing in the world, nor is there any such distinc- 
tion between goodness, nobleness, and pleasure, as the 
epigram at Delos suggests : 

1 Ethics, I, 6. Welldon's translation. (Macmillan & Co.) 

U2 A Student's History of Philosophy 

" < Justice is noblest, health is best, 
To gain one's end is pleasantest.' " l 

But this of course does not refer to any and every pleasure. 
" Pleasures are desirable, but not if they are immoral in 
their origin ; just as wealth is pleasant, but not if it be 
obtained at the cost of turning traitor to one's country ; or 
health, but not at the cost of eating any food however dis- 
agreeable." 2 Nor are we speaking of purely trivial pleas- 
ures. " Happiness does not consist in amusement. It 
would be paradoxical to hold that the end of human life is 
amusement, and that we should toil and suffer all our life 
for the sake of amusing ourselves." 3 Aristotle tends to 
confine the term " happiness," to the activity of what seems 
to him the best part of our nature. " It is reasonable not 
to speak of an ox, or a horse, or any other animal, as happy 
even of a child. For happiness demands a complete 
virtue and a complete life." 4 

By reason, however, of the division in man's soul between 
the pure intellect, and the lower desires and impulses, which 
are only capable of acting in subjection to reason, without 
being rational in their own nature, virtue becomes sub- 
divided into intellectual and moral. The highest virtue, 
since reason is the esssential element in man, is the life of 
philosophy, of purely rational insight, or contemplation. 
The pleasure of speculation is of all pleasures the highest, 
the most continuous, the purest, the most self-sufficient. 
" If, then, the reason is divine in comparison with the rest 
of man's nature, the life which accords with reason will be 
divine in comparison with human life in general. Nor is 
it right to follow the advice of people who say that the 
thought of men should not be too high for humanity, or 
the thought of mortals too high for mortality ; for a man, 
so far as in him lies, should seek immortality, and do all 
that is in his power to live in accordance with the highest 
part of his nature, as, although that part is insignificant in 

*I,g. 2 X, 2. 3 X,6. * 1, 10. 

The Systematic Philosophers 1 1 3 

size, yet in power and honor it is far superior to all the 
rest." * Moral virtues are human ; this one is godlike. " Our 
conception of the Gods is that they are preeminently happy 
and fortunate. But what kind of actions do we properly 
attribute to them ? Are they just actions ? But it would 
make the Gods ridiculous to suppose that they form con- 
tracts, restore deposits, and so on. Are they, then, coura- 
geous actions ? Do the Gods endure dangers and alarms 
for the sake of honor ? Or liberal actions ? But to whom 
should they give money ? It would be absurd to suppose 
that they have a currency, or anything of the kind. Surely, 
to praise the Gods for temperance is to degrade them ; 
they are exempt from low desires. We may go through 
the whole category of virtues, and it will appear that 
whatever relates to moral action is petty and ^unworthy of 
the Gods. Yet the Gods are universally conceived as liv- 
ing, and therefore as displaying activity ; they are certainly 
not conceived as sleeping like Endymion. If, then, action, 
and still more production, is denied to one who is alive, 
what is left but speculation ? It follows that the activity 
of God, being preeminently blissful, will be speculative, 
and, if so, then the human activity which is most nearly 
related to it, will be most capable of happiness." 2 " Again, 
he whose activity is directed by reason, and who cultivates 
reason, and is in the best state of mind, is also, as it seems, 
the most beloved of the Gods. For if the Gods care at all 
for human beings, as is believed, it will be only reasonable 
to hold that they delight in what is best and most related 
to themselves, i.e., in reason ; and that they requite with 
kindness those who love and honor it above all else, as 
caring for what is dear to themselves, and performing 
right and noble actions.", 3 

But also the ordinary individual, who is not a philoso- 
pher, is capable of leading a life of moral conduct, or of 
virtue in the secondary sense, as opposed to pure specula- 
tive activity. And here Aristotle tries to overcome the 

iX.7. 2 X,8. *X, 9 . 


H4 A Student's History of Philosophy 

dualism which Plato left standing between the sensuous 
and the higher nature ; and to find an ideal, even if not 
the highest ideal, within the realm of common experi- 
ence. Such virtue goes back- to man's natural impulses, 
but not as they are exercised in a purely impulsive, and 
so spasmodic, way. Aristotle continually insists that vir- 
tue is no mere natural gift of disposition, but a result 
of doing. " It is neither by nature, nor in defiance of 
nature, that virtues are implanted in us. Nature gives 
us the capacity of receiving them, and that capacity is 
perfected by habit." 1 As builders learn by building, and 
harpists by playing the harp, so it is by doing just acts 
that we become just. "As in the Olympian games, it is 
not the most beautiful and strongest persons who receive 
the crown, but they who actually enter the list as comba- 
tants, so it is they who act rightly that attain to what is 
noble and good in life." 2 Even philosophy will not make 
a man virtuous, till it is put into practice ; those who 
imagine otherwise, are like people who listen attentively 
to their doctors, but never do anything that their doctors 
tell them. Virtue, then, stands for a definite habit of mind, 
brought about by a continual repetition of acts, in which 
the impulse is directed by voluntary and intelligent effort, 
in such a way as to express man's essential nature. It is 
thus not the suppression of the natural impulses, as with 
Plato, but their regulation. 

The necessary rational principle, Aristotle finds in his 
doctrine of virtue as a mean. An impulse has in it the 
possibility of giving rise to a virtue, by taking the middle 
course between excess and deficiency, and then by being 
repeated until it becomes a second nature. " The first 
point to be observed is, that in such matters as we are con- 
sidering, deficiency and excess are equally fatal. It is so 
as we observe in regard to health and strength; for we 
must judge of what we cannot see by the evidence of what 
we do see. Excess or deficiency of gymnastic exercise is 
^i, i. M, 9 . 

The Systematic Philosophers 115 

fatal to strength. Similarly, an excess or deficiency of 
meat and drink is fatal to health, whereas a suitable 
amount produces, augments, and sustains it. It is the 
same, then, with temperance, courage, and the other vir- 
tues. A person who avoids and is afraid of everything, 
and faces nothing, becomes a coward; a person who is 
not afraid of anything, but is ready to face everything, 
becomes foolhardy. Similarly, he who enjoys every pleas- 
ure, and never abstains from any pleasure, is licentious ; 
he who eschews all pleasures, like a boor, is an insensible 
sort of person." 1 In like manner, liberality lies between 
avarice and prodigality, modesty between impudence and 
bashfulness, sincerity between self-disparagement and 
boastfulness, good temper between dulness and irascibil- 
ity, friendly civility between surliness and obsequiousness, 
just resentment between callousness and spitefulness, high- 
mindedness between littleness of mind and pompousness. 
Put in a somewhat less mechanical way, moral virtue is 
the sort of action which adequately meets the situation 
that confronts us. It consists in accepting the conditions 
of life, not resting content, on the one hand, with less than 
the full possibilities, nor, on the other, neglecting the pos- 
sible for unattainable ideals. 

2. Politics. Man, however, is more than an individual. 
By nature he is a political animal, who can attain his high- 
est good only in society ; and so Ethics is subordinate to 
Politics. Society arises out of the physical needs of man, 
who is not self-sufficing, but has to cooperate with his fel- 
low-men in order to be sure of subsistence ; but this is not 
its sole ground. Originating in the bare needs of life, it 
continues for the sake of the good life. The state, there- 
fore, and the science which deals with the state, have the 
highest ethical aim. " Political science is concerned with 
nothing so much as with producing a certain character in 
the citizens, or, in other words, with making them good, 
and capable of performing noble actions." 2 

1 II, 2. 2 T> Ia 

n6 A Student's History of Philosophy 

Aristotle goes on to discuss various problems relating 
to the theory of government, and the different forms 
which the state assumes, with a good deal of sound sense, 
and frequent appeal to history ; but the absence of any 
one illuminating point of view renders his treatment a 
little confused, and robs it of the peculiar interest which 
attaches to Plato's Republic. Plato's ideal state is, indeed, 
criticised by Aristotle with more or less effectiveness, par- 
ticularly in its communistic features. Aristotle sees that 
no machinery of government will be of much avail, so long 
as human nature remains what it is ; it is not the institu- 
tion of property alone which is responsible for all our 
ills. In particular, the abolishing of family life, by de- 
stroying the roots of natural affection, would work quite 
contrary to Plato's purpose. Aristotle himself refuses to 
be content with setting up a single ideal. He has his own 
notion of what is abstractly the best form of government 
the absolute rule, namely, of a single man, provided we 
could find one preeminently wise and good. But a politi- 
cal treatise also should recognize actual conditions ; and 
practically the " best " government is a relative term, and 
will differ with the degree of development of the people who 
are to be governed. In general, there are three types of 
government, according as the state is ruled by one, by the 
few, or by the many monarchy, aristocracy, and constitu- 
tional republic. When one man stands out preeminently 
among his fellow-citizens, a monarchy is, as has been said, 
the natural form ; when a few men are obviously superior 
in virtue, an aristocracy. It is not to be forgotten, however, 
that mere numbers give a certain stability and massive 
wisdom in affairs of government ; while, accordingly, the 
individual members of the multitude may be inferior to a 
chosen few, yet, taken collectively, their wisdom may con- 
ceivably be superior, since they supplement one another. 
In particular, they may be the best judges of what affects 
themselves, as a guest is a better judge of a feast than the 
cook who prepares it ; though they may not possess the 

The Systematic Philosophers 117 

constructive skill to bring about what they want. So, also, 
a mass of men is apt to be more incorruptible than a single 

Each of the three types of government may be perverted, 
when the ruling class ceases to aim at the common interest, 
and, instead, keeps its own advantage in view. For the 
average state, a mixture of the types is advisable, since 
this cements the interests of the different classes ; and for 
the same reason, a state in which the middle class is strong, 
is likely to be more permanent than where either of the 
extremes predominates. Of course, to a large extent, the 
reasonings of Aristotle apply to conditions very dissimilar 
to those which any modern country has to meet. Greek 
society was founded on the institution of slavery an in- 
stitution which Aristotle justifies theoretically, on the ground 
that some men are not fitted to guide themselves by reason, 
but find their whole life in bodily action, and, consequently, 
are slaves by nature. Another important difference is to be 
noticed, in his attitude toward the worker in general. No 
man can practise virtue, he says, who is living the life of a 
mechanic or laborer; and the assertion that greatness is 
impossible to a state which produces numerous artisans, but 
few soldiers, reveals a social condition far removed from 
our modern industrial society. So, again, the fact that 
the principle of representative government lies beyond his 
point of view, renders it inevitable that the state of which 
he speaks, should be very limited in size; a democracy 
in the modern sense, as distinct from the city-state of the 
Greeks, he is unable to imagine. Still, the Politics is 
interesting even at the present day, and in spite of differ- 
ences in detail, the modernness of tone and of method is 
very noticeable. 

3. Aesthetics. The Poetics is rather slight in nature, 
but as the first attempt to treat in a separate way that side 
of philosophy which, in its larger aspect, is now known as 
^Esthetics, it deserves some mention, and I will borrow 
the brief summary which Mayor gives: 

n8 A Student's History of Philosophy 

" In the Poetic, Aristotle takes Plato's view of poetry 
as a branch of Imitation, and divides it into three parts, 
Epic, Tragic, and Comic. All imitation is a source of pleas- 
ure, but the imitation of the poet or artist is not simple rep- 
resentation of ordinary fact, but of the universal or ideal 
which underlies ordinary fact; whence poetry is more 
philosophical than history. This is most conspicuous in 
Tragedy, where the characters are all on a grander scale 
than those of common life ; but even Comedy selects and 
heightens in its imitation of the grotesque. Tragedy is 
not, as Plato thought, a mere enfeebling luxury ; rather it 
makes use of the feelings of pity and terror to purify simi- 
lar affections in ourselves, i.e., it gives a safe vent to our 
feelings, by taking us out of ourselves, and opening our hearts 
to sympathize with the heavier woes of humanity at large, 
typified in the persons of the drama ; while it chastens and 
controls the vehemence of passion by never allowing its 
expression to transgress the limits of beauty, and by rec- 
ognizing the righteous meaning and use of suffering." 1 

The schooi which Aristotle founded was known as the 
Peripatetic school. It maintained an existence alongside 
the Academy for many years, but produced no new doc- 
trines of any great importance. 


Aristotle, Chief Works : Organon, Metaphysics, De Anima, Nicho- 
machean Ethics, Politics, Poetics, Rhetoric. Translations: Welldon 
(Ethics, Politics, Rhetoric) ; Jowett (Polities') ; Wallace {Psychology} ; 
Hammond (Psychology} ; Wharton {Poetics}. Also translations in 
Bohn's Library. 

Zeller, Aristotle and the Earlier Peripatetics, 2 vols. 

Grote, Aristotle, 2 vols. 
* Wallace, Outlines of Aristotle } s Philosophy. 
* Lewes, Aristotle. 

A. Grant, Aristotle. 

Davidson, Aristotle and Ancient Educational Ideals. 

Bradley, Aristotle's Theory of the State (in Hellenicd). 

1 A Sketch of Ancient Philosophy. (Cambridge University Press.) 


13. Introduction 

WITH Aristotle, the period of great speculative systems 
comes to a close. In his successors, the course of philoso- 
phy takes a new turn, which it is to follow for several 

The reason for this new departure, there has already 
been occasion to notice ; it is due to the breakdown of 
Greek political and social life. From Socrates to Aristotle, 
Philosophy had made an attempt to stem the current of 
dissolution, and to set up again, on a rational basis, that 
ideal of a corporate life which, resting originally on the 
foundation of a customary morality, had begun to totter 
when this morality was attacked, alike by political corrup- 
tion and by philosophical scepticism. But the attempt 
was not successful; and from one philosopher to another, 
we see the recognition of its hopelessness in the grow- 
ing prominence assigned to the theoretical life, and the 
substitution of philosophy for active participation in social 
interests. After the conclusion of the Peloponnesian War, 
and the fall of Athens, things went from bad to worse in 
Greece. Feuds and jealousies increased among the numer- 
ous petty states into which the country was divided. Per- 
sonal ambitions led to the solicitation of foreign interference, 
especially from Persia ; and the employment of mercenaries 
still further threatened the existence of freedom. With the 
loss of Greek independence, and the supremacy of Mace- 
don, the failure of the Greek civilization became a settled 
fact, however much the attempt might be made to nurse 
the forms of freedom. The appearance of isolated 


I2O A Student's History of Philosophy 

patriots only brought into clearer relief the disintegration, 
and incapacity for united action, on the part of Greece as 
a whole ; so that the final loss of all chance of indepen- 
dence, by the intervention of the Roman power, was a real 
blessing to the country. After the capture of Corinth by 
Mummius, in 146 B.C., Greece became a Roman province, 
under the name of Achaia. 

It is not strange, therefore, that philosophy turned from 
the -ideal of man as an organic member of a social order 
that no longer had any true existence, and occupied itself 
instead with the individual man, and the way in which 
he might obtain such satisfaction as he could, in the 
troublous times in which his lot was cast. A new social 
ideal with any vitality in it, could only come into being as 
history prepared the way, by giving rise to a form of society 
more adequate than that of the Greeks, and possessing 
those elements through lack of which Greek civilization 
had failed. Meanwhile, however, men must have some- 
thing as the guiding principle in their lives, to take the 
place of that "which formerly had been supplied by the 
traditional duties of citizenship, and the authoritative sanc- 
tions of the state religion. And to get this, they turned in 
one of two directions. On the one hand, there begins now 
to some extent that frantic running after Oriental cults, 
which forms so striking a feature in the life of the Empire 
later on. Belief in the old gods and the old religion, was 
undermined by scepticism, only to be replaced by a super- 
stition which grasped at every novelty. 

The more sober minds, on the other hand, turned to 
philosophy for guidance and comfort. For the next few 
centuries, then, philosophy assumes an intensely practical 
aspect ; it aims to be nothing more nor less than a complete 
art of living. You pretend that you are not calculated for 
philosophy ? says Diogenes ; why then do you live, if you 
have no desire to live properly ? " Philosophy," writes 
Seneca, "is not a theory for popular acceptance and 
designed for show ; it is not in words, but in deeds. It is 

The Later Ethical Period 121 

not employed to help us pass the day agreeably, or to 
remove ennui from our leisure ; it forms and fashions the 
mind, sets in order our life, directs our action, shows what 
ought to be done and to be left undone ; it sits at the helm 
and guides the course through perplexities and dangers. 
Without it none can live fearlessly, none securely ; count- 
less things happen every hour which call for counsel, and 
this can only be sought for in philosophy. Whether fate 
constrains by an inexorable law, or God is judge of the 
universe and arranges all things, or chance without reference 
to any order impels and confounds the affairs of men, phi- 
losophy ought to be our safeguard. It will encourage us 
to obey God willingly, to obey fortune without yielding ; it 
will teach us to follow God, to put up with chance." 1 

Furthermore, in all its various tendencies, the philoso- 
phy of the next few centuries is practically agreed in this : 
that if there is any good attainable at all, it must be found 
by each man within himself. Circumstances have passed 
beyond man's power of control ; but if he cannot remedy 
the ills of the outer world, or find in the life which sur- 
rounds him a worthy field for his endeavor, he can at least 
make himself independent of this world, cultivate that 
philosophic calm and poise which finds all the elements 
of happiness within the mind itself, and thus be put be- 
yond the power of chance to harm. Both of the two more 
original philosophical currents of the period have primarily 
in view this practical end. Although they are reached by 
very different roads, the airdOeia (freedom from emotion) 
of the Stoics, and the arapa^ia (imperturbability) of Epi- 
cureanism, have, superficially at least, a close resemblance. 

The same thing is true of another characteristic ten- 
dency of the time, viz., Scepticism. A distrust of the 
powers of reason naturally succeeds a period of great 
speculative activity. As the ideals which give rise to 
systems of thought in such a period lose their freshness, 
the theoretical gaps in the arguments on which they have 

1 Letters, II, 4. 

122 A Student's History of Philosophy 

been based, begin to monopolize attention. And since be- 
lief always is at bottom a matter of faith, rather than of 
demonstration, and no new enthusiasm has yet appeared 
to bind knowledge into a unity again, and back it with 
conviction, a sceptical distrust of the possibility of knowl- 
edge is the result. But here, also, the interest was not 
primarily theoretical. Scepticism, like its rivals, is only a 
discipline to prepare the mind for assuming such an atti- 
tude toward life as will enable it to secure what satisfac- 
tion it may. Such disinterested intellectual curiosity as 
remained, directed itself largely to the investigation of 
literary, grammatical, and historical details, where no great 
theoretical principles were involved. 

The same lack of intellectual grasp, which showed 
itself on the one hand in the sceptical abandonment 
of the possibility of knowledge, and, on the other, in 
a mere painstaking collection of facts, gave rise also to 
the tendency to Eclecticism. Unable to deal with fun- 
damental principles, there was a growing disposition to 
settle the disputes of philosophy by an uncritical combina- 
tion of the various systems, brought about on the basis of 
no deep insight, but, again, to meet practical needs. The 
intensely practical nature of the Roman mind, and its dis- 
inclination for metaphysical thinking, gave a special im- 
pulse to this tendency. And, finally, as the inability 
of Philosophy, as mere ethical doctrine, to satisfy men, 
became more and more evident, a union of the two move- 
ments that toward philosophy, and that toward reli- 
gion was gradually brought about, culminating in the 
religious metaphysics of the Church Fathers, and, espe- 
cially, of the Neo-Platonists. We shall consider these 
tendencies in their order. 

14. Epicurus and Epicureanism 

i. Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) was an Athenian, who was 
born, however, in Samos. About 306 he founded his 

The Later Ethical Period 123 

school, which was held in his own gardens at Athens. 
Here he gathered about him a group of enthusiastic dis- 
ciples, including among their number even women and 
slaves. Bound together by the closest ties of intimacy 
and friendship, they formed a group which was famous 
in antiquity, as furnishing an ideal of friendly intercourse. 
In this group Epicurus reigned supreme. His followers 
regarded him with the utmost veneration a veneration 
which is expressed in the words of Lucretius in later days : 
" For if we must speak as the acknowledged grandeur of 
the thing itself demands, a God he was, a God, most noble 
Mummius, who first found out that plan of life which is 
now termed wisdom, and who by trained skill rescued life 
from such great billows and such thick darkness, and 
moored it in so perfect a calm and in so brilliant a light." 1 
His teachings were memorized by his pupils, and accepted 
without change, down to unimportant details. So rigidly 
did he impress his views upon them, that, in spite of the 
long life which the school enjoyed, its speculative opinions 
scarcely altered to the end. Partly for this reason, the 
names which represent the later history of the school are 
only of very secondary importance ; Lucretius, among its 
Roman adherents, is indeed famous, but rather as a poet 
than a philosopher. 

Epicurus' philosophy is a combination of the Hedonism 
of the Cyrenaics, with the Atomism of Democritus. First 
of all, however, it is Hedonism a theory of the end of 
life, the highest good. Like Aristippus before him, Epi- 
curus found in pleasure the one obvious and undeniable 
good. Even when we speak of virtue as a good, as no 
doubt we do and may, it is really the pleasure which ac- 
companies the exercise of virtue which we have in mind, 
not virtue on its own account. But here begin certain 
complications. When Aristippus had said these same 
things, he had been pretty clear what he meant ; pleasure 
stood to him for the same positive content that it does to 

1 Lucretius, V, 1. 7. Munro's translation. (Geo. Bell & Sons.) 

124 A Student's History of Philosophy 

the ordinary man. Nor could Epicurus very well deny 
that such pleasure is a good. He makes the declaration, 
indeed, that no conception of the good is possible apart 
from bodily enjoyments ; while Metrodorus, one of his 
followers, even asserts baldly that everything good has 
reference to the belly. 

But philosophy is more sophisticated now than it had 
been in Aristippus' time ; the stumbling-blocks in the way 
of pleasure-getting are more clearly recognized. And in 
endeavoring to take account of this in his theory, Epicurus 
goes farther than he would seem to be justified in doing. In 
part, he lays stress on the necessity of selecting our pleas- 
ures, of avoiding those unregulated impulses which bring 
evils in their train, of preferring simple and natural joys to 
the questionable delights of luxury and extravagance ; and, 
so far, there is no inconsistency with his starting-point. 
But when he goes on, also, to disparage all positive pleasures, 
in favor of a philosophic poise of mind (ataraxy), a quiet 
and undisturbed possession of one's faculties free from 
pain of body -and trouble of spirit, it is not easy always to 
distinguish his position from that of his opponents, the 
Stoics ; and he is led to adopt an attitude toward sensuous 
satisfaction, hardly to be expected of a Hedonist. He even 
takes up the theory that positive pleasures but represent 
the relief that results from the removal of a pain. And there- 
fore they are only the preliminaries of a true satisfaction, 
which, in itself, is nothing but the freedom from pain that 
leaves the mind without craving, and without agitation, and 
which, once attained, is incapable of quantitative increase. 
" The end of our living is to be free from pain and fear. 
And when once we have reached this, all the tempest of 
the soul is laid. When we need pleasure is when we are 
grieved because of the absence of pleasure ; but when we 
feel no pain, then we no longer stand in need of pleasure." 1 
This calm of mind may even render a man contented in 
spite of physical tortures, if he will only assert his inde- 

1 Diog. Laertius, Life of Epicurus, 27. 

The Later Ethical Period 125 

pendence of adventitious aids to happiness, and refuse to 
let himself be disturbed ; torn on the rack, the philosopher 
may exclaim, How sweet ! So far have we travelled from 
the conception of happiness as a mere agreeable excitation 
of the senses, with which Hedonism started out. 

But whether or not Epicurus is logically consistent in his 
position, at any rate he created an ideal which appealed 
powerfully to a certain type of mind, and which even to- 
day, as a working theory of life, exerts a wide influence. 
It is not a strenuous ideal ; it calls for no heroism or sacri- 
fice; but this very fact constitutes its charm -for certain 
moods, which to few men are wholly unknown. And the 
attitude of opposition which, in the interests of an aes- 
thetic simplicity, it assumes toward the more flagrant vices 
and follies, gives it a sufficient moral flavor to hide its more 
ignoble aspects. What so its burden is does man's fret, 
and ambition, and busy toil, after all avail him ? Does all 
the boasted advance of civilization add one real pleasure 
to his life ? Does it do anything, indeed, but plague him 
with added cares, and weary him with war and strife ? He 
longs to be rich, and famous, and powerful, and is dragged 
hither and thither by his ambition, only to expose himself 
to envy, and the daily risk of ruin, and win nothing in the 
end; a frugal subsistence joined to a contented mind alone 
is true riches. " If any one thinks his own not to be most 
ample, he may become lord of the whole world, and will 
yet be wretched." The wise man will not despise pleasure 
when it comes to him, but he will not be dependent on it. 
He will be able to get along contentedly with little, finding 
his satisfaction in the common things and incidents of life, 
and getting an added zest from the very consciousness of 
his ability to go without. " He enjoys wealth most who 
needs it least. If thou wilt make a man happy, add not 
unto his riches, but take away from his desires." 

Epicureanism is, then, in one aspect, like the message of 
Rousseau in modern times, a summons to return from the 
complexities of civilization, to nature and natural pleasures; 

126 A Student's History of Philosophy 

to take life easily and artistically, and cease to worry over 
trifles ; to depend for happiness less on highly spiced foods 
and elaborate banquets, than on a good digestion, and the 
company of friends. This ideal was fully exemplified in 
the life of the early Epicureans. " When," says Seneca, 
" you come to the gardens where the words are inscribed : 
Friend, here it will be well for you to abide ; here pleasure 
is the highest good : there will meet you the keeper of the 
place, a hospitable, kindly man, who will set before you a 
dish of barley porridge, and plenty of water, and say : Have 
you not been well entertained ? These gardens do not 
provoke hunger, but quench it ; they do not cause a 
greater thirst by the very drinks they afford, but assuage 
it by a remedy which is natural, and costs nothing. In 
this pleasure I have grown old." a " For myself," writes 
Epicurus to a friend, " I can be pleased with bread and 
water ; yet send me a little cheese, that when I want to be 
extravagant I may be ; " and he boasts that while Metrodo- 
rus had only reduced his expenses to sixpence, he himself 
had been able to live comfortably on a less sum. 

The parallel with Rousseau extends also to Epicurus' 
estimate of science, and human learning. Although he 
finds his chief joys in the mental world, he is very far from 
commending the strenuous intellectual life which for Plato, 
e.g., constitutes man's highest good. He is quite as easy- 
going here as in the rest of his theory. Intellectual enjoy- 
ment means refined conversation, pleasant intercourse 
between friends, and not any anxious and soul-disturbing 
inquiry after the hidden truth of things. For what com- 
monly goes by the name of learning and culture, Epicurus 
has little respect ; he was himself not a trained thinker, and 
he did not require more than the rudiments of education for 
his disciples. If they were able to read and write, they had 
all that was essential ; mathematics, logic, and rhetoric, the 
theory of music and art, the researches of the grammarian 
and historian, were disparaged by him, as contributing noth- 

1 Letters, II, 9. 

The Later Ethical Period 127 

ing to human happiness, and so as a mere waste of time. 
" One need not bother himself," says Metrodorus, "if he has 
never read a line of Homer, and does not know whether 
Hector was a Trojan or a Greek." How does it happen, 
then, that the scientific explanation of the universe, as 
represented in the theories of Democritus, plays so large a 
part in the Epicurean teaching ? Why does Epicurus in- 
sist upon this as an essential part of his philosophy, and 
impose it in the most dogmatic of ways upon his followers ? 
2. The primary reason is not that Epicurus had, like 
the modern scientist, a feeling for positive and concrete 
facts, in opposition to the verbal subtilties of logic, gram- 
mar, and metaphysics ; it is an entirely practical reason. 
Physical science is, for Epicurus, a mere instrument for 
making possible that calm of mind, in which the end of 
life consists. And it does this because it rids us, once for 
all, of that which is the greatest foe to inward peace, and a 
contented acquiescence with the world namely, religion. 
"Will wealth and power," writes Lucretius, "avail anything 
to cause religious scruples scared to fly panic-stricken from 
the mind, and that the fears of death leave the breast un- 
embarrassed and free from care ? But if we see that such 
things are food for laughter and mere mockeries, and in 
good truth the fears of merr^and dogging cares dread not 
the clash of arms and cr^iel weapons, if unabashed they 
mix among kings and kesars, and stand not in awe of the 
glitter of gold nor the brilliant sheen of the purple robe, how 
can you doubt that this is wholly the prerogative of reason, 
when the whole life is withal a struggle in the dark ? For 
even as children are flurried and dread all things in the thick 
darkness, thus we in the daylight fear at times things not 
a whit more to be dreaded than those which children shud- 
der at in the dark, and fancy sure to be. This terror, there- 
fore, and darkness of mind must be dispelled, not by the 
sun and glittering shafts of day, but by the aspect and law 
of nature." * 

MI, 1.43- 

128 A Student's History of Philosophy 

Religion, then, is the great bugbear of the Epicureans. 
The evils that have attended religious belief and practice 
have filled their minds, until it seems to them the one cause 
of wretchedness in the world ; and it is the chief merit of 
philosophy, and of Epicurus, that the reign of religion has 
been brought to an end. "When human life to view lay 
foully prostrate upon earth," says Lucretius, "crushed 
down under the weight of religion, who showed her head 
from the quarters of heaven with hideous aspect lowering 
upon mortals, a man of Greece ventured first to lift up his 
mortal eyes to her face, and first to withstand her to her 
face. Him neither story of Gods nor thunderbolts nor 
heaven with threatening roar could quell ; they only chafed 
the more the eager courage of his soul, filling him with 
desire to be the first to burst the fast bars of nature's por- 
tals. Therefore the living force of his soul gained the day ; 
on he passed far beyond the flaming walls of the world, 
and traversed throughout in mind and spirit the immeasur- 
able universe, whence he returns a conqueror to tell us 
what can, what cannot come into being, in short, by what 
principle each thing has its powers defined, its deep-set 
boundary mark. Therefore religion is put under foot and 
trampled upon in turn ; us his victory brings level with the 
heavens." * 

Accordingly, this is the function of science : to sweep 
aside the chimeras and religious scruples which enchain 
men, and make them slaves to their own diseased fancies ; 
which upset the calculations of life, trouble all the future 
with superstitious fear, and put repose and happiness 
beyond their reach. And it does this by substituting a 
purely natural and mechanical explanation for events, and 
so making religion superfluous. Men have imagined that 
the world is made and ruled by Gods, whose favor, there- 
fore, they must secure, and whose wrath they must propi- 
tiate. These Gods are continually interfering in the affairs 
of men, punishing and rewarding, hurling the thunderbolt, 


The Later Ethical Period 129 

and sending plagues and earthquakes. The soul, more- 
over, is immortal, and so we must still look forward to 
possible vengeance in the future, and the woes of Tartarus. 
Doubtless such stories had, with the rise of science and 
philosophy, long since come to be more or less discredited 
in the eyes of educated men. But now that everything in 
the world was in a state of change, and the landmarks 
which had guided men were disappearing, the need for 
something to which to cling began to manifest itself, in a 
return to the superstitions which it was supposed had been 

Against this tendency, Epicurus resolutely sets himself 
in opposition. Only by finally ridding oneself of the 
vague hopes and fears which tear and distract the mind, 
and prevent it from finding its satisfaction in the present, 
can the true end of life be attained ; and hence the value 
of science. Only our ignorance lets us imagine that events 
are brought about by supernatural interference ; true rea- 
son tells a very different story. Given atoms and the 
space in which they move, and we have the data for ex- 
plaining everything. Is it said that we have no reason 
for supposing such atoms, which are forever invisible and 
intangible ? But so is the wind invisible, and yet it has 
the force to stir up the sea to a fury, and overwhelm great 
ships; to sweep the plains and the mountains, and tear up 
the trees of the forest by their roots. And countless facts 
go to show that it is of such minute particles that things 
are made. A ring on the finger is thinned by wearing; 
the dropping from the eaves hollows a stone ; the iron 
ploughshare imperceptibly decreases in the fields ; the 
stone-paved streets are worn down by the feet of the 

And granting such a vera causa, what use have we 
for any other explanation, beyond the chance impact 
and combination of these ultimate seeds of things? 
How should Gods have the power to frame the mighty 
fabric of the world? or why should they trouble them- 

130 A Student's History of Philosophy 

selves to do it if they could ? Is this the sort of world 
a God would make, with all its evils and imperfections ? 
" In the first place, of all the space which the vast reach 
of heaven covers, a portion greedy mountains and forests 
of wild beasts have occupied, rocks and wasteful pools 
take up, and the sea which holds wide apart the coasts of 
different lands. What is left for tillage, even that nature 
by its power would overrun with thorns unless the force 
of man made head against it, accustomed for the sake of 
a livelihood to groan beneath the strong hoe, and to cut 
through the earth by pressing down the plough. Unless 
by turning up the fruitful clods with the share and labor- 
ing the soil of the earth we stimulate things to rise, they 
could not spontaneously come up into the clear air. And 
even then sometimes when things earned with great toil 
now put forth their leaves over the lands and are all in 
blossom, either the etherial sun burns them up with exces- 
sive heats, or sudden rains and cold fronts cut them off, 
and the blasts of the winds waste them by a furious hurri- 
cane. Again, why does nature give food and increase to 
the frightful race of wild beasts dangerous to mankind 
both by sea and land ? why do the seasons of the year 
bring diseases in their train ? why stalks abroad untimely 
death ? Then, too, the body, like to a sailor cast away by 
the cruel waves, lies naked on the ground, speechless, 
wanting every furtherance of life, soon as nature by the 
throes of birth has shed him forth from his mother's womb 
into the borders of life. He fills the room with a rueful 
wailing, as well he may whose destiny it is to go through 
in life so many ills." * 

It is idle, then, to look for anything in the world which 
shows an intelligible end. " For verily not by design did 
the first-beginnings of things station themselves each in 
its right place by keen intelligence, nor did they bargain, 
sooth to say, what motions each should assume; but 
because the first-beginnings of things, many in number, 

1 Lucretius, V, 1. 200. 

The Later Ethical Period 131 

in many ways, impelled by blows for infinite ages back, 
and kept in motion by their own weight, have been wont 
to be carried along and to unite in all manner of ways 
and thoroughly to test every kind of production possible 
by their mutual combinations ; therefore it is that, spread 
abroad through great time, after trying unions and mo- 
tions of every kind, they at length meet together in those 
masses which suddenly brought together become often the 
rudiments of great things, of earth, sea, and heaven, and 
the race of living things." a 

Accordingly, all those events in which men in their igno- 
rance have seen the finger of God, must be deposed from 
their high place. There is the lightning e.g., the dreaded 
thunderbolt of Jove; it is a purely natural fact fire, it 
may be, struck out by the chance collision of the clouds. 
Who, indeed, can see a divine judgment in that which 
strikes down the innocent and guilty alike; which buries 
itself harmlessly in desert, and forest, and sea ; which does 
not even spare the holy sanctuaries of the Gods, and the 
images of Zeus himself ? And if we do not have to fear 
the vengeance of the Gods in this life, no more is there 
any reason why we should look forward to punishment in 
another world. This fear of hell seems to the Epicurean 
one of the greatest evils which religion brings in its train ; 
not only is it a source of mental disquiet, but it is an actual 
provocative of crime. But for hell, there is no place in 
the world which science knows. " No Tantalus in a lower 
world fears the huge stone that hangs over him ; the true 
Tantalus is he who vexes himself by a baseless dread of 
the Gods, and fears such fall of luck as chance brings to 
him." 2 Eternity, indeed, for anything, except for the ulti- 
mate atoms, is a vain imagination. All things are for- 
ever changing; and just as even stones are conquered by 
time, huge towers fall, and rocks moulder away, so this 
whole visible universe has within it the seeds of decay, 
and one day shall come to naught, and give place to a 

1 Lucretius, V, 1. 420. 2 III, 1. 980. 

132 A Student's History of Philosophy 

wholly different world which the never-tiring atoms will 

Still more mortal and unenduring is the soul of man. 
Born with the body else we should remember something 
of its prior life, changing with the body's changes, thrown 
into disorder by the most trifling sickness or accident how 
are we to imagine that this subtle breath, which is so light 
and airy that its loss at death makes not a particle of dif- 
ference to the body's weight, is to continue to exist when, 
deprived of the body's protection, it must battle by itself 
against the fierce winds and tempests ? Or in what could its 
life consist, bereft of all the senses through which we get 
our knowledge of things ? If, then, death for us ends all, 
why should we fear it ? There are no evils it can bring 
us, for there is no life or consciousness in the grave to 
which we go. As in time gone by, before our birth, we felt 
no distress when the world was convulsed with wars, so 
at our death dust will return to dust, and there will be 
an end of all our cares. " Where we are, death is not yet ; 
and where death comes, there we are not." " Now no 
more shall thy house admit thee with glad welcome, nor a 
most virtuous wife and sweet children run to be the first 
to snatch kisses and touch thy heart with a silent joy. No 
more mayest thou be prosperous in thy doings, a safeguard 
to thine own. One disastrous day has taken from thee, 
luckless man, in luckless wise, all the many prizes of life. 
This do men say, but add not thereto : And now no longer 
does any craving for these things beset thee withal. This 
question therefore should be asked of this speaker : What, 
then, is in it so passing bitter if it come in the end to sleep 
and rest, that any one should pine in never-ending sorrow ? 
This too men often, when they have reclined at table, cup 
in hand, and shade their brows with crowns, love to say 
from the heart : Short is this enjoyment for poor weak 
men ; presently it will have been, and never after may it be 
called back. As if after their death it is to be one of their 
chiefest afflictions that thirst and parching drought is to 

The Later Ethical Period 133 

burn them up, hapless wretches, or a craving for anything 
else is to beset them. What folly ! no one feels the want 
of himself and life at the time when mind and body are 
together sunk in sleep ; for all we care this sleep might be 
everlasting, no craving whatever for ourselves then moves 
us." i 

In spite, however, of thus rejecting alike the threats and 
the consolations of religion, Epicurus does not deny alto- 
gether the existence of the Gods. His theory of knowledge, 
adopted from Democritus, which requires for perception 
and thought alike an objective cause, in the shape of filmy 
images which objects continually are shedding, leads him 
to accept the real existence of divine and glorious forms, 
to account for man's belief in them. But such Gods are 
neither to be feared nor loved. Living a calm and unruffled 
life in the interspaces of the heavenly regions, away from 
the whirl and jar of stars and worlds, " where neither winds 
do shake nor clouds drench with rains, nor snow congealed 
by sharp frost harms with hoary fall, an ever cloudless 
ether overcanopies them, and they laugh with light shed 
largely round. Nature supplies all their wants, and noth- 
ing ever impairs their peace of mind." 2 Enjoying perfect 
felicity, they feel no concern for human things ; the good 
and ill of the world alike fail to move them ; wrapped in 
eternal repose, in want of nothing from us, they are 
neither to be gained by our prayers, nor stirred by us to 

Accordingly, notwithstanding the way in which Epicu- 
reanism allied itself with the scientific view of the world, it 
was lacking in the genuine scientific temper, and was devoid 
of fruitful results. Its attitude was throughout dogmatic. 
Its interest lay, not in getting at truth for its own sake, but 
in bolstering up the particular view of life which it wished 
to adopt. In consequence, it lays but little stress on the 
details'of scientific explanation. Certainty is not attainable, 
or even very much to be desired. A phenomenon might 

1 Lucretius, III, 1. 907. 2 III, 1. 19. 

134 ^ Student's History of Philosophy 

very well be explained in more ways than one, and it makes 
little difference which explanation we choose to adopt, so 
long as it enables us to exclude the supernatural. One 
point in particular shows that Epicurus had not the purely 
scientific interest at heart. The essential thing in Democri- 
tus' theory is his conception of the atoms as rigidly subjected 
to mechanical law. But it is just the element of the su- 
premacy of law, which Epicurus fails to retain, and which is 
actually repellent to him, because it seems to put a barrier 
in the way of individual freedom. " It would be better to 
believe the fables about the Gods, than be a slave to the 
fate taught by the physical philosophers ; for the theologi- 
cal myth gives a faint hope of averting the wrath of God 
by giving him honor, while the fate of the philosophers is 
deaf to all supplications." * Accordingly, as the centre of 
his ethical theory is the individual, with the full right and 
liberty to do as he pleases, so he feels that he must find 
the basis for this freedom in the nature of things them- 
selves. And when, therefore, he comes to account for the 
beginning of the world process, he introduces a feature 
which is inconsistent with Democritus' conception. For 
as all things naturally fall downward in a parallel direction, 
and fall equally fast so long as there is nothing to oppose 
them, they never would come in contact, were it not for an 
original deviation from a straight line, which must have 
been voluntary and uncaused. The result of this is, that 
certain atoms clash, and so set up the world process. 
This notion of freedom, or free will, as something entirely 
uncaused and unmotived, due solely to an arbitrary fiat, 
later came to play a rather important part in the history 
of thought. 

3. Some of the reasons for the success which Epicurus' 
teaching met, have already been suggested. It offers a 
clear-cut conception of life, which is intelligible to the aver- 
age man, in his average moods. It is easily formulated, 
is free from mystical and transcendental elements, and 

1 Diog. Laertius, Life of Epicurus, 27. 

The Later Ethical Period 135 

calls for no flights of moral or intellectual enthusiasm. 
But this constitutes also its limitation. The charges of 
sensuality and loose living, frequently brought against 
Epicurus himself, were certainly far from being true ; and 
while, in later times, many who called themselves Epicu- 
reans made his doctrine an excuse for an unregulated 
pursuit of pleasure, this is by no means characteristic of 
the stricter members of the school, nor is it countenanced 
by the words of the founder. Pleasure and virtue are 
synonymous with Epicurus ; it is impossible to live pleas- 
antly, without living wisely and well and justly ; and it is 
impossible to live wisely and well and justly, without 
living pleasantly. It may be argued, it is true, that there 
is really nothing in Epicurus' premises, which can fairly 
be opposed to any indulgence in pleasure, provided it be 
pursued judiciously, and with due regard to consequences. 
T]hat all pleasure is in so far a good, Epicurus cannot 
deny ; and therefore a man is bound to get as much as he 
can, without prejudice to the future course of his life. Nor 
are there any barriers of right and wrong which he can 
oppose to the pursuit of pleasure, apart from this same 
criterion of expediency or prudence. To be sure, acts of 
injustice are opposed to certain prejudices on the part 
of mankind at large, and so, if they are detected, will 
meet with punishment. But these moral prejudices are, 
for the philosopher, theoretically a matter of convention. 
What if one can commit a crime, and reap the benefits 
without discovery; is there any reason why he should 
refrain from gratifying his desires in the unconventional 
way ? All that Epicurus can answer is that, even if 
the criminal is not found out, the possibility of detection 
will always be present, and, by rendering him continually 
uneasy, will destroy that peace of mind in which happiness 

It is not, however, the flagrant abuses to which it may 
lead, which constitutes the great weakness of Epicurean- 
ism, but rather the flabbiness of moral fibre which it 

1 36 A Student's History of Philosophy 

reveals, even when it is at its best. It is, as Cicero calls it, 
a bourgeois philosophy ; the very virtues which it calls for 
have only to be turned at another angle to seem common- 
place. Cheerfulness of mind, pleasant conversation, a life 
ordered by good taste and aesthetic moderation, are good 
in themselves ; but they are won at the expense of the 
more positive and manly qualities. Heroism, self-sacrifice, 
an honest enthusiasm for the noble and true in conduct, 
or even in art for these things Epicureanism has no 
place, if it does not actually disparage them. It sets its 
face against ambition, and money-getting, and vulgar 
pleasure-seeking, not because there is a worthier life for 
man to lead, but because there is nothing after all that is 
worth while. I am no doubt a fool if I weary myself 
with striving after wealth and luxury, fame and position ; 
but I should be equally a fool if I were to delude myself 
with fine phrases about virtue and humanity, patriotism 
and duty, and seek to get satisfaction by going out to right 
the wrongs of the world, and to be a benefactor to human 
kind. " It is" not our business to work for crowns by 
saving the Greeks, but to enjoy ourselves in good eating 
and drinking." What difference does it make to me how 
the world goes, so long as there is a quiet spot in which I 
may recline, a crust to eat, and a friend to talk with ? 
I will lie back, and watch the current of the world's misery, 
as from a safe shelter on the shore I might watch a tem- 
pest-driven vessel, taking a mild satisfaction in the thought 
that it is some one else's peril, not my own. Such a con- 
ception of life is crystallized in the Epicurean notion of 
the Gods, as they sit beside their nectar, careless of man- 
kind, and paying no heed to the cries of agony from the 
downtrodden race of men below. That such a conception 
should seem the highest ideal of life, and that the Epicu- 
rean should find it unthinkable that one who had the 
power of attaining such felicity, should voluntarily take 
upon himself cares and responsibilities for the sake of 
others, is his severest condemnation. 

The Later Ethical Period 137 


Zeller, Epicureans, Stoics, and Sceptics. 

Lucretius, De Natura Rerum. 

Wallace, Epicureanism. 

Courtney, Epicureanism (in Hellenicd). 

Pater, Marius the Epicurean. 

Horace, Odes. 

Masson, The Atomic Theory of Lucretius. 

Watson, Hedonistic Theories. 

15. Zeno. The Stoics 

If Epicureanism was of a nature to appeal strongly 
to the world weariness of the Roman courtier under the 
Empire, when despotic power had come as a relief to inces- 
sant civil war, and experience of the corruption of Roman 
society had dulled the edge, in less strenuous minds, of any 
pronounced belief in virtue, it was a very different sort of 
philosophy that would recommend itself to the typical 
Roman of the Republic, and to those men who carried on 
the traditions of the Republic. The same intellectual 
temper which in public life produced a Cato, received 
expression in the world of philosophy as Stoicism. It is 
true that Stoicism is not Roman in its origin. But neither 
is it wholly Greek, although Athens, as the intellectual 
centre of the world, was naturally chosen by Zeno (340- 
265 B.C.), the founder of the school, as the most fitting 
place in which to establish himself as a teacher. Zeno 
was himself, however, a merchant of Cyprus, and probably 
of Semitic origin ; and nearly all the succeeding heads of 
the school were also born outside of Greece ; so that the 
more ascetic temper which Stoicism displays, may perhaps 
be traced in part to this Oriental strain. At all events, 
Stoicism offered, to the nobler minds of the day, a welcome 
refuge from the trivialities and anarchy of the life which 
surrounded them ; and it succeeded in evolving a type of 
character and belief, superior in some respects to anything 
else that the ancient world produced. 

138 A Student's History of Philosophy 

i. Metaphysics. Objectively, the Stoic philosophy is 
aiming at a result which has many points of contact with Epi- 
cureanism. For both, the true end of life might be described 
as freedom from disturbing desires, and from the pressure of 
external wants; and a discipline of the mind that should 
enable it to find satisfaction within itself. For both, the 
attaining of this end is the one aim of philosophy, which thus 
is severely practical in its nature. But the real meaning of 
the end, and the attitude of mind for which it called, were in 
the two cases wholly different. As the Epicurean went 
back to Aristippus, and his doctrine of pleasure as the end of 
life, so the Stoics connected themselves with that develop- 
ment of Socrates' thought, which, in the Cynics, made vir- 
tue the highest good. But whereas the Cynics stopped 
with negative results, and so found it difficult to give to 
their conception any definite content, in the case of the 
Stoics the possession of a more adequate theoretical ground- 
work introduced elements which helped correct the one- 
sidedness, not only of their predecessors, but also of their 
rivals, the Epicureans. Instead, that is, of accepting the 
individualism and atomism of Epicurus, they start from the 
other end. Reality is an organic whole, an intimate combi- 
nation of form and matter, soul and body, through which one 
universal life pulsates. This connected whole is indiffer- 
ently God, or nature. Since, then, man, like everything 
else, constitutes a part of the universal nature, conform- 
ity to nature becomes a formula which has in it the pos- 
sibility of giving a real content to the life of virtue. It 
is true the negative interpretation of the life of nature, 
which it had with the Cynics, still persists very largely, 
and dictates the character of the Stoic teaching on its 
more paradoxical side. But still the positive conception 
lies back of this, and becomes eventually more prominent. 
The mere protest against convention, and the emphasis on 
ascetic endurance, is transmuted into a positive law of duty. 
The knowledge in which virtue consists, becomes a knowl- 
edge of the true nature of things; and virtuous conduct, 

The Later Ethical Period 139 

such conduct as will further the life of nature of that 
whole to which we belong as parts, and which is interpre- 
table in terms of our rational life. 

Before examining this ideal more carefully, a few words 
may be added to complete the account of the general meta- 
physical theory of the school. The conception of the uni- 
verse as a whole, instead of as a mere collection of atomic 
elements, implies the reality of its rationality, or what 
Plato calls the Idea. But the Stoic agrees with Aristotle 
in denying that the two things, matter and form, are at all 
separate. Meaning exists in the world, not in the realm 
beyond it. Even Aristotle, however, had ended up with 
pure form, as something entirely separate from matter. 
The Stoics get rid of all transcendentalism whatever, by 
reducing form itself to matter. The result is a material- 
istic pantheism. The world of material nature is the sole 
reality; but it is not dead matter. It is living, informed by 
a rational soul; and so is God. This soul of the world, the 
Logos, or rational principle, is everywhere present as a 
more active and subtle kind of matter; just as the human 
soul is present in the body, ruling and directing it to rational 
ends. Indeed, what we call the soul pneuma, breath or 
spirit is but a part of this world soul, participating in its 
rational qualities, and received back finally into the uni- 
versal reason, where its individuality is lost. 

In opposition, therefore, to the explanation of the world 
processes by chance or mechanism, the Stoic conception 
is throughout teleological. Everything flows of necessity 
from the nature of the whole ; and since that whole is 
Reason, everything has its place in an intelligible scheme. 
The combination of so thoroughly idealistic a tendency 
with outspoken materialism a materialism which argues 
that an emotion, e.g., is matter, since it would have no 
power to move a man unless it came in spatial contact 
with him does indeed give rise to serious difficulties. It 
shows the decline of first-rate philosophical insight, that 
men were able to ignore these difficulties, and rest content 

140 A Student's History of Philosophy 

with so crude a metaphysic. But here, also, practical needs 
were uppermost. For a philosophy that was to prove a 
real guide to men, in a life which needed such guidance, 
the Ideal of Plato was too remote ; it must be brought down 
to the actual world, even at the risk of losing something 
from the standpoint of theory. 

2. The Ethical Ideal. With this general sketch of the 
Stoic metaphysics, we may turn again to their ethical concep- 
tion. First, then, virtue is knowledge. But this does not 
mean, as it does with Aristotle, that the highest end of life is 
pure contemplation. Knowledge, for the Stoics, is practical 
knowledge knowledge which grows out of the needs of 
conduct. Accordingly, the Stoic has but little respect for 
much that passes for learning and philosophy in the world. 
"What does it concern us which was the older of the 
two, Homer or Hesiod; or which was the taller, Helen 
or Hecuba? We take a great deal of pains to trace 
Ulysses in his wanderings, but were it not time as well 
spent to look to ourselves, that we may not wander at 
all ? Geometry teaches me the art of measuring acres ; 
teach me to measure my appetites, and to know when I 
have enough. Were not I a madman to sit wrangling 
about words, and putting of nice and impertinent ques- 
tions, when the enemy has already made the breach, and 
the town is fired over my head ? The wisdom of the 
ancients was no more than certain precepts, what to do 
and what not, and men were much better in that simplic- 
ity ; for as they came to be more learned, they grew less 
careful of being good." 1 

Once more, then, virtue is the sole end of man, and of 
philosophy ; and since reason is the essential part of man, 
the life of virtue is the life of reason. But what is the 
relation of reason to the lower, appetitive nature, which 
also forms a part of man ? In answering this question, 
the Stoics introduce an innovation into the psychology of 
Plato and Aristotle. Instead of making the desires and 

1 Letters, XIII, 3. 

The Later Ethical Period 141 

emotions constitute, as in Plato, a second and separate part 
of the soul, standing over against the reason, they repre- 
sent them rather as a disease, an imperfection, a disturb- 
ance of the reason itself. And from this an important 
ethical result follows. The emotions are not something, 
as with Aristotle, to be simply regulated and held in check 
by the reason ; they must be destroyed utterly. As a 
disease, emotion is not to be tolerated for a moment. If 
we give it ever so slight a foothold, it is bound to grow, 
and spread its contagion. The true ethical ideal, there- 
fore, is entire freedom from the emotions. It is not a 
question of tempering one's passions ; that is to rest satis- 
fied with being only a little mad, a little sick. The wise 
man must aim at perfect health of soul ; he must have no 
passions at all. But may we not be sad in adversity, or 
pity a friend in distress ? Relieve our friend, by all means; 
but as for indulging in pity, no. Such a thing seems 
harmless ; but as sure as we give way to it, we shall find it 
gaining strength, and becoming ungovernable. Pity, too, 
is apt to make a man bungle in his work, and thus actually 
to defeat its own end. It is true, so at least the later 
Stoics had to admit, that there are certain weaknesses 
of the flesh the blush that rises unbidden to the cheek, 
the instinctive shrinking before pain and suffering 
which I may not be able wholly to control ; but these 
are no more than affections of the body, and need not 
touch the mind, unless the mind itself shall so permit. 
An emotion is a disturbance of the mind; and over that 
the mind has full control, and may give or withhold its 

True virtue and happiness, then, will consist in living 
free and undisturbed ; and that will only be possible, as we 
refuse to allow our will to be coerced by those external things 
and events, which lie outside the power of the mind itself. 
Let us recognize that that only is an evil which we choose 
to regard as such ; if we refuse, then, to call it evil, it may, 
indeed, harm our body, but it cannot touch our real self. 

142 A Studenfs History of Philosophy 

" Consider that everything is opinion, and opinion is in thy 
power. Take away then, when thou choosest, thy opinion, 
and like a mariner who has doubled the promontory, thou 
wilt find calm, everything stable, and a waveless bay." * 
" Take away thy opinion, and then there is taken away the 
complaint : I have been harmed. Take away the com- 
plaint : I have been harmed, and the harm is done 
away." 2 Instead of striving to win this and avoid that, let 
us rid ourselves of the desires which make things attractive 
or dreadful. It is the good fortune of the wise man not 
to need any good fortune. " One prays thus : How shall 
I be released of this ; another thus : How shall I not de- 
sire to be released. Another thus : How shall I not lose 
my little son ? Thou thus : How shall I not be afraid to 
lose him?. Turn thy prayers this way, and see what 
comes." 3 That only is a real evil, which degrades the soul 
from its true dignity ; and that only a good, which enables 
the soul to stand fast in its integrity. " Soon thou wilt be 
ashes or a skeleton, and either a name, or not a name even. 
And the things which are much valued in life are empty 
and rotten and trifling, and like little dogs biting one 
another, and little children quarrelling and laughing, and 
then straightway weeping." 4 What is pleasure, for which 
men fight and die ? Transitory, tiresome, sickly, it scarce 
outlives the tasting of it. " I am seeking," says Seneca, 
" to find what is good for a man, not for his belly. Why, 
cattle and whales have larger ones than he." 5 Are we 
taken with a life of luxury and outward show ? "As we 
sit at table, let us consider that this is but the dead body 
of a fish, that the dead body of a bird or of a pig ; and, 
again, that this Falernian is only a little grape juice, and 
this purple robe some sheep's wool dyed with the blood of 
a shellfish." 6 Or do we work for fame, that future gen- 
erations may praise us ? Let us remember that men of after 

1 M. Aurelius, Thoughts, XII, 22. 2 Ibid., IV, 7. 

3 /^.,IX, 4 o. 47fcV., V, 33. 

5 Seneca, Dialogues, VII, 9. 6 Thoughts, VI, 13. 

The Later Ethical Period 143 

times will be exactly such as those whom now we de- 
spise and cannot endure, just as foolish and unthinking, 
just as short-lived. Let us, then, stand steadfast in 
the faith that nothing can harm us, unless we ourselves 
open the gate to the enemy ; that nothing is necessary, 
save those inner possessions of which no one can rob 

Such an ideal of character the ideal of the wise man, or 
sage is, however, in danger of becoming somewhat stern 
and unlovely in its nature. In the rigor of their concep- 
tion, the Stoics seemed to make no allowance for the 
frailty of human nature. As in the later Christian doc- 
trine, a man was either wholly saved or wholly lost, perfect 
and complete, or else with no good thing in him ; just as a 
stick is either straight or crooked, and there is no middle 
alternative. The man who is a hundred furlongs from 
Canopus, and the man who is only one, are both equally 
not in Canopus. For virtues are not many, but one, since 
all go back to the inner unity of the will which alone 
is good, and to the attitude which this adopts. If, there- 
fore, the will is sound, the man possesses at one stroke all 
possible goods and perfections ; if it is weak in one point, 
it is weak in all, for no chain is stronger than its weakest 
link. The Stoics speak of the sage, accordingly, in the 
most extravagant terms ; since all goods are one, he alone 
is just, wise, beautiful, brave, a king, an orator, rich, a 
legislator. So, also, there is no gradual progress toward 
virtue. The wise man becomes wise by a sudden conver- 
sion, which in a single moment bridges the gulf between 
total depravity and perfection. Accordingly, the world 
becomes divided between the two classes : the sages, a 
scattered few, and the vast multitude of men, mostly fools. 
And the tendency was strong to make this division a source 
of Pharisaic pride, and to transfer the contemptuous dis- 
regard in which outer things were held to the men also 
who took delight in these things that is, to mankind in 

144 ^ Student's History of Philosophy 

But time tended to soften the asperity of this attitude. 
The ideal sage, in his perfection, was too rare a phenom- 
enon in the world, and the failure of the average Stoic to 
live up to the standard thus set, was too obvious to himself 
and to his opponents alike ; and so concessions necessarily 
were made. It had to be allowed that, after all, there are 
various grades of attainment, and that one is higher than 
another. So also, it was found impossible, without too 
great paradox, to hold that the good will is the only good 
in the world, and that everything else is wholly indifferent. 
Common sense will never admit that health and fortune, 
because they are more or less fortuitous, and can at a pinch 
be dispensed with, have therefore lost entirely the claim 
to be called good, and are quite on a level with disease 
and penury. Accordingly, in addition to the absolutely 
good and evil, the Stoics were led to make a distinction 
between those external things which tend to promote the 
good life, and supply it with material, and those which 
have the opppsite tendency. And it was admitted that, 
although the former are not good in the proper and ulti- 
mate sense, they yet are good in a secondary way, and 
relatively ; while the term " indifferent " was now applied to 
the third and more limited class of things, which are 
recognized by common sense as having no important 
bearing on our lives. Indeed, the assertion that pleasure 
and pain are absolutely indifferent and on an equality, 
is obviously only a paradoxical overstatement of certain 
truths which, stripped of exaggeration, would be gener- 
ally admitted ; apart from these, it would carry no convic- 
tion at all. The elements of truth in it are, of course, 
that pain may be endured with cheerfulness by the 
brave man when it is inevitable, and even welcomed when 
it is a step toward some higher good ; that pleasure is 
subordinate to character, and unworthy to engross the affec- 
tions, and stand in the way of the life of virtue. And 
while the Stoic always retains his tendency to paradox, 
this more moderate attitude comes to be adopted also on 

The Later Ethical Period 145 

occasion. The desirable thing is not to have the fire 
burn me, that I would willingly avoid if I could, but 
that it cannot conquer me. Pleasure is not wholly to be 
disdained. It is true, virtue remains the final aim. But 
still, if pleasure follows virtue naturally, it may be wel- 
comed ; " as in a tilled field, when ploughed for corn, some 
flowers are found amongst it, and yet, though these may 
charm the eye, all this labor was not spent in order to 
produce them." 1 

This tendency toward softening the harsh contrasts in 
the Stoic system, and making it more human, was helped 
out by an idea contained in the Stoic metaphysics. So 
far, we might seem to have an ideal of life as self-centred 
and individualistic as that of Epicurus. But in the con- 
ception, already mentioned, of the universal nature, there 
was the possibility of a more adequate development, which 
assumed greater prominence in the school as time went 
on. The Pharisaic opposition of the sage to the fool 
became tempered by the thought of the essential brother- 
hood of man. As entering into the unity of nature, we 
are all members one of another ; every man alike, as par- 
ticipating in some measure of reason, forms a part of the 
being of God. And so a life according to nature, as the 
control of the passions by the reason, becomes defined ob- 
jectively by the addition of the very important thought, that 
such a life of reason is a life in and for society. No man 
can live to himself ; " sooner will one find anything earthy, 
which comes in contact with no earthy thing, than a man 
altogether separated from other men." 2 

A life, then, which regards the life of others, a life in 
a community or state, is an essential element of the life 
of reason. To be sure, as states then were constituted, 
the Stoic might be excused from taking an active part in 
politics ; but theoretically he was still in his private life 
working for the public weal. "The services of a good 
citizen are never thrown away; he does good by being 

1 Dial., VII, 9, ** Thoughts, IX, 9. 


146 A Students History of Philosophy 

heard and seen, by his expression, his gestures, his silent 
determination, and his very walk." J Nor is this limited, as 
with the ancient Greek it was limited, to one's own par- 
ticular state or city. " My nature," says the Emperor 
Aurelius, "is rational and social, and my city and my 
country, so far as I am Antoninus, is Rome ; but so far as 
I am a man, it is the world." 2 This cosmopolitanism, which 
prided itself on the sentiment, I am first of all a man 
Homo sum is not, indeed, the outcome of any very vital 
or deep-seated feeling. It is a result of the breaking down 
of national bonds which followed the empire of Alexander, 
and the Hellenizing of the world ; and it does not neces- 
sarily imply any great sense of obligation toward man- 
kind. Often it is no more than the throwing off of na- 
tional responsibilities. Most of the Stoics, as has been 
said, were not citizens of Greece, but rather, in the Greek 
sense, barbarians, and so they naturally would not find 
it so hard to enlarge their sympathy, and recognize the 
essential oneness of men. The superstition of birth had 
begun to be "criticised even at an earlier period. " It is 
true," Antisthenes had replied to a slur upon his family 
and origin, "that I am not the son of two free citizens; 
but neither am I the son of two people skilled in wrest- 
ling, and nevertheless I am a skilful wrestler." With 
all its limitations, however, this cosmopolitanism shows 
the growth of a broader view of life, which only had to 
receive a more positive meaning to bring about a real 

This conception of nature was carried a step higher. 
Man is not only a citizen of the world ; he is a part of the 
fabric of the universe : and with the religious tinge which 
this thought took on, is connected a good deal of the power 
and attractiveness of the Stoic system. Merely as a part 
of the universe of matter, man is of necessity subjected to 
the law of the whole, and enters into the unvarying chain 
of cause and effect which nature exhibits. But what might 

* Dial, IX, 4. 2 Thoughts, VI, 44. 

The Later Ethical Period 147 

have been the sting of this conception, if nature were 
looked at as an unmeaning play of atoms, with no regard 
for man's welfare, becomes an added motive, as she as- 
sumes those attributes which bring us into an emotional 
relation to her, and which enable us to use the name of 
God. It is perfectly true that we have no independence as 
opposed to the one great reality ; we are but a part of the 
deity who acts in us. " Among the animals who have not 
reason, one life is distributed, just as there is one earth of 
all things ; and among reasonable animals one intelligent 
soul is distributed, just as we see by one light, and breathe 
one air." x Like the course of a river fate moves forward 
in an irresistible stream. He knows little of God that 
imagines it may be controlled. There is no changing the 
purpose even of a wise man, for he sees beforehand what 
will be best for the future. How much more unchange- 
able, then, is the Almighty, to whom all future is eter- 
nally present. But this also is our comfort. What might 
be hard to bear as Fate or Destiny, takes on another 
aspect when we call it by its true name of Providence. 
God alone knows what is best for us, nor have we any 
right to urge our private desires against the good of the 
whole. " To her who gives and takes back all, to nature, 
the man who is instructed and modest says : ' Give what 
thou wilt, take back what thou wilt.' And he says this, 
not proudly, but obediently, and well pleased with her." 2 
Taken at its best, then, in the person of its more worthy 
representatives, Stoicism offers an ideal of life which has 
rarely been surpassed for noble simplicity. " I will look 
upon death or upon comedy," says Seneca, "with the 
same expression of countenance. I will submit to labors 
however great they may be, supporting the strength of my 
body by that of my mind. I will despise riches when I 
have them as much as when I have them not. Whether 
fortune comes or goes, I will take no notice of her. I will 
view all lands as though they belong to me, and my own as 

V/., IX, 8. *Itod., X, 14. 

148 A Student's History of Philosophy 

though they belonged to all mankind. I will so live as to 
remember that I was born for others, and will thank nature 
on this account ; for in what fashion could she have done 
better for me ? She has given me alone to all, and all to 
me alone. Whatever I may possess, I will neither hoard 
it greedily, nor squander it recklessly. I will think that I 
have no possessions so real as those which I have given 
away to deserving people. I never will consider a gift to 
be a large one if it be bestowed upon a worthy object. I 
will do nothing because of public opinion, but everything 
because of conscience. Whenever I do anything alone by 
myself, I will believe that the eyes of the Roman people 
are upon me while I do it. In eating and drinking, my 
object shall be to quench the desires of nature, not to fill 
and empty my belly. I will be agreeable with my friends, 
gentle and mild to my foes. I will grant pardon before I 
am asked for it, and will meet the wishes of honorable men 
halfway. I will bear in mind that the world is my native 
city, that its governors are the Gods, and that they stand 
above and artfund me criticising whatever I do or say. 
When either nature demands my breath again, or reason 
bids me dismiss it, I will quit this life, calling all to witness 
that I have loved a good conscience and good pursuits ; 
that no one's freedom, my own least of all, has been im- 
paired through me." 1 So Epictetus : " My man, as the 
proverb says, make a desperate effort on behalf of tran- 
quillity of mind, freedom, and magnanimity. Lift up your 
eyes at last as released from slavery. Dare to look up to 
God and say : Deal with me for the future as thou wilt, 
I refuse nothing that pleases thee ; clothe me in any dress 
thou choosest. Who would Hercules have been if he had 
sat at home ? He would have been Eurystheus, and not 
Hercules. But you are not Hercules, and you are not 
able to purge away the wickedness of others. Clear away 
your own ; from yourself, from your thoughts cast away, 
instead of Procrustes and Sciron, sadness, fear, desire, 

* Dial., VII, 20. 

The Later Ethical Period 149 

envy, malevolence, avarice, effeminacy, intemperance." * 
"Never value anything as profitable to thyself which 
shall compel thee to break thy promise, to lose thy self- 
respect, to hate any man, to suspect, to curse, to act the 
hypocrite, to desire anything which needs walls and cur- 
tains." 2 A God dwells in the breast of every good man ; 
let us not disgrace the abode of divinity. 

And if once we have attained this salvation and intreg- 
rity of soul, we are able to meet life cheerfully and confi- 
dently, without fearing anything it can do to us. Other 
delights are trivial in comparison with this serene and 
sober peace of mind. They are greatly mistaken who 
take laughter for rejoicing. The seat of true joy is within, 
and there is no cheerfulness like the resolution of a brave 
mind that has fortune under its feet. Virtue needs no 
external rewards. " As a horse when he has run, a dog 
when he has tracked the game, a bee when it has made 
the honey, so a man when he has done a good act does 
not call out for others to come and see, but he goes on to 
another act, as a vine goes on to produce again the grapes 
in season." 8 The life of virtue is all-sufficient. It fills 
the whole soul, and takes away the sensibility of any loss. 
What matters it if a stream be interrupted or cut off, if 
the fountain from whence it flowed be still alive ? As the 
stars hide their diminished heads before the brightness of 
the sun, so afflictions are crushed and dissipated by the 
greatness of virtue ; and all manner of annoyances have 
no more effect upon her, than a shower of rain upon the 

In the presence of these true and eternal joys, mere 
pleasures seem poor and worthless. We are in the world 
not to live pleasantly, but to quit us like men ; and in thus 
acting in accordance with our real nature, we shall derive 
the only true satisfaction. " In the morning when thou 
risest unwillingly, let this thought be present : I am rising 
to the work of a human being. Why, then, am I dissatis- 

1 Discourses, II, 16. 2 Thoughts, III, 7. 3 Ibid., V, 6. 

150 A Student's History of Philosophy 

fied, if I am going to do the things for which I exist, and 
for which I was brought into the world ? Or have I been 
made for this, to lie in the bedclothes and keep myself 
warm ? But this is more pleasant. Dost thou exist, then, 
to take thy pleasure, and not at all for action or exertion ? 
Dost thou not see the little plants, the little birds, the ants, 
the spiders, the bees, working together to put in order 
their several parts of the universe ? and art thou unwilling 
to do the work of a human being, and dost thou not make 
haste to do that which is according to thy nature P" 1 So 
external advantages, riches, and position, have no real 
value. It matters not whence we come, but whither we 
go. For a man to spend his life in pursuit of a title, which 
serves only when he dies to furnish out an epitaph, is below 
a wise man's business. It is the edge and temper of the 
blade that makes a good sword, not the richness of the 
scabbard; and so it is not money and possessions that 
makes a man considerable, but his virtue. " They are 
amusing fellows who are proud of things which are not in 
our power. A man says : I am better than you, for I 
possess much land, and you are wasting with hunger. 
Another says : I am of consular rank ; another : I have 
curly hair. But a horse does not say to a horse : I am 
superior to you, for I possess much fodder and much bar- 
ley, and my bits are of gold, and my harness is embroid- 
ered ; but he says : I am swifter than you. And every 
animal is better or worse from his own merit or his own 
badness. Is there, then, no virtue in man only, and must 
we look to the hair and our clothes, and to our ances- 
tors?" 2 Every man is worth just as much as the things 
about which he busies himself. Let our riches consist 
in coveting nothing, and our peace in fearing nothing. 
Secure, then, in the eternal possession of himself, a man 
can afford to despise the buffets of fortune, and can even 
welcome them, in the confidence that all things are work- 
ing for his good. It does not matter what you bear, but 

1 Thoughts, V, I. 2 Epictetus, Fragments, 16. 

The Later Ethical Period 151 

how you bear it. Outward circumstances are not our 
masters ; where a man can live at all, he can also live 
well. A wise man is out of the reach of fortune, and 
attempts upon him are no more than Xerxes' arrows ; they 
may darken the day, but they cannot strike the sun. " I 
must die. Must I then die lamenting ? I must go into 
exile. Does any man then hinder me from going with 
smiles and cheerfulness and contentment? Tell me the 
secret which you possess. I will not, for this is in my 
power. But I will put you in chains. Man, what are you 
talking about ? Me in chains? You may fetter my leg, 
but my will not even Zeus himself can overpower. I will 
throw you into prison. My poor body, you mean. I will 
cut your head off. When, then, have I told you that my 
head alone cannot be cut off ? " 1 Thus not even death is to 
the wise man a thing to dread ; like birth and all that the 
seasons bring, it is but one of the things which nature wills. 
" For as to children masks appear terrible and fearful from 
inexperience, we also are affected in like manner by events 
for no other reason. What is death ? A tragic mask. 
Turn it and examine it. See, it does not bite. The poor 
body must be separated from the spirit either now or later, 
as it was separated from it before." 2 " Pass, then, through 
thy little space of time conformably to nature, and end thy 
journey in content, just as an olive falls off when it is ripe, 
blessing nature who produced it, and thanking the tree 
on which it grew." 3 Life itself is neither good nor evil, 
but only a place for good and evil. This the Stoics 
carried to the extent even of advocating the voluntary 
giving up of life by suicide, if occasion seemed to call 
for it. When life is so questionable a good, why not 
renounce it? it is but ridding ourselves of a trouble- 
some burden. " The house is smoky and I quit it " that 
is all there is to say. " The door is open ; be not more 
timid than little children, but as they say when the thing 
does not please them : I will play no longer, so do you, 

1 Discourses, I, I. 2 Ibid., II, I. 8 Thoughts, IV, 48. 

152 A Student's History of Philosophy 

when things seem to you of such a kind, say : I will no 
longer play, and be gone. But if you stay, do not com- 
plain." 1 Temperance in prosperity, courage in adversity, 
and a pervading faith in the oneness, rationality, and good- 
ness of the universe this is the whole duty of man. 
" Everything harmonizes with me which is harmonious to 
thee, O Universe ; nothing for me is too early or too late, 
which is in due time for thee. Everything is fruit for me 
which thy seasons bring, O Nature; from thee are all 
things, in thee are all things, to thee all things return. 
The poets say : Dear City of Cecrops, and wilt not thou 
say : Dear city of Zeus ? " 2 

3. The Problem of Evil. Before closing the account of 
Stoicism, it will be well to mention two problems in particu- 
lar, which the requirements of their theory led the Stoics to 
give a special prominence. These are the problems of evil, 
and of human freedom. The Stoic, as has been said, accepts 
the teleological explanation of the universe, as opposed to 
the theory of unmeaning mechanism ; to him it is self-evident 
that the world is framed in accordance with a rational pur- 
pose. " Every man knows without telling that this won- 
derful fabric of the universe is not without a governor, and 
that a constant order cannot be the work of chance ; for 
the parts would then fall foul one upon another. The 
motions of the stars and their influences are acted by the 
command of an eternal decree. It is by the dictates of 
an almighty power that the heavy body of the earth hangs 
in balance." 3 Accordingly, the world must be a perfect 
world ; and this the Stoics attempted to establish by appeal- 
ing to the harmony and beauty in it, and the apparent 
adaptation of means to end, especially in organic life. 
Thus, the peacock is made for the sake of its beautiful 
tail ; horses are made for riding ; sheep to supply clothing 
for man, and dogs to guard and help him ; asses to carry 
his burdens. Such reasoning, however, unless a severe 
restraint were put upon it, was clearly in danger of de- 

1 Discourses, I, 24. 2 Thoughts, IV, 23. 8 Dial., I, I. 

The Later Ethical Period 153 

scending to trivialities ; and at its best it still has to meet 
difficulties, by reason of the numerous cases where, espe- 
cially if we take human life as the end of creation, the 
products of nature seem quite irrelevant, or else positively 
harmful. So the Stoics were put upon their mettle to meet 
these objections, and still maintain the perfection of the 

In doing this, they succeeded in bringing out a suggestion, 
at least, of most of the considerations by which subsequent 
thought has tried to vindicate the ways of God to man. As 
regards physical evils, at any rate, they had already met 
the difficulty consistently, even if paradoxically, by their 
denial that such things are evil at all. " Many afflictions 
may befall a good man, but no evil, for contraries will 
never incorporate ; all the rivers of the world are never 
able to change the taste and quality of the ocean." 1 Or, 
again, if we wish to take it on somewhat less high ground, 
let us remember that we only have to live each moment at 
a time. It is neither the future nor the past that pains me, 
but only the present. If then I do not let my thoughts 
embrace at once all the troubles I may expect to befall me, 
but consider each occasion by itself, I shall be ashamed to 
confess that there is in it anything intolerable and past bear- 
ing. But besides this, there are other more positive con- 
siderations. The conception of the world as a unity enables 
us to explain a seeming imperfection by its relation to the 
larger scheme of things into which it enters ; a partial evil 
becomes a universal good. " Must my leg then be lamed ? 
Wretch, do you then on account of one poor leg find fault 
with the world ? Will you not willingly surrender it for 
the whole ? Know you not how small a part you are com- 
pared with the whole ?" 2 " If a good man had foreknowl- 
edge of what would happen, he would cooperate toward 
his own sickness and death and mutilation, since he knows 
that these things are assigned to him according to the uni- 
versal arrangement, and that the whole is superior to the 

1 Ibid., I, 2. 2 Discourses, I, 12. 

154 A Student's History of Philosophy 

part." 1 " But how is it said that some external things are 
according to nature, and others contrary to nature ? It is 
said as it might be said if we were separated from society ; 
for to the foot I shall say that it is according to nature for 
it to be clean ; but if you take it as a foot, and as a thing 
not independent, it will befit it both to step into the mud, 
and tread on thorns, and sometimes to be cast off for the 
good of the whole body ; otherwise it is no longer a foot. 
We should think in some such way about ourselves also. 
What are you ? A man. If you consider yourself as 
detached from other men, it is according to nature to live 
to old age, to be rich, to be healthy. But if you consider 
yourself as a man, and a part of a certain whole, it is for 
the sake of that whole that atone time you should be sick, 
at another time take a voyage and run into danger, at 
another time be in want, and in some cases die prematurely. 
Why then are you troubled ? Do you not know that as a 
foot is no longer a foot if it is detached from the body, so 
you are no longer a man if you are separated from other 
men ? " 2 

It is true that often this does not carry us very far 
practically, since we are unable to put ourselves at the 
point of view of the whole ; and so we may be forced to 
fall back on the blind faith that nature can do no wrong. 
But sometimes also we can see how evil may work for 
good. "Just as we must understand when it is said that 
^Esculapius prescribed to this man horse exercise, or bath- 
ing in cold water, or going without shoes, so we must 
understand it when it is said that the nature of the uni- 
verse prescribed to this man disease, or mutilation, or 
loss of anything of the kind." 3 As a master gives his 
most hopeful scholars the hardest lessons, so does God 
deal with the most generous spirits. Life is a warfare, and 
what brave man would not rather choose to be in a tent 
than in shambles? In reality no one is more unhappy 
than the man whom no misfortune has ever befallen. 

i Ibid., II, 10. 2 mdtt n , 5. a Thoughts, V, 8. 

The Later Ethical Period 155 

How many are there in the world that enjoy all things 
to their own wish, whom God never thought worthy of a 
trial. If it might be imagined that the Almighty should 
take off his thought from the care of his whole work, 
what more glorious spectacle could he reflect upon than a 
valiant man struggling with adverse fortune ? Calamity 
is the touchstone of a brave mind, that resolves to live and 
die master of itself. Adversity is the better for us all, for 
it is God's mercy to show the world their errors, and that 
the things they fear and covet are neither good nor evil, 
being the common and promiscuous lot of good men and 
bad. 1 

4. The Problem of Freedom. The other problem which 
received attention in the controversies between the Stoics 
and the Epicureans was the problem of freedom. The 
whole standpoint of the Stoics, as the preceding quota- 
tions will show, involved an insistence upon the supreme 
reality of duty, and the responsibility which goes along 
with duty. But on the other side stood their doctrine 
of necessity, according to which man is but a part of 
the universe which is acting through him. Their op- 
ponents were quick to point out the apparent contra- 
diction, and to insist that no place was left for real 
freedom and responsibility. A reconciliation of freedom 
with determinism was, accordingly, attempted by the Stoics 
with considerable acuteness ; and in this way there was 
evolved the conception of a freedom opposed to the mere 
causeless liberty of indifference which the Epicureans 
upheld. Such a freedom acts, indeed, in accordance with 
law ; but this law is an expression of man's own inner 
nature, and not something forced upon him from without. 
What I will to do is my action, whether I could have 
acted differently or not ; and so I am strictly responsible 
for it. If the result sometimes takes on the aspect of 
fatalism, this is natural in an age in which political free- 
dom had disappeared before the despotism of a great world 

,4, 5. 

156 A Student's History of Philosophy 

empire, and the policy of submission was forced upon all 
minds as the only safe one. Nevertheless, it is not an 
ignoble submission, for we are yielding, not to brute force, 
as in the political world, but to the law of reason, which 
is the law of our own being. Is not this, indeed, the only 
true liberty ? The wise man does nothing unwillingly, for 
whatever he finds necessary, he makes his choice. We are 
born subjects, but to obey God is perfect liberty. " But 
you say : I would like to have everything result just as 
I like, and in whatever way I like. You are mad, you are 
beside yourself. Do you not know that freedom is a noble 
and valuable thing ? But for me inconsiderately to wish 
for things to happen as I inconsiderately like, this appears 
to me not only not noble, but even most base. For how 
do we proceed in the matter of writing ? Do I wish to 
write the name of Dion as I choose ? No ; but I am 
taught to choose to write it as it ought to be written. 
And how with respect to music ? In the same manner. 
If it were not so, it would be of no value to know any- 
thing, if knowledge were adapted to every man's whim. 
Is it then in this alone, in this which is the greatest and 
the chief thing I mean freedom that I am permitted 
to will inconsiderately ? By no means, but to be instructed 
is this : to learn to wish that everything may happen as it 
does." i 

It is evident that the esoteric belief of the Stoics was 
far removed from the popular religion, and lay in the 
direction of a monotheism or pantheism. Still, their whole 
temper of mind disposed them not to attack the religious 
faith of the times, as the Epicureans did, but rather to 
accommodate themselves to it, as an expression, inade- 
quate indeed, but still the best attainable, of a real truth. 
Accordingly, they were not averse to speaking in the 
ordinary language about the Gods, provided they were 
allowed to put their own construction upon their words. 
According to that construction, the different deities are, of 

1 Discourses, I, 12. 

The Later Ethical Period 157 

course, only the several functions of the one nature, the 
one almighty power. " When," says Seneca, " men speak 
of him as the father and the fountain of all beings, they 
call him Bacchus ; and when under the name of Hercules, 
they denote him to be indefatigable and invincible ; and in 
the contemplation of him in the reason, proportion, order, 
and wisdom of his proceedings, they call him Mercury ; so 
that which way soever they look, and under what name 
soever they couch their meaning, they never fail of find- 
ing him, for he is everywhere, and fills his own work. 
If a man should borrow money of Seneca, and say that 
he owes it to Annseus or Lucius, he may change the name, 
but not his creditor ; for let him take which of the three 
names he pleases, he is still a debtor to the same per- 
son." * 

5. Stoicism and Christianity. If we try to sum up 
briefly the influence of Stoicism, we may say that it 
created, at a time when ideals were sorely needed, an 
ideal of personal life and character more profound than 
the Greek world had yet seen; and in so doing, it pro- 
vided the only available refuge for minds of the nobler 
sort. In many ways it offers obvious points of contact 
with the Christian religion, and it played an important 
part in the preparation which rendered the triumph 
of Christianity possible. The conception of the omni- 
presence of God in the world as pneuma, or spirit; the 
emphasis, unknown until now, which was laid upon duty 
as the inner law of man's nature ; the ideal of a life of 
self-denial, easily passing into an ascetic contempt for 
the things of this world these, and many other points 
of resemblance, will suggest themselves. But on the other 
hand, there are important elements of difference. In the 
first place, while the God of the Stoics is preeminently 
one of impersonal intelligence and power, the God of 
Christianity is a God of love. The outlines of the Stoic 
conception are almost uniformly hard and uncompromising. 

1 Seneca, On Benefits, IV, 8. 

158 A Student's History of Philosophy 

God looks after the perfection of the whole, but this may 
or may not be compatible with the happiness of the in- 
dividual. The same hardness was carried over into the 
relations of man to man ; more truly, perhaps, the former 
fact is a reflex of the latter. We should help our fellows, 
indeed, as reason demands ; but we should do it simply as 
our duty, without letting ourselves be betrayed into feel- 
ings of pity or tenderness. Theoretically, the Stoics recom- 
mend an insensibility which is nothing short of inhuman. 
A wise man is not affected by the loss of children or 
friends. " To feel pain or griefs for the misfortunes of 
others/' says Seneca, one of the mildest of Stoics, "is a 
weakness unworthy of the sage ; for nothing should cloud 
his serenity or shake his firmness." 

It follows that Stoicism can only appeal to the sense of 
satisfaction in one's mere power of dogged endurance, as 
his sole reward ; Christianity, on the other hand, is a reli- 
gion of hope and consolation. Even when, with Stoicism, 
it holds to the necessity of rejecting the solicitations of 
pleasure and ambition, it does not make this negation an 
end in itself, but a means to a fuller life in another world, 
if not in this. The love of God to men will never permit 
them to drop out of his scheme; and the demand for 
brute endurance is not, therefore, the last word. The 
value of endurance is in relation to the reward for endur- 
ance which is sure to come. To the Stoic, immortality is 
only a possible hypothesis, which carries no special consola- 
tion with it, even if it is not rejected outright ; and in any 
case, it is but an extension of life, not an absolute immor- 
tality. For even if our self-identity continues for a time 
after death, yet at last the final overthrow of this world 
of ours will come, and in the universal conflagration 
which will then take place, all finite souls will be re- 
absorbed into the great world soul, and lose their separate 

And, finally, Stoicism is primarily an Ethics, not, like 
Christianity, a Religion. The philosopher attains virtue 

The Later Ethical Period 159 

by his own efforts ; he looks to himself for help, not to 
God. The wise man, so the Stoic could say, is as neces- 
sary to Zeus, as Zeus to the wise man. In one way he 
even can surpass God : God is beyond suffering evil, the 
wise man is above it. God surpasses the good man in 
this only, that He is longer good ; the good man can excel 
God in the patience with which he bears the trials of his 
mortal lot. The result is, at its best, a respect for one- 
self, and one's own integrity, which is wholesome and 
heroic ; at its worst, a Pharisaic pride in one's individual 
achievements, and a contemptuous disregard for those 
less strong. But in any case, it is not a creed for the 
masses, but only for exceptional natures. It fostered 
ideals which proved a saving leaven in the corruption 
of social life ; but it was too cold, intellectual, and self- 
centred to regenerate society. In the need that was 
felt for something that should appeal, not simply to the 
intellect or the bare will, but to the feelings and emo- 
tions as well, which should take man out of himself, more- 
over, and help out his weakness by relating him to a 
higher power, ethical philosophy was passing into religious 


Marcus Aurelius, Thoughts. 

Seneca, Dialogues, On Benefits, On Clemency y Letters. 
Epictetus, Discourses and Encheiridion. 
Cicero, Philosophical Works. 
Plutarch, Morals. 
Capes, Stoicism. 

Bryant, The Mutual Influence of Christianity and the Stoic 

Zeller, Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics. 

Pater, Marius the Epicurean. 

Seth, Study of Ethical Principles. 

Matthew Arnold, Marcus Aurelius (in Essays). 

Jackson, Seneca and Kant. 

Watson, Life of M. Aurelius. 

Bruce, Moral Order of the World in Ancient and Modern Thought. 

160 A Student's History of Philosophy 

1 6. The Sceptics 

I. Before turning, however, to the development of reli- 
gious philosophy, it is necessary to give a brief account of 
the other tendencies of the period that has already been 
considered. Of these, the most important is Scepticism. 
The first representative of Scepticism was Pyrrho of Elis 
(365-275 B.C.), a contemporary of Aristotle. Like Zeno 
and Epicurus, Pyrrho comes to philosophy with a practical 
end in view. But instead of attempting to find satisfaction 
through the medium of a positive and dogmatic system 
of belief, he thought that it was just in this direction that 
inquietude and perplexity lay. For after all that men 
have thought, what agreement have they reached on the 
simplest questions ? Each school has its own special 
answer, which differs from the answer given by any other 
school. Let us recognize, then, that much thinking is a 
weariness to the flesh; that speculation only involves us 
in doubt and uncertainty ; that every question may be 
argued equally well on either side, so that a final decision 
is impossible. Let us find peace of mind by acquiescing 
in our enforced ignorance, holding our minds in suspense, 
and regarding as indifferent to us all external things, since 
we cannot possibly know the truth about them. In later 
days, stories were current of the way in which Pyrrho 
exemplified his own philosophy on the practical side ; how, 
for example, he declined to trust his senses even to the 
extent of turning out for a wagon, or precipice, or what- 
ever might be in his way, and so had to be rescued by his 

Pyrrho had no very great influence on the thought of 
his own day ; the field was not yet ready for him. But as 
the period of originality in speculative thinking became 
more distant, a new sceptical reaction grew up against the 
dogmatism of the dominant schools. This reaction suc- 
ceeded in finding a home temporarily in the Academy, 
where it was adopted in the first place chiefly as a weapon 

The Later Ethical Period 161 

against the Stoics. The most important names in connec- 
tion with the Middle Academy, as it is called, are those of 
Arcesilaus (315-241 B.C.), and his more brilliant successor 
Carneades (215-130 B.C.). By Carneades, Scepticism was 
carried over into the realm of Ethics as well ; and it is re- 
lated that while on a political embassy to Rome, he created 
a great sensation by arguing very eloquently in a public 
discourse in behalf of justice, and then the next day speak- 
ing with equal effect against it. The Academic doctrine 
had, however, a more positive side also. Although cer- 
tainty cannot be had, yet practical needs require that there 
should be something to render decision possible. This 
the Academics tried to give in their doctrine of probability. 
A thing may not be capable of proof, but it still may be 
more probable than its opposite ; and the logic of proba- 
bility, which for practical needs is as good as demonstra- 
tion, they worked out in some detail. A third tendency in 
Scepticism, which considered that the Academy was still 
too dogmatic, and so professed to go back to the more 
thoroughgoing doctrine of Pyrrho, is found among the so- 
called Empiricists, who are chiefly physicians. Of these 
the most important are ALnesidemus of Cnossus, and 
Sextus Empiricus. 

2. The arguments of the Sceptics may be divided roughly 
into two classes, those empirical proofs, drawn chiefly 
from sensation, which show the actual uncertainty and con- 
tradictoriness of our knowledge, and the more theoretical 
considerations from the nature of thought or reason. These 
arguments have become familiar at the present day, and 
may be reproduced briefly as follows : J 

There are, first, the differences in the organization of 
animals, and the consequent difference in the impressions 
which the same object makes upon them. What is pleas- 
ant to one is disagreeable to another ; what is useful to one, 
to another is fatal. Thus, young branches are eagerly 

1 Taken largely from Diogenes Laertius' life of Pyrrho (Bohn's Classical 


1 62 A Student's History of Philosophy 

eaten by the goat, but are bitter to mankind ; hemlock is 
nutritious to the quail, but deadly to man. So animals 
differ vastly in the degree of development of their faculties. 
The hawk is far more keen-sighted than man, the dog has 
a much acuter scent. Must it not be a different world, 
then, that reveals itself to different beings ? and who is to 
decide which is the true world ? 

So among men themselves, how vast is the variety in the 
ways in which things affect them ? According to Demo- 
phon, the steward of Alexander used to feel warm in the 
shade, and to shiver in the sun. Andron the Argive 
travelled through the deserts of Libya without once drink- 
ing. Again, one man is fond of medicine, another of 
farming, another of commerce. How are we to set up 
any standard in the midst of the confusion that meets us ? 
Everything goes back to personal tastes, and about tastes 
there is no disputing. 

Again, look at the different ways in which the same 
object will appear to the different senses. An apple 
presents itself to the sense of sight as yellow, to the taste 
as sweet, to the smell as fragrant. Does not this very fact, 
that each sense modifies the report which an object sends 
in, so as to change its character entirely, show that we 
never get the true object at all ? Conceivably there might 
be countless other senses, and each of these would have just 
as much, or just as little, title to be believed as those we 

And in the same person there are continual changes 
going on, which affect his whole view of things. Health, 
sickness, sleep, waking, joy, grief, youth, old age, courage, 
fear, want, abundance, hatred, friendship, warmth, cold, 
ease or difficulty of breathing, all determine us to the most 
varied and contradictory notions about the real nature of 
facts. What are we to take as the normal state, where 
things appear in their truth ? And what opinion can we 
have of a being whose powers and faculties can be so 
easily upset and confounded by the most trifling cause ? 

The Later Ethical Period 163 

Consider, next, the all-important matter of custom and 
tradition, and the effect which habit, education, and envi- 
ronment have in determining a man's beliefs. In the face 
of this, how can we suppose that there is any absolute 
foundation of true or false, right or wrong ? In one 
community certain customs rule, and everybody regards 
them as eminently right and natural. Pass into the next 
country, and you will find these same customs condemned 
as absurd and vicious. The same action is just in the eyes 
of some people, and unjust in those of others. The 
Persians do not think it unnatural for a man to marry his 
daughter ; but among the Greeks it is unlawful. The 
Cilicians delight in piracy, but the Greeks avoid it. Dif- 
ferent nations worship different Gods, and worship them 
by different rites. And in the same country, customs are 
all the while changing. " We see scarcely anything just 
or unjust that does not change quality in changing climate. 
Three degrees of higher latitude overturn all jurispru- 
dence. A meridian decides the truth. Fundamental laws 
change; right has its epochs. Pitiable justice, bounded by 
a river or a mountain ! Truth this side the Pyrenees, error 
that side." a 

But in the object, as well as in the subject, there are 
causes of confusion. Nothing is seen by us simply and by 
itself ; but in combination either with air, or with light, or 
with moisture, or heat, or cold, or motion, or evaporation, 
or some other power. Sounds, for example, are different, 
according as the air is dense or rare. Purple exhibits a 
different hue in the sun, and in the moon, and by lamp- 
light. A stone which one cannot lift in the air, is easily 
displaced in the water. Accordingly, we cannot know posi- 
tively the peculiar qualities of anything, just as we cannot 
distinguish the real properties of oil in ointment. 

Another fruitful cause of uncertainty is the position, 
distance, and spatial relations of objects. Objects that we 
believe to be large, sometimes appear small ; those that we 

1 Pascal, Thoughts. 

164 A Studenfs History of Philosophy 

believe to be square, sometimes appear round ; those that 
we fancy even, appear full of projections ; those that we 
think straight, seem bent; those that we think colorless, 
appear colored. A vessel seen at a distance seems station- 
ary. Mountains at a distance look smooth, but when 
beheld close at hand, they are rough. The sun on account 
of its distance appears small ; and it has one appearance 
at its rise, and quite another at midday. The neck of the 
dove changes its color as it turns. Since, then, it is impos- 
sible to view things irrespectively of place and position, it 
is clear that their real nature is not known. 

Again, qualities differ according to quantities. The horn 
of the goat is black ; the detached fragments of this horn 
are whitish. A moderate quantity of wine invigorates, 
while an excessive quantity weakens. Certain poisons are 
fatal when taken alone ; in mixture with other substances, 
they cure. 

The frequency or rarity of a thing determines our 
view of it. Earthquakes excite no wonder among those 
nations with "whom they are of frequent occurrence ; nor 
does the sun astonish us, because we see it every day. 

Finally, we cannot say anything about an object, without 
involving, explicitly or implicitly, a comparison or relation 
with other things. Thus light and heavy, strong and weak, 
greater and less, above and below, right and left, are obvi- 
ously only relative terms. In the same way, a man is 
spoken of as a father, or brother, or relation to some one 
else ; and day is called so in relation to the sun ; and every- 
thing has its distinctive name in relation to human thought. 
We cannot strip off these relations and have any content 
left ; and consequently all our knowledge is relative never 
of the thing in itself. 

3. If perception is incapable of giving us truth, so, 
equally, is thought ; and the difficulties in the process of 
syllogistic reasoning are accordingly pointed out. And 
if neither sensation by itself, nor thought by itself, can 
attain to certainty, their combination is clearly in no 

The Later Ethical Period 165 

better case. The whole matter is summed up in the dis- 
cussion about the criterion of truth. Every demonstration 
depends on the validity of certain premises, and these must 
themselves in turn be established, if the whole process is 
not to hang in the air. Accordingly, unless we go on for- 
ever establishing one truth by another, we are compelled 
to find somewhere a starting-point that is absolutely cer- 
tain in itself. But what way have we of recognizing such 
a truth ? The Sceptics of course deny that there is any 
criterion. Sensation will not give it, for sensations have 
been shown to be utterly unreliable. Shall we say, with 
the Stoics, that it is the clearness and self-evidence with 
which a truth comes home to us ; or its universal acceptance 
by mankind ? But universal agreement does not exist, and 
would prove nothing if it did ; and we are often very clear 
and very positive about what turns out to be no truth at 
all. The Sceptics went on to show in detail, and with 
much acuteness, the flaws in the reasonings and results 
of the dogmatic philosophers. The most extensive account 
that we possess of the sceptical arguments is in a work by 
Sextus Empiricus entitled Against the Mathematicians. In 
this it is interesting to note that, among other things, the idea 
of causality is subjected to a destructive criticism. It is 
this same problem which occupied the greatest of modern 
sceptics David Hume. 


Maccoll, The Greek Sceptics. 

Zeller, Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics. 

Patrick, Sextus Empiricus and Greek Scepticism. 

17. The Scientific Movement. Eclecticism. Philo 

I. Meanwhile, in another part of the world, a very con- 
siderable intellectual activity had been going on, which, 
although it lies outside the main philosophical movement, 

1 66 A Student's History of Philosophy 

deserves a brief mention. In Athens, which, after its loss of 
political importance, had become practically a University 
town, the speculative interest continued to be predominant ; 
but elsewhere, the scientific side of Aristotle's work was 
being carried on with a considerable degree of success. Alex- 
andria, in Northern Egypt, had been founded by the con- 
queror in the second half of the fourth century, and, under 
the enlightened rule of the earlier Ptolemies, it sprang to a 
place among the centres of the world. What its position did 
for it commercially, the founding of the great University 
of Alexandria accomplished in other lines. To this im- 
mense school, the greatest of ancient times, students came 
from all over the world. Its magnificent equipment, its 
botanical garden, observatory, and anatomical building, 
its collection of animals from every land, and its great 
library, amounting at one time to seven hundred thousand 
volumes, gave a great impetus to scholarship and science. 
A series of eminent scientists made the Museum illustrious : 
the best known are the mathematician Euclid, and the 
astronomer Ptolemy, who gives his name to the system 
which maintained itself down to the time of Copernicus, 
and whose Geography was used in the schools of Europe 
for fourteen centuries. So also literature was encouraged, 
and had a considerable development. It is true that, 
for the most part, there was no great originality shown ; 
still, the very dependence upon the standards of the past 
gave rise to valuable results, in the creation of a new inter- 
est in literary and linguistic studies. The history of liter- 
ature, the critical investigation of problems of style, and 
the study of language and grammar, were put upon some- 
thing like a systematic and scientific basis. In other cities, 
too, such as Rhodes, Antioch, and Tarsus, similar schools 
sprang up, and became centres of an active intellectual 

2. But in the realm of speculative thought, also, there 
is one more tendency to be noted. Scepticism was itself 
too negative to satisfy any save a peculiar few. The age 

The Later Ethical Period 167 

had need of knowledge, and this practical need was cer- 
tain to cause the mass of men to ignore the subtle argu- 
ments of the Sceptics. Nevertheless, Scepticism was not 
wholly without effect even in wider circles. The criticism 
which it brought against all philosophies alike would, at 
least, tend to prick the conceit that in any one school the 
absolute truth was contained. And the necessary recog- 
nition of the many points of similarity between Stoic, 
Academic, and Peripatetic, which constant discussion 
brought about, also helped to lessen their opposition. This 
had its counterpart on the political side, in the softening 
down of national peculiarities 'which had begun with the 
Macedonian world-empire, and the spread of the Greek 
language and ideas, and which reached its culmination in 
the Roman conquests. As political and national extremes 
were worn away, and compromises accepted to the end that 
all men might dwell together in a practical unity through- 
out the Roman Empire, so the various schools began to 
unite on a common philosophical basis, from which the 
more extreme differences had been eliminated. At least 
this was true of all except the Epicureans, who for the 
most part continued to stand out as heterodox, and to 
whose mechanical and hedonistic tendencies the other 
three schools found themselves opposed on a common 
ground. This eclecticism was largely stimulated when the 
Greek philosophy came in contact with the Romans. 
Themselves without any strong theoretical interests, and 
caring for philosophy, if they cared for it at all, only for 
its practical ends, the Romans would have but little sym- 
pathy with subtle metaphysical distinctions. To the hard- 
headed Roman, the disputes of the philosophers were trifling 
and uncalled for, and capable of being easily settled by a 
little shrewd management. The pro-consul Gellius actu- 
ally took upon himself to urge the Athenian philosophers 
to come to a compromise, and offered his own services 
as mediator. Of this syncretistic temper, Cicero is the 
most eminent representative. Without any great philo- 

1 68 A Student's History of Philosophy 

sophic gifts himself, his chief service is as a popularizer 
of Greek ideas. 

3. What has been said so far of Eclecticism has in view 
chiefly the philosophy of the West. In the East, the same 
attitude brought about another movement which proved of 
great importance, the union, namely, of Oriental ele- 
ments with the stream of European thought. It was at 
Alexandria, again, that this tendency crystallized. Among 
the inhabitants of Alexandria there were a very large num- 
ber of Jewish colonists, who, by their activity and abilities, 
quickly made themselves a power. Among these exiles 
the Hellenizing tendencies, which, in opposition to ortho- 
dox Judaism, had very nearly won the day even in Pales- 
tine itself, had an opportunity to work out freely. As 
early as the third century a translation was made of the 
Hebrew scriptures into the Greek of the Septuagint, and 
a considerable literature sprang up in which Jewish views 
of life are modified by contact with Western ideas. Some 
of this is preserved among the books'of the Apocrypha. 

When, in the second century before Christ, the influence 
of the University at Alexandria waned, and many of the 
Greek professors left the city, the Hellenistic Jewish 
thought became the dominant intellectual force. And in 
Philo, a Jew of great learning and ability, a systematic 
attempt was made, about the beginning of the Christian era, 
to show the inner harmony between Plato and Moses, Jewish 
religious thought and Greek philosophy. This attempt gave 
evidence of a very considerable power of original thought, 
and influenced the future development alike of philosophy 
and of Christian doctrine. According to Philo's conception, 
God, like the monarch in the Oriental state, stands apart 
from the world in ineffable and unthinkable perfection, 
and has, accordingly, to be connected with actual things 
by a series of lesser, but more intelligible forms, which are 
regarded, sometimes as Platonic ideas, sometimes from the 
standpoint of the Old Testament angelology. These are 
somehow an offshoot from God's nature, without actually 

The Later Ethical Period 169 

belonging to it as component parts. The conception has 
its consummation in Philo's doctrine of the Logos the 
mediator of God's revelation of himself. The repugnance 
of the Hebrew scriptures to Greek conceptions was over- 
come by having recourse to an ingenious allegorical inter- 
pretation. And what Philo did for Jewish thought was 
being done in less systematic ways wherever East and 
West came in contact. 


Cicero, Philosophical Works (Bohn's Library). 
Schlirer, History of the Jewish People, 5 vols. 
Philo, Works (Bohn's Library). 
Drummond, Philo-Judceus, 2 vols. 
Mahaffy, Greek Life and Thought. 
Mahaffy, Silver Age of the Greek World. 


1 8. Introduction 

i. THE tendency which has just been described was in 
part accountable for, in part the outgrowth of, a new di- 
rection which was imparting itself to philosophic thought, 
and through which philosophy was passing from an ethical, 
to a religious or theosophic basis. Even where the 
Oriental influence was less strong, as in Stoicism, there 
had been a gradual modification. Stoicism in particular, 
among the philosophical schools of the period, had at- 
tempted to act the part of a substitute for religion, and to 
meet the needs for satisfying which the national religion 
had long sinqe lost any real capacity. Alongside the 
priest, who was absorbed in the ceremonial and political 
duties of his office, the philosopher was generally rec- 
ognized as the real spiritual guide of his time. He 
occupied a position similar in many respects to that of the 
modern clergyman. Peculiarities of dress and appearance 
his cloak and long beard marked him off from the 
rest of men. He was called on for advice in difficult 
moral problems. A philosopher was attached to many of 
the Roman families as a sort of family chaplain. He was 
called in along with the physician at a death-bed. The 
discourses which he was accustomed to deliver had a close 
analogy to the modern sermon, and, indeed, are historically 
related to it. 

Unfortunately, however, this close relation to the needs 
of life was continually in danger of becoming obscured in 
the history of the Stoic school. The theoretical and logi- 
cal interest which, in its origin, had been purely prepara- 
tory, and subservient to the ideal of character in the sage, 


The Religious Period 171 

tended to break loose from this practical aim, and to intro- 
duce a great deal of dry and unprofitable formalism into 
philosophical discussions. The public discourses, also, like 
the modern fashionable sermon, often came to sacrifice 
real edification to the desire for rhetorical or argumenta- 
tive display. And meanwhile a demand was growing 
more and more insistent for some cure for the ills of life, 
more thoroughgoing than philosophy, even at its best, was 
offering. The whole age was filled with a sense of spirit- 
ual unrest. The rapidly increasing corruption of the ruling 
class, the glaring contrasts of luxury and misery, the insecu- 
rity of life and property, the sense of world weariness which 
marked the passing away of moral enthusiasms, all brought 
home to men the feeling that the world was growing old, and 
that some catastrophe was impending. The new sense of 
sin and evil was fast outgrowing the ability of Stoicism to 
cope with. The ideal of virtue was felt by bitter experi- 
ence to lie beyond the reach of unaided human effort ; some 
higher power must intervene to save us, if we are to reach 

This deepened sense of need showed itself in one direc- 
tion by a change in Stoicism itself. In the later Stoics, 
such as Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus, we have 
a strong reaction against logical subtilties, and an impres- 
sive reaffirmation of the essentially practical nature of 
philosophy. But in this reaffirmation, a new emphasis is 
laid upon certain elements. The religious side becomes 
pronounced as it had not been before. Nature takes on 
more the character of a God whose sons men are, and with 
whom they can enter into an emotional relationship of love 
and gratitude. " We can be thankful to a friend for a few 
acres," says Seneca, " or a little money ; and yet for the 
freedom and command of the whole earth, and for the 
great benefits of our being, as life, health, and reason, we 
look upon ourselves as under no obligation. If a man be- 
stows upon us a house that is delicately beautified with 
painting, statues, gilding, and marbles, we make a mighty 

172 A Student's History of Philosophy 

business of it, and yet it lies at the mercy of a puff of wind, 
the snuff of a candle, and a hundred other accidents to lay 
it in the dust. And is it nothing now to sleep under the 
canopy of heaven, where we have the globe of the earth 
as our place of repose, and the glories of the heavens for 
our spectacle?" 1 

In like manner, as has been said, a more human feel- 
ing toward our fellows, which also connects itself closely 
with the religious motive, takes the place of the hard 
self-righteousness of the older Stoic. How shall we 
despise one another? Are not Alexander the Macedo- 
nian, and his groom, alike parts of nature, and brought 
to the same level by death ? Or why should we be angry 
with our fellow-men, and blame them for their injurious 
and evil deeds ? Nature is working in them with the 
same necessity as in every part of her domain, and we 
may as well be angry that thistles do not bring forth 
apples, or that every pebble on the ground is not an Ori- 
ental pearl. The immortal Gods are not vexed because 
during so long a time they must tolerate men continually ; 
and they in addition take care of them in every way. 
Shall you, whose life is so brief, become wearied of en- 
during the wicked, and that too when you yourself are one 
of them? Our nature is too closely bound up with the 
fabric of the universe to make it possible to adopt an 
attitude of antagonism toward our fellows. "A branch 
cut off from the adjacent branch must of necessity be cut 
off from the whole tree also. So, too, a man when he is 
separated from another man has fallen off from the whole 
social community. Now as to a branch, another cuts it 
off, but a man by his own act separates himself from his 
neighbor, when he hates him, and turns away from him ; 
and he does not know that he has at the same time cut 
himself off from the whole social system." 2 

2. It was outside of Stoicism, however, that the demands 
of the time were met most completely. The sense of guilt, 

1 Cf. Seneca, On Benefits, IV, 6. 2 M. Aurelius, XI, 8. 

The Religious Period 173 

the experience of the weakness of the human will for self- 
reformation, and the weariness which followed a long at- 
tempt to find salvation in the purely intellectual processes, 
apart from the feelings and emotions, all resulted in an 
immense impetus to the religious life, especially on its 
superstitious side. Adherents of the religions of the East 
poured into Rome, and gained converts and wealth on every 
side. Their ascetic practices, their fantastic mythologies, 
their mysterious purificatory rites, were grasped at eagerly in 
the vain hope of finding something on which to rest. Given 
a more articulate statement, these same Oriental and reli- 
gious tendencies found an expression in philosophy. The 
attempt at a combination of Eastern and Western thought 
from the Oriental side, by the Jew Philo, has already been 
mentioned ; the same attempt was made by Greeks as well. 
A point of departure was secured by going back to some of 
those aspects of the previous philosophy which the more 
recent ethical development had neglected. The earliest 
attempt centres about the name of Pythagoras a name 
which, by reason of the mythical haze by which it was sur- 
rounded, and the ascetic features which were attached to 
it, offered a convenient handle. A Neo-Pythagoreanism 
arose in Alexandria, as a half-religious sect with ascetic 
tendencies, to which belongs especially the name of the 
religious teacher and wonder-worker, Apollonitis of Tyana. 
But Pythagoras furnished no sufficient theoretical frame- 
work for a philosophy, and it was, accordingly, to Plato 
that the thought of the time more and more turned, as the 
highest source and authority for its philosophical stand- 
point. In Plutarch and Apuleius we have a position closely 
allied to that of the Neo-Pythagoreans ; it appeals, how- 
ever, to Plato rather than to Pythagoras, though without 
any great depth of insight, and with a large intermixture 
of magic and demonology. It is not till the third century 
A.D. that we have the culmination of the whole religious 
period, in the last great system of Greek thought Neo- 

174 A Student's History of Philosophy 


Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus. 

Apuleius, Works (Bohn's Library). 

Lucian, Dialogues. 

Plutarch, Morals. 

Tredwell, Life of Apollonius of Tyana. 

Mahaffy, Greek World under Roman Sway. 

19. Plotinus and Neo-Platonism 

Plotinus (204-269 A.D.), of Lycopolis in Egypt, came to 
Rome about 244, and taught philosophy there for twenty- 
five years. He was a disciple, at Alexandria, of Ammonius 
Saccus, who is sometimes reckoned as the founder of Neo- 
Platonism ; but the latter's fame is dwarfed beside that of 
his greater pupil. Plotinus had also come in contact with 
Persian ideas, having taken part in an expedition of the 
Emperor Gordian against that country, in which he barely 
escaped with his life. In Rome his success was pro- 
nounced, and he even included an emperor and an em- 
press among his disciples. 

I. The Doctrine of God. Neo-Platonism is a religious 
philosophy, and so connects itself with the consciousness of 
evil, and the felt need for salvation, which is characteristic of 
the age. It presupposes, therefore, a certain dualism in 
the ethical life. Such a dualism, and the ascetic tendency 
which flows from it, runs through most of the thought of 
the times, Christian as well as pagan. The consciousness 
of a moral struggle in ourselves reports itself metaphysi- 
cally as a division of the world into a good principle and a 
principle of evil. This dualism, in its most thoroughgoing 
form, is the basis of a number of Oriental philosophies of 
religion, the Persian, for example, in which the history 
of the world reduces itself to a contest between Ormuzd 
and Ahriman, God and the devil, light and darkness. 
Now, according to the psychology of the self which was 
current, the obvious interpretation of evil in ourselves is by 

The Religious Period 175 

reference to the dominance of those lower appetites more 
directly connected with the body; it was natural, there- 
fore, to find the root of evil in the body, i.e., in matter. 

This way of thinking came, in the course of time, to 
mark almost all the thought of the period. In some 
instances, as in the semi-Christian sect of the Manichaeans, 
the dualism is set up in the most extreme form ; and even 
where there is no desire to make it absolute, as in the case 
of the more orthodox Christian teachings, and in Neo- 
Platonism itself, the influence still makes its presence felt. 
There is a sense that matter is somehow evil, and that the 
flesh always and necessarily must war against the spirit. 
The only salvation, therefore, lies not in regulating our 
bodily desires, but in exterminating them ; in outgrowing 
the life of the senses and leaving it behind, while we find 
our blessedness in the pure life of the spirit, unsoiled by 
any taint of the body. Plotinus is said to have been 
ashamed that he had any body ; he would never name his 
parents, or remember his birthday. From the human side 
of life the side of feelings, emotions, and everyday 
activities all worth is thus taken away ; it is as nothing 
to the soul, the real self. The sensuous life is a mere 
stage play all the misery in it is only imaginary, all grief 
a mere cheat of the players. 

To find the theoretical justification for this, and to con- 
nect it with the doctrine of Plato, was comparatively a 
simple task. If it does not represent the whole of Plato, 
or even the best part of him, still there is much in his 
writings which lends itself to such a mode of thought. He, 
too, had disparaged the life of sense, and extolled the life 
of pure thought, or contemplation. For him the highest 
good had lain in a world transcending the world of matter. 
Matter was an unreal and untrue existence, a limit to the 
true being of the Idea. But this conception of Plato's is 
carried farther by the Neo-Platonists ; and as a result we 
have emerging a philosophical attitude which may perhaps 
best be described roughly by the term mysticism. God, 

176 A Student's History of Philosophy 

the highest reality, had still been for Plato the world of 
Ideas ; and the Ideas represent an intellectual and rational 
existence. But the intellect requires data to work upon ; 
it presupposes distinctions and differences, which it binds 
together into a unity of the whole : while the way in which 
Plato had on the whole tended to formulate the Idea had 
involved rather the dropping away of particulars, and finite 
distinctions, in order to get to the ultimate reality. The 
logical outcome of such a process of abstraction would 
really be simply that highest abstraction of all mere 
Being. Plato did not accept this result because, whatever 
the form in which his theory was cast, it did not represent 
the innermost motive of his thought. But in Plotinus the 
logical issue of the tendency stands revealed. God, ac- 
cordingly, becomes the infinite blank, before which all 
human thought is powerless. 

There is a way in which this might be interpreted, that 
would be very generally accepted, not only as true, but as 
a truism even. And this may perhaps confuse us as to 
the consequences and real significance of the conception. 
Expressed in religious terms, it might be made to mean 
that God is far beyond our perfect comprehension. We 
cannot, with our limited thought processes, exhaust the 
depths of His nature ; His goodness is unsearchable, and 
His ways past finding out; and we degrade Him when we 
confine Him within the boundaries represented by our 
finite notions of what the truth must be. But there are 
two meanings that may be attached to such words as 
these. We may mean, on the one hand, that our knowl- 
edge, though it may be real as far as it goes, is not ex- 
haustive ; that the relations under which we see the truth 
are but a small part of all the relations which would con- 
stitute it for a perfect intelligence ; and that, consequently, 
there are many things that we should see differently were 
we able to grasp the whole. Or, on the other hand, we 
may mean that intelligence itself is transcended in God ; 
that in His truth He is wholly unintelligible, wholly un- 

The Religious Period 177 

knowable, the infinite background marked by an utter 
absence of relations. We attain to Him, not by making 
our knowledge more complete, correcting what we know 
by a richer and deeper knowledge, but by giving up our 
attempt at comprehension, and allowing the distinct con- 
ceptions of the intellect to fade away into the haze of an 
immediate identity of feeling. 

It is this latter path which mysticism takes. To know 
God it is not enough, as with Plato, to get rid of the sen- 
suous and bodily life ; we must get rid of the intellect as 
well. We must separate ourselves from all things and 
be alone ; must cut loose from every definite fact that can 
occupy the mind, and reduce this to a blank. God thus 
lies beyond even the Idea itself. All we can say of Him 
is that He is the ultimate unity ; nay, we cannot say even 
so much as this, for in speaking of Him as unity, we are 
predicating an idea of Him, and so are limiting His abso- 
lute indeterminateness. God transcends everything that 
we can say or think. We cannot say so much as that He 
exists, for He transcends existence itself. He does not 
live, for it is He who gives life. He is not good, for He 
stands above goodness. He neither knows anything, nor 
has anything of which He is ignorant, for knowledge has 
no meaning in connection with His nature. We recognize 
Him only by a blind feeling of ' something real,' " as those 
who energize enthusiastically, and become divinely inspired, 
perceive, indeed, that they have something greater in 
themselves, though they do not know what it is." 1 The 
only truth is a negative truth; to reach Him we must 
abstract from all positive attributes. 

The result is, that no intellectual processes will bring us 
into that immediate contact with God which is salvation. 
The ultimate method of religion is not thought, but mystic 
contemplation, or feeling. The Neo-Platonist does not, 
indeed, as some mystics have done, despise the intellectual 
life, and attempt by a single leap to reach the consumma- 

1 Plotinus, V, 3, 14. 

178 A Student's History of Philosophy 

tion of identity with God. The cultivation of the intel- 
lectual insight is an essential task ; but there remains a 
step still to be taken. " The wizard king builds his tower 
of speculation by the hands of human workmen till he 
reaches the top story, and then summons his genii to 
fashion the battlements of adamant, and crown them with 
starry fire." 1 The final goal is that ecstasy in which all 
our finite personality, thought, and self-consciousness drop 
away, and we melt to a oneness with the Absolute, wherein 
no shade of difference enters. 

2. The Relation of God and the World. But now 
we seem to have reached a position which is not wholly 
consistent with the one from which we started. This final 
standpoint appears to be that of a pantheistic absorption 
of all things in the one Absolute, whereas we started, 
on the ethical side, with a dualism which sets matter 
as a principle of evil over against God. The same diffi- 
culty existed for Plato as well, and he never was able 
to account satisfactorily for there being such a thing as a 
material universe, in addition to the pure Ideas. With Neo- 
Platonism the difficulty is even greater. If all distinctions 
are essentially unreal, and the sole reality is the One, un- 
knowable and unapproachable, cloaked in ineffable noth- 
ingness, do we not seem by one stroke to have blotted out 
the whole universe of our experience as less even than a 
dream ? Is there any possible way of accounting even for 
the delusive appearance of its existence? The Platonist 
has the hard task of trying to reconcile the dualism which 
not only his ethical presuppositions, but the indubitable 
facts of life also, force upon him, with the unity for which, 
alike as a metaphysician and as a mystic, he is bound to 

In reality the task is an impossible one. So long as we 
admit the existence of finite experience in any sense, there 
is a flaw in the perfection of such an Absolute which no 
logic can overcome. But the Platonist conceals the impos- 

1 Vaughan, Hours -with the Mystics, I, 77. 

The Religious Period 179 

sibility by two considerations, which it seems to him help 
solve the problem. In the first place, he declares, with 
Plato, that this principle which lies at the basis of matter 
is not a positive something, but wholly negative. Matter 
is no substantial substratum out of which, as material, the 
world is built, but mere not-being, absence of being, a 
negative limit to reality. Evil, therefore, is not, as the Man- 
ichaeans, e.g., thought, a substantial fact standing over 
against the good as a positive constituent of the world. 
Just in so far as a thing is, as it partakes of reality, it is 
good ; it is evil or material only in so far as it is not, in 
so far as it lacks being. But while verbally this seems to 
make evil and matter nothing at all, it is still a positive 
sort of nothing. Why, otherwise, should not all reality be 
wholly positive, as God is, and possess no lack ? The not- 
being which constitutes evil evidently stands opposed to 
the good as a real limit which infects its perfection, and 
the dualism, however attenuated it may appear, is still a 
stubborn fact. 

But there is another device still which is characteristic 
of the Neo-Platonist philosophy. The feeling is wide- 
spread throughout the attempts at religious philosophiz- 
ing to which the period gives rise, that the gap between 
God and matter can be bridged over, if we can introduce 
a graduated scale of existence, connecting the two ex- 
tremes by a series of smaller differences. In the Logos 
doctrine of Philo, the countless aeons of the Christian 
Gnostics, the demonology of Plutarch and others of the 
Greeks, we have such attempts to mediate between the 
supreme God, and those facts of the material world which 
are thought to be unworthy of him. Of course, theoreti- 
cally, there is not the slightest advantage which a small 
gap has over a large one ; the difficulty is that there should 
be any gap at all. Still it is a help to the imagination 
if the transition can be made less noticeable. And the 
delegation of the responsibility for imperfections to some 
lesser and derived power provides a makeshift which, 

180 A Student's History of Philosophy 

temporarily at least, seems to render it possible to retain, 
along with these imperfections, the notion of perfection 

In Neo-Platonism this takes the form of a theory of 
Emanation. Finite existence is accounted for as a pro- 
gressive falling away from an original perfection. Of 
course the ground of this downward passage is ultimately 
unexplainable ; but granting that its reality is required to 
account for the facts of existence, we may by the use of 
metaphor shadow it forth to ourselves partially and ob- 
scurely. It cannot be regarded as a partition of the origi- 
nal unity, for that is no sum of parts ; it is an indivisible 
whole, which still abides in its completeness. The process 
may more truly be compared to the gleaming of a bright 
body, to the radiation of the sun, to a cup which eter- 
nally overflows because its contents are infinite and can- 
not be confined within it. The figure of light is the one 
which on the whole is least inadequate. As light shines 
into the darkness and illuminates it, without at the same 
time suffering in its own existence, so the workings of the 
Eternal One overflow from its central being, without thereby 
lessening in any degree the reality of^their source. And 
as the brightness of the light decreases continually in in- 
tensity, until it loses itself in the surrounding darkness, so 
the power of the Absolute expresses itself in more and 
more diluted form in the hierarchy of the phenomenal 
world. In general, this hierarchy is represented by the 
three stages of mind or rational spirit, soul, and body. 
Each stage has a dual aspect. On the one hand it looks 
toward, and is constituted by, the truer reality in the scale 
of being above ; it is an imitation of this, as the spoken 
words imitate or represent the thought in the mind. On 
the other hand, it serves to carry on the working of this 
reality to the next lower stage. The material world is the 
lowest stage of all an image in an image, the shadow of 
a shadow, where the negative element, not-being, reaches 
its maximum. Still it is not positively evil ; it is evil only 

The Religious Period 181 

in so far as it is not. All the reality which it possesses is 
due to the working of spirit, and in so far as it is at all, 
it is good. 

In this way Plotinus finds a suggestion for the first sys- 
tematic attempt at a metaphysics of beauty, a special phi- 
losophy of aesthetics. Beauty is the shining through of 
the spiritual reality, in the material forms whose truth this 
reality constitutes. And this tempers the asceticism of 
Plotinus. " To despise the world, and the Gods, and other 
beautiful natures that are contained in it, is not to become 
a good man. He who loves anything is delighted with 
everything which is allied to the object of his love ; for you 
also love the children of the father whom you love. But 
every soul is the daughter of the father of the universe." * 
" His mind must be dull and sluggish in the extreme, and 
incapable of being incited to anything else, who, in see- 
ing all the beautiful objects of the sensible world, all this 
symmetry and great arrangement of things, and the form 
apparent in the stars, though so remote, is not from this 
view mentally agitated, and does not venerate them as 
admirable productions of still more admirable causes." 2 

3. The Process of Salvation. As the phenomenal 
world has its being in this falling away from the Abso- 
lute, so there remain in it traces of its lost estate, and 
the longing to return to its original perfection. This 
return forms the substance of the ethical and religious 
life. We must rid ourselves of the restrictions of mat- 
ter, and, rising above the realm of the particular and finite, 
retrace our steps toward God. In general, the process 
consists in penetrating to the universal ideas which 
underlie the world of phenomena, and so accustoming 
the soul to its own proper food. "The soul perceives 
temperance and justice in the intellection of herself, and 
of that which she formerly was, and views them like 
statues established in herself which through time have 
become covered with rust. These she then purifies, just 

1 Plotinus, II, 9, 1 6. a Ibid. 

1 82 A Student's History of Philosophy 

as if gold were animated, and, in consequence of being 
incrusted with earth, not perceiving itself to be gold, 
should be ignorant of itself ; but afterward, shaking off 
the earth which adheres to it, should be filled with admira- 
tion in beholding itself pure and alone." 1 This is neces- 
sarily a slow process. The soul is like "children who, 
immediately torn from their parents, and for a long time 
nurtured at a great distance from them, become ignorant 
both of themselves and their parents ;" 2 and so it does not 
respond at once. It is not fitted for the sudden burst of 
light which marks the final vision, and so it must be prepared 
by degrees, through the contemplation of beautiful objects, 
beautiful sentiments, beautiful actions, beautiful souls. 
" All that tends to purify and elevate the mind will assist 
in this attainment, and there are three different roads by 
which the end may be reached. The love of beauty which 
exalts the poet, that devotion to the one and that ascent 
of science which makes the ambition of the philosopher, 
and that love and those prayers by which some devout 
and ardent soul tends in its moral purity toward perfec- 
tion these are the great highways conducting to that 
height above the actual and the particular, where we stand 
in the immediate presence of the infinite, who shines out 
as from the deeps of the soul." 3 

But in all this the soul must be on its guard continually 
not to remain entangled in mere particulars. This consti- 
tutes the imperfection of the life of moral conduct as an ulti- 
mate end. In a good deed there is implicit a certain univer- 
sal value ; but it is only ascetic contemplation which is able 
to free this ideal fact from the unessentials in which it is 
immersed. As Ulysses from the magician Circe, we must 
flee to our native land, and abandon wholly this dangerous 
realm. The love of God means the giving up of all 
earthly loves. And when one has seen God face to face, 
he cares for no minor beauties. As one who, entering 

1 Plotinus, IV, 7, 10. 2 V, I, I. 

8 Vaughan, Hours with the Mystics, Vol. I, p. 81. 

The Religious Period 183 

into the interior of the adytum, leaves behind all the 
statues in the temple, or as those who enter the sanctu- 
aries purify themselves, laying aside their garments, and 
enter naked, so should the soul approach its goal. " This, 
therefore, is the life of the Gods, and of divine and happy 
men a liberation from all terrene affairs, a life unac- 
companied with human pleasures, a flight of the alone 
to the alone." J An immortality in the ordinary sense is 
only a denial of true life ; " a resurrection with body is a 
transmigration from sleep to sleep, like a man passing in 
the dark from bed to bed." 2 The true goal is only reached 
when the soul loses all thought, desire, and activity, all 
individual life, in an ecstasy of immediate union with God. 
" This is the true end of the soul, to come into contact 
with his light, and to behold him through it, not by the 
light of another thing, but to perceive that very thing 
itself through which it sees." 3 In this ' darkness which 
transcends all gnostic illumination,' it does not see an- 
other, but becomes one with God, absorbed, conjoining 
centre with centre. 

4. Later Neo-Platonism. The spiritualization of the 
world in which Neo-Platonism results, and the absence of 
any adequate feeling for natural law, opened the way for an 
appeal to non-physical agencies in the explanation of events, 
which might easily become fantastic ; and among the suc- 
cessors of Plotinus this is what took place. The world 
becomes a great hierarchy of souls Gods, demons, men, 
and the mystical affinities and relationships between 
souls, which find expression in divination, astrology, and 
magical rites, tend to take the place of sober investigation. 
Jamblicus, the founder of Syrian Neo-Platonism, has a 
special connection with this tendency. 

Historically, this last outcome of Greek thought gets 
an importance through making itself the champion of 
Paganism, in the now losing struggle which this was carry- 
ing on with Christianity. The struggle was wholly unsuc- 

i Plotinus, VI, 9, 1 1. 2 In , 6, 6. V, 3, 17. 

184 A Student's History of Philosophy 

cessf ul. The future belonged to Christianity ; philosophy 
could hope to survive, not by antagonizing it, and joining 
forces with its rival, but by accepting the new and vig- 
orous contribution which it was making to the life of the 
world, and moulding this into its own forms. For a 
moment Paganism seemed to have a chance of success, 
when the Emperor Julian, called by Christians the Apos- 
tate a man trained in the school of the Neo-Platonists 
attempted to reverse the verdict of history. But a half- 
sentimental regret for the beauty of the pagan past was 
no match for the living forces of the present ; and at the 
death of Julian his plans came to nothing. The last 
refuge of Neo-Platonism was the Academy at Athens, in 
connection with which the name of Proclus is the most 
important But in 529 A.D. the Academy was closed by 
order of the Emperor Justinian, the teaching of heathen 
philosophy was forbidden, and the philosophers driven 

into exile. 



Vaughan, Hours with the Mystics. 
Plotinus, Enneads (Bohn's Library). 
Whittaker, The Neo-Platonists. 
Bigg, Neo-Platonism. 

20. Christianity. The Church Fathers. Augustine 

i. The new power which thus seemed to have sup- 
planted the old was, in its inception, not a philosophy, but 
a life. Questions of theory occupied the early disciples 
but little ; belief in God, and the influence of the dominant 
personality of Christ in renewing the life of the soul and 
shaping it into His own likeness, were the central features 
of the new religion. The evidences of acceptance with 
God were the fruits of love, peace, righteousness, not a 
belief in any set of doctrines. 

The Religious Period 185 

Originally, then, Christianity had no conscious depend- 
ence on philosophical thought. And among many of the 
early fathers, as, for example, Tertullian, there was a disposi- 
tion to be openly hostile to the encroachments of philosophy, 
or reason, as opposed to the purity and simplicity of faith 
in the gospel. Nevertheless, if Christianity was to con- 
tinue to expand, its coming under the influence of Greek 
forms of thought was a foregone conclusion. As converts 
began to come in from the Gentile world, they would bring 
with them inevitably their former modes of thinking. 
Some of them, like Justin Martyr, had been philosophers 
before they became Christians. They had sought for 
truth as Stoics, and Peripatetics, and Pythagoreans ; and 
now that they had found the goal of their seeking in the 
religion of Christ, they could not but look at this in terms 
of the problems they had previously been trying to solve, 
and regard it as the true philosophy, as well as the true 
life. The necessity for justifying themselves to the heathen 
world would lead in the same direction. 

Of course there was danger in this. In many cases the 
theoretical interest began to overshadow the practical, even 
sometimes to displace it. By a very considerable body of 
Christians, the essential thing came to be looked upon, 
not as a Christ-like character, but as a superior and eso- 
teric knowledge (gnosis\ which was really only a philos- 
ophy, constructed, though more fantastically, along the 
lines of Neo-Pythagoreanism and Neo-Platonism. The 
Christian tinge was sometimes merely nominal. This 
attempt by Gnosticism to capture the new religion in the 
interests of Graeco-Oriental philosophy, constituted one 
of the earliest and gravest dangers to the Church, which 
was only averted after many years of stubborn controversy. 
But although the Gnostics were defeated, they left their 
mark upon their antagonists. The Church never went back 
to the primitive form of undogmatic Christianity which 
had represented its early type ; orthodoxy became identi- 
fied with a middle course between the two extremes. It 

1 86 A Student's History of Philosophy 

rejected such doctrines as were inconsistent with the 
genius of Christianity ; but it began, nevertheless, to lay 
greater stress upon doctrinal agreement and theoretical 

For this work it had of necessity to make use of the 
intellectual tools which Greek philosophy had forged. 
There was a more conscious use of these in some cases 
than in others. In Alexandria, especially, where philo- 
sophical traditions were strong, there arose a school of 
philosophical theologians, of which Origen (185-254) is 
the most important representative. These attempted 
with clear insight, and very considerable ability, to Plato- 
nize theology. And even when theology supposed it was 
dispensing with the help of philosophy, it was still de- 
pendent upon it at every step. From one point of view 
this involved a loss to Christianity. The substitution of 
dogma for the free spirit of devotion, which finds the end 
of the religious life in a personal love and service, went 
along necessarily with a certain lowering of the standard, 
and misplacement of emphasis. But still the change 
could hardly have been avoided, if Christianity was to do 
the work it actually succeeded in doing. As time went 
on, the whole character of the Church altered. It became, 
of course, larger and more unwieldy. Instead of the little 
groups of earnest disciples, fully permeated by the spirit 
of the Gospel, there began to flock to it, attracted by its 
growing success, a multitude of men who were only super- 
ficially affected by their new professions. Later on, when 
the Empire fell, it was the Church which more and more 
was compelled to assume many of the civil functions of 
society, if anarchy was to be averted. Under these con- 
ditions, nothing but a strong ecclesiastical organization, and 
a definitely formulated creed, could have held the Church 
together as a single catholic body ; and without such a 
unity its work could not have been done. The Church 
creed preserved Christianity on a distinctly lower level 
than was represented in primitive Apostolic times, but 

The Religious Period 187 

it did preserve it. It formed a standard of belief and a 
rallying-point which was definite and objective, and which, 
by bringing to bear a strong authority, prevented the 
breaking up of the new faith into a multitude of jarring 
local sects. 

2. This creation of an orthodox body of doctrine was no 
immediate result, but a work which extended through 
several centuries. During this time the Church had to 
meet and conquer numerous heresies tendencies, that is, 
which afterward were pronounced heresies by their vic- 
torious opponents, though there were moments when it 
seemed that they might themselves conquer and be ac- 
cepted as the orthodox opinion. In the long run, however, 
the Church was led to avoid such dogmas as were incon- 
sistent with the work marked out for it. If now we com- 
pare the standpoint which finally became fixed as the 
standpoint of the Church, with the purely philosophical 
development of Neo-Platonism which falls within the same 
general period, we shall find that while the two were en- 
gaged in general with much the same problems, their 
answers naturally differ in considerable degree. 

Christian theology of course agrees with Neo-Platonism 
in being a religious philosophy a philosophy dealing 
with God and His relation to the world, the nature of sin, or 
evil, and the way of salvation. They agree, furthermore, in 
that both find the source of knowledge, not in the discur- 
sive exercise of reason, but rather in an immediate revela- 
tion. But here they tend to separate. For the Platonist, 
the revelation is the one which comes directly to the phi- 
losopher in those moments of ecstasy in which his soul 
becomes identical with the divine being itself. This recog- 
nition of the side of immediate experience is also found, 
it is true, in Christianity, in the doctrine of the Holy 
Spirit ; and in Christian mysticism a direct Neo-Platonist 
influence continues even until modern times. But circum- 
stances compelled the Church to emphasize rather the fact 
of a single historical revelation. In the primitive Church, 

1 88 A Student's History of Philosophy 

where conditions were freer, and the spiritual life more 
spontaneous, the claims to inspiration were common, and 
prophets, teachers, and apostles were numerous. But even 
here a dangerous license began to show itself; and the 
farther Christianity got away from the original source, 
the more the need of some commonly accepted standard 
became evident. That standard could be nothing but con- 
formity with the teachings of Christ and His immediate 
disciples. Accordingly, the insistence upon the authority 
of a definite historical revelation in the past came to be 
more and more the position of the orthodox body of Chris- 
tians. This was mediated at first by oral tradition ; and 
then, as time made tradition less reliable, by a gradually 
formed canon of sacred writings, that were believed to go 
back to Apostles and eye-witnesses. And when now the 
Montanists claimed the right to do just what the early 
Church had done, and to supplement this historical author- 
ity by the immediate testimony of prophetic inspiration, 
the attempt was recognized as dangerously lawless, and 
condemned as a heresy. 

The problem of evil also reached its orthodox solution 
only after continued controversy. In the various heretical 
sects, nearly every current answer to the problem was 
reproduced, down to the baldest dualism of the good and 
evil principle. The temptation to find the root of evil in 
matter was very strong. Nowhere was the antagonism 
between the life of the flesh and the life of the spirit 
more pronounced than in the experience of Christians, or 
the necessity more keenly felt of mortifying the deeds of 
the body for the salvation of the soul. But the central fact 
of the Incarnation, along with a feeling for the dignity and 
the infinitude of God, caused the Church to reject all attempts 
to regard matter as essentially evil. The stronger sense 
of sin which characterized the Christian consciousness 
kept it also from being satisfied with the Neo-Platonist 
doctrine of evil as mere privation, or absence of reality. 
Christianity found a solution, instead, in the moral realm, 

The Religious Period 189 

by having recourse to the freedom of the will. God created 
all finite beings good, even the very devil ; but He gave 
them the power to choose for themselves. By falling away 
from God and choosing evil, they have perverted the pow- 
ers which might have brought them blessedness. Evil is 
thus the fault of the creature, not of the creator. It is 
true that along with this there was a good deal of practical 
dualism. The tendency to regard the body as naturally 
evil and apart from God, and the ascetic life resulting from 
such a conception, gained a firm foothold in the Church, 
and became invested with an odor of superior sanctity. 
But this feeling did not succeed in getting itself expressed 
consistently in the form of dogma. On the contrary, in 
the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, the Church 
definitely cut loose from the Neo-Platonic conception of 
blessedness as a complete emancipation from the bodily 
life. By including the body within the scope of salvation, 
it admitted this as an essential part of man's nature, and, 
therefore, potentially at least, as sacred. 

By rejecting dualism, Christianity was left the problem 
of reconciling the existence of the phenomenal world with 
the absolute nature of God; and here also its attitude is 
opposed to that of Neo-Platonism. The combining of a 
refusal to regard the world as an independent and eternal 
existence opposed to God, with the refusal to make it either 
a part of God Himself, or an emanation from His being, 
gave rise to the orthodox theory of the creation of the 
world out of nothing. In this way the world can be looked 
upon as dependent wholly upon God's power, and yet as 
not in any sense identical with Him. This latter pan- 
theistic standpoint the Church consistently frowned 
upon, in spite of the fact that the philosophical frame- 
work of its theology, in so far as it was taken from the 
Greeks, was all the time drawing it in that direction. 
But counteracting this logical compulsion, and counter- 
acting it for the most part successfully, there was another 
factor which the influence of Christianity had much to 

190 A Student's History of Philosophy 

do in raising to a position of importance the feeling for 

In early times, as has been said, the individual had been 
largely swallowed up in the community life. The tribe or 
state, as representing this, had stood before his vision as 
supreme, and his own rights and importance as nothing in 
comparison with the whole to which he belonged. The 
Sophists had broken up this unity, and had set the private 
individual over against the state ; but they had made the 
separation too violent, and so their work had been only 
negative and revolutionary. The same general outcome was 
brought about now in connection with the Roman state. The 
early Roman, in a peculiarly pronounced way, lived his 
whole life with reference to the Republic, and made the 
glory of his country the main end of all his labor. But 
now that the heroic days of Rome were over, the negative 
tendencies of philosophy again had a chance to assert 
themselves. The young and vigorous Republic might 
seem an end to which it was worth while for a man to 
devote his life ; an Empire, luxurious and corrupt, where 
the will of a single man was supreme, and that man often 
a monster of iniquity and madness, could not continue to 
arouse the enthusiasm necessary to give it a place among 
rational motives and ideals. Meanwhile the rule of Rome 
appeared so inevitable, that any other and worthier national 
life to take its place seemed hopeless. The individual man 
was thrown back upon himself, and a demand was set up 
for a satisfaction which should come home to him singly 
and personally. 

In the case of the few to whom belonged strength 
and the assurance of success, this showed itself in an un- 
bridled egoism and self-seeking. But for the mass of men, 
for whom the prizes of life were out of reach, some more 
definite philosophy was needed. The hopelessness of the 
outlook, however, reported itself in the prevalent severity 
and rigor of the ideal. In Stoicism, and in the asceticism 
of the religious tendencies, there is the same inability to 

The Religious Period 191 

get any positive and hopeful content into life. Since man 
must needs suffer, let him make a virtue of necessity. Let 
him cease striving for the happiness which is beyond his 
reach, and take what satisfaction he can in his power to do 
without. Meanwhile such a conception could not attract to 
itself any great enthusiasm, and it was too negative to set in 
motion forces that should influence powerfully the life of 
mankind at large. The natural desire of men in general 
was for a warmer and more comforting ideal ; they were not 
ready to abandon the dream of happiness. Vague hopes 
began to stir of a deliverer who should come to raise the 
burden of the poor, and introduce a new and better era 
hopes which found expression here and there in slave insur- 
rections. But still the repressive and ascetic ideal did help 
to deepen the feeling of individuality. It called forth the 
sense of power and responsibility in the man who thus was 
bending all his energies to crushing out his desires and 
passions; and in this way it cleared the path for a more 
positive meaning to personality. 

Such a content to the individual life Christianity brought. 
Here, also, there was repression and conflict; but it was no 
longer a hopeless conflict, ending with itself. Man crushed 
out the old self, only that God might enter and bring a 
more abounding life. The feelings no longer were starved ; 
they were set free, and stimulated to the utmost. And 
with this appeal to his emotional life, the value of man 
as such was felt as it had not been before. The concep- 
tion of God as a potentate, to be approached only through 
rites and ceremonies which were primarily a state matter, 
gave place to the thought of Him as a father, in direct 
contact with each of His children. And when God could 
reveal Himself immediately to the humblest man, when He 
loved him, and was seeking for his love in return, and 
eager for his salvation, then not simply humanity in the large, 
but each individual man, became a thing of infinite worth. 
Wherever this conception really came home to men, it 
worked an immediate and a vast change in all the ideals 

1 92 A Student's History of Philosophy 

of society. The artificial barriers of rich and poor, slave 
and free, noble and common, became a thing of no impor- 
tance. A new respect for human life grew up amid the 
almost incredible callousness of the Roman world. Hope 
and confidence took the place of despair, or a forced un- 
concern ; the goodness of God, and the worth of the 
human soul, must in the end lead to happiness. 

With the new sense of active life and moral agency 
which this involved, the vague pantheism of past philoso- 
phies was no longer felt to be satisfactory. Man's life 
could no longer be wholly absorbed in the divine life. 
Man is a being created in the image of God, who may 
even oppose himself to God, as the fact of sin shows. It 
is in this personal relationship that the very essence of 
his religious life consists, and must always consist. Per- 
sonal immortality, which in Greek philosophy had either 
been rejected outright or held with much hesitation, be- 
comes a fundamental article of the Christian creed. The 
same thing, also, determines the doctrine of God. In 
order to render possible that intimate relationship which 
is the core of the religious life, God also must be conceived, 
not as the abstraction of Neo-Platonism, above all definite 
conceptions, the conception of personality included, but a 
true self, whom men can call Father. All things flow from 
Him, not by any fatalistic law of necessity, but in accord- 
ance with His intelligent purpose, and by an act of free 

3. The process by which, under the influence of such 
dominant ideas, the fluid beliefs of the early Church were 
gradually shaped into a highly complex dogmatic system, 
belongs to the history of theology ; it is necessary only to 
say a word about the last and greatest of the Fathers to 
whom this shaping was due. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 
marks the transition between the constructive period of 
Christian thought, and the long period of the Middle Ages, 
when dogma had become fixed, and no freedom was allowed 
the mind outside the narrow limits of an ecclesiastical sys- 

The Religious Period 193 

tern. Augustine is not only one of the great thinkers of 
the world, but he also has a particularly interesting per- 
sonality a personality of which we know a great deal 
through his own Confessions. He was born in Africa, in 
354 A.D. His mother was a woman of great strength of 
character, and a devoted adherent of Catholic Christianity ; 
and it came to be her one aim in life to see her son a Chris- 
tian also. For many years this wish did not seem likely 
to be fulfilled. Augustine's youth in the corrupt city of 
Carthage made him familiar with a life of dissipation ; and 
the ambition which his brilliant intellectual gifts justified, 
turned him to secular pursuits. He became a rhetorician, 
and after leaving Carthage practised for a time in Rome, 
and then in Milan. Meanwhile he had discovered an 
aptitude for philosophy, and had made himself familiar 
to a considerable extent with philosophic thought. At an 
early age he was attracted by the Manichaeans, and their 
solution of the problem of evil. But from the first he felt 
the crudity of their metaphysics, and while it was some 
time before he was ready definitely to reject their doc- 
trines, his further intellectual development carried him 
continually away from them. In Milan he came under the 
influence of Ambrose, whose preaching made a profound 
impression on him. Finally, after a violent struggle against 
the complete self-abnegation which seemed to him to be 
demanded by Christianity, he passed through an experi- 
ence which led him once for all to abandon his old life. 
Thereafter, till his death as Bishop of Hippo in 430, he 
devoted his time and abilities wholly to the service of the 
Church and Catholic Christianity. 

In Augustine we find two strains of thought opposing 
each other. As a philosopher and he was a philosopher 
before he was a theologian he anticipates in a remark- 
able way the standpoint of modern thought. The modern 
movement, beginning with Descartes, which turns away 
from objective knowledge as a starting-point, and comes 
back to the self as the clew to the interpretation of reality, 

194 ^ Student's History of Philosophy 

finds its counterpart, often very exact, in Augustine's writ- 
ings. Augustine even goes beyond Descartes by the empha- 
sis which he places on the nature of the self as an active will, 
in opposition to the intellectualism which had characterized 
ancient philosophy. The freedom of the will, accordingly, 
assumes a prominent place in his earlier thought. 

But in this purely philosophical tendency, Augustine 
was too far in advance of his age to have any immediate 
effect. What the peculiar needs of the time demanded was 
something quite different. It was, therefore, the second 
tendency in Augustine which became the dominant and im- 
portant one, both in its influence on the Church, and in his 
own development. For the present, the need was for author- 
ity, and this authority the Church alone was in a position 
to exercise. The Roman mind was by nature of the legal 
type. It tended to think of God, not as working in a world 
akin to him, by coming home to the lives and consciences 
of men ; but as a judge and lawgiver, promulgating a defi- 
nite constitution and definite enactments, and holding men 
rigidly to obedience under pain of punishment. 

Such a forensic conception made necessary a definite 
mediator between God and man an institution which 
should act as conservator of God's interests on earth. And 
this need for a Church possessing a clearly defined body 
of doctrine, guaranteed by an external authority, grew all 
the time greater, the more the weakness of the Empire 
became apparent, and the danger from the inroads of bar- 
barians increased. This alone could preserve men from 
intellectual anarchy during a period which neither produced 
the ability, nor offered the external opportunity, for an 
attainment of truth by the individual ; this alone could pre- 
sent the objective organization and prestige to stand up 
against the social anarchy which was impending. Both of 
these things appealed powerfully to Augustine himself. 
He also had experienced the impotency of reason, and had 
passed from one stage of thought to another, until he had 
reached at one time a more or less complete Academic 

The Religious Period 195 

scepticism. The ideal of a Church which offered an 
infallible system of doctrine, based upon authority, and 
satisfying his religious needs, attracted him, as it has many 
others since. On the other hand, the outer splendor and 
impressiveness of the Milan Church also affected a mind 
by nature ambitious and eager for a career. Accordingly, 
when, as Bishop of Hippo, he himself had reached a posi- 
tion of authority, we find Augustine the philosopher be- 
come Augustine the theologian, and devoting all the 
powers of his mind to the support of the Church whose 
authority he was to help establish securely for future ages. 
This new standpoint involved more or less collision with 
the old. If the Church is to be the absolute mediator 
between God and man, the emphasis can no longer rest 
on the subjective side, or on the idea of man as a free will. 
If God reveals himself directly in the consciousness of the 
individual, who has the power freely to assent to the reve- 
lation or reject it, the importance of the Church as an organ- 
ization is entirely secondary. The doctrine that there is 
salvation only within the limits of the Church is a necessity, 
if its authority is to be maintained. Augustine is not ready 
to deny outright the principle of free will, but he limits its 
application in such a way as practically to transform it 
into determinism. The first man Adam was, indeed, free ; 
he had the power to choose what course he pleased. But 
having thus saved his general principle, Augustine can go 
on to deny freedom elsewhere. By his apostasy from God, 
Adam corrupted human nature, and the race lost its power of 
free action. Henceforth man is predetermined to sin, and 
cannot possibly escape from its power, save by the super- 
natural aid of God's grace. This grace comes only through 
the Church, by the rite of baptism. Accordingly the Church 
has the key to salvation, and none outside its organization 
can hope to escape the condemnation deserved by their guilt. 
But if freedom is denied to man, it is asserted all the more 
strongly of God, in the doctrine of election. God chooses 
to save certain men and damn others, solely because He 

196 A Student's History of Philosophy 

wills to do so, without reference to any merit on their 

In the City of God, Augustine formulates his view of 
the Church in the most elaborate philosophy of history 
that had ever been attempted. All history is regarded 
as a conflict between the earthly city, which belongs to the 
children of the world, and the City of God, the Church 
a drama to end in the final victory and felicity of the 
saints. Already Rome had been sacked by the Goths, and 
its glory was nearing a close. The prophetic vision of a 
triumphant theocracy filled Augustine's mind, and like 
many another prophecy, it helped to bring about its own 
fulfilment. It is the Church which is to be the dominant 
factor in the next period of human history. 


Donaldson, Critical History of Christian Literature and Doctrine. 

Bigg, Christian Platonists of Alexandria. 

Allen, Continuity of Christian Thought. 

Mansel, Gnostic Heresies. 

Augustine, Confessions, City of God. 

Harnack, History of Dogma. 

Hatch, Hibbert Lectures. 

Fisher, History of Christian Doctrine. 


21. Introduction 

NOT long after Augustine's death, the Roman Empire 
fell, and we enter upon a new era in the history of the 
world and of thought. What is the general character and 
significance of this period ? 

1. The Greek Element. Our modern thought is a com- 
pound into which three main elements enter. The frame- 
work of our thought, the concepts and ideas which we use, 
come to us largely from the Greeks. It was the business 
of the long development of Greek speculation to frame 
these conceptions, on the basis of which every future phi- 
losophy was to build. But philosophy is not simply an 
exercise of intellectual comprehension. It grows out of 
the needs of human life, and can only get its final justifi- 
cation as it succeeds in organizing this, and making it 
effective. And here the Greeks may be said to have 
failed. All the Greek philosophizing could not prevent 
the break-up of Greek social and political life ; indeed, 
philosophy was one of the elements which hastened this 
dissolution. And the Greeks had not the necessary poli- 
tical genius to enable them to work out a practical substi- 
tute for the forms which were proving inadequate. 

2. The Roman Element. This lack was supplied by 
the Roman. However he might be wanting in intellectual 
subtilty, the Roman was preeminently fitted to impress 
upon the world the value and the reality of government 
and law. The principle of authority ran through his life 


198 A Student's History of Philosophy 

the authority of husband over wife, of father over son, 
of master over slave, of state over citizen. And while the 
outcome was often harsh and forbidding in appearance, 
yet the rule of blood and iron was the only means of 
reducing the world to at least a measure of order. 

The result of this genius for organization passed over to 
later times, even after the Empire itself had fallen. To the 
Roman is largely due that external framework of society and 
government, without which the spiritual side of civilization 
would be impossible. The most important form in which 
this inheritance was transmitted, was that combination of 
Roman practical efficiency with Greek philosophy, which 
resulted in Roman law. The Stoics, it will be remembered, 
had reached the conception of a law of nature, binding upon 
all men alike ; and of a consequent cosmopolitanism, which 
recognized the essential equality of all men as expressions of 
the universal reason working throughout the universe. This 
conception had important results by being brought into con- 
tact with practical legislation. As the power of Rome gradu- 
ally extended, there grew up, alongside the civil law, the 
so-called jus gentium, which governed her relation to those 
who were not citizens. It was the policy of Rome to bring 
all her subjects under a common law, but at the same time 
to make this broad and tolerant in its provisions, and to leave 
local customs as much as possible unchanged. The jus 
gentium, accordingly, was made up largely of those ele- 
ments common to the laws of different countries, which 
were sifted out in the interests of simplicity and uniformity. 

In this way there arose, alongside the ordinary Roman 
procedure, the idea of a more common and universal law; 
and under the influence of Stoic thought, this came to 
assume a position of special importance. As opposed to the 
particular, and more or less conventional enactments due 
to local or temporary conditions, it came to be regarded 
as the law of nature, universal, binding upon all by the 
original constitution of man's being, and recognized by 
him intuitively as such. This conception had a very con- 

The Middle Ages 199 

siderable influence in rendering possible a more rational 
and scientific treatment of legislation. In particular, it 
gave the theoretical basis for that codification of the laws 
of the Empire, represented in the Justinian and in other 
codes, which still remains the legal groundwork of our 
modern life. 

3. The Christian Element. The work of the Romans 
was thus the work of embodying in actual institutions 
the ideas which, for the Greek philosophers, had been 
mere theory. While, however, by their political genius 
they performed a service of the greatest value for civ- 
ilization, in the system of law and government by which 
they welded society together, in one essential element 
they were lacking. Roman civilization tended too much 
to overbear and suppress the individual, and so to fur- 
nish no motive power for growth and progress. It was 
necessary to have not only the external forms of society, 
but a sense of the value of human endeavor which should 
make these forms living and significant. Man must be 
revealed to himself at his true worth, and be given an 
inspiration which should set him to work. This needed 
emphasis on the subjective side, on the development of the 
personal life of the man himself in its completeness, as 
the only security for the stability and growth of the social 
whole, Christianity came in to supply. By its appeal to 
the feelings, it set free the latent forces of man's nature ; 
and by directing these in the channels of a life which at 
once looked toward God, and expressed itself in love and ser- 
vice to man, it created a wholly new sense of the value of 
the individual. It did not isolate and narrow man's life 
as if it were something complete in itself, but related it to 
the life of all men, through their common relation to God. 

It is true that this ideal of Christianity was more or less 
unstable. It depended too much upon an appeal to the 
emotions, which necessarily lost something of their force 
as time went on. There was lacking the definite intellec- 
tual grasp, and the concrete institutional forms, to direct 

2OO A Students History of Philosophy 

the emotional life, and give consistency and permanency 
to its workings. Consequently Christianity needed sup- 
plementing by the contributions which Greece and Rome 
had to offer. It took many centuries for this union to 
become a vital one, and often in the meantime the charac- 
teristic spirit of Christianity seemed on the point of dying 
out. But its influence never was completely lost in the 
darkest ages, and under more favorable conditions it was 
destined to contribute to modern life and thought some 
of their most essential features. 

4. The German Element. There is still a fourth 
element which enters into modern life the Teutonic. 
The contribution which it makes, however, is not so 
much any new idea, as the human material in which 
the Roman, Greek, and Christian contributions were to 
be brought together and realized. The problem of the 
future was to create a new ideal of human life. This 
ideal should take its stand, indeed, upon law and social 
institutions; but instead of accepting these on authority, 
it should base them upon, and let them grow out of, 
the essential nature of man himself, and so combine 
stability with the possibility of growth. It should be free 
to understand the world ; but instead of making this under- 
standing an end in itself, it should relate it to the needs of 
man's physical and spiritual life. It should get the pur- 
chase of an appeal to the feelings, and through them to 
the will ; but it should not allow the feelings to lead us 
blindly, apart from definite intellectual guidance, and 
definitely organized forms of social activity. Conceivably, 
the Roman world might have had within it the power to 
make a fresh start, and assume this new task. But his- 
torically this is not what happened. The German hordes 
which were always pressing the Empire from the north, 
had been held in check for a long time, but they became 
more and more threatening the more the vigor of the 
restraining forces was impaired. At last the exhaustion 
of the Empire became too great to hold them back any 

The Middle Ages 201 

longer. In successive waves they overran the provinces, 
and Italy itself. Rome was captured, and the conquerors 
set up kingdoms of their own. If civilization was to be 
carried on at all, it could only be by the assimilation of 
this new material. 

Hopeless as the task appeared, in reality the Teutons, 
though barbarians, had in them the possibilities of a higher 
development than any that had preceded. Their most 
striking characteristic was a pronounced sense of individ- 
uality and love of freedom ; but along with this there went 
a simplicity of character and ruggedness of moral nature, 
and a cleanness of life, which furnished admirable soil for 
Christianity. Before, however, the Teutons could realize 
their destiny, a long period of training was required. A 
new individualism must arise out of the absolutism of the 
Roman Empire ; but a freedom on the basis of their present 
attainments would at once have degenerated into chaos. 
It was the great work of the Middle Ages and of the Church 
to take this raw material, and mould it into a definite 
shape ; to impress upon it, by external authority, the ideas 
and institutional forms which could be rescued from the 
wreck of the ancient world. It was only when, after cen- 
turies of training, these checks and guiding principles had 
been worked into men's natures, so as to form an integral 
part of themselves, that they could safely begin to find 
their way to freedom again. The time came once more 
when a criticism of beliefs and institutions was possible 
and necessary ; that it did not result, as it had in the case 
of Greece, in the overthrow of society, was due, partly to 
a difference in racial characteristics, but also to the 
thoroughness with which the Middle Ages had done their 
work of education. The result was not a violent break 
from the past, but a gradual transformation, on the founda- 
tion of the essential truth in the old, which still persisted 
and guided the process of emancipation. 

Briefly, then, we may say that as it'was the peculiar task of 
the Middle Ages to effect by external authority the training 

2O2 A Student's History of Philosophy 

of barbarian Europe, so their philosophical interest lies in 
the gradual appearance of those principles of freedom of 
thought and action which, in opposition to the principle 
of authority, were to characterize modern times. From 
this standpoint we may turn to a short account of the main 
features of mediaeval philosophy. 

22. The First Period. Scotus Erigena. Anselm. Abelard 

i . The Church and the Barbarians. When Rome fell, 
the only institution which could stand effectively for law 
and order was the Church. Since this was divorced largely 
from political life, it would arouse no special antagonism 
on the part of the victors, while its sanctity and external 
magnificence would stir feelings of awe in the minds of 
barbarians accustomed only to the rudest life. When the 
Goths sacked Rome, they still respected the Church, and 
offered it the privilege of asylum ; and during the period 
which followed, it was the Church which stood as a defence 
against anarchy. Stretching as it did throughout the 
Empire, with a strong internal organization, it at once set 
about the task of conquering the victors. And in a sur- 
prisingly short time it accomplished the task. The Ger- 
mans, separated from the local associations of their own 
religion, showed a readiness to accept the cult of a higher 
civilization which displayed so much to impress the senses, 
and such skill to adapt itself to the natures with which it 
was dealing. The Church begins, accordingly, the victori- 
ous career which was to make it, not simply the arbiter of 
the intellectual beliefs of the world, but, as a vast hierarchy 
centring in the Pope at Rome, a great, and at times the 
ultimate exponent of civil authority also, able to enforce 
its commands upon kings and emperors. 

Meanwhile the intellectual life of antiquity seemed on 
the point of being entirely eclipsed. In the centuries fol- 
lowing the fall of the Empire, the literature and the culture 
of Greece and Rome became almost as if they never had 

The Middle Ages 203 

been. Outside the Church there was no leisure for such 
things, and inside the Church no inclination. All true 
wisdom was given in the Church creed all that was nec- 
essary to salvation. Heathen learning and philosophy 
were useless, as heathen art was vicious, and if they were 
not regarded as positively un-Christian, and deserving to 
be rooted up and destroyed, they were at least a matter of 
indifference. " A report has reached us," writes Gregory 
the Great to the Bishop of Vienne, "which we cannot 
mention without a blush, that thou expoundest grammar to 
thy friends. Whereat we are so offended and filled with 
scorn that our former opinion of thee is turned to mourning. 
The same mouth singeth not the praises of Jove and the 
praises of Christ." Some slight respect for intellectual cul- 
ture still persisted in the monasteries, but it was elementary, 
and chiefly ecclesiastical in type. Previous philosophy 
survived for the most part only as it filtered through the 
writings of the Fathers, who ordinarily were hostile to it. 
Of the works of Plato and Aristotle only the merest frac- 
tion was known, and this through translation and com- 
mentary. It was not till the twelfth century that the great 
Greek philosophers began to be accessible at first hand. 

2. Scholasticism. When, accordingly, about 900 A.D., 
a somewhat greater activity shows itself in the life of 
thought, these new intellectual interests which form the 
beginning of what is known as the scholastic or school 
philosophy the philosophy of the Catholic Church 
take a particular direction. Scholasticism has two main 
characteristics. It is, in the first place, a philosophy of 
dogmatic religion, assuming a certain subject-matter as 
absolute and unquestioned. The Church could not con- 
sistently allow the search for truth, since she herself 
already possessed the truth by an infallible revelation ; 
the limits within which thought could move were neces- 
sarily strictly defined. There was no neutral field of 
secular knowledge ; in all spheres alike, history and 
science as well as matters of religion in the stricter sense, 

204 A Student's History of Philosophy 

the Church conceived herself to be possessed already of 
final truth. But meanwhile a certain work was left for 
the intellect which was not obviously dangerous. This 
was the work of showing how the doctrinal content, whose 
truth was taken for granted on authority, was also self- 
consistent and rational. Granting that the dogma was 
given as an established fact, it yet might seem a pious 
task to show that these doctrines, when given, are accept- 
able to the reason, and capable of being justified to it. 
There was indeed danger in this, as the Church was later 
on to discover the danger that the rational justification 
should become a requirement, and the dogma be measured 
by its standard, and derive authority from it. But mean- 
while to oppose the tendency would have been to oppose 
all intellectual life whatever, and this not even the Church 
would have been powerful enough to do successfully. 

The most prominent characteristic of Scholasticism, then, 
was its function as a systematizer and rationalizer of re- 
ligious dogma. But in connection with this there was an 
important circumstance which also largely determined its 
peculiar character. This was the extraordinary barrenness 
and abstractness of the material with which it had to work. 
The very considerable sum of concrete knowledge about 
the world which antiquity had collected knowledge of 
history and of the natural sciences had dropped out of 
existence for the Middle Ages as useless, or worse than 
useless. Instead of being able, therefore, to utilize in 
their thinking the fruits of a rich experience and knowl- 
edge, the attitude which the Schoolmen were compelled 
to assume was almost wholly an abstractly logical attitude. 
All they could do was to spin out fine distinctions and 
implications from the most general statements about the 
world statements in large measure empty of the real con- 
tent that gives them meaning. And while to this task they 
often brought a surprising ability and acuteness, the lack 
of a worthy subject-matter vitiated all their efforts, and 
gave their speculations that air of unreality and triviality 

The Middle Ages 205 

which strikes the modern mind so forcibly. " Surely," 
says Bacon, " like as many substances in nature which are 
solid do putrify and corrupt into worms, so it is the prop- 
erty of good and sound knowledge to putrify and dissolve 
into a number of subtile, idle, unwholesome, and as I may 
term them, vermiculate questions, which have indeed a kind 
of quickness and life of spirit, but no soundness of matter 
or goodness of quality. This kind of degenerate learning 
did chiefly reign among the schoolmen, who, having sharp 
and strong wits, and abundance of leisure, and small 
variety of reading, but their wits being shut up in the cells 
of a few authors, chiefly Aristotle their dictator, as their 
persons were shut up in the cells of monasteries and col- 
leges ; and knowing little history, either of nature or time, 
did out of no great quantity of matter, and infinite agita- 
tion of wit, spin out unto us those laborious webs of learn- 
ing which are extant in their books. For the wit and 
mind of man, if it work upon matter, which is the contem- 
plation of the creatures of God, worketh according to the 
stuff and is limited thereby ; but if it work upon itself, as 
the spider worketh its web, then it is endless, and brings 
forth indeed cobwebs of learning, admirable for the fine- 
ness of thread and work, but of no substance or profit." 

3. Erigena. Realism and Nominalism. The first 
period of the scholastic philosophy may be taken as 
extending to about the twelfth century, and it is marked 
in the beginning by a comparative degree of specula- 
tive freedom. After the long night of the intellect, men 
rediscovered the delights of reason with a feverish joy. 
The most trivial logical questions had the power of rous- 
ing an unbounded enthusiasm. And the naive confidence 
in the accordance of reason with dogma a confidence 
which could not be shaken until experience had shown 
something of where reason was to lead made possible a 
less guarded attitude than afterward could be allowed. It 
is true that in the case of the first great philosopher of the 
Middle Ages, John Scotus Erigena (about 810-880), the 

206 A Student's History of Philosophy 

Church was already inclined to be on its guard. Neverthe- 
less, we find in not a few instances a frankness and bold- 
ness in the expression of entirely rationalistic opinions, 
which indicates the absence of anything like the effective 
censorship and control of a later period. 

In general, the determining influence upon this period 
of philosophy was Plato. It was Plato, however, not at 
first hand, but through the medium of Neo-Platonism. 
Erigena was a native of Ireland, a country in which the 
best learning of the day had taken refuge ; his scholarship 
was varied and profound for his time, and he possessed 
the very unusual accomplishment of a knowledge of Greek. 
He was, therefore, fitted to bring about that first infusion 
of ancient thought, which was to be repeated on a larger 
scale at each new step of advance, down to the times of 
the Renaissance. It was his revival of the abstract and 
transcendental standpoint of Neo-Platonism, with its graded 
hierarchy of existence, which was largely influential in 
shaping the course of the great philosophical problem of 
the Middle Ages, as opposed to the more purely theologi- 
cal problems dealing with the interpretation of dogma. 
This is the question as to the reality of universals, or 
abstract notions a question which goes back to Plato him- 
self. It divided the thinkers of the Middle Ages into 
three great schools the Realists, the Nominalists, and 
those who tried to mediate between the two. The Real- 
ists, who are represented by Erigena, take their stand 
with Plato, and declare that class terms are real more 
real than the individual things which come under them. 
The more general a term is, the more reality it possesses ; 
man is more real than particular men, the circle than 
particular circles. The Nominalists, on the other hand, 
taking up the cause of common sense, denied that the con- 
cept, or class, has an existence of its own beyond the 
individuals which make up the class ; these individuals 
alone are real. For the extreme Nominalists, of whom 
Roscellinus is one of the earliest, the concept is absolutely 

The Middle Ages 207 

nothing but a name, which can be applied to a number of 
particular things. 

In ringing the changes upon this problem, a great share 
of the philosophical energies of the Middle Ages is ex- 
pended. So far as the net result is concerned, it is for 
us not very large. The problem had been treated by the 
Greek philosophers with far more concrete knowledge and 
genuine insight. The Scholastics added some logical de- 
tail, and an elaborate philosophical terminology which has 
not proved altogether a blessing ; but as for bringing out 
the real truth of Plato's doctrine, and freeing it from its 
inadequate expression, neither Realist nor Nominalist had 
the necessary insight. There is a significance, however, 
which the controversy possesses, apart from the question 
of metaphysics that is directly involved. It represents one 
aspect of the fundamental struggle between the dominant 
modes of thought of the Middle Ages, and the begin- 
nings of the modern scientific and individualistic spirit 
which was destined to overthrow the power of the Church 
and create a new civilization. 

It was natural that the Church should be realistic. 
The hierarchical system of reality, which absorbed the 
part in the whole, the less general in the more general, 
was a counterpart, in the intellectual world, of the graded 
hierarchy of the Roman ecclesiastical system, at the top 
of which the Pope stood supreme, as the representative of 
the Church universal. To admit that the individual alone 
is real, and not the class, would have been to deny that 
solidarity of the human race, on which the whole Church 
doctrine of sin and redemption was based. It would have 
been to admit that particular persons and particular 
churches have reality, while the one Holy Catholic Church 
is a mere name ; and so that the mediation of the Church 
is unnecessary in religion. 

Again, if Nominalism were true, and particular things 
alone were real, then consistently men's attention ought to 
be directed to such things, and secular and scientific interests 

2o8 A Student's History of Philosophy 

must take the place of religious and ecclesiastical. Nomi- 
nalism was the natural ally of the scientific spirit, even if 
this was not consciously present in the minds of the earlier 
Nominalists ; and science is incompatible with an exclusive 
and overwhelming interest in personal salvation such as the 
Church endeavored to foster, and on the existence of which 
its authority rested. When it was worked out, moreover, 
Nominalism was bound to conflict with the whole principle 
of dogmatism. A dogma is a past generalization which is 
divorced from the correcting influence of new facts, and 
taken as necessarily and absolutely true in itself. With 
such traditional generalizations the Church was identified ; 
it stood for authority rather than investigation the 
authority of some one else's experience in the past. To 
concentrate attention on the particular facts out of which 
generalizations grow, and to maintain the superior validity 
of these facts, was to substitute the principle of private 

In its earlier history, Nominalism was not aware of all its 
implications. In taking its stand upon the common-sense 
denial that class terms have an objective existence apart from 
things, it supposed itself to be entirely orthodox. And, 
indeed, it was able to retort the cry of heresy against its rivals. 
Without doubt the logical tendency of Realism was in the 
direction of Pantheism. If individuals exist only in the class, 
and not by themselves, then the highest concept, or God, is 
the sole reality, in whom alone all lesser facts the world 
and man have being. " God is everything that truly is," 
says Erigena ; and again, " This is the end of all things 
visible and invisible, when all visible things pass into 
intellectual, and the intellectual into God, by a marvellous 
and unspeakable union." It is true that he adds, " yet 
not by any confusion or distinction of essences or sub- 
stances;" but it is a question how far he really can 
maintain this. In spite of the danger, however, the 
Church remained realistic. The great need of the world 
was still for a unifying and ordering force in opposition to 

The Middle Ages 209 

the disintegrating tendencies which were present in Feudal- 
ism. Realism alone supplied a theoretical basis for this, 
and Nominalism had, accordingly, to wait for a more favor- 
able opportunity. 

4. Anselm. The typical exponent of Realism in the 
first period of the Middle Ages is Anselm. Born in Aosta 
in 1033, he was attracted to the famous monastery of Bee, 
in Normandy, by the name of Lanfranc, whom he after- 
ward succeeded as Abbot. Later he was again made Lan- 
franc's successor, as Archbishop of Canterbury, under 
William the Red ; and in this office, after a career marked 
by numerous vicissitudes which his conscientiousness and 
uprightness occasioned, he died in 1109. Anselm com- 
bines in a remarkable way a genuine piety, and an un- 
flinching acceptance of the orthodox creed, with a strong 
speculative bent, and a confidence that reason and reve- 
lation will lead to the same goal. With Anselm, there 
is no question of doubting the doctrines of the Church. 
Faith must always precede knowledge. We do not re- 
flect in order that we may believe ; we believe in order 
that we may know. The unbeliever, who does not first 
perceive the truth by faith, can no more arrive at an 
understanding of the truth, than the blind man who does 
not see the light can understand the light. Our duty, 
therefore, is to accept the teachings of the Church in all 
sincerity and humility, and strive to comprehend them. If 
we succeed, we may thank God ; if we do not, let us simply 
end our search, and submit to God's will, instead of deny- 
ing the dogma, and allowing our reason to stray outside 
the limits which it sets. 

Anselm himself, however, is strongly convinced that 
the attempt will be successful. In the endeavor to make 
the objects of faith intelligible to reason, he examines 
acutely the fundamental doctrines of the Church, particu- 
larly the doctrines of the Trinity and the Atonement, in a 
way that deeply influenced subsequent theology. On the 
more distinctly philosophical side, his most lasting work 

2io A Student's History of Philosophy 

was in connection with the proof of the existence of God. 
He threw himself into this problem with an intensity of 
earnestness which often made him go without food and 
sleep. The most characteristic result of his meditations 
was the famous ontological argument an argument which 
has appealed to some of the greatest thinkers since An- 
selm's day, and which still retains an influence and a fas- 
cination. The argument is substantially as follows : We 
define God as a being than which nothing greater can be 
thought. Now there is in the mind the idea of such a be- 
ing. But also such a being must exist outside the mind. 
For if it did not, it would fail to be a being than which noth- 
ing greater can be thought ; a being with the added at- 
tribute of existence is greater than one merely in idea. 
Therefore God exists not merely in the mind, but also as a 
real existence outside the mind. The obvious criticism on 
this argument was seen by a contemporary of Anselm, a 
monk named Gaunilo. He points out that it bases itself 
solely upon the idea of perfection and the idea of existence, 
and does not prove anything whatever about an objective 
reality corresponding to these ideas of ours. In essence 
this objection is commonly regarded nowadays as well 

5. The Growth of Rationalism. Abe lard and Conceptu- 
alism. The various tendencies which Anselm's personal- 
ity had held in equilibrium could not, however, be expected 
always to exist together in entire harmony. The rational 
and logical spirit, grown by exercise, was bound to show a 
disposition to break loose from its connection with theologi- 
cal tenets, and to set up on its own account. In place of the 
unified intellectual life in which reason acted as the obedient 
handmaid of the Church, three somewhat specialized atti- 
tudes can be distinguished in the thought of the day. On 
the one hand stood the theologians proper, who fell back 
upon authority, and aimed simply to set forth the dogmas 
as they had been handed down from the Fathers. On the 
other hand, the pure interest in dialectical and logical skill 

The Middle Ages 211 

for its own sake, apart from the services which it ren- 
dered to theology, was also beginning to manifest itself. 
The results might be trifling, but the tendency involved a 
dangerous principle. If reason were given an independent 
footing, next in order it would grow bolder, and attempt 
to dictate. Meanwhile a third attitude also was assuming 
importance. Dissatisfied alike with the cold formalism of 
the theologians and with the abstract rationalism of the 
philosophers, many of the more religious natures, revert- 
ing to a tendency which had come down from the Neo- 
Platonists, found refuge in Mysticism. This movement 
connects itself in particular with the abbey of St. Victor. 
Besides Hugo of St. Victor (1096-1140), and his followers 
Richard &Q& Walter, St. Bernard of Clairvaiix (1091-1 153) 
may be regarded as its best-known representative, though 
from a standpoint less philosophically grounded. By its 
cultivation of freedom and spontaneity in the religious life, 
Mysticism had a part to play among the influences which 
later were to bring the Middle Ages to a close. 

For the present, however, the growing rationalistic spirit 
was of special significance. This has its most remarkable 
representative in the famous Abelard (1079-1142). Abe- 
lard was the possessor of a typically French intellect 
keen, clear cut, impatient of all mysticism and obscurity ; 
and his striking talents early gave promise of a brilliant 
career. He became a pupil of William of Champeaux, in 
Paris, but soon came into collision with his teacher, and 
defeated him so signally in argument that William's popu- 
larity waned, and Abelard was the hero of the day. At 
the age of twenty-two he had opened a school of his own 
at Melun, and both here, and later on in Paris, was extraor- 
dinarily successful as a teacher. William was an extreme 
Realist, and in opposition to him Abelard took an inter- 
mediate position. Traditionally he is regarded as the 
founder of Conceptualism ; and while there is some doubt 
about his real teaching, it would seem to have contained 
the elements at least of this position. Conceptualism is 

212 A Student's History of Philosophy 

substantially identical with the commonly accepted opin- 
ion about the nature of abstract ideas at the present time. 
The class term has no objective existence as such ; it exists 
only as a thought, a concept in our minds. But neither is 
it a mere breath or word, out of all relation to things them- 
selves. The concept exists in the particular things as a 
similarity or identity of qualities, through whose abstraction 
by a mental act the concept is formed ; and as the expres- 
sion of this similarity it is objectively valid. There is even 
a sense in which we might say that the concept exists inde- 
pendently of the things as an idea, that is, in the mind 
of God. A divine idea, then, a likeness existing among 
qualities in objects, and an abstraction of these qualities by 
the human mind to form a class term with a universal 
meaning these for Conceptualism are the factors which 
enter into the problem of universals. 

But the clearness and independence of Abelard's mind 
showed itself in other fields also. He brought the same 
rationalistic temper to subjects more directly connected 
with the dogmas of the Church. With surprising frank- 
ness he condemns the credulity which is willing to take 
beliefs on trust, without a rational justification. " A doc- 
trine is not believed," he declares, "because God has said 
it, but because we are convinced by reason that it is so." 
Doubt is no sin, as the Church thought; "by doubting 
we are led to inquire, and by inquiry we perceive the 
truth." He confesses to an admiration for the ancient 
philosophers, and finds expressed in them the essential 
doctrines of religion and morality. The noteworthy at- 
tempt is made to establish a theory of ethics independent 
of dogmatic sanctions. Christianity itself seems to him 
first of all the rehabilitation of the natural moral law, which 
was revealed to the Greek sages as well ; that which was 
mysterious in Christianity he decidedly inclined to mini- 
mize. " Shall we people hell," he says, " with men 
whose life and teachings are truly evangelical and apos- 
tolic in their perfection, and differ in nothing, or very 

The Middle Ages 213 

little, from the Christian religion ? " This naturalistic tone 
appears in his treatment of the particular dogmas; the 
three persons of the Trinity, for example, are resolved into 
three attributes of God power, wisdom, and goodness 
united in a single personality. 

23. The Second Period. The Revival of Aristotle. 
Thomas Aquinas. Duns Scotus. William of Occam 

I. Arabian Philosophy. The Crusades. Abelard's 
views were condemned by the Church ; but this did not 
prevent the spread of the rationalistic and independent 
spirit which he embodied. For a time it almost looked as 
if the Renaissance might be anticipated by several cen- 
turies. A large factor in this was the growing influence 
of Arabian thought. While Europe had been asleep, 
learning had taken refuge among the Mohammedans. 
The works of Greek philosophy, especially Aristotle's, were 
preserved and studied when they were known to Christian 
scholars only in the most fragmentary form. In the 
courts, of the Eastern caliphs, and in the kingdom of the 
Moors in Spain, there came about a brief period of culture 
in which a considerable scientific activity went along with 
a vigorous, though not very original, philosophical revival. 
The most important name among the Arabian commenta- 
tors and philosophers who influenced the later Scholasti- 
cism, is that of Averroes (i 126-1 198). 

The reception of this influence was made easier by a 
change which was beginning to come over the whole spirit 
of the age, and which was furthered in particular by the 
Crusades. These great religious wars had turned out 
quite otherwise than their promoters had anticipated. 
The religious results, from the standpoint of Catholicism, 
were almost nothing, while of consequences entirely op- 
posed to the Church's desires there were a great number. 
The men of Europe had their dormant wits violently and 
effectually shaken by contact with other peoples, and by 

214 ^ Student's History of Philosophy 

the novel experiences which their wanderings brought 
them. Christendom found to its surprise that those whom 
it had been accustomed to look upon with contempt as 
heretics, were in reality a brave and warlike people, with 
many virtues of their own, and a civilization in some 
respects superior to that of Europe. Contact with them 
inevitably rubbed off to some extent the provincialism, and 
the unreasoning horror of ideas at all dissimilar to their 
own, on which the hold of the Church largely depended ; 
and the feeling of respect which the field of battle engen- 
dered facilitated an exchange of ideas. So also two other 
tendencies, which were to weaken the power of the Church, 
received a decided stimulus from the Crusades. The emu- 
lation and rivalry resulting from a coming together of men 
from every country in Europe, brought to the surface a 
new sense of national spirit, which was opposed to the 
pretensions of the Church. Furthermore, commercial ac- 
tivity was given an immense impetus, owing to the neces- 
sity of transp6rting the large armies of the Crusaders, and 
furnishing the supplies required, as well as to the closer 
communication brought about between the East and the 
West, and the revelation of new luxuries and new wants. 
Both of these things tended to give an emphasis to the 
new secular spirit as opposed to the religious. 

Many of the conditions, accordingly, seemed to be 
favorable to a breaking away from the authority of the 
Church. And, indeed, on a small scale, many of the features 
of the Renaissance were anticipated. The widespread in- 
terest in learning is shown in the rise of the great Uni- 
versities, while in the court of Frederick the Second, 
especially, a new culture was introduced which was as 
thoroughly pagan as that which characterized the Italian 
cities in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. To Frederick 
all religion was alike untrue ; Mohammed and Christ alike 
impostors. But the movement was premature. It had no 
sufficient knowledge to back it, and the hold of the Church 
was still too great to be broken. The new forces were 

The Middle Ages 215 

turned safely into ecclesiastical channels, and spent them- 
selves in infusing fresh life into Scholasticism, rather than 
in breaking away from it. The Church philosophy got 
possession of the Universities, where it remained in- 
trenched even after a different spirit had come over the 
outer world ; and the awakening was postponed for several 

I. The Revival of Aristotle. Aquinas. In turning 
the new tendencies to her own account, the Church 
showed her usual astuteness. The chief incentive to the 
threatened revolution in the intellectual world was due 
to the opening for the first time to Europe of a knowl- 
edge of the real Aristotle, and the coming of its scholars 
into contact with a mind of the first order, whose think- 
ing was not specifically theological. It is the influence 
of Aristotle which is the dominant factor in the whole of 
the following period. At first the Church had been alarmed 
at the evident dangers involved in the situation, and it had 
tried to avert them by condemning Aristotle. But as the 
Greek text came to be known, and the rationalistic and 
pantheistic tinge which Aristotle had taken from his Ara- 
bian commentators was found not to be necessary to his 
interpretation, the attitude of the Church was altered. 
She began to realize that she had in Aristotle a possible 
instrument for her own ends. And so effectively did she 
use this, that when, later on, the emancipation of the intel- 
lect was brought about, Aristotle, instead of being, as he 
now promised to be, the agent of that emancipation, was 
the one chiefest obstacle against which the new spirit had 
to make war. By setting up the dictatorship of Aristotle, 
the Church had set bounds to the intellect more effectually 
than she had ever been able to do by means of dogma. 
There had been no recognized authority in the realm of 
pure reason in the earlier Middle Ages, and accordingly, 
within the limits of certain dogmatic results, the reason 
had had free play. By establishing now the supreme 
authority of Aristotle in every sphere to which reasoning 

216 A Student's History of Philosophy 

applies the natural world as well as the metaphysical, 
and by interpreting Aristotle in her own way, a tool was 
at hand for holding the reason in check, without at the 
same time denying it its rights. Aristotle was himself 
identical with reason, not to be denied or questioned. 
Even in matters of science the question was, not what does 
nature reveal, but what does Aristotle say ; and when sci- 
ence began to emerge, the authority of the philosopher was 
actively used to check its growth. " My son," so, accord- 
ing to an anecdote, was the reply made to one who thought 
he had discovered spots in the sun, " I have read Aristotle 
many times, and I assure you that there is nothing of the 
kind mentioned by him. Be certain therefore that the 
spots which you have seen are in your eyes, and not in the 
sun." In the formulation of Scholasticism in Aristotelian 
terms by St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor (1225- 
1274), the most comprehensive task of mediaeval thought 
was performed, and Catholic philosophy was determined 
definitely for the future. 

In Aquinas, the formula was at last attained which was 
to be accepted by the Church as the final statement of the 
relation that exists between philosophy and revelation, be- 
tween reason and faith. The naYve confidence in the abil- 
ity of reason to justify the full content of religious belief 
had not been supported by experience. It came to be rec- 
ognized that there are heights to which reason cannot pos- 
sibly reach. The higher truths of revelation belong to a 
sphere where it is incompetent to decide; they are mys- 
teries, to be accepted only on the ground of faith in authority. 
But while the fields of reason and of faith are thus not co- 
extensive, and while therefore philosophy cannot hope to 
make theology fully intelligible to the limited powers of 
the human mind, there need not for all that be any actual 
contradiction between the two. So far as it goes, reason 
is harmonious with faith ; but there comes a point where it 
no longer is able to pass judgment, and here faith steps in 
as a more ultimate principle, which stands to the natural 

The Middle Ages 217 

powers of the mind as their final consummation. This 
relationship is typical of the central thought of Aquinas' 
whole system of philosophy. By means of the Aristotelian 
concepts of matter and form, all existence is arranged in a 
hierarchical system, in which the lower is subordinated to 
the higher body to soul, matter to spirit, philosophy to 
theology, the secular power to the ecclesiastical with a 
thoroughness and acuteness which left a lasting impression. 

3. Religion and Reason. The Revival of Nominalism. 
In the system of Aquinas, the scholastic philosophy 
reached its height. From this time on the interest centres 
in the emergence of those tendencies which finally were to 
undermine it, and introduce the modern period. Without 
dwelling upon individual thinkers, it will be sufficient here 
to point out the more important factors in this evolution. 

The distinction which had now been clearly drawn 
between natural and revealed religion, reason and theol- 
ogy, was not of a nature to stop within the limits to 
which Aquinas had tried to confine it. The notion of 
revelation as being above reason, furnished a basis for a 
separation between the two realms which grew continually 
more pronounced. In accordance with this distinction, 
religion comes to be taken as having a special organ faith, 
or feeling with regard to which reason has nothing to say. 
In one form or other this has been a widely influential 
attitude down to the present day. To the man of religious 
nature who longs to be undisturbed in his cherished beliefs, 
and who chafes at the violence which often seems to be done 
alike to these, and to his reason, by the attempt to bring the 
two together, it often seems a welcome relief to give up 
the whole endeavor to harmonize his knowledge with his 
faith, and be able to deny to reason the right to interfere 
in the separate province of religion. At the same time he 
gains for reason a free play in its own proper field, un- 
checked by the irritating feeling that it must continually 
be squared with some preconceived result. To-day, for 
example, it is common to find men securing for themselves 

218 A Student's History of Philosophy 

the right to follow the leadings of science, and still to re- 
tain the religious beliefs upon which science seems to cast 
doubt, by adopting the principle of a division of labor, ac- 
cording to which reason is to be allowed its validity, but 
only in a lower and phenomenal sphere. Even if it comes 
to an apparent contradiction, therefore, between scientific 
and religious truth, that contradiction means nothing. 

The intent of this is to save religion, but it is easy to 
see that the same attitude may just as well be adopted 
from a different motive. Especially in an age when reli- 
gious authority is strong, and requires evasion if thought 
is to have free scope, it may be seized upon as a pretext 
by men who have no concern for religion, and only want 
a chance to rationalize the universe. If revelation and 
reason are distinct, there can be no harm in pushing the 
conclusions of reason to any result, however extreme, 
since religion is not prejudiced thereby. This attitude 
found expression in the famous doctrine of the " twofold 
truth" the doctrine, namely, that a thing might be true 
according to reason which was not true theologically, and 
vice versa. In the case of many who practically adopted 
this point of view, there was no intention of undermining 
the authority of religion or the Church. Nevertheless, the 
tendency was due at bottom to a demand for the emanci- 
pation of the reason from Church trammels, and this as 
a matter of fact must destroy her authority. The conten- 
tion of Aquinas, that certain doctrines are above the dis- 
covery of the unassisted reason, was gradually widened. 
The doctrines which natural theology, or rational thought, 
could attain to and defend successfully, decreased in num- 
ber, until, in William of Occam, even the arguments for the 
existence of God were held to be insufficient. 

Philosophy, then, is no longer in any positive way a 
minister to theology, as it had started out by being. It has 
become a mere critical inquiry into the nature of reason, 
which ends in discrediting the capacity of knowledge for 
reaching ultimate truth, or for dealing with anything except 

The Middle Ages 219 

the phenomenal world. This is, in one aspect, the meaning 
of a controversy which forms one of the central points about 
which the thought of the later Middle Ages turns the 
question as to the primacy of the intellect or of the will. 
The Thomists, or followers of Aquinas, maintained the 
ancient doctrine that intellect is original and supreme, and 
that God's will is determined by His knowledge. Their 
opponents, who are represented by the Franciscans, Duns 
Scotus and William of Occam (Thomas was a Dominican, 
and a rivalry between the two orders intensified the philo- 
sophical rivalry), maintained, on the contrary, that if God's 
will is limited by an eternal truth, then there is something 
above God which determines him. Accordingly, God must 
be conceived as an absolutely free will; and therefore 
truth and falsehood, right and wrong, are nothing in them- 
selves, but are established by God's arbitrary act. On the 
practical side, this means that religion is no longer identi- 
fied with a reasoned statement of truth, but is a disposition 
of will, a moral life, which obeys the law of duty imposed 
upon it by authority. If truth rests upon the inscruta- 
ble will of God, it must of necessity be unknowable by the 
natural reason. 

The only sphere which is left to reason is, accordingly, 
the lower, natural world, which does not come in contact 
with the realm of ultimate reality. But when it has thus 
been forced to become purely naturalistic in tone, it is 
ready for a further step. Men cannot continue indefinitely 
to hold to truth which not only has no rational ground, 
but is contradicted by all we mean by reason. That which 
has reason on its side cannot fail in the long run to get an 
advantage; the subjects with which it deals are going to 
gain constantly in interest, and in consequent reality for us. 
And if it has been admitted that reason leaves us in pos- 
session only of the natural world, from which all super- 
sensible realities are excluded, then inevitably the conclusion 
will be drawn that this world is the only true one, and that 
the supersensible realities do not exist. Attention will be 

220 A Student's History of Philosophy 

directed toward these verifiable and rational facts, which, 
as a result, will be emphasized at the expense of the others. 
The supersensible world may still be handed over to 
theology to do with as it pleases, and there may be no 
open break so long as theology confines itself to faith 
or feeling, and does not attempt to compete with scientific 
explanations. This, for instance, is Bacon's attitude later 
on. But to all intents and purposes theology has been 
dispossessed of all real rights. The tendency, therefore, 
of the doctrine of twofold truth was to confine philosophy 
to the physical world, and so to prepare the ground for 
scientific inquiry, as the highest truth about the world 
which we are capable of knowing. 

The same tendency shows itself in the revival of Nomi- 
nalism. The older Nominalism had failed, because the 
age was still in need of the unifying authority of the 
Church, and Realism had been the philosophical justifi- 
cation of this. authority. Aquinas was a Realist, although 
somewhat influenced by the mediating tendencies repre- 
sented in such men as Abelard ; and so also was Duns 
Scotus. In Scotus, however, the movement is already 
toward Nominalism, which finally triumphs in William of 
Occam. Individual things are the only realities ; concepts 
have no existence extra mentem. Interpreted, this means 
that the period of authority is past, and that the period of 
individualism is at hand, which is to lay the foundations 
for modern progress. Nominalism, by its insistence upon 
the reality of particular things, justified the growing scien- 
tific spirit in its attention to facts rather than to a priori 
dogmas. It justified the revolt of individuals against the 
ready-made generalizations of the past, and of nations 
against the absolutism of the Catholic Church. It was 
no longer, therefore, opposed to the needs of the age, 
but was in line with a very essential aspect of what was 
soon to become a dominant tendency. 

4. The Beginnings of Science. By itself, however, the 
mere philosophical development within Scholasticism would 

The Middle Ages 221 

have had no great result. It needed to be reenforced 
by the concrete growth of knowledge about the world, 
before it could affect in any very thoroughgoing way 
the life of the times. During the Middle Ages them- 
selves this was rendered impossible in any consider- 
able degree. An interest in science had been aroused 
through contact with the Mohammedans, and acquaint- 
ance with the works of Aristotle. But it was not en- 
couraged either by the Church or by public opinion. 
The Church felt more or less clearly that the growth of 
knowledge was a menace to its own position, while to 
the popular mind, a too close familiarity with the works of 
nature was supposed to argue an unholy connection with 
the powers of evil. Even the office of Pope did not pre- 
vent the possessor of unusual scientific knowledge from 
being looked upon with suspicion, while a less influential 
man, like the monk Roger Bacon (1214-1294), was com- 
pelled to pay the full penalty for being in advance of his 
age. Bacon saw the problems of science with remarkable 
clearness, and his Opus Majus is a monument of industry 
and insight. But as a result he only gained the popular 
name of being a wizard and magician, while by the Church 
his work was condemned, and he himself confined for many 
years as a prisoner in his cell. In spite of everything, 
however, the scientific spirit persisted, and grew in strength ; 
and when at last the conditions were ripe, it suddenly at- 
tained a development which has been the means of deter- 
mining the whole course of modern thought. 


Poole, Illustrations of Thought in the Middle Ages. 

Adams, Civilization in the Middle Ages. 

Duruy, History of the Middle Ages. 

Emerton, Medieval Europe. 

Townsend, The Great Schoolmen of the Middle Ages. 

West, Alcuin. 

222 A Student's History of Philosophy 

Church, St. Anselm. 
Storrs, Bernard of Clairvaux. 
Compayrd, Abelard. 

Laurie, The Rise and Early Constitution of Universities. 
Vaughan, Hours with the Mystics. 

Rashdall, Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, 2 vols. 
Deane, Translation of Anselm's Proslogium, Monologium, Cur Deus 


24. The Renaissance. Bruno 

I. The Renaissance and the Reformation. The neces- 
sary conditions for the introduction of the modern period 
were brought about by the great movement which, from 
its various aspects, is called the Renaissance, or the Re- 
vival of Learning, or the Reformation. It has already 
been seen that this was no sudden appearance, but that 
the influences bringing it about had been at work at 
least as early as the Crusades. From that time on soci- 
ety was gradually becoming transformed, away from the 
ecclesiastical, and toward the secular ideal. The rapid 
growth of commerce and industry necessarily gave an 
emphasis to secular interests. The new social class which 
consequently rose to importance alongside the nobles and 
clergy, tended to ally itself with the king in his struggles 
with the feudal lords, since only through a strong cen- 
tral authority could trade and industry be protected; and 
this joined with other influences in building up a new 
national spirit. Presently nations began to attempt, with 
growing success, to break away from ecclesiastical control, 
and to separate the civil power from the spiritual. Here, 
again, the Nominalism of the later Scholastics threw in its 
lot with the new tendency, and we find Occam openly 
on the side of national authority, in its conflicts with the 

It was in Italy that the Renaissance first became an 
accomplished fact. Here the greater commercial activity, 
and the intense rivalry between the different cities, had 
early given rise to a pronounced and aggressive individual- 


224 A Student's History of Philosophy 

ism, and a sharpening of the wits without much reference 
to moral scruples. As early as the fourteenth century the 
main features of the Renaissance its interest in life, 
and its keener appreciation of the past, and the literature 
of the past appear in Petrarch and Boccaccio. But it 
is from the year 1453 that the Renaissance is commonly 
dated. In that year Constantinople, the capital of the 
Eastern Empire, which had continued, up to this time, to 
maintain an ignoble existence, was taken by the Turks. 
Many of the Greek scholars, driven from their country, 
took refuge in Italy. Here they found the soil prepared 
for them, and the result was immediate and revolutionary. 
The revelation of the real spirit of classical antiquity, to 
men beginning to feel the possession of new powers of life 
and capacities of appreciation, and heartily sick of the dry 
and tasteless theological nourishment with which they had 
had to satisfy themselves for centuries, completely over- 
turned all their old ideas. The shackles of the Church fell 
from their minds, and they turned back to the past with a 
passionate delight. A civilization sprang up which, as op- 
posed to the religious civilization of the Middle Ages, was 
thoroughly pagan in its spirit pagan not only in its love 
of beauty and literature, and its delight in living, but also 
as a reaction against the asceticism of the Church in its 
vices, and its frank sensualism and egoism. The whole 
scale of values was shifted. Men cared more for an old 
manuscript of the poets than for the prophets and apos- 
tles ; for a Greek vase or statue, than for temperance and 
holy living. A new zest for all that was human and beauti- 
ful found expression in a great period of artistic creation. 
Even the court of St. Peter's was paganized, and we have 
the spectacle of a series of Popes, sunk in vices, indeed, 
which have made their names synonyms of infamy, but 
still accomplished scholars, artistic dilettantes, and patrons 
of art and learning. In philosophy, nearly every system 
of ancient times was revived. Plato, the artist among 
philosophers, attracted a large following, and a Platonic 

Transition to Modern Philosophy 225 

Academy was founded in Florence. In opposition to him, 
other scholars set up Aristotle, interpreted not as he had 
been by the Church, but freely and naturalistically. So also 
Pythagoreanism and Neo-Platonism, Stoicism, Epicurean- 
ism, and Scepticism, and even some of the earlier Greek 
schools, found adherents. And in all there was the same 
eagerness to throw off ecclesiastical restraints, in the inter- 
ests of a real intellectual activity. 

Beyond Italy, the Renaissance took on a somewhat 
different form. In Germany, where it had to do with a 
type of mind naturally profounder and more religious, and 
where, moreover, the religious life had already been deep- 
ened by the mysticism of Eckhart, and Tauler, and the 
Brethren of the Common Life, its most characteristic 
result was the Reformation of Luther. Even its Human- 
ism, as typified in Erasmus and Melancthon, had more or 
less strong religious sympathies. But the Reformation was 
still in principle the same revolt against authority. By 
its doctrine of justification by faith, apart from any exter- 
nal mediation, and its appeal to immediate Christian ex- 
perience, it stood directly for individual freedom, as opposed 
to the pretensions of the Church. 

With whatever differences of form, however, the change in 
the attitude toward life was a permanent one. The human 
spirit, once freed from the restrictions which ecclesiasti- 
cism had put upon it, could never return again to the same 
bondage. By the impulse which had thus been given, the 
whole aspect of the world had been changed. National 
life and secular pursuits had received a strength which made 
it impossible that the Church should ever usurp again in 
any universal way its old power. And along with these, 
there followed other changes, which in a short space still 
further revolutionized existing conditions. The voyages of 
Columbus and Vasco da Gama, Balboa and Magellan, result- 
ing, among other things, in the discovery of America and of 
the road to the Indies, opened up vast possibilities which had 
not been dreamed of before. They changed the map of the 

226 A Student's History of Philosophy 

world, and furnished a powerful spur to the imaginative and 
creative spirit witness the Elizabethan age. In quick suc- 
cession came also a series of inventions of world-wide signifi- 
cance. The discovery of gunpowder revolutionized the art 
of war, and put the common soldier and the noble on an equal 
footing ; printing first made possible a generally diffused 
knowledge and culture ; while the telescope laid open the 
structure of the heavens, and the compass enlarged the 
boundaries of the earth. 

And, finally, there came forward, to realize the new possi- 
bilities in the way of knowledge, a brilliant group of scientists 
of the first magnitude Tycho Brahe, Copernicus, Galileo, 
Kepler, and others whose investigations gave a firm 
foundation to those scientific methods and conceptions which 
were destined to enter so vitally into all future thought. In 
particular Copernicus, by shifting the centre of the universe 
from our earth, and making this but a point in a vast system, 
created a profound impression on men's imaginations, and 
perhaps more than any other one influence helped to cut 
the ground from beneath the narrow and earth-centred 
theological view of life, which hitherto had dominated 
men's minds. " The earth moves " became the recognized 
formula of advance. God could no longer be conceived 
as having His local habitation in the heavens ; the whole 
geography of the spiritual world was thrown into con- 
fusion, and the way opened for a deeper conception of 
God's relation to the universe. The results of all this appear 
in the emergence of a wholly new way of looking at the 
world the way of the modern man. Nothing could be 
more modern in tone, for example, than the essays of 
Montaigne. In their cool common sense, their cautious 
scepticism the assertion of the right of a man to think 
and judge for himself, their clear condemnation of super- 
stition and religious fanaticism, and their wide spirit of 
toleration, they represent the complete divergence of 
cultivated thought from ecclesiastical influence, and the 
secularization of human life and interests. 

Transition to Modern Philosophy 227 

2. Bruno. Turning now to the way in which this enor- 
mous change is mirrored in philosophical theory, we may 
pass over the transition period with just a word. At first, as 
has been said, men had been compelled to go back to the 
remoter past to get that concrete content to life, the lack 
of which repelled them in the Middle Ages, but which they 
were not yet ready to supply from their own resources. 
But soon the mere renewal of ancient systems gave place 
to more original attempts to satisfy the needs of the time, 
though these are still so closely bound by the influences they 
are trying to escape, that their results are necessarily un- 
clear, and suggestive rather than final. Starting at first 
within the general limits of Scholasticism, these attempts 
soon passed, in Giordano Bruno, into a bitter hostility to 
the Church and the Church theology. Bruno's philosophy 
is, in many ways, the most characteristic product of the 
Renaissance period. He himself was a Dominican monk, 
born near Naples in 1548. His fiery spirit and poetic 
temperament soon turned him, however, from sympathy 
with dogmatic and ascetic Catholicism. Persecuted in 
consequence by the Church, he passed a varied and un- 
happy life, wandering from country to country Switzer- 
land, Germany, England, France, but nowhere finding 
peace. At last he fell into the clutches of the Inquisition, 
and was burnt at the stake in Rome (1600). 

In Bruno there are all the elements which go to make the 
Renaissance period so attractive. There is the ardent 
enthusiasm for nature and beauty ; the revolt from asceti- 
cism and Scholasticism alike ; the consciousness of a new 
and vaster universe suddenly laid open to man, and the 
confidence that it can be grasped as a whole, without the 
long process of careful investigation whose necessity time 
was to show ; and, finally, along with this, the inevitable 
ferment and unclearness of new ideas imperfectly appre- 
hended. In his zeal for life Bruno goes back to the an- 
cient Hylozoism. All nature is alive. A world soul 
permeates everything. The universe is a great organism, 

228 A Student's History of Philosophy 

whose dwelling-place is the infinite reaches of space. To 
this emotional realization of the infiniteness and divineness 
of the natural world, which sweeps away the restrictive 
barriers of theology, his eyes had been opened first by the 
Copernican theory. " By this knowledge we are loosened 
from the chains of a most narrow dungeon, and set at lib- 
erty to rove in a most august empire ; we are removed from 
presumptuous boundaries and poverty to the innumerable 
riches of an infinite space, of so worthy a field, and of such 
beautiful worlds." Nothing now is limited and restricted, 
and nothing is dead matter. As he looks forth on the 
world, man comes in contact everywhere with a power 
akin to him, which is nearer to him than he to himself, 
and yet which pulsates through the remotest regions of the 
heavens, and informs all things. " It is not reasonable to 
believe that any part of the world is without a soul life, 
sensation, and organic structure. From this infinite All, 
full of beauty and splendor, from the vast worlds which 
circle above us, to the sparkling dust of stars beyond, the 
conclusion is drawn that there are an infinity of creatures, 
a vast multitude, which, each in its degree, mirrors forth 
the splendor, wisdom, and excellence of the divine beauty." 
The stars have intellectual and sense life, "those sons 
of God who shouted for joy at the creation, the flaming 
heralds his ministers, and the ambassadors of his glory, a 
living mirror of the infinite Deity." 

Accordingly we must rid ourselves of the paltry thought 
that it is for us that all things are created. " Only one 
bereft of his reason could believe that those infinite spaces, 
tenanted by vast and magnificent bodies, are designed 
only to give us light, or to receive the clear shining of the 
earth." " If in the eyes of God there is but one starry 
globe, if the sun and moon and all creation are made for 
the good of the earth and for the welfare of man, humanity 
may be exalted, but is not the Godhead abased ? Is 
this not to straiten and confine His providence? What! is 
a feeble human creature the only object worthy of the care 

Transition to Modern Philosophy 229 

of God? No, the earth is but a planet, the rank she 
holds among the stars is but by usurpation ; it is time to 
dethrone her. The ruler of our earth is not man, but the 
sun, with the life which breathes in common through the 
universe. Let the earth eschew privilege ; let her fulfil 
her course, and obey. Let not this contemplation dispirit 
man, as if he thought himself abandoned by God ; for in 
extending and enlarging the universe, he is himself ele- 
vated beyond measure, and his intelligence is no longer 
deprived of breathing space beneath a sky meagre, narrow, 
and ill-contrived in its proportions. And better still, if 
God is everywhere present in the whole of the world, fill- 
ing it with his infinity and with his immeasurable great- 
ness, if there is in reality an innumerable host of suns and 
stars, what of the foolish distinction between the heaven 
and the earth? Dwellers in a star, are we not compre- 
hended within the celestial plains, and established within 
the very precincts of heaven ? " And so the distinction 
between the divine, and the secular, or earthly, disappears 
before a wider knowledge. "This is that philosophy 
which opens the senses, which satisfies the mind, which 
enlarges the understanding, and which leads man to the 
only true beatitude; for it frees him from the solicitous 
pursuit of pleasure, and from the anxious apprehensions 
of pain, seeing that everything is subject to a most good 
and efficient cause." 1 

In this conception of the universe it will be noticed 
that there are two sides, both of which Bruno wishes to 
emphasize. On the one hand, he insists upon the unity of 
the whole. Reality is an eternal spirit, one and indivisi- 
ble, and as such alone possesses truth. All things that 
appear are but images of this ultimate reality. "The 
heavens are a picture, a book, a mirror, wherein man can 
behold and read the form and the laws of supreme good- 
ness, the plan and total of perfection." " From this spirit, 

1 Taken from Frith, Life of Bruno, pp. 42-46. (Paul, Trench, Trttb- 
ner & Co.) 

230 A Student's History of Philosophy 

which is One, all being flows ; there is one truth and one 
goodness penetrating and governing all things. In nature 
are the thoughts of God. They are made manifest in 
figures and vestiges to the eye of sense ; they are repro- 
duced in our thoughts, where alone we can arrive at con- 
sciousness of true being. We are surrounded by eternity 
and by the uniting of love. There is but one centre from 
which all species issue, as rays from a sun, and to which 
all species return. There is but one celestial expanse, 
where the stars choir forth unbroken harmony. From this 
spirit, which is called the Life of the Universe, proceeds 
the life and soul of everything which has soul and life, the 
which life, however, I understand to be immortal, as well 
in bodies as in their souls, there being no other death 
than division and congregation." * All differences seem at 
times to disappear in this eternal whole ; and by reason of 
the emphasis which he puts upon it, Bruno may be said to 
anticipate the, pantheism of Spinoza. But his thought has 
also the other side, which tends away from the mere ab- 
stract form of unity. God is the whole, but a whole which 
is present in its completeness in each single part. He is 
in the blade of grass, in the grain of sand, in the atom that 
floats in the sunbeam, as well as in the boundless All. 
Each man is a point in which the fulness of the Godhead 
is reflected ; it represents the whole ; it is the microcosm 
which in miniature reproduces the great macrocosm of the 
universe. With Bruno " man is a mirror within a mirror, 
and his perception of things is a reflection of nature, which 
is the reflection of the thought of God." 

3. Paracelsus. Evidently, then, the return to nature 
lends itself, in this its early form, rather to a poetical glori- 
fication of the world, an imaginative interpretation which 
reaches its goal by a subjective leap, rather than to the 
sober attention to details which was needed before science 
could be established. For a time, the revival of the essen- 
tially true ideal of control over nature as a main end of hu- 

1 ibid., p. 278. 

Transition to Modern Philosophy 231 

man knowledge, showed itself in the form of an interest in 
magic, astrology, alchemy, a search for the philosopher's 
stone. The control was to come about, not by patient 
industry, but by the possession of some secret wisdom, 
some all-compelling formula or word, which should force 
the powers of the spiritual world to do man's bidding. 
Paracelsus is the type of a host of men who sprang up all 
over Europe men of enthusiasm for nature, and to some 
extent of original and high ideals, but men whose un- 
disciplined imaginations led them beyond the bounds of 
sober thinking. In the immense activity which resulted, 
some valuable knowledge about the world was, it is true, 
attained. In alchemy, in particular, the search for that 
which should turn everything to gold was the means of 
giving a start to the science of chemistry. It was neces- 
sary, however, not only that the barren logomachies of 
Scholasticism, but also that these more attractive, but 
almost equally unfruitful methods of magic and theosophy, 
should be definitely rejected, and the foundations laid for 
an entirely different view of the world, before progress 
could be secure. 


Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance. 

Montaigne, Essays. 

Cellini, Autobiography. 

Owen, The Sceptics of the Italian Renaissance. 

Vaughan, Hours with the Mystics. 

Symonds, Renaissance in Italy, 7 vols. 

Frith, Life of Bruno. 

25. Bacon 

I. The Defects of the Existing Philosophy. The man 
who came forward to attempt this task was Francis Bacon 
(1561-1626). The way in which philosophy now begins 
to pass out from the hands of ecclesiastics and School- 
men is itself significant of the change that has taken 
place. In the Middle Ages, all the philosophers were con- 

232 A Student's History of Philosophy 

nected with the Church ; even Bruno was a Dominican 
monk. But Bacon is a lawyer and statesman, Hobbes a 
private tutor, Descartes a soldier, Spinoza a grinder of 
lenses. Bacon's personal character is not one that we can 
view with unmixed satisfaction. Pope's phrase "the 
wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind" is no doubt ex- 
aggerated for the sake of antithesis. Nevertheless there 
is, in Bacon's checkered career a career ending in his 
disgrace, and removal from the Lord Chancellorship 
too much truckling to those in power, too elastic a con- 
science, and too obvious a lack of any delicate sense of 
personal honor and dignity, to be altogether attractive. 
Nor, indeed, as a thinker, is Bacon deserving of the ex- 
cessive admiration which has sometimes been bestowed 
upon him. On the more ultimate questions of philosophy 
he has little to say ; and even on the side of science and 
the world of nature, his work is not in any sense final. He 
continually prgmises more than he is able to perform. It was 
other men who were actually doing the things whose neces- 
sity Bacon was pointing out, and Bacon was not always able 
to recognize the value of their work. He never accepted 
the Copernican theory ; and the valuable investigations of 
Gilbert, an Englishman, in connection with the properties of 
the magnet, he was inclined to depreciate, on the ground 
that they covered only a limited field. Nor, again, is the 
method which it was his main purpose to elaborate, accepted 
nowadays as an adequate account of scientific procedure. 

But in spite of these defects, the work which Bacon accom- 
plished was a highly important one. What the times needed 
was not simply men to carry out practically the new methods 
of science in a detailed investigation of the world, but also 
some one with the breadth of vision to realize clearly, and 
in a large way, what these methods meant, to emphasize 
their relation to previous methods, and to set them in con- 
nection with some worthy end in terms of human life as a 
whole. For this task Bacon was admirably equipped. The 
catholicity and universality of his scientific interests, which 

Transition to Modern Philosophy 233 

might have hindered him in the actual investigation of 
scientific detail, enabled him here to keep in view and call 
attention to the larger and more important aspects. His 
reputation as a statesman lent to his words a special 
weight ; while the gifts of a great writer, helped out by a 
wide learning, gave his exposition an impressiveness and 
attractiveness which much increased its influence. 

Bacon starts out with the recognition that philosophy 
has broken down, and is in general disrepute. What now 
is the reason for this, when other things are prospering ? 
Take the mechanical arts " they grow and perfect them- 
selves daily as if enjoying a certain vital air, while philos- 
ophy, like a statue, is adorned and celebrated, but moves 
not. The former also are seen rude and commonly with- 
out proportion and cumbrous in the hands of their first 
authors, but afterward get new strength and aptness ; the 
latter is in its greatest vigor with its first author, and after- 
ward declines." This is a feeling about philosophy which 
frequently finds expression, but in Bacon's time it had a 
special justification. " The fable of Scylla is a lively image 
of the present state of letters, with the countenance and 
expression of a virgin above, the end in a multitude of bark- 
ing questions, fruitful of controversy, and barren of effect." 1 

Now this unfortunate state of affairs has three main 
roots, three " distempers of learning " : the first fantastical 
learning, the second contentious learning, and the last deli- 
cate learning. By delicate learning, Bacon means the dilet- 
tante spirit which the Renaissance had made fashionable. 
Here words usurp the place of substance; matters of 
style and polished phrases are substituted for real weight 
of meaning. " Of this vanity Pygmalion's frenzy is a good 
emblem ; for words are but the images of matter, and ex- 
cept they have life of reason and invention, to fall in love 
with them is all one as to fall in love with a picture." The 
second distemper is that which the Schoolmen exemplify, 
and the image of Scylla will stand for it. The first, or 

1 Great Instauration, Preface. 

234 A Student's History of Philosophy 

fantastical learning, which manifests itself alike in impos- 
ture and credulity, is the spirit which makes men run after 
old wives' tales, wonders, and ghosts, and miracles ; or, in 
a pseudo-scientific form, gains credence for the fancies of 
alchemy and natural magic. 

From these three roots grow the numerous errors which 
infect philosophy, and of these Bacon names a long list. 
There is the extreme affecting, either of antiquity, or novelty, 
" whence it seemeth the children of time do take after the 
nature and malice of the father. For as he devoureth his 
children, so one of them seeketh to devour and suppress the 
others ; while antiquity envieth there should be new addi- 
tions, novelty cannot be content to add, but it must deface. 
Antiquity deserveth that reverence that men should make a 
stand thereupon, and discover what is the best way; but 
when the discovery is well taken, then to make progression. 
And to speak truly, those times are the ancient times when 
the world is ancient, and not those which we account ancient 
by a computation backward from ourselves. " Another error, 
depending on this, is a "distrust that anything should be now 
to be found out which the world should have missed and 
passed over so long time;" and again, the " conceit that of 
former opinions the best hath still prevailed and suppressed 
the rest, so that the result of new search will be nothing 
save to light upon exploded errors. The truth is, that time 
seemeth to be of the nature of a river or stream, which 
carrieth down to us that which is light and blown up, and 
sinketh and drowndeth that which is weighty and solid." 
So, again, we may mention the premature formulation of 
knowledge which checks its growth ; an extreme speciali- 
zation ; too much confidence in man's own wit and under- 
standing, apart from the contemplation of nature; an 
impatience of doubt, and haste to assertion without due 
and mature suspension of judgment; a lazy content with 
discourses already made. 

And, finally, there is the greatest error of all, " the mistak- 
ing or misplacing of the last or farthest end of knowledge. 

Transition to Modern Philosophy 235 

For men have entered into a desire of learning or knowl- 
edge, sometimes upon a natural curiosity and inquisitive 
appetite, sometimes to entertain their minds with vanity 
and delight, sometimes for ornament and reputation, some- 
times to enable them to victory of wit and contradiction, and 
most times for lucre and profession ; and seldom to give a 
true account of their gift of reason, to the benefit and use 
of men. As if there were sought in knowledge a couch 
whereupon to rest a restless spirit; or a tarasse for a 
wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a 
fair prospect ; or a fort or commanding ground for strife 
and contention ; or a shop for profit or sale ; and not a rich 
storehouse for the glory of the creator, and the relief of 
man's estate. Howbeit I do not mean, when I speak of 
use and action, that end before mentioned of the applying 
of knowledge to lucre and profession ; for I am not igno- 
rant how much that divideth and interrupteth the prosecu- 
tion and advancement of knowledge, like unto the golden 
ball, thrown before Atalanta, which while she goeth aside 
and stoppeth to take up, the race is hindered. But as 
both heaven and earth do conspire and contribute to the 
use and benefit of man, so the end ought to be for both 
natural and moral philosophies, to separate and reject vain 
speculations, and whatsoever is empty and void, and to 
preserve and augment whatever is solid and fruitful." 1 

2. The Aim of Philosophy. For Bacon, then, philoso- 
phy, in opposition to the practical barrenness of the 
Scholastics, has the definite function of serving for the 
benefit and relief of the state and society of man; for 
a " restitution and reinvesting of man to the sovereignty 
and power, in that wheresoever he shall be able to call 
the creatures by their true name, he shall again command 
them which he had in his first state of creation." 2 Such 
an ideal is pictured in the unfinished fragment of the 
New Atlantis. Here Bacon imagines an island, shut 

1 Adv. of Learning (Spedding's ed., Vol. VI, pp. 117-135). 

2 Interpretation of Nature, Vol. VI, p. 34. 

236 A Student's History of Philosophy 

off from the rest of the world, and raised to a high 
point of felicity and civilization; and this is brought 
about simply by a systematic application of the human 
mind to s a discovery of the secrets of nature, and the 
utilization of these for inventions intended to secure 
man's control over his environment. In a sort of scien- 
tific society called Solomon's House, this aim is carried 
out with a high degree of organization and efficiency ; 
and Bacon gives rein to his imagination in anticipating 
all sorts of possible results of inventive skill, including 
the microphone and telephone, the flying machine and 
submarine vessels, to say nothing of several kinds of 
perpetual motion. But now this whole conception is 
thoroughly practical and secular. All speculative ques- 
tions relating to God and His purposes, or to the ultimate 
destiny of man, are excluded from the realm of reason, 
and handed over to theology and faith. At most a con- 
templation of, the world and this is the true sphere of 
philosophy may be made to refute atheism ; but it can 
give no more positive content. To be sure, Bacon still is 
ready to acknowledge the truth of theology in its own 
sphere ; but he deprecates any mingling of theology and 
reason. " The knowledge of man is as the waters, some 
descending from above, and some springing from beneath ; 
the one informed by the light of nature, the other inspired 
by divine revelation." 1 " If any man shall think by view 
and inquiry into sensible and material things to attain to 
any light for the revelation of the nature and will of God, 
he shall dangerously abuse himself. It is true that the 
contemplation of the creatures of God hath for end, as to 
the natures of the creatures themselves, knowledge, but as 
to the nature of God, no knowledge, but wonder, which is 
nothing else but contemplation broken off or losing itself. 
Nay, further, as it was aptly said by one of Plato's school, 
the sense of man resembles the sun, which openeth and 
revealeth the terrestrial globe, but obscureth and concealeth 

1 Adv. of Learning, Vol. VI, p. 207. 

Transition to Modern Philosophy 237 

the celestial ; so doth the sense discover natural things, 
but darken and shut up divine." * Theology is grounded 
only upon the word of God, and not upon the light of 
nature ; to the latter it may be but foolishness, as " that faith 
which was accounted to Abraham for righteousness was 
of such a point as whereat Sarah laughed, who therein was 
an image of natural reason." 2 Whether the profession of 
faith in theology is altogether sincere or not is a matter of 
some doubt ; at any rate, the thing that Bacon is most con- 
cerned with is, not to establish faith, but to free reason, 
and give it full play in its proper sphere. As reason has 
nothing to say about the concerns of theology, so the- 
ology, on its side, must not meddle in matters which do 
not belong to it. The Bible is made to teach religion, 
not science ; and to endeavor, as some have done, to 
build a system of natural philosophy on the first chapter 
of Genesis, or other parts of Scripture, is to seek the dead 
among the living. 

3. Method of Induction. To sum up, then, the past ill 
success of science has been due solely to the lack of a true 
method. Those who have treated of it have been empirics, 
or dogmatical. " The former, like ants, only heap up and 
use their store ; the latter, like spiders, spin out their own 
webs. The bee, a mean between both, extracts matter from 
the flowers of the garden and the field, but works and 
fashions it by its own efforts. The true labor of philoso- 
phy resembles hers, for it neither relies entirely or prin- 
cipally on the powers of the mind, nor yet lays up in the 
memory the matter afforded by the experiments of natural 
history or mechanics in its raw state, but changes and works 
it in the understanding." 3 What, accordingly, is the new 
method by which Bacon, with the self-confidence charac- 
teristic of a century to whose fresh and vigorous powers 
no achievement seemed impossible, looked to see human 
thought and life straightway revolutionized ? 

1 Inter, of Nature, Vol. VI, p. 29. 2 Adv. of Learning, Vol. VI, p. 393. 

3 Novum Organum, 95. 

238 A Student's History of Philosophy 

In the first place, it is Empiricism, as opposed to the 
a priori syllogistic reasoning of the Scholastics. Bacon 
thought that " theories and opinions and common notions, 
so far as can be obtained from the stiffness and firmness 
of the mind, should be entirely done away with, and that 
the understanding should begin anew plainly and fairly 
with particulars, since there is no other entrance open to 
the kingdom of nature than to the kingdom of heaven, 
into which no one may enter except in the form of a little 
child." 1 These prepossessions, of which it is our first duty 
to rid ourselves, are what Bacon metaphorically calls Idols : 
Idols of the Tribe, or the predispositions which by the 
natural working of the mind more or less beset every one ; 
Idols of the Cave, " for every one, besides the faults he 
shares with his race, has a cave or den of his own which 
refracts and discolors the light of nature," due to mental 
and bodily structure, habits, education, or accident; Idols 
of the Forum, of society and language, " for men believe 
that their reason governs words, but it is also true that 
words, like the arrows from a Tartar bow, are shot back 
and react upon the mind ; " and Idols of the Theatre, or 
those which get into men's minds from the dogmas of 
philosophers, so called because all received systems are but 
" so many stage plays, representing worlds of their own 
creation after an unreal and scenic fashion." * 

Abandoning these presuppositions, we are to begin with 
the particular facts, and only arrive at generalities by a 
gradual process, instead of at a single leap. The syllogism, 
on which the Schoolmen rely, is a useful instrument in cer- 
tain cases, but it is incompetent to reach the truth of nature. 
Dealing as it does with words and ideas, rather than with 
things, whenever these ideas happen to be vague, incom- 
plete, and not sufficiently defined, and this is usually the 
case, it falls at once to the ground. Let us abandon all 
such trifling with nature, and come to her with open minds 
to learn what she has to teach. " If there be any humility 

1 Novum Organum, 68. 2 Ibid., 39 ff. 

Transition to Modern Philosophy 239 

toward the Creator, any reverence for or disposition to mag- 
nify His works, any charity for man and anxiety to relieve 
his sorrows and necessities, any love of truth in nature, any 
hatred of darkness, any desire for the purification of the 
understanding, we must entreat men again and again to 
discard, or at least set apart for a while, these preposterous 
philosophies, which have preferred theses to hypotheses, led 
experience captive, and triumphed over the works of God, 
and to approach with humility and veneration to unroll the 
volume of creation, to linger and meditate therein, and with 
minds washed clean from opinions to study it in purity and 
integrity. For this is that sound and language which 
went forth into all lands, and did not incur the confusion 
of Babel; this should men study to be perfect in, and, 
becoming again as little children, condescend to take the 
alphabet of it into their hands, and spare no pains to 
search and unravel the interpretation thereof, but pursue 
it strenuously, and persevere even unto death." a 

Induction from empirical particulars is thus the general 
method of science. But induction must itself escape the 
perils that attend it as it has commonly been applied. 
What Logic has had in a meagre way to say of induction, 
as a mere enumeration of particulars, is vicious and incom- 
petent. " To conclude upon an enumeration of particulars 
without instance contradictory, is no conclusion, but a con- 
jecture; for who can assure in many subjects, upon those 
particulars which appear of a side, that there are not 
others on the contrary side which appear not. As if 
Samuel should have rested upon those sons of Jesse which 
were brought before him, and failed of David, which was 
in the field." 2 True induction, accordingly, must not be in 
too great haste to generalize, but must consider carefully 
all opposing instances. It must not specialize and confine 
itself to a few objects, but must be universal in its scope; 
for no one can successfully investigate the nature of any 

1 Nat. and Exp. Hist., Vol. IX, pp. 370-371. 

2 Adv. of Learning, Vol. VI, p. 265. 

240 A Student's History of Philosophy 

object by considering that object alone. It must not be 
too ready to run after immediate utility, but must look for 
experiments that shall afford light rather than profit, " imi- 
tating the divine creation, which only produced light on 
the first day, and assigned that whole day to its creation, 
without adding any material work." * And it must subject 
its data to the most careful experimental examination, " not 
following the common example of accepting any vague 
report or tradition for fact ; so that a system has been 
pursued in philosophy with regard to experience, resem- 
bling that of a kingdom or state which would direct its 
councils or affairs according to the gossip of city and 
street politicians, instead of the letters and reports of 
ambassadors and messengers worthy of credit." 2 

The thing most to be desired, then, is the creation of a 
definite method, which shall enable us to avoid these pit- 
falls, and put in our hands an instrument for conquering 
nature. " For the fabric of the universe is like a labyrinth 
to the contemplative mind, and the guides who offer their 
services are themselves confused. In so difficult a matter 
we must despair of man's unassisted judgment, or even of 
any casual good fortune ; we must guide our steps by a 
clew, and the whole path from the very first perceptions 
of our senses must be secured by a determined method. 
Nor must I be thought to say that nothing whatever has 
been done by so many, and so much labor. But as in 
former ages, when men at sea used only to steer by their 
observation of the stars, they were indeed able to coast the 
shores of the continent, or some small arid inland seas ; 
but before they could traverse the ocean, and discover the 
regions of the New World, it was necessary that the use 
of the compass a more trusty and certain guide in their 
voyage should be first known ; even so the present dis- 
coveries in the arts and sciences are such as might be 
found out by meditation, as being more open to the senses, 
and lying immediately beneath our common notions ; but 

1 Great Instauration, Preface. 2 Novum Organum, 98. 

Transition to Modern Philosophy 241 

before we are allowed to enter the more remote and hidden 
parts of nature, it is necessary that a better and more 
perfect use and application of the human mind should be 
introduced." 1 

More definitely, the new method from which Bacon 
hoped so much was briefly this : After clearing the mind 
of presuppositions, the next step is to gather and carefully 
tabulate all possible knowledge of the facts of nature ; for 
it is useless to clear the mirror if it have no images to re- 
flect. These facts are not to be taken at haphazard, but 
are to be the result of careful and exact experiment, in 
which the natural imperfections of the senses are to be 
assisted by whatever instruments and processes may be 
necessary. Such a catalogue of facts Bacon himself 
started, and he expected that a determined and con- 
certed effort on the part of men of science would soon 
render it practically exhaustive. The problem of science 
now is to discover what, following the scholastic terminol- 
ogy, Bacon calls the "forms" of things. Every "simple 
nature," that is, or ultimate quality, has a form, or essence, 
or law, which is always present where the quality is, and 
which, if it can be discovered, will always serve to super- 
induce the quality in any particular object. Suppose, then, 
that we wish to discover the form of a simple nature like 
heat. Using the tabulations we have made of all the cases 
in nature where heat appears, and, again, of cases where 
it is absent, we find, by a process of comparison and exclu- 
sion, what the form of heat must be. It cannot be weight, 
e.g., for we find heavy bodies in both lists ; nor can it be 
a host of other things for the same reason. And at last 
we hit upon motion as the one thing which always is pres- 
ent when heat is present, and absent when heat is absent. 
Finally, we may draw up a third list, which represents the 
presence of the quality in varying degrees ; and in this we 
ought to find the form presenting a similar variation. This 
is, in brief, Bacon's scientific method, though of course it 

1 Great Instauration, Preface. 

242 A Student's History of Philosophy 

admits of working out in much greater detail, particularly 
in the way of formulating certain kinds of cases which are 
especially illuminating as test instances. 

The results of Bacon's work were incommensurate with 
the promises he had held out. What he did do was to call 
attention in an impressive way to the necessity for induc- 
tion, experiment, and the empirical study of facts. But 
his great work remained at his death a mere sketch of a 
method which he had found it impossible to exhibit in its 
actual working ; and he had not sufficiently understood 
the conditions of science to lay out a path for others. In 
particular, he was almost wholly blind to the important 
part which deduction plays in scientific inquiry. As he 
conceived it, Bacon's method was almost mechanical in its 
nature, leaving little to that scientific imagination and 
bold fertility of hypothesis which characterizes the great 
scientists. " Our method of discovering the sciences," he 
says, " is such as to leave little to the acuteness and strength 
of wit, and, indeed, rather to level wit and intellect. For 
as in the drawing of a straight line or accurate circle by 
the hand, much depends upon its steadiness and practice, 
but if a ruler or compass be employed there is little occa- 
sion for either, so it is with our method." J 


Bacon, Chief Works : Advancement of Learning (1605); Novum 
Organum (1620) ; De dignitate et augmentis scientiarum (1623) ; New 

Fowler, Bacon. 

Spedding, Life and Times of Francis Bacon, 2 vols. 

Fischer, Bacon and his Successors. 

Nichol, Bacon^ 2 vols. 

Morris, British Thought and Thinkers. 

26. Hobbes 

I. The deductive side, whose importance Bacon had 
overlooked, was emphasized by another Englishman, who 

* Novum Organum, 61. 

Transition to Modern Philosophy 243 

also attempted to raise science to a philosophy. Thomas 
Hobbes, the son of a clergyman, was born at Malmesbury 
in 1588. After passing through the University of Oxford, 
he became a tutor in the Cavendish family, with which he 
remained more or less closely connected throughout the 
course of a long life. In his earlier years he gave no spe- 
cial philosophical promise. He took no interest in the 
scholastic doctrines, which still were taught at Oxford, but 
neither did he actively revolt against them ; his tastes lay 
rather in a different direction. It was not till his fortieth 
year that an accidental event gave a new turn to his 
thought. Picking up a book on geometry, of which to 
that time he had been ignorant, he was greatly impressed 
by it. " It is impossible," he is reported to have said as 
he read the 4/th proposition ; and as he went back, and 
traced the steps which led up to the proof of the proposi- 
tion, an interest was aroused which set him at once to the 
study of mathematics. And the result of this new study, 
combined with a growing interest in the mechanical sci- 
ences which had already transformed the educated thought 
of the day, was the emergence of the idea which he was 
to make the basis of a complete philosophy. 

This idea was, that the cause of all events whatsoever 
can be reduced to motion, and thus can be made amenable 
to mathematical and deductive treatment. Philosophy is 
the reasoned knowledge of effects from causes, and causes 
from effects ; and since these are always motions, philoso- 
phy is the doctrine of the motion of bodies. Such an idea 
meant the freeing of science from esoteric natures, Aristo- 
telian forms, final causes, and its restriction to exact quan- 
titative investigations. It is true that Hobbes was only 
pointing out what was already the conscious method of his 
great scientific contemporaries. Nor was he able to con- 
tribute to the history of science any results to be compared 
in value for a moment with theirs. He came to the study 
of mathematics too late ever to be a master of it, and in his 
extended controversies with mathematicians of his day, he 

244 -^ Student's History of Philosophy 

committed himself to positions that were hopelessly in the 
wrong, as, for example, in his insistence on the possibility 
of squaring the circle. But with Hobbes it is not a matter 
simply of scientific method. He intends to assert a philo- 
sophical principle, which is absolutely universal, and 
which results in an entirely mechanical and materialistic 
world view. Not only is a mechanical explanation to be 
given to events in the material world, but the same method 
is to be followed in psychology and sociology. The life 
of man is to be shown to result from a higher complex- 
ity of motions ; and the life of society, in turn, is a still 
more complex mechanism, strictly determined, and so 
capable of being treated deductively. Accordingly in 
Hobbes' original plan, a trilogy of works De Corpore, De 
Homine, and De Give was to follow up these mechan- 
ical principles through all their workings, in order to cover 
the whole sphere of existence. 

A significant part of Hobbes' position is thus the re- 
duction of consciousness to motion. He identifies it, that 
is, with those changes in the nervous system which accom- 
pany and condition it a confusion which is the peculiar 
vice of materialism. Consciousness is only the feeling of 
these brain changes. All the conscious life thus reduces 
itself to sensations, which are combined in various ways. 
Since knowledge is due simply to the setting up of motions 
in the brain, the old theory that images or copies of things 
enter the mind must be rejected. Our sensations are not 
mirrors of external realities, but wholly subjective. 

2. It was not, however, as a physicist or psychologist, 
but rather as a social philosopher, that Hobbes won his 
greatest influence. As it happened, he was induced by the 
course of events to change his original plan, and produce 
the last part of his work earlier than he had intended. 
The occasion of this was the political situation in England, 
which resulted in the beheading of Charles the First and 
the exile of the Royalists. Hobbes, by his connection 
with the Cavendishes, was naturally in sympathy with the 

Transition to Modern Philosophy 245 

Royalist party, and thought that he had a message for the 
times. The fundamental importance of his theory, for 
subsequent thought, lies, not so much in its actual details, 
as in the fact that it set up the ideal of a purely natural- 
istic treatment of the ethical and social life of man, an 
attempt to understand it simply in terms of its natural 

Hobbes starts from the conception of man as naturally 
self-seeking and egoistic, and nothing more. A man loves 
only himself ; he cares for others only as they minister to 
his own pleasure. " If by nature one man should love 
another as man, there is no reason why every man should 
not equally every man." This idea of human nature 
Hobbes corroborates by various facts drawn from a cynical 
observation of men's foibles. In a company, for example, 
is not each one anxious to tell his own story, and impatient 
of listening to others ; and when one leaves, are not the 
rest always ready to talk over his faults ? There is no dis- 
interested satisfaction in social intercourse ; " all the pleas- 
ure and jollity of mind consists in this, even to get some, 
with whom comparing, it may find somewhat wherein to 
triumph and vaunt itself." J 

Now in a state of nature, where selfish characteristics 
rule unrestrained, the result must be a condition of contin- 
ual warfare, in which every man's hand is raised against 
his neighbor. All men will have an appetite for the same 
things, and each man's selfishness, accordingly, will lead 
him to encroach upon his fellows whenever he has the 
opportunity. Under such conditions there is no satisfac- 
tion possible in life, no place for industry, navigation, 
commodious building, knowledge of nature, arts, letters, 
society; "and, which is worst of all, continual fear and 
danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, 
nasty, brutish, and short." Does any one doubt that this 
is what human nature, unrestrained, would lead to ? " Let 
him therefore consider with himself," says Hobbes, "when 
1 DC Give, I, 2, 5. 

246 A Student's History of Philosophy 

taking a journey, he arms himself, and seeks to go well 
accompanied ; when going to sleep, he locks his doors ; 
when even in his house, he locks his chests; and this 
when he knows there be laws and public officers armed to 
revenge all injuries shall be done him." 1 

It is the intolerableness of this state of affairs which 
gives rise to society and government. Society, indeed, 
does not call into play any new or non-egoistic impulses. 
All social life springs either from poverty or vainglory, 
and it exists for glory or for gain. But it is found that 
selfishness can be gratified better by peace than by war. 
" The passions that incline men to peace are fear of death, 
desire of such things as are necessary to commodious liv- 
ing, and a hope by their industry to obtain them. And 
reason suggesteth convenient articles of peace upon which 
men may be drawn to agreement." 2 An enlightened self- 
interest will lead a man to see that it is vastly preferable 
for him to give up the abstract right to everything which 
he is strong enough to wrest from other men and keep, 
and to refrain from aggression upon their liberty and pos- 
sessions, provided he is thus certain of securing a like 
immunity for himself. 

But this is only possible on two conditions : First, all 
men alike must enter into this agreement to respect one 
another's rights; and, second, the carrying out of their 
compact must be guaranteed by the creation of a single 
power, sufficiently strong to enforce its demands upon 
individuals, since the only way to keep men to their con- 
tracts is by physical compulsion. " Covenants without 
the sword are but words, and of no strength to secure a 
man at all ; " 3 witness the acts of nations, and the almost 
entire lack of good faith and honor in their dealings with 
one another, since here there is no such authority to com- 
pel them to live up to their promises. For the sake, 
then, of peace and protection, men will be willing to hand 
over their individual rights and powers to one man, or 

1 Leviathan, Ch. 1 3. 2 Ibid. 8 Ibid. , Ch. 1 7. 

Transition to Modern Philosophy 247 

assembly of men, submit their wills to a single will, which 
they thus endow once for all with the supreme authority 
necessary to maintain order. All men will find this to their 
advantage, for there is no one enough superior to his fel- 
lows to be secure against aggression. " For as to the 
strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to 
kill the strongest, either by secret machination or by con- 
federacy with others that are in the same danger with 
himself." An even greater equality exists in natural gifts 
of the mind ; " for there is not ordinarily a greater sign of 
the equal distribution of a thing than that every man is 
contented with his own share." x When this agreement 
comes about, then, society and government succeed to the 
original state of anarchy. 

Now one consequence flowing from this theory is that 
right and morality are a creation of the state; they relate 
to man only in society, and not in his original solitude. 
Naturally, man has nothing but instincts of self-seeking 
and self-preservation, and there is no limit to these except 
the power of gratifying them. Obligation, duty, right and 
wrong, have as yet no meaning. Duty only arises when 
there comes in an outside power to impose laws ; and this 
power is the state. Right and wrong, then, are identical 
with the commands and prohibitions of the state; law is 
the public conscience. "The desires and other passions 
of men are in themselves no sin ; no more are the actions 
that proceed from those passions, till they know a law that 
forbids them, which, till laws be made, they cannot know ; 
nor can any law be made till they have agreed upon the 
person that shall make it." 2 A man can have no individ- 
ual morality, therefore, which conflicts with these com- 
mands of his rulers. In making such a claim, he would 
be breaking the contract which gives rise to morality, and 
putting himself outside the pale of society, in which alone 
the words have meaning. 

So religion, also, must necessarily be a state affair ; as 
/., Ch. 13. 

248 A Student ' s History of Philosophy 

the commonwealth is one person, it should exhibit to God 
but one worship. Hobbes takes for granted that each 
man will, if left to himself, attempt to force his own opin- 
ions on other men ; and so the central authority of the 
state is necessary, here as elsewhere, to keep men within 
bounds. Rights of conscience and of private judgment are, 
accordingly, mere impertinences. Religion is not some- 
thing to be believed on reason, but accepted on authority. 
"For it is with the mysteries of our religion as with 
wholesome pills for the sick, which swallowed whole have 
the virtue to cure, but chewed, are for the most part cast 
up again without effect." 1 We must trust in him that 
speaketh, though the mind be incapable of any notion at 
all from the words spoken. But now who shall judge the 
claims of the revelation to be from God ? who shall guar- 
antee the authority of the Bible itself ? Evidently, unless 
we go back to private judgment again, not individuals, 
nor any arbitrary collection of them in a church, but only 
the commonwealth as a whole. Outward conformity to 
the worship of the Established Church, therefore, and a 
profession of belief, is a necessity of civil order. Mean- 
while in your own heart you may believe what you please, 
if only you keep it to yourself. If this is thought disin- 
genuous, Hobbes bids you remember that, in your profes- 
sion of belief under compulsion, the king is really acting, 
not you, and so that you are not responsible for the 

The practical issue of all this is that the will of the state 
that is, of the king, or the authorities who represent the 
established government is supreme, and that disobedi- 
ence or rebellion is in every case unjustified. Nothing can 
release the subject from the duty of obedience. The con- 
tract is not between people and ruler, but is a covenant of 
the people with one another, to which the ruler is not a 
party; and accordingly no possible act of his can be a 
breach of contract, and furnish an excuse for rebellion. 
1 Ibid., Ch. 32. 

Transition to Modern Philosophy 249 

Nothing the sovereign can do to a subject can properly be 
called injustice. The king is acting by the authority given 
him by the people, and to complain of his act is to com- 
plain of oneself ; if the subject dissents, he has already 
voluntarily made his dissent a crime. Does the king seize 
a man's property ? He has property rights only with ref- 
erence to others, not to the sovereign. The king is the 
recipient of power freely handed over to him, and once 
given, this cannot be recalled. For what would such a 
recall mean ? It would mean that society no longer exists, 
that no one remains to judge disputes, and that the original 
anarchy has returned ; and any conceivable act of despot- 
ism on the part of the ruler is preferable to this. 

3. The philosophy of Hobbes had shown a clear under- 
standing of certain aspects of the scientific problem, but it 
was not altogether fitted to give the new impetus for which 
philosophy was waiting. In the first place, its theory of 
knowledge was not satisfactory. Like the whole scientific 
movement of the day, Hobbes accepted Nominalism, and 
denied the reality of universals. Concepts, accordingly, are 
mere counters which the mind uses to reckon with, and 
represent no objective realities. Now so long as we insist 
upon the empirical side of science, as Bacon did, there is 
not so obvious a difficulty in attributing reality simply to 
individual things. But when, with Hobbes, we lay em- 
phasis on deduction and mathematical laws, trouble arises. 
For these laws are concepts, or universals, and so, instead 
of having the highest reality for science, they would seem 
to have no reality at all. By his theory of knowledge, 
mathematical deduction is a mere manipulation of subjec- 
tive counters in the mind, which have no objective validity. 
To make his science of any value, however, they ought to 
have precisely that external truth which they do not possess. 

In the second place, a universal philosophy should give 
its due, not simply to material facts, but also to the human, 
conscious side which makes up the other great division 
into which phenomena fall. Hobbes' materialism fails to 

250 A Student's History of Philosophy 

do this, and so it comes short of an adequate philosophy. 
It is true that physical laws can be appealed to more or 
less successfully to account for the appearance and con- 
nection of mental phenomena. Hobbes' position has thus 
a methodological value, and is an anticipation of modern 
physiological psychology. But as metaphysics it is crude 
and unsatisfactory. The two facts cannot be identified, 
and a sensation made quite the same thing as a motion 
of brain particles, except by a confusion of thought. It 
needed a clearer recognition of the distinctive character 
of consciousness, and an appreciation of the great prob- 
lems which its relationship to the material world involves, 
to bring about the rise of modern philosophy in its fullest 
sense. This is attained in Descartes. 


Hobbes, Chief Works : On Human Nature (1650) ; De Cive (1642) ; 
Leviathan (165!'); De Cor pore (1655); Of Liberty and Necessity 
(1654) ; De Homine (1658). 

Sneath, The Ethics of Hobbes. 

Bonar, Philosophy and Political Economy. 

Robertson, Hobbes. 

Morris, British Thought and Thinkers. 

Patten, Development of English Thought. 

Watson, Hedonistic Theories. 

Stephen, Hobbes. 

Woodbridge, The Philosophy of Hobbes in Extracts and Notes col- 
lected from his Writings. 


27. Introduction 

i. BEFORE proceeding with the series of great modern 
philosophers, it will be well to sum up briefly what the 
Middle Ages had accomplished, and what problems were 
left for later philosophy to attempt to solve. It has been 
said that the task of the Middle Ages was essentially a 
task of training. It took the unformed material which the 
Germanic races offered, and by a process of centuries of 
authority, and by ways which were often harsh, crude, and 
arbitrary, it succeeded in instilling into them so thoroughly 
certain habits of thought and action, that these remain a 
part of our inheritance to the present day. Now of course 
such an attitude of unreasoning acceptance does not repre- 
sent the highest attainment. In the stress of conditions 
in the mediaeval period, the specific contribution of Chris- 
tianity the bringing back of conduct to the inner per- 
sonality, and the founding of all the outer life on the 
individual will and conscience had tended to be obscured. 
The great work of modern times was to bring this again 
to the front, and to replace external law by free activity, 
which, however, should not be lawless, but a law to itself. 
Without abolishing the restraints of institutions originally 
established on authority, it should rather regard these as 
themselves necessary means to the realization of inner 
freedom ; but it should do away with their externality, 
rigidity, and incapacity for growth. 

But now the value of the Middle Ages began to show. 
In order that this new spirit of freedom and individuality 
should get a foothold, there must first be a negative move- 


252 A Student's History of Philosophy 

ment to clear the ground, a repudiation of authority as 
mere authority, and a consequent emphasis on an abstract 
freedom, which might easily lend itself to anarchy. The 
same situation had arisen before, in the Greek Enlighten- 
ment at the time of the Sophists ; and the scepticism and 
criticism of authority then had meant a social disintegra- 
tion fatal to Greek life. That the same result did not fol- 
low now, was due in considerable part to the thoroughness 
with which the period of the Middle Ages had done its 
work. The value of the institutions for which it stood had 
been so thoroughly tested, that instead of crumbling at 
once before hostile criticism, they continued to exert a 
power over the practical life of men. Save in exceptional 
periods, like that of the French Revolution, they regulated 
and restrained the spirit of change in a way to prevent any 
violent catastrophe, and substituted for this a process of 
gradual modification and improvement. Society, accord- 
ingly, was able to tide over the intervening period of nega- 
tion. It could hold together until, when the non-essentials 
had been sifted out, the more positive and valuable elements, 
that for the time had been confused with these, could be 
appreciated in turn, and utilized in the interests of human 

The history of modern thought is, therefore, in brief, the 
history of the way in which a life according to authority 
passes, by an intermediate period of protest and criticism, 
into a recognition that those acts and institutions which 
formerly had been accepted unreasoningly, are after all not 
inconsistent with the freedom which is now demanded, but are 
rather its necessary expression. Freedom is not opposed to 
law, but is the self working in accordance with the law of its 
own nature. This process has, in the past, embodied itself 
unconsciously in institutions and beliefs, but now can be 
made conscious, and directed in the interests of advance. 

It is about the social life of man, therefore, that the great 
philosophical movements of modern, as of ancient times, 
revolve; and they express themselves primarily in the 

Modern Philosophy 253 

new emphasis upon individuality. But if this is to be 
firmly grounded, it makes necessary also a development 
along more purely theoretical lines, which may not seem 
to have a very immediate relation to social questions in the 
narrow sense. It is only as man understands himself, and 
the world in which he lives, that he can move effectively 
for practical freedom. Intellectual enfranchisement is an 
intimate part of social progress. Apart, then, from social 
philosophy in the strict sense, the more technically philo- 
sophical growth will lie along two interconnected lines, 
according as it is concerned predominatingly with the world 
of external nature, or with the spiritual interests of man's 
conscious life. The interaction between these two inter- 
ests continues through the course of modern thought ; and 
it is the attempted combination and reconciliation of the 
motives which are derived from each, and the more general 
relating of them both to the unitary life of man as a social 
being, which furnishes the main problems with which 
modern philosophy is engaged, and the most general clew 
to its understanding. 

2. It has already been said that the peculiar characteristic 
of modern thought is the way in which it bases itself upon 
the individual man. Its watchword is progress, and it is 
only through individual initiative that conscious progress 
can take place. So long as men receive their principles 
from external authority, these stand over against them as 
an unchangeable and absolute ideal, to which they may not 
set themselves in opposition. In science, this individual- 
ism takes the form of free investigation and experiment, of 
direct interrogation of nature, influenced by traditional 
opinions. In the world of human life, it means the asser- 
tion of the right of private judgment, the privilege of 
criticising all the dogmas of religion and political authority, 
the setting up of the individual reason as the final court of 
appeal. The first phase, then, of modern thought, is a 
scientific Rationalism an appeal to reason, which takes 
its method and criterion from the new scientific inquiry, 

254 A Student's History of Philosophy 

whose remarkable results had been a revelation of what 
the mind of man could accomplish. Accordingly, from 
Descartes to Leibniz, there is a period of great metaphysical 
systems, having a close connection with science, and show- 
ing a firm confidence in the power of reason to discover 
the ultimate secrets of the universe. 

3. This Rationalism, however, had its dangers. In the re- 
action against authority and the past, reason came to mean 
a rather abstract thing. It was emphatically the individual 
reason, testing everything by certain necessarily abstract 
principles, which were supposed to reveal their truth 
directly to the individual, in his isolation from the life, 
experience, and institutions of the race. Accordingly, it 
assumed a somewhat hard and narrow aspect. The histor- 
ical sense, the sense of perspective, was almost entirely 
wanting. With no regard for how beliefs and institutions 
had come into being, or what in their historical environ- 
ment was tr^e value which they possessed, men were 
accustomed to judge and to condemn, often in a very 
supercilious and shallow fashion, everything that did not 
approve itself with demonstrative certainty to these narrow 
and abstract principles which they had set up as the 
ultimate criterion. Reason, in this meaning, inevitably 
separated itself from other aspects of the human spirit, 
and became actively opposed to all feelings, aspirations, 
and enthusiasms, which could not meet its narrow tests. 
Hence the peculiarly cold and unimaginative type which 
presents itself in the so-called Enlightenment. One by 
one the graces of life were stripped away. The so-called 
natural religion of Deism took the place of revealed reli- 
gion, which at least had had something to say to the emo- 
tional nature of man. God was pushed farther and farther 
into the distance, as the mere starter of the universal ma- 
chine, to be pushed out, finally, altogether. 

4. But the process did not stop here. After being used as 
an instrument for getting rid of other beliefs, reason began 
itself to be called in question. Ancient scepticism had 

Modern Philosophy 255 

already thrown doubt upon its principles, and this scepti- 
cism had been revived by men like Montaigne and Pascal. 
One great fact, however, tended to prevent such an atti- 
tude from having much weight the evident and marvel- 
lous success of science. So long as men were actually 
showing by the use of reason what undeniable results could 
be obtained, it needed more than a mere revival of discon- 
nected ancient doubts to shake the hold of Rationalism. 
Meanwhile, however, a more original and more profound 
movement had been gaining headway. As the question was 
at last forced upon philosophy : What is the origin and sanc- 
tion of these metaphysical principles that have been used 
so freely ? the current of thought for the time being 
changes its direction, and becomes primarily a theory of 
knowledge. And the result of this is that Rationalism is 
gradually undermined. Locke, the Englishman, institutes 
an inquiry into the origin of knowledge, and, true to the 
English traditions represented in Bacon, he finds this to be 
wholly empirical. Experience is the source of all we 
know ; the innate and universal ideas of reason, on which 
more or less consciously the Rationalists had relied, have 
no existence. But if this is true, then, sooner or later, an 
absolute science must follow in the steps of dogmatic reli- 
gion ; one is as little to be demonstrated as the other. 

5. The result is Scepticism, and this result is reached in 
Hume. Along this line it was impossible to go any farther ; 
and had there been nothing to supplement it, we might have 
had again the spectacle of a society whose whole foundation 
was brought into question. But meanwhile still another 
movement was preparing, which was destined to give a new 
turn to the thought of the age. In a sense, Rousseau may 
be taken as the precursor of this movement. Having in him- 
self many of the faults of the preceding period, he yet set 
himself in conscious opposition to it, by an emphasis, one- 
sided indeed, but unavoidably so, on those facts of human 
life which Rationalism had neglected, especially the fact of 
feeling. In France, the negative side of his influence pre- 

256 A Student's History of Philosophy 

dominated, and had its issue in the Revolution. But in Ger- 
many there were found men of genius who were prepared to 
receive from him a more positive inspiration. The brilliant 
period of German literature, beginning with Lessing and 
Herder, seized upon the vital part of Rousseau, but supple- 
mented it in a way to create a new conception of life. The 
thought of man as an integral part of the life of the world, 
instead of a mere separate individual ; of God as an imma- 
nent spirit, rather than a far-off abstraction ; of beliefs and 
institutions as having their roots in history, and needing to be 
judged in their concrete settings; of this historical process as 
necessary to give content to our notion of the world, which 
cannot be built up by mere abstract arguments; of the 
value of art and religion, and the whole emotional life, as 
opposed to the deification of the abstract reason all these 
things were brought in to vitalize and renew philosophy. 
Put in philosophical form, they constitute the chief signifi- 
cance of the eries of great names from Kant to Hegel, 
which makes this period of German thought one of the 
most illustrious in the history of the world. 

6. Finally, German Idealism needed in turn to be supple- 
mented. Concerned with the spiritual facts of experience 
most of all, it ran the risk of paying too exclusive attention 
to these, and of neglecting the equally insistent facts of 
the independently existing external World. To this lack 
another great scientific epoch, whose most important prod- 
uct is the theory of Evolution, called attention almost in 
our own day. With the reconciliation of these two contri- 
butions, the work of the present is largely occupied. 

With this brief and abstract statement of the general 
course of modern thought, we may turn to a more detailed 


28. Descartes. The Cartesian School 

I. The Method of Philosophy. It is with Descartes 
(1596-1650) that modern philosophy is generally regarded 
as beginning. There were several things which helped to 
give his philosophical doctrine this importance. In the first 
place, it was based upon a definite method, and this method 
the mathematical was a clear recognition of the sci- 
entific spirit. That a new method was needed in philos- 
ophy was generally recognized, and men stood ready to 
hail it when it should appear. Descartes, moreover, en- 
joyed the advantage of being himself a mathematician of the 
highest order, who came to his philosophy after a practical 
demonstration of the triumphs which he could win in a nar- 
rower field. Again, the modern principle of individuality 
and subjectivity was recognized by Descartes. The exist- 
ence of the self forms the basis of all his constructive efforts ; 
and the test of truth, again, is the clearness with which it 
justifies itself to the individual reason, by which all the 
authority of tradition has been rejected. Finally, Descartes' 
dualism, his clear distinction between mind and body, with 
their different and irreconcilable attributes of thought and 
extension, was the necessary starting-point for a fruitful 
development. By this separation, the purely mechanical 
nature of physical processes was vindicated ; and at the 
same time the existence was shown of a wider problem 
than the merely scientific. By the fact of setting up an 
immaterial reality alongside the material world, the need 
for some means of connecting the two was forced into 
notice. It is true that the violence of the separation 
s 257 

258 A Student's History of Philosophy 

itself gave rise to difficulties ; but until the two distinct 
motives which are represented in matter, and in mind or 
spirit, were sharply set apart, the attitude toward the 
philosophical problem must necessarily be confused. 

The interest of Descartes' life lies in the story of his 
mental history. He came from a well-to-do family, and 
possessed through life an independent fortune, so that he 
was able to devote himself to the things that appealed 
most strongly to him. Educated in the Jesuit school of 
La Fleche, and led to believe that a clear and certain 
knowledge of all that was useful in life might be acquired 
by education, he had an extreme desire for learning. But 
his course of study completed, he found himself compelled 
to change his opinion. " For I found myself involved in 
so many doubts and errors, that it seemed to me that I had 
derived no other advantage from my endeavors to instruct 
myself, but only to find out more and more how ignorant 
I was. And yet I was in one of the most celebrated 
schools in Europe, where I thought there must be learned 
men if there were any such in the world. Moreover, I 
knew what others thought about me, and I did not per- 
ceive that they considered me inferior to my fellow-students, 
albeit there were among them some who were destined to 
fill the places of our masters." 

He began to doubt, therefore, whether there existed in the 
world any such wisdom as he had been led to hope for, 
although he did not cease to think well of some of the 
scholastic pursuits, if followed with discretion. Language 
and history, which bring us into contact with men of other 
times, are, like travelling, of great value. " It is well to 
know something of the manners of foreign peoples, in 
order that we may judge our own more wisely. But if 
one spends too much time in travelling in foreign coun- 
tries, he becomes at last a stranger in his own ; and when 
one is too curious to know what has been done in past 
ages, he is liable to remain ignorant of what is going on in 
his own time." Eloquence, again, and poetry he held in 

Systems of Rationalism 259 

high esteem, but he regarded both as the gifts of genius, 
rather than the fruit of study. 

"Above all I was delighted with the mathematics, on 
account of the certainty and evidence of their demonstra- 
tions ; but I had not as yet found out their true use, and 
although I supposed that they were of service only in the 
mechanic arts, I was surprised that upon foundations so solid 
and stable no loftier structure had been raised ; while, on the 
other hand, I compared the writings of the ancient moralists 
to palaces very proud and very magnificent, but which are 
built on nothing but sand or mud. I revered our theology, 
and, as much as any one, I strove to gain heaven ; but when 
I learned, as an assured fact, that the way is open no less 
to the most ignorant than to the most learned, and that 
the revealed truths which conduct us thither lie beyond 
the reach of our intelligence, I did not presume to submit 
them to the feebleness of my reasonings, and I thought 
that to undertake the examination of them, and succeed 
in the attempt, required extraordinary divine assistance, 
and more than human gifts. I had nothing to say of 
philosophy, save that, seeing it had been cultivated by the 
best minds for many ages, and still there was nothing in it 
which might not be brought into dispute, and which was, 
therefore, not free from doubt, I had not the presumption 
to hope for better success therein than others ; and con- 
sidering how many diverse opinions may be held upon the 
same subject and defended by the learned, while not more 
than one of them can be true, I regarded as pretty nearly 
false all that was merely probable. Then, as to the other 
sciences which derive their principles from philosophy, I 
judged that nothing solid could be built upon foundations 
so unstable. . . . And finally, as for the pseudo-sciences, 
I thought I was already sufficiently acquainted with their 
value to be proof against the promises of the alchemist, 
the predictions of the astrologer, the impostures of the 
magician, the artifices and vain boasting of those who 
profess to know more than they actually do know. 

260 A Student's History of Philosophy 

" For these reasons, so soon as I was old enough to be 
no longer subject to the control of my teachers, I 
abandoned literary pursuits altogether, and, being re- 
solved to seek no other knowledge than that which I 
was able to find within myself, or in the great book of the 
world, I spent the remainder of my youth in travelling, 
in seeing courts and armies, in mingling with people of 
various dispositions and conditions in life, in collecting a 
variety of experiences, putting myself to the proof in the 
crises of fortune, and reflecting on all occasions on what- 
ever might present itself, so as to derive from it what 
profit I might. ... It is true that, while I was employed 
only in observing the manners of foreigners, I found very 
little to establish my mind, and saw as much diversity 
here as I had seen before in the opinions of philosophers. 
So that the principal benefit I derived from it was that, 
observing many things which, although they appear to us 
to be very extravagant and ridiculous, are yet commonly 
received and- approved by other great peoples, I gradually 
became emancipated from many errors which tend to 
obscure the natural light within us, and make us less 
capable of listening to reason. But after I had spent 
some years thus in studying in the book of the world, and 
trying to gain some experience, I formed one day the 
resolution to study within myself, and to devote all the 
powers of my mind to choosing the paths which I must 
thereafter follow a project attended with much greater 
success, as I think, than it would have been had I never 
left my country nor my books." J 

" I was then in Germany, whither the wars, which were 
not yet ended there, had summoned me ; and when I was 
returning to the army, from the coronation of the emperor, 
the coming on of winter detained me in a quarter where, 
finding no one I wished to talk with, and fortunately having 
no cares nor passions to trouble me, I spent the whole day 
shut up in a room heated by a stove, where I had all the 

1 Discourse upon Method, Part I. Torrey's translation. (Henry Holt & Co.) 

Systems of Rationalism 261 

leisure I desired to hold converse with my own thoughts. 
One of the first thoughts to occur to me was, that there is 
often less completeness in works made up of many parts 
and by the hands of different masters, than in those upon 
which only one has labored. . . . And so I thought that 
the sciences contained in books, at least those in which 
the proofs were merely probable and not demonstrations, 
being the gradual accumulation of opinions of many differ- 
ent persons, by no means come so near the truth as the 
plain reasoning of a man of good sense in regard to the 
matters which present themselves to him. And I thought 
still further that, because we have all been children before 
we were men, and for a long time of necessity were under 
the control of our inclinations and our tutors, who were 
often of different minds, and none of whom, perhaps, 
gave us the best of counsels, it is almost impossible that 
our judgments should be as free from error and as solid 
as they would have been if we had had the entire use of 
our reason from the moment of our birth, and had always 
been guided by that alone. . . As for all the opinions which 
I had accepted up to that time, I was persuaded that I 
could do no better than get rid of them at once, in order 
to replace them afterward with better ones, or, perhaps, 
with the same, if I should succeed in making them square 
with reason. And I firmly believed that in this way I 
should have much greater success in the conduct of my 
life, than if I should build only on the old foundations, 
and should rely only on the principles which I had allowed 
myself to be persuaded of in my youth, without ever hav- 
ing examined whether they were true." 1 

In a word, then, what Descartes resolved to do was 
to strip himself completely of all that he had formerly 
believed, and start de novo, with the intention of admitting 
only that which was absolutely certain, in order to see if 
on this basis a system of philosophy might not be erected 
which should escape the uncertainties of the old. To do 

1 Discourse upon Method, Part II. 

262 A Student's History of Philosophy 

this he required a definite method of work ; and as the 
old logic was unsuitable for the discovery of new truth, he 
drew up a code of rules for himself. " The first rule was, 
never to receive anything as a truth which I did not clearly 
know to be such ; that is, to avoid haste and prejudice, 
and not to comprehend anything more in my judgments 
than that which should present itself so clearly and so 
distinctly to my mind that I should have no occasion to 
entertain a doubt of it. The second rule was, to divide 
every difficulty which I should examine into as many parts 
as possible, or as might be required for solving it. The 
third rule was, to conduct my thoughts in an orderly man- 
ner, beginning with objects the most simple and the easiest 
to understand, in order to ascend as it were by steps to 
the knowledge of the most composite, assuming some 
order to exist even in things which did not appear to be 
naturally connected. The last rule was, to make enumera- 
tions so complete, and reviews so comprehensive, that I 
should be certain of omitting nothing." 1 

The basis and suggestion of these rules of Descartes is 
mathematical reasoning. Briefly, the two steps involved 
are intuition and deduction the only two ways open to 
man for attaining a certain knowledge of truth. By intui- 
tion is meant the immediate self-evidence with which a 
truth forces itself upon us, " the conception of an attentive 
mind so distinct and so clear that no doubt remains to it 
with regard to that which we comprehend." Most of our 
ideas are confused and obscure, because we try to take in 
too much at once. He who is bent on taking in too many 
things at one look sees nothing distinctly ; in the same 
way, he who in one act of thought would attend to many 
objects, confuses his mind. The first thing to do, therefore, 
is to analyze out from our habitual thinking those clear and 
axiomatic principles whose certainty cannot be doubted. 
These clear axioms are what Descartes calls innate 
ideas. As they are necessary to give us any starting- 

1 Discourse upon Method, Part II, (Torrey's translation, p. 46). 

Systems of Rationalism 263 

point for our demonstration, and as they cannot be the 
result of empirical experience, since in that case they 
would not be certain and universal, they must represent 
primitive germs of truth which nature has planted in the 
human intellect, and which the mind is capable of finding 
clearly within itself when it goes to work the right way. To 
this criterion of clearness, the objection may be made that 
all ideas which we believe to be true seem clear to us. 
" This way of speaking," says Hobbes, " is metaphorical, 
and therefore not fitted for an argument ; for whenever a 
man feels no doubt at all, he will pretend to this clearness, 
and he will be as ready to affirm that of which he feels no 
doubt, as the man who possesses perfect knowledge. This 
clearness may very well then be the reason why a man 
holds and defends with obstinacy some opinion, but it 
cannot tell him with certainty that the opinion is true." 
Descartes tries to parry this objection by drawing a distinc- 
tion between a natural inclination impelling me to believe a 
thing that nevertheless may be false, and a natural light 
which makes me know that it is true. But now to intui- 
tion is to be added also deduction the process by which, 
through a series of steps each intuitively certain, we are able 
to reach new conclusions. Two ideas whose connection is 
not immediately self-evident are shown to be connected 
through this string of intermediate intuitions ; and if each 
step is in reality seen as we take it to be necessary, 
the result has an equal certainty, and it too is an innate 

Now of all human knowledge, mathematics is the clear- 
est, and furnishes the most self-evident axioms. Descartes, 
therefore, will begin with mathematics, and by accustoming 
his mind to nourish itself upon truths, and not to be satis- 
fied with false reasons, he will get himself in readiness for 
more ambitious efforts. So successful was this endeavor, 
that in the course of a few months he found himself with 
a mastery over his science, and an ability to advance to new 
truths in it, which surprised and delighted him. Thinking, 

264 A Student's History of Philosophy 

however, that it needed a riper age than his present 
twenty-three years, before he should be capable of dealing 
with fundamental questions, he postponed the considera- 
tion of these until he should have gained a sufficient disci- 

2. The Existence and Nature of the Self. At length, 
considering that his capacities are now matured, he sits 
down to the serious task of ridding himself of all the 
false opinions he has hitherto received, in order to begin 
entirely anew from the foundation. Now, "all that I 
have hitherto received as most true and assured I have 
learned from the senses, or by means of the senses. But 
I have sometimes found that these senses were deceivers, 
and it is the part of prudence never to trust entirely 
those who have once deceived us. But although the 
senses may deceive us sometimes in regard to things 
which are scarcely perceptible and very distant, yet there 
are many other things of which we cannot entertain a 
reasonable doubt, although we know them by means of 
the senses ; for example, that I am here, seated by the fire, 
in my dressing gown, holding this paper in my hands, and 
other things of such a nature. And how can I deny that 
these hands and this body are mine ? Only by imitating 
those crazy people, whose brains are so disturbed and con- 
fused by the black vapors of the bile, that they constantly 
affirm that they are kings, while in fact they are very poor ; 
that they are clothed in gold and purple, while they are 
quite naked ; or who imagine themselves to be pitchers, or 
to have glass bodies. But what ! These are fools, and I 
should be no less extravagant if I should follow their 
example. Nevertheless, I have to consider that I am a 
man, and that I fall asleep, and in my dreams imagine the 
same things, or even sometimes things less probable than 
these crazy people do while they are awake." It seems 
to me now, indeed, that my present state is different from 
dreaming. But then I remember that I have often had a 
similar illusion while asleep, so that there seems to be no 

Systems of Rationalism 265 

certain mark by which the waking can be distinguished 
from the sleeping state. 

" Let us, then, suppose that we are asleep, and that all 
those particular events that we open our eyes, shake our 
heads, stretch out our hands, and such like things are 
only false illusions ; and let us think that perhaps neither 
our hands nor our entire bodies are such as we perceive 
them. Nevertheless, we must at least admit that the 
things which we imagine in sleep are like pictures and 
paintings, which can only be formed after the likeness 
of something real and veritable. Accordingly, these things 
in general namely, eyes, head, hands, body are not 
imaginary, but real and existent." At least the simple ele- 
ments of which they are made up must be real, corporeal 
being in general and its extension, the figure of things ex- 
tended, their quantity or size, their number, and the like. 
Even if the compositions are illusions, and the sciences 
which deal with them false, yet how can I doubt those ele- 
mental truths of which, e.g., arithmetic and geometry treat 
that two and three make five, or that a square always has 
four sides ? 

"Nevertheless, I have long cherished the belief that 
there is a God who can do everything, and by whom I 
was made and created such as I am. But how do I know 
that he has not caused that there should be no earth, no 
heavens, no extended body, no figure, no size, no place, and 
that, nevertheless, I should have perceptions of all these 
things, and that everything should seem to me to exist not 
otherwise than as I perceive it? And even in like manner as 
I judge that others deceive themselves in matters that they 
know best, how do I know that he has not caused that I de- 
ceive myself every time that I add two to three, or number 
the sides of a square, or judge of anything still more simple, 
if anything more simple can be imagined ? " He certainly 
does permit me to deceive myself at times ; why may I not 
always be deceived ? " I shall suppose, then, not that God, 
who is very good, and the sovereign source of truth, but 

266 A Student's History of Philosophy 

that a certain evil genius, no less wily and deceitful than 
powerful, has employed all his ingenuity to deceive me. 
I shall think that the heavens, the air, the earth, colors, 
figures, sounds, and all other external things, are nothing 
but illusions and idle fancies, which he employs to impose 
upon my credulity. I shall consider myself as having no 
hands, no eyes, no flesh, no blood, as having no senses, but 
as believing falsely that I possess all these things. I shall 
obstinately adhere to this opinion ; and if by this means it 
will not be in my power to arrive at the knowledge of any 
truth, at all events it is in my power to suspend my judg- 
ment." ! 

" I make the supposition, then, that all things which 
I see are false ; I persuade myself that nothing has ever 
existed of all that my memory, filled with illusions, has 
represented to me ; I consider that I have no senses ; I 
assume that body, figure, extension, motion, and place 
are only fictions^ of my mind. What is there, then, which 
can be held to be true ? Perhaps nothing at all, except the 
statement that there is nothing at all that is true. But how 
do I know that there is not something different from those 
things which I have just pronounced uncertain, concern- 
ing which there cannot be entertained the least doubt ? Is 
there not some God, or some other power, who puts these 
thoughts into my mind ? That is not necessary, for perhaps 
I am capable of producing them of myself. Myself, then ! 
at the very least am I not something ? 

" But I have already denied that I have any senses or 
any body ; nevertheless I hesitate, for what follows from 
that ? Am I so dependent upon the body and the senses 
that I cannot exist without them ? But I have persuaded 
myself that there is nothing at all in the world, that there 
are no heavens, no earth, no minds, no bodies ; am I then 
also persuaded that I am not ? Far from it ! Without doubt 
I exist, if I am persuaded, or solely if I have thought any- 
thing whatever. But there is I know not what deceiver, 

1 Meditations, I. 

Systems of Rationalism 267 

very powerful, very crafty, who employs all his cunning 
continually to delude me. There is still no doubt that I 
exist if he deceives me ; and let him deceive me as he may, 
he will never bring it about that I shall be nothing, so long 
as I shall think something exists. Accordingly, having 
considered it well, and carefully examined everything, I 
am obliged to conclude and to hold for certain, that this 
proposition, / am, I exist, is necessarily true, every time 
that I pronounce it or conceive it in my mind." 

The foundation of Descartes' philosophy, that through 
which he is to secure a firm foothold, is thus the existence 
of the self an existence which is in no wise to be doubted, 
since even in this doubt the self appears. But now what 
is the nature of the self whose existence is so certain ? I 
am accustomed to think of myself as made up of a body 
and a mind. As for my body, I commonly suppose I 
know what that is it is something that possesses shape, 
can fill space so as to exclude other bodies, and can have 
sensations from outer impressions. But none of these 
attributes pertain to that self which is a necessity of 
thought. Suppose I admit the possibility of an evil genius 
who deceives me : then every one of these bodily attributes 
may be open to doubt. If now I turn to the soul, is there 
anything here which belongs to me intrinsically ? Yes, 
there is the attribute of thought. So long as I think, so 
long certainly I exist, although, so far as I can see, I 
might immediately cease to exist if once I were to stop 
thinking. " I am, then, to speak with precision, a thing 
which thinks, that is to say, a mind, an understanding, or 
a reason terms the significance of which was unknown 
to me before. 

"But I am a truly existing thing; but what thing? I 
have said, a thing which thinks ; and what more ? I stir 
up my imagination to see whether I am not still something 
in addition. I am not this collection of members which is 
called the human body ; I am not a thin and penetrating 
vapor diffused throughout these members ; I am not a 

268 A Student's History of Philosophy 

wind, a breath, a vapor ; nor anything at all of all that I 
am able to picture or imagine myself to be, since I have 
assumed that all that is nothing at all, and that without 
changing this assumption I find that I do not cease to be 
certain that I am something. 

" But what is it, then, that I am ? A thing which thinks. 
What is a thing which thinks ? It is a thing which doubts, 
which understands, which conceives, which affirms, which 
denies, which wills, which wills not, which imagines also, and 
which perceives. Surely, it is no small matter if all these 
things belong to my nature. But why do they not belong 
to it ? Am I not that even which now doubts almost every- 
thing ; which nevertheless understands and conceives cer- 
tain things ; which is assured and affirms these only to be 
true, and denies the rest ; which wills and desires to know 
more ; which wills not to be deceived ; which imagines 
many things, even sometimes in spite of myself; and 
which also perceives many, as if by the interposition of 
bodily organs'? Is there nothing of all that which is as 
true as it is certain that I am, and that I exist, even al- 
though I were always sleeping, and he who gave me my 
being were using all his skill to deceive me? Is there also 
any of these attributes which can be distinguished from 
my thoughts, or which can be said to be separate from my- 
self ? For it is so evident of itself that it is I who doubt, 
who understand, and who desire, that there is no need here 
of adding anything to explain it. And I also certainly 
have the power of imagining ; for, although it might hap- 
pen (as I have already supposed) that the things which I 
have imagined were not true, nevertheless this power of 
imagining does not cease really to exist in me, and to form 
part of my thought. 

" Finally, I am the same being which perceives, that is, 
which has the knowledge of certain things as if by the or- 
gans of sense, since in reality I see light, I hear noise, I 
feel warmth. But I have been told that these appearances 
are false, and that I am asleep. Granted ; nevertheless, at 

Systems of Rationalism 269 

least, it is very certain that it appears to me that I see 
light, that I hear noise, and that I feel warmth ; and it is 
just that which in me I call perceiving ; and that, precisely, 
is nothing else than thinking. From this point I begin to 
know what I am with more clearness and distinctness than 
heretofore." 1 

The basis, then, on which Descartes builds, is the un- 
deniableness of consciousness. This alone it is impossible 
to doubt ; this alone comes home to me as a directly felt 
experience, whose reality depends, not on an inference, but 
on the immediate fact of its being experienced. I may be 
mistaken about the object of my thought, but that casts no 
shade of doubt upon the thought itself, and the immaterial 
' I ' who thinks. I am, it is true, accustomed to suppose 
that things, bodies, are the one undeniable fact, and to 
overlook the thought by which these things are known. I 
see, e.g., a piece of wax before me; can anything be more 
certain than this ? " What, then ! I who appear to conceive 
of this piece of wax with so much clearness and distinct- 
ness, do I not know myself not only with much more truth 
and certainty, but even with much more distinctness and 
clearness ! For if I judge that the wax is or exists, from 
the fact that I see it, certainly it follows much more evi- 
dently that I am, or that I exist myself, from the fact that 
I see it, for it may be that what I see is not in reality wax ; 
it may also be that I have not eyes even to see anything ; 
but it cannot be that while I see, or what I do not dis- 
tinguish therefrom while I think I see, I who think am 
not something." 

Cogito, ergo sum here is the one certain fact from 
which, as an axiom, we are to start, in order to get back 
again, with a new certainty, the wider reality which provi- 
sionally we have doubted. And the test has also been 
given by which the validity of these new truths is to be 
measured. If they can approve themselves to us with the 
same clearness and certainty that goes with the perception 

1 Meditations, II. 

270 A Student's History of Philosophy 

of our own existence, we may take them as demonstrated. 
What now is the process by which we are to make our 
way back to the world again ? 

3. The Existence of God and of the World. The 
first step is the proof for the existence of God. This 
proof takes in Descartes more shapes than one, but it is 
sufficient here to state it in the simplest form. We find 
a great number of ideas in the mind. Some of these 
it seems- to us come from our own nature, others from 
an external compulsion, while others, again, we regard 
as mere fictions, which the mind has put together of its own 
invention. But what evidence is there that anything 
exists outside our minds to correspond to these ideas ? 
We have, it is true, a natural compulsion to believe that 
some of them actually exist in the outer world. But such a 
compulsion proves nothing philosophically. We have found 
that many of our ideas do so fail to correspond with their 
supposed objects, and why may this not conceivably be true 
of the others ? If, then, their external archetype is not ca- 
pable of being proved, is there any way in which we can be 
certain that reality exists at all beyond our own thoughts ? 

This certainty, according to Descartes, can be reached 
through the medium of the principle of causality. It is 
a thing manifest and self-evident, by the same natural 
light which assured us of the existence of the self, that 
there must be in every cause at least as much reality as 
reveals itself in the effect Otherwise, we should have a 
portion of the effect arising out of nothing. If, therefore, 
in my mind there exists any single idea which evidently 
is too great to have originated from my own nature, then 
I can be sure that outside of me there is a cause commen- 
surate to this idea. For the most part, I discover nothing 
in my ideas which thus evidently requires something more 
than my own nature to produce it. But to this there is 
one exception. I find in myself an idea of God, as a sub- 
stance infinite, eternal, immutable, independent, omniscient, 
omnipotent, by which myself and all other things have 

Systems of Rationalism 271 

been created and produced. Is it conceivable that attri- 
butes so great and so exalted ever should have come from 
the imperfect and finite nature which I know my own to 
be ? Furthermore, my nature cannot have been derived 
ultimately from my parents, or from any other cause that 
falls short of the perfection of this idea which is a part of 
me. Accordingly, I have bridged the gulf between my- 
self and external reality; the real existence of God Him- 
self must be postulated, as the only being great enough 
to account for the presence in me of this idea of God, 
which indubitably exists. The idea must have been im- 
planted in my mind at birth, as a mark of the divine 

And now with the self and God established, the re- 
mainder is easy. We were prevented from resting in our 
natural conviction that a material world exists beyond us, by 
the final doubt whether a malignant power might not pur- 
posely be deceiving us. But the act of deception necessarily 
grows out of some defect, and cannot be attributed to the 
God whose perfection we have established. Accordingly, 
this doubt must now be put aside, and, in so far as it is 
clearly conceived, the reality of matter must be admitted, 
else God would be responsible for making us believe a lie. 

4. The Nature of Matter. Such, in brief, was the 
metaphysics by which Descartes supposed that, with the 
same certainty and clearness that are found in a geomet- 
rical proof, the essential features of a world philosophy 
were to be established. It will be evident on considera- 
tion that the process of proof contains various assump- 
tions, which Descartes did not clearly bring into view, 
and which might be questioned much more easily than he 
thought possible. But whether we consider his reasoning 
valid or not, there are two things at any rate which he 
had accomplished. He had set up the ideal of a method 
which, in intention at least, discarded all assumptions based 
on authority, and thus had broken free from Scholasticism. 
And he had also marked out the main distinctions which it 

272 A Student's History of Philosophy 

is the task of philosophy to reconcile, with a clearness and 
a precision which had never been attained before. In so 
doing he opened up a new set of problems, that were to 
occupy the succeeding period. 

The main point about which this development centres 
is the sharp distinction which Descartes draws between 
mind and matter the two substances into which the 
world of experience is divided. The nature of mind, or 
soul, has already been considered; it is a thing which 
thinks. However we may regard the adequacy of this 
term to express the essential character of the soul, at least 
it emphasizes the entirely immaterial nature of conscious- 
ness, and makes it possible for exact thinking to avoid that 
confusion of the conscious life with the outer world, which 
lies at the bottom of the obscure hylozoism of earlier philoso- 
phers, and the conscious materialism of more modern times. 
When we come, however, to inquire more closely into the 
corresponding attribute of matter, a difficulty arises. The 
matter which the common man knows, and which he feels 
a natural compulsion to believe in, is matter as he sees, 
and hears, and touches, and tastes it, extended, colored, 
sonorous. But some of these qualities, as, e.g., color, taste, 
and sound, science tells us are not original, but are effects 
upon us which have no counterpart in the thing itself; 
and it is upon science that Descartes is building. Very 
well then ; but we have found it possible to demonstrate 
the existence of matter at all, only by means of the veracity 
of God ; and if some of the qualities which God has led us 
to believe in are demonstrably false, is not our whole cause 
lost therewith ? 

Descartes saves himself by his theory of truth and fal- 
sity. When I judge, e.g., that I see a certain red object, 
there are two elements that enter in. There is, first, the 
fact that I have a perception of red ; and this, as a fact of 
experience, is an absolutely certain fact, about which no 
doubt whatever is possible. But I may also go beyond 
this, and draw the inference that this red is the counterpart 

Systems of Rationalism 273 

of a real quality out in space. But while I may be inclined 
to draw this inference, I do not need to do so ; it is a mat- 
ter of choice on my part, or of will. False judgments, then, 
are due to the fact that I go beyond the certain knowledge 
which I have, and draw inferences that are not warranted ; 
and for this I am responsible, not God. If God chooses to 
give us a knowledge which is less than perfect, it is nothing 
of which we can complain. And if, again, he has given 
us a power of willing which is unlimited, and so goes beyond 
our knowledge, that also is no hardship. He would only 
be deceiving us, if that were false which we see clearly and 
distinctly to be true. This is the criterion by which we are 
to distinguish between what we commonly, but erroneously, 
regard as the qualities of matter, and those qualities which 
really belong to it. We are to resist the unthinking inclina- 
tion to judge hastily, and withhold our assent until the truth 
approves itself to us clearly and axiomatically. 

In this way we shall find, so Descartes thinks, that ex- 
tension is the only quality that can be conceived clearly. 
That extension can be so conceived, is evident from the 
fact that it is extension to which the truths of geometry, 
the clearest of all the sciences, apply. The other qualities, 
on the contrary, so Descartes thinks, involve no such self- 
evident intuitions. They are like the sensation of hunger, 
which furnishes no knowledge, but only serves a utilitarian 
purpose, by giving us a warning with reference to bodily 
needs. The essence of matter, consequently, is extension. 
It is infinite, and infinitely divisible ; this last point in- 
volves a denial of the theory of atoms. Again, since 
space, as extension, is an attribute of matter, there is no 
such thing as empty space. By identifying matter with 
extension Descartes is compelled, also, to regard it 
as entirely passive ; and so in order to get a foundation 
for science he has to introduce from the outside a new 
conception that of motion whose place in his meta- 
physics is accordingly somewhat anomalous. Through 
these two conceptions matter and motion the entire natu- 

274 A Student's History of Philosophy 

ral world is to be explained as a necessary and mechanical 

5. The Relation of Mind and Body. But the very 
clearness of Descartes' conception was the means of giv- 
ing rise to a problem which from this time on becomes 
an insistent one. If mind and matter are so abso- 
lutely and totally different in their nature, how can they 
come together to form a single world ? How are they to 
react upon and affect each other, as apparently they do ? 
The larger aspects of this problem did not at once present 
themselves, but the beginning of the later development is 
found in a point which became for Descartes himself a 
matter of considerable importance. It is in connection with 
the human organism that matter and mind come into closest 
contact. Now as the body is a part of the material world, 
its actions would logically come under the same mechanical 
and mathematical laws that govern other things ; and this 
is the direction in which Descartes is almost irresistibly 
led. It is shown clearly in his famous doctrine of the au- 
tomatism of brutes. " The greatest of all the prejudices we 
have retained from infancy is that of believing that brutes 
think. The source of our error comes from having observed 
that many of the bodily members of brutes are not very dif- 
ferent from our own in shape and movements, and from 
the belief that our mind is the principle of the motions 
which occur in us ; that it imparts motion to the body, and 
is the cause of our thoughts. Assuming this, we find no 
difficulty in believing that there is in brutes a mind similar 
to our own ; but having made the discovery, after thinking 
well upon it, that two different principles of our movements 
are to be distinguished, the one entirely mechanical and 
corporeal, which depends solely on the force of the animal 
spirits, and the configuration of the bodily parts, and which 
may be called corporeal soul, and the other incorporeal, that 
is to say, mind or soul, which you may define as a substance 
which thinks, I have inquired with great care whether 
the motions of animals proceed from these two principles, 

Systems of Rationalism 275 

or from one alone. Now, having clearly perceived that 
they can proceed from one only, I have held it demon- 
strated that we are not able in any manner to prove that 
there is in the animals a soul which thinks. I am not at 
all disturbed in my opinion by those doublings and cun- 
ning tricks of dogs and foxes, nor by all those things which 
animals do, either from fear, or to get something to eat, 
or just for sport. I engage to explain all that very 
easily, merely by the conformation of the parts of the 
animals." * 

And if it is true that the life of animals can be explained 
without reference to intelligence, this is also conceivable 
of the vast majority of the activities of men as well. In 
the Tract on Man, Descartes undertakes to show how, 
assuming the body to be nothing but a statue or machine 
of clay, the mere mechanical motion of parts is enough to 
account for what we call its life ; " just as you may have 
seen in grottoes and fountains in the royal gardens, that 
the force alone with which the water moves, in passing 
from the spring, is enough to move various machines, and 
even to make them play on instruments, or utter words, 
according to the different arrangement of the pipes which 
conduct it. And, indeed, the nerves of the machine that 
I am describing to you may very well be compared to the 
pipes of the machinery of these fountains, its muscles and 
its tendons to various other engines and devices which 
serve to move them, its animal spirits to the water which 
sets them in motion, of which the heart is the spring, and 
the cavities of the brain the outlets. Moreover, respira- 
tion and other such functions as are natural and usual to 
it, and which depend on the course of the spirits, are like 
the movements of a clock or a mill, which the regular flow 
of the water can keep up. External objects, which, by 
their presence alone, act upon the organs of its senses, 
and which by this means determine it to move in many 
different ways according as the particles of its brain are 

1 Letter to Henry More (Torrey, p. 284). 

276 A Student's History of Philosophy 

arranged, are like visitors who, entering some of the grot- 
toes of these fountains, bring about of themselves, without 
intending it, the movements which occur in their presence ; 
for they cannot enter without stepping on certain tiles of 
the pavement, so arranged that, for example, if they 
approach a Diana taking a bath, they make her hide in 
the reeds ; and if they pass on in pursuit of her, they cause 
a Neptune to appear before them, who menaces them with 
his trident ; or if they turn in some other direction, they 
will make a marine monster come out, who will squirt 
water into their faces, or something similar will happen, 
according to the fancy of the engineers who construct 
them. And finally, when the reasonable soul shall be in 
this machine, it will have its principal seat in the brain, 
and it will be there like the fountain maker, who must be 
at the openings where all the pipes of these machines dis- 
charge themselves, if he wishes to start, to stop, or to 
change in any way their movements." * 

The last words of the quotation just given, show that 
Descartes was not ready to carry out his conception to the 
final consequences. That would have been to deny alto- 
gether the influence of the will of ourselves, in other 
words upon our actions ; and Descartes was not prepared 
to sacrifice this apparent fact to suit his theory. Accord- 
ingly, he admits that while our more habitual and reflex 
actions are due to mechanism alone, yet it also is possible 
for the mind to interfere, and alter the motions of the 
body. The seat of this interaction he supposed to be a 
part of the brain known as the pineal gland. Here the 
animals spirits, or fine particles of the blood, whose en- 
trance into the various nerves determines the body to one 
action or another, may be deflected by the influence of the 
soul, and so made the instrument by which the soul moves 
the body. From the other side, this relationship of mind 
and body gives rise to a distinction between two classes of 
conscious facts. As the activity of the mind wholly by 

1 Tract on Man (Torrey, p. 278). 

Systems of Rationalism 277 

itself, there is the power of pure thought. This the mind 
possesses in its own right. But the mind is also influenced 
by its connection with the body, and this gives rise to 
certain modes of consciousness emotions, sensations, and 
the like which, intellectually at least, are of a lower 
order. For Descartes, as for most of the ancients, the true 
type of life is the intellectual life. 

6. The Cartesians. Occasionalism. The influence which 
Descartes exerted was immediate and profound. By his 
disciples, his words were taken almost as those of one 
inspired. In Holland a school of enthusiastic Cartesians 
sprang up, but the most important speculative development 
was in France. Here a number of famous names, notably 
those of Geulincx and Malebrancke, are found among the 
thinkers who professed themselves Cartesians. Only one 
point in connection with these men will be mentioned here. 

Descartes had admitted the fact of a mutual influence 
between the soul and the body, without going on to 
explain its possibility. With this his followers were not 
wholly satisfied. The main difficulty for them lay in the 
question how, if matter and mind are so absolutely diverse 
in nature, there can be any such thing as an influence 
of one upon the other. The answer given by Geulincx 
took the form which became known as Occasionalism. 
The difficulty of an interaction was admitted, but it was 
solved by falling back on the omnipotence of God. It is 
no power of the human mind that effects an alteration in 
the physical world, but a direct act of God. A particular 
exertion of the will does not move the human body, but on 
occasion of this act of will God intervenes, and changes 
the direction of the body in a way to secure the same 
result. There is thus no need of any influence passing 
between the two unlike substances. 

Occasionalism proved to be only a temporary stopping- 
place ; it did not reach the deeper aspects of the problem. 
But already it showed the direction in which the logic of 
Descartes' standpoint was to lead. Descartes had left the 

278 A Students History of Philosophy 

world divided into three constituent parts the two sub- 
stances, mind and matter, and a third more ultimate 
reality, God. Now it was by appealing to this last reality 
that the division could, it seemed, most naturally be over- 
come, if the distinction which Descartes had so clearly 
drawn was not again to be confused. Descartes, indeed, 
had recognized this. Defining a substance as that which 
can be conceived through itself alone, he had seen that 
after all mind and matter are no true substances, since 
they are not to be conceived apart from God ; and so that 
in the strict meaning of the term only one substance God 
exists. Consequently Occasionalism had a glimpse of 
the true problem when it fell back upon an appeal to God's 
power. But this solution remained only an external one ; 
the way to a more intimate connection between God and 
the world was brought to light by Spinoza. 


Descartes, Chief Works: Discourse upon Method (1637); Medita- 
tions (1640) ; Principia Philosophize (1644) ; Emotions of the Soul 
(1649). Translations: Veitch (Method, Meditations, Selections from 
the Principles) ; Lowndes (Meditations) \ Torrey (Selections} . 

Mahaffy, Descartes. 

Fischer, Descartes and his School. 

Huxley, Methods and Results. 

Caird, Essays on Literature and Philosophy. 

Smith, Studies in the Cartesian Philosophy. 

Iverach, Descartes, Spinoza, and the New Philosophy. 

Haldane, Descartes, His Life and Times. 

29. Spinoza 

Baruch Spinoza was a Portuguese Jew, born in 1632 in 
Amsterdam, where his parents had taken refuge from per- 
secution. On account of the scandal growing out of his 
heretical opinions, he was excommunicated from the syna- 
gogue, in 1656, after vain efforts to bribe him to maintain at 

Systems of Rationalism 279 

least an outward conformity. So bitter were the feelings 
against him that an attempt was even made to get rid of 
him by assassination. His opinions were hardly less objec- 
tionable to Christians, however, than to Jews, and he spent 
the rest of his days apart from men and social life, supply- 
ing his very simple wants by grinding lenses, for which he 
earned a wide reputation. His profound intellect and the 
beauty of his character attracted, however, a few friends 
and disciples. His fame gradually extended, and he was 
offered at one time the chair of Philosophy at Heidelberg ; 
but he preferred the liberty to hold without restriction his 
own beliefs, and think his own thoughts. Money possessed 
no greater attraction for him than fame and position. The 
patrimony of which his sisters had attempted to deprive 
him, he voluntarily relinquished, after first securing his 
title to it by a legal process. He refused a present from 
the French king, which a simple dedication would have 
secured. An admirer, Simon de Vries, who proposed to 
leave Spinoza his property, was dissuaded by him in favor 
of the natural heir ; and when the latter, after De Vries' 
death, fixed a pension which had been willed to Spinoza at 
five hundred florins, he declared the sum too great, and 
refused to take more than three hundred. His own death 
occurred in 1677. 

It is not easy to give a brief account of Spinoza's phi- 
losophy that shall at once be intelligible, and do justice to 
its inner spirit. Couched as it is in abstract and scholastic 
terms, and given the form of rigid mathematical demon- 
stration, an understanding of the chain of close reasoning 
which constitutes his system calls for a somewhat tech- 
nical acquaintance with metaphysics. Furthermore, the 
acknowledged inconsistencies in Spinoza's thought render 
a systematic exposition complicated. Without attempting 
this, accordingly, it will be enough to suggest in a more 
general way what it is that Spinoza, in his philosophy, is 
trying to accomplish. 

The estimates of Spinoza have been somewhat startling 

280 A Student's History of Philosophy 

in their divergence. For the most part, he has been exe- 
crated, by Jew and Christian alike, as an atheist and a foe 
to religion. And yet, by others, his philosophy has been 
thought to be so fundamentally religious, that Novalis gave 
to him the name " God-intoxicated." Both these judgments 
stand for factors in his thought that are necessary for its 
proper understanding. From the standpoint of orthodox 
theology, there is no doubt that Spinoza is irreligious. He 
denies outright the personal God of the Christian, the 
government of the world according to purpose, and the 
freedom of the will. It is often difficult to distinguish his 
theory from a thoroughgoing naturalism, which identifies 
God with the necessary laws of the physical universe. 
But, on the other hand, Spinoza evidently supposes that 
he is vindicating the only worthy idea of religion ; and he 
opposes the ordinary conceptions as themselves, in reality, 
irreligious. God is the beginning and the end of his phi- 
losophy. This philosophy is not, in the last analysis, 
merely theoretical, in spite of its abstractness. As the 
title Ethica of his most important book implies, it is 
practical, a philosophy of life and of redemption. 

The central idea of Spinoza, and that which gave him 
his deep influence somewhat later on, when the period of 
the Enlightenment was drawing to a close, is his recognition 
of the unity of things ; and that not only as an intellectual 
necessity, but as a requirement of feeling, a religious re- 
quirement, as well. Descartes had split the world up into 
two substances distinct from each other, and a God sepa- 
rate from both of them. The Rationalism which took its 
rise from him, tended still further to remove God from the 
world, until he became a mere far-away observer, with 
scarcely any relation to his work. Such a separation was 
fatal in two ways. It emptied the idea of God, on the 
one hand, of all content, and so made him superfluous; 
and it rendered it impossible to give any ultimate and uni- 
tary explanation of the world of things. In opposition to 
this, it was Spinoza's task to insist upon the connection of 

Systems of Rationalism 281 

God with the world, and to find in him the ultimate reality, 
alongside which the independent reality of other so-called 
substances fades into nothingness. 

This, then, is the starting-point of Spinoza's thought 
the perception of the unreality of finite things. Man 
begins by taking the world as a collection of independent 
persons and objects, each complete in itself and real in 
itself. But he soon discovers the futility of this. Intel- 
lectually, he cannot stop with any object by itself. He 
finds he is unable to understand it apart from its connec- 
tions with other things ; and he thus is led continually 
on from one relationship to another, in an endless series. 
Nor, emotionally, can he rest his affections on the chang- 
ing facts of the finite world. They are ever leaving him 
disappointed and disillusioned, and he craves some perma- 
nent and perfect object to satisfy his ideal. " After expe- 
rience had taught me," Spinoza says, in a passage which 
describes how he was led to philosophy, " that all the usual 
surroundings of social life 1 are vain and futile, seeing that 
none of the objects of my fears contained in themselves 
anything either good or bad, except in so far as the mind 
is affected by them, I finally resolved to inquire whether 
there might be some real good having power to communi- 
cate itself, which would affect the mind singly to the ex- 
clusion of all else ; whether in fact there might be anything 
of which the discovery and attainment would enable me 
to enjoy continuous, supreme, and unending happiness." 
Such happiness, he saw very clearly, neither riches, nor 
fame, nor pleasures of sense could give. " Further reflec- 
tion convinced me that if I could really get to the root of 
the matter, I should be leaving certain evils for a certain 
good. I thus perceived that I was in a state of great peril, 
and I compelled myself to seek with all my strength for a 
remedy, however uncertain it might be; as a rich man 
struggling with a deadly disease, when he sees that death 
will surely be upon him unless a remedy be found, is com- 
pelled to seek such a remedy with all his strength, inasmuch 

282 A Student's History of Philosophy 

as his whole hope lies therein; all the objects pursued by 
the multitude not only being no remedy that tends to pre- 
serve our being, but even act as hindrances, causing the 
death not seldom of those who possess them, and always 
of those who are possessed by them. All these evils seem 
to have arisen from the fact that happiness or unhappiness 
is made wholly to depend on the quality of the object 
which we love. When a thing is not loved, no quarrels 
will arise concerning it, no sadness will be felt if it per- 
ishes, no envy if it is possessed by another, no fear, no 
hatred, in short, no disturbance of the mind. All these 
arise from the love of what is perishable, such as the ob- 
jects already mentioned. But love toward a thing eternal 
and infinite fills the mind wholly with joy, and is itself 
unmingled with any sadness ; wherefore it is greatly to be 
desired, and sought for with all our strength." 1 

What is the end of philosophy then ? It is the practical 
end of escaping from the fleeting show which the phenom- 
enal world presents, since this gives no real happiness ; 
and of finding blessedness by identifying ourselves with 
that true reality without variableness or shadow of turning, 
which alone is worthy to call forth our love, and able to 
satisfy it. And this which alone approves itself to heart 
and intellect alike, is the one eternal unity of the universe, 
which embraces all finite facts in its grasp, and gives to 
them whatever reality they possess ; in religious language, 
it is God. Instead of God being a hazardous inference 
from the undoubted reality of finite things, it is these latter 
which are doubtful ; it is their insufficiency which leads us 
necessarily to the all-sufficient whole in which they have 
their being. For philosophy, the starting-point is not from 
them, but from the one reality which alone is absolutely 
certain, and from which they are themselves to be deduced. 

Stated in this general way, Spinoza's aim, on the theo- 
retical side, is that which every philosophy, which is not 
content with a chaotic atomism, has striven to accomplish. 

1 Improvement of the Intellect. (Elwes* translation, Vol. II, pp. 3-5.) 

Systems of Rationalism 283 

An understanding of the ultimate unity of things is, in- 
deed, the reason for philosophy's existence. It remains 
to ask how successfully Spinoza accomplishes his task. 
What is the nature of the connection of God and the world 
with which he leaves us, and how far does it satisfy alike 
the head and the heart ? 

I. Spinoza 'j Metaphysics 

I. Substance and Attributes. And first, a brief state- 
ment of the intellectual construction of the world which 
Spinoza makes the basis of his ethical conclusions. Every 
fact that can exist must come under one of three heads : 
it is a substance, or an attribute, or a mode. A substance 
is " that which is in itself, and is conceived by means of 
itself, that is, that the conception of which does not need 
to be formed from the conception of any other thing." 
An attribute is " that which the understanding perceives 
as constituting the essence of substance." A mode is a 
" modification of substance : in other words, that which is 
in, and is conceived by means of, something else." 1 The 
term " mode," to put it more simply, stands for the whole 
list of particular, finite facts, that made up our world 
external things, and inner states of consciousness. 

But now Descartes had already seen that, strictly 
speaking, there is- only a single substance. Matter and 
mind are not conceivable in themselves, but can only be 
understood by reference to God ; and Spinoza, accordingly, 
is entirely consistent in reducing them, from substances, 
to mere attributes of the one substance, God. Reality, 
then, is one, eternal, infinite. On the one substance all 
things depend attributes as its eternal essence, finite 
things as the modifications of these attributes. Just as in 
geometry eternal truths about spatial relations are deduced 
from self-evident premises, so from the bare definition of 

1 Ethics, Pt. I. Def. This and the following quotations are from Professor 
Fullerton's translation. ( The Philosophy of Spinoza, Henry Holt & Co.) 

284 A Student's History of Philosophy 

God his attributes are to be derived, and from these, other 
lesser truths. To be sure, Spinoza does not actually 
succeed in showing how these deductions from the defi- 
nition of God are to be made; but he assumes their 
possibility. The nature of the real connections in the 
world is not that of cause and effect, but of logical de- 

Spinoza's doctrine of substance opens up to him a new 
solution of the problem which had occupied Descartes and 
the Cartesians that which concerns the relation of mind 
and body. Of the infinite number of attributes which 
belong to the nature of God, we know only these two 
thought and extension. Now on the surface these seem 
clearly to be connected An act of will apparently causes 
a bodily movement ; an external impression gives rise to 
a sensation or a thought. But, on the other hand, there 
are difficulties in understanding this interaction. Des- 
cartes felt these difficulties, and they led him to his belief 
in the automatism of brutes, and the all but automatism 
even of human beings. We cannot, for one thing, get 
any clear notion of how one substance can act upon 
another of a wholly different nature. But there is a more 
formidable difficulty still. If we follow out scientific 
method with entire consistency, we are forced to look for 
the same physical and mechanical explanation for our 
own bodily movements, as for the movements of lifeless 
things ; and this excludes a reference to acts of will, which 
have no place in the physical world. Occasionalism might 
seem to obviate the first difficulty, but it hardly touched 
the second. 

Spinoza's doctrine of substance enabled him to offer a 
new solution. If the attributes of thought and extension 
are not two separate things, but only aspects of one and 
the same thing, they cannot interfere with or act upon 
each other ; for a thing cannot interact with itself. Never- 
theless, a definite relation will exist between them, because 
it is the same substance of which they both are attributes. 

Systems of Rationalism 285 

That which in one light appears as a mode of extension 
or physical fact, will be, in another light, a mode of 
thought or fact of consciousness ; and so the two modes 
will correspond, and a complete and exact parallelism will 
hold between the attributes, without, however, there being 
any interaction. 

In this way Spinoza justifies the claim of science to give 
an explanation of all physical events, including the move- 
ments of the body, in purely physical terms. For each 
mode of thought, a mode of extension will exist. But 
since there is no interaction, thought can only be ex- 
plained by reference to the thought series, extension by 
reference to other modes of extension; never the one 
by the other. " A mode of extension, and the idea of that 
mode, are one and the same thing, but expressed in two 
ways: a truth which certain of the Hebrews appear 
to have seen as if through a mist, in that they assert that 
God, the intellect of God, and the things known by it, 
are one and the same. For example, a circle existing 
in nature, and the idea, which also is in God, of this exist- 
ing circle, are one and the same thing, manifested through 
different attributes ; for this reason, whether we con- 
ceive nature under the attribute of extension or under 
that of thought, we shall find there follows one and the 
same order, or one and the same concatenation of causes, 
that is, the same thing. I have said that God is the 
cause of an idea, for instance, the idea of a circle, 
merely in so far as he is a thinking thing, and of the 
circle, merely in so far as he is an extended thing, just 
for the reason that the formal being of the idea of a 
circle can only be perceived through another mode of 
thinking as its proximate cause, that one in its turn 
through another, and so to infinity. Thus, whenever 
we consider things as modes of thinking, we must explain 
the whole order of nature, or concatenation of causes, 
through the attribute of thought alone ; and in so far 
as we consider them as modes of extension, we must 

286 A Student's History of Philosophy 

likewise explain the whole order of nature solely through 
the attribute of extension/' x 

2. The Nature of God. So much for a general state- 
ment. But now in what way is this ultimate substance 
God to be conceived ? And certainly he is not the God 
of popular belief. Can he be thought of after the fashion 
of a man, with body, and mind, and the passions of men ? 
Surely not. Is he a being who acts according to ends 
beyond himself ? " I confess the doctrine which subjects 
all things to a certain arbitrary fiat of God, and makes 
them depend upon his good pleasure, is less wide of the 
truth than that of those who maintain that God does all 
things with some end in view. The latter appear to affirm 
that there is something external to God, and independent 
of him, upon which, as upon a pattern, God looks when he 
acts, or at which he aims, as at a definite goal. This is 
simply subjecting God to fate, and nothing more absurd 
than this can be maintained concerning God, who is the 
first and only free cause, as well of the essence of all things 
as of their existence." 2 Again, this doctrine denies God's 
perfection ; for if God acts with an end in view, he neces- 
sarily seeks something which he lacks. " Nor must I here 
overlook the fact that the adherents of this doctrine, who 
have chosen to display their ingenuity in assigning final 
causes to things, have employed in support of their doctrine 
a new form of argument, namely, a reduction, not ad im- 
fossibile, but ad ignorantiam, which shows that there was 
no other way to set about proving this doctrine. If, for 
example, a stone has fallen from a roof upon some one's 
head, and has killed him, they will prove as follows that the 
stone fell for the purpose of killing the man. If it did not 
fall, in accordance with God's will, for this purpose, how 
could there have been a chance occurrence of so many cir- 
cumstances ? Perhaps you will answer, it happened because 
the wind blew, and the man had an errand there. But they 
will insist, why did the wind blow at that time ? and why did 
1 Pt. II, 7. Schol. 2 Pt. I, 33. Schol. 2. 

Systems of Rationalism 287 

that man have an errand that way at just that time ? . . . 
And so they will keep on asking the causes of causes, 
until you take refuge in the will of God, that asylum of 
ignorance. So, again, when they consider the structure 
of the human body, they are amazed, and because they 
are ignorant of the causes which have produced such a 
work of art, they infer that it has not been fashioned 
mechanically, but by divine or supernatural skill, and put 
together in such a way that one part does not injure 
another. Hence it happens that he who seeks for the 
true causes of miracles, and endeavors, like a scholar, to 
comprehend the things in nature, and not, like a fool, 
to wonder at them, is everywhere regarded and pro- 
claimed as a heretic and an impious man by those whom 
the multitude reverence as interpreters of nature and the 
gods." * 

There are, then, no final causes in nature. Our popular 
notions are due to a wholly unjustifiable transference of 
our own conditions to God. Men are constituted by 
nature with an impulse to seek their own advantage, 
and they do everything with some purpose in view that 
has reference to this. " Hence it happens that they always 
desire to know only the final causes of actions, and, when 
they have learned these, are satisfied. But if they cannot 
learn these from some one else, nothing remains for them 
to do but to turn to themselves, and have recourse to the 
ends by which they are wont to be determined to similar 
action ; and thus they necessarily judge another's char- 
acter by their own. Again, since they find in themselves 
and external to themselves many things which, as means, 
are of no small assistance in obtaining what is to their 
advantage, as, for example, the eyes for seeing, the teeth 
for chewing, plants and animals for food, the sun for giv- 
ing light, the sea for maintaining fish, and so on this has 
led them to regard all the things in nature as means to 
their advantage. And knowing that these means have 

1 Pt. i, Appendix. 

288 A Student's History of Philosophy 

been discovered, not provided, by themselves, they have 
made this a reason for believing that there is some one 
else who has provided these things for their use. . . . 
Moreover, as they had never had any information con- 
cerning the character of such beings, they had to judge 
of it from their own. Hence they maintained that the 
gods direct all things with a view to man's advantage, to 
lay men under obligation to themselves, and to be held by 
them in the highest honor ; whence it has come to pass 
that each one has thought out for himself, according to 
his disposition, a different way of worshipping God, that 
God might love him above others, and direct all nature 
to the service of his blind desire and insatiable avarice. 
Thus this prejudice has become a superstition, and has 
taken deep root in men's minds; and this has been the 
reason why every one has applied himself with the great- 
est effort to comprehend and explain the final causes of all 
things. But while they sought to prove that nature does 
nothing uselessly (in other words, nothing that is not to 
man's advantage), they seemed to have proved only that 
nature and gods and men are all equally mad. Just see 
how far the thing has been carried. Among all the useful 
things in nature they could not help finding a few harm- 
ful things, as tempests, earthquakes, diseases, and so forth. 
They maintain that these occur because the gods were 
angry on account of injuries done them by men, or on 
account of faults committed in their worship. And 
although experience daily contradicted this, and showed 
by an infinity of instances that good and evil fall to the 
lot of the pious and of the impious indifferently, that did 
not make them abandon their inveterate prejudice ; they 
found it easier to class these facts with other unknown 
things of whose use they were ignorant, and thus to retain 
their present and innate condition of ignorance, than to 
destroy the whole fabric of their reasoning, and think out 
a new one. Hence, they assumed that the judgments of 
the gods very far surpass man's power of comprehension. 

Systems of Rationalism 289 

This in itself would have been sufficient to hide the truth 
forever from mankind, had not mathematics, which is 
concerned, not with final causes, but with the essences 
and properties of figures, shown men a different standard 
of truth." 1 

It is from these prejudices that all our judgments of 
worth in nature have sprung. "After men have per- 
suaded themselves that everything that happens, happens 
for their sake, they had to regard that quality in each 
thing which was most useful to them as the most impor- 
tant, and to rate all those things which affected them the 
most agreeably, as the most excellent. Hence, to explain 
the natures of things, they had to frame the notions good, 
evil, order, confusion, beauty, and deformity ; and from their 
belief that they are free have arisen the notions oipraise and 
blame, and sin and merit. . . . They have called good every- 
thing which conduces to health and to the worship of God, 
and bad everything that is unfavorable to these." In re- 
ality, good and evil indicate no positive element in things, 
considered, that is to say, in themselves. They are only 
modes of thinking, or subjective notions. One and the 
same thing can be at the same time good, bad, and 
indifferent. For example, music is good for the mel- 
ancholy man, and bad for him who mourns ; while for the 
deaf man it is neither good nor bad. " And as those who 
do not understand nature make no affirmations about 
things, but only imagine things, and take imagination for 
understanding, in their ignorance of things and of their 
nature they firmly believe that there is order in things. 
For when things are so arranged that, when they are rep- 
resented to us through the senses, we can easily imagine 
them, and hence can easily think them over, we call them 
orderly ; if the opposite be true, we say they are in dis- 
order, or are confused. And since those things we can 
easily imagine are more pleasing to us than to others, 
men place order above confusion, as though order had 

iPt. I, Appendix. 

290 A Student's History of Philosophy 

any existence in nature except in relation to our imagina- 
tion, and they say that God created all things in order, 
thus unwittingly ascribing imagination to God. ... So if 
the motion communicated to the nerves by objects repre- 
sented through the eyes is conducive to health, the objects 
which cause it are called beautiful; those objects, on the 
other hand, that excite a contrary motion, are called ugly. 
Again, those that move the sense through the nostrils are 
called odoriferous or stinking: those that move it through 
the tongue, sweet or bitter, savory or unsavory, and so on. 
Finally, those that move the ears are said to give forth 
noise, sound or harmony : which last has driven men so 
mad that they believed even God takes delight in harmony. 
Nor are there wanting philosophers who have persuaded 
themselves that the motions of the heavenly bodies com- 
pose a harmony. All this sufficiently proves that every one 
has judged of things according to the condition of his 
brain, or, rather, has taken the affections of his imagina- 
tion for things. Hence it is not surprising that so many 
controversies have arisen among men, as we find to be the 
case, and that from these scepticism has resulted. For 
although men's bodies are in many respects alike, yet they 
have very many points of difference, and, therefore, what 
seems good to one seems bad to another ; what seems or- 
derly to one seems confused to another ; what is pleasant 
to one is unpleasant to another. The sayings : ' Many 
men, many minds '; ' Every man is satisfied with his 
own opinion ' ; ' Brains differ as much as palates ' 
these are in everybody's mouth ; and they sufficiently 
prove that men judge of things according to the condition 
of their brains, and rather imagine things than comprehend 
them. For had they comprehended things, all these proofs 
would, as mathematics bears witness, if not attract, at least 
convince them." 1 

All the attributes of worth, then, which we are accus- 
tomed to apply to the world, have no real existence. All 

1 Pt. I, Appendix. 

Systems of Rationalism 291 

that we can say is, that things are, and are necessarily. 
God did not create them for a purpose, nor could he have 
made them to be otherwise than we actually find them. 
To suppose that God is a free cause, and able to pre- 
vent the things which follow from his nature from coming 
to pass, is the same as saying that God can prevent it fol- 
lowing from the nature of a triangle, that its three angles 
are -equal to two right angles. We cannot ascribe to God 
will or intellect at all in the human meaning of the words. 
" If intellect or will do belong to God's eternal essence, 
each of these attributes must be taken in a sense very dif- 
ferent from the common one. For there would have to be 
a world-wide difference between our intellect and will, and 
the intellect and will constituting God's essence, nor 
could they agree in anything except the name ; just as the 
Dog, a constellation, agrees with dog, an animal that 
barks." * 

If then, God has neither passions, nor purposes, nor 
intellect, nor will, nor moral worth, what content are 
we to give to him ? At times, Spinoza seems clearly 
to conceive reality, after the manner of the scientist, 
as a great system of natural law. It is, at least, the 
scientific view of the world which forms the positive 
basis for his criticism of religion and teleology. " Science 
touched with emotion," therefore, perhaps comes closest 
to characterizing the more positive features of his 
whole attitude. But is even this ultimate ? Is God after 
all in his truth anything more- than bare abstract sub- 
stance, of which we can say nothing whatever that is 
definite ? 

3. God and the Finite World. Such a question brings 
out the special difficulty in Spinoza's philosophy. There is 
no doubt that he wants to get a substance that shall find a 
place for, and give an explanation to, all the reality of the 
phenomenal world. Evidently nothing less than this will 
be sufficient. The phenomenal, finite world is that from 
1 Pt. 1, 17, Schol. 

292 A Student's History of Philosophy 

which we start. Undeniably it has some reality, even if its 
reality is imperfect and incomplete. And a unity which 
explains it must include in itself at least all the truth that 
the finite world possesses, even while it goes beyond and 
supplements this truth; it must not simply ignore finite 
things. Now Spinoza might have retained the reality 
of the finite by making God, the ultimate substance, 
simply the aggregate of finite facts; but he saw clearly 
that this would not serve his purpose. Such a unity 
would be only a fictitious one, and would leave reality after 
all a mere heap of particulars. But how to get any other 
unity, that should be at once concrete, doing justice to the 
facts of experience, and yet a real universal, a real bond 
of union, was a problem which Spinoza never completely 

Accordingly, while the true aim and presupposition of 
his philosophy is to find reality in the unchanging rational 
laws of which changing events in the natural world are 
the expression, and through which they are to be under- 
stood, the constant tendency in Spinoza's thinking a 
tendency increased by his Scholastic terminology was to 
get away from the concrete altogether, and to arrive at 
his more general and ultimate being by the process of ab- 
straction. That the process of abstraction does not lead us 
to concrete reality, he was well aware. He recognizes that 
the abstract man is not more, but less, real than particular 
men, and only represents the fact that these have certain 
elements in common ; the ideal of the universal which he 
has before him is rather that of a comprehensive law. But, 
for all that, the eternal facts which he identifies with real- 
ity tend to be, in so far as he can make them clear at all, 
just such abstractions. Substance, or God, is reached by 
precisely that same process of dropping all limitations in 
the way of determinate qualities, which gives us the ab- 
stract man. The consequence is, that the logical deriva- 
tion of less ultimate from more ultimate reality is beyond 
his reach. To use Hegel's figure, Spinoza's Absolute is 

Systems of Rationalism 293 

the lion's den to which all tracks lead, and from which 
none return. 

And even if Spinoza had been always true to his ideal 
of reality as law, rather than mere substance, he still had 
an unsolved problem in the fact of imperfection and con- 
tingency, for which his rationalism left no place. By the 
geometrical method, we can at best only get truths which, 
though derived, are as absolute and as eternal as the God 
on the definition of whom they depend. The theorem of 
geometry is as true and adequate as the axioms on which 
it is based. But what, then, of the inadequate and false 
ideas which are represented in what Spinoza calls modes ? 
Whence comes our phenomenal knowledge of ourselves 
and of the world ? Clearly such false ideas can never be 
derived by a method which gives only truth. Or, to put 
it in another way, our inadequate notions of the world, and 
the modes of extension, or particular changing things, 
which these represent, either have an existence or they 
have not. If they have an existence, they are a part of 
God, since nothing exists outside of him ; and then how 
can they be otherwise than as they are for God eternal 
and adequate ? Or, if they have no existence at all, how 
do we come to talk about them as if they did exist ? The 
fact is, that by no possibility can Spinoza connect the world 
of appearance, of finite modes, of existence in time, with 
the true and eternal (timeless) reality of God, and of those 
derivative truths, equally eternal, that can be logically de- 
duced from Him. And, consequently, he leaves the finite 
world without explanation; it is a mere impertinence in 
his system. Yet it is precisely to explain this that philos- 
ophy originates ; and, apart from it, reality is left a mere 

It will not be necessary to dwell upon the statements by 
which Spinoza attempts, verbally at least, to bridge over 
the gap between this world of appearance, and the world 
of reality. From the nature of the case, the task is a 
hopeless one. Logically, Spinoza should have denied the 

294 -A Student's History of Philosophy 

former world altogether ; but the facts are too evident to 
permit of this. Indeed, the whole purpose of his philoso- 
phy is just to show how man, from being a mere part of 
the phenomenal world, can escape from its finiteness and 
attain true felicity. It only remains, then, to consider how 
this practical redemption is to be brought about, and what, 
more precisely, is the bondage from which we are to be 
set free. 

2. The Doctrine of Salvation 

I. Human Bondage. It has been seen that, according 
to Spinoza, the unsatisfactoriness of life is due to the fact 
that our affections are set, not upon an object that is eternal 
and unchanging, but upon transitory and imperfect things. 
If the object of our love were without variableness, it would 
lay to rest our passions, and impart to life something of its 
own calm and steadfastness. But because we love that 
which has no* constancy and no true reality, we are in a 
continual turmoil of emotions; we hate, and envy, and 
fear, are exalted and depressed, take even our pleasures 
feverishly, and never know what peace is. Subjection to 
the emotions, then, and ignorance of our true end the 
former growing out of the latter are the elements which 
constitute human bondage. 

Now the further justification of this is found in Spinoza's 
psychology of the human life. The essence of life is self- 
preservation the tendency of each individual thing to 
persevere in its own existence, to welcome all that tends to 
increase this, and oppose and reject whatever tends to limit 
it. Here again Spinoza accepts a fact of experience for 
which logically his system has no place ; for if individual 
things have no reality in themselves, any such self-asser- 
tive activity would seem to be excluded. When this act 
of self-assertion depends wholly on ourselves, we have 
what Spinoza calls an action; when it depends in part 
upon what lies beyond ourselves, it is a passion. What, 
then, is the basis of this distinction between actions and 

Systems of Rationalism 295 

passions ? What actions depend wholly on ourselves, and 
what on other beings ? 

The answer goes back to the two ways of regarding the 
human mind, implied in Spinoza's whole doctrine. If we 
take, that is, our phenomenal knowledge about the world, 
the particular states of our empirical consciousness, we 
have what Spinoza calls modes. Now these facts of the 
finite world are not complete in themselves, or capable of 
an absolute explanation. Each is causally dependent on 
another finite fact, and this, again, on another, and so on, 
in an infinite series. Thus, in the physical realm, any 
bodily change depends, not on the nature of the body 
alone, but on the body as affected by another mode, that 
is, upon the interaction between the body and the outside 
world ; and the antecedents of this interaction can never 
be completely traced out. The same thing is true of the 
modes of thought, or ideas, which correspond to the bodily 
modes. Accordingly, our supposed adequate knowledge 
of objects is nothing of the sort. When we think we per- 
ceive an external object, what we really have is a sensation 
representing a state of our own body a state which is 
caused by the interaction between the real object and our 
sense organs, and which, consequently, by reason of its 
being a product of two factors, is a true representative of 
neither of them. This is the old doctrine of the relativity 
of sense perception, which goes back to Protagoras. All 
our sense knowledge is, therefore, inadequate and confused. 

But now there is another way of regarding the human 
mind. Besides being a collection of finite modes, our 
minds are also a constituent part of God's nature, since 
everything whatever that exists, exists in God. In their 
essence, therefore, their inmost truth and reality, our ideas 
may be viewed 'under a certain form of eternity ' ; and when 
thus viewed, they of course are adequate. The distinction, 
then, between actions and passions, goes back to the dis- 
tinction between adequate thought, which has its full ex- 
planation in the mind itself, as identical in its essence with 

296 A Student's History of Philosophy 

God ; and inadequate thought, which depends on the mind 
as a collection of finite modes, each getting what explana- 
tion it can by reference to an infinite series of other finite 
facts. We are never fully active, except as we think truly, 
and see things as they are in God; for thought is the 
very essence of our nature. "The desires which follow 
from our nature in such a way that they can be compre- 
hended through it alone, are such as are referred to the 
mind in so far as it is conceived as consisting of adequate 
ideas. The other desires, however, are not referred to the 
mind, except in so far as it conceives things inadequately, 
and their strength and growth must be defined, not as 
human power, but as that of the things that are outside us. 
Hence, the former are properly called actions, the latter 
passions ; for the former always indicate our power ; the 
latter, on the contrary, our impotence and fragmentary 
knowledge." 1 

But now the mind strives to persevere in its being, and 
is conscious of this its endeavor, not only in so far as it 
has clear and distinct ideas, but also in so far as it has 
confused ideas. And here comes in Spinoza's doctrine of 
the emotions. For an emotion is nothing but a confused 
idea, or a passion. The body can be affected in many 
ways by which its power of acting is increased or dimin- 
ished ; modifications of the body, and their corresponding 
ideas, through which either of these results are brought 
about, are what we call emotions. A passion in which the 
mind passes to a greater degree of perfection is pleasure ; 
one in which it passes to a lesser degree of perfection is pain. 
By reference to the three elements desire, pain, pleasure 
all the varied emotions are to be defined. Thus, love is pleas- 
ure accompanied by the idea of an external cause ; hate is 
pain accompanied by a similar idea. Derision is pleasure 
which has its source in the fact that we conceive something 
we despise to be in the thing we hate. Hope is inconstant 
pleasure arising from the idea of something future or past, 

i Pt. IV, Appendix II. 

Systems of Rationalism 297 

of the event of which we have some doubt. Despair is 
pain arising from a thing present or past, regarding which 
cause for doubt has been removed ; and so on. In general, 
" an emotion, which is called a passion of the soul, is a 
confused idea, through which the mind affirms the energy 
of existence possessed by its body, or any part of it, to be 
greater or less than it was before, and through the pres- 
ence of which the mind itself is determined to this thought 
rather than to that." * 

The attainment of freedom, then, has two sides. It is 
an escape from the emotions, and it is an escape from in- 
adequate and false ideas : and these two things are one. 
True blessedness is thus the blessedness of knowledge. 
"Hence it is of the utmost service in life to perfect the 
understanding or reason, as far as we can ; and in this one 
thing consists man's highest felicity. Indeed, blessedness 
is nothing but that very satisfaction of the soul which 
arises from an intuitive knowledge of God. But to perfect 
the understanding is only to comprehend God, his attri- 
butes, and the actions that follow from the necessity of his 
nature. Wherefore the ultimate aim of the man who is 
controlled by reason, that is, the highest desire, with which 
he strives to restrain all the others, is that which impels him 
to conceive adequately himself and everything that can fall 
within the scope of his understanding." 2 That only is 
good which is conducive to knowledge ; that which hinders 
and diminishes it is bad. We are virtuous in so far as we 
are strong, as the understanding is active ; to be weak, or 
passive, is to be vicious. Thus not only hatred and envy 
are vices, but also pity, shame, humility, and repentance. 
All of these are accompanied by a feeling of pain ; they 
concentrate attention on our weakness, and make us blind 
to our true strength. Compassion, by putting an undue 
emphasis on the mere external signs of suffering, diverts 
us from a study of causes, and often leads us to acts of 
blind impulse that afterward we regret. Repentance is 

i Ft. Ill (Fullerton, p. 152). * R . IV> Appendix IV. 

298 A Student's History of Philosophy 

doubly bad ; for he who regrets is weak, and is conscious 
of his weakness. The man who lives according to reason 
will, therefore, strive to rise above pity and vain regrets. 
He will help his neighbor, but he will do it from reason, 
not from impulse. He will consider nothing worthy of 
hatred, mockery, or contempt. He will look at life dispas- 
sionately and fearlessly, obeying no one but himself, doing 
that only which he knows to be best, conquered neither by 
human miseries nor his own mistakes. 

2. Human Freedom. This, in general terms, is the out- 
come of Spinoza's philosophy ; it may be well, however, to 
consider the process a little more closely. And at first 
sight it might seem that freedom is impossible in Spinoza's 
system, since necessity rules in this from first to last. It has 
been seen that all things follow necessarily from the nature 
of God ; an event is called contingent only in relation to the 
imperfection of our knowledge. And of course man's life 
does not fall outside this necessity. Is it said that we know 
by experience that it is within the power of the mind alone 
to do many things solely by its own decree ; to speak, for 
example, or to be silent, as it chooses ? " But surely the 
condition of human affairs would be much more satisfactory 
if it were as much within man's power to be silent as to speak. 
But experience gives sufficient, and more than sufficient 
proof of the fact that there is nothing less under a man's 
control than his tongue, nor is there anything of which a 
man is less capable than of restraining his impulse. This 
is the reason most persons believe that we are free only in 
doing those things to which we are impelled by slight de- 
sires, for the impulse to do such things can be easily checked 
by the memory of some other thing of which we often think ; 
but that we are by no means free in doing those things to 
which we are impelled by strong emotion, which cannot be 
checked by the memory of some other thing. But, had 
they not had experience of the fact that we do many things 
which we afterward regret, and that we often, when we 
are harassed by conflicting emotions, see the better and 

Systems of Rationalism 299 

follow the worse, nothing would prevent them from believ- 
ing that we are always free in our actions. Thus the in- 
fant believes that it desires milk of its own free will ; the 
angry child that it is free in seeking revenge, and the 
timid that it is free in taking to flight. Again, a drunken 
man believes that he says of his own free will things he 
afterward, when sober, wishes he had left unsaid ; so also 
an insane man, a garrulous woman, a child, and very many 
others of the sort, believe they speak of their own free will, 
while, nevertheless, they are unable to control their im- 
pulse to talk. Thus experience itself shows, no less clearly 
than reason, that men think themselves free only because 
they are conscious of their actions, and ignorant of the 
causes which determine them. It shows, moreover, that 
the mind's decisions are nothing but its impulses, which 
vary with the varying condition of the body." 1 

We cannot, therefore, escape from the necessary facts 
of existence. Reality is as it is, and we cannot make it 
different. But this is bondage only when we rebel against 
it, and set up in its stead purely individual ends. We 
shall find freedom the only true freedom in knowing 
the truth and accepting it. We are not under constraint 
because we are subject to law, but because we are subject 
to our own ignorance and passions. God is perfect free- 
dom, not because he can act arbitrarily, but because he 
acts solely from the laws of his own nature and under no 
compulsion ; there is nothing external to him that can 
determine him to act. 

Now emotions, since they are passions rather than 
actions, represent such an influence of external things. 
But the road to salvation has already appeared. We can 
overcome the emotions by understanding them, by ridding 
ourselves of our confused ideas, and seeing everything in 
its innermost truth, as a necessary fact. Everyday experi- 
ence will show us how potent an effect the recognition of 
the necessity of things has upon our attitude toward them. 

1 Pt. Ill, 2, Schol. 

300 A Student's History of Philosophy 

" The more the knowledge that these things are necessary 
is brought to bear upon individual things, which we imag- 
ine more distinctly and vividly, the greater is the power of 
the mind over the emotions. To this fact experience itself 
bears witness. We see sorrow at the loss of some good 
thing mitigated, as soon as the man who has lost it per- 
ceives that he could not have preserved it in any possible 
way. Thus we see, also, that no one pities an infant be- 
cause it cannot speak, walk, or reason, and because, in a 
word, it lives so many years, as it were, without the con- 
sciousness of self. But if most persons were born as adults, 
and only one here and there as an infant, then every one 
would pity infants, for then we should regard infancy itself, 
not as a natural and necessary thing, but as a defect or 
fault of nature." 

Accordingly, Spinoza goes on to show the ways in which 
the emotions can be controlled by the superior force, per- 
manence, frequency, and harmony of true knowledge, 
which enable it to hold the mind against false and inade- 
quate ideas. These ways all go back ultimately to that 
which constitutes the chief power of adequate ideas their 
relation to the idea of God. Everything alike can be 
referred to the idea of God, since he is the truth of all 
things; and when it is thus referred, we have a means 
at hand for overcoming the emotions whose force is irre- 
sistible. For the philosopher, convinced that all events, 
including human actions, are the outcome of the necessity 
of the divine nature, nothing merits contempt, hatred, pity ; 
he has simply to understand them as a part of the whole 
of things, not judge them. He will lay aside all private 
and selfish aims, and merge himself in the great life of the 
whole, to whose will he will bow without repining, and find 
thereby joy and peace. Once know and accept things as 
they are in God, and the warring desires and passions which 
distract us will pass away ; the motives which look large to 
us now in our ignorance will lose their power. " Griefs and 
misfortunes have their chief source in an excessive love of 

Systems of Rationalism 301 

that which is subject to many variations, and of which we can 
never have control. No one is solicitous or anxious about 
anything unless he love it; nor do injustices, suspicions, 
enmities, and so forth arise, except from the love of things 
of which no one can really have control. Thus we easily 
conceive what power clear and distinct knowledge, and 
especially that third kind of knowledge, the foundation of 
which is the knowledge of God and nothing else, has over 
the emotions ; if it does not, in so far as they are passions, 
absolutely remove them, at all events it brings it about that 
they constitute the least part of the mind. Furthermore, 
it begets love toward that which is immutable and eternal, 
and which we really have within our power a love which, 
consequently, is not stained by any of the defects inherent 
in common love, but can always become greater and greater, 
and take possession of the greatest part of the mind, and 
affect it everywhere." 1 

This is very different from the love of God which 
religion ordinarily inculcates. The God of positive re- 
ligions is a God of the imagination, an individual like 
ourselves, who loves and hates, is angry and jealous, and 
acts by an arbitrary will. Accordingly, all the defects 
of human love enter into our relations to him, and love 
may easily pass into hate. But no one can hate the 
eternal and necessary order of nature. This love toward 
God cannot be stained either with the emotion of envy or 
of jealousy, but it is the more intensified the greater the 
number of men we conceive bound to God by this same 
bond of love. " We can show in the same way that there 
is no emotion directly opposed to this love capable of 
destroying it. Hence we may conclude that this love 
toward God is the most unchangeable of all the emotions, 
and cannot, in so far as it is referred to the body, be 
destroyed except with the body itself." 

In the final stage of this process of emancipation, we 
have already gone beyond mere practical rules of life, to 

1 Pt. V, 20, Schol. 

302 A Student's History of Philosophy 

the conception of a mystical union with God, which gives 
its peculiar tinge to Spinoza's whole thought. From the 
falsity of ordinary opinion, or imagination, we have passed 
by the power of discursive reason to adequate ideas ; but 
there is a higher kind of knowledge still. Reason is not 
merely our individual reason working under conditions of 
time ; it is also eternal, freed from all restrictions, a part 
of the infinite intellect of God. And the same truths which 
we have gained laboriously by processes of reasoning may 
also take on another form, the form of an immediate flash 
of intuition, in which they are seen to flow directly from 
the one Truth God. From this third kind of knowledge 
springs the highest possible satisfaction of the mind. 
" The more of this kind of knowledge any one possesses, 
the clearer is his consciousness of himself and of God, 
that is, the more perfect and blessed is he." " From this 
third kind of knowledge necessarily springs the intellectual 
love of God." For from this kind of knowledge springs 
pleasure, accompanied by the idea of God as cause, that is, 
a love of God, not in so far as we imagine him as present, 
but in so far as we comprehend God to be eternal." " And 
this intellectual love of the mind toward God is the very 
love of God with which God loves himself, not in so far as 
he is infinite, but in so far as he can be expressed by the 
essence of the human mind, considered under the form of 
eternity; that is, the intellectual love of the mind toward 
God is a part of the infinite love with . which God loves 
himself. From this we clearly comprehend in what our 
salvation, or blessedness, or freedom, consists ; to wit, in 
an unchangeable and eternal love toward God, that is, in 
the love of God toward men. This love or blessedness is 
in the sacred Scriptures called glory." * 

To sum up, then, how does this doctrine of freedom 
contribute to the service of life ? " First, it is of value in 
that it teaches us that we act according to God's decree, 
and are participants in the divine nature; and this the 

1 Pt. V, 31, Schol. ; 32, Cor. ; 36, and Schol. 

Systems of Rationalism 303 

more, the more perfect the actions we perform, and the 
better we comprehend God. Hence this doctrine not only 
sets the soul completely at rest, but also teaches us in what 
our highest felicity or blessedness consists, to wit, only in 
the knowledge of God, which leads us to do only those 
things that love and piety recommend. Thus we see 
clearly how far from a true estimate of virtue are those 
who expect God to honor them with the highest rewards 
for their virtue and good actions, as though for the ex- 
tremest slavery as if virtue and the service of God were 
not felicity itself, and the completest freedom. Second, 
it is of value in that it teaches us how to behave with 
regard to those things which depend upon fortune, and 
which are not within our power, that is, with regard to 
those things that do not follow from our nature. It 
teaches us, namely, to look forward to and endure either 
aspect of fortune with equanimity, just because all things 
follow from the eternal decree of God, by the same neces- 
sity with which it follows from the essence of a triangle 
that its three angles are equal to two right angles. Third, 
this doctrine is of service to social life in that it teaches 
to hate no one, to despise, to ridicule, to be angry at no one, 
to envy no one. It is of service, further, in that it teaches 
each one to be content with what he has, and to aid his 
neighbor, not from womanish pity, partiality, or superstition, 
but solely under the guidance of reason, according to the 
demands of the time and the case. Fourth, this doctrine 
is of no little advantage to the state in that it shows how 
citizens ought to be governed and led ; namely, not so as 
to act like slaves, but so as to do freely what is best." J 

" And even if we did not know our mind to be eternal, 
we should nevertheless regard as of the highest importance 
piety and religion. The belief of the multitude appears to 
be otherwise. Most men seem to think that they are free 
just in so far as they are permitted to gratify desire, and that 
they give up their independence just in so far as they are 

i Pt. II, 49, Schol. 

304 A Student's History of Philosophy 

obliged to live according to the precept of the divine law. 
Piety, then, and religion, and all things, without restriction, 
that are referred to greatness of soul, they regard as bur- 
dens ; and they hope after death to lay these down, and 
to receive the reward of their bondage, that is, of piety 
and religion. And not only by this hope alone, but also 
and chiefly by fear the fear of being punished after 
death with dire torments are they induced to live ac- 
cording to the precept of the divine law, so far as their 
poverty and feebleness of soul permit. If men had not 
this hope and fear, but if, on the contrary, they thought 
that minds perished with the body, and that for the 
wretched, worn out with the burden of piety, there was 
no continuance of existence, they would return to their 
inclination, and decide to regulate everything according 
to their lusts, and to be governed by chance rather than 
by themselves^ This seems to me no less absurd than it 
would seem if some one, because he does not believe he 
can nourish his body with good food to eternity, should 
choose to stuff himself with what is poisonous and deadly ; 
or, because he sees that his mind is not eternal or im- 
mortal, should choose on that account to be mad, and to 
live without reason. Blessedness is not the reward of 
virtue, but virtue itself ; nor do we rejoice in it because 
we restrain the desires, but, on the contrary, because we 
rejoice in it we are able to restrain the desires." x 

" With this I have completed all that I intended to show 
regarding the power of the mind over the emotions, and 
the freedom of the mind. From what I have said it is 
evident how much stronger and better the wise man is 
than the ignorant man, who is led by mere desire. For 
the ignorant man, besides being agitated in many ways by 
external causes, and never attaining true satisfaction of 
soul, lives as it were without consciousness of himself, 
of God, and of things, and just as soon as he ceases to be 
acted upon, ceases to be. While, on the contrary, the 

1 Pt. V, 41 and Schol. ; 42. 

Systems of Rationalism 305 

wise man, in so far as he is considered as such, is little 
disturbed in mind, but, conscious by a certain eternal 
necessity of himself, of God, and of things, he never ceases 
to be, but is always possessed of true satisfaction of soul. 
If, indeed, the path that I have shown to lead to this 
appears very difficult, still it may be found. And surely 
it must be difficult, since it is so rarely found. For if 
salvation were easily attained, and could be found without 
great labor, how could it be neglected by nearly every 
one ? But all excellent things are as difficult as they are 
rare." * 


Spinoza, Chief Works : Improvement of the Intellect, Ethics, Theo- 
logico-Political Treatise, Political Treatise. Translations: Elwes 
(Works, 2 vols.) ; White (Ethics) ; Fullerton (Selections from Ethics). 

Pollock, Spinoza. 

Martineau, Study of Spinoza. 

Martineau, Types of Ethical Theory. 

Caird, Spinoza. 

Caird, Essays on Literature and Philosophy. 

Iverach, Descartes, Spinoza, and the New Philosophy. 

Joachim, Study of the Ethics of Spinoza. 

Duff, Spinoza's Political and Ethical Philosophy. 

30. Leibniz 

The temperament and life history of Gottfried Wilhelm 
Leibniz are as far as possible removed from those of his 
great predecessor. Born in Leipsic in 1646, he early 
showed a remarkable genius which took the whole world 
as its field. In mathematics, where he is celebrated as 
being one of the discoverers of the differential calculus ; 
in law, civil and international ; in history (he was employed 
to write the memoirs of the family of his patron, the Duke 
of Hanover); in religious controversy, and in philosophy 
proper in all these different directions he stood among 
the leading men of his time. This universality of mind 
i Ft. v, 42, Schol. 

306 A Student's History of Philosophy 

enabled him to do justice to the varied interests which 
philosophy has to serve, and made his system a gathering- 
point of the various threads which had entered into the 
entire past development. Almost alone of the men of his 
time the time of the Enlightenment he had some just 
appreciation of the past and of history ; and he was able 
to enter sympathetically into the thought alike of Plato 
and Descartes, of the Schoolmen and the scientists of his 
own day. 

The practical side of Leibniz* nature was another factor 
which influenced his theoretical views. He was no mere 
thinker, like Spinoza, but a man of the world, in the midst 
of, and taking a large part in, the political life of his time. 
His legal training early gave him an entrance into politics, 
and, either as writer or diplomatic agent, he was connected 
with most of the important events of the period. This 
practical training perhaps emphasized his tendency to 
mediate between opposing views. The same spirit which 
led him to attempt to get at the truth in all philosophies, 
reveals itself in his political aims; for example, in his 
endeavor to heal the differences between Protestants and 
Catholics, by drawing up a compromise on which both 
could unite. In addition to all the labor which these 
political offices involved, we should mention also the effort, 
occupying a considerable part of Leibniz' life, to secure 
the establishment in Germany of learned societies, or 
Academies, by which the results of the new scientific 
spirit should be conserved and applied to human ends. 
This bore fruit during Leibniz' own lifetime in the Berlin 

i. The Nature of Substance. --The more general 
aspects of Leibniz' philosophy can perhaps be brought 
out by comparing them with the solution which Spinoza 
had offered. The main emphasis in Spinoza had been 
upon the unity of the world, a unity which brings to- 
gether the factors which Descartes had left separate 
mind, matter, and God. To Leibniz, also, this was the 

Systems of Rationalism 307 

ultimate goal of philosophy; and yet it had been pur- 
chased at what seemed to him too great a sacrifice. For 
apparently it left no place for the reality of individ- 
uals men and things ; it was a mere abstract unity, 
in which all the particular facts of the world were swal- 
lowed up. This result to Leibniz was unsatisfactory. A 
man of practical affairs, individuals were to him indubi- 
tably real, and no theory which failed to account for their 
reality seemed tenable. A unity must, indeed, be attained, 
but it must be a unity of the real facts of the world, and 
not lying beyond them. So, also, Leibniz was not satis- 
fied with Spinoza's rejection of teleology, or purpose, in 
the world. Here again his experience of life stood him in 
stead ; the very essense of practical life consists in work- 
ing for ends, and nothing which rejects ends altogether 
can seem adequate to the practical man. At the same 
time, Leibniz felt the need, as Spinoza had done, of bridg- 
ing over the gaps which Descartes had left. He accepted, 
too, at least the relative validity of that purely mechanical 
view of the physical world which Descartes had started, 
and which Spinoza's parallelism had been designed to 
justify. How was he to retain these truths, and still do 
justice to the world of finite things, and to human intelli- 
gence and freedom ? 

The answer which Leibniz gave was made possible by 
means of a reconstruction of the idea of substance, both 
mental and material. Descartes had denned matter as ex- 
tended substance. This had involved the assumption that it 
is essentially passive and inert, and able to receive motion 
only from the outside. Leibniz was led by various motives 
to substitute, for extension, power of resistance, as the essen- 
tial quality of matter, to which even extension is subordi- 
nate. In this way the conception of passive matter is 
changed to what is essentially the modern scientific con- 
ception energy, or force. A substance is a being capa- 
ble of action. Since, therefore, we find individual things 
exerting force, the substantiality of which they had been 

308 A Student's History of Philosophy 

deprived by Spinoza, in favor of his single ultimate 
substance, must be restored to them. But, furthermore, 
these substantial units, to which extended matter reduces 
itself, cannot be themselves extended. We cannot find 
anything really ultimate and indivisible in the atoms of the 
physicists; whatever is still material, however small it 
may be, is still divisible. In order to find a true indivisible 
unit, we need to go back of the extended and the material 
altogether. Matter is thus at bottom immaterial; it is 
made up of substantial units that are themselves un- 

But from this new standpoint there is opened up the 
possibility of removing the absoluteness of that distinc- 
tion between matter and mind, upon which Descartes had 
insisted. If the essence of matter is extension, then it has 
no point of contact with the mental life. It is, indeed, 
exactly the opposite of thought. And so the attempt of 
Spinoza, also," to get rid of the dualism by referring both 
thought and extension to a single substance, is essentially 
self-contradictory ; it is asserting that the same substance 
is both extended and unextended. But when, instead of 
extension, we characterize matter as force, a means of con- 
nection is opened up. For force has its analogue in the 
conscious life ; corresponding to the activity of matter is 
conscious activity, or will. Indeed, are there any positive 
terms in which we can describe the nature of force, unless 
we conceive it as identical with that conscious activity 
which we know directly in ourselves ? The notion of mat- 
ter has thus been completely transformed. Instead of its 
being a passive lump of extended substance, extension is 
only the phenomenal way in which it appears to us. In 
reality, what we call matter is a host of unextended cen- 
tres of force, whose activity is at bottom, when we inter- 
pret it, a spiritual or perceptual activity. The reality of 
the world is not matter, but monads. 

In order, however, to complete the union, the concept 
of mind has also to suffer a partial transformation. Ac- 

Systems of Rationalism 309 

cording to Descartes, again, the essence of mind is thought ; 
and Leibniz also retains a tendency to intellectualism. But 
whereas hitherto consciousness had been taken to mean 
that of which we are distinctly conscious, Leibniz vastly 
enlarges the conception. Below the threshold of our clear 
consciousness there is, he thinks, a dark background of 
obscurer consciousness, petites perceptions, unconscious 
mental states. The existence of these, Leibniz proves by 
various considerations. "For a better understanding of 
the petites perceptions I am wont to employ the illustration 
of the moaning or sound of the sea, which we notice when 
we are on the shore. In order to hear this sound as we 
do, we must hear the parts of which the whole sound is 
made up, that is to say, the sounds which come from each 
wave, although each of these little sounds makes itself 
known only in the confused combination of all the sounds 
taken together, that is to say, in the moaning of the sea, 
and no one of the sounds would be observed if the wave 
which makes it were alone. For we must be affected a 
little by the motion of this wave, and we must have some 
perception of each of these sounds, however little they 
may be ; otherwise we should not have a perception of a 
hundred thousand waves, for a hundred thousand nothings 
cannot make something. We never sleep so profoundly 
as not to have some feeble and confused feeling, and we 
should never be wakened by the greatest noise in the 
world if we had not some perception of its beginning, 
which is small, just as we should never break a cord by 
the greatest effort in the world, if it were not strained and 
stretched a little by less efforts, though the small exten- 
sion they produce is not apparent." 1 

Now in this conception, we have a means of removing 
the gap which apparently still exists between what we 
know as mind, and the blind workings of force in material 
nature. This is done through the principle of continuity, 

1 New Essays (p. 371). This and the succeeding quotations are taken 
from Latta's translation. (Clarendon Press.) 

3 1 a A Student's History of Philosophy 

which is another of the great watchwords of Leibniz' phi- 
losophy. According to this principle, there are no breaks 
in nature. Things shade into one another by infinitely 
small gradations. Consequently, there is a continuous 
series from the lowest monads up to the highest, which 
we call souls, or spirits. The life of each monad is a 
thought life, a life of perceptual activity ; but it is thought 
which may be infinitely confused. It is this confused 
thought which constitutes the life of the material monads, 
and which, compared with our own, is like a swoon or 
dreamless sleep. What we call souls, on the contrary, are 
monads in which this confused thought has come to at 
least a partial consciousness of itself. Even in man, a 
large part of the soul life is still obscure. Sense percep- 
tion and feeling are such confused thought. It is on 
account of this confusion that we see the world as mate- 
rial, and not for what it really is a collection of imma- 
terial beings/ Accordingly, there is no difference in kind 
between souls and other monads, but only in degree ; both 
are spiritual in their nature. However, this difference in 
degree is infinitely varied, and sufficient to account for all 
the apparent oppositions in the world. 

So far, then, we find reality to be made up of an infinite 
host of individual beings, or monads, representing count- 
less different grades of development. Those lower in 
the scale are what we call matter; those more highly 
developed are souls; while highest of all are self-con- 
scious minds, or spirits. The inner nature of these monads 
is force ; or, to interpret this in more ultimate terms, an 
active life consisting in more or less conscious perception, 
or thought. " In the smallest particle of matter there is a 
world of creatures, living beings, animals, entelechies, souls. 
Each portion of matter may be conceived as like a garden 
full of plants, and like a pond full of fishes. But each 
branch of every plant, each member of every animal, 
each drop of its liquid parts, is also some such garden 
or pond. Thus there is nothing fallow, nothing sterile, 

Systems of Rationalism 311 

nothing dead in the universe; no chaos, no confusion 
save in appearance, somewhat as it might appear to be 
in a pond at a distance, in which one would see a con- 
fused movement, and, as it were, a swarming of fish in 
the pond, without separately distinguishing the fish them- 
selves." ! 

2. Preestablished Harmony. But now we seem to 
have been carried to the opposite pole from Spinoza, and, 
in establishing the reality of individuals, to have lost the 
unity which is to bind them together. And the way in 
which Leibniz goes on to describe the life of the monads 
seems to make the problem more desperate still. Each 
monad, as a centre of force, has the principle of its life 
and development contained wholly in its own nature. In- 
stead of being, like the matter of Descartes, passive, and 
so influenced only from without, it is never influenced from 
without at all. It has a perfect independence as regards 
the influence of all other created things. " Each spirit 
being like a world apart, sufficient to itself, independent of 
every other created thing, involving the infinite, expressing 
the universe, is as lasting, as continuous in its existence, 
and as absolute as the very universe of created things." 2 
How, indeed, is a purely external influence thinkable ? 
How could a thing act in response to an outer influence, 
unless it were its own nature so to act ; unless, that is, it 
had the active principle of its movement already in itself ? 
Each monad thus lives its own life independently of every 
other monad. It is shut up to the possibilities of its own 
nature, and develops solely in accordance with its own laws. 
It has no windows through which anything can come in 
or go out. And yet, as a matter of fact, the different 
monads must somehow be related, and take account of 
other monads in their actions, in order to account for the 
ordered Cosmos that results. What is the explanation of 
the apparent contradiction ? 

The answer lies in the two words Preestablished Har- 

1 Monad., 66, 67, 69. 2 New System (p. 316). 

312 A Student's History of Philosophy 

mony. It is true that each monad is a thing by itself, un- 
influenced by any other monad. Nevertheless, there is a 
real unity in the world ; it is the unity of a plan or pur- 
pose which the world reveals, and which has its source 
in the mind of God. With reference to each other, the 
monads are indeed windowless; they develop in accord- 
ance with principles immanent in their own being. But 
still they are not absolutely isolated. There is a higher 
reality on which each depends, and a higher purpose which 
each serves. And it is this which explains why, in spite of 
being isolated, the monads yet show so close a correspond- 
ence. For it is with reference to this universal plan that 
the nature of each monad is constituted at the start. The 
course of development which is to make up the life of each 
is originally determined with the whole universe of other 
monads directly in view. So, by simply following its 
own course, without interference from anything outside, it 
yet runs parallel to, and reflects, the development which is 
going on independently in other monads. 

This thought is illustrated by Leibniz in a simile. "I 
will say that this concomitance which I maintain, is com- 
parable to several different bands of musicians or choirs, 
playing their parts separately, and so placed that they do 
not see or even hear one another ; which can nevertheless 
keep perfectly together, by each following their own notes, 
in such a way that he who hears them all finds in them a 
harmony that is wonderful, and much more surprising than 
if there had been any connection between them." * The 
nature of the correspondence Leibniz expresses in the 
statement that each monad, although windowless, never- 
theless, at each stage of its existence, mirrors, from its 
special point of view, the life of all the rest of the world ; 
just as in the physical realm each movement involves all 
other movements in the universe. This latter fact is, in- 
deed, only the other side, the phenomenal aspect, of the 
first. So one might come to know the beauty of the whole 

1 Letter to Arnauld (Latta, p. 47). 

Systems of Rationalism 313 

universe in each soul, if he could unfold all that is enfolded 
in it from the start. 

This conception of preestablished harmony has a par- 
ticular application, in Leibniz* mind, to one specific prob- 
lem the relationship of mind and body. Of course what 
we call a body is, for him, not an actual material thing, 
but a group of monads, of the less developed sort. Every 
"soul," or higher monad, has such a group of inferior 
associates with which it stands in a specially close connec- 
tion. These, by the law of their nature, tend to subordi- 
nate themselves to the central and ruling " soul," in virtue 
of its higher development ; and thus they constitute what 
appears to us phenomenally as an organic body. " These 
principles have given me a way of explaining naturally the 
union, or rather the mutual agreement, of the soul and the 
organic body. The soul follows its own laws, and the body 
likewise follows its own laws ; and they agree with each 
other in virtue of the preestablished harmony between all 
substances, since they are all representations of one and 
the same universe." x 

This is expressed in the famous figure of the clocks. 
Suppose two clocks or watches, which perfectly keep 
time together ; this may happen in three ways. The first 
way is by a direct mechanical influence of one upon the 
other, and this is the ordinary conception of the relation 
between body and soul. The second way of making two 
clocks, even though they be bad ones, keep together, would 
be to put them in charge of a skilled workman, who 
should regulate them from moment to moment this, 
again, is the theory of Occasionalism. Finally, the 
third way would be to make the two clocks at first with 
such skill that we could be sure of their correspond- 
ing accurately for all the future. This is the way of 
preestablished harmony "a contrivance of the divine 
foreknowledge, which has from the beginning formed 
each of these substances in so perfect, so regular and accu- 

1 Monad. , 78. 

314 A Student's History of Philosophy 

rate a manner, that by merely following its own laws, 
which were given to it when it came into being, each sub- 
stance is yet in harmony with the other, just as if there 
were a mutual influence between them, or as if God were 
continually putting his hand upon them." * There is no 
need, therefore, of any intervention, which, indeed, implies 
an altogether unworthy notion of God. Surely, his skill 
is not so limited that he could not make a mechanism that, 
would run forever, and so must wind up his watch from 
time to time, to prevent its running down. The more he 
has to mend it and set it right, the poorer a mechanic it 
shows him to be. " According to my system, bodies act 
as if (to suppose the impossible) there were no souls, and 
souls act as if there were no bodies, and both act as if 
each influenced the other." 2 

The reality of the world is, then, once more, the life of 
a multitude of immaterial beings, each developing its own 
nature in accordance with laws which it is impossible that 
other monads should interfere with, and yet in relation to 
a general plan, which finds its complete summing up in the 
one ultimate being God. On him they severally depend, 
and this dependence enables them to act in harmony with 
the rest of the world, and to mirror its course ideally in 
their own lives. And this gives, too, the content of the 
purpose of the world in so far as it is possible for us to 
fathom it. Development consists in making actual for 
each monad the possibilities of its own nature. And since 
that nature is thought, it consists in getting rid of confused 
perceptions, and attaining to the true ideas which lie con- 
cealed in the muddy depths of our primitive experience. 
The goal of life is to see things truly as they exist for God. 
Such a condition is the only true freedom. Of course 
Leibniz cannot admit any freedom of a purely arbitrary 
will. The monad's nature is given at the start, and the 
course of a man's development thus is fixed. Every pres- 
ent state of a simple substance is naturally a consequence 

1 Third Explanation (p. 33 1 ) . 2 Monad., 8 1 . 

Systems of Rationalism 315 

of its preceding state, in such a way that its present is 
big with its future. But man is free in the sense that it is 
the law of his own nature that determines him, not some- 
thing from the outside. He is free to realize himself in 
his completeness : and in so far as confusedness gives 
place to clear thought, and the reasons for his activity 
cease to lie beyond his knowledge, this freedom becomes 
conscious and actual. Through knowledge, the soul is 
truly active, truly a law to itself. 

3. The World of Freedom. This fact of freedom, of 
self-conscious development, takes us out of the realm 
of phenomena, and relates us to the purposes of God and 
the moral universe. " Among other differences which 
exist between ordinary souls and spirits there is also 
this : that souls in general are living mirrors or images 
of the universe of created things, but that spirits are 
also images of the Deity or Author of nature Himself, 
capable of knowing the system of the universe, and to 
some extent of imitating it, each spirit being like a small 
divinity in its own sphere. It is this that enables spirits 
to enter into a kind of fellowship with God, and brings 
it about that in relation to them he is not only what 
an inventor is to his machine (which is the relation of 
God to other created things), but also what a prince is 
to his subjects, and, indeed, what a father is to his chil- 
dren. Whence it is easy to conclude that the totality of 
all spirits must compose the City of God, that is to say, the 
most perfect state that is possible, under the most perfect 
of monarchs. This City of God, this truly universal mon- 
archy, is a moral world in the natural world, and is the 
most exalted and most divine among the works of God ; 
and it is in it that the glory of God really consists, for he 
would have no glory were not his greatness and his good- 
ness known and admired by spirits. It is also in relation 
to the divine City that God specially has goodness, while 
his wisdom and his power are manifested everywhere." 1 

1 Monad, 83-86. 

316 A Student's History of Philosophy 

For Leibniz, then, the mechanical view of the world, 
and the teleological, are not inconsistent or competing, but 
rather two aspects of the same thing. The phenomenal 
aspect of the world, in terms of physical relations, is en- 
tirely legitimate in its own sphere. There can be no inter- 
ference with its laws, since the inner life of the monads, 
of which scientific laws are a phenomenal transcript, has 
been determined from the beginning. But now an- 
other question presents itself to the philosopher, as distinct 
from the scientist. Granted that any event can be re- 
lated with mathematical necessity to other events, still 
why should this whole constitution of things be as it is, 
and not something different ? To answer this ques- 
tion, we must go back of appearance to reality, to 
the inner life of the monads, and the moral purpose 
which is being realized in the lives of those monads who 
have attained to spiritual self-consciousness. Such pur- 
pose is entirely harmonious with mechanism. "Things 
lead to grace" by the very ways of nature, and this globe, 
for instance, must be destroyed and renewed by natural 
means, at the very time when the government of spirits 
requires it, for the punishment of some and the reward of 
others." * 

This conception of purpose, also, is connected with 
another important doctrine of Leibniz. There are two 
different kinds of truths necessary truths, and contin- 
gent. Necessary truths follow with logical certainty ; 
they are eternal and unalterable, and even the will of 
God cannot make them otherwise than they are. They 
fall, therefore, under the logical law of contradiction ; 
their opposite is unthinkable. But it is only abstract 
truths that are thus necessary. When it comes to truths 
of fact, or existence, there is no apparent necessity in- 
volved. So far as we can see, the course of the world 
might have been wholly different from what it actually 
has been. The particular facts of the world, therefore, 

1 Monad., 88. 

Systems of Rationalism 317 

are contingent, and all that we can do is to find for them 
some sufficient reason. Now this sufficient reason depends 
ultimately upon purpose, or the relation to moral ends. 
Our particular world is only one among an infinite number 
that would have been possible had God so willed; why, 
then, should it exist, rather than any other ? Simply be- 
cause God has chosen, not any world at random, but the 
best of all possible worlds ; and such a world is represented 
by our own. Among all the possibilities which pass before 
his vision, God sees that there is only one combination 
which will give the greatest possible good and the least 
possible evil ; and his supreme wisdom and perfection lead 
him to choose this and make it actual, rather than any 
other of the possibilities which, apart from the question 
of better or worse, would have an equal right to exist. 
"The whole matter may be likened to certain games in 
which all the spaces on a board are to be filled up accord- 
ing to definite rules, so that unless you make use of some 
ingenious contrivance, you find yourself in the end kept 
out of some refractory spaces, and compelled to leave empty 
more spaces than you intended, and some of which you 
might otherwise have filled." 1 So, for God, the problem 
is, how to get a world representing the greatest possible 
amount of reality, the highest physical and moral perfec- 
tion ; and this " best of all possible worlds " which we find 
existing, is the result. 

Such a conception involves a solution of the problem 
of evil, which Leibniz works out most elaborately in his 
Theodicy. What appears to us as evil is only a neces- 
sary incident in the life of the whole, which, if we could but 
see it from the standpoint of the whole, we should recognize 
as necessary to the highest perfection. " And, indeed, as 
the lawyers say, it is not proper to judge unless we have 
examined the whole law. We know a very small part of 
eternity, which is immeasurable in its extent ; for what a 
little thing is the record of a few thousand years, which 

1 Ultimate Origination of Things (p. 341). 

318 A Studenfs History of Philosophy 

history transmits to us ! Nevertheless, from so slight an 
experience we rashly judge regarding the immeasurable 
and eternal, like men who, having been born and brought 
up in prison, or perhaps in the subterranean salt mines of 
the Sarmatians, should think that there is no other light in 
the world than that of the feeble lamp which hardly suffices 
to direct their steps. If you look at a very beautiful pic- 
ture, having covered up the whole of it except a very small 
part, what will it present to your sight, however thoroughly 
you examine it (nay, so much the more, the more closely 
you inspect it), but a confused mass of colors, laid on with- 
out selection and without art ? Yet if you remove the cov- 
ering, and look at the whole picture from the right point 
of view, you will find that what appeared to have been 
carelessly daubed on the canvas was really done by the 
painter with very great art. The experience of the eyes 
in painting corresponds to that of the ears in music. Emi- 
nent composers very often mingle discords with harmonies, 
so as to stimulate, and, as it were, to prick the hearer, who 
becomes anxious as to what is going to happen, and is so 
much the more pleased when presently all is restored to 
order, just as we take pleasure in small dangers or risks of 
mishap, merely from the consciousness of our power or our 
luck, or from a desire to make a display of them ; or, again, 
as we delight in the show of danger that is connected with 
performances on the tight rope, or sword-dancing ; and we 
ourselves in jest half let go a little boy, as if about to throw 
him from us, like the ape which carried Christiern, king 
of Denmark, while still an infant in swaddling clothes, to 
the top of the roof, and then, as in jest, relieved the anxiety 
of every one by bringing him safely back to his cradle. 
On the same principle sweet things become insipid if we 
eat nothing else ; sharp, tart, and even bitter things must 
be combined with them, so as to stimulate the taste. He 
who has not tasted bitter things does not deserve sweet 
things, and, indeed, will not appreciate them. This is the 
very law of enjoyment, that pleasure does not have an 

Systems of Rationalism 319 

even tenor, for this begets loathing, and makes us dull, 
not happy." * 

We cannot judge, then, a so-called evil by itself. It 
may either be necessary to avoid still greater evils, or it 
may be justified as a condition of attaining some positive 
good that far outweighs it, as the general of an army will 
prefer a great victory with a slight wound to a condition 
without wound and without victory. Even if in quantity 
the evil could be shown to surpass the good, yet the latter 
would still make up in quality ; the glory and perfection 
of the blessed are incomparably greater than the misery 
of the damned, since the excellence of the total good in 
the lesser number exceeds the total evil in the greater 
number. We cannot lay the blame for evil upon God. 
God is responsible for realities only in so far as they are 
positive and perfect ; evil is a negative fact, which results 
from the necessary imperfection and limitation of finite crea- 
tures. It is with them as with a loaded vessel, which the 
river causes to move more or less slowly according to the 
weight it carries ; its speed depends upon the river, but 
the retardation which limits this speed comes from the 

4. Theory of Knowledge. It remains to mention, briefly, 
one other important phase of Leibniz' thought. Nearly fifty 
years after his death there was published, for the first time, 
a work of his entitled New Essays on the Human Under- 
standing. This contained an acute examination of Locke's 
theory of knowledge ; and so it brings Leibniz into direct 
connection with the problem which was presently to become 
the main problem of philosophy. As Locke's theory still 
remains to be considered, Leibniz' criticism can only be 
noticed here in a very general way. 

Locke's position, to anticipate, was briefly this : that all 
our knowledge comes from sense experience, and that there 
are no such things as innate ideas. The mind is a blank 
tablet. Images impress themselves upon it from external 

1 Ultimate Origination oj Things (p. 346 ) . 

320 A Student's History of Philosophy 

objects, and these form the basis of all our knowledge. 
Leibniz opposes this whole conception. He does not, 
indeed, consider it necessary to hold that universal truths 
exist clearly and consciously in the mind at birth. He can 
agree with Locke that, in point of time, sensations come 
first. But such universal knowledge exists implicitly, 
involved in the sensations themselves, although it is only 
brought to consciousness by the gradual clearing up of 
this original confused sense experience. Leibniz' doctrine 
of petites perceptions enables him to understand how a 
thing may be in the mind, in an undeveloped way, even 
when we do not seem to be conscious of it. And universal 
ideas must be there implicitly, or we never should have 
them at all. No universal and necessary truth can pos- 
sibly come from mere sensations. " The senses never give 
anything but instances, that is to say, particular or indi- 
vidual truths. Now all the instances which confirm a 
general truth,- however numerous they may be, are not 
sufficient to establish the universal necessity of this same 
truth ; for it does not at all follow that what has happened, 
will happen in the same way." * 

In general, then, Leibniz goes back to an entirely differ- 
ent conception of the mind from that which Locke holds. 
Locke practically ignores the reaction of the mind itself 
in knowledge ; whereas, for Leibniz, this is the one essen- 
tial thing. The mind is not a mere passive recipient of 
ideas. There would be no reality to it if it were not 
already active, and disposed in certain specific directions. 
Instead of everything being due to the influence of outer 
objects, there is nothing due to this. According to the 
theory of monads, the entire life develops solely from 
within, by the laws of its own nature ; and so sensations 
themselves are innate. It is thus absolutely necessary 
to take into account, first of all, the mind itself, with its 
native character, natural inclinations, powers, dispositions. 
" Accordingly I have taken as illustration a block of veined 

1 New Essays (p. 362). 

Systems of Rationalism 321 

marble, rather than a block of perfectly uniform marble, 
or than empty tablets, that is to say, what is called by phi- 
losophers tabula rasa. For if the soul were like these 
empty tablets, truths would be in us as the figure of Her- 
cules is in a block of marble, when the block of marble is 
indifferently capable of receiving this figure or any other. 
But if there were in the stone veins, which should mark 
out the figure of Hercules rather than other figures, the 
stone would be more determined toward this figure, and 
Hercules would somehow be, as it were, innate in it, 
although labor would be needed to uncover the veins, and 
to clear them by polishing, and thus removing what pre- 
vents them from being fully seen." J 


Leibniz, Chief Works: Discourse on Metaphysics (1685); New 
System (1695) ; New Essays on the Human Understanding (1704) ; 
Theodicy (1710) ; Monadology (1714) ; Principles of Nature and Grace 
(1714). Translations: Latta (Monadology, etc.) ; Duncan (Selections) ; 
Langley (New Essays) ; Montgomery (Discourse on Metaphysics, 
Correspondence with Arnauld, Monadology) . 

Merz, Leibniz. 

Dewey, Leibniz* New Essays. 

Russell, A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz. 

l New Essays (p. 366). 


31. Locke 

The name of John Locke, the founder of the new phi- 
losophy of Empiricism, which Leibniz had attacked in the 
New Essays, stands for all that is most characteristic in 
English philosophical thought, down almost to the present 
day. Locke was born in Somersetshire in 1632, a period 
marked by the beginning of the struggles of the parliamen- 
tary party against Charles the First. He was sent to Ox- 
ford, where, however, the academic spirit was still too 
much dominated by Scholasticism to arouse in him any 
strong interest. Later he received an appointment at the 
University, and continued for a number of years in more 
or less close connection with it. In 1666 he met Lord 
Ashley, afterward Earl of Shaftesbury, and one of the 
greatest of the statesmen of Charles the Second's reign. 
With him Locke entered into a lasting friendship. This 
intimacy brought him into contact with public life, and 
finally compelled him, on the fall of his patron, to seek 
refuge in Holland. Here he stayed five years. On the 
accession of William of Orange, he returned to England. 
During the remainder of his life he stood for the most pro- 
nounced intellectual force in England, and he was in con- 
siderable degree responsible for shaping the policy of the 
new government. His closing years were spent in quiet, 
except for various controversies, mostly theological, in 
which his writings had involved him. He died in 1704. 

Locke's attention was first directed to the field of phi- 
losophy by a chance incident. " Were it fit to trouble thee 
with the history of this essay, I should tell thee that five 


The Growth of Empiricism 323 

or six friends meeting at my chamber, and discoursing on 
a subject very remote from this, found themselves quickly 
at a stand by the difficulties that rose on every side. After 
we had awhile puzzled ourselves, without coming any nearer 
a resolution of those doubts which perplexed us, it came 
into my thoughts that we took a wrong course, and that 
before we set ourselves upon inquiries of that nature, it 
was necessary to examine our own abilities, and see what 
objects our understandings were or were not fitted to deal 
with. This I proposed to the company, who all readily 
assented ; and therefore it was agreed that this should be 
our first inquiry. Some hasty and undigested thoughts 
on the subject I had never before considered, which I set 
down against our next meeting, gave the first entrance into 
this discourse ; which having been thus begun by chance, 
was continued by entreaty, written by incoherent parcels, 
and after long intervals of neglect resumed again, as my 
humor or occasion permitted ; and at last, in a retirement 
where an attendance on my health gave me leisure, it was 
brought into that order thou now seest it." 1 

It is characteristic of the sober thoroughness which dis- 
tinguishes Locke, that it was twenty years before this 
design was finally completed, and the book given to the 
world. Indeed, until he was nearly sixty years old, he had 
published nothing. It was not till after his return from 
exile that his principal works appeared in quick succession. 
His writings include three Letters on Toleration, two 
Treatises on Government, Thoughts on Education, The 
Reasonableness of Christianity, and the Essay on the 
Human Understanding. 

In all these works the same general aim is to be found. 
That aim is to show the futility of empty verbiage and 
idle acquiescence in traditional opinions and assumptions, 
which take the place of honest intellectual effort and in- 
quiry. In opposition to this, it strives to make men use 
their own minds, not upon words but upon real facts, to 

1 Essay, Epistle to the Reader, Vol. I, p. 118 (Bohn's Library). 

324 A Student's History of Philosophy 

the intent that they may be freed from the weight of the 
past, and attain to a rationally grounded liberty. And the 
method by which Locke thought to accomplish this result 
was by demolishing the undue pretensions which the human 
intellect is wont to make. However competent it may 
prove to be for dealing with homely matters of fact and 
experience, when it aspires to a dogmatic certainty about 
higher things, it is in reality making use of words to which 
no definite and verifiable ideas correspond, and so modesty 
is its proper attitude. The Letters on Toleration vindi- 
cate man's right to religious freedom just on this ground, 
that it is absurd to force all men dogmatically to adopt one 
particular belief, when the foundations of our knowledge of 
the things which theology pretends to teach are so unsub- 
stantial. The Treatises on Government, similarly, defend 
the freedom of the citizen in the state on the homely and 
intelligible basis of expediency or utility, in opposition to 
the unreasoning faith which rests on mere blind tradition, 
and expresses itself in the theory of a divine right of kings. 
As opposed to this, Locke made himself the spokesman 
of the Revolution of 1688, by arguing that government is 
simply a means for serving the best interests of the people 
governed. Government, as with Hobbes, is based upon a 
contract, but this contract has nothing of the rigidity for 
which Hobbes had argued. To retain old forms un- 
changed when circumstances have altered, is to defeat 
the very purpose of government. And if at any time the 
ruler is untrue to his trust, and the advantages for the 
sake of which he was given power are no longer forth- 
coming, authority reverts to the people, and revolution is 

Now these practical aims, in behalf of freedom and rea- 
sonableness, and against mere tradition, irrationality, and 
restrictive forces, underlie the Essay also. In it Locke at- 
tempts a philosophical justification of the practical interests 
to which he is devoted. He comes to an examination of 
the powers of the human mind in order, primarily, to get a 

The Growth of Empiricism 325 

weapon against political superstitions, traditional dogmas, 
empty words divorced from things, and a sentimental and un- 
reasoning * enthusiasm.' "The commonwealth of learning 
is not at this time without master-builders, whose mighty 
designs in advancing the sciences will leave lasting monu- 
ments to the admiration of posterity ; but every one must 
not hope to be a Boyle or a Sydenham ; and in an age that 
produces such masters as the great Huy genius, and the 
incomparable Mr. Newton, it is ambition enough to be 
employed as an under-laborer in clearing the ground a 
little, and removing some of the rubbish that lies in the 
way to knowledge; which certainly had been very much 
more advanced in the world, if the endeavors of ingenious 
and industrious men had not been much cumbered with 
the learned but frivolous use of uncouth, affected, or unin- 
telligible terms, introduced into the sciences, and there 
made an art of, to that degree that philosophy, which is 
nothing but the true knowledge of things, was thought 
unfit or incapable to be brought into a well-bred company 
and polite conversation. . . . To break in upon the sanc- 
tuary of vanity and ignorance will be, I suppose, some ser- 
vice to human understanding." 1 

i. The Source of Knowledge 

i . The Aim of the Essay. With this general end in view, 
what Locke will attempt will be to " consider the discerning 
faculties of a man, as they are employed about the objects 
which they have to do with. And I shall imagine I have not 
wholly misemployed myself in the thoughts I shall have on 
this occasion, if, in this historical, plain method, I can give 
any account of the ways whereby our understandings come 
to attain those notions of the things we have, and can set 
down any measures of the certainty of our knowledge, or 
the grounds of those persuasions which are to be found 
amongst men, so various, different, and wholly contradic- 

p. 121. 

326 A Student's History of Philosophy 

tory." 1 " If by this inquiry into the nature of the under- 
standing, I can discover the powers thereof, how far they 
reach, to what things they are in any degree proportionate, 
and where they fail us, I suppose it may be of use to pre- 
vail with the busy mind of man to be more cautious in 
meddling with things exceeding its comprehension ; to stop 
when it is at the utmost extent of its tether; and to sit 
down in a quiet ignorance of those things which, upon ex- 
amination, are found to be beyond the reach of our capaci- 
ties. We should not then perhaps be so forward, out of 
an affectation of a universal knowledge, to raise questions, 
and perplex ourselves and others with disputes about 
things to which our understandings are not suited, and of 
which we cannot frame in our minds any clear or distinct 
perceptions, or whereof (as it has perhaps too often hap- 
pened) we have not any notions at all." 2 

Nor have we any right to complain of this limitation. 
" How short soever their knowledge may come of an uni- 
versal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet se- 
cures their great concernments, that they have light enough 
to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight 
of their own duties. Men may find matter sufficient to 
busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, de- 
light, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with 
their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their 
hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to 
grasp everything. We shall not have much reason to 
complain of the narrowness of our minds, if we will but 
employ them about what may be of use to us ; for of that 
they are very capable : and it will be an unpardonable, as 
well as childish peevishness, if we undervalue the advan- 
tages of our knowledge, and neglect to improve it to the 
ends for which it was given us, because there are some 
things that are set out of the reach of it. It will be no ex- 
cuse to an idle and untoward servant, who would not attend 
his business by candlelight, to plead that he had not broad 

1 Bk. I, Chap. I, 2. 2 Bk> T> chap. I, 4. 

The Growth of Empiricism 327 

sunshine. The candle that is set up in us shines bright 
enough for all our purposes. ... It is of great use to the 
sailor to know the length of his line, though he cannot 
with it fathom all the depths of the ocean. It is well 
he knows that it is long enough to reach the bottom at 
such places as are necessary to direct his voyage, and cau- 
tion him against running upon shoals that may ruin him." 1 
2. No Innate Ideas. This, accordingly, is the purpose of 
the essay to destroy false pretensions of knowledge, by 
showing, through a careful examination of the facts of con- 
sciousness, how our ideas originate, and what are the criteria 
for distinguishing real knowledge from that which is illusory. 
But before Locke can enter on this, there is a preliminary 
matter which he must discuss in order to clear the way. This 
is the supposed existence of innate ideas. " When men have 
found some general propositions that could not be doubted 
of as soon as understood, it was a short and easy way to 
conclude them innate. This being once received, it eased 
the lazy from the pains of search, and stopped the inquiry 
of the doubtful concerning all that was once styled innate. 
And it was of no small advantage to those who affected to 
be masters and teachers, to make this the principle of 
principles, 'that principles must not be questioned': for 
having once established this tenet, that there are innate 
principles, it put their followers upon a necessity of receiv- 
ing some doctrines as such ; which was to take them off 
from the use of their own reason and judgment, and put 
them on believing and taking them upon trust without 
further examination : in which posture of blind credulity 
they might be more easily governed by and made useful 
to some sort of men who had the skill and office to princi- 
ple and guide them. Nor is it a small power it gives one 
man over another, to have the authority to be the dictator 
of principles and teacher of unquestionable truths ; and to 
make a man swallow that for an innate principle which 
may serve to his purpose who teacheth them." 2 

* Bk. I, Chap. I, 5, 6. * Bk. I, Chap. IV, 24. 

228 A Student's History of Philosophy 

It is a matter, therefore, not only of theoretical, but of 
very great practical interest, to determine whether we really 
have ideas of this kind. First, accordingly, Locke thinks 
it is necessary to prove that there are no such things as 
innate ideas. "It is an established principle amongst some 
men, that there are in the understanding certain innate 
principles; some primary notions, KOLVOL evvoiai, characters, 
as it were, stamped upon the mind of man, which the soul 
receives in its very first being, and brings into the world 
with it. It would be sufficient to convince unprejudiced 
readers of the falseness of this supposition, if I should only 
show how men, barely by the use of their natural faculties, 
may attain to all the knowledge they have, without the 
help of any innate impressions, and may arrive at certainty, 
without any such original notions. For I imagine any one 
will easily grant that it would be impertinent to suppose the 
ideas of colors innate in a creature to whom God hath 
given sight, and a power to receive them by the eyes from 
external objects ; and no less unreasonable would it be to 
attribute several truths to the impressions of nature and 
innate characters, when we may observe in ourselves facul- 
ties fit to attain as easy and certain knowledge of them, as 
if they were originally imprinted on the mind. But because 
a man is not permitted without censure to follow his own 
thoughts in the search of truth, when they lead him ever 
so little out of the common road, I shall set down the rea- 
sons that made me doubt of the truth of that opinion, as 
an excuse for my mistake, if I be in one." a 

Now, what are the arguments for the existence of such 
ideas ? First, there is the great argument from the univer- 
sal assent of mankind. But it is necessary at the start to 
dispute the supposed facts. " I shall begin with the specu- 
lative, and instance in those magnified principles of demon- 
stration, ' whatever is, is/ and ' it is impossible for the 
same thing to be and not to be ' ; which, of all others, I 
think have the most allowed title to innate. But yet I 

1 Bk. I, Chap. II, i. 

The Growth of Empiricism 329 

take liberty to say that these propositions are so far from 
having a universal assent, that there are a great part of 
mankind to whom they are not so much as known." 

" For, first, it is evident that all children and idiots have 
not the least apprehension or thought of them; and the 
want of that is enough to destroy that universal assent 
which must needs be the necessary concomitant of all 
innate truths ; it seeming to me near a contradiction to say 
that there are truths imprinted on the soul which it per- 
ceives or understands not; imprinting, if it signify any- 
thing, being nothing else but the making certain truths 
to be perceived. For to imprint anything on the mind 
without the mind's perceiving it, seems to me hardly in- 
telligible." "That a truth should be innate, and yet not 
assented to, is to me as unintelligible as for a man to know 
a truth and be ignorant of it at the same time. But then, 
by these men's own confession, they cannot be innate, since 
they are not assented to by those who understand not the 
terms, nor by a great part of those who do understand 
them, but have yet never heard nor thought of those prop- 
ositions ; which, I think, is at least one half of mankind." 

" But that I may not be accused to argue from the 
thoughts of infants, and to conclude from what passes in 
their understandings before they express it, I say next, 
that these two general propositions are not the truths 
that first possess the minds of children, nor are antecedent 
to all acquired and adventitious notions; which, if they 
were innate, they must needs be. ... The child certainly 
knows that the nurse that feeds it is neither the cat it 
plays with, nor the blackmoor it is afraid of ; that the 
wormseed or mustard it refuses is not the apple or sugar 
it cries for, this it is certainly and undoubtedly assured 
of : but will any one say, it is by virtue of this principle, 
' that it is impossible for the same thing to be and not 
to be/ that it so firmly assents to these and other parts of 
its knowledge ? He that will say, children join in these 
general abstract speculations with their sucking bottles 

330 A Student's History of Philosophy 

and their rattles, may perhaps, with justice, be thought 
to have more passion and zeal for his opinion, but less 
sincerity and truth, than one of that age." 1 

There is thus no universal assent to such ideas. More- 
over, these instances just given are just the ones where 
they ought to show most clearly. " These characters, if 
they were native and original impressions, should appear 
fairest and clearest in those persons in whom yet we find 
no footsteps of them; and it is, in my opinion, a strong 
presumption that they are not innate, since they are least 
known to those in whom, if they were innate, they must 
needs exert themselves with most force and vigor. For 
children, idiots, savages, and illiterate people, being of all 
others the least corrupted by custom or borrowed opinions, 
learning and education having not cast their native thoughts 
into new moulds, nor by superinducing foreign and studied 
doctrines, confounded those fair characters nature had 
written there, one might reasonably imagine that in their 
minds these innate notions should lie open fairly to every 
one's view, as it is certain the thoughts of children do. . . . 
But alas, amongst children, idiots, savages, and the grossly 
illiterate, what general maxims are to be found ? A child 
knows his nurse and his cradle, and by degrees the play- 
things of a little more advanced age ; and a young savage 
has, perhaps, his head filled with love and hunting, accord- 
ing to the fashion of his tribe. But he that from a child 
untaught, or a wild inhabitant of the woods, will expect 
these abstract maxims, will, I fear, find himself mistaken. 
Such kind of general propositions are seldom mentioned in 
the huts of the Indians, much less are they to be found 
in the thoughts of children, or any impressions of them on 
the minds of naturals." a 

To avoid the difficulty, it may be said that men know 
these truths when they come to the use of the reason. As 
a matter of fact, however, the time of coming to the use of 
the reason is not necessarily the time we come to know 

i Bk. I, Chap. II, 4, 5, 24, 25. 2 Bk. I, Chap. II, 27. 

The Growth of Empiricism 331 

these maxims ; and even if it were, it would not prove 
them innate. " For by what kind of logic will it appear 
that any notion is originally by nature imprinted in the 
mind in its first constitution, because it comes first to be 
observed and assented to when a faculty of the mind, which 
has quite a distinct province, begins to exert itself ? " 1 
It is equally irrelevant to say that they are assented to as 
soon as they are proposed and understood. " By the same 
reason, all propositions that are true, and the mind is 
capable of ever assenting to, may be said to be in the mind, 
and to be imprinted : since, if any one can be said to be in 
the mind, which it never yet knew, it must be only because 
it is capable of knowing it, and so the mind is of all truths 
it ever shall know." If such an assent be a mark of innate, 
then " that one and two are equal to three, that sweetness 
is not bitterness, and a thousand the like, must be innate." 
" Nay, thus truths may be imprinted on the mind which 
it never did nor ever shall know ; for a man may live long, 
and die at last in ignorance of many truths which his mind 
was capable of knowing, and that with certainty. So that 
if the capacity of knowing be the natural impression con- 
tended for, all the truths a man ever comes to know will, 
by this account, be every one of them innate; and this 
great point will amount to no more, but only to a very im- 
proper way of speaking ; which, whilst it pretends to 
assert the contrary, says nothing different from those who 
deny innate principles. For nobody, I think, ever denied 
that the mind was capable of knowing several truths." 2 

In a similar way, Locke goes on to show that there are 
no innate practical or moral principles ; there are none 
which are universally received by all men. An examina- 
tion of moral customs will show that there is no rule of 
right and justice which is not openly violated by some 
nation, and the violation approved by the public con- 
science. The general resemblance in the conceptions of 
virtue in different countries, and the general approval of it, 

i Bk. I, Chap. II, 14. a Bk. I, Chap. II, 5. 

332 A Student's History of Philosophy 

are due to the fact, not that virtue is innate, but that it is 
profitable. And, finally, to clinch the whole argument, 
Locke points out that no proposition can be innate, unless 
the ideas of which it is composed are innate. " Whatever 
we talk of innate principles, it may with as much proba- 
bility be said that a man hath 100 sterling in his pocket, 
and yet denied that he hath either penny, shilling, crown, 
or other coin out of which the sum is to be made up, as to 
think that certain propositions are innate, when the ideas 
about which they are can by no means be supposed to be 
so ; "* and this can be shown to be true of the ideas in all 
the propositions for which any claim to innateness has 
been made. 

3. All Knowledge from Experience. With innate ideas 
out of the way, Locke can go on to the positive part of his 
work. And there are two main divisions of this. The first 
has to do with the way in which we come by our ideas, since 
they are not bdrn in us. When, however, an idea is once in 
the mind, its mere existence there still does not involve the 
question of truth or error. This arises only in connection 
with the relation of ideas to one another, and so forms a sepa- 
rate inquiry. And to the first of these problems, the answer 
is unambiguous. " Every man being conscious to himself 
that he thinks, and that which his mind is applied about 
whilst thinking, being the ideas that are there, it is past 
doubt that men have in their minds several ideas, such as are 
those expressed by the words whiteness, hardness, sweet- 
ness, thinking, motion, man, elephant, army, drunkenness, 
and others. It is in the first place, then, to be inquired 
how he comes by them. . . . Let us then suppose the 
mind to be white paper, void of all characters, without any 
ideas ; how comes it to be furnished ? Whence comes it 
by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of 
man has painted on it with an almost endless variety ? 
Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge ? 
To this I answer in one word, from experience; in that 

I, Chap. IV, 19. 

The Growth of Empiricism 333 

all our knowledge is founded, and from that it ultimately 
derives itself. Our observation, employed either about 
external sensible objects, or about the internal operations 
of our minds, perceived and reflected on by ourselves, is 
that which supplies our understandings with all the mate- 
rials of thinking. These two are the fountains of knowl- 
edge, from whence all the ideas we have, or can naturally 
have, do spring." J 

The source of our knowledge of external objects is 
called Sensation. The other fountain, the perception of 
the operations of our own mind within us, as it is em- 
ployed about the ideas it has got, is called Reflection. 
" These, when we have taken a full survey of them, and 
their several modes, combinations, and relations, we shall 
find to contain all our whole stock of ideas." "These 
alone, so far as I can discover, are the windows by which 
light is let into this dark room ; for methinks the under- 
standing is not much unlike a closet wholly shut from 
light, with only some little opening left, to let in external 
visible resemblances, or ideas of things without : would the 
pictures coming into such a dark room but stay there, and 
lie so orderly as to be found upon occasion, it would very 
much resemble the understanding of a man, in reference 
to all objects of sight, and the ideas of them." 2 " Thus 
the first capacity of human intellect is, that the mind is 
fitted to receive the impressions made on it, either through 
the senses by outer objects, or by its own operations when 
it reflects on them. This is the first step a man makes 
toward the discovery of anything, and the groundwork 
whereon to build all those notions which ever he shall 
have naturally in this world. All those sublime thoughts 
which tower above the clouds, and reach as high as heaven 
itself, take their rise and footing here : in all that good 
extent wherein the mind wanders, in those remote specula- 
tions it may seem to be elevated with, it stirs not one jot 
beyond those ideas which sense or reflection has offered 
i Bk. II, Chap. I, i, 2. 2 Bk . n , Chap. XI, 17. 

234 A Students History of Philosophy 

for its contemplation." * Ideas can, it is true, be com- 
bined in various new ways; but every element in these 
complex ideas still comes to us from one of the two 
sources. " It is not in the power of the most exalted wit, 
or enlarged understanding, by any quickness or variety of 
thought, to invent or frame one new simple idea in the 
mind, not taken in by the ways before mentioned : nor can 
any force of the understanding destroy those that are 
there." 2 If, then, we can analyze a supposed idea into 
these simple components, we have the means of testing it, 
and of ridding ourselves of the domination of mere words, 
to which no ideas correspond. 

4. Simple Ideas. Accordingly, in order to make good 
his position, Locke is bound to give an account of the whole 
stock of our ideas, arrange and classify them, and make it 
evident that there is none whose origin in experience cannot 
be clearly shown. Evidently, the most general division will 
be into Simple- and Complex Ideas, the elements of our 
thought which come to us passively through sensation and 
reflection, and the various combinations which these may 
assume. Upon simple ideas, Locke does not have to dwell 
very long. They are subdivided into ideas which come into 
our minds from one sense only; those which come from 
more senses than one; those that are had from reflection 
only ; and those that are suggested to the mind by all the 
ways of sensation and reflection. Sounds, colors, tastes, and 
smells, solidity, heat and cold, are examples of the first class. 
Belonging to the second division are ideas of space or 
extension, figure, rest, and motion, which are received both 
through sight and touch. By reflection we get the ideas 
of perception and of volition. The last division includes 
the notions of pleasure, pain, power, existence, unity, and 
succession. Thus, pleasure or pain join themselves to 
almost all our ideas, both of sensation and reflection ; the 
idea of unity is suggested by whatever we can consider as 
one thing, whether a real being or an idea ; power is involved 
i Bk. II, Chap. I, 24. 2 Bk. II, Chap. II, 2. 

The Growth of Empiricism 335 

alike in the ability which we find in ourselves to move the 
various parts of our bodies, and in the effects which mate- 
rial objects have on one another. These classes include 
all the possible ingredients of our knowledge. " Nor let 
any one think these too narrow bounds for the capacious 
mind of man to expatiate in, which takes its flight farther 
than the stars, and cannot be confined by the limits of the 
world ; that extends its thoughts often even beyond the 
utmost expansion of matter, and makes excursions into 
the incomprehensible inane. It will not be so strange to 
think these few simple ideas sufficient to employ the quick- 
est thought or largest capacity, if we consider how many 
words may be made out of the various composition of 
twenty-four letters, or if we will but reflect on the variety 
of combinations that may be made with barely one of the 
above-mentioned ideas, viz., number, whose stock is inex- 
haustible and truly infinite." l 

Before going on to speak of complex ideas, however, 
one point needs a special mention. Besides their exist- 
ence in the mind, many of these simple ideas are also 
referred to the external world, where they are supposed 
somehow to belong to things. Color, for example, is com- 
monly regarded as at once a sensation, and an attribute of 
objects. In order to avoid confusion between the mental 
existence of ideas, and those physical facts which are sup- 
posed to give rise to them, it is well to call these latter, 
not ideas, but qualities. But among these there is an 
important distinction. Certain qualities are entirely in- 
separable from a body, whatever its state ; these are called 
original, or primary qualities, and include solidity, exten- 
sion, figure, motion, and number. " Secondly, such quali- 
ties which in truth are nothing in the objects themselves, 
but powers to produce various sensations in us by their 
primary qualities, i.e., by the bulk, figure, texture, and 
motion of their insensible parts, as colors, sounds, tastes, 
etc., these I call secondary qualities.'* 

1 Bk. II, Chap. VII, 10. 

A Student's History of Philosophy 

Now, whereas " the ideas of primary qualities of bodies 
are resemblances of them, and their patterns do really exist 
in the bodies themselves, the ideas produced in us by these 
secondary qualities have no resemblance of them at all. 
There is nothing like our ideas existing in the bodies 
themselves. They are, in the bodies we denominate 
from them, only a power to produce those sensations in 
us ; and what is sweet, blue, or warm in idea, is but the 
certain bulk, figure, and motion of the insensible parts in 
the bodies themselves. Flame is denominated hot and 
light; snow, white and cold; and manna, white and 
sweet, from the ideas they produce in us ; which qualities 
are commonly thought to be the same in those bodies that 
those ideas are in us, the one the perfect resemblance of 
the other, as they are in a mirror ; and it would by most 
men be judged very extravagant if one should say other- 
wise. And yet he that will consider that the same fire 
that at one distance produces in us the sensation of 
warmth, does at a nearer approach produce in us the far 
different sensation of pain, ought to bethink himself what 
reason he has to say that this idea of warmth, which was 
produced in him by the fire, is actually in the fire ; and his 
idea of pain, which the same fire produced in him the same 
way, is not in the fire. Why are whiteness and coldness 
in snow, and pain not, when it produces the one and the 
other idea in us ; and can do neither, but by the bulk, 
figure, number, and motion of its solid parts ? The par- 
ticular bulk, number, figure, and motion of the parts of 
fire or snow are really in them, whether any one's senses 
perceive them or not, and therefore they may be called 
real qualities, because they really exist in those bodies; 
but light, heat, whiteness, or coldness, are no more really 
in them than sickness or pain in the manna. Take away 
the sensation of them ; let not the eye see light or colors, 
nor the ears hear sound ; let the palate not taste, nor the 
nose smell; and all colors, tastes, odors, and sounds, as 
they are such particular ideas, vanish and cease, and are 

The Growth of Empiricism 337 

reduced to their causes, i.e., bulk, figure, and motion of 
parts." 1 

5. Complex Ideas. To return, then, it is self-evident to 
Locke that, of the simple ideas, the mind cannot possibly 
frame one, until it has been presented by experience. " If 
a child were kept in a place where he never saw any other 
but black and white till he were a man, he would have no 
more ideas of scarlet or green, than he that from his child- 
hood never tasted an oyster or a pineapple has of those 
particular relishes." 2 So far the mind has been passive. 
But now it also has power, after it has received these simple 
ideas, to act upon them in various ways. " The acts of the 
mind, wherein it exerts its power over its simple ideas, are 
chiefly these three : i. Combining several simple ideas into 
one compound one, and thus all complex ideas are made. 

2. The second is bringing two ideas, whether simple or 
complex, together, and setting them by one another so 
as to take a view of them at once, without uniting them 
into one, by which way it gets all its ideas of relations. 

3. The third is separating them from all other ideas that 
accompany them in their real existence : this is called 
abstraction, and thus all its general ideas are made." 3 

All possible combinations of ideas can be brought under 
three heads : Modes, Substances, and Relations. Modes 
are "complex ideas which, however compounded, contain 
not in them the supposition of subsisting by themselves, 
but are considered as dependencies on, or affections of, 
substances ; such as are ideas signified by the words tri- 
angle, gratitude, murder, etc." Of these modes there are 
two kinds. Simple modes are those which are "only 
variations or different combinations of the same simple 
idea, without the mixture of any other; as a dozen or 
score, which are nothing but the ideas of so many dis- 
tinct units added together." Mixed modes are com- 
pounded of simple ideas of several kinds; e.g., "beauty, 

i Bk. II, Chap. VIII, 10, 15. 2 Bkt n , Chap. I, 6. 

Bk. II, Chap. XII, i. 

338 A Student's History of Philosophy 

consisting of a certain composition of color and figure, 
causing delight in the beholder." 

" Secondly, the ideas of Substances are such combina- 
tions of simple ideas as are taken to represent distinct 
particular things subsisting by themselves, in which the 
supposed or confused idea of substance, such as it is, is 
always the first and chief. Thus, if to substance be joined 
the simple idea of a certain dull whitish color, with certain 
degrees of weight, hardness, ductility, and fusibility, we 
have the idea of lead." " Thirdly, the last sort of complex 
ideas, is that we call Relation, which consists in the consid- 
eration and comparing one idea with another." * Such are 
the ideas of cause, of spatial and temporal relations, of 
identity and diversity, and the like. From this point of 
view, Locke goes on to show, in detail, that all the terms 
of which metaphysics has made so much, and which have 
been thought to be too exalted to have grown out of every- 
day experien.ce even the idea of God itself can be 
brought back to perfectly definite simple ideas, in so far 
as they have any meaning at all. 

6. Criticism. Before going on, it may be well to sug- 
gest, briefly, the limitations of Locke's discussion. Locke 
has an entirely definite and straightforward thesis to estab- 
lish. He intends to show that we have no knowledge 
which does not arise in connection with sense experience ; 
in other words, that we do not come into the world with 
ready-made truths in our minds. And if this is his con- 
tention, it may surely be granted that he has made out his 
case. But is this really the important point ? Might not 
a judicious opponent be content to admit that all truths 
come to our knowledge only in the course of experience, 
and still maintain that there are certain truths which may 
properly be called innate ? 

Take, for example, the supposed truth that every event 
must have a cause. There is a sense in which this is 
derived from experience. It could not very well be sup- 
i Bk. II, Chap, xn, 4-7. 

The Growth of Empiricism 339 

posed to be in the mind of any one who had not witnessed 
instances of causation. But in spite of this, if it really is 
true that every event must have a cause, in the future as 
well as in the past, we are going entirely beyond the bare 
facts of experience in the statement. All that mere ex- 
perience could possibly tell us would be, that certain 
particular events in the past have had a cause. There is 
a distinction between a truth's coming to consciousness 
in connection with experience, and its being wholly 
summed up in the experience in connection with which 
it appears. If, therefore, there are truths that are neces- 
sarily and universally true, they must be due to some 
capacity of the mind that goes beyond the mere collection 
of its past experiences. Now, Locke himself admits the 
existence of such truths, as, e.g., causation. There are 
depths to the problem, accordingly, which Locke does not 
begin to sound. It will be necessary to define, much more 
closely than Locke does, what the vague word "experi- 
ence " really means ; and this was left to Locke's succes- 
sors, particularly to Hume and Kant. 

2. Nature and Extent of Knowledge . 

i. Nature and Degrees of Knowledge. Having thus 
examined the source of our ideas, it is still necessary to 
consider what these ideas tell us in the way of truth. 
Now, "since the mind, in all its thoughts and reasonings, 
hath no other immediate object but its own ideas, which 
it alone does or can contemplate, it is evident that our 
knowledge is only conversant about them. Knowledge, 
then, seems to be nothing but the perception of the con- 
nection and agreement, or disagreement and repugnancy, 
of any of our ideas. In this alone it consists. Where 
this perception is, there is knowledge; and where it is 
not, there, though we may fancy, guess, or believe, yet we 
always come short of knowledge." * 

i Bk. IV, Chap. I, i, 2. 

34O A Student's History of Philosophy 

The varying clearness of our knowledge lies in the 
different way of perception the mind has of the agree- 
ment or disagreement of its ideas. Sometimes " the mind 
perceives the agreement or disagreement of two ideas 
immediately by themselves, without the intervention of 
any other; and this we may call intuitive knowledge. 
Thus the mind perceives that white is not black, that a 
circle is not a triangle, that three are more than two. . . . 
This part of knowledge is irresistible, and, like bright sun- 
shine, forces itself immediately to be perceived, as soon as 
ever the mind turns its view that way ; and leaves no room 
for hesitation, doubt, or examination, but the mind is pres- 
ently filled with the clear light of it. He that demands 
a greater certainty than this, demands he knows not what, 
and shows only that he has a mind to be a sceptic, without 
being able to be so." The next degree of knowledge is, 
where the mind perceives the agreement or disagreement 
of any of its ideas, but not immediately ; this is demon- 
strative knowledge. " Thus the mind being willing to 
know the agreement or disagreement in bigness between 
the three angles of a triangle and two right ones, cannot 
by an immediate view and comparing them do it. In this 
case the mind is fain to find out some other angles, to 
which the three angles of a triangle have an equality; 
and, finding those equal to two right ones, comes to know 
their equality to two right ones." 1 A third degree of cer- 
tainty, which also passes, though with less justification, 
under the name of knowledge, will be considered presently 
in connection with sensitive knowledge. 

2. Knowledge of Real Existence. But now, if knowl- 
edge is only of the connection between our own ideas, does 
it not become purely subjective, arbitrary, and unreal? 
"It is evident that the mind knows not things immedi- 
ately, but only by the intervention of the ideas it has of 
them. Our knowledge, therefore, is real only so far as 
there is a conformity between our ideas and the reality of 

1 Bk. IV, Chap. II, i, 2. 

The Growth of Empiricism 341 

things. But what shall be here the criterion ? How shall 
the mind, when it perceives nothing but its own ideas, 
know that they agree with things themselves?" 1 Later 
on this question attains a preeminent importance, and leads 
to strange results. Locke, however, does not appreciate 
all its difficulty, and slips over it rather easily. It never 
occurs to him to doubt that there is a real world, and that 
we can, to an extent at least, know it. And so, although 
apparently in defiance of his definition of knowledge, he 
adds now another conception the agreement of our ideas 
with the real things to which they refer. We may have 
an assurance or conviction that such a reality exists, to 
which our ideas correspond ; and in this case we have not 
only certain, but real knowledge. 

Now there is a kind of knowledge that also may fairly 
be termed real, not because it agrees with an external 
archetype, but because it does not pretend to refer to any- 
thing beyond itself; and so there can be no question of 
a lack of correspondence. " All our complex ideas, except 
those of substances, being archetypes of the mind's own 
making, not intended to be the copies of anything, nor 
referred to the existence of anything, as to their originals, 
cannot want any conformity necessary to real knowledge." 2 
All our abstract knowledge, as opposed to that which deals 
with facts and most of the statements of necessary 
truth are merely abstract is concerned with such ideas. 
Mathematics is one of the best instances of this. In 
mathematics we are dealing only with ideas which we have 
ourselves formed, and whose truth is entirely independent 
of whether or not there happen to be any real objects in 
the world. But such knowledge is after all not strictly real; 
there is no disagreement, only because there is no object 
with which to disagree. When, however, we turn to ideas 
of substances, a new factor comes in. This is the idea 
of real existence, which brings us back to real knowledge in 
the stricter sense. 

1 Bk. IV, Chap. IV, 3. * Bk. IV, Chap. IV, 5. 

342 A Student's History of Philosophy 

There are three kinds of substances of which we may 
have a real knowledge. We have the knowledge of our 
own existence by intuition ; we perceive it so plainly and 
so certainly, that it neither needs, nor is capable of, any 
proof. Of the existence of God, we have a demonstrative 
knowledge. The proof of God is, briefly, this : We know 
that something exists, since we are sure of our own exist- 
ence ; and we know, also, that something must have existed 
from eternity, since we are intuitively certain that bare 
nothing can no more produce any real being, than it can 
be equal to two right angles. Again, it is evident, in the 
case of any derived being, that it must have received 
everything it possesses from the reality from which it is 
derived. Since, therefore, we possess powers, perception, 
knowledge, all these things must be present in still greater 
measure in the eternal reality from which we spring ; and 
we can know, therefore, that a supremely powerful, know- 
ing, and intelligent being exists. Otherwise there must 
have been a time when knowledge did not exist ; and in 
that case, it never could have come into being. 

Finally, we can have a knowledge of material things 
through sensation ;' which, if it fails of being as sure as 
our knowledge of ourselves and of God, is still practically 
certain. " For I think nobody can, in earnest, be so 
sceptical as to be uncertain of the existence of those things 
which he sees and feels." This assurance is confirmed by 
various arguments. First, it is plain that these perceptions 
are produced in us by exterior causes affecting our senses ; 
because those to whom any organ is lacking, never have 
the ideas belonging to that sense. The organs themselves, 
it is clear, do not produce them ; for then the eyes of a 
man in the dark would produce colors, and his nose smell 
roses in the winter. Again, there is a manifest difference 
between ideas from sensation, and ideas from memory. 
If I turn my eyes at noon toward the sun, I cannot avoid 
the ideas which the light or sun then produces in me ; 
whereas I can at pleasure recall or dismiss ideas of the 

The Growth of Empiricism 343 

sun that are lodged in memory : and this points to an 
exterior cause for the former. So, also, our senses cor- 
roborate one another. "He that sees a fire may, if he 
doubt whether it be anything more than a bare fancy, feel 
it too, and be convinced by putting his hand in it ; which 
certainly could never be put into such exquisite pain by 
a bare idea or phantom." So that "this evidence is as 
great as we can desire, being as certain to us as our pleas- 
ure or pain, i.e., happiness or misery; beyond which we 
have no concernment, either of knowing or being." l 

3. Limitations of our Knowledge of the External World. 
But granting it is proved we have a knowledge of the 
existence of material things, we still need to inquire in re- 
gard to the adequacy and extent of this knowledge. Now, 
in the first place, our simple ideas are adequate ; they may 
not be actual copies of material qualities, but they are 
necessarily and truly connected with them in the order of 
nature. " Since the mind, as has been showed, can by no 
means make to itself these simple ideas, they must neces- 
sarily be the product of things operating on the mind in a 
natural way, and producing therein those perceptions which 
by the wisdom and will of our Maker they are ordained 
and adapted to. From whence it follows that simple ideas 
are not fictions of our fancies, but the natural and regular 
productions of things without us, really operating upon us ; 
and so carry with them all the conformity which is intended, 
or which our state requires : for they represent to us things 
under those appearances they are fitted to produce in us. 
Thus the idea of whiteness or bitterness, as it is in the 
mind, exactly answering that power which is in any body 
to produce it there, has all the real conformity it can or 
ought to have, with things without us." 2 

But when it comes to a knowledge of complex substances, 

the case is different. We may combine ideas, and refer 

them to a substance, when, as a matter of fact, they are 

not actually found together in that substance ; or, we may 

i Bk. IV, Chap. XI, 3-8. * Bk> IV , Chap. IV, 4. 

344 ^ Student's History of Philosophy 

leave out qualities which ought really to be there ; or again, 
we may attribute to the connection, in the substance, of its 
simple qualities, a necessity which this does not possess. 
If we have actually found certain simple qualities going 
together, we have a real knowledge of their coexistence in 
nature in this particular case. But practically we have no 
insight into the reason for the connection, and so our knowl- 
edge hardly goes farther than our empirical acquaintance 
with the particular instances. Necessity, for the most part, 
belongs only to abstract ideas. " Some few of the primary 
qualities have a necessary dependence and visible connection 
one with another, as figure necessarily supposes extension. 
Yet there are so few of them, that we can by intuition or 
demonstration discover the coexistence of very few of the 
qualities that are to be found united in substances. Thus, 
though we see the yellow color, and, upon trial, find the 
weight, malleableness, fusibility, and fixedness that are 
united in a pie.ce of gold ; yet because no one of these ideas 
has any evident dependence or necessary connection with 
the others, we cannot certainly know that where any four 
of these are, the fifth will be there also, how highly prob- 
able soever it may be." * 

" In fine, then, when our senses do actually convey into 
our understandings any idea, we cannot but be satisfied 
that there doth something at that time really exist without 
us, which doth affect our senses, and actually produce that 
idea which we then perceive ; and we cannot so far distrust 
their testimony, as to doubt that such collections of simple 
ideas as we have observed by our senses to be united 
together, do really exist together. But this knowledge 
extends as far as the present testimony of our senses, em- 
ployed about particular objects that do then affect them, 
and no farther. For if I saw such a collection of simple 
ideas as is wont to be called man, existing together one 
minute since, and am now alone ; I cannot be certain that 
the same man exists now, since there is no necessary con- 

ifik. IV, Chap. Ill, 14. 

The Growth of Empiricism 345 

nection of his existence a minute since with his existence 
now : by a thousand ways he may cease to be, since I had 
the testimony of my senses for his existence." 1 

4. Probable Knowledge. So much, then, for our certain 
knowledge. Fortunately, however, we do not have to de- 
pend upon demonstration for a great part of the affairs of 
life. " The understanding faculties being given to man, not 
barely for speculation, but also for the conduct of his life, 
man would be at a great loss if he had nothing to direct 
him but what has the certainty of true knowledge ; for that 
being very short and scanty, as we have seen, he would be 
often utterly in the dark, and in most of the actions of his 
life, perfectly at a stand, had he nothing to guide him in the 
absence of clear and certain knowledge. He that will not 
eat till he has demonstration that it will nourish him, he 
that will not stir till he infallibly knows the business he 
goes about will succeed, will have little else to do but to 
sit still and perish." 2 Accordingly, Locke goes on to con- 
sider the grounds of probability, which in brief are these : 
" First, The conformity of anything with our own knowl- 
edge, observation, and experience. Secondly, The testi- 
mony of others, vouching their observation and experience. 
In this is to be considered, (i) The number. (2) The 
integrity. (3) The skill of the witnesses. (4) The design 
of the author, when it is a testimony out of a book cited. 
(5) The consistency of the parts, and circumstances of the 
relation. (6) Contrary testimonies." 3 Among the beliefs 
accepted on testimony, those based on revelation have a 
peculiarly high degree of assurance. Nevertheless, this is 
always less than intuitive and demonstrative certainty, and 
therefore it can never prevail, if it comes in conflict with 
truths of the latter kind. 

5. Ethics. A word remains to be said about Locke's 
ethical theory. He never works this out in detail, but 
scattered references show what lines it would have fol- 

1 Bk. IV, Chap. XI, 9. 2 Bk. IV, Chap. XIV, I. 

Bk. IV, Chap. XV, 4. 

346 A Student's History of Philosophy 

lowed. Good and evil are nothing but pleasure and pain, 
or what occasions or produces pleasure or pain for us. 
Moral good or evil, then, is only the " conformity or dis- 
agreement of our voluntary actions to some law, whereby 
good or evil is drawn on us by the will and power of the 
lawmaker ; which good and evil, pleasure or pain, attend- 
ing our observance or breach of the law by the decree of 
the lawmaker, is that we call reward and punishment." 
The true ground of morality is thus the will and law of a 
God, " who sees men in the dark, has in his hands rewards 
and punishments, and power enough to call to account the 
proudest offender." J Locke thinks that ethics can be made 
a demonstrative science. 


Locke, Chief Works : Essay concerning Human Understanding 
(1690) ; Thoughts on Education (1692) ; Reasonableness of Christian- 

Russell, Selections. 

Fowler, Locke. 

Fraser, Locke. 

Curtis, Outline of Locke's Ethical Philosophy. 

Green, Introduction to Hume. 

Bourne, Life of John Locke. 

Dewey, Leibniz 1 New Essays. 

McCosh, Realistic Philosophy. 

Moore, Existence, Meaning and Reality in Lockers Essay. 

32. Berkeley 

The philosophy of Locke was, for the most part, a clear- 
ing up and systematization of our common-sense beliefs. 
It proposed to itself no metaphysical subtilties, nor did it 
think it possible to attain to any great amount of absolute 
and ultimate knowledge. The present facts of sense, how- 
ever, it did not doubt ; and these, eked out by probability, 
seemed to it quite sufficient to answer all the practical 
needs of life. But Locke had set forces at work which did 
not stop with him. There were contradictions and diffi- 
*Bk. II, Chap. XXVIII, 5 ; Bk. I, Chap. Ill, 6. 

The Growth of Empiricism 347 

culties present in his thought which he did not perceive, 
but which could not long be overlooked. One such dif- 
ficulty has been noticed in his theory of knowledge. 
Technically, he had limited the possibility of knowledge 
to a perception of the connections between ideas ; but he 
immediately had to add to this the agreement of ideas with 
a reality which is no idea of ours at all. It was from this 
point that a movement started which was, in the end, to 
render all knowledge whatever uncertain. 

George Berkeley, on whom the mantle of Locke fell, 
was an Irishman, born in 1685. He entered Dublin in 
1700. Here his intellectual subtilty, his enthusiastic and 
imaginative temperament, and his peculiarly lovable per- 
sonality, won for him a high reputation among his inti- 
mates. His zeal for knowledge is illustrated in the story 
related of him that, after attending an execution with some 
companions, he induced his friends to suspend him from 
the ceiling, that he might experience the sensation of 
strangling. He was cut down only after he had become 

It was in these early college days that the vision came 
to him of the new principle by which he hoped to revolu- 
tionize philosophy ; and his chief work A Treatise on 
the Principles of Human Knowledge was published in his 
twenty-fifth year. The novelty of his conception the 
denial of the independent existence of matter prevented 
an immediate recognition ; but his acute reasoning, and the 
beauty of his literary style, gradually overcame the preju- 
dice which the paradoxical nature of his position at first 
aroused. In 1713 Berkeley visited London. Here he 
became acquainted with the brilliant literary circle of 
Queen Anne's reign Steele, Addison, Swift, Pope, and 
others, and by the charm of his personality made a 
deep impression. After some time spent in travel, he 
returned to England, to carry out a great philanthropic 
purpose, which, for the next few years, filled his thoughts. 
This was the idea of converting America, and laying there 

348 A Student's History of Philosophy 

the foundation of a higher and purer civilization than he 
found at home, through the establishment of a university 
in the Bermudas. The plan was at once too noble, and 
too visionary, to appeal much to English politicians; but 
his high-minded enthusiasm and eloquence won the day, 
and he secured a grant from Parliament of .20,000. In 
1728 he sailed for America, landing in Rhode Island; and 
here he spent the next three years in quiet and study, wait- 
ing for the plans for the university to be carried out. But 
with Berkeley off the ground, the natural disinclination to 
the scheme asserted itself again ; and finally, convinced 
that the grant was never to be paid, Berkeley returned to 
England. Here he received an appointment as Bishop 
of Cloyne, in Ireland. His last appearance was in con- 
nection with a somewhat fantastic controversy about the 
merits of tar water, in which Berkeley, partly on experi- 
mental, partly on philosophic grounds, was convinced that 
he had fourfd a universal panacea for physical ills, and 
which his deep interest in the welfare of humanity urged 
him to promote with his usual fire and enthusiasm. His 
last work Siris is a compound of the praises of tar 
water, with some of the most profound of his philosophical 
reflections. He died in 1753. 

I. Unthinking Matter does not Exist. There are two 
sides to Berkeley's doctrine, a negative and a positive; 
and it was the negative side which made the deepest 
impression on his age, and on the future development 
of philosophy. His main thesis may be stated in his 
own words : " It is evident to any one who takes a 
survey of the objects of human knowledge, that they 
are either ideas actually imprinted on the senses, or else 
such as are perceived by attending to the passions and 
operations of the mind; or, lastly, ideas formed by help 
of memory and imagination. . . . But besides all that 
endless variety of ideas or objects of knowledge, there is 
likewise something which knows or perceives them, and 
exercises divers operations, as willing, imagining, remem- 

The Growth of Empiricism 349 

bering, about them. This perceiving, active being is what 
I call MIND, SPIRIT, SOUL, or MYSELF. . . . That neither 
our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas formed by the imag- 
ination, exist without the mind, is what everybody will 
allow. And it seems no less evident that the various sen- 
sations, or ideas imprinted on the sense, however blended 
or combined together (that is, whatever objects they com- 
pose) cannot exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving 
them. I think an intuitive knowledge may be obtained of 
this by any one that shall attend to what is meant by 
the term ' exist ' when applied to sensible things. The table 
I write on I say exists, that is, I see and feel it ; and if I 
were out of my study, I should say it existed, meaning 
thereby that if I was in my study, I might perceive it, or 
that some other spirit actually does perceive it. There 
was an odor, that is, it was smelt ; there was a sound, that 
is, it was heard ; a color or figure, and it was perceived by 
sight or touch. That is all I can understand by these and 
the like expressions. For as to what is said of the abso- 
lute existence of unthinking things, without any relation 
to their being perceived, that is to me perfectly unintelligi- 
ble. Their esse is percipi, nor is it possible they should 
have any existence out of the minds of thinking things 
which perceive them. It is, indeed, an opinion strangely 
prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, 
and in a word all sensible objects, have an existence, natu- 
ral or real, distinct from their being perceived by the 
understanding. But with how great an assurance and 
acquiescence soever this principle may be entertained in 
the world, yet whoever shall find in his heart to call it in 
question, may, if I mistake not, perceive it to involve a 
manifest contradiction. For what are the fore-mentioned 
objects, but the things we perceive by sense ? And what 
do we perceive besides our own ideas or sensations ? And 
is it not plainly repugnant that any one of these, or any 
combination of them, should exist unperceived ? " 

" Some truths there are so near and obvious to the mind 

35 o A Student's History of Philosophy 

that a man need only open his eyes to see them. Such I 
take this important one to be, viz., that all the choir of 
heaven and furniture of the earth, in a word all those 
bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world, have 
not any subsistence without a mind that their being is to 
be perceived or known ; that, consequently, so long as they 
are not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my 
mind or that of any other created spirit, they must either 
have no existence at all, or else subsist in the mind of some 
Eternal Spirit it being perfectly unintelligible, and in- 
volving all the absurdity of abstraction, to attribute to any 
single part of them an existence independent of a spirit." * 
This, accordingly, is what Berkeley starts in to prove 
the immaterialism of the external world, the non-existence 
of an unspiritual, unthinking matter. Far from admitting, 
however, that this is a paradox, Berkeley insists that he is 
only going back to, and justifying, the beliefs of common 
sense, in opposition to the confusion in which philosophers 
have involved the question. "Upon the whole," he says, 
"I am inclined to think that the far greater part, if not all, 
of those difficulties which have hitherto amused philoso- 
phers, and blocked up the way to knowledge, are entirely 
owing to themselves that we have first raised a dust, and 
then complain we cannot see." 2 The root of the evil lies 
in the supposition, universally made, but entirely false, 
that we can have such things as abstract ideas. In reality, 
every possible idea must be a particular concrete fact of 
consciousness, or image, with definite characteristics, which 
we can discover and describe. If we cannot discover such 
an image, we are wrong in supposing that any idea is there. 
We deceive ourselves by taking words for ideas. Once 
get free from the bondage of words, and represent to our- 
selves concretely the things we are talking about, and half 
the difficulties of philosophy will be solved. " In vain do we 
extend our view into the heavens, and pry into the entrails 
of the earth, in vain do we consult the writings of learned 

1 Treatise, I, 2, 3, 4, 6. 2 Ibid., Introd., 3. 

The Growth of Empiricism 351 

men, and trace the dark footsteps of antiquity we need 
only draw the curtain of words, to behold the fairest tree of 
knowledge, whose fruit is excellent, and within the reach 
of our hand." 1 

With this preliminary warning, we may turn to our con- 
ception of matter matter, that is, as independent of mind 
or consciousness. The simple test is, Can we represent to 
ourselves what we mean by matter in this sense ? or is it 
just a word which we use, without any understanding be- 
hind it ? It is on this that Berkeley rests his whole case. 
If we can tell what we mean by the existence of objects, 
in abstraction from the fact of their being perceived, very 
well. But if we cannot, then we are merely fooled by 
words, and must, if we are consistent, go back to the posi- 
tion of common sense, and hold that matter is nothing but 
the very things we see, feel, and hear ; that is, the collections 
of ideas which make up the experience of perception. 

" But, say you, though the ideas themselves do not exist 
without the mind, yet there may be things like them, 
whereof they are copies or resemblances, which things 
exist without the mind in an unthinking substance. I 
answer, an idea can be like nothing but an idea ; a color 
or figure can be like nothing but another color or figure. 
If we look but never so little into our own thoughts, we 
shall find it impossible for us to conceive a likeness except 
only between our ideas. Again, I ask whether those sup- 
posed originals or external things, of which our ideas are 
the pictures or representations, be themselves perceivable 
or no ? If they are, then they are ideas, and we have 
gained our point ; but if you say they are not, I appeal to 
any one whether it be sense to assert a color is like some- 
thing which is invisible ; hard or soft, like something which 
is intangible ; and so of the rest." 2 

Every quality, then, which we can attribute to an object, 
may be reduced to a sensible quality, or a sensation ; and 
how can anything be like a sensation, and still be absolutely 

1 Treatise, Introd., 24. 2 Treatise, 8. 

352 A Student's History of Philosophy 

different from what a sensation is, namely, conscious and 
immaterial ? If any one objects to this conclusion, let him 
consider that, in the case of the majority of the qualities 
of matter, it is a conclusion already generally admitted. 
" They who assert that figure, motion, and the rest of the 
primary or original qualities, do exist without the mind in 
unthinking substances, do at the same time acknowledge 
that colors, sounds, heat, cold, and such like secondary 
qualities, do not." But now, in the first place, the fact 
that primary and secondary qualities are inseparably joined, 
shows that, if the latter exist only in the mind, the same 
thing must be true of the former also. " For my own part, 
I see evidently that it is not in my power to frame an idea 
of a body extended and moving, but I must withal give it 
some color or other sensible quality which is acknowledged 
to exist only in the mind. In short, extension, figure, and 
motion, abstracted from all other qualities, are inconceiv- 
able. Where therefore the other sensible qualities are, 
there must these be also, to wit, in the mind, and nowhere 
else." 1 

But furthermore, the very same arguments that prove 
secondary qualities subjective, apply equally to the pri- 
mary. Thus, for instance, it is said that heat and cold are 
affections only of the mind, and not at all patterns of real 
beings, existing in the corporeal substances which excite 
them ; " for the same body which appears cold to one hand 
seems warm to another. Now, why may we not as well 
argue that figure and extension are not patterns or resem- 
blances of qualities existing in matter, because to the same 
eye at different stations, or eyes of a different texture at 
the same station, they appear various, and cannot therefore 
be the images of anything settled and determinate without 
the mind ? Again, it is proved that sweetness is not really 
in the sapid thing, because the thing remaining unaltered, 
the sweetness is changed into bitter, as in case of a fever, 
or otherwise vitiated palate. Is it not as reasonable to say 

* 10. 

The Growth of Empiricism 353 

that motion is not without the mind, since if the succession 
of ideas in the mind become swifter, the motion, it is ac- 
knowledged, shall appear slower, without any alteration in 
any external object ? " 1 

But, it may be said, the essence of matter is not the 
qualities, but a substratum, or substance, which lies behind 
these, and supports them. The qualities may be only sub- 
jective ideas, but you cannot get rid of the substantial 
existence back of them. Now, in the first place, if the 
qualities are ideas, they cannot subsist in an un perceiving 
substance. But what of this concept of substance itself ? 
Locke had already criticised the notion, and had come to 
the conclusion that it is a purely negative and unreal idea. 
It is a "something we know not what," quite on a par 
with the unknown support of the mythical tortoise, which 
for the Indian thinker holds up the world. Berkeley goes 
on to subject the idea to a still more vigorous criti- 
cism. " Let us examine a little the description that is 
given us of matter. It neither acts, nor perceives, nor is 
perceived ; for this is all that is meant by saying it is an 
inert, senseless, unknown substance ; which is a definition 
entirely made up of negatives, excepting only the relative 
notion of its standing under or supporting. But then it 
must be observed that it supports nothing at all, and how 
nearly this comes to a description of a nonentity, I desire 
may be considered. But, say you, it is the unknown occa- 
sion, at the presence of which ideas are excited in us by 
the will of God. Now, I would fain know how anything 
can be present to us, which is neither perceivable by 
sense nor reflection, nor capable of producing any idea in 
our minds, nor is at all extended, nor hath any form, nor 
exists in any place. The words ' to be present,' when thus 
applied, must needs be taken in some abstract and strange 
meaning, and which I am not able to comprehend." " You 
may, if so it shall seem good, use the word ' matter ' in the 
same sense as other men use ' nothing,' and so make those 
2 A ! 14. 

354 A Student's History of Philosophy 

terms convertible in your style. For, after all, that is 
what appears to me to be the result of that definition 
the parts whereof, when I consider with attention, either 
collectively or separate from each other, I do not find 
that there is any effect or impression made on my mind 
different from what is excited by the term * nothing/ " "It 
is a very extraordinary instance of the force of prejudice, 
and much to be lamented, that the mind of man retains so 
great a fondness, against all the evidence of reason, for a 
stupid, thoughtless Somewhat, by the interposition of which 
it would, as it were, screen itself from the Providence of God, 
and remove it farther off from the affairs of the world." 1 
A material substance, then, is unthinkable. Moreover, 
it would be of no possible use if we had it. " Though we 
give the materialists their external bodies, they, by their 
own confession, are never the nearer knowing how our 
ideas are produced ; since they own themselves unable to 
comprehend in what manner body can act upon spirit, or 
how it is possible it should imprint any idea in the mind. 
Hence it is evident the production of ideas or sensations 
in our minds can be no reason why we should suppose 
matter or corporeal substances, since that is acknowledged 
to remain equally inexplicable with or without this suppo- 
sition. ... In short, if there were external bodies, it is 
impossible we should ever come to know it ; and if there 
were not, we might have the very same reasons to think 
there were that we have now. Suppose what no one can 
deny possible an intelligence, without the help of exter- 
nal bodies, to be affected with the same train of sensa- 
tions or ideas that you are, imprinted in the same order, 
and with like vividness in his mind. I ask whether that 
intelligence hath not all the reason to believe the existence 
of corporeal substances, represented by his ideas, and ex- 
citing them in his mind, that you can possibly have for be- 
lieving the same thing ? Of this there can be no question ; 
which one consideration were enough to make any reason- 

1 8 68, 75, 80. 

The Growth of Empiricism 355 

able person suspect the strength of whatever arguments 
he may think himself to have, for the existence of bodies 
without the mind." l 

To reiterate the main point, an unthinking matter does 
not exist, simply because it is inconceivable. " I am con- 
tent to put the whole upon this issue : If you can but 
conceive it possible for one extended movable substance, 
or, in general, for any one idea, or anything like an idea, 
to exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving it, I shall 
readily give up the cause. And, as for all that compages 
of external bodies you contend for, I shall grant you its 
existence, though you cannot either give me any reason 
why you believe it exists, or assign any use to it when it 
is supposed to exist. I say, the bare possibility of your 
opinion's being true, shall pass for an argument that it is 
so. But, say you, surely there is nothing easier than for 
me to imagine trees, for instance, in a park, or books ex- 
isting in a closet, and nobody by to perceive them. I an- 
swer, you may so, there is no difficulty in it ; but what is all 
this, I beseech you, more than framing in your mind cer- 
tain ideas which you call books and trees, and at the same 
time omitting to frame the idea of any one that may per- 
ceive them ? But do not you yourself perceive or think of 
them all the while ? This therefore is nothing to the pur- 
pose ; it only shows you have the power of imagining or 
forming ideas in your mind ; but it does not show that you 
can conceive it possible the objects of your thought may 
exist without the mind. To make out this, it is necessary 
thatjj/0& conceive them existing unconceived, or unthought 
of, which is a manifest repugnancy. When we do our ut- 
most to conceive the existence of external bodies, we are 
all the while only contemplating our own ideas. But the 
mind, taking no notice of itself, is deluded to think it can 
and does conceive bodies existing unthought of or without 
the mind, though at the same time they are apprehended 
by or exist in itself." 2 

1 19, 20. a 22t 23 . 

356 A Student's History of Philosophy 

2. God as the Cause of our Ideas. So much for the 
purely negative argument. But if we were to stop 
here, no one, probably, would be convinced. Is there, 
then, we ask, no reality outside our own fleeting ideas? 
Can we say nothing beyond the fact that these ideas 
come and go ? Certainly we can ; and this brings us 
to the more constructive side of Berkeley's theory. In 
addition to the mere existence of ideas, there are two 
very important characteristics of our sense experience 
its necessity, and orderly coherence. "Whatever power 
I may have over my own thoughts, I find the ideas actu- 
ally perceived by sense have not a like dependence on my 
will. When in broad daylight I open my eyes, it is not in 
my power to choose whether I shall see or no, or to deter- 
mine what particular objects shall present themselves to 
my view." * So, also, sensations have a steadiness, order, 
and coherence ; they are not excited at random, as those 
ideas which are the effect of human wills often are, but in 
a regular train or series. Let us, then, keep in mind these 
two conclusions : First, my ideas evidently require some 
cause beyond my own will ; and, second, this cause cannot 
be an unthinking matter a word to which no positive 
notion corresponds. Nor, clearly, can the ideas be the 
cause one of another. " All our ideas, sensations, notions, 
or the things which we perceive, are visibly inactive, 
there is nothing of power or agency included in them." 2 

Is there, then, any other sort of reality known to us, 
apart from passive ideas, to which we may have recourse ? 
Yes; in addition to ideas, we know ourselves, or spirits. 
As opposed to ideas, a spirit is a substance. " Besides all 
that endless variety of ideas or objects of knowledge, there 
is likewise something which knows or perceives them, and 
exercises divers operations, as willing, imagining, remem- 
bering about them ; " 3 and that this substance which sup- 
ports or perceives ideas should itself be an idea, or like an 
idea, is evidently absurd. Instead of being passive, as 
1 29. 2 25. 8 2. 

The Growth of Empiricism 357 

ideas are, it is active. " All the unthinking objects of the 
mind agree in that they are entirely passive, and their exist- 
ence consists only in being perceived ; whereas a soul or 
spirit is an active being, whose existence consists, not in 
being perceived, but in perceiving ideas, and thinking." l 
We have no knowledge of any reality that is not one of 
these two sorts spirits, or ideas. "The former are ac- 
tive, indivisible substances; the latter are inert, fleeting, 
dependent beings, which subsist not by themselves, but 
are supported by, or exist in, minds or spiritual sub- 
stances." 2 We may say that we have a notion of spirit, 
although we have no idea or image of it. 

And now Berkeley's theory is ready for him. "We 
perceive a continual succession of ideas ; some are anew 
excited, others are changed or totally disappear. There 
is, therefore, some cause of these ideas, whereon they 
depend, and which produces and changes them. That this 
cause cannot be any quality or idea or combination of ideas, 
is clear already. It must therefore be a substance ; but it 
has been shown that there is no corporeal or material sub- 
stance ; it remains, therefore, that the cause of ideas is an 
incorporeal, active substance, or spirit." 3 And since our 
own will is not equal to the task, there must be some other 
Will that produces ideas in us namely, God. Our ideas, 
that is, must have an objective cause. But instead of look- 
ing for this in an unthinkable matter, why not have re- 
course to a reality of the same type as that we know 
already in the knowledge of ourselves? 

In this hypothesis, we have everything that is needed 
to account for the objectivity, order, significance, and ne- 
cessity of our ideas. The objection that, if things are only 
ideas, we ought to be able to create a world to suit our- 
selves, is wholly without point ; there stands a power over 
against us, which, in sensation, determines the order our 
ideas shall follow. But such a controlling spirit will sat- 
isfy all the conditions. What we call the connection of 
1 139. 2 89. 26. 

358 A Student's History of Philosophy 

qualities in things, or the laws of nature, stands only for 
this : that by the divine power, one sensation is made to 
serve to us as a sign that we may, if we wish, get other 
concurrent sensations ; or that other sensations are about 
to follow. "The connection of ideas does not imply the 
relation of cause and effect, but only of a mark or sign, with 
the thing signified. The fire which I see is not the cause 
of the pain I surfer upon my approaching it, but the mark 
that forewarns me of it. In like manner the noise that I 
hear is not the effect of this or that motion or collision of 
the ambient bodies, but the sign thereof." This gives us 
a sort of foresight which enables us to regulate our actions 
for the benefit of life ; and we cannot reasonably demand 
anything more. " That food nourishes, sleep refreshes, 
and fire warms us ; that to sow in the seedtime is the way 
to reap in the harvest ; and, in general, that to obtain such 
or such ends, such or such means are conducive all this 
we know, not by discovering any necessary connection 
between our ideas, but only by the observation of the set- 
tled laws of nature, without which we should be all in un- 
certainty and confusion, and a grown man no more know 
how to manage himself in the affairs of life than an infant 
just born. And yet this consistent uniform working, which 
so evidently displays the goodness and wisdom of that 
Governing Spirit whose Will constitutes the laws of nature, 
is so far from leading our thoughts to Him, that it rather 
sends them wandering after second causes." x 

3. Ansivers to Objections. Having stated his theory, 
Berkeley goes on to anticipate the objections that will be 
brought against it. First, it will be objected " that by 
the foregoing principles all that is real and substantial in 
nature is banished out of the world, and instead thereof a 
chimerical scheme of ideas takes place. All things that 
exist, exist only in the mind, that is, they are purely 
notional. What, therefore, becomes of the sun, moon, and 
stars ? What must we think of houses, rivers, trees, 

1 65, 31, 32. 

The Growth of Empiricism 359 

stones ? Are all these but so many chimeras and illusions 
of fancy ? To all which I answer, that by the principles 
premised we are not deprived of any one thing in nature. 
Whatever we see, feel, hear, or any wise conceive or under- 
stand, remains as secure as ever. There is a rerum natura, 
and the distinction between realities and chimeras retains 
its full force. . . . The only thing whose existence we 
deny is that which philosophers call matter, or corporeal sub- 
stance. And in doing this there is no damage done to the 
rest of mankind, who, I dare say, will never miss it." * The 
phrase " greater reality " has no meaning except as it indi- 
cates the superiority of certain ideas over others in vividness, 
coherency, and distinctness ; and in this sense the sun that 
I see by day is the real sun, and that which I imagine by 
night is the idea of the former. This also is an answer to 
the objection that there is a great difference between real 
fire, for instance, and the idea of fire, between dreaming or 
imagining oneself burnt, and actually being so. And it may 
be added, that "if real fire be very different from the idea of 
fire, so also is the real pain which it occasions very differ- 
ent from the idea of the same pain ; and yet nobody will 
pretend that real pain really is, or can possibly be, in an 
unperceiving thing, or without the mind, any more than its 
idea." 2 

Again, "it will be objected that we see things actually 
without or at a distance from us, and which consequently 
do not exist in the mind ; it being absurd that those things 
which are seen at the distance of several miles, should be 
as near to us as our own thoughts." 3 In answer to this, 
Berkeley calls attention to the fact that in dreams, also, 
we seem to see things at a distance, which yet have no 
reality outside the mind; but he has a more adequate 
answer still. For in his famous New Theory of Vision, 
he had already attempted to prove that we do not see dis- 
tance at all ; all we get through the senses is sensations 
of color and touch. When one says that a thing is at a 

1 34, 35- 2 4i. 8 42. 

360 A Student's History of Philosophy 

distance, what he unconsciously means is, that, in order to 
touch the thing, he foresees he would have to pass through 
certain locomotive or muscular sensations, more or less 
numerous according to the distance from him at which the 
thing is placed. Vision is simply a " language," in which, 
by an arbitrary connection, one sensation (of color) stands 
as sign for another (of movement). Or, do we object that, 
on this view, things are annihilated and created anew 
every time we shut and open our eyes? Once more 
Berkeley asks : Why call this absurd, if we can get abso- 
lutely no notion of what a thing can be when it is not per- 
ceived ? And if it is " thought strangely absurd that upon 
closing my eyelids all the visible objects around me should 
be reduced to nothing, yet is not this what philosophers 
commonly acknowledge, when they agree on all hands 
that light and colors, which alone are the proper and 
immediate objects of sight, are mere sensations, that exist 
no longer than they are perceived ? " * And so Berkeley 
goes on with various other objections; and, although he 
does not meet them all with complete success, there is 
very little that has since been urged against him which he 
does not anticipate more or less clearly. 

Let us sum up once more. "Ideas imprinted on the 
senses are real things, or do really exist ; this we do not 
deny; but we deny that they can subsist without the 
minds which perceive them, or that they are resem- 
blances of any archetypes existing without the mind ; 
since the very being of a sensation or idea consists in 
being perceived, and an idea can be like nothing but an 
idea. Again, the things perceived by sense may be 
termed external, with regard to their origin in that 
they are not generated from within by the mind itself, 
but imprinted by a Spirit distinct from that which per- 
ceives them. ... It were a mistake to think that what 
is here said derogates in the least from the reality of 
things.' It is acknowledged, on the received principles, 


The Growth of Empiricism 361 

that extension, motion, and in a word all sensible quali- 
ties, have need of a support, as not being able to subsist 
by themselves. But the objects perceived by sense are 
allowed to be nothing but combinations of those qualities, 
and consequently cannot subsist by themselves. Thus far 
it is agreed on all hands. So that in denying the things 
perceived by sense an existence independent of a sub- 
stance or support wherein they may exist, we detract 
nothing from the received opinion of their reality, and 
are guilty of no innovation in that respect. All the dif- 
ference is that, according to us, the unthinking beings 
perceived by sense have no existence distinct from being 
perceived, and cannot therefore exist in any other sub- 
stance than those unextended, indivisible substances, or 
spirits, which act and think and perceive them ; whereas 
philosophers vulgarly hold the sensible qualities do exist 
in an inert, extended, unperceiving substance which they 
call matter, to which they attribute a natural subsistence, 
exterior to all thinking beings, or distinct from being per- 
ceived by any mind whatsoever, even the eternal mind of 
the Creator." * 

4. The Consequences of the Theory for Religion. 
And now for some of the further advantages which 
Berkeley's system is to bring. In the first place, it will 
banish at once from philosophy a number of difficult ques- 
tions, about which men have puzzled their heads, and 
wasted their time to no purpose. Such questions as these, 
" whether corporeal substance can think," " whether mat- 
ter be infinitely divisible," and " how it operates on spirit," 
as well as all the problems which arise from assuming the 
real existence of space, are set aside at once as meaningless. 
But, also, there is a more far-reaching result, which for 
Berkeley is all-important the effect upon religion. For 
Berkeley's interest in philosophy is largely a religious in- 
terest; and it seems to him that he has, in his Immaterial- 
ism, a potent weapon against the Agnosticism and Atheism 

1 90, 91. 

362 A Student's History of Philosophy 

of his day. It takes away the ground, in the first place, 
from Scepticism. " So long as we attribute a real exist- 
ence to unthinking things, distinct from their being per- 
ceived, it is not only impossible for us to know with 
evidence the nature of any real unthinking being, but 
even that it exists. Hence it is that we see philosophers 
distrust their senses, and doubt of the existence of heaven 
and earth, of everything they see or feel, even of their 
own bodies." 1 If, however, I mean by matter that which 
I actually perceive by the senses, it is as impossible for 
me to doubt this as it is to doubt my own being. 

And as the doctrine of matter " has been the main pillar 
of Scepticism, so likewise, on the same foundation, have 
been raised all the impious schemes of Atheism and Irre- 
ligion. . . . All these monstrous systems have so visible 
and necessary a dependence on it that, when this corner- 
stone is once removed, the whole fabric cannot choose but 
fall to the ground, insomuch that it is no longer worth 
while to bestow a particular consideration on the absurdi- 
ties of every wretched sect of Atheists." 2 Do we ask for 
proof of God ? It lies immediately before us, says Berke- 
ley, and is just as certain as the proof of our neighbor's 
existence. For as we do not see directly the very self of 
another man, but only certain bodily movements, which 
stand as signs to us of what is present in his mind, so 
is not nature a Divine Visual Language in which God 
speaks to us, a system of signs which, by their order and 
coherency, tell indubitably of a Mind behind them ? 

" It seems to be a general pretence of the unthinking 
herd that they cannot see God. Could we but see Him, 
say they, as we see a man, we should believe that He 
is, and believing obey His commands. But alas, we need 
only open our eyes to see the Sovereign Lord of all things, 
with a more full and clear view than we do any one of our 
fellow-creatures. A human spirit or person is not per- 
ceived by sense, as not being an idea ; when therefore we 

1 88. 2 92. 

The Growth of Empiricism 363 

see the color, size, figure, and motions of a man, we per- 
ceive only certain sensations or ideas excited in our own 
minds ; and these being exhibited to our view in sundry 
distinct collections, serve to mark out unto us the existence 
of finite and created spirits like ourselves. Hence it is 
plain we do not see a man if by man is meant that which 
lives, moves, perceives, and thinks as we do but only 
such a certain collection of ideas as directs us to think 
there is a distinct principle of thought and motion, like to 
ourselves, accompanying and represented by it. And after 
the same manner we see God ; all the difference is that, 
whereas some one finite and narrow assemblage of ideas 
denotes a particular human mind, whithersoever we direct 
our view, we do at all times, and in all places, perceive 
manifest tokens of the Divinity : everything we see, hear, 
feel, or anywise perceive by sense, being a sign or effect of 
the power of God ; as is our perception of those very mo- 
tions which are produced by men." l 

By any true definition of language, therefore, God 
speaks to us as directly as one man to another. " Since 
you cannot deny that the great Mover and Author of na- 
ture constantly explaineth Himself to the eyes of men by 
the sensible intervention of arbitrary signs, which have no 
similitude or connection with the things signified ; so as, 
by compounding and disposing them, to suggest and ex- 
hibit an endless variety of objects, differing in nature, 
time, and place ; thereby informing and directing men how 
to act with respect to things distant and future, as well as 
near and present. In consequence, I say, of your own 
sentiments and concessions, you have as much reason to 
think the Universal Agent or God speaks to your eyes, as 
you can have for thinking any particular person speaks to 
your ears." 2 

" It is therefore plain that nothing can be more evident 
to any one that is capable of the least reflection, than the 
existence of God, or a Spirit who is intimately present to 

1 148. 2 Alciphron, Fourth Dialogue. (Fraser, Selections, p. 271.) 

364 A Student's History of Philosophy 

our minds producing in them all that variety of ideas or 
sensations which continually affect us, on whom we have 
an absolute and entire dependence, in short, * in whom we 
live, and move, and have our being.' That the discovery 
of this great truth, which lies so near and obvious to the 
mind, should be attained to by the reason of so very few, 
is a sad instance of the stupidity and inattention of men, 
who, though they are surrounded with such clear manifes- 
tations of the Deity, are yet so little affected by them that 
they seem, as it were, blinded with excess of light." 1 

5. Sensation and Reason. If we follow the line of 
main emphasis in Berkeley's theory of knowledge, it would 
seem to lead to the position that we can know only our 
own ideas. As a matter of fact, this does not fully repre- 
sent his belief. There was for him, as has been seen, 
knowledge of other reality as well. We can know ourselves, 
to begin with, and our activities and relations to ideas, and 
these are nothing that can be represented by any definite 
image. "We may be said to have some knowledge or 
notion of our own minds, of spirits and active beings, 
whereof in a strict sense we have not ideas." 2 And as 
Berkeley's thought developed, he came to lay more and 
more stress on the intellectual framework of experience, 
by which we rise to truth and God, and less upon the side 
of sensations. " We know a thing when we understand it ; 
and we understand it when we can interpret or tell what it 
signifies. Strictly the sense knows nothing." 3 But his en- 
tire consistency here is perhaps a little dubious. Often, 
at least, he seems to speak as if the point from which we 
start, in knowledge, were a mass of unrelated " ideas " or 
sensations, and as if from these, by mere "experience," 
we finally arrive at their interpretation as the language of 
a divine Author. But if such a starting-point were granted, 
should we ever be in a position to reach, not merely this 
conclusion, but any conclusion at all? Could we be as- 
sured of the existence of any reality beyond the ideas 

1 Treatise, 149. 2 89. 8 Siris, 253. 

The Growth of Empiricism 365 

themselves, of God, or even of other men? At any 
rate, the logic of this " new way of ideas " needed to be 
more rigidly examined than it hitherto had been, to deter- 
mine just where it was to lead. It was necessary that the 
consequences of Empiricism and Sensationalism the con- 
sequences, that is, of the attempt to found experience on a 
mere chance connection of isolated sensations should 
be carried out to their final issue. It was this work which 
Hume accomplished, and which constitutes his great sig- 
nificance in the history of thought, 


Berkeley, Chief Works : New Theory of Vision (1709); Principles 
of Human Knowledge (1710) ; Three Dialogues between Hylas and 
Philonous (1713) ; Alciphron (1732) ; Siris (1744). 

Fraser, Selections. 

Fraser, Berkeley. 

Huxley, Critiques and Addresses. 

Mill, Essays. 

Morris, British Thought and Thinkers. 

McCosh, Realistic Philosophy. 

Tower, Relation of Berkeley^ Later to his Earlier Idealism. 

33. Hume 

David Hume was a Scotchman, born in Edinburgh in 
1711. His life was comparatively uneventful; the main 
interest in it centres in his literary and philosophical work 
and associations. His character was a mixture of the 
most kindly tolerance and good nature, with a shrewdness 
and penetrating critical insight in certain directions. He 
was, however, lacking on the idealistic and imaginative 
sides, and, consequently, in constructive ability. His own 
estimate of his character is essentially just. "To conclude 
historically with my own character, I am, or rather was 
(for that is the style I must now use in speaking of my- 
self, which emboldens me the more to speak my senti- 

366 A Student's History of Philosophy 

ments); I was, I say, a man of mild disposition, of 
command of temper, of an open, social, and cheerful 
humor, capable of attachment, but little susceptible of 
enmity, and of great moderation in all my passions. Even 
my love of literary fame, my ruling passion, never soured 
my temper, notwithstanding my frequent disappointments. 
My company was not unacceptable to the young and 
careless, as well as to the studious and literary; and 
as I took a particular pleasure in the company of modest 
women, I had no reason to be displeased with the recep- 
tion I met with from them. In a word, though most men, 
anywise eminent, have found reason to complain of cal- 
umny, I never was touched, or even attacked, by her bale- 
ful tooth ; and though I wantonly exposed myself to the 
rage of both civil and religious factions, they seemed to be 
disarmed in my behalf of their wonted fury. My friends 
never had occasion to vindicate any one circumstance of 
my character and conduct; not but that the zealots, we 
may well suppose, would have been glad to invent and 
propagate any story to my disadvantage, but they could 
never find any which they thought would wear the face of 
probability." Hume died calmly and cheerfully, expect- 
ing his end, in 1776. 

i. The Analysis of Knowledge. It has already been 
said that the significance of Hume's philosophy lies in the 
way in which he carries the empirical and sensationalistic 
tendencies in the thought of Locke and Berkeley to their 
conclusion. The psychology, accordingly, on which he 
bases his results, follows that of his predecessors, except 
that it is more unambiguous. Every possible object of 
knowledge is reduced either to an impression or an idea. 
" The difference between these consists in the degrees of 
force and liveliness with which they strike upon the mind, 
and make their way into our thought or consciousness. 
Those perceptions which enter with most force and vio- 
lence, we may name impressions ; and under this name I 
comprehend all our sensations, passions, and emotions, as 

The Growth of Empiricism 367 

they make their first appearance in the soul. By ideas I 
mean the faint images of these in thinking and reasoning ; 
such as, for instance, are all the perceptions excited by 
the present discourse, excepting only those which arise 
from the sight and touch, and excepting the immediate 
pleasure or uneasiness it may occasion. I believe it will 
not be very necessary to employ many words in explaining 
this distinction. Every one of himself will readily perceive 
the difference betwixt feeling and thinking." 1 In general, 
ideas seem to correspond closely to impressions, differing 
only in the degree of force and vivacity. 

There is another division among ideas which also is self- 
evident that between simple and complex ideas. And 
this last division tends to modify somewhat the statement 
just made, about the resemblance between ideas and im- 
pressions. " I observe that many of our complex ideas 
never had impressions that corresponded to them, and that 
many of our complex impressions never are exactly copied 
in ideas. I can imagine to myself such a city as the New 
Jerusalem, whose pavement is gold, and walls are rubies, 
though I never saw any such. I perceive, therefore, that 
though there is in general a great resemblance betwixt our 
complex impressions and ideas, yet the rule is not univer- 
sally true, that they are exact copies of each other. We 
may next consider how the case stands with our simple 
perceptions. After the most accurate examinations of 
which I am capable, I venture to affirm that the rule here 
holds without any exception, and that every simple idea 
has a simple impression which resembles it; and every 
simple impression a correspondent idea. That idea of red 
which we form in the dark, and that impression which 
strikes our eyes in sunshine, differ only in degree, not in 
nature." 2 And as complex ideas go back ultimately to 
simple, we may affirm, in general, that the two species of 
perception are exactly correspondent. Accordingly we 
are led to the general conclusion that all our simple ideas 

1 Treatise of Human Nature, Bk. I, Pt. I, I. 2 Ibid. 

368 A Student's History of Philosophy 

in their first appearance are derived from simple impres- 
sions, which they exactly represent. 

These impressions and ideas, then, are the sole contents 
of the human mind, all of them going back originally to 
impressions. And if, accordingly, we are to be able to es- 
tablish the reality of any supposed fact, we must be in a 
position to point out the definite, concrete impression which 
it is, or reproduces. " Since nothing is ever present to the 
mind but perceptions, and since all ideas are derived from 
something antecedently present to the mind, it follows that 
it is impossible for us so much as to conceive or form an 
idea of anything specifically different from ideas and im- 
pressions. Let us fix our attention out of ourselves as 
much as possible; let us chase our imaginations to the 
heavens, or to the utmost limits of the universe : we never 
really advance a step beyond ourselves, nor can conceive 
any kind of .existence but those perceptions which have 
appeared in that narrow compass. This is the universe of 
the imagination, nor have we any idea but what is there 
produced." 1 

2. Criticism of the Self. Now on these principles it of 
course follows that, as Berkeley clearly pointed out, there 
can be no such thing as a material substance ; reality is coex- 
tensive with ideas. " I would fain ask those philosophers 
who found so much of their reasonings on the distinction 
of substance and accident, and imagine we have clear ideas 
of each, whether the idea of substance be derived from the 
impressions of sensation or reflection. If it be conveyed 
to us by our senses, I ask, which of them; and after what 
manner ? If it be perceived by the eyes, it must be a color ; 
if by the ears, a sound ; if by the palate, a taste ; and so of 
the other senses. But I believe none will assert that sub- 
stance is either a color, or sound, or a taste. The idea of 
substance must therefore be derived from an impression of 
reflection, if it really exist. But the impressions of reflec- 
tion resolve themselves into our passions and emotions ; 
1 Bk. I, Pt. II, 6. 

The Growth of Empiricism 369 

none of which can possibly represent a substance. We 
have, therefore, no idea of substance, distinct from that of 
a collection of particular qualities, nor have we any other 
meaning when we either talk or reason concerning it. The 
idea of a substance is nothing but a collection of simple 
ideas that are united by the imagination, and have a par- 
ticular name assigned them." l 

But is it possible to stop here ? Berkeley had insisted 
that we cannot know material substance ; but, neverthe- 
less, he had supposed that spiritual substance the self, 
or soul we can know. And it was by using the self as 
an instrument, that he was enabled to build up his positive 
theory of reality. But, once again, we must ask, What is 
the positive impression on which the idea of a self, or 
spirit, is based ? Berkeley had himself admitted that there 
is no such impression. The self is not an idea. We only 
have a notion of it, which can be represented by no definite 
image. But in that case, the self, or spiritual substance, 
has no more foundation than material substance; both 
must go together. 

" I desire those philosophers, who pretend that we have 
an idea of the substance of our minds, to point out the 
impression that produces it, and tell distinctly after what 
manner that impression operates, and from what object it 
is derived. Is it an impression of sensation or of reflection ? 
Is it pleasant, or painful, or indifferent ? Does it attend us 
at all times, or does it only return at intervals ? If at inter- 
vals, at what times principally does it return, and by what 
causes is it produced ? " 2 " There are some philosophers 
who imagine we are every moment intimately conscious of 
what we call our SELF ; that we feel its existence, and its 
continuance in existence ; and are certain, beyond the evi- 
dence of a demonstration, both of its perfect identity and 
simplicity. . . . For my part, when I enter most intimately 
into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particu- 
lar perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love 

1 Bk. I, Ft. I, 6. 2 Bk. I, R. IV, 5 (Selby-Bigge's edition, p. 233). 


370 A Student's History of Philosophy 

or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at 
any time without a perception, and never can observe 
anything but the perception. When my perceptions are 
removed for any time, as by sound sleep, so long am I in- 
sensible of myself, and may truly be said not to exist. And 
were all my perceptions removed by death, and could I 
neither think, nor feel, nor see, nor love, nor hate after the 
dissolution of my body, I should be entirely annihilated, 
nor do I conceive what is farther requisite to make me a 
perfect nonentity. If any one, upon serious and unpreju- 
diced reflection, thinks he has a different notion of himself > 
I must confess I can reason no longer with him. All I can 
allow him is, that he may be in the right as well as I, and 
that we are essentially different in this particular. He 
may, perhaps, perceive something simple and continued, 
which he calls himself \ though I am certain there is no 
such principle in me. 

" But, setting aside some metaphysicians of this kind, I 
may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are 
nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, 
which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, 
and are in a perpetual flux and movement. The mind is 
a kind of theatre, where several perceptions successively 
make their appearance, pass, re-pass, glide away, and min- 
gle in an infinite variety of postures and situations. There 
is properly no simplicity in it at one time, nor identity in 
different; whatever natural propension we may have to 
imagine that simplicity and identity. The comparison of 
the theatre must not mislead us. They are the successive 
perceptions only, that constitute the mind ; nor have we the 
most distant notion of the place where these scenes are 
represented, or of the materials of which it is composed." * 

3. Criticism of the Idea of Cause. Now, no doubt the 

belief in an identical self needs to be accounted for. This, 

however, we may postpone for a little, and take up what 

constitutes Hume's most important contribution to philos- 

i Bk. I, Ft. IV, 6 (p. 251). 

The Growth of Empiricism 371 

ophy. There are certain all-pervading relations, outside the 
relation to a self, which seem to bind together our ideas to 
form what we know as knowledge. These also need to be 
criticised in order to make sure they are legitimate, and go 
back to definite impressions. And since the most important 
of these relations is that of cause and effect, we may con- 
fine ourselves to this. The necessity of the causal rela- 
tion had throughout conditioned Berkeley's advance from 
the mere existence of ideas, to his conception of the world 
as a universal and rational system of signs, dependent upon 
God. And he had found, as he thought, a basis for the 
reality of causation, in that free activity of Spirit, which is 
not, indeed, picturable to the imagination, but which is 
rationally intelligible. Is this, now, to be justified ? Again 
there is the same inexorable demand : what is the impres- 
sion from which the idea of cause is derived ? Is there 
any such impression that we are able to point out ? 

" Let us cast our eye on any two objects, which we call 
cause and effect, and turn them on all sides, in order to 
find that impression which produces an idea of such pro- 
digious consequence. At the first sight, I perceive that I 
must not search for it in any of the particular qualities of 
the object; since, whichever of these qualities I pitch on, I 
find some object that is not possessed of it, and yet falls 
under the denomination of cause and effect." x The idea, 
then, must be derived from some relation among objects. 
Now when I examine the matter, I find two such relations 
present contiguity and succession. But these do not ex- 
haust what I mean by causation ; an idea may be contigu- 
ous and prior to another without being considered as its 
cause. There is still something more to be added of prime 
importance ; and that is, the idea of necessary connection. 

But what is the nature of this necessary connection, and 

where is the impression from which it is derived. The 

more we consider it, the more puzzling the question appears. 

Search as I will, the only relations between objects that I 

iBk.I,Pt.m,2(p. 7 5). 

37 2 -d Student's History of Philosophy 

discern are " those of contiguity and succession, which I 
have already regarded as imperfect and unsatisfactory. 
Shall the despair of success make me assert that I am here 
possessed of an idea which is not preceded by any similar 
impression ? This would be too strong a proof of levity 
and inconstancy, since the contrary principle has been 
already so firmly established." J Let us, then, turn from 
the question for the moment, and take up two related 
questions, in the hope that these may incidentally throw 
some light on the matter in hand. First, for what reason 
do we pronounce it necessary that everything whose exist- 
ence has a beginning should also have a cause ? And, 
secondly, why do we conclude that such particular causes 
must necessarily have such particular effects, and what is 
the nature of that inference we draw from the one to the 
other, and of the belief we repose in it ? 

Hume disposes of the first question by denying that the 
necessity exists. " Here is an argument which proves at 
once that the foregoing proposition is neither intuitively 
nor demonstrably certain. . . . As all distinct ideas are 
separable from each other, and as the idea of cause and 
effect are evidently distinct, 'twill be easy for us to conceive 
any object to be non-existent this moment, and existent the 
next, without conjoining to it the distinct idea of a cause 
or productive principle. The separation, therefore, of the 
idea of a cause from that of a beginning of existence, is 
plainly possible for the imagination ; and consequently the 
actual separation of these objects is so far possible, that it 
implies no contradiction nor absurdity ; and is, therefore, 
incapable of being refuted by any reasoning from mere 
ideas; without which 'tis impossible to demonstrate the 
necessity of a cause." 2 Accordingly we shall find, upon 
examination, that every demonstration which has been 
produced for the necessity of a cause is fallacious and 

If, then, the belief in the necessity of a cause does not 
1 Bk. I, Pt. Ill, 2 ( P . 77). 2 Bk. I, Pt. Ill, 3. 

The Growth of Empiricism 373 

go back to any intuitive or demonstrative truth, it must 
come from observation and experience. How does experi- 
ence give rise to such a principle ? And Hume finds it 
convenient to consider this in the less general form : why 
do we believe that any particular cause will necessarily be 
followed by some particular effect ? And the only reason 
there can be, is that we have found this effect to follow in 
the past. " Thus we remember to have seen that species 
of object we call flame, and to have felt that species of sensa- 
tion we call heat. We likewise call to mind their constant 
conjunction in all past instances. Without any farther 
ceremony, we call the one cause and the other effect, and 
infer the existence of the one from that of the other." 

"Thus in advancing, we have insensibly discovered a 
new relation betwixt cause and effect, when we least ex- 
pected it. This relation is their constant conjunction. 
Contiguity and succession are not sufficient to make us 
pronounce any two objects to be cause and effect, unless 
we perceive that these two relations are preserved in sev- 
eral instances. We may now see the advantage of quitting 
the direct survey of this relation, in order to discover the 
nature of that necessary connection, which makes so essen- 
tial a part of it. ... Having found that after the discov- 
ery of the constant conjunction of any objects, we always 
draw an inference from one object to another, we shall now 
examine the nature of that inference, and of the transition 
from the impression to the idea. Perhaps 'twill appear in 
the end, that the necessary connection depends on the 
inference, instead of the inference's depending on the 
necessary connection." l 

First, then, is the transition, which inference involves, 
due to the reason, or to the mere association of ideas in 
the imagination ? If reason determined us, it could only 
be in the form of a conclusion from the premise that nature 
is uniform, or that instances of which we have had no ex- 
perience-must resemble those of which we have had expe- 
i Bk. I, Ft. Ill, 6 (p. 87). 

374 ^ Student's History of Philosophy 

rience. But this is something it is entirely impossible to 
establish, even with probability. The inference must, 
therefore, be an affair of the imagination. At first this 
seems unlikely, in view of the strength of belief, when 
compared with that which attaches to the mere fancies of 
the imagination. Hume is thus led to a consideration of 
the nature of belief ; and he finds that the only difference 
between an idea we believe, and a mere fancy, is the supe- 
rior force and liveliness of the former. A belief is some- 
what more than a simple idea ; it is a particular manner of 
forming an idea ; and the same idea can only be varied by 
a variation of its degree of force and vivacity. 

What is it, then, that makes the idea of an effect so 
lively that I believe in it ? This goes back again to the 
general principle, that any present impression has the 
power, not only of transporting the mind to such ideas as 
are related to it, but also of communicating to them a share 
of its own force and vivacity. The cause stands for such 
a present impression ; and the peculiar strength of belief 
which attaches to the causal inference is due to the fact 
that, by constant conjunction, the relation has acquired the 
force of custom, or habit. 

Now as all objective knowledge, that goes beyond pres- 
ent impressions, is based upon causation, custom governs 
all our thinking, and custom only. "Thus all probable 
reasoning is nothing but a species of sensation. 'Tis not 
solely in poetry and music we must follow our taste and 
sentiment, but likewise in philosophy. When I am con- 
vinced of any principle, it is only an idea which strikes 
more strongly upon me. When I give the preference to 
one set of arguments above another, I do nothing but 
decide from my feeling concerning the superiority of their 
influence. Objects have no discoverable connection to- 
gether ; nor is it from any other principle but custom, that 
we can draw any inference from the appearance of one to 
the existence of another." * 

i Bk. I, Pt. Ill, 8 ( P . 103). 

The Growth of Empiricism 375 

We are now ready to go back to the idea of necessary 
connection, and see what light has been cast upon it. To 
sum up the argument briefly : So long as I regard one 
instance of causation only, I cannot discover anything 
beyond the relations of contiguity and succession. " I 
therefore enlarge my view to comprehend several instances, 
where I find like objects always existing in like relations 
of contiguity and succession. At first sight this seems 
to serve but little to my purpose. The reflection on 
several instances only repeats the same objects, and 
therefore can never give rise to a new idea. But upon 
farther inquiry, I find that the repetition is not in every 
particular the same, but produces a new impression, and 
by that means the idea which I at present examine. For, 
after a frequent repetition, I find that, upon the appear- 
ance of one of the objects, the mind is determined by cus- 
tom to consider its usual attendant, and to consider it in a 
stronger light upon account of its relation to the first ob- 
ject. It is this impression, then, or determination, which 
affords me the idea of necessity." 1 

Now this conclusion amounts to neither more nor less 
than this : that what we call power, or force, or causal 
efficiency, exists not at all in objects , but only in the mind. 
In a discussion in which we need not follow him, Hume 
shows how all attempts to give a positive content to these 
terms, as objective realities, have failed. Once more, 
there must be some impression at the basis of the term, if 
it represents anything real ; and there is nothing in objects 
to supply this impression. " Since the idea of power is a 
new original idea, not to be found in any one instant, and 
which yet arises from the repetition of several instances, 
it follows that the repetition alone has not that effect, but 
must either discover or produce something new, which is 
the source of that idea." Now it is evident that the repe- 
tition of like objects in like relations of succession and 
contiguity, discovers nothing new in any of them ; and 
iBk,i,Pt. Ill, 14 (P. 155). 

376 A Student's History of Philosophy 

it is equally certain that this repetition produces nothing 
new, either in these objects or in any external body. 
" These ideas, therefore, represent not anything that does 
or can belong to the objects which are constantly con- 
joined. But though the several resembling instances, 
which give rise to the idea of power, have no influence on 
each other, and can never produce any new quality in the 
object, yet the observation of this resemblance produces a 
new impression in the mind, which is its real model. For 
after we have observed the resemblance in a sufficient 
number of instances, we immediately feel a determination 
of the mind to pass from one object to its usual attendant, 
and conceive it in a stronger light upon account of that 
relation. This determination is the only effect of the re- 
semblance ; and therefore must be the same with power 
or efficacy, whose idea is derived from the resemblance. 
The several instances of resembling conjunctions lead us 
into the notion of power and necessity. These instances 
are in themselves totally distinct from each other, and 
have no union but in the mind which observes them, and 
collects their ideas. Necessity, then, is the effect of this 
observation, and is nothing but an internal impression of 
the mind, or a determination to carry our thoughts from 
one object to another. . . . Necessity is something that 
exists in the mind, not in objects ; nor is it possible for us 
ever to form the most distant idea of it, considered as a 
quality in bodies." 

" I am sensible that, of all the paradoxes which I have 
had, or shall hereafter have occasion to advance in the 
course of this treatise, the present one is the most violent, 
and that 'tis merely by dint of solid proof and reasoning I 
can ever hope it will have admission, and overcome the in- 
veterate prejudices of mankind. . . . The contrary notion 
is so riveted in the mind, that I doubt not but my sentiments 
will be treated by many as extravagant and ridiculous. 
What! the efficacy of causes lie in the determination of 
the mind ! As if causes did not operate entirely inde- 

The Growth of Empiricism 377 

pendent of the mind, and would not continue their oper- 
ation, even though there was no mind existent to con- 
template them, or reason concerning them. Thought may 
well depend upon causes for its operation, but not causes 
on thought. ... I can only reply that the case here is 
much the same as if a blind man should pretend to find 
a great many absurdities in the supposition that the color 
of scarlet is not the same with the sound of a trumpet, nor 
light the same with solidity. If we have really no idea of 
a power or efficacy in any object, or of any real connection 
betwixt causes and effects, 'twill be to little purpose to 
prove that an efficacy is necessary in all operations. We 
do not understand our own meaning in talking so, but igno- 
rantly confound ideas which are entirely distinct from each 
other. I am, indeed, ready to allow that there may be 
several qualities, both in material and immaterial objects, 
with which we are utterly unacquainted ; and if we please 
to call these power or efficacy ', 'twill be of little consequence 
to the world. But when, instead of meaning these un- 
known qualities, we make the terms of power and efficacy 
signify something of which we have a clear idea, and which 
is incompatible with these objects to which we apply it, 
obscurity and error begin then to take place, and we are 
led astray by a false philosophy. This is the case when 
we transfer the determination of the thought to external 
objects, and suppose any real intelligible connection be- 
twixt them ; that being a quality which can only belong to 
the mind that considers them." l 

4. Origin of a Belief in the External World. In dis- 
cussing the nature of causation, we have frequently been 
led into falling in with the popular notion, and speak- 
ing of objects as if they existed outside the mind. It is 
time to recall the fact, however, that in reality it is only 
our own ideas that we can directly know. And since the 
principle of causation has now been resolved into mere ex- 
pectation, due to custom, there is no way of getting outside 
* Bk. I, Ft. Ill, 14 (pp. 163-168). 

378 A Student's History of Philosophy 

these purely subjective facts of consciousness. The world, 
as with Berkeley, is a complex of sensations ; but not an 
ordered and interpretable complex, which speaks to us 
the language of a divine Author. By no possibility can it 
logically lead us beyond itself and such empirically dis- 
covered, habitual sequences as experience reveals. But 
how, then, do we come to think that it is otherwise ? How 
out of a flux of unrelated feelings, never repeated, do we 
evolve an independent world of identical things, and iden- 
tical selves ? 

Briefly, Hume's answer is something as follows : " We 
may observe that 'tis neither upon account of the involun- 
tariness of certain impressions, as is commonly supposed, 
nor of their superior force and violence, that we attribute 
to them a reality and continued existence, which we refuse 
to others that are voluntary and feeble. For 'tis evident 
our pains and .pleasures, our passions and affections, which 
we never suppose to have any existence beyond our per- 
ception, operate with greater violence, and are equally 
involuntary, as the impressions of figure and extension, 
color and sound, which we suppose to be permanent beings. 
The heat of a fire, when moderate, is supposed to exist in 
the fire ; but the pain which it causes on a near approach, 
is not taken to have any being except in the perception." * 

These vulgar opinions, then, being rejected, we must 
search for some other hypothesis. And Hume finds it 
convenient to divide the question into two : what is the 
cause of our belief, first in the continued existence of ob- 
jects, and, second, in their distinct existence ? And after 
a little examination, we shall find that all those objects to 
which we attribute a continued existence, have a peculiar 
constancy ; or, if they change, they show a coherence in their 
changes. " These mountains, and houses, and trees which 
lie at present under my eye, have always appeared to me 
in the same order; and when I lose sight of them by 
shutting my eyes, or turning my head, I soon after find 
i Bk. I, Pt. IV, 2 (p. 194). 

The Growth of Empiricism 379 

them return upon me without the least alteration. My 
bed and table, my books and papers, present themselves 
in the same manner, and change not upon account of any 
interruption in my perceiving them." So also, " when I 
return to my chamber after an hour's absence, though 
I find not my fire in the same situation in which I left 
it, still I am accustomed in other instances to see a like 
alteration produced in a like time, whether I am present 
or absent." 

But now how does this constancy and coherence of cer- 
tain impressions go about to produce so extraordinary an 
opinion as that of the continued existence of body ? The 
answer is found in a peculiar tendency of the imagination. 
" When we have been accustomed to observe a constancy 
in certain impressions, and have found that the perception 
of sun or ocean, for instance, returns upon us after an ab- 
sence or annihilation with like parts, and in a like order, 
as at its first appearance, we are not apt to regard these 
interrupted perceptions as different (which they really 
are), but on the contrary consider them as individually the 
same, upon account of their resemblance." " This resem- 
blance is observed in a thousand instances, and naturally 
connects together our ideas of these interrupted perceptions 
by the strongest relation, and conveys the mind with an 
easy transition from one to another. An easy transition 
or passage of the imagination, along the ideas of these 
different and interrupted perceptions, is almost the same 
disposition of mind with that in which we consider one 
constant and uninterrupted perception. The thought slides 
along the succession with equal facility as if it considered 
only one object ; and therefore confounds the succession 
with the identity." And so from this propensity arises 
the fiction of the continued existence of objects; which is 
intended to disguise as much as possible the interruption 
of our ideas, and enable us to gratify our inclination to 
regard them as identical. The same thing comes about 
from the side of coherence. " The imagination, when set 

380 A Student's History of Philosophy 

into any train of thinking, is apt to continue even when 
its object fails it, and, like a galley put in motion by the 
oars, carries on its course without any new impulse. Ob- 
jects have a certain coherence even as they appear to our 
senses ; but this coherence is much greater and more uni- 
form, if we suppose the objects to have a continued exist- 
ence ; and as the mind is once in the train of observing 
an uniformity among objects, it naturally continues, till it 
renders the uniformity as complete as possible." 

But now, although the imagination has a strong tendency 
thus to regard objects as identical, and possessing a con- 
tinued existence, just as soon as we consider the matter, 
must not our reason tell us that it is not so ? Since our 
perceptions, and objects, are one and the same thing, the 
actual interruption of our ideas is always there, to contra- 
dict the propensity for imagining them continuous. In- 
stead of rejecting this last opinion, however, as logically 
they should "have done, men have striven to retain both be- 
liefs ; and a conflict has necessarily been the result. " In 
order to set ourselves at ease in this particular, we contrive 
a new hypothesis, which seems to comprehend both these 
principles of reason and imagination. This hypothesis is 
the philosophical one of the double existence of perceptions 
and objects ; which pleases our reason, in allowing that 
our dependent perceptions are interrupted and different ; 
and at the same time is agreeable to the imagination, in 
attributing a continued existence to something else, which 
we call objects. This philosophical system, therefore, is 
the monstrous offspring of two principles which are con- 
trary to each other, which are both at once embraced by 
the mind, and which are unable mutually to destroy each 
other. Not being able to reconcile these two enemies, we 
endeavor to set ourselves at ease as much as possible, by 
successively granting to each whatever it demands, and by 
feigning a double existence, where each may find some- 
thing that has all the conditions it desires." 1 In a some- 
i Bk. I, Pt. iv, 2 (pp. 194-198, 215). 

The Growth of Empiricism 381 

what similar way, Hume goes on to account for the fiction 
of a substantial soul beneath our ideas. 

5. Scepticism. And so we have reasoned ourselves into 
a frame of mind where the solid fabric of the world dis- 
solves like a dream before our eyes, or passes into a 
kaleidoscopic unreality of change. But can we really 
accept this result? Is it possible honestly to believe it? 
No ; Hume admits that no one will be permanently con- 
vinced. As long as our attention is bent upon the subject, 
the philosophical and studied principle may prevail ; but 
the moment we relax our thoughts, nature will display her- 
self, and draw us back to our former belief in the reality of 
permanent and identical things. And yet if our reason 
tells us that actually the contrary opinion is true, must we 
not of necessity follow its leading ? But what is belief ? 
Nothing, once more, but the liveliness and force with which 
an idea strikes us. Reason, then, furnishes no assured test ; 
indeed, reason has peculiar disadvantages of its own. The 
moment we have set to work to reason, then a doubt as to 
the validity of our reasoning is possible, nay, is forced upon 
us. This we must justify by a new argument ; and this, 
again, by another ; and all the time we are getting farther 
and farther away from those clear and immediate impres- 
sions, on which the possibility of belief depends, until at 
last there remains nothing of the original probability, how- 
ever great we may suppose it to have been, and however 
small the diminution by every new uncertainty. Our im- 
mediate and instinctive beliefs yield to our reason, which 
for the moment carries with it the greater vividness. But 
the more refined and intricate it becomes, the less this 
vividness of belief can belong to it ; and the moment the 
mind relaxes, we swing back to our natural opinions. The 
mind is in a strait 'twixt the two ; now one is uppermost, 
and now the other. 

Is, then, absolute scepticism the final word of philosophy ? 
Are we to refuse to believe at all, by reason of the dilemma 
in which we find ourselves ? " Should it here be asked me, 

382 A Student's History of Philosophy 

whether I sincerely assent to the argument which I seem 
to take such pains to inculcate, and whether I be really 
one of those sceptics who hold that all is uncertain, and 
that our judgment is not in any thing possessed of any 
measure of truth and falsehood, I should reply, that this 
question is entirely superfluous, and that neither I nor any 
other person was ever sincerely and constantly of that 
opinion. Nature, by an absolute and uncontrollable neces- 
sity, has determined us to judge as well as to breathe and 
feel. - Whoever has taken the pains to refute the cavils of 
this total scepticism, has really disputed without an antago- 
nist, and endeavored by arguments to establish a faculty 
which nature has antecedently implanted in the mind, and 
rendered unavoidable. My intention, then, in displaying 
so carefully the arguments of that fantastic sect, is only to 
make the reader sensible of the truth of my hypothesis, 
that all our 'reasonings concerning causes and effects are 
derived from nothing but custom ; and that belief is more 
properly an act of the sensitive, than of the cogitative part 
of our natures." * 

The result of Hume's inquiry is, therefore, not to de- 
stroy belief, that is an impossibility, but to do away 
with the false assumption of its certain and demonstrable 
character. We believe, not because we can prove our 
opinions, but because we cannot help believing. If we are 
of the opinion that " fire warms or water refreshes, 'tis only 
because it costs us too much pains to think otherwise." 
Our belief is due to custom and instinct, not to reason. 
Accordingly, we can never guard ourselves against the 
assaults of scepticism. " This sceptical doubt, both with 
respect to reason and the senses, is a malady which can 
never be radically cured, but must return upon us any 
moment, however we may chase it away, and sometimes 
may seem entirely free from it. 'Tis impossible upon any 
system to defend either our understanding or our senses, 
and we but expose them farther when we endeavor to 
iBk.l,Pt. IV, i (p. 183). 

The Growth of Empiricism 383 

justify them in that manner. As the sceptical doubt 
arises naturally from a profound and intense reflection on 
those subjects, it always increases the farther we carry 
our reflections, whether in opposition or in conformity to 
it. Carelessness and inattention alone can afford us any 
remedy. For this reason I rely entirely upon them ; and 
take it for granted, whatever may be the reader's opinion 
at this moment, that an hour hence he will be persuaded 
there is both an external and an internal world." l 

" I am first affrighted and confounded with that forlorn 
solitude in which I am placed by my philosophy. When 
I look abroad, I foresee on every side dispute, contra- 
diction, anger, calumny, and detraction. When I turn 
my eye inward, I find nothing but doubt and ignorance. 
All the world conspires to oppose and contradict me; 
though such is my weakness, that I feel all my opinions 
loosen and fall of themselves, when unsupported by the 
approbation of others. Every step I take is with hesita- 
tion, and every new reflection makes me dread an error 
and absurdity in my reasoning." 

" After the most accurate and exact of my reasonings, 
I can give no reason why I should assent to it, and feel 
nothing but a strong propensity to consider objects strongly 
in that view, under which they appear to me. The mem- 
ory, senses, and understanding are all of them founded 
on the imagination, or the vivacity of our ideas. Yet if 
we assent to every trivial suggestion of the fancy, beside 
that these suggestions are often contrary to each other, 
they lead us into such errors, absurdities, and obscurities, 
that we must at last become ashamed of our credulity." 

" But, on the other hand, if the consideration of these 
instances make us take a resolution to reject all the trivial 
suggestions of the fancy, and adhere to the understanding, 
that is, to the general and more established properties of 
the imagination ; even this resolution, if steadily executed, 
would be dangerous, and attended with the most fatal 
i Bk. I, Pt. iv, 2 ( P . 218). 

384 A Student's History of Philosophy 

consequences. For I have already shown that the under- 
standing, when it acts alone and according to its most 
general principles, entirely subverts itself, and leaves not 
the lowest degree of evidence in any proposition either 
in philosophy or common life." 

"Most fortunately it happens that, since reason is in- 
capable of dispelling these clouds, nature herself suffices 
to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melan- 
choly and delirium, either by relaxing this bent of mind, 
or by some avocation and lively impression of my senses 
which obliterate all these chimeras. I dine, I play a game 
of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my 
friends ; and when, after three or four hours' amusement, 
I return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and 
strained, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to 
enter into them any farther." 1 

6. The Opponents of Hume. The thoroughgoing na- 
ture of Hume's conclusions was itself the promise of a new 
epoch. So long as the impulse to knowledge exists in 
man, he cannot rest content with such an outcome. Nor 
can society be satisfied with so insecure a basis. Religious, 
political, and moral faiths already seemed for educated men 
to be endangered by the hostile criticism of the Rational- 
ists ; nevertheless, there was still present, to steady men, a 
confidence in the power of reason to reach grounded truth 
a confidence which received its most powerful support 
from the notable success of science. But if that same em- 
pirical study of facts, on which men prided themselves, 
really carried with it the logical conclusions which Hume 
maintained, then reason itself was no longer to be depended 
on. And with reason, science too must fall, all its certainty 
and necessity vanish, and man's knowledge reduce itself to 
a mere expectation that things will happen as they have 
been wont to happen in the past, with no surer ground for 
it than the bare fact that we are accustomed so to believe. 

1 Bk. I, Pt. IV, 7 (a condensed quotation, taken from Aikins' Philosophy of 

The Growth of Empiricism 385 

The attempt to go back of Hume's premises, and to 
correct the presuppositions which led to his sceptical con- 
clusions, was made independently by two philosophers. 
The first was the Scotchman Reid, who found the root of 
the trouble in the " new way of ideas " the supposition, 
namely, that it is only with our own ideas that we come in 
contact. Instead of being, as Hume maintained, shut up 
to the knowledge of our own sensations, Reid took his 
stand on what he held to be the belief of common sense, 
that we have an immediate intuition of external reality as 
such. And we have a similar intuition of several universal 
truths, such as the principle of causation, which are not 
themselves mere ideas, but the original constitution of our 
minds, and by which our empirical experience can be regu- 
lated and judged. Reid was the founder of a consider- 
able school the so-called Scottish school which has had 
a strong influence on English thought, and which is repre- 
sented by such men as Dugald Stewart and Sir William 
Hamilton. But Reid's merits have almost been lost sight 
of, in the fame of one who attempted what was essentially 
the same problem, but with greater insight and depth. 
This was the German philosopher, Kant. It was Hume 
who helped set Kant on the track of a conception, which 
was to revolutionize philosophy. First, however, it will be 
necessary to speak briefly of certain other aspects of the 
period just considered, and to note the beginnings of a 
new influence, which also was to find philosophical ex- 
pression in Kant. 


Hume, Chief Works : Treatise of Human Nature (1739-1740) ; Es- 
says (1741-1742) ; Inquiry concerning Human Understanding (1748) ; 
Inquiry concerning Principles of Morals (1751) ; Natural History of 
Religion (1757); Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779). 

Aikins, Selections. 

Huxley, Hume. 

Knight, Hume. 

Green, Introduction to Hume. 


386 A Student's History of Philosophy 

McCosh, Scottish Philosophy. 

Seth, Scottish Philosophy. 

Hyslop, Hume's Ethics. 

Fraser, Thomas Reid. 

Orr, David Hume and his Influence in Philosophy and Theology. 

Elkin, Hume. 

Calderwood, David Hume. 

Laurie, Scottish Philosophy in its National Development. 

34. The Enlightenment. Deism. The Ethical Development 

i. The Spirit of the Enlightenment. In considering 
the course of philosophical development from Descartes to 
Hume, we have thus far been concerned chiefly with its more 
technical and theoretical side. But there is another aspect 
of it also, which it is of great importance to understand. 
This has to do with the manner in which, along with other 
influences, it affected the general life and culture of the 
times, so as to give to this a distinct and peculiar character. 
The result is what is known as the period of the Enlighten- 
ment ; and this may now be considered briefly. 

The Renaissance had been the product of a great wave 
of enthusiasm, which for the time had carried everything 
before it. To the fresh forces which had been suddenly 
revealed in man, nothing seemed impossible. Cold caution, 
a sober criticism of the mind and its powers, an under- 
standing of the historical conditions in which the new 
movements had their root, were felt to be unnecessary in 
the flush of victorious anticipation. 

But as the impetus slackened, a different attitude began 
to grow up. The force of inspiration spent itself, and the 
inevitable disillusionment followed. As the dreams of an 
Eldorado, and of unlimited gold, which had inspired the early 
voyages of discovery, gave place to the hardships of a new 
land to be conquered and settled, so the confident faith in 
the new spiritual powers that were to lay open the secrets 
of the universe, grew more dim as time advanced. Meta- 
physical interests began to lose their attraction. Men in 
general were not ready indeed to accept the Pyrrhonism of 

The Growth of Empiricism 387 

such thinkers as Montaigne and Pascal ; but the sceptical 
spirit, nevertheless, was beginning to tell. Perhaps, after 
all, man was not made to know the ultimate truth of the 
universe. Certainly his attempts so far had not met with 
the success that had been hoped. Meanwhile there were 
things close at hand which he might know. Let him turn 
from transcendental inquiries, and busy himself with hu- 
man interests which alone are really vital; the proper 
study of mankind is man. And he will find plenty here 
that is urgently demanding his attention. 

Along with the spiritual revolution that had come about, 
there had been inevitable changes in the structure of 
society as well. But these changes had been rather 
unconscious than premeditated ; and in many cases the 
institutions, ecclesiastical and feudal, of Mediaevalism, still 
persisted in one form or another under these changed con- 
ditions, and weighed heavily upon the new ideals and ambi- 
tions. Moreover, the old beliefs for which the Church 
stood beliefs which the thinkers of the Renaissance had 
almost contemptuously discarded were by no means 
dead ; and now as the force of the new movement was 
spent, they again came to the front and allied themselves 
with the reactionary tendencies in the social and political 
world, to oppose any further change. Even the Renais- 
sance itself added something to the problem. Just as 
chivalry degenerated into the caricature of itself which 
Cervantes ridiculed, so the enthusiasm of the Renaissance 
died away, only to leave behind its extravagances and ex- 
crescences ; and these bubbles required also to be pricked. 

The result was the period of the Enlightenment, which 
belongs especially to the eighteenth century. The most 
obvious features of the Enlightenment are its practical and 
unimaginative character, its hatred of vague enthusiasms, 
and misty ideals and ideas, its determination to apply the 
test of a severely accurate reason to everything, and reject 
outright whatever will not stand the test, and the constant 
reference in all this, as the court of final appeal, to the one 

388 A Student's History of Philosophy 

undoubted fact the individual himself, with his rights, 
and his rational powers of understanding. The result is a 
type of thought which does not enlist our sympathies very 
strongly, but which, nevertheless, had a most valuable 
work to do. Let us consider once more the situation which 
it had to meet. After the long period of the Middle Ages, 
man had once more become conscious of himself; had 
recognized by the sudden bloom within him of unexpected 
powers, that he was not merely a member of society or 
of the Church, not merely one to take orders from some 
higher power, whether man or God, but a free spirit, who 
could sit in judgment upon whatever was offered to him for 
his acceptance, and could demand that the world satisfy 
his cravings for fulness of life. But the grip of vested 
interests was too strong to be broken all at once. A long 
period of conflict had to intervene before the individual 
could be completely liberated, set off by himself, and recog- 
nized with a- distinctness which should secure for him his 
rights through all the future. 

And this process was necessarily critical and negative. 
First it must be shown what man is not. He must be 
stripped of restraints which hold him in. He must be set 
up over against society, and religion, and even moral law, 
as having a nature not to be coerced by these things. He 
must revolt against conventions which his inner life does 
not realize, and prove his freedom by testing all things, 
human and divine. This work was done by the Enlighten- 
ment, and done so thoroughly, that the conception of the 
individual which it worked out is the dominant conception 
even to the present day. The result was one-sided. It 
gave the individual his rights, indeed, but in trying to 
make him independent of all that concrete environment 
which institutions represent, it also emptied his life of real 
content. But nevertheless, it represented a work that had 
to be done before progress could be made. It was the 
task of the succeeding period a period not yet completed 
to remedy this one-sidedness and abstractness, with- 

The Growth of Empiricism 389 

out losing the positive advantage that the Enlightenment 
had won. 

The method of the Enlightenment, therefore, was pri- 
marily the critical intellect severe, dispassionate, destruc- 
tive, with little of light and warmth in it Any sympathy 
with the views they were tearing to pieces, and appreci- 
ation of their relative truth anything of what we now 
call the historical sense was in the thinkers of the 
Enlightenment almost wholly lacking. It is not very 
strange, indeed, that this was so. They were fighting that 
which had all the weight of authority on its own side, and 
which was far from being disposed itself to be conciliatory. 
Nor, perhaps, could there have been a better weapon 
against the great mass of unreasoning traditional beliefs, 
than just the unsympathetic logical intellect, tinged with 
ridicule, and appealing to those hard facts which common 
sense can appreciate without difficulty, and which have an 
obvious bearing on the more solid and practical interests of 
human life. We may be inclined now to find fault with the 
contemptuous rejection of the enthusiasms and deeper intu- 
itions which cannot be compressed into a clear cut formula 
all the feeling side of life. But the Enlighteners had a 
justification in their attitude. If any one can be allowed 
to fall back upon feeling, that is the end of all argument. 
What we need is clear ideas, facts that can be grasped 
and defined. Feeling confuses thought ; and, furthermore, 
it tends first of all to gather around those things to which 
we have been used by custom, and so forms the mainstay 
of all that opposition to progress which it was the function 
of reason to demolish. 

The necessary consequence was, however, that the 
thought of the Enlightenment was superficial, lacking 
insight and atmosphere, blind to the deeper elements of 
the human spirit. Sundering himself as he did from the 
life of the race, and the historical background which had 
shaped his own opinions as truly as those he was criticis- 
ing* judging everything without reference to its setting, and 

390 A Student's History of Philosophy 

by the sole test of an abstract logic, it is not strange that 
the man of the Enlightenment should often have shown 
a very unenlightened attitude toward beliefs which did not 
fit into his logical scheme, and so seemed to him vague 
and worthless, but which in reality were far truer, in the 
highest sense, than anything to which his own insight 
reached. The type has its classical expression in English 
literature in Pope, and the Essay on Man. 

The characteristic features of the Enlightenment took 
their rise in England, where the greater peace and security 
allowed an attention to disinterested inquiry earlier than 
on the continent. From England it influenced the France 
of Voltaire and the Encyclopedists, where it attained a 
peculiarly distinct and brilliant development. In Germany, 
the influence of Leibniz continued to be dominant, but 
Leibniz as systematized by Wolff, in a highly rationalistic 
system, from which the most valuable elements were lost. 
It was from this school that Kant, the philosopher of the 
new era, was to spring. A brief account of a movement 
so widespread will necessarily have to be very sketchy and 

2. The Deistic Movement. In England, it will be 
enough, in addition to what has already been said in con- 
nection with Locke, to notice two movements the growth 
of Deism, and the development of ethical theory. Deism 
was an attempt to get rid of the supposed irrational ele- 
ments of Christianity. It begins with a desire to explain 
away the mysteries of Church dogma, and to show that 
between revelation and reason there is no contradiction. 
Thus, in Locke, it calls men back from theology to the 
simplicity and reasonableness of the New Testament, 
whose one essential article of faith is the Messiahship of 
Christ. Revelation is not for the purpose of adding any 
mysteries of faith, but serves only as a practical means of 
convincing men through its miracles. 

But soon the emphasis on the reasonableness of revela- 
tion passed into the feeling that, if reason alone is compe- 

The Growth of Empiricism 391 

tent to reach God, revelation is superfluous. Accordingly, 
the attempt to rationalize the Bible narratives and doctrines, 
gave place to the much simpler attitude of open hostility, 
which admitted their irrationality, and made the most of 
it. Over against revealed religion, therefore, was placed 
the Deistic creed of so-called Natural Religion. This nat- 
ural religion showed all the limitations of the rationalistic 
temper, and practically resulted in removing God as far as 
possible from the world, and the immediate life of men. 
It had little content beyond the belief in a God who made 
the universe, and set it in motion, and who has laid down 
certain laws of conduct for men in the moral law. Positive 
religions are only corruptions of this natural and rational 
religious creed. Of course this precluded any sympathetic 
appreciation of their historical meaning, or of a possible 
truth underlying their imperfect statements of doctrine. 
They are due solely to the selfish cunning of priests and 
rulers, and are, accordingly, to be attacked with every 
weapon at command. 

Among the more important Deists are Toland, Collins, 
Tindal, Chubb, and Morgan. On the whole, Deism had 
but little success in maintaining itself against the cham- 
pions of revelation. It represented, indeed, a position of 
unstable equilibrium. As it opposed the Biblical account 
of God's dealings with the world, chiefly on the ground of 
its inconsistency with His goodness and justice, it was com- 
pelled to assume that the same criticism did not apply 
to the workings of nature, in which alone it could look 
for God. This found expression in the shallow optimism 
of the period, and the dictum that whatever is, is right. 
Accordingly, the opponents of Deism found little difficulty 
in showing that the objections it brought against the God 
of revelation could be turned with equal effect against 
its own God of nature a line of argument which was 
worked out most effectively in Bishop Butler's famous 
Analogy of Religion. 

3. The Development of Ethical Theory. The effect of 

39 2 -<4 Student's History of Philosophy 

the Deistic movement was to reduce religion essentially 
to a life of moral conduct. Indeed, in the unimaginative 
temper of the age, which was in most cases quite incapable 
of entering into the deeper aspects of religious experience, 
this was where practically the emphasis was laid, even by 
those theologians who stood as opponents of Deism. But 
now from this emphasis an important consequence arose. 
The attempt to find for morality a foundation independent 
of theology, brought about the first development of ethical 
theory on a large scale in modern times. To the chief 
phases of this we may turn briefly. 

The starting-point of English ethics is Hobbes, and his 
selfish theory of human nature. This naturally called forth 
strong opposition, and nearly all the succeeding moralists 
have Hobbes more or less directly in view. Among the 
earlier theorists, the most important is Richard Cumberland. 
Cumberland, denies that man is wholly selfish, and adds to 
the egoistic motives of Hobbes, social and benevolent af- 
fections also, which are equally original. Man is thus 
social in his nature, and finds a direct satisfaction in doing 
good to others, apart from the indirect benefits he may 
hope to gain. Moreover, there is a necessary connection 
between individual and social welfare, which makes it im- 
possible to secure individual happiness, except by subor- 
dinating oneself to the good of mankind. This connection 
is decreed by God, who thus supplies the ultimate ground 
for the obligation to perform those benevolent acts which 
the welfare of mankind demands, and in which morality 

Other attempts to give to ethics a foundation which 
should not seem to destroy its rational justification, are 
represented by Cudworth, Clarke and Wollaston, and 
Shaftesbury. Ralph Cudworth a Platonist had re- 
course to innate ideas of reason. Samuel Clarke, again, 
attempted to find a criterion in the notion of conformity to 
the fitness or harmony of things a relation which, like 
mathematics, is capable of being known as self-evident, 

The Growth of Empiricism 393 

and which is even independent of the will of God. With 
William Wollaston, who was influenced by Clarke, this 
takes the form that a wrong act is ultimately a false judg- 
ment, or a lie. A rational being should act in accordance 
with the true relations of things ; and it is because his act 
implicitly denies this truth, that it is wrong. Thus the 
murderer acts as though he were able to restore life to his 
victim ; the man who is cruel to animals declares by his act 
that the creature is a being devoid of feeling. 

More important than any of the preceding names, is that 
of Shaftesbury. Shaftesbury's conception of the ethical 
end is the full expression of human life, the complete car- 
rying out of its potentialities into the flower of a beautiful 
personality. In opposition to Hobbes, these potentialities 
involve unselfish, social tendencies, as well as those that 
are purely self-seeking. But morality does not have to do 
simply with the former, as Cumberland had thought. It 
is found rather in the harmonious interaction of the two, 
by which each is given its rights ; and it is assumed that 
there can be no ultimate conflict. Another significant side 
of Shaftesbury's thought is his conception of the source 
of our ethical judgments. This he finds in an instinctive 
good taste in ethical matters, which the man of refinement 
possesses, and which is entirely analogous to aesthetic 
taste. The source of moral judgments thus goes back, not 
to reason, but to feeling. Shaftesbury has a disciple in 
Francis Hutcheson, who emphasizes this conception of a 
moral sense, which he conceives as an innate faculty of 
ethical judgment common to all men. The same general 
tendency appears in Bishop Butler's conception of con- 
science as the voice of God in human life. 

Meanwhile, another tendency connects itself more di- 
rectly with Hobbes. This went back to the common-sense 
view of pleasure as the end which man seeks. Morality, 
then, can only come in as this self-seeking is subjected to 
some law, either the law of the state, or, going beyond 
this, a law imposed by God. In either case, however, this 

394 <d Student's History of Philosophy 

looks in the direction of making morality essentially a 
social matter, and so of setting up the happiness of society 
as the criterion of the moral act. This tendency at last 
succeeded in working itself out clearly in the Utilitarian- 
ism of Jeremy Bentham, who made the phrase "the greatest 
happiness of the greatest number " the watchword of later 
English ethics. A further question must arise, however, 
in regard to the motive which is to lead the individual to 
adopt this standard, and act for the common good. In 
Locke's case, as will be remembered, this is found ulti- 
mately in the individual's own self-interest. God has 
attached certain penalties, here and hereafter, to the vio- 
lation of his laws, which make the life of virtue the only 
way of procuring happiness in the long run. This receives 
a bald statement in Paley's famous definition of virtue : 
virtue consists in seeking " the happiness of mankind, in 
obedience to the will of God, and for the sake of everlast- 
ing happiness." A more careful psychological analysis, in 
Hume and Adam Smith, attempted to show the impossibil- 
ity of reducing all motives to interested self-seeking, and 
brought the feeling of sympathy to the front as the real 
spring of altruistic action. 


Berkeley, Alciphron. 

Stephen, English Thought in the Eighteenth Century. 
Cairns, Unbelief in the Eighteenth Century. 
Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity. 
Butler, Analogy of Religion, Sermons on Human Nature. 
Collins, Butler. 

Selby-Bigge, British Moralists. 

Shaftesbury, Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times. 
Fowler, Shaftesbury and Hutcheson. 

Mackintosh, On the Progress of Ethical Philosophy during the Seven- 
teenth and Eighteenth Centuries. 

Patten, Development of English Thought. 
Albee, History of English Utilitarianism. 

The Growth of Empiricism 395 

35. The French Enlightenment. Voltaire and the Ency- 
clopedists. The Materialists. Rousseau. Lessing and 

I. The French Enlightenment. The results of the Eng- 
lish Enlightenment were introduced into France by Voltaire, 
who had been influenced by Locke during a sojourn in 
England. This influence took root in a brilliant circle of 
Frenchmen, who, from their connection with the new 
Encylopedia, which was to embody the knowledge that 
mankind had so far attained, were known as the Encylo- 
pedists. Connected more or less closely with this enter- 
prise, were such men as Diderot, d'Alembert, Voltaire, 
Holbach, Turgot, Montesquieu, Helvetius, and others. In 
addition to some positive scientific achievements, the French 
Enlightenment directed its weapons, as in England, against 
the popular religious beliefs which seemed to it to be irra- 
tional and harmful. But by reason of conditions in 
France, the strife took on here a far sharper and more 
virulent tone. The Deistic controversy which in free 
England was largely a matter of scholastic discussion, 
was in France a real battle against forces of obscurant- 
ism and oppression which were very much in evidence. 
Mediaeval institutions, both of Church and State, still main- 
tained themselves, and the result was in both cases prac- 
tical abuses of the worst sort. Against the intolerance and 
oppression of a corrupt clergy, who used the instrument of 
traditional belief as a weapon against all efforts at reform, 
Voltaire and the Encyclopedists stood out as the deadliest 
foes. They set themselves, with every resource of scien- 
tific knowledge, clear reasoning, and biting wit, to discredit 
the foundation on which the influence of their opponents 
rested. It is this unceasing and fearless hatred of injus- 
tice, which gives to the figure of Voltaire heroic pro- 
portions, in spite of all his intellectual limitations, and 
personal faults. 

This practical aim, also, determined to a considerable 

396 A Student's History of Philosophy 

extent the course which the French Enlightenment was 
to take, in opposition to the scepticism which had been 
the outcome of English thought in Hume. As a weapon 
against a real and dangerous foe, Hume's results were too 
fine spun, too far from common sense, too impractical, to 
appeal to the French reformers. In distinction from the 
Idealism of England, the more significant side of the French 
Enlightenment tended, in the fight against tradition, to a 
thoroughgoing and consistent scientific view of the world 
that is, to Materialism without bothering itself very 
much about the theoretical difficulties of this view. In the 
beginning, indeed, the Enlightenment was Deistic. It still 
held to natural religion, and the somewhat vague and con- 
tentless God who stands as the original source of the world. 
But such remnants of a religious faith were not very deep- 
seated, and they quickly tended to disappear altogether 
as naturalism and sensationalism were carried out to their 
logical results. Lamettrie, in his L'Homme Machine, re- 
duces man, as Descartes had reduced the animal, to a 
mere automaton a body governed by purely physical and 
necessary laws. The innumerable facts which show the 
close dependence of the mind on bodily conditions were 
insisted on with much skill and impressiveness. The con- 
scious life is composed entirely of sensations, which are 
directly dependent on bodily processes. This sensational- 
ism was worked out theoretically by Condillac, who sup- 
poses a statue endowed simply with the sense of smell, 
and then tries to show how all the mental faculties can be 
evolved out of this. And while Condillac did not draw 
the ultimate consequences of this sensationalism, other 
men stood ready to perform the task. Helvetius, in par- 
ticular, carries the same principle into the practical and 
moral realm. The sole motive of our acts is egoism and 
self-interest, and the most exalted virtues reduce them- 
selves to self-love, and a desire for pleasure. 

These movements are summed up in Holbach, and the 
System of Nature, where they take a form which is 

The Growth of Empiricism 397 

genuinely impressive. Materialism becomes a grim gos- 
pel a gospel of freedom from superstition and oppres- 
sion. To Holbach's almost fanatical earnestness, religion, 
and the tyranny of rulers, for whose authority religion is 
the great bulwark, seem the ground of all men's woes. 
The God of wrath and cruelty for which the Church too 
often had stood, and which had been used to justify the 
worst wrongs, can only be banished by doing away with 
God altogether, and substituting Nature, with its unbend- 
ing laws. Truth and religion are unalterably opposed. 
" Nature invites man to love himself, incessantly to aug- 
ment the sum of his happiness : Religion orders him to 
love only a formidable God who is worthy of hatred ; to 
detest and despise himself, and to sacrifice to his terrible 
idol the sweetest and most lawful pleasures. Nature bids 
man consult his reason, and take it for his guide : Religion 
teaches him that this reason is corrupted, that it is a faith- 
less, truthless guide, implanted by a treacherous God to 
mislead his creatures. Nature tells man to seek light, to 
search for the truth: Religion enjoins upon him to examine 
nothing, to remain in ignorance. Nature says to man: 
' Cherish glory, labor to win esteem, be active, courageous, 
industrious ' : Religion says to him : * Be humble, abject, 
pusillanimous, live in retreat, busy thyself in prayer, medi- 
tation, devout rites, be useless to thyself, and do nothing 
for others.' Nature tells children to honor, to love, to 
hearken to their parents, to be the stay and support of 
their old age: Religion bids them prefer the oracle of 
their God, and to trample father and mother under their 
foot, when divine interests are concerned. Nature com- 
mands the perverse man to blush for his vices, for his 
shameless desires, his crimes : Religion says to the most 
corrupt: 'Fear to kindle the wrath of a God whom thou 
knowest not ; but if against his laws thou hast committed 
crime, remember that he is easy to appease and of great 
mercy: go to his temple, humble thyself at the feet of his 
ministers, expiate thy misdeeds by sacrifices, offerings, 

398 A Student's History of Philosophy 

prayers.' Nature says to man: 'Thou art free, and no 
power on earth can lawfully strip thee of thy rights ' : 
Religion cries to him that he is a slave condemned by 
God to groan under the rod of God's representatives. Let 
us recognize the plain truth, that it is these supernatural 
ideas that have obscured morality, corrupted politics, hin- 
dered the advance of the sciences, and extinguished hap- 
piness and peace even in the very heart of man." * 

Let us try, then, to banish the mists of prejudice, and 
inspire man with courage and respect for his reason. It 
is only thus that he can find a remedy against the evils 
into which fanaticism has plunged him, and throw off the 
fetters by which tyrants and priests everywhere succeed 
in enchaining the nations. There is but one truth, and it 
can never harm us. The ' truth ' which is to do away with 
all these evils is the truth of science. " Let man cease 
to search outside the world in which he dwells for beings 
who may procure him a happiness that nature refuses to 
grant ; let him study that nature, let him learn her laws, 
let him apply his discoveries to his own felicity, let him 
undergo without a murmur the decrees of universal force." 
Matter and motion alone exist. Mind is nothing but an 
occult term that accounts for nothing. All things alike 
are necessary, and subject to mechanical law. Order, 
purpose, beauty, are merely subjective. Man, instead of 
being that for whom all things were created, is entirely 
unimportant, an insect of a day. Necessity rules in the 
moral, as in the physical world ; the particles of dust and 
water in a tempest or a whirlwind move by the same 
necessity as an individual in the stormy movements of a 
revolution. There is no difference between the man who 
throws himself out of a window and the man whom I throw 
out, except that the impulse acting in the second comes 
from without, the other from within his own mechanism. 

And back of all this there lies also another motive, 
which already foreshadows the coming Revolution. Hith- 

1 Quoted from Morley's Diderot, p. 370. 

The Growth of Empiricism 399 

erto, the emphasis had been upon the tyranny of super- 
stition ; now the sense of social inequalities and injustice, 
and the tyranny of government, begins to come more to 
the front. Let the great multitude of the oppressed shake 
off the idle prejudices through which whole nations are 
forced to labor, to sweat, to water the earth with their 
tears, merely to keep up the luxuries and corruption of a 
handful of insensates, a few useless creatures; let them 
demand the rights which Nature gives them. As govern- 
ment only derives its powers from society, for whose sake 
alone it exists, society may at any time revoke these, if 
it seems to its advantage to do so. It may change the 
form of government, extend or limit the power intrusted 
to its rulers, over whom it retains a supreme authority, by 
the immutable law of nature that subordinates the part to 
the whole. 

2. Rousseau. Meanwhile there had appeared, within 
the circle of the Enlightenment, a remarkable person, who 
was destined to be the forerunner of a new and important 
movement. For a time he had cast in his lot with the 
Encyclopedists, and had contributed to that enterprise. 
But the incompatibility of their standpoint with his own 
soon became apparent, and he passed to a bitter hostility 
toward the whole principle of Rationalism. 

This man was Jean Jacques Rousseau, a Swiss of French 
descent, born in Geneva in 1712. In his Confessions 
we have a record of his life and character, given with a 
fidelity and frankness which is unsurpassed in literature. 
In this book the startling weaknesses and inconsistencies 
of his complicated nature stand out with remarkable dis- 
tinctness. To put it in a single word, Rousseau was a 
sentimentalist. He was a man with an extraordinary 
capacity for feeling, combined with a weakness of will that 
was abnormal ; a father who preached fervidly the duty 
of each mother to suckle her own children, and who, mean- 
time, left his own to the tender mercies of a public asylum, 
without even taking the trouble to keep track of them; 

400 A Students History of Philosophy 

a philanthropist filled with love for mankind, who yet 
could not live with any one by reason of his inordinate 
vanities and caprices, and his irritable sensitiveness. " He 
has only felt," says Hume, "during the whole course of 
his life. He is like a man who was stript not only of his 
clothes, but of his skin, and turned out in that situation to 
combat with the rude and boisterous elements." His 
vagaries frequently reached a point little short of madness. 
Nevertheless, by his very extravagances he was able to 
make an impression on the artificial age in which he lived, 
of which a more balanced nature might have been inca- 
pable. He died in 1778. 

Before considering the influence of Rousseau, it may be 
well to stop a moment and sum up the results which the 
Enlightenment had accomplished. And the central fact 
of the whole movement is its Individualism. We have 
seen that before man can be in a position to work out his 
own salvation, he must first see himself as a being inde- 
pendent of the ready-made institutions into which he finds 
himself born. Such institutions represent the past, not 
the future. If they are not to harden into fetters of the 
spirit, they must constantly be adjusting themselves to 
new conditions ; and such a change can come about, not 
from themselves, or from society as a whole, but only from 
the initiative of individual men. And before man can be 
in this way an intelligent shaper of his own destiny, he 
must first recognize himself, his rights and powers, in inde- 
pendence of the more or less arbitrary environment that 
surrounds him. 

The Enlightenment brought this recognition of the 
reality of the individual into sharp relief. But in doing 
this it ran the inevitable risk of going itself to an extreme. 
From the conception of man simply as a dependent part 
of the world, subject to authority, it passed to the concep- 
tion of man as a mere self-centred unit, complete without 
reference to other things. In its deification of the logical 
reason, and dislike of all mysticism and unclear thinking, 

The Growth of Empiricism 401 

it was bent on setting off everything as sharply by itself 
as possible, defining it in terms of its own nature alone, 
and getting rid of all confusing complications. By human 
convention all sorts of relations might be superinduced 
upon a man ; but these were arbitrary, and for the most 
part unjustifiable. To get at the real man, we must strip 
them all away. So society, instead of being a necessary 
expression of needs of man's nature, is only an arbitrary 
contract, which men make for the sake of certain external 
advantages. It is necessary, indeed, if these are to be 
attained, but still is a lamentable curtailing of the privi- 
leges men enjoy by nature. 

Of course, with such a belief, there could be no recog- 
nition of the organic way in which man, and all his powers, 
are rooted in the past life of the race. It was thought 
that, by a pure effort of will, he could separate himself 
from this, and could judge things from the standpoint of a 
purely individual reason, unmediated by his intellectual 
and spiritual environment, and freed from all prejudices 
and traditions. If anything did not fall in with this, it 
was not to be interpreted sympathetically by reference to 
the conditions of its development, but rejected outright as 
sheer unreason, or the deliberate result of self-seeking 
fraud. So religion, e.g., was carried back to the invention 
of priests and rulers. Accordingly, it was thought that 
institutions could be thrown off at any moment that was 
what the French Revolution attempted and a start made 
entirely de novo. It was not understood that they are 
necessarily not a manufacture, but a growth, and that to 
grow they must have roots in that very past which was 
so much despised. 

Such a conception of man is evidently poor, and devoid 
of content. Strip him of his relations to society and 
that means to the forms which social life takes on and 
what is left of him ? His very life consists in these rela- 
tionships which Rationalism was for doing away with as 
mere restrictions. He is not first a man, and then a citi- 


402 A Student's History of Philosophy 

zen, a father, a neighbor ; he is a man only in so far as he 
is already these. The life of the free savage ceases to be 
the life of a man just to the extent that it is sufficient to 
itself. It was necessary, then, if progress was to have any 
material to work upon, that this belief in the isolatedness 
and self-sufficiency of man's nature should in turn be 
overcome, and the connection with the world restored. 
But it is to be restored in a different form. The outer 
relations are to be internalized, and made to grow out of 
man himself. They are to be recognized as having the 
weight of inner authority, not simply of external. They 
mean not bondage, but freedom the only true freedom, 
since through them alone the possibility of self-realization 
is secured. And so, too, they are not stiff and unalter- 
able, but plastic to the touch of the individual of whom 
they are an expression. They are capable of being 
changed by him, not arbitrarily, but in accordance with 
an inner law. The individual is still real, and still free, 
but not as a mere individual. In him there is a universal 
element which gives him a kinship with the universe, and 
makes the very act by which he realizes himself, the act 
by which also the social whole, and the whole of the uni- 
verse, gets its fulfilment. 

The relation of Rousseau to this new movement, was in- 
direct rather than fully conscious. In many ways he was 
still a child of the Enlightenment, so far at least as his for- 
mulated creed was concerned. Few, indeed, have given the 
principle of individualism a sharper expression. The 
whole burden of the cry with which he moved France to 
its foundations is summed up in the phrase " a return to 
nature." Away with all the artificial conventions and re- 
strictions of society, which are false and unnatural to their 
core ; let us go back to the simple life of primitive man, 
when each, a free creature, with tranquil spirit and healthy 
body, was at liberty to develop his own nature without let 
or hindrance. Civilization is nothing but slavery, a huge 
series of blunders, which carry us ever farther from the 

The Growth of Empiricism 403 

right path. " So long as men were content with their rus- 
tic huts, so long as they confined themselves to stitching 
their garments of skin with spines or fish bones, to deck- 
ing themselves with feathers and shells, and painting their 
bodies in different colors, to perfecting and adorning their 
bows and their arrows in a word, so long as they only 
applied themselves to works that a single man could do, 
and to arts that had no need of more hands than one, they 
lived free, healthy, good, and happy, so far as their nature 
would allow, and continued to enjoy among themselves 
the sweetness of independent intercourse. But from the 
moment one man had need of the help of another, the 
moment they perceived it was useful for one person to 
have provisions for two, equality disappeared, property was 
introduced, labor became necessary, and the vast forests 
changed into smiling fields, which had to be watered by 
the sweat of men, and in which slavery and wretchedness 
were soon seen springing up and growing ripe with the 
harvests." The working of metals, and agriculture, the 
acquirement of property, the growth of civil society, are 
successive steps in the process of enslavement. "The 
first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, be- 
thought himself of saying, This is mine, and found peo- 
ple simple enough to believe him, was the true founder 
of civil society. How many crimes, wars, murders, what 
miseries and horrors would have not been spared the 
human race by one who, tearing up the stakes, or filling 
the ditch, should have called out to his fellows : Beware of 
listening to this impostor ; you are lost if you forget that 
the earth belongs to no one, and that its fruits belong to 
all." l All subsequent history has consisted in deepening 
the artificial inequalities which here got a foothold. They 
can only be overcome by an entire reconstruction. The 
supposed proofs that civilization represents a development 
are merely specious. The science and culture in which 
the Enlighteners took such inordinate pride, instead of 

1 Discourse on Inequality (quoted from Morley, Rousseau, I, p. 1 66). 

404 A Student's History of Philosophy 

being self-evident proofs of our superiority to all the past, 
are just another example of unfounded prejudice. Exam- 
ined, they will be seen to have no meaning whatever in 
terms of human welfare, except as they heighten the cor- 
ruption of the age. Men were far better off before the 
sciences arose. This is the argument of Rousseau's two 
earliest treatises, the Discourse on the Sciences and the 
Arts, and the Discourse on the Origin and the Bases of the 
Inequality among Men. 

In his more sober moments, however, Rousseau did not 
really intend to deny the value of the social life altogether, 
but only to place it on a different basis. What he did pro- 
test against was the notion that there was anything of real 
worth in a civilization which consisted simply in a high in- 
tellectual culture, and in the development of the arts, and 
sciences, and inventions depending upon the intellect 
that is, in the whole ideal of Rationalism. For the concep- 
tion of man as first of all intellect cold, unimpas- 
sioned, critical reason, before which all the sentiment and 
enthusiasm of life dies away he held the utmost detesta- 
tion. In opposition to the Lockian psychology, which 
makes man's life a mere play of ideas, Rousseau insisted on 
the unity of the self ; and this essential and very inmost 
man is not intellect, but feeling. 

It was in his revelation of the power and beauty of the 
feeling element in man's life, to a world incrusted with 
blase 1 artificiality, that the essence of Rousseau's contribu- 
tion lay. For there was in feeling, on the one hand, a unify- 
ing force to set against the purely analytic understanding. 
That emotional outgoing toward nature, and sympathy 
toward man, which feeling implies, was in a blind way, 
indeed, but still effectively, the revelation of an essential 
kinship with other things, which only needed to find 
an adequate statement to revolutionize thought. Rous- 
seau was quite conscious of this constructive side of his 
message. I hate, he says, this rage to destroy without 
building up ; and again : To liberate a man, it is not 

The Growth of Empiricism 405 

enough merely to break his chains. But more than this, 
feeling supplies also the motive power necessary for set- 
ting man at work to realize himself, and to remedy things 
instead _; of simply criticising them. This power might, 
indeed, when undisciplined, result in the horrors of a 
French Revolution ; but it has also been the source of 
numberless positive blessings. 

Accordingly, this new insight is at work in all Rous- 
seau's philosophy, influencing it even when it seems to 
approach closest to Rationalism. Thus, his conception of 
religion is still an abstract Deism ; but it is suffused with a 
glow of emotion which is a promise of better things, and 
which enables him to assert that he is the only man of his 
age who really believes in God. It was because the material- 
ism of his contemporaries offered him a world with which 
he could come into no emotional relation, that he felt so 
strongly against them. Religion is an affair of the heart, 
not of the head. It does not depend on a belief in tradi- 
tion, and what some other man has said. " Is it simple or 
natural that God should have gone in search of Moses to 
speak to Jean Jacques Rousseau ? " Nor can it be rea- 
soned out beyond the reach of scepticism. But conscience 
and feeling are as real as reason. " I believe in God as 
fully as I believe in any other truth, because to believe or 
not to believe are the things in the world that are least 
under my control ; because, when my reason is wavering, 
my faith cannot rest long in suspense ; because, finally, a 
thousand motives of preference attract me to the side that 
is most consoling, and join the weight of hope to the equi- 
librium of reason." 

And so on the side of social theory, where Rousseau's 
greatest importance lies, the claims of feeling tend contin- 
ually to carry him on to a more adequate conception of 
man than the purely individualistic one. This makes him, 
first of 'all, the Apostle of the common man, in whom are 
represented those simple and fundamental traits of human- 
ity which appeal to Rousseau, and which go back of rank, 

406 A Student's History of Philosophy 

and all external and artificial advantages. " It is the common 
people who compose the human race ; what is not the people 
is so trivial that it is not worth taking into account. Before 
one who reflects, all civil distinctions disappear ; he sees the 
same passions, the same feelings in the clown as in the 
man of note and reputation ; he only distinguishes their 
language, and a varnish more or less elaborately laid on." 
And this democracy is continually on the point of passing 
into a conception of the unity of man and society, which is 
quite the opposite of Rousseau's starting-point; although 
such a unity fails to get any clear and unambiguous 

Like Hobbes and Locke before him, Rousseau bases 
society on a contract, by which men agree, for certain 
advantages, to give up that unrestricted individual freedom 
which belongs to them by nature. But while this is some- 
times put in -the form of an historical event, Rousseau does 
not insist upon this aspect of it. In reality, it stands rather 
for a statement of the conditions necessary to give social 
life a rational and just foundation, in opposition to theories 
which carry it back to force, or mere status. Society can 
only have its real justification in the advantages it brings. 
In spite of his earlier utterances, and the echo of these in 
the famous words with which the Social Contract opens 
Man is born free, and is everywhere in chains Rous- 
seau is far from thinking that savage life is the ideal. 
Rather, he recognizes that it is only in society that man 
truly lives at all. " What man loses by the social contract 
is his natural liberty, and an unlimited right to anything 
that tempts him, which he can obtain ; what he gains is 
civil liberty, and the ownership of all that he possesses." 
A morality is given to his actions which they lacked before. 
" His faculties exercise and develop, his ideas expand, his 
sentiments become ennobled, his whole spirit is elevated to 
such a point that, if the abuse of this new condition did not 
often degrade him below that from which he came, he 
ought to bless without ceasing the happy moment which 

The Growth of Empiricism 407 

took him from it forever, and which has made of a dull 
stupid animal, an intelligent being a man." 1 

The problem is, then, to substitute for an abstract and 
savage freedom a substantial and moral one ; for a natural 
equality, a political equality. In general, the medium of 
this is a contract, according to which each one is to sink 
his private, individual will in the general will, the will of 
the whole. The special value of Rousseau's conception 
lies in his tendency to regard this at bottom, not merely as 
a giving up of rights for the sake of other external advan- 
tages life and security but rather as a discovery of 
one's true and permanent self. He is on the point, at least, 
of recognizing the truth that the individual, capricious will 
is not the real man after all ; that the true self is not antago- 
nistic to, but inclusive of one's fellows, and so can have a 
chance to develop only in society. Each individual may, 
as a man, have a particular will, contrary to or unlike the 
general will which he has as a citizen ; his particular inter- 
est may speak to him quite differently from the common 
interest. But this latter really represents him more ade- 
quately than the former. The general will is not the mere 
sum of the particular wills ; it is an organic unity. When 
the individual is constrained to obey the general will by 
society, he is not being enslaved, but is being " forced to be 
free," forced to resist the temptation to sacrifice his lesser 
to his larger self. 

With Rousseau, however, this is hardly more than a sug- 
gestion, and when he goes on to connect it with his govern- 
mental machinery, he tends to give it too abstract and 
external an interpretation to do justice to his deeper insight. 
Concretely, the general will is the resultant of a popular 
vote, in which every citizen participates. " Take from 
these same wills the plus and the minus which destroy each 
other, and there will remain for the sum of the differences 
the general will." 2 Such a vote, on a matter of general 

1 Bk. I, 8. Harrington's translation. (G. P. Putnam's Sons.) 
2 Bk.II, 3 . 

408 A Student's History of Philosophy 

principle and with reference to an individual application 
of a principle, the general will cannot pronounce does 
away with private interests by making the question entirely 
abstract. Each individual, inasmuch as he will consider 
that the law he is passing is going to apply to himself, will 
vote for that which seems to him abstractly the best, in 
order, if need be, to get the advantage of it in his own case. 
" Why is the general will always right, and why do all 
desire constantly the happiness of each, unless it is because 
there is no person who does not appropriate to himself the 
word ' each,' and who does not think of himself while 
voting for all ? " * Each submits necessarily to the condi- 
tions he imposes on others ; " it is for the sake of not being 
killed by an assassin that we consent to be killed if we 
become assassins." Of course, in attempting to legislate 
for a particular case, this common interest no longer exists, 
and private interests have a chance to assert themselves ; 
and so the general will can only act in the case of legisla- 
tion that is entirely general in character. 

It is natural to ask, however, how such a majority rule 
can represent the general will, if this latter is really to be 
denned as identical with the true will of the individual. 
Must not the result be contrary to the will of the one who 
votes against it, and so not an expression of himself, but 
an enslavement ? The question points again to the inade- 
quacy of Rousseau's theory to express his deeper thought. 
He has an answer to the difficulty, indeed, but it is not a 
very satisfactory one. The citizen consents to all the laws, 
even those which are passed in spite of him ; for when he 
votes, what is asked is "not whether he approves the 
proposition or whether he rejects it, but whether or not 
it conforms to the general will. Each one in giving his 
vote gives his opinion upon it, and from the counting of 
the votes is deduced the declaration of the general will. 
When, however, the opinion contrary to mine prevails, it 
shows only that I was mistaken, and that what I had sup- 

The Growth of Empiricism 409 

posed to be the general will was not general. If my indi- 
vidual opinion had prevailed, I should have done some- 
thing other than I had intended, and then I should not 
have been free." 1 

3. Lessing and Herder. In France, Rousseau's ideas 
were destined to be carried out practically in their most 
extreme form, in the doctrinaireism of the French Revolu- 
tion. It was in Germany, however, that their real signifi- 
cance was first appreciated. Here they proved to be a 
main factor among the influences which were to bring 
about one of the great periods of intellectual develop- 
ment in the history of the world. In Germany, possessed 
hitherto of only a scanty literature, and, apart from Leibniz, 
of hardly any philosophy worthy the name, there suddenly 
appears both a literature and a philosophy of the first 
magnitude. In both of these, the same principle is at 
work. Both alike stand for the rediscovery of the value 
of the inner life, as opposed alike to the authority of the 
Middle Ages, and the cold intellectualism of the Enlighten- 
ment. They demand the actualizing of the abstract free- 
dom of man the outcome of the individualism of the 
Enlightenment in forms of concrete worth and beauty. 
A fresh sense of the possibilities of life and feeling arises 
in the undisciplined eagerness, of the Sturm und Drang 
period, for personal realization in every variety of experi- 
ence. This abounding energy, restrained and regulated 
by the sense of artistic proportion and law, which the new 
appreciation of Greek art, through the labors of Winckel- 
mann and Lessing, had made at home in Germany, created 
an ideal of its own. Living itself became an art, a thing 
of joyousness and beauty. A way of looking at things 
sprang up which had almost nothing in .common with the 
typical outcome of the Enlightenment. "We could not 
understand," says Goethe, in speaking of the impression 
which Holbach's System of Nature made upon himself and 
his associates, " how such a book could be dangerous. It 

i Bk. IV, 2. 

410 A Student's History of Philosophy 

appeared to us so dark, so Cimmerian, so deathlike, that 
we could scarcely find patience to endure its presence." 

So, also, through the medium of this same new sympathy, 
there came a deeper sense of the meaning of the historical. 
In Lessings case, this concerned itself chiefly with the 
development of religion. For the Rationalist, as has been 
said, there had been no middle ground between the truth 
of a religion on the basis of reason, and its falsity, and 
consequent origin in fraud and priestcraft. In Lessing 
the thought is brought forward clearly and unambiguously, 
that the dilemma is an unreal one. Absolute truth, indeed, 
we cannot know ; but also there is no absolutely false. 
Early religions are steps in the progressive revelation by 
which God educates mankind ; the true religion of reason 
can only come as the result of a long process leading up 
to it, and so positive religions have a relative justification. 
This is the keynote of Lessing's Education of the Human 
Race ; and while it still is clothed in an inadequate form, 
it makes a decisive break from the Enlightenment, and 
opens up the way for a new appreciation of religion, and 
of the whole historical life of man. 

In like manner there is implied a different view of God. 
God is no longer an abstraction apart from the life of the 
world, to be reached in a cold intellectual way, as the result 
of a process of reasoning. He is to be seen actually present 
and energizing, in nature, in the course of human events, 
in the heart of the spiritual experience, which all have 
their reality and unity in him. Now we have seen that it 
was Spinoza who, of all philosophers, insisted most strongly 
on the unity and immanence of God. And as Spinoza had 
failed of any great immediate influence, because he was so 
far removed from the temper of the Enlightenment, so now, 
in a soil prepared for him, he begins to attain a high de- 
gree of importance. It is Spinoza, with his ei/ KOI Trav, 
who is preeminently the philosopher of the German liter- 
ary movement. A God distinct from the world is unen- 
durable to the new feeling for the beauty of the universe, 

The Growth of Empiricism 411 

and the significance of the inner life. There is nothing to 
satisfy us in a God who " sat like a scrupulous artist beat- 
ing his brains, and making plans, comparisons, rejections, 
and selections, who played with worlds as children with 
soap bubbles, till he gave preference to the one which 
pleased him most"; who, " in the great Inane of primeval, 
inactive eternity, has his corner where he contemplates 
himself, and probably ponders on the project of another 

The conception of development which, by Lessing, is 
applied to the history of religion, is extended by Herder 
to the whole life of man. The insight that everything 
grows and develops, and that nothing is perfected at once, 
pervades the whole of his work. A beginning is made of 
a science of language, by regarding this, not as a thing of 
divine origin, or a manufactured product, but as an organic 
growth. The same sympathetic insight leads Herder to 
take a special interest in primitive poetry and folk-lore, 
which the artificial tastes of the preceding age had passed 
by with scorn. And in his Ideas for the Philosophy of the 
History of Mankind, the attempt is made, with a consider- 
able degree of success, to bring the whole course of human 
development under the conception of a unitary process. 


Rousseau, Chief Works: Emile (1762); Social Contract (1762); 
Confessions (1782). 
Morley, Voltaire. 

Morley, Diderot and the Encyclopedists. 
Morley, Rousseau. 

Bosanquet, Philosophical Theory of the State. 
Caird, Essays on Literature and Philosophy. 
Davidson, Rousseau and Education according to Nature. 
Lessing, Education of the Human Race, Nathan the Wise. 
Herder, Ideas for the Philosophy of the History of Mankind. 


36. Kant 

Immanuel Kant was born in Konigsberg in 1724, and 
spent his life without leaving his native province. The 
story of his life is thus the story of the development of his 
thought. He became Professor of Philosophy at the Uni- 
versity of Konigsberg in 1 770. His Critique of Pure Reason, 
published in 1781, raised him to the foremost position 
among living philosophers, but his growing fame did not 
serve to alter his manner of life. His simple habits grew 
more and more regular and methodical as he grew older, 
and his interests limited themselves more exclusively to his 
abstract speculations. Heine's description of him is fre- 
quently quoted : 

" The life of Immanuel Kant is hard to describe ; he has 
indeed neither life nor history in the proper sense of the 
words. He lived an abstract, mechanical, old-bachelor ex- 
istence, in a quiet, remote street in Konigsberg, an old 
city at the northeastern boundary of Germany. I do not 
believe that the great cathedral clock of that city accom- 
plished its day's work in a less passionate and more regular 
way than its countryman, Immanuel Kant. Rising from 
bed, coffee-drinking, writing, lecturing, eating, walking, 
everything had its fixed time ; and the neighbors knew that 
it must be exactly half-past four when they saw Professor 
Kant, in his gray coat, with his cane in his hand, step out 
of his house door, and move toward the little lime-tree 
avenue, which is named, after him, the Philosopher's Walk. 
Eight times he walked up and down that walk at every 
season of the year: and when the weather was bad, his 
servant, old Lampe, was seen anxiously following him with 


German Idealism 413 

a large umbrella under his arm, like an image of Provi- 
dence. Strange contrast between the outward life of the 
man, and his world-destroying thought. Of a truth, if the 
citizens of Konigsberg had had any inkling of the mean- 
ing of that thought, they would have shuddered before 
him as before an executioner. But the good people saw 
nothing in him but a professor of philosophy ; and when 
he passed at the appointed hour, they gave him friendly 
greetings and set their watches." 1 

I. The Nature of Kan? s Problem. It is difficult to 
make any brief statement which will give an approximate 
notion, even, of the importance of the revolution which 
Kant was the means of bringing about in philosophy. One 
needs to have studied both Kant and his successors, and to 
have some appreciation of the main currents of thought in 
recent times, before he can easily see into the significance 
of Kant's new attitude toward philosophical problems. 
Roughly, however, it may be said that this centres about 
two points in particular ; and of these, the one it will be 
convenient to consider first, is the new conception of ex- 
perience and of thought which is involved. 

We have seen that, according to Hume, the reality of 
the world is dissolved into a host of unrelated feelings, or 
sensations, which, summed together, compose the human 
mind. But is this a tenable conception ? Is it not rather 
suicidal ? Must there not be certain relating activities of 
the mind, which are not themselves feelings, to work upon 
the material of sense, before even feelings can be known, 
and form a true experience ? If mere sensations were the 
sole reality, would they not be shut up, each in its own 
skin, and be wholly impervious to other sensations ? As a 
matter of fact, however, sensations are not thus isolated. 
Somehow or other they get related, they enter into a uni- 
fied consciousness, which thus is more than the mere sum 
of them taken together, since they are experienced not as 
a collection of isolated units, but as an interconnected and 

1 Quoted from Royce's Spirit of Modern Philosophy. 

414 A Student's History of Philosophy 

orderly whole. There is a term of which Kant makes a 
great deal of use in the Critique the term synthetic. A 
synthetic judgment is one which goes beyond the meaning 
of the subject term, and binds to this some new idea not 
already contained there ; as when, for example, I see my 
dog running across the field, and, adding to the idea of dog 
a new qualification, I say, " My dog is chasing a rabbit." 
On the other hand, if I say, " A dog is an animal," I am 
only making explicit an idea already contained in the 
concept 'dog,' and my judgment is analytic. We may 
say, then, using this terminology, that there is to expe- 
rience a synthetic side for which Hume does not account. 
The relatedness of sensations, the unity which binds them 
together, is a new element, which cannot be extracted from 
the isolated sensations themselves. To know two sensa- 
tions together implies a state of consciousness which is not 
simply another sensation ; for if it were, how could it bind 
together the first two ? It would only add another term to 
the problem. Before sensations can be known, even in 
the simple relations of resemblance, or of contiguity in 
time or space, they must be brought into a unified con- 
sciousness, which thus is no mere additional sense fact, 
but an intellectual synthesis, presupposed by every possi- 
bility of experience. 

Kant, then, has pointed out that for the possibility of real 
.knowledge, it is necessary to presuppose a certain frame- 
work of thought relationships over and above the sense 
content to which Hume had reduced knowledge. But now, 
furthermore, the part which thought plays with reference to 
the objects of knowledge is conceived by Kant in a special 
and relatively novel way. Commonly in the past the rela- 
tion of thought to its object had been understood in terms 
of the relation of a copy or reproduction to its prototype. 
For Kant, on the contrary, the relation is constitutive. 
The world, in so far as it is a known world, is a construct 
of thought. Any object, to be known, must enter into the 
world of knowledge, the thought world ; and therefore be- 

German Idealism 415 

tween thought and its object there is no separateness, but 
an identity. To be real, to be objective, is to have a fixed 
place in this system of thought, not to exist beyond it. 
An object is t only as it is for knowledge ; and so it is 
actually built up out of these intellectual relationships 
which Kant had pointed out. It is this which makes ex- 
perience no mere string of subjective feelings, but an 
ordered and orderly world of things. 

For Kant, accordingly, the great principle of modern 
thought, which gives to consciousness, or the self, the 
fundamental place in the interpretation of the world, is 
reasserted in a new form. The world for us is not a 
datum given by some external power. It is not an objec- 
tive fact independent of us, to be defended or criticised as 
such. It is the product of the laws of our own under- 
standing, acting, of course, in no arbitrary way, but in 
accordance with fixed and definite principles, which are not 
peculiar to our separate individuality. Human experience 
gives the point of view for the interpretation of every- 
thing that we can know ; between the world, and ourselves, 
there is an inner identity. 

Such, briefly, is the first of the two main aspects of 
Kant's thought. We may turn now to a somewhat more 
specific statement. And Kant's chief problem centres 
about a fact to which already reference has several times 
been made. Kant's metaphysical point of view is most 
easily understood by reference to Hume. Kant had been 
originally an adherent of the school of Wolff, who had 
attempted to systematize the philosophy of Leibniz. But 
he very soon had become dissatisfied with this. Wolff 
was a Rationalist of the most extreme type. He had the 
completest confidence that, by the use of certain abstract 
principles of reason, we can attain a demonstrative knowl- 
edge of ultimate verities. Kant found himself constantly 
less able to share this confidence. The more he thought, the 
more difficulty he found in the way of applying the a priori 
method of geometry to the facts with which philosophy is 

41 6 A Studenfs History of Philosophy 

concerned. Is truth not attainable at all then ? this Kant 
was not willing to admit. For a time he tried to take 
refuge in Empiricism. But Hume had revealed to him 
clearly the outcome of Empiricism the overthrow of all 
knowledge whatsoever. 

Now the main problem which had engaged Hume 
the problem of causation will suggest the nature of 
Kant's central difficulty. Here is a supposed truth with- 
out which it had abundantly appeared that philosophers, 
to say nothing of scientists, could make no headway at all 
in knowledge. But whence does it come ? It cannot be 
derived from experience. Hume had shown this clearly. 
With the difficulties in the rationalistic explanation Kant 
had been long familiar. Here, then, is a point which 
neither of the rival schools had found themselves able 
satisfactorily to clear up. 

"There cap be no doubt whatever that all our knowledge 
begins with experience. By what means should the faculty 
of knowledge be aroused to activity, but by objects which, 
acting upon our senses, partly of themselves produce ideas 
in us, and partly set our understanding at work to com- 
pare these ideas with one another, and, by combining or 
separating them, to convert the raw material of our sen- 
sible impressions into that knowledge of objects which is 
called experience? In the order of time, therefore, we 
have no knowledge prior to experience, and with expe- 
rience all our knowledge begins. 

" But, although all our knowledge begins with experience, 
it by no means follows that it all originates from expe- 
rience. For it may well be that experience is itself made 
up of two elements, one received through impressions of 
sense, and the other supplied from itself by our faculty of 
knowledge on occasion of those impressions. It is, there- 
fore, a question which cannot be lightly put aside, but can 
be answered only after careful investigation, whether there 
is any knowledge that is independent of experience, and 
even of all impressions of sense. Such knowledge is said 

German Idealism 417 

to be a priori, to distinguish it from empirical knowledge, 
which has its sources a posteriori, or in experience. The 
term a priori must, however, be defined more precisely, 
in order that the full meaning of our question may be un- 
derstood. We say of a man who undermines the founda- 
tions of his house, that he might have known a priori that 
it would fall ; by which we mean, that he might have 
known it would fall, without waiting for the event to take 
place in his experience. But he could not know it com- 
pletely a priori; for it is only from experience that he 
could learn that bodies are heavy, and must fall by their 
own weight when there is nothing to support them. By 
a priori knowledge we shall, therefore, in what follows, 
understand, not such knowledge as is independent of this 
or that experience, but such as is absolutely independent 
of all experience. Opposed to it is empirical knowledge, 
or that which is possible only a posteriori, that is, by ex- 

" Evidently what we need is a criterion by which to dis- 
tinguish with certainty between pure and empirical knowl- 
edge. Now, experience can tell us that a thing is so and 
so, but not that it cannot be otherwise. Firstly, then, if 
we find a proposition that, in being thought, is thought as 
necessary, it is an a priori judgment; and if, further, it is 
not derived from any proposition except which is itself 
necessary, it is absolutely a priori. Secondly, experience 
never bestows on its judgments true or strict universality, 
but only the assumed or comparative universality of induc- 
tion; so that, properly speaking, it merely says, that so far 
as our observation has gone, there is no exception to this 
or that rule. If, therefore, a judgment is thought with 
strict universality, so that there can be no possible excep- 
tion to it, it is not derived from experience, but is absolutely 
a priori. Necessity and strict universality are, therefore, 
sure criteria of a priori knowledge, and are also inseparably 
connected with each other." 

Necessary and universal judgments go beyond expe- 


418 A Student's History of Philosophy 

rience so far Hume and Kant are agreed. But whereas 
Hume had stopped here, and had said that therefore such 
judgments do not exist as valid knowledge, Kant adopts 
a different attitude. We cannot explain knowledge by 
denying its reality; if there are universal truths which 
everybody admits, the only thing to do is to accept these as 
our data, and then go on to explain their possibility. " Now, 
it is easy to show that in human knowledge there actually 
are judgments, that in the strictest sense are universal, and 
therefore pure a priori. If an example from the sciences 
is desired, we have but to think of any proposition in math- 
ematics ; if an instance from common sense is preferred, 
it is enough to cite the proposition that there can be no 
change without a cause. To'take the latter case, the very 
idea of cause so manifestly implies the idea of necessary 
connection with an effect, that it would be completely lost, 
were we to derive it, with Hume, from the repeated associa- 
tion of one event with another that precedes it, and were 
we to reduce it to the subjective necessity arising from the 
habit of passing from one idea to another." 1 

If, then, Hume's sensationalism were the end of the mat- 
ter, it would be utterly out of the question for us to say 
that anything must be so. But as a matter of fact we have 
two sciences, mathematics and physics, in which such neces- 
sary a priori judgments are constantly made. To give 
up the splendid results of science is impossible ; if, there- 
fore, we cannot be content to accept a theory that takes 
away their foundations, we must search further, and ask 
ourselves what conditions are required to serve as a secure 
basis for these results which every one admits. How, in 
other words, is it possible to pass a judgment which does 
not simply state the results of what we have learned in the 
past, but which adds to our knowledge, and which yet, in 
spite of the fact that it goes beyond what we have already 

1 Critique of Pure Reason, Introduction. Watson's translation, pp. 7-10 
(Henry Holt & Co.). 

German Idealism 419 

experienced, can be said to be, not probably, but necessa- 
rily and universally true ? 

But now a more important consideration remains. 
" There is a sort of knowledge that even quits the field of 
all possible experience, and claims to extend the range of 
our judgments beyond its limits, by means of conceptions 
to which no corresponding object can be presented in ex- 
perience. Now, it is just in the province of this sort of 
knowledge, where experience can neither show us the true 
path, nor put us right when we go astray, that reason car- 
ries on those high investigations, the results of which we 
regard as more important than all that understanding can 
discover within the domain of phenomena. Nay, we are 
even willing to stake our all, and to run the risk of being 
completely deluded, rather than consent to forego inquiries 
of such moment, either from uncertainty, or from careless- 
ness and indifference. These unavoidable problems, set 
by pure reason itself, are God, freedom, and immortality, 
and the science which brings all its resources to bear on 
the one single task of solving them is metaphysic" 

" Now, one might think that men would hesitate to leave 
the solid ground of experience, and to build an edifice of 
truth upon knowledge that has come to them they know 
not how, and in blind dependence upon principles of 
which they cannot tell the origin, without taking the 
greatest pains to see that the foundation was secure. 
One might think it only natural that they would long ago 
have raised the question, how we have come into posses- 
sion of all this a priori knowledge, and what may be its 
extent, its import, and its value. But the fact is, that a 
part of this knowledge mathematical knowledge, for 
instance has so long been established as certain, that 
we are less ready to suspect the evidence for other parts, 
although these may be of a totally different nature. 
Besides, when we are once outside the circle of experi- 
ence, we are sure not to be contradicted by experience ; 
and so strong is the impulse to enlarge our knowledge, 

420 A Student's History of Philosophy 

that nothing short of a clear contradiction will avail to 
arrest our footsteps. Now such contradiction may easily 
be avoided, even where we are dealing with objects that 
are merely imaginary, if we are only careful in putting our 
fictions together. Mathematics show us, by a splendid 
instance, how far a science may advance a priori without 
the aid of experience. It is true that by it objects and 
conceptions are considered only in so far as they can be 
presented in perception ; but it is easy to overlook the 
limitation, because the perception in this case can itself be 
given a priori, and is therefore hard to distinguish from a 
mere idea. Deceived by this proof of the power of rea- 
son, we can see no limits to the extension of knowledge. 
So Plato forsook the world of sense, chafing at the narrow 
limits it set to our knowledge, and, on the wings of pure 
ideas, launched out into the empty space of the pure un- 
derstanding. He did not see that with all his efforts he 
was making no real progress. But it is no unusual thing 
for human reason to complete its speculative edifice in such 
haste that it forgets to look to the stability of the founda- 
tion." 1 

The new philosophy, then, as opposed to all previous 
thought/ is fundamentally a critical philosophy ; it is a 
criticism of the faculty of knowledge. In the past, Meta- 
physics has been the battle-ground of endless conflicts. 
" There was a time when Metaphysic held a royal place 
among the sciences, and, if the will were taken for the 
deed, the exceeding importance of her subject might well 
have secured to her that place of honor. At present it is 
the fashion to despise Metaphysic, and the poor matron, 
forlorn and forsaken, complains like Hecuba, Modo max- 
ima rerum, tot generis natisque potens nunc trahor exul, 
inops. At first the rule of Metaphysic, under the dominion 
of the dogmatists, was despotic. But as the laws still bore 
the traces of an old barbarism, intestine wars and complete 
anarchy broke out, and the sceptics, a kind of nomads, 

1 Critique of Pure Reason, Introduction (Watson's translation, p. il). 

German Idealism 421 

despising all settled culture of the land, broke up from 
time to time all civil society. Fortunately their number 
was small, and they could not prevent the old settlers from 
returning to cultivate the ground afresh, though without 
any fixed plan or agreement. At present, after every- 
thing has been tried, so they say, and tried in vain, there 
reign in philosophy weariness and complete indifferentism, 
the mother of chaos and night." 1 

The trouble lies in the very nature of dogmatism. It is 
due to the attempt of reason to advance without any previ- 
ous criticism of its own powers. Such a dogmatic employ- 
ment of reason can lead only to groundless assertions, to 
which other assertions equally specious may always be 
opposed, the inevitable result being scepticism. The 
same defect, accordingly, taints dogmatism and scepticism 
alike ; the only remedy is, neither to dogmatize, nor to 
raise equally ungrounded doubts, but to subject the nature 
of reason to a sober investigation, in order to determine 
what it can, and what it cannot, hope to accomplish. This 
is entirely different from scepticism. Hume " ran his ship 
ashore for safety's sake on scepticism, whereas my object 
is rather to give it a pilot, who, by means of safe astro- 
nomical principles, drawn from a knowledge of the globe, 
and provided with a complete chart and compass, may 
steer the ship safely." 2 

2. How are Necessary Judgments Possible ? With this 
general introduction, we may go on to consider in what 
the special nature of Kant's results consists. And once 
more, there are two main questions which he sets before 
himself. The first is to show the conditions which render 
possible those synthetic, a priori judgments, whose valid- 
ity, in opposition to Hume, he proposes to defend. The 
second is to show what light the answer to this problem 
will throw upon the validity of those further a priori 
judgments, which pretend to carry us into the supersen- 
sible world, and upon which Metaphysics has relied to 

1 Preface. Max Mullet's translation. 2 Prolegomena^ Introd. 

422 A Students History of Philosophy 

prove the existence of God, and other ultimate truths. 
We shall consider these, therefore, in order. 

A distinction has already been drawn between two ele- 
ments of our experience. In addition to the sense mate- 
rial, to which Hume had reduced all the conscious life, 
there must also be certain relating activities of the mind 
itself. Necessary and a priori truths must evidently de- 
pend upon this latter factor. " That element in the 
phenomenon which corresponds to sensation I call the 
matter, while that element which makes it possible that 
the various determinations of the phenomenon should be 
arranged in certain ways relatively to one another, is its 
form. Now, that without which sensations can have no 
order or form, cannot itself be sensation. The matter 
of a phenomenon is given to us entirely a posteriori, but 
its form must be a priori in the mind, and hence must be 
capable of being considered by itself apart from sensation." * 

Of these forms of experience, there are two sorts. In 
the first place, the sensuous basis of experience does not 
come to us as absolutely raw material ; it has already been 
actively shaped by the mind. It presents itself in sense 
perception as already related in two ways in space and in 
time. It is on these "forms of sensibility " that the possi- 
bility of geometrical truths rests. A long time before he 
reached the final standpoint represented in the Critique 
of Pure Reason, Kant had come to the conclusion, by 
means of arguments which it is unnecessary to reproduce, 
that space and time are not objective realities, but only 
the subjective ways in which we cognize realities which 
in themselves are non-spatial and non-temporal. 

But now, for the orderly experience which we know, 
it is not enough that the sensuous data should appear simply 
in the forms of space and time. Within that framework 
they must be subjected to other intellectual relation- 
ships, in order to make a world of definite things. What, 
then, are the essential intellectual elements, which go to 

1 Critique of Pure Reason, p, 20 (First Ed.). 

German Idealism 423 

make up experience? Without following Kant into the 
details of this deduction, it is enough to say that, by a 
laborious process, he arrives at a certain number of these, 
which he groups under four heads quantity, quality, 
relation, and modality. We can say, that is, necessarily 
and universally, quite prior to experience, that any par- 
ticular experience will be quantitative ; that it will possess 
a certain degree of intensity ; that every change involves 
a permanent substance as a background ; that all changes 
take place in accordance with the law of cause and effect ; 
and so forth. 

But how, once more, is it possible to pass such judg- 
ments that go beyond experience ? The answer is, in brief : 
because otherwise experience itself would be impossible. 
The necessity lies, not in things, but in ourselves. " In 
metaphysical speculations it has always been assumed that 
all our knowledge must conform to objects; but every 
attempt from this point of view to extend our knowledge 
of objects a priori by means of conceptions has ended in 
failure. The time has now come to ask, whether better 
progress may not be made by supposing that objects must 
conform to our knowledge. Plainly this would better agree 
with the avowed aim of metaphysic, to determine the nature 
of objects a priori, or before they are actually presented. 
Our suggestion is similar to that of Copernicus in astron- 
omy, who, finding it impossible to explain the movements 
of the heavenly bodies on the supposition that they turned 
round the spectator, tried whether he might not succeed 
better by supposing the spectator to revolve, and the stars 
to remain at rest. Let us make a similar experiment in 
metaphysic with perception. If it were really necessary 
for our perception to conform to the nature of objects, I 
do not see how we could know anything of it a priori ; but 
if the sensible object must conform to the constitution 
of our faculty of perception, I see no difficulty in the 
matter." * 

1 Preface. Watson's translation. 

424 A Students History of Philosophy 

Such is Kant's own statement of the matter ; it may be 
well, however, to consider somewhat more carefully just 
what he means. Kant finds the necessity he is in search 
of, to repeat, not as something in nature, which is then 
reproduced and known in our experience, but as some- 
thing in experience which itself constitutes what we know 
as nature. He reached this conclusion in the following 
way : Suppose we take a geometrical truth ; how can we 
say, absolutely and without exception, that the sum of the 
angles of any triangle will equal two right angles ? So 
long as it is a matter simply of our mental content, or 
meaning, a perception of certain abstract spatial relation- 
ships, we might get certainty by the mere fact of holding 
steadfastly to one fixed meaning, and not allowing it to 
change or become confused. But how do we know that 
the world of actual things will conform to these geometrical 
ideals of ours ? Not from experience ; that might tell us 
that the proposition was true of all the objects we had ex- 
amined in the past, but not that it would prove to be true 
of the next one we might happen to meet. Things can 
only come into our experience one by one; and by this 
process, we can only tell the facts about the particular 
cases we have run across up to date, not about the rest, 
which as yet have not come into contact with us. The 
necessity, that is, in so far as we can talk of necessity, can- 
not lie in reality as it exists in itself, apart from our ex- 
perience ; for since we cannot grasp the whole of infinite 
reality at once, and since it is the conviction of a necessary 
connection in our experience that is to be justified, the 
coming of reality piecemeal into experience gives us no 
ground for asserting anything whatever of that which still 
is left outside. What follows, then ? Simply this, once 
more : that if we grant the validity of necessary judgments 
at all, it must be founded on the nature of our experience, 
not on the nature of an external reality. Things, that is, 
must follow the laws of mathematics, because they can only 
become things, for us, by taking on that same spatial form 

German Idealism 425 

on which the truths of geometry are based. They must 
conform to the structure of the mind whose nature it is to 
cast everything into spatial relationships, before they can 
become actual objects of our knowledge. If, then, our 
experience is of such a nature that nothing can enter into 
it without taking on a particular form, then we can say, 
with certainty, that everything, in the future as well as in 
the past, must have just this form and no other. We can 
pass, in other words, a necessary, synthetic judgment a 
priori ; and on no other condition can we do so. No mat- 
ter what may be true of reality beyond experience, we can 
be perfectly sure that, for us, everything in experience will 
correspond to geometrical truths, because, unless it suc- 
ceeds in taking on the spatial form on which geometry 
rests, it will not become part of our experience at all, but 
will remain for us non-existent. 

In just the same way, we are to account for those other 
necessary judgments the intellectual ones. How can 
we be sure, for example, that every effect must have a 
cause, or that there must always be a permanent substance 
underlying change ? Simply because our intellectual 
machinery is so constituted that it will take no grist 
which does not adapt itself to these particular forms of 
substance and causality. A necessary judgment is pos- 
sible, for the reason that we are not judging about things 
in themselves, but about the necessary connection of ele- 
ments in our own experience ; and we could have nothing 
that it would be possible to call experience, if it were not 
for certain necessary forms of relationship between the 
elements of which it is constituted. In other words, if 
I am to be an intelligent being, and have an experience 
which also is intelligible, this experience must be to a cer- 
tain degree coherent. If it is to be my experience, it must 
be a unity ; I must somehow be present through it all, bind- 
ing its parts together into a whole. It cannot be a simple 
string of feelings succeeding one another in time, for such 
a series would have no knowledge of itself as a unity. 

426 A Students History of Philosophy 

It is the " I " which binds these feelings together by 
threads of intellectual relationships, which are not them- 
selves a part of the series at all. This coherency in my 
life does not merely imply the existence of groups of fleet- 
ing sensations ; it necessitates, also, that I should be able 
to recognize these, and so that they should stand for objects 
that are identical and permanent ; and a permanent object 
already involves the category of substantiality. Then, 
too, the different objects, if they are to form part of a 
single experience, must be reciprocally connected with 
one another, as members of a common world ; and, again, 
the past and future must have some intelligible and neces- 
sary relation, since they also are parts of a single experi- 
ence, in every point of which I find myself equally present : 
and so we need the categories of reciprocity and causality, 
as tools which the self necessarily requires, to help it unify 
its life. Beyond our experience these categories may not 
apply ; but since it is only such elements of reality as will 
fit the mould in which our intellectual nature is cast, that 
in any wise concern us, we can take the laws as absolute. 
It is not, then, nature which imposes its necessity on us, 
but it is we who give laws to nature. The truths of the 
rationalist are not revelations of existence beyond ; they 
show, instead, our own intellectual make-up. They are the 
forms of experience, as over against its content. 

It will be evident that, against this view, Locke's criticism 
of innate ideas has no force. We have, says Locke, no in- 
nate idea of causality, e.g., because many people have never 
in their lives thought of the proposition that every effect 
must have a cause. Now Kant also would admit this. If 
we mean the conscious recognition of the principle, that is a 
particular psychological fact in our minds, which may arise 
only late in life, or conceivably never at all. But in another 
sense as a form of thought the principle has been at 
work from the very start. Every time I look to find the 
explanation of something that has happened, every time 
I connect two things together, I am implicitly making use 

German Idealism 427 

of the causal relation. And it is this existence which it 
has as a form of synthesis, not the conscious recognition 
which may or may not be attained by any particular indi- 
vidual, whose a priori character Kant is vindicating. 

3. No Knowledge beyond Experience. The Critical 
Philosophy, then, is an attempt to get at the necessary 
elements in experience necessary because apart from 
them experience itself would be an impossibility. Only in 
this way, Kant holds, can the validity of a priori judg- 
ments be vindicated. To put the problem in a different 
form, Kant has been trying to discover how it is that our 
ideas can come to apply to the real world. And the an- 
swer is, that these real things are themselves constituted 
by the relationships which make up knowledge. It is 
needful to keep constantly in mind this new conception of 
the nature of objectivity and reality. The world of which 
Kant is talking is nothing but the world of human ex- 
perience, the world as it forms a part of the content of 
our system of knowledge. When Kant says that our 
thought constitutes nature, he does not mean, therefore, 
that the great fabric of reality which, in our ordinary way 
of viewing the world, we think of as existing eternally, 
and as forming the ground out of which we, as transient 
beings, have sprung, first gains the right to be by coming 
under subjection to certain rules which our mind imposes ; 
that we create all that is, as the subjective idealist might 
maintain. To the "objective world "in this sense the 
eternal and fundamental background, which we are ready 
to believe exists alongside and beyond our transient human 
experience he has so far no reference at all. When 
Kant speaks of experience, and of the objective world as 
an element in experience, it is definitely human experience 
that he means. But now Kant also does not doubt that 
beyond this lies a more ultimate reality, on which human 
experience is based. Of this ultimate world, accordingly, 
the world of things in themselves, what have we to say ? 

And here we have reached the sphere of metaphysics, 

428 A Student's History of Philosophy 

whose validity we set out to examine. Philosophy is not 
content with the series of endless conditions presented by 
phenomena in space and time. It tries to get back of this 
infinite regress, to the ultimate unconditioned reality, on 
which finite things depend; and thus to furnish a basis 
for those ideas which are the final goal of human thought 
God, freedom, immortality. So, back of the changing 
content of human experience, it postulates a unitary sub- 
stantial soul. The infinite world process it tries to grasp 
as a whole. And, finally, the totality of existence, self and 
world, it attempts to make conceivable by the concept of 
God. Is now this attempt to understand in final and 
absolute terms the nature of real existence feasible and 
fruitful ? 

Kant answers that it is not. The phenomenal world we 
know. But the real, the noumenal, world is closed to our 
theoretical understanding. And the reason is found in the 
nature of knowledge. The Rationalists had supposed that 
thought is an independent faculty, able to reach truth by 
its own unaided exercise. For Kant, on the contrary, it is 
only one element or aspect of knowledge. For any con- 
crete act of knowledge, thought and sense are both alike 
required ; and it is this indissoluble connection of thought 
with the material of sense, that defeats the claims of 
Rationalism to grasp reality. Sense material alone is 
blind and unordered; it is not experience at all in an 
objective sense. But thought also by itself is empty, a 
mere form, which requires a content before it is objectively 

When, accordingly, we attempt to apply the categories 
of the understanding beyond the data of things in time 
and space beyond the merely phenomenal world we 
are involved in inevitable illusion. To endeavor, by means 
of ideas which thus apply only to the conditioned objects 
within experience, to pass to an unconditioned whole, is 
clearly to leave experience behind, and the concrete sense 
filling which makes experience possible ; and, in conse- 

German Idealism 429 

quence, the validity of our categories at once lapses. An 
idea, for example, like that of causation, whose whole 
function it is to bind together the elements of the else 
chaotic and unordered world of particulars, can never take 
us beyond the flux of finite and changing events to a self- 
complete and uncaused absolute. " The light dove, pierc- 
ing in her easy flight the air, and perceiving its resistance, 
imagines that flight would be easier still in empty space." 
The effort is hopeless. Of the nature of things in them- 
selves we must always remain, therefore, intellectually at 
least, in complete ignorance. 

Kant, accordingly, goes on to examine these ideas in 
connection with which philosophers had supposed they 
could get a knowledge of ultimate reality, and to point out 
the flaws and inconsistencies which they reveal. The mere 
abstract unity of consciousness, which alone the fact of 
experience necessitates, has no point of contact with the 
substantial soul of metaphysics, all of whose qualities, 
nevertheless, are derived from it, of course quite illegiti- 
mately. So when we attempt, in reasoning about the 
external world, to escape from the conditioned series of 
causes and effects, the illegitimacy of our endeavor ap- 
pears in the antinomies into which we fall. With equal 
force we may argue that the world is limited in time and 
space, and that it is unlimited ; that every compound sub- 
stance in the world consists of simple parts, and that no 
compound thing consists of simple parts ; that there does, 
and that there does not, exist an absolute First Cause at 
the end of the finite series. The arguments on both sides, 
so Kant thinks, are logically sound ; and the fact that they 
yet refute each other, shows that we have entered a realm 
where we do not belong, and where, in the nature of the 
case, truth is not to be attained by logic. " Both parties 
beat the air and fight with their own shadows, because they 
go beyond the limits of nature, where there is nothing they 
can lay hold of with their dogmatical grasp. They may 
fight to their heart's content ; the shadows which they are 

430 A Student's History of Philosophy 

cleaving grow together again in one moment, like the he- 
roes in Valhalla, in order to disport themselves once more 
in these bloodless contests." 1 So, finally, of the idea of 
God. The ordinary arguments for God's existence the 
ontological argument, the argument from causation, and 
the argument from design are critically examined, and 
found to be inadequate. Starting from a set of particular 
finite facts, which enter into an infinite series of relation- 
ships with other facts, it is quite impossible to rise to the 
knowledge of their absolute and unconditioned ground. 
The ideas by which we attempt to go beyond the particu- 
lar facts, are intended to apply only to relations between 
these facts. 

So much for these "Ideas of Reason" God, the uni- 
verse, the soul on the negative side. They tell us nothing 
of ultimate truth, because they have abandoned the facts of 
sense experience, with reference to which alone the thought 
forms have validity, and knowledge is possible. All our 
wrangling about such questions arises " simply from our 
filling the gap, due to our ignorance, with paralogisms of 
reason, and by changing thoughts into things and hyposta- 
sizing them. On this an imaginary science is built up, 
both by those who assert and those who deny, some pre- 
tending to know about objects of which no human being 
has any conception, while others make their own represen- 
tations to be objects, all turning round in a constant circle 
of ambiguities and contradictions. Nothing but a sober, 
strict, and just criticism can free us from this dogmatical 
illusion, which, through theories and systems, deceives so 
many by an imaginary happiness. It alone can limit our 
speculative pretensions to the sphere of possible experi- 
ence, and this not by a shallow scoffing at repeated failures, 
or by pious sighs over the limits of our reason, but by a 
demarcation made according to well-established principles, 
writing the nihil ulterius with perfect assurance on those 
Herculean columns which Nature herself has erected, in 

1 Critique of Pure Reason^ p. 756. Miiller's translation. 

German Idealism 431 

order that the voyage of our reason should be continued 
so far only as the continuous shores of experience extend 
shores which we can never forsake without being driven 
on a boundless ocean, which, after deceiving us again and 
again, makes us in the end cease all our laborious and 
tedious endeavors as perfectly hopeless." * 

But are these ideas, then, pure illusions ? If they are, 
how does it happen that the human mind ever swings back 
to them, and finds in them a perennial charm ? Kant goes 
on to show, in conclusion, that there is a relative value and 
validity which the ideas possess. They are not merely 
arbitrary ; they stand for an impulse which is ineradicable. 
The desire to grasp things as a whole is one which the 
reason can never forego ; but since this aim is incapable 
of being attained, the value of the ideas can only be a reg- 
ulative value within experience, not one that is consti- 
tutive, and that results in objective knowledge. They 
stand as an ideal toward which knowledge is directed, 
and, by keeping constantly before the mind the fact that 
any particular synthesis of knowledge is still imperfect, 
they remind us that we must not stop content, as if we had 
already reached the goal. But this ideal of a perfect unity 
is one which, as a matter of fact, lies forever beyond our 

4. Freedom and God as Postulates of the Moral Life. 
So far, then, this is the result of the Critical Philosophy ; 
is it possible to rest satisfied with it ? Certainly it seems 
to do away with all that knowledge which has been consid- 
ered most desirable in philosophy. The very conception 
of a noumenal world, beyond the confines of our human 
experience, is no more than problematical a mere x, to 
which no object corresponds. But still, so Kant thinks, 
there is a real gain. If we cannot prove the existence of 
a God, we have at least shut off all possibility of disproving 
him. If our knowledge is only phenomenal, reason can 
have no more right to deny that such a reality exists, than 

p. 395. 

432 A Student's History of Philosophy 

to affirm it ; and the attempt to base a positive denial of 
supersensuous realities as materialism, e.g., does on 
the supposed validity of our sense experience, is put out of 
the question. " I cannot share the opinion, so frequently 
expressed by excellent and thoughtful men, who, being 
fully conscious of the weakness of the proofs hitherto ad- 
vanced, indulge in a hope that the future would supply us 
with evident demonstrations of the two cardinal proposi- 
tions of pure reason, namely, that there is a God, and that 
there is a future life. I am certain, on the contrary, that 
this will never be the case. But there is the same apodic- 
tic certainty that no man will ever arise to assert the con- 
trary with the smallest plausibility, much less dogmatically. 
For, as he could prove it by means of pure reason only, 
he would have to prove that a Supreme Being, and that a 
thinking subject within us, as pure intelligence, is impos- 
sible. But whence will he take the knowledge that would 
justify him hi thus judging synthetically on things far be- 
yond all possible experience? We may, therefore, rest so 
completely assured that no one will ever really prove the 
opposite, that there is no need to invent any scholastic 
arguments." * 

We cannot, then, by the use of the abstract logical rea- 
son, attain any insight into the world of supersensible 
realities. But now, since the possibility still remains that 
a noumenal reality may exist, it is conceivable that, even 
though we never can attain to it through knowledge, there 
yet may be some other avenue of approach, which will 
enable us, if not to know, at least to postulate it. Accord- 
ing to Kant, there is such an avenue the moral will; 
and in the Critique of Practical Reason, the second of the 
trilogy of works on which Kant's chief fame rests, he goes 
on to modify to a certain extent the agnosticism of his first 

The advantages of our determination of the possibilities 
of knowledge show themselves not least in connection 

1 Ibid., p. 741. 

German Idealism 433 

with the problem of freedom. If the categories of our 
thought life really applied to the noumenal world, there 
would be no escape from determinism. The law of cau- 
sality demands that everything to which it applies shall 
be regarded as strictly necessitated. In so far as our acts 
enter into the course of the world, they become a part of 
that causal series where necessity rules ; and if this world 
were the real and the only world, freedom would be ex- 
cluded. But now if above the phenomenal world, the world 
of natural causation, there exists the possibility, at least, 
of another and a noumenal realm, we have a means of 
extricating ourselves from the deterministic conclusion. 
From one side the empirical an event might be strictly 
determined. But this very causal relationship might itself 
have its source in a higher causality a causality in the 
intelligible world outside the temporal series, and therefore 
itself determining phenomena, instead of being determined 
by them. 

" Among the causes in the phenomenal world, there 
certainly can be nothing that absolutely and from itself 
could cause a series to begin to be. Every act that pro- 
duces an event is, as a phenomenon, itself an event or 
result, which presupposes another state to serve as cause. 
Everything that comes to be is, therefore, merely a con- 
tinuation of the series, and nothing that begins of itself 
can enter into the series. Hence all the modes in which 
natural causes act in the succession of time are them- 
selves effects, for which there must again be causes in the 
series of time. It is vain to seek in the causal connection 
of phenomena for an original act, by which something 
may come to be that before was not." 

" But, granting that the cause of a phenomenal effect is 
itself a phenomenon, is it necessary that the causality of 
its cause should be entirely empirical? May it not be 
that, while every phenomenal effect must be connected 
with its cause in accordance with laws of empirical cau- 
sality, this empirical causality, without the least rupture of 


434 ^ Student" s History of Philosophy 

its connection with natural causes, is itself an effect of a 
causality that is not empirical, but intelligible ? May the 
empirical causality not be due to the activity of a cause, 
which in its relation to phenomena is original, and which, 
therefore, in so far as this faculty is concerned, is not phe- 
nomenal, but intelligible ; although, as a link in the chain 
of nature, it must be regarded as also belonging entirely 
to the world of sense ? " a 

It is conceivable, then, that as a phenomenon an act 
may be strictly necessary, whereas, in its reality, as it 
enters into the noumenal world, it is self-determined and 
free. The possibility of freedom is thus not excluded ; but 
have we any reason for believing in its actuality ? Briefly 
the answer is : Yes ; it is necessary to postulate freedom 
and an intelligible world, in order to satisfy the demands 
of the moral law. For the essence of the moral life con- 
sists in obedience to a law the categorical imperative 
which prete'nds to be absolute and universal. It is an obe- 
dience freed from all intermixture of personal interest and 
self-gratification, which goes back simply to reverence for 
the law as such. In an ethical system remarkable for its 
lofty dignity and its stern rigor, Kant endeavors to estab- 
lish, in all its strictness, this separation between moral 
action, and action based on empirical motives and desires. 
The latter forfeits all claim to moral value ; " nothing in 
the whole world, or even outside of the world, can possi- 
bly be regarded as good without limitation, except a good 
will" " Even if it should happen that, owing to special 
disfavor of fortune, or the niggardly provision of a step- 
motherly nature, this will should wholly lack power to 
accomplish its purpose, then like a jewel it would still 
shine by its own light, as a thing which has its whole value 
in itself. Its usefulness, or f ruitlessness, can neither add 
nor take away anything from its value." 2 

But now, in its very nature, the moral law demands the 

1 Critique of Pure Reason, p. 543. Watson's translation. 
*Metaphysic of Ethics (Abbott's translation, pp. 9, 10). 

German Idealism 435 

actuality of freedom. It calls upon me to will and to act 
unconditionally, without regard to any considerations save 
the moral " ought " ; and it has no meaning unless what I 
ought to do, I can do. Freedom is thus the absolute pre- 
condition of the validity of the moral life. But since, as a 
part of the phenomenal world, my act is not free, there 
must be another and noumenal realm, within which it has 
that freedom which the moral life demands. The escape 
from determinism does not lie in denying to my particular 
empirical acts a causal explanation, but in denying the 
ultimate validity of that whole world in which causality rules, 
in favor of an intelligible world, which we cannot, indeed, 
know, but whose existence we are compelled to postulate. 

" The explanation of the possibility of categorical impera- 
tives, then, is, that the idea of freedom makes me a mem- 
ber of the intelligible world. Were I a member of no 
other world, all my actions would as a matter of fact always 
conform to the autonomy of the will. But as I perceive 
myself to be also a member of the world of sense, I can 
say only, that my actions ought to conform to the autonomy 
of the will." 1 

So the guarantee of that intelligible world, the realm 
of freedom, is, not knowledge, but the immediate realiza- 
tion of the claims of the moral law ; it is practical, rather 
than theoretical. The abstract reason, which the Enlight- 
enment had deified, is definitely subordinated to a moral 
faith. " Morality requires us only to be able to think free- 
dom without self-contradiction, not to understand it ; it is 
enough that our conception of the act as free puts no ob- 
stacle in the way of the conception of it as mechanically 
necessary, for the act stands in quite a different relation to 
freedom from that in which it stands to the mechanism of 
nature. From the critical point of view, therefore, the 
doctrine of morality, and the doctrine of nature, may each 
be true in its own sphere ; which could never have been 
shown had not criticism previously established our una- 

1 Metaphysic of Morality (Watson's translation, p. 255). 

436 A Student's History of Philosophy 

voidable ignorance of things in themselves, and limited all 
that we can know to mere phenomena. I have, therefore, 
found it necessary to deny knowledge of God, freedom, and 
immortality, in order to find a place for faith." * 

And with the intelligible world postulated to justify free- 
dom and morality, we may note, briefly, the way in which 
Kant uses these results, somewhat inconsequentially, it 
might seem, to get back those very realities which the reason 
has been proved incompetent to know. Although the desire 
for happiness is entirely distinct from the content of the 
moral will, yet, as man belongs to the phenomenal, as well 
as to the intelligible world, happiness must have a place, 
for him, in the idea of the highest good, which thus may 
be defined as the union of happiness and virtue. And since 
this is not, and cannot be, attained in the present world, an 
endless life must be postulated for its achievement, or 
reality will no longer appeal to us as fully and completely 
rational. And, finally, in order to safeguard this moral 
order of the world, and see to it that the end is secured, it 
is necessary to conclude to the existence of a God. Such 
a God is, however, purely intelligible, and free from all 
intermixture of sense content. And as, consequently, he 
comes in no sort of competition with natural phenomenal 
laws, he is forever beyond the reach of attacks from 
scientific materialism or scepticism. 

At the start, mention was made of two points of special 
significance in Kant's philosophy ; and it is the second of 
these points at which we have now arrived. For Kant, 
namely, the truths of the intellect are subordinate to the 
truths of the practical will, or of the moral insight ; the 
spiritual demands of life have, equally with scientific 
thought, the right to induce belief, and in the end their 
claim is even the more fundamental one. The special out- 
come which this assumes in Kant is one which, since his 
day, has come to be adopted very widely indeed. It is the 
attitude which attempts to find a secure place for religious 

1 Critique of Pure Reason, Preface (Watson's translation, p. 6). 

German Idealism 437 

ideals, by emphasizing the separation between these and 
scientific knowledge. And the separation can be effected 
by insisting, with Kant, upon the entirely phenomenal 
character of the world which knowledge gives us. So far 
as our human understandings are able to penetrate, we can 
reach no more than conditioned objects in space and time ; 
science and its laws represent here the final word. But 
we are more than thinking beings. And if we once recog- 
nize that the processes of thought do not sum up in any 
final way the inner nature of the universe, then there is 
left the possibility of a realm in which these other sides of 
our nature may find a refuge, undisturbed by the fear of 
contradiction from reason. It is true that we must people 
this realm, not with objects of knowledge in the strict 
sense, but rather with ideals, symbols, constructs of the 
creative imagination. God is a term of poetry, not of 
science. But though we cannot suppose that these ideals 
of ours are in any sense literal copies of what really exists, 
still we may have faith that the real world is not hostile to 
our aspirations, but rather is in some true way symbolized 
in them a faith which the scientific reason cannot throw 
doubt upon, since we now are moving in a sphere to which 
reason cannot hope to attain. 

We are left, then, with a gap between the results of 
reason and the postulates of the spiritual life. Kant him- 
self recognized to some extent the unsatisfactoriness of this 
complete separation, and in a third work, the Critique of 
Judgment, he tried to make it a little less absolute. There 
are two facts in particular which seem to suggest that the 
world in space and time, and the ideal world, the world of 
purpose and meaning, are after all not so divorced from 
one another as the previous results might go to show. In 
the aesthetic experience, where the natural world shows 
itself, alike in the beautiful object, and in the workings 
of artistic genius, in unconscious harmony with the ideal 
requirements of the mind ; and in the biological organism, 
where we find ourselves constrained to use the concept of 

438 A Student's History of Philosophy 

end, or teleology, in any adequate definition, we have sug- 
gestions of an inner unity and identity. But with Kant 
these facts, though they are suggestive, do not lead to any 
real reconstruction of his position. Such judgments still 
represent no objective reality; they cannot be imported 
into the absolutely real world in their human form. 

A criticism of Kant cannot be attempted here. But there 
is one distinction to which attention may be called a dis- 
tinction implied in his contrast between God as an object 
of reason, and God as a postulate. What Kant has most 
convincingly shown is, that God cannot be demonstrated 
conclusively, in the rationalistic fashion, by merely ex- 
tending the use of the abstract categories which intro- 
duce order into our experience. But even though we 
cannot demonstrate God, it is possible that we might 
attain to a reasonable belief in him by another path. 
We might avail ourselves of the process of analogical 
reasoning ;* we might, that is, reach a probable knowl- 
edge about the nature of the real world, by using the 
analogy of the human self, the human experience, which 
we know, without pretending that our proof possesses 
theoretical necessity. And yet, unless we subscribe to the 
rationalistic prejudice, which Kant shares, that nothing is 
knowledge unless it bears the stamp of certainty, we should 
still be moving in the sphere of mind and of the intellectual 
processes. The use of the analogy will no doubt be backed 
by other than theoretical needs; but still it will not thereby 
be cut off absolutely from the life of reason. 

If, then, we admit that reason is not confined to the field 
of demonstration, the question that may still be asked is 
this : is the nature of the human self, and human experi- 
ence, such that it can be applied intelligibly and without 
self-contradiction to the idea of God ? Granted that our 
belief in God is probable rather than demonstrative 
knowledge, and granted, also, that it cannot be used to 
explain the particular facts of the world, but only to in- 
terpret its general nature, is it still not possible that the 

German Idealism 439 

idea has an intelligible content, is capable of being thought 
by the human mind ? This is a question to which Kant's 
answer is much less clear and convincing than it might be. 
That science and its laws cannot be regarded as a final 
statement about the world, that there is possible an inner 
and more intimate interpretation, and that here the needs 
of the spiritual life have a right to play their part in deter- 
mining our attitude to have shown this, may be regarded 
as Kant's most solid achievement. In what terms we 
have a right to talk about this inner reality, and in what 
relation it stands to the laws of the phenomenal world, 
are, on the contrary, questions left by Kant in a shape 
which can hardly be regarded as final 


Kant, Chief Works : Critique of Pure Reason (1781) ; Prolegomena 
to any Future Metaphysic (1783) ; Principles of the Metaphysics of 
Ethics (1785); Critique of Practical Reason (1788); Critique of 
Judgment (1790) ; Religion within the Bounds of Pure Reason (1794). 
Translations : Meiklejohn (Critique of Pure Reason) ; Max MUller 
(Critique of Pure Reason) ; Watson (Selections) ; Abbott {Critique of 
Practical Reason) ; Bernard {Critique of Judgment} ; Mahaffy and 
Bernard (Prolegomena) ; Goerrvitz (Dreams of a Spirit Seer); 
Hastie (Kant's Cosmogony) ; Cams (Prolegomena) ; Semple (Meta- 
physic of Ethics). 

Mahaffy and Bernard, Paraphrase and Commentary. 

Stirling, Text Book to Kant. 

Wenley, An Outline Introductory to Kanfs Critique of Pure Reason. 

Abbott, Kanfs Theory of Ethics. 

Caird, Critical Philosophy of Kant. 

Adamson, Philosophy of Kant. 

Wallace, Kant. 

Fischer, Kant. 

Schurman, Philosophical Review, 1898, 1900. 

Schurman, Kantian Ethics and the Ethics of Evolution. 

Watson, Kant and his English Critics. 

Seth, From Kant to Hegel. 

Seth, Scottish Philosophy. 

Jackson, Seneca and Kant. 

440 A Student's History of Philosophy 

Stuckenberg, Life of Kant. 

Sidgwick, Lectures on the Philosophy of Kant. 

Paulsen, Immanuel Kant. 

Everett, Fichte^s Science of Knowledge. 

Watson, Schellings Transcendental Idealism. 

Porter, Kanfs Ethics. 

Morris, Kanfs Critique of Pure Reason. 

Green, Lectures. 

37. The Idealistic Development. Fichte and 

I. The Idealistic Development. In order to understand 
the point of view of the development of Idealism in 
Germany, it will be well to try to distinguish two differ- 
ent attitudes that may be adopted with reference to the 
term * thought,' or ' reason.' We may, on the one hand, 
regard thought as the work of some individual thinker. 
Thinking thus becomes a fact of psychology, something 
distinct from other realities which exist alongside of it. 
And this conception of thought as ' thinking ' is a natural, 
and indeed an inevitable one. We commonly should in- 
cline to say that there can be no thought which some one 
does not think. Now when Kant speaks of thought, he 
certainly has at times this in his mind thought as a way 
in which human beings conceive the world. It is only from 
this standpoint that his distinction between phenomena 
and noumena, and his consequent agnosticism with refer- 
ence to things in themselves, have any basis. It is only 
thought as human thought, that can differ from reality. 

But meanwhile, the more immediate result of Kant's 
work was in a different direction. There is a broader way 
in which we may take the term 'thought.' We may think 
of it, namely, on the side of its content, as the system of 
rational knowledge, which includes all that is capable of 
being known. From this standpoint, the individual thinker 
is only one among a vast number of objects of knowledge ; 
he is part of a rational universe which extends far beyond 

German Idealism 441 

him. This attitude also is to be found in Kant. His 
criticism of knowledge is not, or does not intend to be, a 
matter primarily of psychology. It is rather a logical in- 
quiry into knowledge as a systematic structure, abstracted 
from its connection with particular individuals. It attempts, 
that is, to criticise each factor in knowledge by reference 
to its place in a connected rational whole, as a necessary 
element in a wider unity, rather than by reference to the 
relation of any particular man's thought to an external 

Now it is this second attitude which is adopted by the 
German Idealists. The connection of thought with the 
psychological human self is almost entirely ignored. The 
Self, or Ego, means for the Idealists not the individual ' me,' 
but the unitary system of thought. One result is that 
things in themselves immediately drop away. The dif- 
ficulties in connection with the thing-in-itself are evident. 
If it is unknowable, what right have we to say anything 
about it ? Kant had tended to look upon it as the cause of 
our sense experience; but causation applies only within 
experience, not to the noumenal world. Why not, then, 
simply let it drop away as a contradiction in terms, which 
serves absolutely no useful end ? Do we consider it neces- 
sary in order to furnish the content of knowledge ? But 
the attempt to explain knowledge from what is not knowl- 
edge is pure dogmatism, and no explanation at all ; 
whereas, from the other side, as Kant has shown, things 
may readily be explained as the construction of thought, 
through the use of the categories. 

Reality, then, is the reality of experience, or thought, 
and not something that lies beyond. And the problem of 
philosophy is to point out the systematic and logically 
interdependent character of thought. The starting-point for 
this development was the gaps left in Kant's theory of 
knowledge. Kant's endeavor, as we have seen, had been 
to trace back all experience to the synthetic unity of the 
self; but he had failed to bring about a complete unifi- 

44 2 A Student's History of Philosophy 

cation of this experience. In the first place, there were 
the two factors of sensation and thought, which Kant had 
assigned to different sources, and so made partly incom- 
patible with one another. Similarly, in the moral world, 
there was almost a complete break between the moral law, 
and concrete experience ; the ethical life, and the life of 
sensuous impulse and desire. On a larger scale was the 
distinction between the noumenal and the phenomenal, 
the theoretical and the practical, the realm of freedom 
and the realm of necessity. The work of Kant's imme- 
diate successors had to do with healing these divisions, and 
making experience one. There are three names in par- 
ticular Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel which are most 
closely connected with this later development. And since 
the ideas of chief value are summed up in Hegel's work, 
the first two of these may be dismissed very briefly. 

2. Fichte. Johann Gottlieb Fichte was born in Lusatia 
in 1762. His acquaintance with Kant's philosophy turned 
the current of his life, and he became an enthusiastic dis- 
ciple of the great thinker. An early writing which, on 
its first appearance, had mistakenly been hailed as the 
work of Kant, and praised as such, gave him an imme- 
diate reputation ; and he was soon recognized as the only 
man worthy to take up and carry on Kant's task. As 
professor at Jena, his lectures aroused great interest ; but a 
naturally self-confident and aggressive disposition kept him 
continually in trouble, and occasioned at last the loss of 
his position. His great work in awakening the German 
people to the need of patriotic and united action in the 
wars with Napoleon has caused his name to be remem- 
bered, in his own country, even more as a patriot than as 
a philosopher. 

The basis of Fichte's philosophy is the attempt to take 
seriously Kant's conception of the unity of experience. 
If reason is in very truth one in all its operations, it ought 
to be possible to deduce the various categories from a single 
source, instead of leaving them, as Kant did, in compara- 

German Idealism 443 

tive isolation. Fichte finds this source in the pure 
activity of the Ego, an activity which reflection discovers 
to be involved in any fact of knowledge whatsoever, even 
the simplest and most formal. The unity of the self in 
all knowledge, and the recognition of this as primarily an 
act, furnish the foundation of all of Fichte's system. In 
this act, as Fichte says, the Ego posits itself, asserts its 
own existence. 

But so far we have only the pure unity of the Ego. In 
order to get the actual world of experience, into which 
differences enter as well as unity, Fichte has to take two 
further steps. The Ego also affirms or sets up a not-self, 
or object, and by so doing it establishes a check or limit to 
the self. For concrete knowledge, then, the self and the 
world now stand mutually limiting each other; and yet, 
once more, they both go back to the same source the 
creative activity of the Ego. 

Fichte's thesis is, then, that the deepest fact in the uni- 
verse is free Spirit, and that the world is the creation of 
Spirit, instead of being, as the materialist would hold, its 
source. But now there is an obvious question that arises. 
Why should the Ego thus set up an external world to limit 
itself ? Why not be content with its original infinity and 
indeterminateness ? The answer that Fichte gives will 
bring up another and a specially characteristic side of his 
philosophy. Here also he goes back to Kant, this time to 
Kant's doctrine of the supremacy of the moral will. It is 
because man is fundamentally an active moral being, that 
he finds it necessary to set up an outer world. For the 
moral life implies striving, action ; and this would be im- 
possible, if the will were simply infinite and unlimited. It 
must, to become conscious of itself, set for itself a limit, 
in order that then it may overcome this limit. The world 
is the stuff of moral action, the material which the will 
creates, to give itself a field for its endeavor. " Not merely 
to know, but according to thy knowledge to do, is thy 
vocation." The answer to the question: Do things exist? 

444 ^ Student's History of Philosophy 

resolves itself simply into this: I have certain duties to be 
fulfilled by means of certain materials. My world is the ob- 
ject and sphere of my duties, and absolutely nothing more. 

But it is, then, I myself, the particular individual, Johann 
Gottlieb Fichte, who created the world I seem to find about 
me? It is the weakness of Fichte' s system that his start- 
ing-point, and many of his aguments, seem to lead to this; 
but undoubtedly it is not what he intends. The Absolute 
Ego is very different from the individual self, though the 
relation of the two is far from being clear. Apparently, 
the Absolute is not a personal God. Rather it is the moral 
order of the world, which works in and through the appar- 
ently separate striving selves. Such a " moral idealism " 
has a counterpart, without the metaphysical groundwork, 
in Matthew Arnold's "power that makes for righteous- 
ness," and his conception of conduct as the greater part of 
life ; while in Carlyle the essential spirit of Fichte is even 
more completely reproduced. 

3. Schelling. Apart from the question as to the satis- 
factoriness of a moral ideal, which involves the setting up 
of a world simply for the sake of knocking it down again, 
Fichte's philosophy is evidently too easy-going in its treat- 
ment of the world of nature. In Schelling (1775-1854) 
this side of the philosophical problem again assumes an 
independent importance, though with no very solid results. 
Schelling started in as a disciple of Fichte, but the same 
thing happens as in the case of Fichte and Kant the 
disciple goes beyond his master, until the latter finds it 
necessary to repudiate him. The feeling that the world of 
nature needed a more elaborate treatment than was given 
by merely postulating it as the material of the moral life 
a feeling fostered by Schelling' s connection with the 
Romantic School of German poetry led him to attempt 
such a treatment, by trying to point out, in a semi-poetical 
way, the traces of intelligence, of the Idea, in natural pro- 
cesses and forms. But this gives rise to a dualism which 
threatened to pass into a contradiction. On the one side, 

German Idealism 445 

nature is taken as a product of intelligence, the creation of 
the Ego ; while on the other, intelligence, in man, itself 
appears as the highest product of the process already 
working in nature. Evidently it was impossible to stop 
long at this point. It was necessary to find some unitary 
principle to account for the origin of both nature and in- 
telligence alike, since the two are now put on an equality. 
And as a consequence, Schelling soon found himself led 
to postulate a common root, in which the differences of 
the two lose themselves in an abstract identity a posi- 
tion to a certain extent suggesting that of Spinoza. 
From this abstraction the night, as Hegel says, in which 
all cows are black it was of course impossible to get the 
concrete facts of experience again. Accordingly, in his 
later philosophy, which took successively a number of 
forms, Schelling is compelled to have recourse to an in- 
creasing mysticism. This later philosophy had, however, 
but little influence ; it is Hegel who takes up the work 
which Schelling had been unable to carry on. 


Fichte, Chief Works : Science of Knowledge (1794) ; Science of Rights 
(1796) ; Science of Ethics (1798). Translations: Kroeger (Science of 
Knowledge, Science of Ethics, Science of Rights) ; Smith (Popular 

Schelling, Chief Work: Transcendental Idealism (1800). 

Everett, Fichte 'j Science of Knowledge. 

Adamson, Fichte. 

Thompson, The Unity of Fichte^s Theory of Knowledge. 

Watson, Schelling^s Transcendental Idealism. 

Seth, Hegelianism and Personality. 

Seth, From Kant to Hegel. 

Leighton, Typical Modern Conceptions of God. 

38. Hegel 

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born at Stuttgart 
in 1770. More, perhaps, than any other of the great phi- 

446 A Student's History of Philosophy 

losophers, his personality is sunk in his work, so that out- 
side of this there is but little of interest in his life. At 
Tubingen, where he entered in 1788, he came in contact 
with the group of young men of which Schelling was the 
leader ; and to him he attached himself as a disciple, though 
Schelling was five years his junior. Among his associates 
he was regarded as a hard worker, but not as particularly 
brilliant. With Schelling, he founded a philosophical 
journal, to which he contributed various articles in defence 
of the Schellingian philosophy. But meanwhile he was 
coming to realize Schelling's deficiencies, and was pa- 
tiently working out the thought which was to render him 
an independent thinker. He broke with Schelling by the 
publication, in 1807, of his first important work, the Phe- 
nomenology of Spirit, in which the weakness of Schell- 
ing's position is somewhat sarcastically criticised. From 
this time on, his life is filled with the laborious working 
out of his great principle, a labor which left him no time 
for participation in the stirring political events that were 
going on about him. His success was soon assured, and 
he passed from Nuremburg to Heidelberg, and from Hei- 
delberg to Berlin, where he became the dictator of the 
German philosophical world. He died in 1831. 

It is a matter of great difficulty to convey a clear notion 
of Hegel's philosophy, by reason not only of the inherent 
obscurities which have given rise to various interpretations 
of its meaning, but also because of its extreme subtilty, and 
of the concrete nature of its content, which covers the 
whole field of experience and history. The following ac- 
count, therefore, will have to be very general in its nature. 

i . The General Nature of HegeVs Philosophy 

I. Perhaps we may get a starting-point for understand- 
ing Hegel's main thought most readily, by saying that it is 
the philosophical expression of the new historical sense. 
The word of experience is a progressive embodiment 

German Idealism 447 

of reason. Now for the man of the Enlightenment, reason 
had been an abstract faculty, existing in the individual, by 
means of which he was able to decide, affirmatively or 
negatively, such questions as might be presented to him, 
the existence, e.g., of God or of matter, the obligatoriness 
of moral law, the foundation of justice and society, or what- 
ever it might be. For reason, accordingly, a thing was 
either true or false, and that was all there was to say ; and 
since the criterion existed within the individual man, he 
was thus capable of pronouncing upon the Tightness or 
wrongness of all human opinions and institutions immedi- 
ately, on abstract theoretical grounds. 

The historical method has changed all this. Instead of 
leading us to judge everything by the particular standard 
which happens to appeal to us as rational, it says : A thing 
is to be judged by its surroundings, its environment, and 
the part within this which it has to play; we must put 
ourselves actually in the place of the reality which we 
wish to estimate. In other words, instead of reason being 
an external criterion, it exists only as embodied in the phe- 
nomena of experience itself. We are not to set up a stand- 
ard of our own by which to judge things ; we have only 
to watch experience unfold, and detect, if we can, the laws 
involved in this unfolding. Reason is objective in things, 
not subjective in ourselves. Reality exists, and that reality 
reveals itself in history. It is our part to accept it and try 
to discover its meaning, not to condemn or praise. A thing 
is condemned only by the logic of events ; and even this 
means only that it no longer is able to perform its func- 
tion, not that it did not once have a function which was its 
sufficient justification. We can understand reality, there- 
fore, only by taking it in all its concreteness, not by mak- 
ing abstract statements about it. Philosophers have argued, 
perhaps, that there is a God ; but of what value is such an 
abstract assertion ? It has no meaning until we give it a 
content, and that content is nothing less than the concrete 
reality of life and history. Unless it lies wholly apart from 

448 A Student's History of Philosophy 

God, this is a manifestation of Him. The more we know 
of it, the more we know what He is; and the less we 
know, the less we know Him. 

Now Hegel's contention is that experience is such a 
system of reason with its own laws ; and his whole phi- 
losophy is an endeavor to unfold and explicate these. This 
is what he means by his assertion that Thought and Reality 
are identical. This statement has sometimes been taken 
to mean, either that our individual thoughts are the sole 
reality, or that reality is a set of abstractions, opposed to 
all sense and feeling elements. The first of these inter- 
pretations is evidently absurd, and Hegel has not the least 
intention of affirming it, although the relation of human 
thought to the ultimate Thought involves difficulties which 
perhaps he does not sufficiently consider. Nor, again, does 
he mean that reality is a system of abstract thought con- 
cepts ; for him, concrete experience is the starting-point 
and the end. But this experience is rational throughout. 
Every element of experience is connected by relations with 
a rational whole, in which it has a definite place, and which 
enables it to be thought understandingly. Each step 
exists only as it is intelligibly set in this larger frame- 
work ; and its existence and its intelligibility are one. The 
reality of a thing is just its possession of significance, of 
meaning, for the great process of experience into which it 

And so, too, reality is absolutely coextensive with this 
system of significant experience. There is no opaque 
thing-in-itself lying beyond experience, no transcendent 
truth to be reached by an abstract reasoning process, dis- 
tinct from the reason that is in things themselves. That 
which does not enter into experience is for us nothing at 
all. The system of experience itself is reality, is God; 
and God thus is the most certain thing in the world, im- 
plicated in the existence of any reality whatsoever. The 
course of history is the process, not simply by which man 
comes to a consciousness of God and of the world, but 

German Idealism 449 

that by which God comes to a consciousness of Himself. 
Spirit, then, and the laws of Spirit, are the real essence of 
the universe, in terms of which everything whatsoever is to 
be understood. We have no need to go out of our experi- 
ence to find the truth of reality. Reality is present in this 
very partial experience of mine ; it is the process as such, 
of which my present life, and the life of each individual, 
is but a moment or stage. 

The problem of philosophy is, then, to show the mean- 
ing of each factor of experience that has ever revealed 
itself to man, through its relation to the rational whole to 
which it belongs. The question which Kant left unsolved, 
the question how the various parts of experience fit to- 
gether must be renewed ; and instead of leaving these 
parts in opposition, their organic relationship must be 
shown. And the instrument by which this is brought 
about is the concept of development a development in 
which the oppositions and contradictions of the world are 
not denied and annulled, but combined in a richer whole, 
which gives them each a relative validity. This gives the 
schema of Hegel's dialectic method a schema of three 
stages, in which thesis is followed by antithesis, and that 
again by the synthesis which includes them both. That 
which at first we take as immediate and complete in itself, 
presently, by reason of the fact that it is not such a com- 
plete whole, but only a part of the entire reality, shows its 
incompleteness by passing into its opposite ; and then fol- 
lows the process of reconciliation, through which both sides 
get their rights. Every partial truth is thus preserved, 
and enters into the final truth of reality ; but it enters only 
as a part, an aspect, and not as self-sufficient and complete. 

What Hegel has in mind is abundantly in evidence in 
the history of the intellectual experience. Most of us have 
had occasion to recognize the fact that any ordinary truth, 
if pushed too far, taken too absolutely, is apt to lead to 
contradictions ; and that these contrary considerations have 
to be kept in mind as limits or qualifications before we can 


4 SO A Student's History of Philosophy 

reach any settled conclusion. Thus, for example, in the 
practical realm, if I press too much what I call my abstract 
rights, it is almost certain to lead me into wrong, or injus- 
tice; concrete justice commonly means a balancing, a com- 
promise. Or we may think of examples such as have al- 
ready presented themselves on a large scale in the history 
of thought. Thus the principle of authority and obedience 
in the Middle Ages passed, by a natural reaction, into the 
contradictory and equally one-sided principle of lawless 
and arbitrary freedom of the individual in the Enlighten- 
ment. The solution does not lie in denying either princi- 
ple, but in combining them both in the conception of 
concrete freedom, a freedom which is not the mere 
abstract possibility of doing anything, but which realizes 
itself by limiting itself, by turning its undefined possibili- 
ties into definite channels, and so by submitting itself to 
the conditions and laws which are needed to accomplish 
anything actual. The mental temper which insists upon 
taking things in their isolation, which cannot see more than 
one side of a truth at a time, which prides itself on being 
clear cut and downright in its thinking, and will always 
have it either that a thing is so, or that it is not so, without 
compromise or limitation, represents what Hegel calls the 
understanding, whereas that more comprehensive and ade- 
quate way of looking at things in their relationships, their 
many-sidedness, he distinguishes as reason. 

The central thought of Hegel is, accordingly, that only 
the whole is real. He is entering a protest against one- 
sidedness and incompleteness. The partial fact is only an 
abstraction, which needs to be brought into connection with 
the whole in order to gain validity. Reality is not any par- 
ticular stage of development, nor even the end of develop- 
ment as a finished result ; it is the process of development 
itself in its entirety the concrete universal. "The bud 
disappears in the bursting forth of the blossom, and it may 
be said that the one is contradicted by the other ; by the 
fruit, again, the blossom is declared to be a false existence 

German Idealism 451 

in the plant, and the fruit is judged to be its truth in the 
place of the flower. These forms not only distinguish 
themselves from one another, but likewise displace one 
another as mutually incompatible. But their transient and 
changing condition also converts them into moments in an 
organic unity, in which not alone do they not conflict, but 
in which one is as necessary as the other ; and this very 
necessity first constitutes the life of the whole." 1 

2. Accordingly, in his philosophical system, Hegel at- 
tempts to explicate the reason that is in the world, by 
applying his method to the content of experience. He 
starts with a Logic. Here, beginning with the abstractest 
concept possible the concept of Being Hegel tries to 
show that the categories, or thought terms, which we use 
in thinking the world terms such as quantity and qual- 
ity, substance and causality, essence, existence, and the 
like belong to a connected system of thought. They 
pass one into another by a dialectical process, until they cul- 
minate at last in the complete notion which includes them 
all. This is essentially the notion of self-consciousness, 
which thus remains the supreme category for interpret- 
ing the world. Next we have the Philosophy of Nature, 
in which this same Reason is examined in the form in 
which it becomes externalized in the objective world. The 
Reason which is present in nature advances, by one step 
after another, from the purely mechanical realm, until it 
attains its highest form in the human body; and this 
serves as a transition to the Philosophy of Mind, or Spirit. 
Here again there are three stages: the merely Subjective 
Mind, as it is dealt with by Anthropology and Psychol- 
ogy ; Objective Mind, as it actualizes itself in objective 
social institutions ; and Absolute Spirit, where Spirit 
finally attains to complete self-consciousness, and to the 
unity of the subjective and the objective, in Art, Religion, 

1 Quoted from Wisdom and Religion of a German Philosopher. (Paul, 
Trench, Trubner & Co.) 

452 A Student's History of Philosophy 

and Philosophy. Such, briefly, is the course which devel- 
opment pursues. 

But now the question arises as to the sense in which 
Hegel intends this development to be taken. Is it a true 
development, a process which goes on in reality itself ? 
There are difficult questions involved in an interpretation of 
Hegel here. Perhaps the simplest and clearest way would 
be to suppose that we have to do merely with a logical 
process in our own minds. If we take a certain concept as 
complete, then by reference to the completer reality of our 
knowledge, it shows its partial nature, and leads us on to 
its connection with this larger fact of which it is a part. 
This, however, hardly does justice to all of Hegel's claims ; 
and it seems not to cover fully a large portion of his work, 
which is concerned with the actual experience of mankind, 
and in which he is dealing with what most certainly is a 
true development. In the philosophy of history, e.g., or 
of religion, or in the history of philosophy, the reference 
to the concrete growth of human knowledge and experience 
is not a matter of option, but essential and fundamental. 
It is doubtful whether Hegel can be made wholly consist- 
ent and intelligible ; whether in his eagerness for system 
he has not brought together conflicting motives without a 
real reconciliation. In the end, he undoubtedly means to 
deny that actual development in time is the final truth of 
things. The end must somehow be present in the earlier 
stages, must somehow be eternally complete and non-tem- 
poral. But how our concrete experience, which assuredly 
is in some real sense a growth, connects with this absolute 
reality, or how it stands related to the conceptual devel- 
opment of the Logic, Hegel does not very satisfactorily 
clear up. 

2. The Stages in the Development of Spirit 

I. Logic. The Logic represents probably Hegel's 
greatest work. But its nature is such that no brief sum- 

German .Idealism 453 

mary can give any real understanding of it. Its value lies 
in the acute analysis, in detail, to which it subjects the 
chief concepts we are accustomed to use in thinking the 
world, and the bringing to light of their essentially relative 
character, the limitations which attend their application, 
and their final interpretation in the light of mind as a self- 
conscious and unitary organism. It begins with the sim- 
plest possible category that of Being. That it is, 
represents the very least we can say of anything. But 
now just because it is so very abstract, we cannot stop 
with it. To say a thing is, and no more, is practically to 
say nothing at all ; Being passes into its opposite Not- 
Being, or Nothing. And then the one-sidedness of both 
terms leads to the third member of the triad Becoming, 
which includes within itself the truth of each. This 
represents the general process by which Hegel seeks to 
unfold the entire content of the thought life. The Logic 
as a whole falls into three sections. The first, which is 
called the doctrine of Being, represents roughly the realm 
of immediate, unanalyzed knowledge, and includes, beside 
Being, such categories as Quality and Quantity, which 
come to us apparently as immediate fact. The second 
section bears the name of Essence, and is perhaps the most 
important and enlightening of the three. It deals with the 
concepts used in ordinary scientific analysis and explana- 
tion, in which the fact is no longer taken immediately, but 
is referred to something else as its ground ; and it includes 
the categories of identity and difference, ground and con- 
sequence, essence and phenomenon, substance and attri- 
butes, cause and effect, and the like. Hegel is very 
successful in pointing out here the difficulties into which 
we get when we try to take these terms as standing for 
separate things, when, for example, we attempt to under- 
stand reality, or substance, as behind and distinct from its 
appearances, or its qualities, instead of having its nature 
actually expressed in these. The third section that of 
the Notion reveals the higher truth of the other two, by 

454 A Student's History of Philosophy 

bringing them into relation to the teleological unity of self- 
conscious thought, or Spirit. 

2. Philosophy of Nature and Subjective Mind. We 
may turn next, then, to the more concrete application of 
this logical framework to reality. And the Philosophy of 
Nature I shall not attempt to consider. Nature is, indeed, 
a necessary factor in the growth of Spirit, for which the 
natural environment furnishes the plastic material of its 
own self-expression. But the relation of Nature to the 
rest of Hegel's system is extremely obscure, while the 
treatment which it gets is confessedly the weakest part of 
his whole philosophy. We can pass at once, therefore, to 
the Philosophy of Spirit. In Subjective Spirit, Hegel 
treats man purely as a part of nature, a thing in the world 
which, though possessed of consciousness, is essentially one 
thing among others. This is the field which is occupied 
by what are called the sciences of Anthropology and 
Psychology. It will not be necessary to dwell upon this, 
the least important of the divisions of Spirit. In Objec- 
tive Spirit, this inner life is given content in the form of 
institutions, which at first appear foreign to the individual, 
imposed upon him from without, but which nevertheless 
have their real justification in their spiritual character, as 
an expression of man's true self, apart from which his life 
would have no real content. 

3. Objective Mind, (a) Philosophy of Law, Ethics, So- 
ciety. Now we must remember and this Hegel sets 
himself to show in detail that the reality and true 
ground of all philosophy of the social and ethical life is 
not in purely objective laws, to be gathered from institu- 
tions as such, nor yet in purely individual motives, consti- 
tuting the morality of the private conscience, but rather 
in the concrete life of man in society, as a progressive 
revelation and realization of man's nature. Accordingly, 
when we begin with abstract right, we are not to think, as, 
e.g., the French Revolutionists did, that the whole social 
problem can be solved by reference to certain inherent 

German Idealism 455 

rights, assumed dogmatically, which belong to the essence 
of man as a being distinct from the social whole. We 
may, indeed, take the standpoint from which the human will 
is looked upon as existing in itself, over against a world of 
relations into which it has not yet entered, but we are 
not to suppose that this is the real man ; the conception 
is merely abstract and formal. However, for theoretical 
purposes, we may suppose such a formal power of enter- 
ing into relations, which are as yet undetermined ; and the 
possessor of such a formal freedom is in legal terms a per- 
son. Personality is thus the abstract basis of abstract right, 
or law. Such law, by reason of its abstract character, is 
necessarily only negative, made up of " Thou shalt nots " ; 
it has no content, no concrete existence. To become real, 
it must enter concretely into a relation to the objective world 
which confronts it. That by which the will gives itself a 
real standing, an objective existence, is possession or prop- 
erty. And it is, accordingly, with what this act involves, 
that abstract law is concerned. 

Property, then, is an object, in so far as it has come, 
through seizure, use, and alienation, into relation to a 
human will, and been made an attribute of a " me " ; it is 
objectified will. It is thus a necessity of concrete freedom, 
and is proportionately sacred. It is to be noticed, how- 
ever, that abstract law says nothing as to what or how 
much property any individual should possess in any or- 
ganic state, where differences are implied ; its abstract 
equality does not mean a natural right to equality. This 
is the fault in the reasoning of the Revolutionists. But 
now this property relation is not really established, except 
as my right is recognized and allowed by my neighbor. It 
involves not simply my will, but the consenting will of an- 
other, and thus is the objectification of this common will. 
The relation between things becomes the relation between 
wills. Persons are related to each other through their 
properties; they can hold property only as they also 
respect each other's property. 

456 A Student's History of Philosophy 

This obj edification of the common will forms the basis 
of contract a fact which, it is to be noticed, lies at the 
bottom, not of all social relationships whatever, as earlier 
philosophers had thought, but only of our relationships to 
particular external things, which are not intrinsically con- 
nected with the will. It is entirely different in the case of 
institutions which, like marriage, are an expression of the 
essential nature of man. As, therefore, contracts are arbi- 
trary and accidental, there is no guarantee against their 
passing into injustice or wrong. This may take the form 
of unconscious wrong, or of fraud, or of crime, by which, 
through my property, violence is used upon my will. But 
since freedom is the basis of all right, by attacking the 
freedom of another, the criminal is attacking himself and 
his own right ; his act is self-contradictory and self-destruc- 
tive, and force may legitimately be used to defeat it. 

This is the foundation of the right of compulsion. And 
as the crime exists, not in the external world, but in the 
will of the criminal, compulsion thus appears as punish- 
ment the reaction, upon the will of the perpetrator, of 
his criminal act, so that its essential self-contradictoriness 
comes home to him. The punishment is the completion of 
his own act, and is called for by justice to the criminal 
himself. The offender, in receiving punishment, is really 
being treated simply with the honor due to a presumptively 
rational being. But such a reaction should not be in turn 
arbitrary and individual that is but adding one wrong to 
another ; it should proceed from a reflective interpretation 
of the principle that is involved. Here, therefore, is a de- 
mand for a particular will that can, at the same time, will 
the universal ; and thus we rise to the stage of subjective, 
reflective will, or morality. 

In Morality man becomes aware of the universal char- 
acter of those acts which hitherto he has performed unreflec- 
tively, and so with the possibility of discord ; his acts are 
brought home to the conscience. But Conscience, so long 
as it remains at the stage of mere self-determination, is still 

German Idealism 457 

incomplete. I may will the Good, but who shall tell me 
what the Good really is ? " Duty for duty's sake," " Do 
right though the heavens fall," sound very well ; but what 
is right, and what is duty, in any particular case ? Thus 
in the popular sense, Conscience often comes to mean sim- 
ply what my particular desires or unintelligent prejudices 
impel me to do. The action is the result of mere blind 
feeling, and may as well be bad as right. There is need 
not only of a self-determination, but of a self-determination 
by reference to an objective standard. I transform the 
realm of subjective morality into true ethical life, only as 
I give up a purely individual private judgment, whose logi- 
cal issue is anarchy, and become a member of an objec- 
tively constituted society, whose authority I acknowledge 
as guide, and whose institutions and customs I accept as 
giving enlightenment, control, and definiteness to my moral 

Here, in the ethical relations of the family, civil society, 
the state, and, finally, humanity, the true life and freedom 
of the will is concretely realized. Abstract rights, and ab- 
stract duties, become concrete and specific, and thereby 
the individual liberates and elevates himself to real or sub- 
stantial freedom. Only in society does man really exist, 
really win the actual attainment of selfhood and individual- 
ity, which are his birthright. It is in the family that the 
individual first comes to himself an institution no longer 
by contract, but by the grace of God. The principle of the 
family is love, which includes all the members, and unites 
them by a living bond. The Family involves (i) marriage, 
in which the physical union is transformed into a spiritual 
one. The two persons submit to limitations, in order to 
gain fuller self-realization ; only in marriage does man find 
his completion. (2) The family property, which gains now 
an ethical value by becoming common property. (3) The 
education of the children to maturity. 

And this forms the transition to the second stage of the 
ethical world civil society ; for the Family is inadequate 

458 A Student's History of Philosophy 

to the full nature of man. As the children leave the home, 
and families separate, the need arises for another and 
higher unity, to bring together this newly emerging inde- 
pendence. In its first phase, this takes the aspect of an 
external power, by which the conflicting interests of indi- 
viduals are restrained, and a field for their activity secured. 
It is society on the side of government, and represents that 
ideal of society which the Enlightenment brought to the 
front. Men are really separate existences, possessing pri- 
vate interests, and bound to aggrandize themselves to the 
top of their power. But since, if unrestrained liberty were 
allowed, these conflicting interests would clash, it is desir- 
able to give up a certain amount of liberty, in so far as it 
conflicts with the liberty of others, in order to gain the ad- 
vantage of the resulting security. Government is thus a 
police arrangement, which brings men into outer harmony, 
but adopts the policy of laissezfaire in all other directions. 
Under this head, Hegel takes up various organs and func- 
tions of civil society, and shows how, underneath them all, 
the real motive force revealing itself is not such an abstract 
conception of government, but rather the ideal which finds 
its expression in the truer reality of the State or Nation. 

It is this latter reality, as the organic unity of the feel- 
ings, customs, and genius of a people, immanent in their 
whole activity, a moral personality, a temple whose build- 
ing is of living stones, the work of God in history realizing 
the moral order of the world, which represents the frui- 
tion and consummation of the moral life of humanity, and 
makes man for the first time truly human. The State is 
the true end of man, not merely a means. It is the recon- 
ciliation of the private interests of the individual with the 
universal aims, the interest of the public. As such, it 
does not repress personality, as did the ancient state ; 
rather it builds upon it. But personality is not mere in- 
dividualism. The true person is a social person, who has 
his rights and his duties only as a member of society. As 
such, his rights and his duty are identical. Duty is not 

German Idealism 459 

imposed upon him by authority, but only by accomplishing 
it does he find self-satisfaction. And duty exists only with 
reference to those expressions of the universal will which 
have been objectified in law and custom. The striving 
for a morality of one's own is futile, and by its very nature 
impossible of attainment. In regard to morality the say- 
ing of the wisest man of antiquity is the only true one : 
to be moral is to live in accordance with the moral tradi- 
tions of one's country. These traditions are but the pro- 
gressive revelation of the universal will, or spirit of the 
national genius ; to alter them, one must not set himself 
outside them as a judge, on the basis of his own private 
conscience, but must rather act from within, as the organ 
of the immanent Spirit advancing to a more complete 

This idea of the state, Hegel considers (i) in its im- 
mediate existence in the individual state ; (2) in the relation 
of the single state to other states external polity ; and 
(3) as the universal Spirit of Humanity, superior to the 
individual state, and realizing itself in the process of history. 
As regards the internal constitution of the State, the essen- 
tial principle is the organic relation of powers in a unity, 
not the mechanical aggregate of mutual " checks," which 
is the theory that the purely negative conception of gov- 
ernment leads to. These essential factors are (i) the 
power to define and determine the universal in the form 
of law the Legislative power; (2) the power to apply 
this universal in particular spheres and to single cases 
the governing or Executive power; and (3) the power of 
ultimate decision the power of the Prince in which 
the different powers are brought together into an individual 
unity. The highest form of the State, accordingly, Hegel 
finds in the Constitutional Monarchy. 

() Philosophy of History. As the human being is 
not a person except in relation to other persons, so the 
State is not an individual save in relation to other states ; 
and the highest phase of this, when it becomes internal- 

460 A Student's History of Philosophy 

ized, is found in that organic relation which constitutes 
the History of Humanity. In his Philosophy of History, 
which is one of Hegel's most characteristic and most 
interesting works, he tries to unfold the "grand argument 
of human existence," to trace the law of development 
which runs through the whole past life of the race, to 
discover the particular genius which each great world 
power has displayed, and to relate this to the all-compre- 
hending Idea, which is immanent in the entire process. 

What, then, is the plot of this great drama ? Briefly, 
History is progress in the consciousness of rational freedom. 
It is the discipline of the uncontrolled natural will, bringing 
it into obedience to a universal principle. In its first form, 
in Asia, Spirit is still immersed in Nature. Law and 
morality are regarded as something fixed and external ; they 
need not concur with the desire of the individual, and the 
subjects are consequently like children, who obey their 
parents without will and insight of their own. In the law 
men recognize not their own will, but one entirely foreign. 
Justice is administered only on the basis of external 
morality, and Government exists only as the prerogative of 
compulsion. So, also, Religion and the State are not 
distinguished, and the constitution generally is a Theocracy. 
This is the childhood of History. 

The Greek world may be compared with the period 
of adolescence, for here we have individualities forming 
themselves. This is the second main principle in human 
history. In China the subject obeys an absolute fixed law, 
with reference to which his own will is external and wholly 
dependent, a mere accident. In Greece, the principle of 
universality is impressed upon the individual himself, and he 
finds himself in immediate harmony with the outer expres- 
sion of this in Nature and the State ; he himself wills that 
which is laid on the Oriental as an external constraint. In 
opposition, then, to the absorption in Nature of the 
Oriental world, the Greeks transform the natural into an 
expression of spiritual truth. But since the freedom of 

German Idealism 461 

Spirit is conditioned by some stimulus which Nature sup- 
plies, spirituality is not yet absolutely free, not yet abso- 
lutely self -produced is not self-stimulation. The idea is 
not yet regarded abstractly, but is immediately bound up 
with the real, as in a beautiful work of art. The Greek 
Spirit is the plastic artist, forming the stone into a work of 
art. The artist needs for his spiritual conceptions, stone, 
colors, sensuous forms, to express his idea. Without such 
an element, he can no more be conscious of his idea him- 
self, than give it an objective form for the contemplation of 
others, since it cannot in thought alone become an object 
to him. 

The Greek Spirit was not enduring, because the Idea 
was too closely bound up with a particular material form; 
it was not yet recognized as purely spiritual. In the next 
phase of history the Idea becomes separated as an abstract 
universality (in which the social aim absorbs all individ- 
ual aims). This is the Roman State, which represents the 
severe labors of the manhood of history. The State begins 
to have an abstract existence, and to develop itself for a 
definite object ; and in doing this there is involved a rec- 
ognition of its members as abstract individuals as 
persons with definite rights before the law. But while 
individuals have a share in the end of the State, it is 
not a complete and concrete one, calling their whole being 
into play. Free individuals are sacrificed to the demands 
of the national objects. The geniality and joy of soul 
that existed in the Athenian Polis have given place to 
harsh and vigorous toil. Free, complete, substantial free- 
dom is attained only in the fourth phase of world 
history the German. This would answer, in the com- 
parison with the periods of human life, to its old age. 
But while the old age of Nature is weakness, that of Spirit 
is its perfect maturity and strength. Freedom has found 
the means of realizing its ideal its true existence. 

4. Absolute Mind, (a) Art. But the State still does not 
represent the full experience of man, and political life is not 

462 A Student's History of Philosophy 

his highest and truest activity ; complete freedom he can 
find only in the life of Spirit as such. Above, then, the life 
of the State, there exist the free realms of Art, Religion, and 
Philosophy, in which the opposition of the outer and the 
inner is overcome still more completely, and man sees him- 
self at last as he truly is pure Spirit. In Art we see 
the triumph of the idea over matter anticipated. The 
material of the artist bodies forth the idea which he means 
to express immediately, without the intervention of the 
discursive reason. But still the material which the idea 
employs is not perfectly plastic ; and this greater or less 
rebelliousness of character furnishes the basis for the dis- 
tinction between the various arts. In architecture, the ele- 
mentary stage, idea and form are still distinct, and the 
latter only symbolizes the former. So the cathedral may 
symbolize religious aspiration, but it is still far removed 
from the idea for which it stands. By its vast proportions 
it may express solemnity and grandeur, but it cannot sug- 
gest the finer shades of feeling. 

This dualism partly disappears in sculpture. Sculpture 
has this in common with architecture, that it employs as 
its material gross matter ; but it is more capable of trans- 
forming and spiritualizing this. It is able to utilize every- 
thing, instead of leaving many details which are unessential 
to the idea, as in architecture. But it cannot represent 
the soul itself as revealed in the eye ; this belongs to paint- 
ing. In painting, also, the material is somewhat less 
gross; it is the plane surface, in which depth is repre- 
sented only by appearance. It is still, however, objective 
art, still bound to matter, and so, like architecture and 
sculpture, incapable of expressing anything beyond a 
moment of life. This limitation is overcome in music, 
the subjective, immaterial art, which can reproduce all 
the infinite variety of the inner life. But its subjectivity 
is likewise a limitation. Music also symbolizes, and so is 
capable of various interpretations. The union of the sub- 
jective and the objective is brought about in the art of arts 

German Idealism 463 

poetry. Poetry converts the vague and indefinite sound 
which is the material of music, into articulate and definite 
sound language in which the material is wholly sub- 
ordinated to the idea, and so becomes adequate. Poetry 
sums up in itself all the other arts : epic poetry corresponds 
to the material arts ; lyric poetry to music; while the crown 
of all, reconciling the two, and constituting the supreme 
artistic expression of the highest civilization, is dramatic 

On the historical side, Oriental art is symbolical, de- 
lighting in allegories and parables, and shows its inability 
to cope with its material by its lack of form, and fondness 
for exaggeration. In Greek art, symbolism is superseded 
by direct expression, in which matter and idea perfectly 
coincide ; but Greek art is defective through its very per- 
fection. The idea is so completely identified with its 
matter, that it becomes purely naturalistic ; the spiritual 
character of the idea is sacrificed to mere physical beauty. 
This fault is corrected in Christian art. Here art is re- 
called from the physical world, and the ideal of physical 
beauty is subordinated to that of spiritual beauty the 
worship of the Virgin follows the cultus of Venus. But 
just because the moral ideal is so far beyond the power 
of matter to embody, Christian art, despairing of ade- 
quately expressing it, lapses into the contempt of form 
which characterizes Romanticism. 

(b) Religion and Philosophy. That identification of 
thought and the object, of the finite and the infinite, 
which receives a partial expression in art, is raised to a 
higher power in religion. Here, again, there is no ques- 
tion, for Hegel, of proving the reality of God, and the truth 
of religion, in the ordinary sense. He is interested rather 
in the explication of that religious experience, which for 
him is identical with God. The religious experience exists 
as a fact given to philosophy to understand, not to create ; 
and since God has His existence within experience, not 
outside of it, the more supreme and comprehensive experi- 

464 A Student's History of Philosophy 

ence is, the more adequately God is revealed in it. Accord- 
ingly, Hegel has no patience with the temper of the 
Enlightenment, which would reject positive religions as 
false and man-made, and confine its religious beliefs to 
a few abstract dogmas of Deism. Religion exists just in 
the process of religious development ; and the stages 
of this development are to be interpreted, not judged, 
except as they are judged by the further historical develop- 
ment which passes beyond them. 

The failure of art to embody the Idea fully, gives rise 
to a new dualism the religious dualism of the finite and 
the infinite ; and the progress of religion is the healing of 
this separation. The three elements of the religious idea 

God, man, and the relation between them underlie 
the successive stages of religious development. In Ori- 
ental religions, the idea of the infinite prevails. God is 
every thing (Pantheism), and man is nothing. God is what 
the despot is in the political sphere an all-potent being, 
upon whose will men are wholly dependent, so that noth- 
ing is left for man but submission. The religion of the 
Greek, on. the contrary, is a religion of naturalism, and 
the finite. Man is the final object of his worship. His 
gods are essentially human attributes concretely em- 
bodied, and raised by art to the position of types. 

These two extremes are reconciled in Christianity, the 
absolute religion, for which the important thing is neither 
God by Himself, nor man by himself, but the concrete 
unity of the divine and human in Christ the God-man. 
Christianity finds God, the infinite, implicated in the finite 

in human consciousness, and the process of the world. 
Its dogmas, however, are to be taken in this way as 
shadowing forth in terms of the imagination the eternal 
progress of the Idea not as metaphysical truth, nor as 
the statement of historical facts that happened eighteen 
hundred years ago. And for this reason that religion 
is still in the realm of imaginative representation there 
is a higher stage still. The truths which are but shadowed 

German Idealism 465 

forth in religion, get their clear, rational statement the 
Idea comes to a full consciousness of itself in that de- 
velopment of pure thought which constitutes the History 
of Philosophy, and which has its outcome in the philosophy 
of Hegel. 

$. Defects of Hegel's Philosophy. Hegel's claim, that 
at last the absolute had attained to full self-consciousness, 
was hardly borne out by subsequent events. His influ- 
ence, supreme at his death, was not destined to continue 
long unchecked. Within his own school there was pres- 
ently a split over the interpretation of his attitude toward 
religious problems; while without, opponents sprang up 
on every side, among whom Herbart may be specially 
mentioned. The opposing forces were for a time success- 
ful, and in the reaction, an exaggerated admiration gave 
place to an equally extreme disparagement. We may 
note, briefly, the chief weaknesses in Hegel's system, 
which brought about this result. 

And first, while his attempt to show the rationality of all 
reality constitutes one of the main excellences of Hegel, there 
can be no doubt that he exaggerated the extent to which 
this rationality is a transparent one for human thought, 
and its logically necessary character. If we were to judge 
by many of the utterances of Hegel and his disciples, all 
mystery is at last dispelled in the clear light of reason, 
and the whole course of creation may be watched, as it 
moves with logical necessity from one step to the next. 
In opposition to this extreme and presumptuous gnosti- 
cism, Kant, and his limitation of the human faculties to 
mere phenomena, proved a welcome relief. The sense 
of the ultimate mystery of things, the recognition of man's 
dependence on a reality beyond him, and of the insuffi- 
ciency of anything that he can call knowledge to measure 
the immensity of existence, the pressure of the facts of 
evil, sin, and suffering, of which Hegel never showed any ade- 
quate appreciation these things all tended again to come 
to the front. Accordingly, on every side, in opposition 
2 H 

466 A Student's History of Philosophy 

to the gnosticism and logical idealism of Hegel, there have 
arisen the claims of faith, or intuition, as opposed to rea- 
son ; the assertion of ultimate agnosticism ; or even, as in 
Schopenhauer, the insistence on the positive irrationality 
of things, as a final metaphysical creed; while for the 
purely phenomenal knowledge which it is possible to at- 
tain, we are directed to the sober methods of science. 

And it is in particular by this insistence on the claims 
of science, that the more recent thought is marked. It 
was this which served as a chief cause for the discredit 
into which Hegel's philosophy fell. For the spiritual side 
of life, Hegel had done much ; but what of that great 
independent world of things, on which the experience of 
man depends, and which seems at times so indifferent, so 
antagonistic even, to human interests ? Hegel's treatment 
of this had been weak and fanciful, and he had even set 
himself actively against what have proved to be fruitful 
scientific ideas. Before a final philosophical rendering 
could be made, it was necessary to turn once more to the 
objective aspect of the world, and carry out, in all their 
rigor, the^ principles on which science proceeds ; and this 
was the great task of the scientific development which 
dominates the thought of the nineteenth century. 

And, finally, there was a new social spirit coming to 
birth, which Hegel failed also to satisfy. For him, the 
task of philosophy was simply to interpret the movement 
of the Universal Spirit as it had already embodied itself in 
social institutions ; it was not in any sense to prophesy, or 
to construct ideals. The whole effort of Hegel had been 
to show that truth is to be found in the actual, that be- 
tween thought and reality, the ideal and the real, there is 
no separation. Substantial freedom consists in accepting 
the duties of our position in Society as we find it, not in 
setting our finite wills in rebellion against the world spirit. 
To the new temper which was beginning to demand so- 
cial justice, and a reconstitution of society that should 
give something for the mass of men to hope for, and re- 

German Idealism 467 

lieve the sufferings of those with whom the Idea had not 
seen fit to concern itself, Hegel seemed to have nothing to 
say. Indeed, to men of such a temper, he appeared even 
a reactionary one who had found the highest expression 
of human freedom in that latest development of History, 
the corrupt Prussian State of his day, beyond which it was 
idle to attempt to look. 

Without trying, then, to disentangle all the complexity 
of recent philosophical thought, we may consider, briefly, 
three or four of the more representative names and move- 
ments : the return, in Schopenhauer, to the thing-in-itself 
as a reality deeper than experience and thought ; the com- 
bination of scientific method and social amelioration, with 
an ultimate agnosticism, in the Positivism of Comte ; and 
the rise of the theory and philosophy of Evolution in 
Darwin and Spencer. 


Hegel, Chief Works : Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) ; Logic (1816) ; 
Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences (1817) ; Philosophy of Right 
(1821); Philosophy of Religion; Esthetics; Philosophy of History; 
History of Philosophy . Translations: Wallace (Logic, Philosophy of 
Mind) ; Sibree (Philosophy of History) ; Dyde (Philosophy of Right) ; 
Bosanquet, (Philosophy of Art} ; Hastie (Esthetics') ; Haldane (History 
of Philosophy). 

Sterrett, The Ethics of Hegel. 

Stirling, The Secret of Hegel. 

Caird, Hegel. 

Kedney, HegeVs ^Esthetics. 

Morris, HegeFs Philosophy of the State and of History. 

Harris, Hegel's Logic. 

Seth, From Kant to Hegel. 

Seth, Hegelianism and Personality. 

Wallace, Prolegomena to the Study of Hegel. 

McTaggart, Studies in Hegelian Dialectic. 

McTaggart, Studies in Hegelian Cosmology. 

Ritchie, Darwin and Hegel. 

Baillie, Origin and Significance of Hegel's Logic. 

Hibben, HegeVs Logic. 

Mackintosh, Hegel and Hegelianism. 


39. Schopenhauer 

Arthur Schopenhauer was born in 1788. His father died 
when he was a youth, and between himself and his mother, 
who was a popular novelist of the day, so little sympathy 
existed, that they found it desirable to live apart. Scho- 
penhauer's system was conceived early in life, and his chief 
work The World as Will and as Idea was published 
in 1819. The cold reception which it received was a severe 
blow to Schopenhauer's vanity, which was considerable ; 
and it increased his disgust with the reigning philosophy. 
He was thoroughly convinced that there was a conspiracy 
among the school philosophers against him, and he could 
find nothing too disparaging to say of them in turn, par- 
ticularly of Hegel. He had come in contact with Hegel 
at Berlin, where he was appointed Privatdocent in 1820. 
He apparently had cherished hopes that he could easily 
triumph over the great philosopher, whose popularity was 
then at its height; and he deliberately set himself in ri- 
valry, by choosing the same hour for his lectures. When, 
consequently, he found his own lectures unattended, and 
Hegel's classroom thronged, he was greatly disappointed 
and embittered, and finally was led to give up all thought 
of an academic career. The rest of his life was spent in 
quiet at Frankfort-on-the-Main. Toward the close of his 
life, the recognition he had failed of in his youth seemed 
on the point of coming to him. His book began to be 
talked about, and, especially in its pessimism, to find con- 
verts, if not among the technical philosophers, at least 
among the laity. This growing fame soothed his last days. 
He died in 1860. 


Philosophy since Hegel 469 

i. The World as Will. The two notable things about 
Schopenhauer's philosophy are (i) his doctrine of the 
Will as the thing-in-itself, and (2) the way in which he 
founds on this basis the first systematic philosophy of Pes- 
simism. Schopenhauer's whole doctrine relates itself to 
Kant, to whom he professes to go back in opposition to 
the idealistic tendency which culminated in Hegel. Ac- 
cording to Kant, the world as we know it is a phenomenal 
construction of the self. " ' The world is my idea ' this 
is a truth which holds good for everything that lives and 
knows, though man alone can bring it into reflective and 
abstract consciousness. If he really does this, he has 
attained to philosophical wisdom. It then becomes clear 
and certain to him that what he knows is not a sun and 
an earth, but only an eye that sees a sun, a hand that feels 
an earth ; that the world that surrounds him is there 
only as idea, t.e., only in relation to something else the 
consciousness which is himself." * 

But if the world is illusion, appearance, there also exists 
back of it the reality which appears, the thing-in-itself of 
Kant, which Schopenhauer defends vigorously against the 
attacks of the Idealists. Is, however, this thing-in-itself 
unknowable ? Here Schopenhauer ceases to follow Kant's 
leading. It is true we cannot reach it by the pathway of 
the logical reason ; we cannot demonstrate it in the strict 
sense of the word. It is rather the result of an intuition 
of genius. But still we may attain to a highly probable 
conception of its nature. For we ourselves are a part of 
the real universe, and in ourselves we come upon reality at 
first hand, through immediate experience. If, accordingly, 
we can get at our own true nature, we may by analogy 
extend this to other things as well, since it is natural to 
assume that reality is all of a piece. Now the inner essence 
of man's nature is will this is the first insight of Scho- 
penhauer. Man, that is, is not primarily a thinking, an in- 

1 The World as Will and Idea. Translation by Haldane and Kemp, Vol. I, 
p. I . (Paul, Trench, Triibner & Co.) 

470 A Student's History of Philosophy 

tellectual being, as philosophy has tended to assume ; he is 
primarily active, willing. The reality of his own body is 
given to him immediately as will. Will, and the movement 
of the body, are one thing; my body is the objectivity of 
my will. The various parts of the body are the visible 
expression of desires. Teeth, throat, and bowels are objec- 
tified hunger. The brain is the will to know, the foot the 
will to go, the stomach the will to digest. It is only on the 
basis of this active self-expansion that the thought life 
arises. We think in order to do ; the active impulse pre- 
cedes, and is the necessary basis for any conscious motive. 
Now this thought, once attained, throws a flood of light 
on the outer world. The eternally striving, energizing 
power which is working everywhere in the universe in the 
instinct of the animal, in the life process of the plant, in 
the blind force of inorganic matter is not this just the 
will which underlies all existence ? " If we observe the 
strong and unceasing impulse with which the waters hurry 
to the ocean, the persistency with which the magnet turns 
ever to the north pole, the readiness with which iron flies 
to the magnet, the eagerness with which the electric poles 
seek to be reunited, and which, just like human desire, is 
increased by obstacles ; if we see the crystal quickly take 
form with such wonderful regularity of construction, which 
is clearly only a perfectly definite and accurately deter- 
mined impulse in different directions, seized and retained 
by crystallization ; if we observe the choice with which 
bodies repel and attract each other ; lastly, if we feel di- 
rectly how a burden which hampers our body by its gravi- 
tation toward the earth, increasingly presses and strains 
upon it in pursuit of its one tendency, if we observe all 
this, I say, it will require no great effort of the imagination 
to recognize, even at so great a distance, our own nature. 
That which in us pursues its ends by the light of knowl- 
edge, but here, in the weakest of its manifestations, only 
strives blindly and dumbly in a one-sided and unchangeable 
manner, must yet in both cases come under the name of 

Philosophy since Hegel 471 

Will, as it is everywhere one and the same ; just as the 
first dim light of dawn must share the name of sunlight 
with the rays of the full mid-day." a 

Reality, then, is Will, which is one and indivisible. All 
apparent multiplicity is due to those subjective forms of 
merely human thought, which come between us and the 
truth namely, space and time. "As the magic lantern 
shows many different pictures, which are all made visible 
by one and the same light, so in all the multifarious phe- 
nomena which fill the world together, or throng after each 
other as events, only one will manifests itself, of which 
everything is the visibility, the objectivity, and which 
remains unmoved in the midst of this change." 2 But now 
from will we must cut away all that action for intelligent 
ends which characterizes the human will. Intelligence 
is only a surface phenomenon a form which existence 
assumes for the attainment of its hungry striving, but a 
form quite foreign to its real nature. In itself, will is blind 
and irrational. In all its lower aspects it is without knowl- 
edge ; the nests of birds and the webs of spiders are not 
the product of intelligence, but of unforeseeing instinct. 
It is only as its manifestations become more complex, that 
it kindles for itself, in intellect, a light as a means of get- 
ting rid of the disadvantages arising from this complexity. 
The will is thus more original than the intellect ; it is the 
blind man carrying on his shoulders the lame man who 
can see. 

2. The Philosophy of Pessimism. And this gives the 
basis for Schopenhauer's pessimism; it follows from the 
very nature of will. All willing arises from want, and so 
from deficiency, and so from suffering. " The satisfaction 
of a wish ends it, yet for one wish that is satisfied there 
remain at least ten that are denied. Further, the desire 
lasts long, and demands are infinite ; the satisfaction is 
short and scantily measured out. It is like the alms 
thrown Ur a beggar, that keeps him alive to-day, that his 
misery may be prolonged till the morrow. So long as we 
*!,?. 153. 2 1, p. 199. 

472 A Student's History of Philosophy 

are given up to the throng of desires, with their constant 
hopes and fears, so long as we are the subjects of willing, 
we can never have lasting happiness or peace. It is 
essentially all the same whether we pursue or flee, fear in- 
jury or seek enjoyment ; the care for the constant demands 
of the will continually occupies and sways the conscious- 
ness." * The subject of willing thus is constantly stretched 
on the revolving wheel of Ixion, pours water into the sieve 
of the Danaides, is the ever-longing Tantalus. No pos- 
sible satisfaction in the world could suffice to still the 
longings of the will, set a goal to its infinite craving, and 
fill the bottomless abyss of its heart. 

Life itself, therefore, is fundamentally an evil ; as 
Calderon says : The greatest crime of man is that he was 
born. " There is no proportion between the cares and 
troubles of life, and the results or gain of it. In the 
simple and easily surveyed life of the brutes, the empti- 
ness and vanity of the struggle is more easily grasped. 
The variety of the organizations, the ingenuity of the 
means, whereby each is adapted to its element and its 
prey, contrasts here distinctly with the want of any lasting 
final aim ; instead of which there presents itself only 
momentary comfort, fleeting pleasure conditioned by wants, 
much and long suffering, constant strife, bellum omnium, 
each one both a hunter and hunted, pressure, want, need, 
and anxiety, shrieking and howling. And this goes on in 
secula seculorum, or till once again the crust of the planet 

" Let us now add the consideration of the human race. 
Here also life presents itself by no means as a gift for 
enjoyment, but as a task, a drudgery to be performed; 
and in accordance with this we see, in great and small, 
universal need, ceaseless wars, cares, constant pressure, 
endless strife, compulsory activity, with extreme exertion 
of all the powers of mind and body. Many millions, united 
into nations, strive for the common good, each individual 

^.P- 253- 

Philosophy since Hegel 473 

on account of his own ; but many thousands fall as a 
sacrifice for it. Now senseless delusions, now intriguing 
politics, excite them to wars with each other; then the 
sweat and the blood of the great multitude must flow, to 
carry out the ideas of individuals, or to expiate their faults. 
In peace, industry and trade are active, inventions work 
miracles, seas are navigated, delicacies are collected from 
all ends of the world, the waves engulf thousands. All 
strive, some planning, some acting; the tumult is in- 
describable. But the ultimate aim of it all what is it ? 
To sustain ephemeral and tormented individuals through 
a short span of life, in the most fortunate case with endur- 
able want and comparative freedom from pain, which, 
however, is at once attended with ennui ; then the repro- 
duction of this race and its striving. In this evident dis- 
proportion between the trouble and the reward, the will 
to live appears to us from this point of view, if taken ob- 
jectively, as a fool, or subjectively, as a delusion, seized by 
which everything living works with the utmost exertion of 
its strength, for something that is of no value." * 

" The enchantment of distance shows us paradises which 
vanish like optical illusions when we have allowed our- 
selves to be mocked by them. Happiness, accordingly, 
always lies in the future, or else in the past, and the pres- 
ent may be compared to a small dark cloud which the 
wind drives over the sunny plain ; before and behind it 
all is bright, only it itself always casts a shadow." 2 Pleasure 
is merely negative, and only evil is real. We feel pain, 
but not painlessness ; care, but not the absence of care ; 
fear, but not security. Hence all poets are obliged to 
bring their heroes into anxious and painful situations, so 
that they may be able to free them from these. The 
happiest moment of the happy man is the moment of his 
falling asleep. " The earthquake of Lisbon, the earth- 
quake of Haiti, the destruction of Pompeii, are only small 
playful hints of what is possible. A small alteration of 
1 m, pp. ii2ff. * m, P . 383. 

474 ^ Student's History of Philosophy 

the atmosphere causes cholera, yellow fever, black death, 
which carry off millions of men ; a somewhat greater altera- 
tion would extinguish all life. A very moderate increase 
of heat would dry up all the rivers and springs. The 
brutes have received just barely so much in the way of 
organs and powers as enables them to procure, with the 
greatest exertion, sustenance for their own lives, and food 
for their offspring; therefore if a brute loses a limb, or 
even the full use of one, it must generally perish. Even 
of the human race, powerful as are the weapons it pos- 
sesses in understanding and reason, nine-tenths live in 
constant conflict with want, balancing themselves with 
difficulty and effort upon the brink of destruction." * 
" Whence did Dante take the materials for his hell but 
from this our actual world? And yet he made a very 
proper hell of it. And when on the other hand he came 
to the task of describing Heaven and its delights, he had 
an insurmountable difficulty before him, for our world 
affords no material at all for this." 2 

It is wholly impossible, then, to find a purpose or 
meaning in life. Why the whole tragi-comedy exists 
cannot in the least be seen, since it has no spectators, and 
the actors themselves undergo infinite trouble, with little 
and merely negative pleasure. " What, then, is a short 
postponement of death, a slight easing of misery or defer- 
ment of pain, a momentary stilling of desire, compared 
with such an abundant and certain victory over them all 
as death ? What could such advantages accomplish taken 
as active moving causes of a human race, innumerable 
because constantly renewed, which unceasingly moves, 
strives, struggles, grieves, writhes, and performs the whole 
tragi-comedy of the history of the world, nay, what says 
more than all, perseveres in such a mock existence, as long 
as each one possibly can. Clearly this is all inexplicable 
if we seek the moving causes outside the figures, and con- 
ceive the human will as striving in consequence of rational 
i III, P . 396. a I, P . 416. 

Philosophy since Hegel 475 

reflection after those good things held out to it, the attain- 
ment of which would be a sufficient reward for its ceaseless 
cares and troubles. The matter being taken thus, every 
one would rather have long ago said : ' Le jeu ne vaut pas 
la chandelle? and have gone out. But, on the contrary, 
every one guards and defends his life, like a precious 
pledge intrusted to him under heavy responsibility. The 
wherefore and the why, the reward for this, certainly he 
does not see ; but he has accepted the worth of that pledge 
without seeing it, upon trust and faith. The puppets are 
not pulled from without, but each bears in itself the clock- 
work from which its movements result. This is the will 
to live, manifesting itself as an untiring machine, an irra- 
tional tendency, which has not its sufficient reason in the 
external world." 1 It is this blind pressure, without goal or 
motive, which drives us on, and not anything that we can 
rationally justify. "We pursue our life with great interest 
and much solicitude as long as possible ; so we blow out a