CHAPTER VIII. GRECIAN PHILOSOPHY.
The development of Greek philosophy is doubtless one commence-of the most interesting and instructive subjects Grecian in the whole history of mind. In all probability it originated with the Ionian Sophoi, though many suppose it was derived from the East. It is questionable whether the oriental nations had any philosophy distinct from religion. The Germans are fond of tracing resemblances in the early speculations of the Greeks to the systems which prevailed in Asia from a very remote antiquity. Gladish sees in the Pythagorean system an adoption of Chinese doctrines; in the Heraclitic system, the influence of Persia; in the Empedoclean, Egyptian speculations; and in the Anaxagorean, the Jewish creeds. [Footnote: Lewes, Biog. Hist. of Philos., Introd.] But the Orientals had theogonies, not philosophies. The Indian speculations aim to an exposition of ancient revelation. They profess to liberate the soul from the evils of mortal life - to arrive at eternal beatitudes. But the state of perfectibility could only be reached by religious ceremonial observances and devout contemplation. The Indian systems do not disdain logical discussions, or a search after the principles of which the universe is composed; and hence we find great refinements in sophistry, and a wonderful subtlety of logical discussion; but these are directed to unattainable ends, - to the connection of good with evil, and the union of the supreme with nature. Nothing came out of these speculations but an occasional elevation of mind among the learned, and a profound conviction of the misery of man and the obstacles to his perfection. [Footnote: See Archer Butler's fine lecture on the Indian Philosophies.] The Greeks, starting from physical phenomena, went on in successive series of inquiries, until they elevated themselves above matter, above experience, even to the loftiest abstractions, and until they classified the laws of thought. It is curious how speculation led to demonstration, and how inquiries into the world of matter prepared the way for the solution of intellectual phenomena. Philosophy kept pace with geometry, and those who observed nature also gloried in abstruse calculations. Philosophy and mathematics seem to have been allied with the worship of art among the same men, and it is difficult to say which more distinguished them, aesthetic culture or power of abstruse reasoning.
[Water the vital principle of Nature.]
We do not read of any remarkable philosophical inquirer until Thales arose, the first of the Ionian school. He was born at Miletus, a Greek colony in Asia Minor, about the year B.C. 636, when Ancus Martius was king of Rome, and Josiah reigned at Jerusalem. He has left no writings behind him, but he was numbered as one of the seven wise men of Greece. He was numbered with the wise men on account of his political sagacity and wisdom in public affairs. [Footnote: Miller, Hist, of Grec. Lit., ch. xvii.]
"And he, 't is said, did first compute the stars
Which beam in Charles' wain, and guide the bark
Of the Phoenician sailor o'er the sea."