CHAPTER VIII. GRECIAN PHILOSOPHY.
Parmenides of Elea, born about the year B.C. 536, followed out the system of Xenophanes, the central idea of which was the existence of God. With him the central idea was the notion of being. Being is uncreated and unchangeable; the fullness of all being is thought ; the All is thought and intelligence. He maintained the uncertainty of knowledge; but meant the knowledge derived through the senses. He did not deny the certainty of reason. He was the first who drew a distinction between knowledge obtained by the senses, and that obtained through the reason; and thus he anticipated the doctrine of innate ideas. From the uncertainty of knowledge derived through the senses, he deduced the twofold system of true and apparent knowledge. [Footnote: Prof. Brandis's article in Smith's Dictionary.]
[Zeno introduces a new method.]
Zeno of Elea, the friend and pupil of Parmenides, born B.C. 500, brought nothing new to the system, but invented Dialectics, that logic which afterwards became so powerful in the hands of Plato and Aristotle, and so generally admired among the schoolmen. It seeks to establish truth by refuting error by the reductio ad absurdum. While Parmenides sought to establish the doctrine of the One, Zeno proved the non-existence of the Many. He denied that appearances were real existences, but did not deny existences. It was the mission of Zeno to establish the doctrines of his master. But, in order to convince his listeners, he was obliged to use a new method of argument. So he carried on his argumentation by question and answer, and was, therefore, the first who used dialogue as a medium of philosophical communication. [Footnote: Cousin, Nouveaux Fragments Philosophiques.]
[Empedocles. - Love the moving cause of all things.]
Empedocles, born B.C. 444, like others of the Eleatics, complained of the imperfection of the senses, and looked for truth only in reason. He regarded truth as a perfect unity, ruled by love, - the only true force, the one moving cause of all things, - the first creative power by whom the world was formed. Thus "God is love," a sublime doctrine which philosophy revealed to the Greeks.
[The loftiness of the Eleatic philosophers.]
Thus did the Eleatic philosophers speculate almost contemporaneously with the Ionians, on the beginning of things and the origin of knowledge, taking different grounds, and attempting to correct the representations of sense by the notions of reason. But both schools, although they did not establish many truths, raised an inquisitive spirit and awakened freedom of thought and inquiry. They raised up workmen for more enlightened times, even as scholastic inquirers in the Middle Ages prepared the way for the revival of philosophy on sounder principles. They were all men of remarkable elevation of character as well as genius. They hated superstitions and attacked the Anthropomorphism of their day. They handled gods and goddesses with allegorizing boldness, and hence were often persecuted by the people. They did not establish moral truths by scientific processes, but they set examples of lofty disdain of wealth and factitious advantages, and devoted themselves with holy enthusiasm to the solution of the great questions which pertain to God and nature. Thales won the respect of his countrymen by devotion to studies. Pythagoras spent twenty-two years in Egypt to learn its science. Xenophanes wandered over Sicily as a rhapsodist of truth. Parmenides, born to wealth and splendor, forsook the feverish pursuit of sensual enjoyments to contemplate "the quiet and still air of delightful studies." Zeno declined all worldly honors to diffuse the doctrines of his master. Heraclitus refused the chief magistracy of Ephesus that he might have leisure to explore the depths of his own nature. Anaxagoras allowed his patrimony to run to waste in order to solve problems. "To philosophy," said he, "I owe my worldly ruin and my soul's prosperity." They were, without exception, the greatest and best men of their times. They laid the foundation of the beautiful temple which was constructed after they were dead, in which both physics and psychology reached the dignity of science. [Footnote: Archer Butler in his lecture on the Eleatic school follows closely, and expounds clearly, the views of Ritter.]
Nevertheless, these great men, lofty as were their inquiries, and blameless their lives, had not established any system, nor any theories which were incontrovertible. They had simply speculated, and the world ridiculed their speculations. They were one-sided; and, when pushed out to their extreme logical sequence, were antagonistic to each other, which had a tendency to produce doubt and skepticism. Men denied the existence of the gods, and the grounds of certainty fell away from the human mind.
[Circumstances which favoured the Sophists.]
[Character of the Sophists.]