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Want of room prevents an intended notice of several errors, some of them errors of the
THERE are two great tendencies in human nature of which Plato and Aristotle are commonly regarded as the representatives. One of these tendencies or characteristics is indicated, in its various forms, by the epithets speculative, theoretical, ideal, abstract, doctrinal, subjective. The terms which are employed in describing the other tendency are practical, experimental, concrete, actual, objective.
Plato, though not deficient in acuteness and subtlety, was meditative and profound. As the author of the celebrated ideal philosophy, he supposed that certain ideas existed in the Divine mind from eternity, to which God gave a figure or form when he created the world. He ascribed a Divine original to the human soul. True happiness, according to Plato, consists in the investigation of truth and in the subjection of the passions. Virtue is the perfection and health of the soul. It is manifested in the various forms of wisdom, righteousness, temperance, valor. Plato had a living power of imagination, a loftiness of thought, together with the ability to clothe his conceptions in the noblest and most beautiful forms. Under his pen the most abstract ideas assumed the character of life and reality. Spirit, vigor, warmth pervade his writings.!
1 See Schöll, Geschichte der Griech. Litt. I. 480. The moral character of Plato's great master is yet occasionally assailed with considerable violence. The charges against Socrates originated partly from calumny, which is always thrown out by the vicious against those who are more virtuous than themselves; and partly from a misapprehension of some Socratico-Platonic expressions. For instance, when Socrates said, in his last moments, that he owed a cock to Esculapius," any one, who regards his well known habit of irony, may suppose that he was not in earnest; that he understood by Esculapius health, and intimated by this form of expression that he had almost recovered from his long disease. In respect to another charge-that of sensuality-we have the explicit testimony of Xenophon, that physical love was directly excluded by Socrates. Alcibiades, in Plato's Dialogue, declares that Socrates was unsusceptible of every lower kind of love, being devoted to spiritual love alone. If Socrates had been
Aristotle is the father of natural history. The philosophical terminology and many of the existing scientific definitions are traced to his pen. He formed a system of logic with wonderful completeness, and also gave fundamental laws to rhetoric and poetry. Psychology owes to him its philosophical form. His style of writing is simple and exact. He never sacrifices sense to sound. He discards the fable, the allegory and the various figures of speech in which Plato abounds. He is always serene, tranquil, modest, though occasionally obscure in consequence of his brevity, or his use of uncommon words. He founded his system on reason and experiment, entirely rejecting the aid of the imagination. He embraced all the branches of human knowledge which were attainable in his time, and gave to them order and a scientific form. He had collected so large a library that Plato named his dwelling, "the house of the reader." It has been said, probably with truth, that in the quality of mere dry intellect, Aristotle is at the head of the race.
Plato is the leader of another series. In imagination, feeling, originality, in what may be termed the spiritual powers, he is among the greatest of the children of men-the Homer of philosophers. 66 Plato," says Goethe, "is, in relation to this world, like a blessed spirit, who chooses for a time to take up his abode here. His object is not so much to become acquainted with the world as kindly to communicate to it that which he brings with him, and which is so necessary to it. He mounts upward, with longing to partake again of his original. All that he utters has reference to one single principle-perfect, good, true, beautiful; the love of which he studies to enkindle in every bosom. Whatever of earthly science he acquires in particulars, melts, yea we might say, evaporates in his method, in his discourse. Aristotle, on the contrary, is, in relation to the world, like a man, a master-builder. He is once here, and he must work and build. He inquires about the soil; but no further than till he finds a firm foundation. From that point to the centre of the earth, all the rest is indifferent to him. He marks out a vast circuit
guilty in this particular, would not Aristophanes have trumpeted it? Before we believe all which has been uttered against some of the best men of antiquity, we want better authority than the story-teller Athenaeus. We do not vindicate everything which Socrates did or said. We may contend that he would not be admitted into virtuous society now. of the pious patriarchs of Scripture on the same principle? Bibl. Repos. II. 453, and Schweighäuser, XII. 161.
But would many
for his building, collects his materials from every quarter, arranges them, piles them one upon another, and thus rises in regular pyramidical form into the air; while Plato shoots up towards heaven like an obelisk, yea like a pointed flame."1
These eminent Greeks are not without their representatives at the present day. Plato reäppears in the German; Aristotle in the Anglo-Saxon. The former lives in an ideal realm. He is given to speculation. He is lost in the depths of his own spirit. Nothing is profound or subjective enough for him. The Oriental mysticism is seen again in the centre of Europe. The Gnostic finds a home on the banks of the Elbe. The German is not satisfied with the obvious meaning of a proposition. He must look behind or below it for something more fundamental, for something wrapped in deeper mystery. In struggling to reach a lofty and unattainable ideal, he will have nothing to do with the actual and possible. Plain sense, obvious truth, are cast out as too vulgar. A personal God, with definite, individual attributes is not to his taste. He meditates and conjectures till he loses himself in barren generalities or pantheistic dreams. In his exclusive tendency he perverts Plato himself. That great thinker did not overlook practical utility. His repeated and hazardous journies into Sicily, as well as many other events of his life, are a proof of his attention to the actual condition of his fellow creatures. His aim was the completeness, the symmetry, the perfection of the human soul. He abhorred everything partial or exclusive. Dr. Ritter terms his republic a 'University.' Still the general position is undoubtedly true that the Germans are the disciples of the Academy. Their faults are of the ideal kind. Their mistakes are not those of action. Of the errors of the experimentalist they are guiltless.2
On the other hand, the Englishman and American are thoroughly Peripatetic; they are ever in motion. They are undoubting believers in the sensible world. In rejecting its existence, Berkeley has hardly a living disciple. In demolishing his system, Dr. Reid performed a work of supererogation. Nothing could be more harmless than Berkeley's notion. The corn law or the woollen trade have
1 Goethe, Farbenlehre II. 140. Bibl. Repos. III. 687.
* Of course the general tendency, the national characteristic is here described. Prominent exceptions doubtless exist. Of this the Memoirs of the Berlin Academy are a sufficient proof.
infinitely greater charms for the countrymen of the Minute Philosopher than the soul of man. The latter cannot be weighed on a counter, or be shipped off to the Baltic by steam. No men make better surveyors of land than the Anglo-Saxons; none can steer a ship like them. In the physical world, from Spitzbergen to the utmost South, they are lords of the ascendant. This practical, Aristotelian tendency pervades all things, science, jurisprudence, politics, education, religion. Everywhere the questions are sounding, Where has he been? Whither is he bound? What is the value of that article? Which school-book or school-teacher or minister is the cheapest? We have heard even of clergymen who estimated the conversion of a congregation of immortal souls at so much a head-who were willing to assess a sort of poll-tax on salvation. In science we have no great discoverers. We have practical philosophers-scientific explorers-men who can divide off and parcel out to good advantage the treasures which have been accumulated in past times. It is no disproof of our general position that many eminent names might be mentioned in physical science. We love the outward. Our home is in the visible.
Here and there, indeed, an individual may be found who is weary of this ceaseless stir, of this insane eagerness after the perishable and the transient. His ears are pained by the incessant clamors of buyers and sellers. He longs for repose, for calm meditation, for a secure retreat from his jostling and inquisitive contemporaries. Such men, however, are few and far between. The tendency to bustle and agitation, to digging and hoarding is widely predominant. The epithets acute, practical, quick-witted, impatient, sharp-sighted, delineate the Saxon races on the two continents, or rather on the four continents, and the islands of almost every sea. In thus characterizing the English mind, we only repeat the general verdict of intelligent Englishmen. "Our utilitarian practicality," says a late writer," is a theme that has often been discussed. It is impossible to contrast the condition of any one branch of science or literature in England with its condition on the continent, and especially in Germany, without becoming sensible of the all-pervading influence of this tendency of the British character."1 "Whatever the causes may be," says the Bishop of London, "the fact cannot be denied, that we have comparatively few really classical
For. Quart. Rev. No. 44. p. 238.