The conceptions of life and the world which we call "philosophical" are the product of two factors: one, inherited religious and ethical conceptions; the other, the sort of investigation which may be called "scientific," using this word in its broadest sense.
Philosophy... is something intermediate between theology and science. Like theology, it consists of speculations on matters as to which definite knowledge has, so far, been unascertainable; but like science, it appeals to human reason rather than authority, whether that of tradition or that of revelation.
All definite knowledge—so I should contend—belongs to science; all dogma as to what surpasses definite knowledge belongs to theology. But between theology and science there is a No Man’s Land, exposed to attack by both sides; this No Man’s Land is philosophy.
Uncertainty, in the presence of vivid hopes and fears, is painful, but must be endured if we wish to live without the support of comforting fairy tales. It is not good either to forget the questions that philosophy asks, or to persuade ourselves that we have found indubitable answers to them.
To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it.
The conflict between Church and State [11th century until after 1300] was not only a conflict between clergy and laity; it was also a renewal of the conflict between the Mediterranean world and the northern barbarians. The unity of the Church echoed the unity of the Roman Empire; its liturgy was Latin, and its dominant men were mostly Italian, Spanish, or southern French. Their education, when education revived, was classical... The Church represented at once continuity with the past and what was most civilized in the present.
The king had to share his power with the feudal aristocracy, but all alike expected to be allowed occasional outbursts of passion in the form of war, murder, pillage, or rape. Monarchs might repent, for they were sincerely pious and, after all, repentance was itself a form of passion. But the Church could never produce in them the quiet regularity of good behavior which a modern employer demands, and usually obtains, of his employees.
All the armed force was on the side of the kings, and yet the Church was victorious. The Church won, partly because it had almost a monopoly of education, partly because the kings were perpetually at war with each other, but mainly because... The Church could decide whether a king should spend eternity in heaven or in hell; the Church could absolve subjects from the duty of allegiance, and so stimulate rebellion. The Church, moreover, represented order in place of anarchy, and consequently won the support of the rising mercantile class.
The national State... progressively destroyed what remained of the Roman belief in the unity of civilization.
What happened in the great age of Greece happened again in Renaissance Italy: traditional moral restraints disappeared, because they were seen to be associated with superstition; the liberation from fetters made individuals energetic and creative, producing a rare florescence of genius; but the anarchy and treachery which inevitably resulted from the decay of morals made Italians collectively impotent, and they fell, like the Greeks, under domination of nations less civilized than themselves but not so destitute of social cohesion. The result, however, was less disastrous than in the case of Greece, because the newly powerful nations, with the exception of Spain, showed themselves as capable of great achievements as the Italians had been.
The Catholic Church was derived from three sources. Its sacred history was Jewish, its theology was Greek, its government and canon law were, at least indirectly, Roman. The Reformation rejected the Roman elements, softened the Greek elements, and greatly strengthened the Judaic elements. It thus co-operated with the nationalist forces which were undoing the work of social cohesion which had been effected first by the Roman Empire and then by the Roman Church.
In Catholic doctrine, divine revelation did not end with the scriptures, but continued from age to age through the medium of the Church... Protestants, on the contrary, rejected the Church as a vehicle of revelation; truth was to be sought only in the Bible, which each man could interpret for himself. ...In practice, the State claimed the right that had formerly belonged to the Church, but this was a usurpation. In Protestant theory, there should be no earthly intermediary between the soul and God.
There came to be not one Protestantism, but a multitude of sects; not one philosophy opposed to scholasticism, but as many as there were philosophers; not, as in the thirteenth century, one Emperor opposed to the Pope, but a large number of heretical kings. The result, in thought as in literature, was a continually deepening subjectivism, operating at first as a wholesome liberation from spiritual slavery, but advancing steadily towards a personal isolation inimical to sanity.
Modern philosophy begins with Descartes, whose fundamental certainty is the existence of himself and his thoughts, from which the external world is to be inferred. This was only the first stage in a development, through Berkeley and Kant, to Fichte, for whom everything is only an emanation of the ego. This was insanity, and from this extreme, philosophy has been attempting, ever since, to escape into the world of every-day common sense.
With subjectivism in philosophy, anarchism in politics goes hand in hand. Already during Luther's lifetime, unwelcome and unacknowledged disciples had developed the doctrine of Anabaptism... The Anabaptists refuted all law, since they held that the good man will be guided at every moment by the Holy Spirit, who cannot be bound by formulas. From this premiss they arrive at communism and sexual promiscuity; they were therefore exterminated after a heroic resistance. But their doctrine, in softened forms, spread to Holland, England and America, historically, it is the source of Quakerism.
A fiercer form of anarchism, no longer connected with religion, arose in the nineteenth century. ...This modern form, though anti-religious, has still much of the spirit of early Protestantism; it differs mainly in directing against secular governments the hostility that Luther directed against the popes.
In morals, the Protestant emphasis in the individual conscience was essentially anarchic. Habit and custom were so strong that, except in occasional outbreaks such as that of Münster, the disciples of individualism in ethics continued to act in a manner which was conventionally virtuous. But this was a precarious equilibrium.
The eighteenth-century cult of "sensibility" began to break down: an act was admired, not for its good consequences, or for its conformity to a moral code, but for the emotion that inspired it. Out of this attitude developed the cult of the hero, as it is expressed in Carlyle and Nietzsche, and the Byronic cult of violent passion of no matter what kind.
Against the more insane forms of subjectivism in modern times, there have been various reactions. First, a half-way compromise philosophy, the doctrine of liberalism, which attempted to assign the respective spheres of government and the individual. This begins, in its modern forms, with Locke, who is as much opposed to "enthusiasm" - the individualism of the Anabaptists - as to absolute authority and blind subservience to tradition.
A more thoroughgoing revolt leads to the doctrine of State worship, which assigns to the State the position that Catholicism gave to the Church, or even, sometimes, to God. Hobbes, Rousseau, and Hegel represent different phases of this theory, and their doctrines are embodied practically in Cromwell, Napoleon, and modern Germany.Communism, in theory, is far removed from such philosophies, but it is driven, in practice, to a type of community very similar to that which results from State worship.
...from 600 B.C. to the present day, philosophers have been divided into those who wished to tighten social bonds and those who wished to relax them.
The disciplinarians have advanced some system of dogma, either old or new, and have therefore been compelled to be, in a greater or less degree, hostile to science, since their dogmas could not be proved empirically. They have almost invariably taught that happiness is not the good, but that "nobility" and "heroism" is to be preferred. They have had a sympathy with the irrational parts of the human nature, since they have felt reason [rationality] to be inimical to social cohesion.
The libertarians... with the exception of extreme anarchists, have tended to be scientific, utilitarian, rationalistic, hostile to violent passion, and enemies of all the more profound forms of religion.
Every community is exposed to two opposite dangers: ossification through too much discipline and reverence for tradition, on the one hand; and on the other, dissolution, or subjugation to foreign conquest, through the growth of an individualism and personal independence that makes co-operation impossible. In general, important civilizations start with a rigid and superstitious system, gradually relaxed, and leading, at a certain stage, to a period of brilliant genius, while the good of the old traditional remains and the evil inherent in its dissolution has not yet developed. But as the evil unfolds, it leads to anarchy, thence, inevitably, to a new tyranny, producing a new synthesis secured by a new system of dogma.
The doctrine of liberalism is an attempt to escape from this endless oscillation. The essence of liberalism is an attempt to secure a social order not based on irrational dogma, and insuring stability without involving more restraints than are necessary for the preservation of the community.
Pythagoras... was intellectually one of the most important men that ever lived... Mathematics, in the sense of demonstrative deductive argument, begins with him, and in him is intimately connected with a peculiar form of mysticism. The influence of mathematics on philosophy, partly owing to him, has, ever since his time, been both profound and unfortunate.
He founded a religion, of which the main tenets were transmigration of souls and the sinfulness of eating beans. His religion was embodied in a religious order, which, here and there, acquired control of the State and established a rule of the saints. But the unregenerate hankered after beans and sooner or later rebelled.
In the society that he founded, men and women were admitted on equal terms; property was held in common, and there was a common way of life. Even scientific and mathematical discoveries were deemed collective, and in a mystical sense due to Pythagoras, even after his death.
Most sciences, at their inception, have been connected with some form of false belief, which gave them a fictitious value. Astronomy was connected with astrology, chemistry with alchemy. Mathematics was associated with a more refined type of error. Mathematical knowledge appeared to be certain, exact, and applicable to the real world; moreover it was obtained by mere thinking, without the need for observation. Consequently, it was thought to supply an ideal, from which every-day empirical knowledge fell short. It was supposed, on the basis of mathematics, that thought is superior to sense, intuition to observation. If the world of sense does not fit the world of mathematics, so much the worse for the world of sense. In various ways, methods of approaching the mathematician's ideal were sought, and the resulting suggestions were the source of much that was mistaken in metaphysics and theory of knowledge. This form of philosophy begins with Pythagoras.
Pythagoras, as everyone knows, said that "all things are numbers." This statement, interpreted in a modern way, is logical nonsense, but what he meant was not exactly nonsense. He discovered the importance of numbers in music and the connection which he established between music and arithmetic survives in the mathematical terms "harmonic mean" and "harmonic progression." He thought of numbers as shapes, as they appear on dice or playing cards. We still speak of squares or cubes of numbers, which are terms that we owe to him. He also spoke of oblong numbers, triangular numbers, pyramidal numbers, and so on. These were the numbers of pebbles (or as we would more naturally say, shot) required to make the shapes in question. ...He presumably thought of the world as atomic, and of bodies as built up of molecules composed of atoms arranged in various shapes. In this way he hoped to make arithmetic the fundamental study in physics as in aesthetics.
Unfortunately for Pythagoras, his theorem led at once to the discovery of incommensurables, which appeared to disprove his whole philosophy. So long as no adequate arithmetical theory on incommensurables existed, the method of Euclid was the best that was possible in geometry. When Descartes introduced co-ordinate geometry, thereby again making arithmetic supreme, he [Descartes] assumed the possibility of a solution of the problem of incommensurables, though in his day no such solution had been found.
The influence of geometry upon philosophy and scientific method has been profound. Geometry, as established by the Greeks, starts with axioms which are (or are deemed to be) self-evident, and proceeds, by deductive reasoning, to arrive at theorems which are very far from self-evident. The axioms and theorems are held to be true of actual space, which is something given in experience. It thus appeared to be possible to discover things about the actual world by first noticing what is self-evident and then using deduction. This view influenced Plato and Kant, and most of the intermediate philosophers. ...The eighteenth century doctrine of natural rights is a search for Euclidean axioms in politics. The form of Newton'sPrincipia, in spite of its admittedly empirical material, is entirely dominated by Euclid. Theology, in its exact scholastic forms, takes its style from the same source.
Personal religion is derived from ecstasy, theology from mathematics, and both are to be found in Pythagoras.
Mathematics is, I believe, the chief source of the belief in eternal and exact truth, as well as in a super-sensible world.Geometry deals with exact circles, but no sensible object is exactly circular; however carefully we use our compasses, there will be some imperfections and irregularities. This suggests the view that all exact reasoning applies to ideal as opposed to sensible objects; it is natural to go further, and to argue that thought is nobler than sense, and the objects of thought more real than that of sense-perception.
Mystical doctrines as to the relation of time to eternity are also reinforced by pure mathematics, for the mathematical objects, such as numbers, if real at all, are eternal and not in time. Such eternal objects can be conceived as God's thoughts. Hence Plato's doctrine that God is a geometer, and Sir James Jeans' belief that He is addicted to arithmetic.
The combination of mathematics and theology, which began with Pythagoras, characterized religious philosophy in Greece, in the Middle Ages, and in modern times down to Kant.Orphism before Pythagoras was analogous to Asiatic mystery religions. But in Plato, Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Spinoza, and Kant there is an intimate blending of religion and reasoning, of moral aspiration with logical admiration of what is timeless, which comes from Pythagoras, and distinguishes the intellectualized theology of Europe from the more straightforward mysticism of Asia.
It is only in quite recent times that it has been possible to say clearly that Pythagoras was wrong.
I do not know of any other man who has been as influential as he was in the sphere of thought. I say this because what appears as Platonism is, when analyzed, found to be in essence Pythagoreanism. The whole conception of an eternal world, revealed to the intellect but not to the senses, is derived from him. ...but for him, theologians would not have sought logical proofs of God and immortality.
Progress in metaphysics, so far as it has existed, has consisted of gradual refinement of all these hypotheses, a development of their implications, and a reformulation of each to meet the objections urged by the adherents of rival hypotheses. To learn to conceive the universe according to each of these systems is an imaginative delight and an antidote to dogmatism.
Now almost all the hypotheses that have dominated modern philosophy were first thought of by the Greeks... I shall regard them as giving birth to theories which have had an independent life and growth, and which, though at first somewhat infantile, have proved capable of surviving and developing throughout more than two thousand years.
The Greeks... discovered mathematics and the art of deductive reasoning. Geometry, in particular, is a Greek invention, without which modern science would have been impossible.
But in connection with mathematics the one-sidedness of the Greek genius appears: it reasoned deductively from what appeared self-evident, not inductively from what had been observed. Its amazing successes in the employment of this method misled not only the ancient world, but the greater part of the modern world also.
It has only been very slowly that scientific method, which seeks to reach principles inductively from observation of particular facts, has replaced the Hellenic belief in deduction from luminous axioms derived from the mind of the philosopher.
In studying a philosopher, the right attitude is nether reverence nor contempt, but first a kind of hypothetical sympathy, until it is possible to know what it feels like to believe in his theories, and only then a revival of the critical attitude, which should resemble, as far as possible, the state of mind of a person abandoning opinions which he has hitherto held. Contempt interferes with the first part of this process, and reverence with the second.
Two things are to be remembered: that a man whose opinions and theories are worth studying may be presumed to have had some intelligence, but that no man is likely to have arrived at complete and final truth on any subject whatever. When an intelligent man expresses a view which seems to us obviously absurd, we should not attempt to prove that it is somehow true, but we should try to understand how it ever came to seem true. This exercise of historical and psychological imagination at once enlarges the scope of our thinking, and helps us to realize how foolish many of our own cherished prejudices will seem to an age which has a different temper of mind.
Heraclitus... regarded fire as the fundamental substance; everything, like flame in a fire, is born by the death of something else. ...There is unity in the world, but it is a unity formed by the combination of opposites. "All things come out of the one, and the one out of all things"; but the many have less reality than the one, which is God.
From what survives of his writings he does not appear to be an amiable character. He was much addicted to contempt, and was the reverse of a democrat. ...His contempt for mankind leads him to think that only force will compel them to act for their own good. ...As might be expected, Heraclitus believes in war... "We must know that war is common to all and strife is justice, and that all things come into being and pass away through strife."
Heraclitus believed fire to be the primordial element, out of which everything else had arisen. Thales, the reader will remember, thought everything was made of water; Anaximenes thought air was the primitive element; Heraclitus preferred fire. At last Empedocles suggested a statesmanlike compromise by allowing four elements, earth, air, fire and water. The chemistry of the ancients stopped dead at this point. No further progress was made in this science until the Mohammedanalchemists embarked upon their search for the philosopher's stone, the elixir of life, and a method of transmuting base metals into gold.
The metaphysics of Heraclitus are sufficiently dynamic to satisfy the most hustling of moderns: "This world, which is the same for all, no one of the gods or men has made; but it was ever, is now, and ever shall be an ever-living Fire, with measures kindling and measures going out."
His belief in strife is connected with this theory, for in strife opposites combine to produce a motion which is a harmony. There is a unity in the world, but it is a unity resulting from diversity... This doctrine contains a germ of Hegel's philosophy, which proceeds by a synthesizing of opposites. The metaphysics of Heraclitus, like that of Anaximander, is dominated by a conception of cosmic justice, which prevents the strife of the opposites from ever issuing in the complete victory of either.
Heraclitus repeatedly speaks of "God" as distinct from "the gods." ...God, no doubt, is the embodiment of cosmic justice.
When one thinks what would become of any modern philosopher if he were only known through the polemics of his rivals, one can see how admirable the pre-Socratics must have been, since even through the mist of malice spread by their enemies they still appear great.
The search for something permanent is one of the deepest of instincts leading men to philosophy. It is derived, no doubt, form love of home and desire for refuge from danger; we find, accordingly, that it is most passionate in those whose lives are most exposed to catastrophe. Religion seeks permanence in two forms, God and immortality. In God is no variableness neither shadow of turning; the life after death is eternal and unchanging.
The cheerfulness of the nineteenth century turned men against these static conceptions, and modern liberal theology believes that there is progress in heaven and evolution in the Godhead. But even in this conception there is something permanent, namely progress itself and its immanent goal.
A dose of disaster is likely to bring men's hopes back to their older super-terrestrial forms: if life on earth is dispaired of, it is only in heaven that peace can be sought.
Philosophically inclined mystics, unable to deny that whatever is in time is transitory, have invented a conception of eternity as not persistence through endless time, but existence outside the whole temporal process.
Heraclitus himself, for all his belief in change, allowed something everlasting. The conception of eternity (as opposed to endless duration), which comes from Parmenides, is not to be found in Heraclitus, but in his philosophy the central fire never dies... But fire is something continually changing, and its permanence is rather that of a process than that of a substance - though this view should not be attributed to Heraclitus.
Science, like philosophy, has sought to escape from the doctrine of perpetual flux by finding some permanent substratum amid changing phenomena. Chemistry seemed to satisfy this desire. It was found that fire, which appears to destroy, only transmutes: elements are recombined, but each atom that existed before combustion still exists when the process is completed. Accordingly it was supposed that atoms are indestructible, and that all change in the physical world consists merely in re-arrangement of persistent elements. This view prevailed until the discovery of radio-activity, when it was found that atoms could disintegrate.
Nothing daunted, the physicists invented new and smaller units, called electrons and protons, out of which atoms were composed; and these units were supposed, for a few years, to have the indestructibility formerly attributed to atoms. Unfortunately, it seemed that protons and electrons could meet and explode, forming, not new matter, but a wave of energy spreading through the universe at the velocity of light. Energy had to replace matter as what is permanent. But energy, unlike matter, is not a refinement of the common-sense notion of a "thing"; it is merely a characteristic of physical processes. It might be fancifully identified with the Heraclitean Fire, but it is the burning, not what burns. "What burns" has disappeared from modern physics.
Passing from that small to the large, astronomy no longer allows us to regard the heavenly bodies as everlasting.
The doctrine of perpetual flux, as taught by Heraclitus, is painful, and science, as we have seen, can do nothing to refute it. One of the main ambitions of philosophers has been to revive hopes that science seemed to have killed. Philosophers, accordingly, have sought, with great persistence, for something not subject to the empire of Time. This search begins with Parmenides.
The south Italian and Sicilian philosophers were more inclined to mysticism and religion than those of Ionia, who were on the whole scientific and skeptical in their tendencies. But mathematics, under the influence of Pythagoras, flourished more in Magna Grecia than in Ionia; mathematics at that time, however, was entangled with mysticism. Parmenides was influenced by Pythagoras, but the extent of this influence is conjectural.
What makes Parmenides historically important is that he invented a form of metaphysical argument that, in one form or another, is to be found in most subsequent metaphysicians down to and including Hegel. He is often said to have invented logic, but what he really invented was metaphysics based on logic.
The doctrine of Parmenides was set forth in a poem On Nature. He considered the senses deceptive, and condemned the multitude of sensible things as mere illusion. The only true being is "the One," which is infinite and indivisible. It is not, as in Heraclitus, a union of opposites, since there are no opposites. He apparently thought, for instance, that "cold" means only "not hot," and "dark" means only "not light."
"The One" is not conceived by Parmenides as we conceive God; he seems to think of it as material and extended, for he speaks of it as a sphere. But it cannot be divided, because the whole of it is present everywhere.
The essence of his argument is: When you think, you think of something; when you use a name, it must he the name of something. Therefore, both thought and language require objects outside themselves. And since you can think of a thing or speak of it at one time as well as another, whatever can be thought of or spoken of must exist at all times. ...This is the first example in philosophy of an argument from thought and language to the world at large. It cannot of course be accepted as valid, but it is worth while to see what element of truth it contains.
Philosophical theories, if they are important, can generally be revived in a new form after being refuted as originally stated. Refutations are seldom final; in most cases, they are only a prelude to further refinements.
What subsequent philosophy, down to quite modern times, accepted from Parmenides, was not the impossibility of all change, which was too violent a paradox, but the indestructibility of substance. The word "substance" did not occur in his immediate successors, but the concept is already present in their speculations. A substance was supposed to be the persistent subject of varying predicates. As such it became, and remained for more than two thousand years, one of the fundamental concepts in philosophy, psychology, physics, and theology.
Anaxagoras held that everything is infinitely divisible, and that even the smallest portion of matter contains some of each element. Things appear to be that of which they contain the most. ...Like Empedocles, he argues against the void, saying that the clepsydra or an inflated skin shows that there is air where there seems to be nothing.
He [Anaxagoras] differed from his predecessors in regarding mind (nous) as a substance which enters into the composition of living things, and distinguishes them from dead matter. ...Mind has power over all things that have life; it is infinite and self-ruled, and is mixed with nothing. Except as regards mind, everything, however small, contains portions of all opposites, such as hot and cold, white and black.
[Expounding on Anaxagoras] Mind is the source of all motion. It causes rotation, which is gradually spreading throughout the world, and causing the lightest things to go to the circumference, and the heaviest to fall towards the center. Mind is uniform, and is just as good in animals as it is in man. Man's apparent superiority is due to the fact that he has hands; all seeming differences of intelligence are really due to bodily differences.
He [Anaxagoras] rejected necessity and chance as giving the origins of things; nevertheless there was no "Providence" in his cosmology.
In science he had great merit. It was he who first explained that the moon shines by reflected light, though there is a cryptic fragment in Parmenides suggesting that he also knew this. Anaxagoras gave the correct theory of eclipses, and knew that the moon was below the sun. The sun and stars, he said, are fiery stones, but we do not feel the heat of the stars because they are too distant. The sun is larger than the Peloponnesus. The moon has mountains, and (he thought) inhabitants.
Leucippus, if not Democritus, was led to atomism in an attempt to mediate between monism and pluralism, as represented by Parmenides and Empedocles respectively. Their point of view was remarkably like that of modern science, and avoided most of the faults to which Greek speculation was prone. They believed that everything was composed of atoms, which are physically, but not geometrically, indivisible; that between the atoms there is empty space; that atoms are indestructible; that they always have been, and always will be, in motion; that there are an infinite number of atoms, the differences being as regards the shape and size.
As a result of collisions, collections of atoms come to form vortices. The rest proceeded much as in Anaxagoras, but it was an advance to explain the vortices mechanically rather than as due to the action of the mind.
It was common in antiquity to reproach the atomists with attributing everything to chance. They were, on the contrary, strict determinists, who believed that everything happens in accordance with natural laws.
Aristotle and others reproached him [Leucippus] and Democritus for not accounting for the original motion of atoms, but in this the atomists were more scientific than their critics. Causation must start from something, and wherever it starts no cause can be assigned for the initial datum. The world may be attributed to a Creator, but even then the Creator Himself is unaccounted for. The theory of the atomists, in fact, was more nearly that of modern science than any other theory propounded in antiquity.
The atomists, unlike Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, sought to explain the world without introducing the notion of purpose or final cause.
When we ask "why?" concerning an event, we may mean either of two things. We may mean: "What purpose did this event serve?" or we may mean: "What earlier circumstances caused this event?" The answer to the former question is a teleological explanation, or an explanation by final causes; the answer to the latter question is a mechanistic explanation. I do not see how it could have been known in advance which of these two questions science ought to ask, or whether it ought to ask both. But experience has shown that the mechanistic question leads to scientific knowledge, while the teleological question does not.
The atomists asked the mechanistic question, and gave a mechanistic answer. Their successors, until the Renaissance, were more interested in the teleological question, and thus led science up a blind alley. In regard to both questions alike, there is a limitation which is often ignored, both in popular thought and in philosophy. Neither question can be asked intelligibly about reality, as a whole (including God), but only about parts of it. ...The conception of purpose, therefore, is only applicable within reality, not to reality as a whole.
All causal explanations... must have an arbitrary beginning. That is why it is no defect in the theory of the atomists to have left the original movements of the atoms unaccounted for.
Like the other philosophers of his time, Leucippus was concerned to find a way of reconciling the arguments of Parmenides with the obvious fact of motion and change.
Leucippus... conceded to the Monists that there could be no motion without a void. The result is a theory which he states as follows: "The void is not-being, and no part of what is is not-being; for what is in the strict sense of the term is an absolute plenum. This plenum, however, is not one; on the contrary, it is a many infinite in number and invisible owing to the minuteness of their bulk. The many move in the void (for there is a void): and by coming together they produce coming-to-be, while by separating they provide passing-away. Moreover, they act and suffer action whenever they chance to be in contact (for there they are not one), and they generate by being put together and becoming intertwined. From the genuinely one, on the other hand, there could never have come to be a multiplicity, nor from the genuinely many a one; that is impossible."
A stupid man's report of what a clever man says is never accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something that he can understand.
Chapter XIII. The Sources of Plato's Opinions
The most important matters in Plato's philosophy are: first, his Utopia, which was the earliest in a long series; second, his theory of ideas, which was a pioneer attempt to deal with the still unresolved problem of universals; third, his argument in favor of immortality; fourth, his cosmogony; fifth, his conception of knowledge as reminiscence rather than perception.
Plato possessed the art to dress up illiberal suggestions in such a way that they deceived future ages, which admired the Republic without ever becoming aware of what was involved in its proposals. It has always been correct to praise Plato, but not to understand him. This is the common fate of great men. My object is the opposite. I wish to understand him, but to treat him with as little reverence as if he were a contemporary English or American advocate of totalitarianism.
From Pythagoras (whether by way of Socrates or not) Plato derived the Orphic elements in his philosophy: the religious trend, the belief in immortality, the other-worldliness, the priestly tone, and all that is involved in the simile of the cave; also his respect for mathematics, and his intimate intermingling of the intellect and mysticism.
From Parmenides he [Plato] derived the belief that reality is eternal and timeless, and that, on logical grounds, all change must be illusory. From Heraclitus he derived the negative doctrine that there is nothing permanent in the sensible world. This, combined with the doctrine of Parmenides, led to the conclusion that knowledge is not to be derived from the senses, but is only to be achieved by the intellect. This, in turn, fitted well with Pythagoreanism.
Plato, in common with most Greek philosphers, took the view that leisure is essential to wisdom, which will therefore not be found among those who have to work for their living, but only among those who have independent means, or who are relieved by the state from anxieties as to their subsistence. This point of view is essentially aristocratic.
Two general questions arise in confronting Plato with modern ideas. The first is: is there such a thing as "wisdom"? The second is: Granted that there is such a thing, can any constitution be devised that will give it [wisdom] political power?
I think Plato would have said that it [wisdom] consists in knowledge of the good, and would have supplemented this definition with the Socratic doctrine that no man sins wittingly, from which it follows that whoever knows what is good does what is right. To us, such a view seems remote from reality. We should more naturally say that there are divergent interests, and that the statesman should arrive at the best available compromise.
But even if we suppose that there is such a thing as "wisdom," is there any form of constitution which will give the government to the wise? It is clear that majorities, like general councils, may err, and in fact have erred. Aristocracies are not always wise; kings are often foolish; Popes, in spite of infallibility, have committed grievous errors. Would anybody advocate entrusting the government to university graduates, or even to doctors of divinity? Or to men who, having been born poor, have made great fortunes? It is clear that no legally definable selection of citizens is likely to be wiser, in practice, than the whole body.
The problem of finding a collection of "wise" men and leaving the government to them is thus an insoluble one. This is the ultimate reason for democracy.
In the main, Plato is concerned only with the guardians, who are a class apart, like the Jesuits in old Paraguay, the ecclesiastics in the States of the Church until 1870, and the Communist Party in the U.S.S.R. at the present day .
The first thing to consider is education. This is divided into two parts, music and gymnastics. Each has a wider meaning than at present: "music" means everything that is in the province of the muses, and "gymnastics" means everything concerned with physical training and fitness. "Music" is almost as wide as what we should call "culture," and "gymnastics" is somewhat wider than what we would call "athletics."
Culture is to be devoted to making men gentlemen, in the sense which, largely owing to Plato, is familiar in England. The Athens of his day was, in one respect, analogous to England in the nineteenth century: there was in each an aristocracy enjoying wealth and social prestige, but having no monopoly of political power; and in each the aristocracy had to secure as much power as it could by means of impressive behavior. In Plato's Utopia, however, the aristocracy rules unchecked.
[Expounding on Plato] Gravity, decorum, and courage seem to be the qualities mainly to be cultivated in education. There is to be rigid censorship, from very early years, over the literature to which the young have access and the music they are allowed to hear. ...the young must be taught that evils never come from the gods, for God is not the author of all things, but only of good things. ...everything ought to be done in education to make the young people willing to die in battle. ...there must be no stories in which the wicked are happy or the good unhappy; the moral effect on tender minds might be most unfortunate. On all these counts, the poets are to be condemned.
As for economics, Plato proposes a thoroughgoing communism for the guardians, and (I think) also for the soldiers, though this is not very clear. ...Gold and silver are to be forbidden. Though not rich, there is no reason why they should not be happy; but the purpose of the city is the good of the whole, not the happiness of one class. Both wealth and poverty are harmful, and in Plato's city neither will exist. ...Friends, he says, should have all things in common, including women and children. ...girls are to have exactly the same education as boys, learning music, gymnastics, and the art of war along with the boys. Women are to have complete equality with men in all respects.
[Expounding on Plato] The advantage sought is, of course, to minimize private possessive emotions, and so remove obstacles to the domination of public spirit, as well as to acquiescence in the absence of private property. It was largely motives of a similar kind that led to the celibacy of the clergy.
There is to be "one royal lie," which, Plato hopes, may deceive the rulers, but will at any rate deceive the rest of the city. This "lie" is set forth in considerable detail. The most important part of it is the dogma that God has created men of three kinds, the best made of gold, the second best of silver, and the common herd of brass and iron. Those made of gold are fit to be guardians; those made of silver should be soldiers; the others should do manual work. Usually, but by no means always, children will belong to the same grade as their parents; when they do not, they must be promoted or degraded accordingly. ...What Plato does not seem to understand is that the compulsory acceptance of such myths is incompatible with philosophy, and involves a kind of education which stunts intelligence.
The definition of "justice," which is the nominal goal of the whole discussion, is reached in Book IV [of the Republic]. It consists, we are told, in everybody doing his own work and not being a busybody: the city is just when trader, auxiliary, and guardian, each does his own job without interfering with that of the other classes. That everybody should mind his own business is no doubt an admirable precept, but it hardly corresponds to what a modern would naturally call "justice." The Greek word so translated corresponded to a concept which was very important in Greek thought, but for which we have no exact equivalent.
Before philosophy began, the Greeks had a theory of feeling about the universe, which may be called religious or ethical. According to the theory, every person and every thing has his or its appointed place and appointed function. ...Zeus himself is subject to the same kind of law as governs others. The theory is connected with the idea of fate or necessity. ...where there is vigor, there is a tendency to overstep just bounds; hence arises strife. Some kind of impersonal super-Olympian law punishes hubris, and restores the eternal order which the aggressor sought to violate. This whole outlook, originally, perhaps, scarcely conscious, passed over into philosophy; it is to be found alike in cosmologies of strife, such as those of Heraclitus and Empedocles, and in the monistic doctrines such as that of Parmenides. It is the source of the belief both in natural and in human law, and it clearly underlies Plato's conception of justice.
The word "justice," as still used in law, is more similar to Plato's conception than it is as used in political speculation. Under the influence of democratic theory, we have come to associate justice with equality, while for Plato it has no such implication. "Justice," in the sense in which it is almost synonymous with "law" - as when we speak of "courts of justice" - is concerned mainly with property rights, which have nothing to do with equality.
Although all the rulers are to be philosophers, there are to be no innovations: a philosopher is to be, for all time, a man who understands and agrees with Plato.
When we ask: what will Plato's Republic achieve? The answer is rather humdrum. It will achieve success in wars against roughly equal populations, and it will secure a livelihood for a certain small number of people. It will almost certainly produce no art or science, because of its rigidity; in this respect, as in others, it will be like Sparta. In spite of all the fine talk, skill in war and enough to eat is all that will be achieved. Plato had lived through famine and defeat in Athens; perhaps subconsciously, he thought the avoidance of these evils the best that statesmanship could accomplish.
What makes the difference between an "ideal" and an ordinary object of desire is that the former is impersonal; it is something having (at least ostensibly) no special reference to the ego of the man who feels the desire, and therefore capable, theoretically, of being desired by everybody. Thus we might define an "ideal" as something desired, not egocentric, and such that the person desiring it wishes that every one else also desired it.
There may be conflict of purely impersonal ideals. ...How are we to decide between the two except by means of our own desires? Yet, if there is nothing further, an ethical disagreement can only be decided by emotional appeals, or by force - in the ultimate resort, by war. On the questions of fact, we can appeal to science and scientific methods of observation; but on ultimate questions of ethics there seems to be nothing analogous. Yet, if this is really the case, ethical disputes resolve themselves into contests for power - including propaganda power.
Thrasymachus... proclaims emphatically that "justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger." This point of view is refuted by Socrates [in the Republic] with quibbles; it is never fairly faced. It raises the fundamental question in ethics and politics, namely: Is there any standard of "good" and "bad," except what the man using these words desires? If there is not, many of the consequences drawn by Thrasymachus seem inescapable.
Plato thinks he can prove that his ideal Republic is good; a democrat who accepts the objectivity of ethics may think that he can prove the Republic bad; but anyone agreeing with Thrasymachus will say: "There is no question of proving or disproving; the only question is whether you like the kind of State that Plato desires. If you do, it is good for you; if you do not, it is bad for you. If many do and many do not, the decision cannot be made by reason, but only by force, actual or concealed." This is one of the issues of philosophy that are still open; on each side there are men who command respect. But for a very long time the opinion that Plato advocated remained almost undisputed.
The view which substitutes the consensus of opinion for an objective standard has certain consequences that few would accept. What are we to say of scientific innovators like Galileo, who would advocate an opinion with which few would agree, but finally win the support of almost everybody? They do so by means of arguments, not by emotional appeals or state propaganda or the use of force. This implies a criterion other than the general opinion. In ethical matters there is something analogous in the case of the great religious teachers. Christ taught that it is not wrong to pluck ears of corn on the Sabbath, but that it is wrong to hate your enemies. Such ethical innovations obviously imply some standard other than majority opinion, but the standard, whatever it is, is not objective fact, as in a scientific question. This problem is a difficult one, and I do not profess to be able to solve it.
The rule of philosophers had been attempted by Pythagoras, and in Plato's time Archytas the Pythagorean was politically influential in Taras (the modern Taranto) when Plato visited Sicily and southern Italy. It was a common practice for cities to employ a sage to draw up their laws; Solon had done this for Athens, and Protagoras for Thurii. Colonies, in those days, were completely free from control by their parent cities, and it would have been quite feasible for a band of Platonists to establish the Republic on the shores of Spain or Gaul.
In the next generation [following Plato], the rise of Macedonia had made all small States antiquated, and had brought about the futility of all political experiments in miniature.
Not only philosophers were influenced by Plato. Why did the Puritans object to the music and painting and gorgeous ritual of the Catholic Church? You will find the answer in the tenth book of the Republic. Why are children compelled to learn arithmetic? The reasons are given in the seventh book.
[Expounding on Plato] What is a philosopher? The first answer is in accordance with the etymology: a philosopher is a lover of wisdom. But this is not the same thing as a lover of knowledge, in the sense in which the inquisitive man may be said to love knowledge; vulgar curiosity does not make a philosopher. The definition is therefore amended: the philosopher is a man who loves the "vision of truth."
[Expounding on Plato] The man who loves beautiful things is dreaming, whereas the man who knows absolute beauty is wide awake. The former has only opinion; the latter has knowledge.
[Expounding on Plato] What is the difference between "knowledge" and "opinion"? The man who has knowledge has knowledge of something, that is to say, of something that exists, for what does not exist is nothing. (This is reminiscent of Parmenides.) Thus knowledge is infallible, since it is logically impossible for it to be mistaken. But opinion can be mistaken. How can this be? Opinion cannot be of what is not, for that is impossible; nor of what is, for then it would be knowledge. Therefore opinion must be of what both is and is not. But how is this possible? The answer is that particular things always partake of opposite characters: what is beautiful is also, in some respects, ugly; what is just, is in some respects, unjust; and so on. All particular sensible objects, so Plato contends, have this contradictory character; they are thus intermediate between being and not being, and are suitable as objects of opinion, but not of knowledge. "But those who see the absolute and eternal and immutable may be said to know, and not to have opinion only."
Plato explains that, whenever a number of individuals have a common name, they have also a common "idea" or "form." For instance, though there are many beds, there is only one "idea" or "form" of a bed. Just as a reflection of a bed in a mirror is only apparent and not "real," so the various particular beds are unreal, being only copies of the "idea," which is the one real bed, and is made by God. Of this one bed, made by God, there can be knowledge, but in respect of the many beds made by carpenters there can be only opinion. The philosopher, as such, will be interested only in the one ideal bed... He will have a certain indifference to ordinary mundane affairs...
Adeimantus breaks in with a protest. ...whatever Socrates may say, it remains the case, as any one may see, that people who stick to philosophy become strange monsters, not to say utter rogues; even the best of them are made useless by philosophy. Socrates admits that this is true in the world as it is, but maintains that it is the other people who are to blame, not the philosophers; in a wise community the philosophers would not seem foolish; it is only among fools that the wise are judged to be destitute of wisdom.
Philosophy, for Plato, is a kind of vision, the "vision of truth." It is not purely intellectual; it is not purely wisdom, but love of wisdom. Spinoza's "intellectual love of God" is much the same intimate union of thought and feeling. Every one who had done any kind of creative work has experienced, in a greater or less degree, the state of mind in which, after long labor, truth, or beauty, appears, or seems to appear, in a sudden glory - it may only be about some small matter, or it may be about the universe. The experience is, at the moment, very convincing; doubt may come later, but at the time there is utter certainty. I think that most of the best creative work, in art, in science, in literature, and in philosophy, had been the result of such a moment.
When I wish to write a book on some subject, I must first soak myself in detail, until all the separate parts of the subject-matter are familiar, then, some day, if I am fortunate, I perceive the whole, with all its parts duly interrelated. After that, I only have to write down what I have seen.
William James describes a man who got the experience from laughing-gas; whenever he was under its influence, he knew the secret of the universe, but when he came to, he had forgotten it. At last, with immense effort, he wrote down the secret before the vision had faded. When completely recovered, he rushed to see what he had written. It was "A smell of petroleum prevails throughout." What seems like sudden insight may be misleading, and must be tested soberly when the divine intoxication has passed.
[Expounding on Plato] The two kinds of intellect are called, respectively, "reason" and "understanding." Of these, reason is the higher kind; it is concerned with pure ideas, and its method is dialectic. Understanding is the kind of intellect that is used in mathematics; it is inferior to reason in that it uses hypotheses which it cannot test. ...Accordingly, mathematics can never tell us what is, but only what would be if...
There are no straight lines in the sensible world; therefore, if mathematics is to have more than hypothetical truth, we must find evidence for the existence of super-sensible straight lines in a super-sensible world. This cannot be done by the understanding, but according to Plato it can be done by reason, which shows that there is a [super-sensible] rectilinear triangle in heaven, of which geometrical propositions can be affirmed categorically, not hypothetically.
We saw that God made only one bed, and it would be natural to suppose that he would make only one straight line. But if there is a heavenly triangle, he must have made at least three straight lines. The objects of geometry, though ideal, must exist in many examples... This suggests that geometry, on Plato's theory, should not be capable of ultimate truth, but should be condemned as part of the study of appearance. We will, however, ignore this point.
Plato seeks to explain the difference between clear intellectual vision and the confused vision of sense perception by an analogy from the sense of sight. Sight, he says, differs from the other senses, since it requires not only the eye and the object, but also light. ...The eye is compared to the soul, and the sun, as the source of light, to truth or goodness. ..."The soul... when turned towards the twilight of becoming and perishing... has opinion only... first of one opinion, then of another, and seems to have no intelligence... what imparts truth to the known and the power of knowing to the knower is what I would have you term the idea of the good..."
Throughout Plato's philosophy there is the same fusion of intellect and mysticism as in Pythagoreanism, but at this final culmination mysticism clearly has the upper hand.
Plato's doctrine of ideas contains a number of obvious errors. But in spite of these it makes a very important advance in philosophy, since it is the first theory to emphasize the problem of universals, which, in varying forms, has persisted to the present day. ...The absolute minimum of what remains, even in the view of those most hostile to Plato, is this: that we cannot express ourselves in a language composed wholly of proper names, but must have also general words such as "man," "dog," "cat"; or, if not these, then relational words such as "similar," "before," and so on. Such words are not meaningless noises, and it is difficult to see how they can have meaning if the world consists entirely of particular things, such as are designated by proper names. There may be ways of getting around this argument, but at any rate it affords a prima facie case in favor of universals. I provisionally accept it as in some degree valid. But when so much is granted, the rest of what Plato says by no means follows.
Only the contingent world, the world in space and time, can have been created, but this is the every-day world which has been condemned as illusory and also bad. Therefore the Creator, it would seem, created only illusion and evil. Some Gnostics were so consistent as to adopt this view; but in Plato the difficulty is still below the surface, and he seems, in the Republic, to have never become aware of it.
Plato proceeds to an interesting sketch of the education proper to a young man who is to be a guardian. ...The young man chosen for these merits will spend the years from twenty to thirty on the four Pythagorean studies: arithmetic, geometry (plane and solid), astronomy, and harmony. These studies are not to be pursued in any utilitarian spirit, but in order to prepare his mind for the vision of eternal things. In astronomy, for example, he is not to trouble himself too much about the actual heavenly bodies, but rather with the mathematics of motion of ideal heavenly bodies. This may seem absurd to modern ears, but, strange to say, it proved to be a fruitful point of view in connection with empirical astronomy.
The apparent motions of the planets, until they have been very profoundly analyzed, appear to be irregular and complicated, and not at all such as a Pythagorean Creator would have chosen. It was obvious to every Greek that the heavens ought to exemplify mathematical beauty, which would only be the case if the planets moved in circles. This would be especially evident to Plato, owing to his emphasis on the good. The problem thus arose: is there any hypothesis which would reduce the apparent disorderliness of planetary motions to order and beauty and simplicity? If there is, the idea of the good will justify us in asserting this hypothesis.Aristarchus of Samos found such a hypothesis: that all the planets, including the earth, go round the sun in circles. This view was rejected for two thousand years, partly on the authority of Aristotle, who attributes a rather similar hypothesis to "the Pythagoreans" (De Coelo, 293 a). It was revived by Copernicus, and its success might seem to justify Plato's aesthetic bias in astronomy. Unfortunately, however, Kepler discovered that the planets move in ellipses, not in circles, with the sun at a focus, not at the center; then Newton discovered that they do not move even in exact elipses. And so the geometrical simplicity sought by Plato, and apparently found by Aristarchus of Samos, proved in the end illusory.
This piece of scientific history illustrates a general maxim: that any hypothesis, however absurd, may be useful in science, if it enables a discoverer to conceive things in a new way; but when it has served this purpose by luck, it is likely to become an obstacle to further advance.
The belief in the good as the key to scientific understanding of the world was useful, at a certain stage, in astronomy, but in every later stage it was harmful. The ethical and aesthetic bias of Plato, and still more of Aristotle, did much to kill Greek science.
It is noteworthy that modern Platonists, almost without exception, are ignorant of mathematics, in spite of the immense importance that Plato attached to arithmetic and geometry, and the immense influence that they [these studies] had on his philosophy. This is an example of the evils of specialization: a man must not write on Plato unless he has spent so much of his youth on Greek as to have no time for the things that Plato thought important.
What the gospel account of the Passion and Crucifixion was for the Christians, the Phaedo was for pagan or freethinking philosophers. (Even for many Christians, it is second only to the death of Christ...) But the imperturbability of Socrates in his last hour is bound up with his belief in immortality, and the Phaedo is important as setting forth, not only the death of a martyr, but also many doctrines which were afterwards Christian. The theology of St. Paul and the Fathers was largely derived from it, directly or indirectly, and can hardly be understood if Plato is ignored.
He [ Socrates, in an earlier dialogue, the Crito ] contended that he had been condemned by due process of law, and that it would be wrong to do anything illegal to avoid punishment. He first proclaimed the principle which we associate with the Sermon on the Mount, that "we ought not retaliate evil for evil to any one, whatever evil may be suffered from him." He then imagines himself engaged in a dialogue with the laws of Athens, in which they point out that he owes them the kind of respect that a son owes to a father or a slave to his master, but in an even higher degree; and that, moreover, every Athenian citizen is free to emigrate if he dislikes the Athenian State.
His [Socrates'] friends inquire why suicide is held to be unlawful, and his answer, which is in accordance with Orphic doctrine, is almost exactly what a Christian might say. ...He compares the relation of man to God with that of cattle to their owner; you would be angry, he says, if your ox took the liberty of putting himself out of the way... He is not grieved at death, because he in convinced "...that there is yet something remaining for the dead, some far better thing for the good than for the evil."
Death, says Socrates, is the separation of the soul from the body. Here we come upon Plato's dualism: between reality and appearance, ideas and sensible objects, reason and sense perception, soul and body. These pairs are connected: the first in each pair is superior to the second both in reality and in goodness. An ascetic morality was the natural consequence of this dualism. Christianity adopted this doctrine in part, but never wholly. There were two obstacles. The first was that the creation of the visible world, if Plato was right, must have been an evil deed, and therefore the Creator could not be good. The second was that orthodox Christianity could never bring itself to condemn marriage, though it held celibacy to be nobler. The Manichaeans were more consistent in both respects.
The distinction between mind and matter, which has become a commonplace in philosophy and science and popular thought, has a religious origin, and began as the distinction of soul and body. The Orphic, as we saw, proclaims himself the child of the earth and of the starry heaven; from earth comes the body, from heaven the soul. It is this theory that Plato seeks to express in the language of philosophy.
Socrates, in the Phaedo, proceeds to develop the ascetic implications of his doctrine, but his asceticism is of the moderate and gentlemanly sort. He does not say that the philosopher should wholly abstain from ordinary pleasures, but only that he should not be a slave to them. ...he should eat as much as is necessary; there is no suggestion of fasting. ...It was not drinking that he condemned, but the pleasure of drinking. In like manner, the philosopher must not care for the pleasures of love, or for costly raiment, or sandals, or other adornments of the person. He must be entirely concerned with the soul and not with the body... It is obvious that this doctrine, popularized, would become ascetic, but in intention it is not, properly speaking, ascetic.
The philosopher will not abstain with an effort from the pleasures of sense, but will be thinking of other things. I have known many philosophers who forgot their meals, and read a book when at last they did eat. These men were acting as Plato says they should: they were not abstaining from gluttony by means of a moral effort, but were more interested in other matters. Apparently the philosopher should marry, and beget and rear children, in the same absent-minded way, but since the emancipation of women this has become more difficult. No wonder Xanthippe was a shrew.
Many eminent ecclesiastics, having renounced the pleasure of sense, and being not on their guard against the pleasures of others, became dominated by love of power, which led them to appalling cruelties and persecutions, nominally for the sake of religion. In our own day, Hitler belongs to this type; by all accounts, the pleasures of sense are of very little importance to him. Liberation from the tyranny of the body contributes to greatness, but just as much to greatness in sin as to greatness in virtue.
We come to the intellectual aspect of the religion which Plato (rightly or wrongly) attributes to Socrates. We are told that the body is a hindrance in the acquisition of knowledge, and that sight and hearing are inaccurate witnesses: true existence, if revealed to the soul at all, is revealed in thought, not in sense. ...the true philosopher ignores sight and hearing. What then is left to him? First, logic and mathematics; but these are hypothetical, and do not justify the categorical assertion about the real world. The next step - and this is critical - depends upon the idea of the good. ...Later philosophers had arguments to prove the identity of the real and the good, but Plato seems to have assumed it as self-evident. If we wish to understand him, we must, hypothetically, suppose this assumption justified.
To the empiricist, the body is what brings us into touch with the world of external reality, but to Plato it is doubly evil, as a distorting medium, causing us to see as through a glass darkly, and as a source of lusts which distract us from the pursuit of knowledge and the vision of truth. Some quotations will make this clear. "...the soul in herself must behold things in themselves: and then we shall attain the wisdom which we desire, and of which we say we are lovers; not while we live, but after death: for if while in company with the body the soul cannot have pure knowledge..."
Plato thinks that a man could live on very little money if his wants were reduced to a minimum, and this no doubt is true. But he also thinks that a philosopher should be exempt from manual labor; he must therefore live on the wealth created by others. In a very poor State there are likely to be no philosophers. It was the imperialism of Athens in the age of Pericles that made it possible for Athenians to study philosophy. Speaking broadly, intellectual goods are just as expensive as more material commodities, as just as little independent of economic conditions. Science requires libraries, laboratories, telescopes, microscopes, and so on, and men of science have to be supported by the labor of others. But to the mystic all this is foolishness. A holy man in India or Tibet needs no apparatus, wears only a loin cloth, eats only rice, and is supported by very meager charity because he is thought wise. This is the logical development of Plato's point of view.
To return to the Phaedo: Cebes expresses doubt as to the survival of the soul after death, and urges Socrates to offer arguments. This he proceeds to do, but it must be said that the arguments are very poor. The first argument is that all things which have opposites are generated from their opposites... Now life and death are opposites, and therefore each must generate the other. It follows that souls of the dead must exist somewhere, and come back to earth in due course. ...The second argument is that knowledge is recollection, and therefore the soul must have existed before death. ...As to this one may observe that the argument is wholly inapplicable to empirical knowledge. ...Only the sort of knowledge that is called a priori - especially logic and mathematics - can possible be supposed to exist in every one independently of experience. In fact, that is the only sort of knowledge that Plato admits to be really knowledge. ...He adds another argument, which had a longer history in philosophy: that only what is complex can be dissolved, and that the soul, like the ideas, is simple and not compounded of parts. What is simple, it is thought, cannot begin or end or change.
[Expounding on Plato] Now essences are unchanging: absolute beauty, for example, is always the same, whereas beautiful things continually change. Thus things seen are temporal, but things unseen are eternal. The body is seen, but the soul is unseen; therefore the soul is to be classified in the group of things that are eternal.
[Expounding on Plato] The soul, being eternal, is at home in the contemplation of eternal things, that is, essences, but is lost and confused when, as in sense perception, it contemplates the world of changing things. "The soul... is dragged by the body into the region of the changeable, and wanders and is confused; the world spins about her, and she is like a drunkard, when she touches change. ...But when returning into herself... into the other world, the region of purity, and eternity, and immortality, and unchangeableness... she ceases from her erring ways, and being in communion with the unchanging is unchanging. And this state of the soul is called wisdom."
[Expounding on Plato] The philosopher will be temperate because "each pleasure and pain is a sort of nail which nails and rivets the soul to the body, until she becomes like the body, and believes that to be true which the body affirms to be true."
His [Socrates'] end, and his farewells, are described. His last words are: "Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay the debt?" Men paid a cock to Asclepius when they recovered from an illness, and Socrates has recovered from life's fitful fever.
The Platonic Socrates was a pattern to subsequent philosophers for many ages. ...He is indifferent to worldly success, so devoid of fear that he remains calm and urbane and humorous to the last moment, caring more for what he believes to be the truth than for anything else whatever. He has, however, some very grave defects. He is dishonest and sophistical in argument, and in his private thinking he uses intellect to prove conclusions that are to him agreeable, rather than in a disinterested search for knowledge. ...Unlike some of his predecessors, he was not scientific in his thinking, but was determined to prove the universe agreeable to his ethical standards. This is treachery to truth, and the worst of philosophic sins. As a man, we may believe him admitted to the communion of saints; but as a philosopher he needs a long residence in a scientific purgatory.
Plato's cosmogony is set forth in the Timaeus, which was translated into Latin by Cicero, and was, in consequence, the only one of the dialogues that was known in the West in the Middle Ages. Both then, and earlier in Neoplatonism, it had more influence than anything else in Plato, which is curious, as it certainly contains more that is simply silly than is to be found in his other writings. As philosophy, it is unimportant, but historically it was so influential that it must be considered in some detail.
It appears that Plato's God, unlike the Jewish and Christian God, did not create the world out of nothing, but rearranged pre-existing material.
[Expounding on Plato] God made first the soul, then the body. The soul is compounded of the indivisible-unchangeable and the divisible-changeable, it is a third and intermediate kind of essence.
Here follows a Pythagorean account of the planets to an explanation of time: "...he resolved to have a moving image of eternity, and when he set in order the heaven, he made this image eternal but moving according to number, while eternity itself rests in unity; and this image we call Time."
At the beginning Timaeus says he seeks only probability, and cannot be sure. Many details are obviously imaginative, and not meant literally.
[Expounding on Plato] There are two kinds of causes, those that are intelligent, and those that, being moved by others, are, in turn, compelled to move others. The former are endowed with mind, and are the workers of things fair and good, while the latter produce chance effects without order or design. Both sorts ought to be studied, for the creation is mixed, being made up of necessity and mind. (It will be observed that necessity is not subject to God's power.)
Earth, air, fire, and water are not the first principles or letters or elements; they are not even syllables or first compounds. Fire, for instance, should not be called this, but such - that is to say, it is not a substance, but rather a state of a substance.
This leads [ the dialogue, Timaeus ] to a somewhat curious theory of space, as something intermediate between the world of essence and the world of transient sensible things. "...And there is a third nature, which is space, and is eternal, and admits not of destruction and provides a home for all created things, and is apprehended without the help of sense, by a kind of spurious reason, and is hardly real; which we beholding as in a dream, say of all existence that it must of necessity be in some place and occupy a space, but that what is neither in heaven nor on earth has no existence."
The true elements of the material world, Timaeus says, are not earth, air, fire, and water, but two sorts of right angled triangles, the one which is half a square and the one which is half an equilateral triangle. Originally everything was in confusion, and "the various elements had different places before they were arranged so as to form the universe." But then God fashioned them by form and number, and "made them as far as possible, the fairest and the best, out of the things which were not fair and good." The above two sorts of triangles, we are told, are the most beautiful forms, and therefore God used them in constructing matter. By means of these two triangles, it is possible to construct four of the five regular solids, and each atom of one of the four elements is a regular solid. Atoms of earth are cubes; of fire, tetrahedra; of air, octahedra; and of water, icosahedra. (I shall come to the dodecahedra [ aether ] presently.)
Timaeus proceeds to explain the two souls in a man, one immortal, the other immortal, one created by God, the other created by the gods. The mortal soul is "subject to terrible and irresistible affections - first of all, pleasure, the greatest incitement to evil; then pain, which deters from good; also rashness and fear, two foolish counselors, anger hard to be appeased, and hope easily led astray; these they (the gods) mingled with irrational sense and with all-daring love according to necessary laws and so framed men."
Chapter XVIII. Knowledge and Perception in Plato
We are told that, since 6 is greater than 4 but less than 12, 6 is both great and small, which is a contradiction. Again, Socrates is now taller than Theaetetus, who is a youth not yet full grown; but in a few years Socrates will be shorter than Theaetetus. Therefore Socrates is both tall and short. The idea of a relational proposition seems to have puzzled Plato, as it did most of the great philosophers down to Hegel (inclusive).
Returning to the perception, it is regarded as due to an interaction between the object and the sense-organ, both of which, according to the doctrine of Heraclitus, are always changing, and both of which, in changing, change the percept. Socrates remarks that when he is well he finds wine sweet, but when ill, sour. Here it is a change in the percipient that causes the change in the percept.
[Expounding on Plato] It is urged that Protagoras ought equally have admitted pigs and baboons are measures of all things, since they also are percipients. Questions are raised as to the validity of perception in dreams and madness. It is suggested that, if Protagoras is right, one man knows no more than another: not only is Protagoras as wise as the gods, but, what is more serious, he is no wiser than a fool. Further, if one man's judgements are as correct as another's, the people who judge that Protagoras is mistaken have the same reason to be thought right as he has.
As for the argument that, if each man is the measure of all things, one man is as wise as another, Socrates suggests, on behalf of Protagoras, a very interesting answer, namely that, while one judgement cannot be truer than another, it can be better, in the sense of having better consequences. This suggests pragmatism. (It is presumably this passage that first suggested to F.C.S. Schiller his admiration of Protagoras.) ...He urges, for example, that when a doctor foretells the course of my illness, he actually knows more of my future than I do. And when men differ as to what is wise for the State to decree, the issue shows that some men had a greater knowledge as to the future than others had. Thus we cannot escape the conclusion that a wise man is a better measure of things than a fool.
All these are objections to the doctrine that each man is the measure of all things, and only indirectly to the doctrine that "knowledge" means "perception," in so far as this doctrine leads to the other. There is, however, a direct argument, namely that memory must be allowed as well as perception. This is admitted, and to this extent the proposed definition is amended.
[Expounding on Plato] We cannot be right in saying we are seeing a thing, for seeing is perpetually changing into not-seeing. (Compare the [highway billboard] advertisement: "The Shell, that was.") If everything is changing in every kind of way, seeing has no right to be called seeing rather than not-seeing, or perception to be called perception rather than not-perception. And then when we say "perception is knowledge," we might just as well say "perception is not-knowledge."
What the argument amounts to is that, whatever else may be in perpetual flux, the meanings of words must be fixed, at least for a time, since otherwise no assertion is definite, and no assertion is true rather than false. There must be something more or less constant, if discourse and knowledge is to be possible. This, I think, should be admitted. But a great deal of flux is compatible with this admission.
We now reach Plato's final argument against the identification of knowledge with perception. He begins by pointing out that we perceive through eyes and ears, rather than with them, and he goes on to point out that some of our knowledge is not connected with any sense organ. We can know, for instance, that sounds and colors are unlike, though no organ of sense can perceive both. There is no special organ for "existence and non-existence, likeness and unlikeness, sameness and differences, and also unity and numbers in general." The same applies to honorable and dishonorable, and good and bad. "The mind contemplates some things through it own instrumentality, others through the bodily faculties." We perceive hard and soft through touch, but it is the mind that judges that they exist and that they are contraries. Only the mind can reach existence, and we cannot reach truth if we do not reach existence. It follows that we cannot know things through the senses alone, since through the senses alone we cannot know that things exist. Therefore knowledge consists in reflection, not in impressions, and perception is not knowledge, because it "has no part in apprehending the truth, since it has none in apprehending existence."
It is argued [by Plato] that comparison, knowledge of existence, and understanding of number, are essential to knowledge, but cannot be included in perception since they are not effected through any sense organ.
The core of crude occurrence is merely certain patches of color. ...The precept as filled out with images of touch becomes an "object," which is supposed physical; the percept as filled out with words and memories becomes a "perception," which is part of a "subject" and is considered mental. The percept is just an occurrence, and neither true nor false; the percept as filled out with words is a judgement, and capable of truth or falsehood. This judgement I call a "judgement of perception." The proposition "knowledge is perception" must be interpreted as meaning "knowledge is judgement of perception." It is only in this form that it is grammatically capable of being correct.
I should agree with Plato that arithmetic, and pure mathematics generally, is not derived from perception. Pure mathematics consists of tautologies, analogous to "men are men," but usually more complicated. To know that a mathematical proposition is correct, we do not have to study the world, but only the meanings of symbols; and the symbols, when we dispense with definitions (of which the purpose is merely abbreviation), are found to be such words as "or" and "not," and "all" and "some," which do not, like "Socrates," denote anything in the actual world. A mathematical equation asserts that two groups of symbols have the same meaning; and so long as we confine ourselves to pure mathematics, this meaning must he one that can be understood without knowing anything about what can be perceived. Mathematical truth, therefore, is, as Plato contends, independent of perception; but it is truth of a very peculiar sort, and is concerned only with symbols.
Numbers are in a certain precise sense, formal. ...The relation of the symbol "two" to the meaning of a proposition in which it occurs is far more complicated than the relation of the symbol "red" to the meaning of a proposition in which it occurs. We may say, in a certain sense, that the symbol "two" means nothing, for, when it occurs in a true statement, there is no corresponding constituent in the meaning of the statement. We may continue, if we like, to say that numbers are eternal, immutable, and so on, but we must add that they are also logical fictions.
Concerning sound and color, Plato says "both together are two, and each of them is one." ...There is here a mistake vary analogous to that concerning existence. The predicate "one" is not applicable to things, but only to unit classes. We can say "the earth has one satellite," but it is a syntactical error to say "the moon is one." For what can such an assertion mean? You may just as well say "the moon is many," since it has many parts. ...to argue "the earth has one satellite, namely the moon, therefore the moon is one" is as bad as to argue "the Apostles were twelve; Peter was an Apostle; therefore Peter was twelve."
The doctrine of universal flux is caricatured by Plato, and it is difficult to suppose that any one ever held it in the extreme form that he gives it. ....Logical oppositions have been invented for convenience, but continuous change requires a quantitative apparatus, the possibility of which Plato ignores. What he says on this subject, therefore, is largely beside the mark. At the same time it must be admitted that, unless words, to some extent, had fixed meanings, discourse would be impossible. Here again, however, it is easy to be too absolute. Words do change their meanings... It is necessary that the changes in the meanings of the words should be slower than the changes that the words describe; but it is not necessary that there be no changes in the meanings of words. Perhaps this does not apply to the abstract words of logic and mathematics, but these words, as we have seen, apply only to the form, not to the matter, of propositions. Here, again, we find that logic and mathematics are peculiar. Plato, under the influence of the Pythagoreans, assimilated other knowledge too much to mathematics. He shared this mistake with many of the greatest philosophers, but it was a mistake, none the less.
Aristotle, as a philosopher, is in many ways very different from all his predecessors. He is the first to write like a professor: his treatises are systematic, his discussions are divided into heads, he is a professional teacher, not an inspired prophet. His work is critical, careful, pedestrian, without any trace of Bacchic enthusiasm. The Orphic elements in Plato are watered down in Aristotle, and mixed with a strong dose of common sense; where he is Platonic, one feels that his natural temperament has been overpowered by the teaching to which he has been subjected. He is not passionate, or in any profound sense religious. The errors of his predecessors were the glorious errors of youth attempting the impossible; his errors are those of age which cannot free itself of habitual prejudices. He is best in detail and in criticism; he fails in large construction, for lack of fundamental clarity and Titanic fire.
Alexander, who was not quite Greek, tried to break down this attitude of superiority. He himself married two barbarian princesses, and he compelled his leading Macedonians to marry Persian women of noble birth. ...The result of this policy was to bring into the minds of thoughtful men the conception of mankind as a whole; the old loyalty to the City State and (in a lesser degree) to the Greek race seemed no longer adequate.
...the interaction of Greek and barbarian was reciprocal: the barbarians learned something of Greek science, while the Greeks learned much of barbarian superstition.
From the Milesian school onwards, the Greeks who were eminent in science and philosophy and literature were associated with rich commercial cities, often surrounded by barbarian populations. This type of civilization was inaugurated not by the Greeks, but by the Phoenicians; Tyre and Sidon and Carthage depended on slaves for manual labor at home, and on hired mercenaries in the conduct of their wars. They did not depend, as modern capital cities do, upon large rural populations of the same blood and with equal political rights.
The mathematicians and men of science connected, more or less closely, with Alexandria in the third century before Christ were as able as any of the Greeks of previous centuries, and did work of equal importance. But they were not, like their predecessors, men who took all learning as their province, and propounded universal philosophies; they were specialists in the modern sense. Euclid, Aristarchus, Archimedes and Apollonius, were content to be mathematicians; in philosophy they did not aspire to originality.
A palace revolution might displace the syncophantic sage's patron; the Galatians might destroy the rich man's villa; one's city might be sacked as an incident in a dynastic war. In such circumstances it is no wonder that people took to worshiping the goddess of Fortune, or Luck. There seemed nothing rational in the ordering of human affairs. Those who obstinately insisted upon finding rationality somewhere withdrew into themselves...
The influence on non-Greek religion and superstition in the Hellenistic world was mainly, but not wholly, bad. This might not have been the case. Jews, Persians, and Buddhists all had religions that were very definitely superior to the popular Greek polytheism, and could even have been studied by the best philosophers. Unfortunately, it was the Babylonians, or Chaldeans, who most impressed the imagination of the Greeks. ...what was received was mainly astrology and magic.
As we shall see, the majority of even the best philosophers fell in with the belief in astrology. It involved, since it thought the future predictable, a belief in necessity or fate, which could be set against the prevalent belief in fortune. No doubt most men believed in both, and never noticed the inconsistency.
The general confusion was bound to bring moral decay, even more than intellectual enfeeblement. Ages of prolonged uncertainty, while they are compatible with the highest degree of saintliness in a few, are inimical to the prosaic every-day virtues of respectable citizens. ...fear took the place of hope; the purpose of life was rather to escape misfortune than to achieve any positive good.
The first of these schools [ Cynics ] is derived (through its founder Diogenes) from Antisthenes, a disciple of Socrates. ...He would have nothing but simple goodness. He associated with working men, and dressed as one of them. He took to open-air preaching, in a style that the uneducated could understand. All refined philosophy he held to be worthless, what could be known, could be known by the plain man. He believed in a "return to nature," and carried this belief very far. There was to be no government, no private property, no marriage, no established religion. His followers, if not himself, condemned slavery. He was not an ascetic, but he despised luxury and the pursuit of artificial pleasures of the senses.
The fame of Antisthenes was surpassed by that of his disciple, Diogenes... He decided to live like a dog, and was therefore called a "cynic," which means "canine." He rejected all conventions - whether of religion, of manners of dress, of housing, of food, or of decency. One is told that he lived in a tub... it was a large pitcher, of the sort used in primitive times for burials. He lived like an Indian fakir, by begging. ...Everyone knows how Alexander visited him, and asked if he desired any favor; "only to stand out of my light," he replied.
The teaching of Diogenes was by no means what we now call "cynical" - quite the contrary. He had an ardent passion for "virtue," in comparison with which he held worldly goods of no account. He sought virtue and moral freedom in liberation from desire: be indifferent to the goods that fortune has to bestow, and you will be emancipated from fear. In this respect, his doctrine... was taken up by the Stoics, but they did not follow him in rejecting the amenities of civilization. He considered that Prometheus was justly punished for bringing to man the arts that have produced the complication and artificiality of modern life. In this he resembled the Taoists and Rousseau and Tolstoy, but was more consistent than they were.
His [Diogenes] doctrine, though he was a contemporary of Aristotle, belongs in its temper to the Hellenistic age. Aristotle is the last Greek philosopher who faces the world cheerfully; after him, all have, in one form or another, a philosophy of retreat. The world is bad; let us learn to be independent of it. External goods are precarious; they are the gift of fortune, not the reward of our own efforts. Only subjective goods—virtue or contentment through resignation—are secure, and these alone, therefore, will be valued by the wise man... it was certainly not a doctrine calculated to promote art of science or statesmanship, or any useful activity except one of protest against powerful evil.
It is interesting to observe what the Cynic teaching became when it was popularized. ...Popular Cynicism did not teach abstinence from the good things of the world, but only a certain indifference to them.
What was best in the Cynic doctrine passed over into Stoicism, which was an altogether more complete and rounded philosophy.
Skepticism, as a doctrine of the schools, was first proclaimed by Pyrrho... There was not much new in his doctrine, beyond a certain systematizing and formalizing of older doubts. Skepticism with regard to the senses had troubled Greek philosophers from a very early stage... The Sophists, notably Protagoras and Gorgias, had been led by the ambiguities and apparent contradictions of sense-perception to a subjectivism not unlike Hume's. Pyrrho seems to have added moral and logical skepticism to skepticism as to the senses. He is said to have maintained that there could never be any rational ground for preferring one course of action to another. A modern disciple would go to church on Sundays and perform the correct genuflections, but without any of the genuine religious beliefs that are suppose to inspire these actions. Ancient Skeptics went through the whole pagan ritual, and were even sometimes priests; their skepticism assured them that this behavior could not be proved wrong, and their common sense assured them that it was convenient.
Skepticism naturally made an appeal to many unphilosophic minds. People observed the diversity of schools and the acerbity of their disputes, and decided all alike were pretending to knowledge which was in fact unattainable. Skepticism was the lazy man's consolation, since it showed the ignorant to be as wise as the reputed men of learning.
Skepticism as a philosophy is not merely doubt, but what may be called dogmatic doubt. The man of science says "I think it is so-and-so, but I am not sure." The man of intellectual curiosity says "I don't know how it is, but I hope to find out." The philosophical Skeptic says "nobody knows and nobody ever can know." It is this element of dogmatism that makes the system vulnerable.
Pyrrho's disciple Timon... advanced some intellectual arguments which, from the standpoint of Greek logic, were very hard to answer. The only logic admitted by the Greeks was deductive, and all deduction had to start, like Euclid, from general principles regarded as self-evident. Timon denied the possibility of finding such principles. ...nothing can be proved. This argument, as we can see, cut at the root of the Aristotelian philosophy which dominated the Middle Ages.
A modern Skeptic would point out that the phenomenon merely occurs, and is not either valid or invalid; what is valid or invalid must be a statement, and no statement can be so closely linked to the phenomenon as to be incapable of falsehood.
In some respects, the doctrine of Timon was very similar to that of Hume. He maintained that something which had never been observed - atoms, for instance - could not be validly inferred, but when two phenomena had been frequently observed together, one could be inferred from the other.
With his [Timon's] death, the school of Pyrrho, as a school, came to an end, but his doctrines, somewhat modified, were taken up, strange as it may seem, by the Academy, which represented the Platonic tradition.
Plato was many-sided, and in some respects could be regarded as teaching skepticism. ...Many of the dialogues reach no positive conclusion, and aim at leaving the reader in a state of doubt. Some - the latter half of the Parmenides, for instance - might seem to have no purpose except to show that either side of any question can be maintained with equal plausibility. The Platonic dialectic could be treated as an end, rather than a means... This seems to be the way in which Arcesilaus interpreted the man whom he still professed to follow. He had decapitated Plato, but at any rate the torso that remained was genuine.
Chapter XXIX : The Roman Empire in Relation to Culture.
Contacts with the Mohammedans in Spain, and to a lesser extent in Sicily, made the West aware of Aristotle; also of Arabic numerals, algebra, and chemistry. It was this contact that began the revival of learning in the eleventh century, leading to the Scholastic philosophy. It was later, from the thirteenth century onward, that the study of the Greek enabled men to go direct to the works of Plato and Aristotle and other Greeks writers of antiquity. But if the Arabs had not preserved the tradition, the men of the Renaissance might not have suspected how much was to be gained by the revival of classical learning.
[According to St. Thomas] the soul is not transmitted with the semen, but is created afresh with each man. There is, it is true, a difficulty: when a man is born out of wedlock, this seems to make God an accomplice in adultery. This objection, however, is only specious. (There is a grave objection, which troubled Saint Augustine, and that is as to the transmission of original sin. It is the soul that sins, and if the soul is not transmitted, but created afresh, how can it inherit the sin of Adam? This is not discussed.)
There is little of the true philosophic spirit in Aquinas. He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead. He is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading. I cannot, therefore, feel that he deserves to be put on a level with the best philosophers either of Greece or of modern times.
Bacon's most important book, The Advancement of Learning, is in many ways remarkably modern. ...The whole basis of his philosophy was practical: to give mankind mastery over the forces of nature by means of scientific discoveries and inventions.
He held that philosophy should be kept separate from theology, not intimately blended with it as in scholasticism. He accepted orthodox religion... But while he thought that reason could show the existence of God, he regarded everything else in theology as known only by revelation. Indeed he held that the triumph in faith is greatest when to the unaided reason a dogma appears most absurd. Philosophy, however, should depend only upon reason. He was thus an advocate of the doctrine of "double truth," that of reason and that of revelation.
Bacon was the first of a long line of scientifically minded philosophers who have emphasized the importance of induction as opposed to deduction. Like most of his successors, he tried to find some better kind of induction than what is called "induction by simple enumeration."
Induction by simple enumeration may be illustrated by a parable. There was once upon a time a census officer who had to record the names of all householders in a certain Welsh village. The first that he questioned was called William Williams; so were the second, third, fourth,... At last he said to himself: "This is tedious; evidently they are all called William Williams. I shall put them down so and take a holiday." But he was wrong; there was just one who was named John Jones.
Bacon not only despised the syllogism, but undervalued mathematics, presumably as insufficiently experimental. He was virulently hostile to Aristotle, but he thought very highly of Democritus, Although he did not deny that the course of nature exemplifies a Divine purpose, he objected to any admixture of teleological explanation in the actual investigation of phenomena; everything, he held, should be explained as following necessarily from efficient causes.
We ought, he says, to be neither like spiders, which spin things out of their own insides, nor like ants, which merely collect, but like bees, which both collect and arrange.
Although science was what interested Bacon, and although his general outlook was scientific, he missed most of what was being done in science in his day. He rejected the Copernican theory, which was excusable so far as Copernicus himself was concerned, since he did not advance any very solid arguments. But Bacon ought to have been convinced by Kepler, Whose New Astronomy appeared in 1609. Bacon appears not to have known the work of Vesalius, the pioneer of modern anatomy, or of Gilbert, whose work on magnetism brilliantly illustrated inductive method. Still more surprising, he seemed unconscious of the work of Harvey, although Harvey was his medical attendant.
Bacon's inductive method is faulty through insufficient emphasis on hypothesis. He hoped that merely orderly arrangement of data would make the right hypothesis obvious, but this is seldom the case. As a rule, the framing of hypothesis is the most difficult part of scientific work, and the part where great ability is indispensable.
So far, no method has been found which would make it possible to invent hypothesis by rule. Usually some hypothesis is a necessary preliminary to the collection of facts, since the selection of facts demands some way of determining relevance. Without something of this kind, the mere multiplicity of facts is baffling.
The part played by deduction in science is greater than Bacon supposed. Often, when a hypothesis has to be tested, there is a long deductive journey from the hypothesis to some consequence that can be tested by observation. Usually the deduction is mathematical, and in this respect Bacon underestimated the importance of mathematics in scientific investigation.
Spinoza (1634–77) is the noblest and most lovable of the great philosophers. Intellectually, some have surpassed him, but ethically he is supreme. As a natural consequence, he was considered, during his lifetime and for a century after his death, a man of appalling wickedness.
Spinoza's Ethics deals with three distinct matters. It begins with metaphysics, it then goes on to the psychology of the passions and the will; and finally it sets forth an ethic based on the preceding metaphysics and psychology. The metaphysics is a modification of Descartes, the psychology is reminiscent of Hobbes, but the ethic is original, and is what is of most value in the book.
The relation of Spinoza to Descartes is in some ways not unlike the relation of Plotinus to Plato. Descartes was a many-sided man, full of intellectual curiosity, but not much burdened by moral earnestness. Although he invented proofs intended to support orthodox beliefs, he could have been used by skeptics as Carneades used Plato.
Spinoza, although he was not without scientific interests, and even wrote a treatise on the rainbow, was in the main concerned with religion and virtue. He accepted from Descartes and his contemporaries a materialistic and deterministic physics, and sought, within this framework, to find room for reverence and a life devoted to the Good. His attempt was magnificent, and rouses admiration even in those who do not think it was successful.
Everything, according to Spinoza, is ruled by an absolute logical necessity. There is no such thing as free will in the mental sphere or chance in the physical world. Everything that happens is a manifestation of God's inscrutable nature, and it is logically impossible that events should be other than they are. This leads to difficulties in regard to sin, which critics were not slow to point out. One of them, observing that, according to Spinoza, everything is decreed by God and is therefore good, asks indignantly: Was it good that Nero should kill his mother? Was it good that Adam ate the apple? Spinoza answers that what was positive in these acts was good, and only what was negative was bad; but negation exists only from the point of view of finite creatures. In God, who alone is completely real, there is no negation, and therefore the evil in what to us seems sins does not exist when they are viewed as parts of the whole. This doctrine, though, in one form or another, it has been held by most mystics, cannot, obviously, be reconciled with the orthodox doctrine of sin and damnation. ...the abhorrence of his teaching is therefore not surprising.
The metaphysical system of Spinoza is of the type inaugurated by Parmenides. There is only one substance, "God or Nature"; nothing finite is self-subsistent.Descartes admitted three substances, God and mind and matter; it is true that, even for him, God was, in a sense, more substantial than mind and matter, since He had created them. But except in relation to God's omnipotence, mind and matter were two independent substances, defined, respectively, by the attributes of thought and extension. Spinoza would have none of this. For him, thought and extension were both attributes of God. God also has an infinite number of other attributes, since He must be in every respect infinite; but these others are unknown to us. Individual souls and separate pieces of matter are, for Spinoza, adjectival; they are not things, but merely aspects of the divine Being. There can be no such personal immortality as Christians believe in, but only that impersonal sort that consists in becoming more and more with God. Finite things are defined by their boundaries, physical or logical, that is to say, by what they are not: "all determination is negation." There can only be one Being who is wholly positive, and He must be absolutely infinite. Hence Spinoza is led to a complete and undiluted pantheism.
Spinoza... says: "hatred is increased by being reciprocated, and can on the other hand be destroyed by love." Self-preservation is the fundamental motive of the passions according to Spinoza; but self-preservation alters its character when we realize that what is real and positive in us is what unites us to the whole, and not what preserves the appearance of separateness.
We are in bondage in proportion as what happens to us is determined by outside causes, and we are free in proportion as we are self-determined. Spinoza, like Socrates and Plato, believes that all wrong action is due to intellectual error; the man who adequately understands his own circumstances will act wisely, and will even be happy in the face of what to another would be misfortune.
He makes no appeal to unselfishness, he holds that self-seeking, in some sense, and more particularly self-preservation, govern all human behavior. ...But his conception of what a wise man will choose as the goal of his self-seeking is different from that of an ordinary egoist. ...Emotions are called "passions" when they spring from inadequate ideas; passions in different men may conflict, but men who live in obedience to reason will agree together.
Pleasure in itself is good, but hope and fear are bad, and so are humility and repentance: "he who repents of an action is doubly wretched or infirm." Spinoza regards time as unreal, therefore all emotions which have to do essentially with an event as future or past are contrary to reason. "In so far as the mind conceives a thing as under the dictate of reason, it is affected equally, whether the idea be of a thing present, past, or future."
[Expounding on Spinoza] Whatever happens is part of the eternal timeless world as God sees it; to him, the date is irrelevant. The wise man, so far as human finitude allows, endeavors to see the world as God sees it, sub apecie æternitatus, under the aspect of eternity.
But, you may retort, we are surely right in being more concerned about future misfortunes, which may possibly be averted, than about past calamities about which we can do nothing. To this argument Spinoza's determinism supplies the answer. Only ignorance makes us think that we can alter the future; what will be will be, and the future is as unalterably fixed as the past. That is why hope and fear are condemned: both depend upon viewing the future as uncertain, and therefore spring from a lack of wisdom.
[Expounding on Spinoza] When we acquire, in so far as we can, a vision of the world which is analogous to God's, we see everything as part of the whole, and as necessary to the goodness of the whole. Therefore, "the knowledge of evil is an inadequate knowledge." God has no knowledge of evil, because there is no evil to be known; the appearance of evil only arises through regarding parts of the universe as if they were self-subsistent.
Spinoza's outlook is intended to liberate men from the tyranny of fear. "A free man thinks of nothing less than of death; and his wisdom is a meditation not of death, but of life." Spinoza lived up to this precept very completely.
[Expounding on Spinoza] In so far as what happens to us springs from ourselves, it is good; only what comes from without is bad for us. ...Obviously, therefore, nothing bad can happen to the universe as a whole, since it is not subject to external causes. ...In so far as man is an unwilling part of the larger whole, he is in bondage, but in so far as, through the understanding, he has grasped the sole reality of the whole, he is free.
Spinoza does not, like the Stoics, object to all emotions; he objects only to those that are "passions," i.e., those in which we appear to ourselves to be passive in the power of outside forces. ...Understanding that all things are necessary helps the mind to acquire power over the emotions.
[Expounding on Spinoza] The intellectual love of God is a union of thought and emotion: it consists... in true thought combined with joy in the apprehension of truth. All joy in true thought is part of the intellectual love of God, for it contains nothing negative, and is therefore truly part of the whole, not only apparently, as are fragmentary things so separated in thought as to appear bad.
Spinoza says that God is not affected by any emotion of pleasure or pain, and also says that "the intellectual love of the mind towards God is part of the infinite love wherewith God loves himself." I think, nevertheless, that there is something in "intellectual love" which is not mere intellect; perhaps the joy involved is considered as something superior to pleasure.
"Love towards God," we are told, "must hold the chief place in the mind." I have omitted Spinoza's demonstrations... The proof... might be expressed as follows: Every increase in understanding of what happens to us consists in referring events to the idea of God, since, in truth, everything is part of God. This understanding of everything as part of God is love of God. When all objects are referred to God, the idea of God will fully occupy the mind.
p. 575 and 576.
Spinoza's metaphysic is the best example of what may be called "logical monism" - the doctrine, namely, that the world is a single substance, none of whose parts are logically capable of existing alone.
Spinoza thought that the nature of the world and of human life could be logically deducted from self-evident axioms...The whole of this metaphysic is impossible to accept; it is incompatible with modern logic and with scientific method.Facts have to be discovered by observation, not by reasoning; when we successfully infer the future, we do so by means of principles which are not logically necessary, but are suggested by empirical data. And the concept of substance, upon which Spinoza relies, is one which neither science nor philosophy can nowadays accept.
When we come to Spinoza's ethics, we feel - or at least I feel - that something, though not everything, can be accepted even when the metaphysical foundation has been rejected. Broadly speaking, Spinoza is concerned to show how it is possible to live nobly even when we recognize the limits of human power. He himself, by his doctrine of necessity, makes these limits narrower than they are; but when they indubitably exist, Spinoza's maxims are probably the best possible.
Death: nothing that a man can do will make him immortal, and it is therefore futile to spend time in fears and lamentations over the fact that we must die. To be obsessed by the fear of death is a kind of slavery; Spinoza is right in saying that "the free man thinks of nothing less than death."... The same considerations apply to all other personal misfortunes.
The Christian principle, "Love your enemies," is good, but the Stoic principle, "Be indifferent to your friends," is bad. And the Christian principle does not inculcate calm, but an ardent love even towards the worst of men. There is nothing to be said against it except that it is too difficult for most of us to practice sincerely.
...revenge. ...This reaction is still admired by most people, when the injury is great, and such as to arouse moral horror in disinterested people. Nor can it be wholly condemned, for it is one of the forces generating punishment, and punishment is something necessary. Moreover, from the point of view of mental health, the impulse to revenge is likely to be so strong that, if allowed no outlet, a man's whole outlook on life may become distorted and more or less insane.
...revenge is a very dangerous motive.it allows a man to be the judge in his own case, which is exactly what the law tries to prevent. Moreover it is usually an excessive motive; it seeks to inflict more punishment than is desirable. Torture, for example, should not be punished by torture, but the man maddened by lust for vengeance will think a painless death too good for the object of his hate. Moreover, and it is here that Spinoza is in the right - a life dominated by single passion is a narrow life, incompatible with every kind of wisdom. Revenge as such is therefore not the best reaction to injury.
Spinoza would say what the Christian says, and also something more. For him, all sin is due to ignorance; he would "forgive them, for they know not what they do." ...he believes hatred can be overcome by the power of love. ...I wish I could believe this, but I cannot, except in exceptional cases, where the person hating is completely in the power of the person who who refuses to hate in return.... But so long as the wicked have power, it is not much use assuring them that you do not hate them, since they will attribute your words to the wrong motive. And you cannot deprive them of power by non-resistance.
The problem for Spinoza is easier than it is for one who has no belief in the ultimate goodness of the universe. Spinoza thinks that if you see your misfortunes... as part of the concatenation of causes stretching from the beginning of time to the end, you will see that they are only misfortunes to you, not to the universe, to which they are merely passing discords heightening an ultimate harmony. I cannot accept this; I think that particular events are what they are, and do not become different by absorption into the whole. Each act of cruelty is eternally part of the universe; nothing that happens later can make that act good rather than bad, or can confer perfection on the whole of which it is part.
When it is your lot to endure something that is (or seems to you) worse than the ordinary lot of mankind, Spinoza's principle of thinking about the whole, or at any rate about larger matters than your own grief, is a useful one. ...Such reflections may not suffice to constitute a religion, but in a painful world they are a help towards sanity and an antidote to the paralysis of utter despair.
Locke is the most fortunate of all philosophers. He completed his work in theoretical philosophy just at the moment when the government of his country fell into the hands of men who shared his political opinion. Both in practice and in theory, the views which he advocated were held, for many years to come, by the most vigorous and influential politicians and philosophers. His political doctrines, with the developments due to Montesquieu, are embedded in the American Constitution, and are to be seen at work whenever there is a dispute between President and Congress. The British Constitution was based upon his doctrines until about fifty years ago, and so was that which the French adopted in 1871.
Not only Locke's valid opinions, but even his errors, were useful in practice. Take, for example, his doctrine as to the primary and secondary qualities. The primary qualities are defined as those that are inseparable from the body, and are enumerated as solidity, extension, figure, motion or rest, and number. The secondary qualities are all the rest: color, sounds, smells, etc. The primary qualities, he maintains, are actually in bodies; the secondary qualities, on the contrary, are only in the percipient. ...But Berkeley pointed out that the same argument apply to primary qualities. Ever since Berkeley, Locke's dualism on this point [primary and secondary qualities] has been philosophically out of date. Nevertheless, it dominated practical physics until the rise of quantum theory in our own day. Not only was it assumed, explicitly or tacitly, by physicists, but it proved fruitful as the source of many very important discoveries. The theory that the physical world consists only of matter in motion was the basis of the accepted theories of sound, heat, light, and electricity. Pragmatically, the theory was useful, however mistaken it may have been theoretically. This is typical of Locke's doctrines.
Locke's philosophy, as it appears in the Essay [on the Human Understanding], has throughout certain merits and certain demerits. Both alike were useful: the demerits are such only from a theoretical standpoint. He is always sensible, and always willing to sacrifice logic rather than become paradoxical. He enunciates general principles which, as the reader can hardly fail to perceive, are capable of leading to strange consequences; but whenever the strange consequences seem about to appear, Locke blandly refrains from drawing them. To a logician, this is irritating; to a practical man, it is a proof of sound judgement.
Since the world is what it is, it is clear that valid reasoning from sound principles cannot lead to error; but a principle may be so nearly true as to deserve theoretical respect, and yet may lead to practical consequences which we feel to be absurd. There is therefore a justification for common sense in philosophy, but only as showing that our theoretical principles cannot be quite correct so long as their consequences are condemned by an appeal to common sense which we feel to be irresistible. The theorist may retort that common sense is no more infallible than logic. But this retort, though made by Berkeley and Hume, would have been wholly foreign to Locke's intellectual temper.
A characteristic of Locke, which descended from him to the whole Liberal movement, is lack of dogmatism. Some few certainties he takes over from his predecessors: our own existence, the existence of God, and the truth of mathematics. But wherever his doctrines differ from his forerunners, they are to the effect that truth is hard to ascertain, and that a rational man will hold his opinions with some measure of doubt. This temper of mind is obviously connected with religious toleration, with the success of parliamentary democracy, with laissez-faire, and with the whole system of liberal maxims.
Although he [Locke] is a deeply religious man, a devout believer in Christianity who accepts revelation as a source of knowledge, he nevertheless hedges round professed revelations with rational safeguards. ...Thus in the end, reason remains supreme.
In his [Locke's] chapter "Of Degrees of Ascent" he says that the degree of ascent we give to any proposition should depend upon the grounds of probability in its favor. After pointing out that we must often act upon probabilities that fall short of certainty, he says... "where is the man who has incontestable evidence of the truth of all that he holds, or of the falsehood of all that he condemns; or can say, that he has examined to the bottom all his own or other men's opinions? The necessity of believing without knowledge... should make us more busy and careful to inform ourselves than to restrain others... There is reason to think, that if men were better instructed themselves, they would be less imposing on others."
Perception, he [Locke] says, is "the first step and degree towards knowledge, and the inlet of all materials of it." This may seem, to a modern, almost a truism, since it has become part of educated common sense, at least in English speaking countries. But in his day the mind was supposed to know all sorts of things a priori, and the complete dependence of knowledge upon perception, which he proclaimed, was a new and revolutionary doctrine.Plato, in the Theaetetus, had set to work to refute the identification of knowledge with perception, and from his time onwards almost all philosophers, down to and including Descartes and Leibniz, had taught that much of our most valuable knowledge is not derived from experience. Locke's thorough-going empiricism was therefore a bold innovation.
[Expounding on Locke] Chapter III, "Of General Terms," takes up an extreme nominalist position on the subject of universals. All things that exist are particulars, but we can frame general ideas, such as "man," that are applicable to many particulars, and to these general ideas we can give names. Their generality consists solely in the fact that they are, or may be, applicable to a variety of particular things; in their own being, as ideas in our minds, they are just as particular as everything else that exists.
[Expounding on Locke] Chapter VI of Book III, "Of the Names of Substances," is concerned to refute the scholastic doctrine of essence. Things may have a real essence, which will consist of their physical constitution, but this is in the main unknown to us, and is not the "essence" of which scholastics speak. Essence as we can know it is purely verbal; it consists merely in the definition of a general term.
[Expounding on Locke] Distinct species are not a fact of nature, but of language; they are "distinct complex ideas with distinct names annexed to them." There are, it is true, differing things in nature, but the differences proceed by continuous gradations: "the boundaries of the species, whereby men sort them, are made by men." He proceeds to give instances of monstrosities, concerning which it is doubtful whether they are men or not. This point of view was not generally accepted until Darwin persuaded men to adopt the theory of evolution by gradual changes. Only those who have allowed themselves to be afflicted by the scholastics will realize how much metaphysical lumber it sweeps away.
Empiricism and idealism alike are faced with a problem to which, so far, philosophy has found no satisfactory solution. This is the problem of showing how we have knowledge of other things than ourself and the operations of our own mind.
No one has yet succeeded in inventing a philosophy at once credible and self-consistent. Locke aimed at credibility, and achieved it at the expense of consistency. Most of the great philosophers have done the opposite. A philosophy which is not self-consistent cannot be wholly true, but a philosophy which is self-consistent can very well be wholly false. The most fruitful phiosophies have contained glaring inconsistencies, but for that very reason have been partially true. There is no reason to suppose that a self-consistent system contains more truth than one which, like Locke's, is obviously more or less wrong.
Locke has to admit, what is obvious, that men do not always act in the way which, on rational calculation, is likely to secure them a maximum of pleasure. We value present pleasure more than future pleasure, and pleasure in the near future more than pleasure in the distant future. It may be said - this is not said by Locke - that the rate of interest is a quantitative measure of the general discounting of future pleasures. ...Thus, even if pleasure of the avoidance of pain be our motive, it must be added that pleasures lose their attractiveness and pains their terrors in proportion to their distance in the future.
Since it is only in the long run that, according to Locke, self-interest and the general interest coincide, it becomes important that men should be guided, as far as possible, by their long-run interests. That is to say, men should be prudent. Prudence is the one virtue which remains to be preached, for every lapse from virtue is a failure of prudence.
Emphasis on prudence is a characteristic of liberalism. It is connected with the rise of capitalism, for the prudent became rich while the imprudent became or remained poor. It is connected also with certain forms of Protestantpiety: virtue with a view to heaven is psychologically very analogous to saving with a view to investment. Belief in harmony between public and private interests is characteristic of liberalism, and long survived the theological foundation that it had in Locke.
Locke states that liberty depends upon the necessity of pursuing happiness and upon the government of our passions. ...It follows from this doctrine that, given a community of citizens who are all both pious and prudent, they will act, given liberty, in a manner to promote the general good. There will be no need of human laws to restrain them, since divine laws will suffice. ...Legal liberty, therefore, is only completely possible where both prudence and piety are universal; elsewhere, the restraints imposed by criminal law are indispensable.
Locke states repeatedly that morality is capable of demonstration... "I doubt not, but from self-evident propositions, by necessary consequences, as incontestable as those in mathematics, the measures of right and wrong might be made out, to any one that will apply himself..."
Almost all philosophers, in their ethical systems, first lay down a false doctrine, and then argue that wickedness consists in acting in a manner that proves it false, which would be impossible if the doctrine were true. Of this pattern Locke affords a pattern.
In the years 1689 and 1690, just after the Revolution of 1688, Locke wrote his two Treatises on Government, of which the second is especially important in the history of political ideas. The first of these two treatises is a criticism of the doctrine of hereditary power. It is a reply to Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha: or the Natural Powers of Kings, which was published in 1680...
...theologians tended to believe in setting limits to kingly power. This was part of the battle between Church and State which raged throughout Europe during most of the Middle Ages. ...But the things which eminent and holy men had said against the power of the kings remained on record. Though intended in the interests of the Pope, they could be used to support the rights of the people to self-government.
The defeat of theories of divine right, in England, was due to two main causes. One was the multiplicity of religions; the other was the conflict of power between the monarchy, the aristocracy, and the higher bourgeoisie.
The theological position of the king was somewhat peculiar, for he was not only head of the Church of England, but also of the Church of Scotland. In England, he had to believe in bishops and reject Calvinism; in Scotland, he had to reject bishops and believe in Calvinism. The Stuarts had genuine religious convictions, which made this ambiguous attitude impossible for them, and caused them even more trouble in Scotland than in England. But after 1688, political convenience led kings to acquiesce in professing two religions at once. This militated against zeal, and made it difficult to regard them as divine persons. In any case, neither the Catholics nor Nonconformists could acquiesce in any religious claims on behalf of the monarchy.
There is one great institution that has never had any hereditary element, namely, the Catholic Church. We may expect dictatorships, if they survive, to develop gradually a form of government analogous to that of the Church. This has already happened in the great corporations of America, which have, or had until Pearl Harbor, powers almost equal to those of government.
We still think it natural that a man should leave his property to his children; that is to say, we accept the hereditary principle as regards economic power while rejecting it as regards political power. Political dynasties have disappeared, but economic dynasties survive. I am not at the moment arguing either for or against this different treatment of the two forms of power; I am merely pointing out that it exists, and that most men are unconscious of it. When you consider how natural it seems to us that the power over the lives of others resulting from great wealth should be hereditary, you will understand better how men like Sir Robert Filmer could take the same view as regards the power of kings, and how important was the innovation represented by men who thought as Locke did.
Locke's contrary theory could seem revolutionary, we have only to reflect that a kingdom was regarded then as a landed estate is regarded now. ...Ownership can be transmitted by inheritance, and we feel that the man who has inherited an estate has a just claim to all the privileges that the law allows him in consequence. Yet at bottom his position is the same as that of the monarchs whose claims Sir Robert Filmer defends.
There are at the present day in California a number of huge estates the title to which is derived from actual or alleged grants by the king of Spain. He was only in a position to make such grants (a) because Spain accepted the views similar to Filmer's, and (b) because the Spaniards were able to defeat the Indians in battle. Nevertheless we hold the heirs of those to whom he made grants to have a just title. Perhaps in the future this will seem as fantastic as Filmer seems now.
What Locke has to say about the state of nature and the law of nature is, in the main, not original, but a repetition of medieval scholastic doctrines. Thus Saint Thomas says, "Every law framed by man bears the character of a law exactly to the extent to which it is derived from the state of nature, it at once ceases to be a law; it is a mere perversion of law."
Many doctrines which survived the belief in natural law owe their origin to it; for example laissez-faire and the rights of man. These doctrines are connected, and both have their origin in puritanism.
In Locke's theory of government, I repeat, there is little that is original. In this Locke resembles most of the men who have won fame for their ideas. As a rule, the man who first thinks of a new idea is so much ahead of his time that every one thinks him silly, so that he remains obscure and is soon forgotten. Then, gradually, the world becomes ready for the idea, and the man who proclaims it at the fortunate moment gets all the credit. So it was, for example, with Darwin; poor Lord Monboddo was a laughing stock.
In regard to the state of nature, Locke was less original than Hobbes, who regarded it as one in which there was war of all against all, and life was nasty, brutish, and short. But Hobbes was reputed an atheist. The view of the state of nature and of natural law which Locke accepted from his predecessors cannot be freed from its theological basis; where it survives without this, as in much of modern liberalism, it is destitute of clear logical foundation.
The whole of this theory of the state of nature and natural law is on one sense clear but in another very puzzling. It is clear what Locke thought, but it is not clear how he can have thought it. Locke's ethic, as we saw, is utilitarian, but in his consideration of "rights" he does not bring in utilitarian considerations. Something of this pervades the whole philosophy of law as taught by lawyers. Legal rights can be defined: broadly speaking a man has a legal right when he can appeal to the law to safeguard him against injury. ...But the lawgiver has to decide what legal rights to create, and falls back naturally on the conception of "natural" rights, as those which the law should secure.
In its absolute form, the doctrine that an individual has certain inalienable rights is incompatible with utilitarianism, i.e., with the doctrine that right acts are those that do most to promote the general happiness. But in order that a doctrine may be a suitable basis for law, it is not necessary that it should be true in every possible case, but only that it should be true in an overwhelming majority of cases. ...Similarly it may be - I am not saying that it is - desirable, from a utilitarian point of view, to reserve to each individual a certain sphere of individual liberty. If so, the doctrine of the Rights of Man will be a suitable basis for the appropriate laws, even though these rights be subject to exceptions. A utilitarian will have to examine the doctrine, considered as a basis for laws, from the point of view of its practical effects; he cannot condemn it ab initio as contrary to his own ethic.
Government must, in some sense, have the right to exact obedience, and the right conferred by a contract seemed the only alternative to a divine command. Consequently the doctrine that government was instituted by contract was popular with practically all opponents of divine right of kings. There is a hint of this theory in Thomas Aquinas, but the first serious development of it is to be found in Grotius.
The contract doctrine was capable of taking forms which justified tyranny. Hobbes, for example, held that there was a contract among citizens to hand over all power to the chosen sovereign, but the sovereign was not a party to the contract, and therefore necessarily acquired unlimited authority. This theory, at first, might have justified Cromwell's totalitarian State; after the Restoration, it justified Charles II. In Locke's form of the doctrine, however, the government is a party to the contract, and can be justly resisted if it fails to fulfill its part of the bargain. Locke's doctrine is, in essence, more or less democratic, but the democratic element is limited by the view (implied rather than expressed) that those who have no property are not to be reckoned as citizens.
By nature, Locke says, every man has the right to punish attacks on himself or his property, even by death. There is political society there, and there only, where men have surrendered this right to the community or to the law.
Absolute monarchy is not a form of civil government, because there is no neutral authority to decide disputes between the monarch and a subject; in fact the monarch, in relation to his subjects, is still in a state of nature. It is useless to hope that being a king will make a naturally violent man virtuous.
The question of the rights of the individual as against the government is a very difficult one. It is too readily assumed by democrats that, when the government represents the majority, it has the right to coerce the minority. Up to a point, this must be true, since coercion is the essence of government. But the divine right of majorities, if pressed too far, may become almost as tyrannical as the divine right of kings. Locke says little on this subject... but considers it at some length in his Letters on Toleration, where he argues that no believer in God should be penalized on account of his religious opinions.
From what has been said hitherto about Locke's views on property, it might seem as though he were the champion of the great capitalists against both their social superiors and their social inferiors, but this would be only a half-truth. One finds in him, side by side and unreconciled, doctrines which foreshadow those of developed capitalism, and doctrines which adumbrate a more nearly socialistic outlook. It is easy to misrepresent him by one-sided quotations, on this topic as on most others.
We are told first that every man has private property in the produce of his own labor - or at least should have. In pre-industrial days this maxim was not so unrealistic as it has since become. Urban production was mainly by handicraftsmen who owned their tools and sold their produce. As for agricultural production, it was held by the school to which Locke belonged that peasant proprietorship would be the best system. He states that a man may own as much land as he can till, but not more. He seems blindly unaware that, in all the countries of Europe, the realization of this program would be hardly possible without a bloody revolution. Everywhere the bulk of land belonged to aristocrats...
The odd thing is that he could announce doctrines requiring so much revolution before they could be put into effect, and yet show no sign that he thought the system existing in his day unjust, or that he was aware of its being different from the system that he advocated.
The labor theory of value - i.e., the doctrine that the value of a product depends upon the labor expended upon it - which some attribute to Karl Marx, and others to Ricardo, is to be found in Locke, and was suggested to him by a line of predecessors stretching back to Aquinas.
He [Locke] seems, in an abstract and academic way, to regret economic inequality, but he certainly does not think that it would be wise to take such measures as might prevent it. No doubt he was impressed, as all men of his time were, by the gains to civilization that were due to rich men, chiefly as patrons of art and letters. The same attitude exists in modern America, where science and art are largely dependent upon the benefactions of the very rich. To some extent, civilization is furthered by social injustice. This fact is the basis of what is most respectable in conservatism.
The belief - which one finds in Locke and in most writers of his time - that any honest man can know what is just and lawful, is one that does not allow for the strength of party bias on both sides, or for the difficulty of establishing a tribunal, whether outwardly or in men's consciences, that shall be capable of pronouncing authoritatively on vexed questions. In practice, such questions, if sufficiently important, are decided simply by power, not by justice and law. ...Some such view is essential to any doctrine that divides governmental power. Where such a power is embodied in the Constitution, the only way to avoid occasional civil war is to practice compromise and common sense. But compromise and common sense are habits of mind, and cannot be embodied in a written constitution.
It is surprising that Locke says nothing about the judiciary, although this was a burning question of his day. Until the Revolution, judges could at any moment be dismissed by the king; consequently they condemned his enemies and acquitted his friends. After the Revolution, they were made irremovable except by an Address from both Houses of Parliament. It was thought that this would cause their decisions to be guided by the law; in fact, in cases involving party spirit, it has merely substituted the judge's prejudice for the king's.
Locke's political philosophy was, on the whole, adequate and useful until the industrial revolution. Since then, it has been increasingly unable to tackle the important problems. The power of property, as embodied in vast corporations, grew beyond anything imaginable by Locke. The necessary functions of the State - for example, in education - increased enormously. Nationalism brought about an alliance, sometimes an amalgamation, of economic and political power, making war the principal means of competition. The single separate citizen has no longer the power and independence that he had in Locke's speculations. Our age is one of organization, and its conflicts are between organizations, not between separate individuals. The state of nature, as Locke says, still exists as between States. A new international Social Contract is necessary before we can enjoy the promised benefits of government. When once an international government has been created, much of Locke's political philosophy will again become applicable, though not the part that deals with private property.
In Locke's own day, his chief philosophical opponents were the Cartesians and Leibniz. Quite illogically, the victory of Locke's philosophy in England and France was largely due to the prestige of Newton.Descartes' authority as a philosopher was enhanced, in his own day, by his works in mathematics and natural philosophy. But his doctrine of vortices was definitely inferior to Newton's law of gravitation as an explanation of the solar system. The victory of the Newtonian cosmogony diminished men's respect for Descartes and increased their respect for England. Both these causes inclined men favorably towards Locke.
In eighteenth century France, where the intellectuals were in rebellion against the antiquated, corrupt, and effete despotism, they regarded England as the home of freedom, and were predisposed in favor of Locke's philosophy by his political doctrines. In the last times before the Revolution, Locke's influence in France was reinforced by that of Hume, who lived for a time in France and was personally acquainted with many of the leading savants.
Until the publication of Kant'sCritique of Pure Reason in 1781, it might have seemed as if the older philosophical tradition of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz were being definitely overcome by the newer empirical method. The newer method, however, had never prevailed in German universities, and after 1792 it was held responsible for the horrors of the Revolution. Recanting revolutionaries such as Coleridge found in Kant an intellectual support for their opposition to French atheism. The Germans, in their resistance to the French, were glad to have a German philosophy to uphold them. Even the French, after the fall of Napoleon, were glad of any weapon against Jacobinism. All these factors favored Kant.
Kant, like Darwin, gave rise to a movement which he would have detested. Kant was a liberal, a democrat, a pacifist, but those who professed to develop his philosophy were none of these things. Or if they still called themselves Liberals, they were Liberals of a new species.
Since Rousseau and Kant, there have been two schools of liberalism, which may be distinguished as the hard-headed and the soft-hearted. The hard-headed developed, through Bentham, Ricardo, and Marx, by logical stages into Stalin; the soft-hearted, by other logical stages, through Fichte, Byron, Carlyle, and Nietzsche, into Hitler. This statement, of course, is too schematic to be quite true, but it may serve as a map and a mnemonic.
The stages in the evolution of ideas have had almost the quality of the Hegelian dialectic: doctrines have developed, by steps that seem natural, into their opposites. But the developments have not been due solely to the inherent movement of ideas; they have been governed, throughout, by external circumstances and the reflection of these circumstances in human emotions. That this is the case may be made evident by one outstanding fact: that the ideas of liberalism have undergone no part of this development in America, where they remain to this day as in Locke.
British philosophy is more detailed and piecemeal than that of the Continent; when it allows itself some general principle, it sets to work to prove it inductively by examining its various applications.
The difference in method, here, may be characterized as follows: in Locke and Hume, a comparatively modest conclusion is drawn from a broad survey of facts, whereas in Leibniz, a vast edifice of deduction is pyramided upon a pin-point of logical principle. In Leibniz, if the principle is completely true and the deductions are entirely valid, all is well; but the structure in unstable, and the slightest flaw anywhere brings it down in ruins. In Locke and Hume, on the other contrary, the base of the pyramid is on the solid ground of observed fact, and the pyramid tapers upward, not downward; consequently the equilibrium is stable, and a flaw here and there can be rectified without total disaster. This difference of method survived Kant's attempt to incorporate something of the empirical philosophy: from Descartes to Hegel on the one side, and from Locke to John Stuart Mill on the other, it remains unvarying.
Kant himself was a man whose outlook on practical affairs was kindly and humanitarian, but the same cannot be said of those who [as he did] rejected happiness as the good. The sort of ethic that is called "noble" is less associated with attempts to improve the world than is the more mundane view that we should seek to make men happier. ...Usually the substitute for happiness is some form of heroism. This affords unconscious outlets for the impulse to power, and abundant excuses for cruelty. Or, again, what is valued may be strong emotion; this was the case with the romantics. This led to a toleration of such passions as hatred and revenge; Byron's heroes are typical, and are never persons of exemplary behavior. ...a man's ethic usually reflects his character, and benevolence leads to a desire for the general happiness. Thus the men who thought happiness the end of life tended to be more benevolent, while those who proposed other ends were often dominated, unconsciously, by cruelty or love of power.
These ethical differences are associated, usually though not invariably, with differences in politics. Locke, as we saw, is tentative in his beliefs, not authoritarian, and willing to leave every question to be decided by free discussion. The result, both in his case and in that of his followers, was a belief in reform, but of a gradual sort. Since their systems of thought were peicemeal, and the result of separate investigations of many different questions, their political views tended naturally to have the same character. They fought shy of large programs all cut out one block, and preferred to consider each question on its merits. In politics, as in philosophy, they were tentative and experimental.
Their [Locke and his followers'] opponents, on the other hand, who thought they could "grasp this sorry scheme of things entire," were much more willing to "shatter it [the sociopolitical system] to bits and then remould it nearer to the heart's desire." They might do this as revolutionaries, or as men who wished to increase the authority of the powers that be; in either case, they did not shrink from violence in pursuit of vast objectives, and they condemned love of peace as ignoble.
The great political defect of Locke and his disciples, from a modern point of view, was their worship of property. But those who criticized them on this account often did so in the interest of classes that were more harmful than the capitalists, such as monarchs, aristocrats, and militarists.
Most of the opponents of Locke's school had an admiration for war, as being heroic and involving contempt for comfort and ease. Those who adopted the utilitarian ethic, on the contrary, tended to regard most wars as folly. This again, at least in the nineteenth century, brought them into alliance with the capitalists, who disliked wars because they interfered with trade. The capitalists' motive, of course, was pure self-interest, but it led to views more consonant with the general interest than those of the militarists and their literary supporters. The attitude of capitalists to war, it is true, has fluctuated... In modern times, big business, everywhere, has come into such intimate relations with the national State that the situation is greatly changed. But even now, both in England and in America, big business on the whole dislikes war.
Enlightened self-interest is, of course, not the loftiest of motives, but those who decry it often substitute, by accident or design, motives which are much worse, such as hatred, envy, and love of power. On the whole, the school which owed its origin to Locke, and which preached enlightened self-interest, did more to increase human happiness, and less to increase human misery, than was done by the schools which despised it in the name of heroism and self-sacrifice. I do not forget the horrors of early industrialism, but these, after all, were mitigated within the system. And I set against them Russian serfdom, the evils of war and its aftermath of fear and hatred, and the inevitable obscurantism of those who attempt to preserve ancient systems when they have lost their vitality.
My own definition of “matter” may seem unsatisfactory; I should define it as what satisfies the equations of physics. There may be nothing satisfying these equations; in that case either physics or the concept “matter” is a mistake. If we reject substance, “matter” will have to be a logical construction. Whether it can be any construction composed of events—which may be partly inferred—is a difficult question, but by no means an insoluble one.
Hume is not content with reducing the evidence of causal connection to experience of frequent conjunction; he proceeds to argue that such experience does not justify the expectation of similar conjunctions in the future.
Hume's philosophy, whether true or false, represents the bankruptcy of eighteenth-century reasonableness. He starts out, like Locke, with the intention of being sensible and empirical, taking nothing on trust, but seeking whatever instruction is to be obtained from experience and observation. But... he arrives at the disastrous conclusion that from experience and observation nothing is to be learned. There is not such thing as rational belief... We cannot help believing, but no belief can be grounded in reason. Nor can one line of action be more rational than another, since all alike are based upon irrational convictions. This last conclusion, however, Hume seems not to have drawn.
In later portions of the Treatise [Treatise of Human Nature], Hume forgets all about his fundamental doubts, and writes much as any other enlightened moralist of his time might have written; he applies to his doubts the remedy that he recommends, namely "carelessness and inattention." In a sense, his skepticism is insincere, since he cannot maintain it in practice. It has, however, this awkward consequence, that it paralyses every effort to prove one line of action better than another.
The quarrel between Hume and Rousseau is symbolic: Rousseau was mad but influential, Hume was sane but had no followers. Subsequent British philosophers received his skepticism without refuting it; Rousseau and his followers agreed with Hume that no belief is based on reason, but thought the heart superior to reason, and allowed it to lead them to convictions very different from those that Hume retained in practice.
German philosophers, from Kant to Hegel, had not assimilated Hume's arguments. ...in spite of the belief which many philosophers share with Kant, that his Critique of Pure Reason answered Hume. In fact, these philosophers - at least Kant and Hegel - represented a pre-Humian type of rationalism, and can be refuted by Humian arguments. The philosophers that cannot be refuted in this way are those who do not pretend to be rational, such as Rousseau, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. The growth of unreason throughout the nineteenth century and what has passed of the twentieth is a natural sequence to Hume's destruction of empiricism.
Hume's skepticism rests entirely upon his rejection of the principle of induction. ...If the principle is to be adequate, a sufficient number of instances must make the probability not far short of certainty. If this principle, or any other from which it can be deduced, is true, then the causal inferences which Hume rejects are valid, not indeed as giving certainty, but as giving a sufficient probability, for practical purposes. If this principle is not true, every attempt to arrive at general scientific laws from particular observations is fallacious, and Hume's skepticism is inescapable for an empiricist. The principle itself... must be, or be deduced from, an independent principle not based upon experience. To this extent, Hume has proved that pure empiricism is not a sufficient basis for science. But if this principle is admitted, everything else can proceed in accordance with the theory that all our knowledge is based on experience. It must be granted that this is a serious departure from pure empiricism, and that those who are not empiricists may ask why, if one departure is allowed, others are forbidden. These, however, are questions not directly raised buy Hume's arguments. What those arguments prove - and I do not think the proof can be controverted - is that induction is an independent logical principle, incapable of being inferred from other logical principles, and that without this principle science is impossible.
Hume, by his criticism of the concept of causality, awakened him from his dogmatic slumbers—so at least he says, but the awakening was only temporary, and he soon invented a soporific which enabled him to sleep again.
Chapter XXI. Currents of Thought in the Nineteenth Century
Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education.
p. 722 (Note: Russell wrote this to outline Helvetius's thought. This line is not what Russell thinks about Education. It is what Russell thinks what Helvetius thinks about education).
The most important effect of machine production.....is an immense increase in the sense of human power. (Further down the page) There thus arises, among those who direct affairs or are in touch with those who do so, a new belief in power: first, the power of man in his conflicts with nature, and then the power of rulers as against the human beings whose beliefs and aspirations they seek to control by scientific propaganda, especially education. The result is a diminution of fixity; no change seems impossible.
Nature is raw material; so is that part of the human race which does not effectively participate in government.
p. 728 (Note: Russell means this in the sense that rulers view these people as they would a raw material. A means to an end).
The apparent self-subsistence of finite things appeared to him [Hegel] to be an illusion; nothing, he held, is ultimately and completely real except the whole. But he differed from Parmenides and Spinoza in conceiving the whole, not as a simple substance, but as a complex system, of the sort we should call an organism. The apparently separate things of which the world seems to be composed are not simply an illusion; each has a greater or lesser degree of reality, and its reality consists in an aspect of the whole, which is what it is seen to be when viewed truly. With this view goes naturally a disbelief in the reality of time and space as such, for these, if taken as completely real, involve separateness and multiplicity. All this must have come to him first as mystic "insight"; its intellectual elaboration, which is given in his books, must have come later.
Hegel asserts that the real is rational and the rational is real. But when he says this he does not mean by "the real" what an empiricist would mean. He admits and even urges, that what to the empiricist appear to be facts are, and must be, irrational; it is only after their apparent character has been transformed by viewing them as aspects of the whole that they are seen to be rational. Nevertheless, the identification of the real and the rational leads unavoidably to some of the complacency inseparable from the belief that "whatever is, is right."
The Absolute Idea is pure thought thinking about pure thought. This is all God does throughout the ages - truly a Professor's God. Hegel goes on to say: "This unity is consequently the absolute and all truth, the Idea which thinks itself."
I cannot see any justification, on the basis of his own metaphysic, for the view that world history repeats the transitions of the dialectic, yet that is the thesis which he developed in his Philosophy of History. It was an interesting thesis, giving unity and meaning to the revolutions of human affairs. Like other historical theories, it required, if it was to be made plausible, some distortion of facts and considerable ignorance. Hegel, like Marx and Spengler after him, possessed both of these qualifications.
It is odd that a process which is represented as cosmic should have taken place on our planet, and most of it near the Mediterranean. Nor is there any reason, if reality is timeless, why the later parts of the process should embody higher categories than the earlier parts - unless one were to adapt the blasphemous supposition that the Universe was gradually learning Hegel's philosophy.
[Accoding to Hegel] Spirit, and the course of its development, is the substantial object of the philosophy of history. The nature of the Spirit may be understood by contrasting it with its opposite, namely Matter. The essence of matter is gravity; the essence of Spirit is Freedom. Matter is outside itself, whereas Spirit has its center in itself. "Spirit is self-contained existence."
Democracy and aristocracy alike belong to the stage where some are free, despotism to that where one is free, and monarchy to that in which all are free. This is connected with the very odd sense in which Hegel uses the word "freedom." For him (and so far we agree) there is no freedom without law; but he tends to convert this, and to argue that wherever there is law there is freedom. Thus "freedom," to him, means little more than the right to obey the law.
This is a very superfine brand of freedom. It does not mean that you will be able to keep out of a concentration camp. It does not imply democracy, or a free press, or any of the usual Liberal watchwords, which Hegel rejects with contempt. When Spirit gives laws to itself, it does so freely. ...and when the monarch imprisons a liberal-minded subject, that is still Spirit freely determining itself.
Hegel praises Rousseau for distinguishing between the general will and the will of all. One gathers that the monarch embodies the general will, whereas a parliamentary majority only embodies the will of all. A very convenient doctrine.
So much so is Germany glorified that one might expect to find it the final embodiment of the Absolute Idea, beyond which no further development would be possible. ...He [Hegel] seems to think that everything important takes the form of war.
...he [Hegel] says that, as yet, there is no real State in America, because a real State requires a division of classes into rich and poor.
Nations, in Hegel, play the part that classes play in Marx. The principle of historical development, he says, is national genius. ...But in addition to nations, we must also take account of world-historical individuals; these are men in whose aims are embodied the dialectical transitions that are due to take place in their time. These men are heroes, and may justifiably contravene ordinary moral principles. Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon are given as examples. I doubt whether, in Hegel's opinion, a man could be a "hero" without being a military conqueror. Hegel's emphasis on nations, together with his peculiar conception of "freedom," explains his glorification of the State...
Glorification of the State begins, so far as modern times are concerned, with the Reformation. In the Roman Empire, the Emperor was deified, and the State thereby acquired a sacred character; but the philosophers of the Middle Ages, with few exceptions, were ecclesiastics, and therefore put the Church above the State. Luther, finding support in the Protestant princes, began the opposite practice; the Lutheran Church, on the whole was Erastian. Hobbes, who was politically a Protestant, developed the doctrine of the supremacy of the State, and Spinoza, on the whole, agreed with him. Rousseau, as we have seen, thought the State should not tolerate other political organizations. Hegel was vehemently Protestant, of the Lutheran section; the Prussian State was an Erastian absolute monarchy. These reasons would make one expect to find the State highly valued by Hegel, but, even so, he goes to lengths which are astonishing.
It will be seen that Hegel claims for the State much the same position that Saint Augustine and his Catholic successors claimed for the Church. There are, however, two respects in which the Catholic claim is more reasonable than Hegel's. In the first place, the Church is not a chance geographical association, but a body united by a common creed, believed by its members to be of supreme importance; it is thus in its very essence the embodiment of what Hegel calls the "Idea." In the second place, there is only one Catholic Church, whereas there are many States. When each State, in relation to its subjects, is made as absolute as Hegel makes it, there is difficulty in finding any philosophical principle by which to regulate the relations between different States. In fact, at this point Hegel abandons his philosophical talk, falling back on the state of nature and Hobbes's war of all against all.
Hegel does not mean only that, in some situations, a nation cannot rightly avoid going to war. He means much more than this. He is opposed to the creation of institutions - such as a world government - which would prevent such situations from arising, because he thinks it is a good thing that there should be wars from time to time. ...Peace is ossification: the Holy Alliance, and Kant's League for Peace, are mistaken, because a family of States needs an enemy. Conflicts of States can only be decided by war; States being toward each other as in a state of nature, their relations are not legal or moral. Their rights have their reality in their particular wills, and the interest of each State is its own highest law. There is not contrast of morals and politics, because States are not subject to ordinary moral laws.
Such is Hegel's doctrine of the State - a doctrine which, if accepted, justifies every internal tyranny and every external aggression that can possibly be imagined. The strength of his bias appears in the fact that his theory is largely inconsistent with his own metaphysic, and that the inconsistencies are all such as tend to justification of cruelty and international brigandage. A man may be pardoned if logic compels him regretfully to reach conclusions which he deplores, but not for departing from logic in order to be free to advocate crimes. Hegel's logic led him to believe that there is more reality or excellence (the two for him are synonyms) in wholes than in their parts, and that a whole increases in reality and excellence as it becomes more organized. This justified him in preferring a State to an anarchic collection of individuals, but it should have equally led him to prefer a world State to an anarchic collection of States. Within the State, his general philosophy should have led him to feel more respect for the individual than he did feel, for the wholes of which his Logic treats are not like the One of Parmenides, or even like Spinoza's God: they are wholes in which the individual does not disappear, but acquires fuller reality through his harmonious relation to a larger organism. A State in which the individual is ignored is not a small-scale model of the Hegelian Absolute.
This brings us to a question which is fundamental to judging Hegel's whole philosophy. Is there more reality, and is there more value, in a whole than in its parts? Hegel answers both questions in the affirmative. The question of reality is metaphysical, the question of value is ethical. They are commonly treated as if they were scarcely distinguishable, but to my mind it is important to keep them apart.
The view of Hegel and of many other philosophers, is that the character of any portion of the universe is so profoundly affected by its relations to the other parts and to the whole, that no true statement can be made about any part except to assign its place in the whole. Since its place in the whole depends on all the other parts, a true statement about its place in the whole will at the same time assign the place of every other part of the whole. Thus there can be only one true statement; there is no truth except the whole truth. And similarly nothing is quite real except the whole, for any part, when isolated, is changed in character by being isolated, and therefore no longer appears quite what it truly is. On the other hand, when a part is viewed in relation to the whole, as it should be, it is seen to be not self-subsistent, and to be incapable of existing except as part of just that whole which alone is truly real. This is the metaphysical doctrine.
The State is obviously valuable as a means: it protects us against thieves and murderers, it provides roads and schools, and so on. It may, of course, also be bad as a means, for example by waging an unjust war. The real question we have to ask in connection with Hegel is not this, but whether the State is good per se, as an end: do the citizens exist for the sake of the State, or the State for the sake of the citizens? Hegel holds the former view; the liberal philosophy that comes from Locke holds the latter.
It is clear that we shall only attribute intrinsic value to the State if we think of it as having a life of its own, as being in some sense a person. If there can be such a super-person, as Hegel thinks, then the State may be such a being, and it may be as superior to ourselves as the whole body is to the eye. But if we think this super-person a mere metaphysical monstrosity, then we shall say that the intrinsic value of the community is derived from that if its members, and that the State is a means, not an end.
The question at issue is much wider than the truth or falsehood of Hegel's philosophy; it is the question that divides the friends of analysis from its enemies. Let us take an illustration. Suppose I say "John is the father of James." Hegel and all who believe in what Marshal Smuts calls "holism," will say: "Before you can understand this statement, you must know who John and James are. Now, to know who John is, is to know all his characteristics... Step by step, in your endeavor to say what you mean by the word 'John,' you will be led to take account of the whole universe, and your original statement will turn out to be telling you something about the universe, not about two separate people, John and James." ...If the above argument were sound, how could knowledge ever begin?
The Hegelian position might be stated as follows: "The word 'John' means all that is true of John." But as a definition this is circular, since the word "John" occurs in the defining phrase. In fact, if Hegel were right, no word could begin to have a meaning, since we would need to know already the meanings of all other words in order to state all the properties of what the word designates, which, according to the theory, are what the word means.
We must distinguish properties of different kinds. A thing may have a property not involving any other thing; this sort is called quality. Or it may have a property involving one other thing; such a property is being married. Or it may have one involving two other things, such as being a brother-in-law. If a certain thing has a certain collection of qualities, and no other thing has just this collection of qualities, then it can be defined as "the thing having such-and-such qualities." From its having these qualities, nothing can be deduced by pure logic as to its relational properties. Hegel thought that, if enough was known about a thing to distinguish it from all other things, then all its properties could be inferred by logic. This was a mistake, and from this mistake arose the whole imposing edifice of his system. This illustrates an important truth, namely, that the worse your logic, the more interesting the consequences to which it gives rise.
Speaking of Spinoza he [Nietzsche] says: "How much of personal timidity and vulnerability does this masquerade of a sickly recluse betray!" Exactly the same may be said of him, with the less reluctance since he has not hesitated to say it of Spinoza. It is obvious that in his day-dreams he is a warrior, not a professor; all the men he admires were military. His opinion of women, like every man's, is an objectification of his own emotion towards them, which is obviously one of fear. "[Thou goest to woman?] Forget not thy whip"—but nine women out of ten would get the whip away from him, and he knew it, so he kept away from women, and soothed his wounded vanity with unkind remarks.
It does not occur to Nietzsche as possible that a man should genuinely feel universal love, obviously because he himself feels almost universal hatred and fear, which he would fain disguise as lordly indifference. His "noble" man—who is himself in day-dreams—is a being wholly devoid of sympathy, ruthless, cunning, cruel, concerned only with his own power. King Lear, on the verge of madness, says: «I will do such things-What they are yet I know not—but they shall be The terror of the earth.» This is Nietzsche's philosophy in a nutshell.
I dislike Nietzsche because he likes the contemplation of pain, because he erects conceit into a duty, because the men whom he most admires are conquerors, whose glory is cleverness in causing men to die.
Marx's philosophy of history is a blend of Hegel and British economics. Like Hegel, he thinks that the world develops according to a dialectical formula, but he totally disagrees with Hegel as to the motive force of this development. Hegel believed in a mystical entity called "Spirit", which causes human history to develop according to the stages of the dialectic as set forth in Hegel's Logic. Why Spirit has to go through these stages is not clear. One is tempted to suppose that Spirit is trying to understand Hegel, and at each stage rashly objectifies what it has been reading. Marx's dialectic has none of this quality except a certain inevitableness. For Marx, matter, not spirit, is the driving force. But it is a matter in the peculiar sense that we have been considering, not the wholly dehumanized matter of the atomists. This means that, for Marx, the driving force is really man's relation to matter, of which the most important part is his mode of production. In this way Marx's materialism, in practice, becomes economics.
From the strictly philosophic point of view, the chief importance of Dewey's work lies in his criticism of the traditional notion of "truth," which is embodied in the theory that he calls "instrumentalism." Truth as conceived by most professional philosophers, is static and final, perfect and eternal; in religious terminology, it may be identified with God's thoughts, and with those thoughts which, as rational beings, we share with God. The perfect model of truth is the multiplication table, which is precise and certain and free from all temporal dross. Since Pythagoras, and still more since Plato, mathematics has been linked with theology, and has profoundly influenced the theory of knowledge of most professional philosophers.
Dewey's interests are biological rather than mathematical, and he conceives thought as an evolutionary process. The traditional view would, of course, admit that men gradually come to know more, but each piece of knowledge, when achieved, is regarded as something final. Hegel, it is true, does not regard human knowledge in this way. He conceives human knowledge as an organic whole, gradually growing in every part, and not perfect in any part until the whole is perfect. But although the Hegelian philosophy influenced Dewey in his youth, it still has its Absolute, and its eternal world which is more real than the temporal process. These can have no place in Dewey's thought, for which all reality is temporal, and process, though evolutionary, it is not, as for Hegel, the unfolding of an eternal Idea.
Dewey does not aim at judgements that shall be absolutely "true," or condemn their contradictions as absolutely "false." In his opinion there is a process of "inquiry," which is one form of mutual adjustment between an organism and its environment.
One may say: a belief is a state of an organism promoting behavior such as a certain occurrence would promote if sensibly present; the occurrence which would promote this behavior is the "significance" of the belief.
Formerly it would have been said that inquiry is distinguished by its purpose, which is to ascertain some truth. But for Dewey "truth" is to be defined in terms of "inquiry," not vice versa; he quotes with approval Pierce's definition: "Truth" is "the opinion which is fated to be ultimately agreed to by all who investigate." This leaves us completely in the dark as to what the investigators are doing, for we cannot, without circularity, say that they are endeavoring to ascertain truth.
Dewey's divergence from what has hitherto been regarded as common sense is due to his refusal to admit "facts" into his metaphysic, in the sense in which "facts" are stubborn and cannot be manipulated.
The main difference between Dr. Dewey and me is that he judges a belief by its effects, whereas I judge it by its causes where a past occurrence is concerned. I consider such a belief "true" or as nearly "true" as we can make it, if it has a certain kind of relation (sometimes very complicated) to its causes. Dr. Dewey holds that it has "warranted assertability" - which he substitutes for "truth" - if it has certain kinds of effects. This divergence is connected with a difference of outlook on the world. The past cannot be affected by what we do, and therefore, if truth is determined by what has happened, it is independent of present or future volitions; it represents in logical form, the limitations of human power.
Throughout this book, I have sought, where possible, to connect philosophies with the social environment of the philosophers concerned. It has seemed to me that the belief in human power, and the unwillingness to accept "stubborn facts" were connected with the hopefulness engendered by machine production and the scientific manipulation of our physical environment. ...Dr. Dewey has an outlook which, where it is distinctive, is in harmony with the age of industrialism and collective enterprise.
The attitude of man toward the non-human environment has differed profoundly at different times. The Greeks, with their dread of hubris and their belief in a Necessity or Fate superior even to Zeus, carefully avoided what would have seemed to them insolence towards the universe. The Middle Ages carried submission much further: humility towards God was a Christian's first duty. Initiative was cramped by this attitude, and great originality was scarcely possible. The Renaissance restored human pride, but carried it to the point where it led to anarchy and disaster. Its works were largely undone by the Reformation and the Counter-reformation. But modern technique, while not altogether favorable to the lordly individual of the Renaissance, has revived the sense of the collective power of human communities. Man, formerly too humble, begins to think of himself as almost a God.
In all this I feel a grave danger, the danger of what might be called cosmic impiety. The concept of "truth" as something dependent of facts largely outside human control has been one of the ways in which philosophy hitherto has inculcated the necessary element of humility. When this check upon pride is removed, a further step is taken on the road toward a certain kind of madness - the intoxication of power which invaded philosophy with Fichte, and to which modern men, whether philosophers or not, are prone. I am persuaded that this intoxication is the greatest danger of our time, and that any philosophy which, however unintentionally, contributes to it is increasing the danger of vast social disorder.
Chapter XXXI. The Philosophy of Logical Analysis
In the welter of conflicting fanaticisms, one of the few unifying forces is scientific truthfulness, by which I mean the habit of basing our beliefs upon observations and inferences as impersonal, and as much divested of local and temperamental bias, as is possible for human beings.
last paragraph p.832.
Quotes about A History of Western Philosophy
Bertrand Russell's History of Philosophy is a precious book. I don't know whether one should more admire the delightful freshness and originality or the sensitivity of the sympathy with distant times and remote mentalities on the part of this great thinker. I regard it as fortunate that our so dry and also brutal generation can point to such a wise, honourable, bold and at the same time humorous man. It is a work that is in the highest degree pedagogical which stands above the conflicts of parties and opinions.
Albert Einstein, 1946, as quoted and translated in The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, Vol. 3 (1967), p. 70
When I was a teenager I was already passionately interested in the history of ideas, and I found for myself two writers who exercised a very strong influence upon my intellectual development, although neither of them was part of any syllabus. One was Bertrand Russell, whose History of Western Philosophy I read and re-read at school until I knew quite a lot of it by heart. This book introduced me to a world of thought I had never known about before, and I can still recall the excitement with which I read the early chapters on ancient philosophy. But another reason why I admired the book so much was that it seemed to me -- and it still seems to me -- a marvel of English prose. Russell won the Nobel Prize, and he won it for literature, and surely quite rightly. One could never hope to come anywhere near to emulating his style, but for me it has always remained a model of academic prose. The other philosopher I want to mention is R. G. Collingwood, who was chiefly interested in questions about interpretation and historical explanation. I first read him at school too, and although I’m not sure that I understood at the time what he was arguing, he subsequently exercised a very direct influence on my own approach to studying the history of ideas.