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cannot accept that of Plutarch concerning the man, though Plutarch rightly judged the doctrine. I incline to that of Cicero in the Tusculan Questions :a "Venit Epicurus, homo minime malus vel potius vir optimus." An austere gravity, a kind of Quaker simplicity, I judge to have been his type. In his letters, instead of the customary salutation, xaWe . na^ . ne ^s sa^ to have substituted an admonition to act well, — Ev Itpa-new; and we are told that in his treatise on Rhetoric he named but one excellence, that of plainness.
A simple, grave, and kindly man; a man who meant well and who lived well, if that garden theory of his be allowed. But when we ask what fruits of enduring worth that garden yielded to continuous culture of three hundred years, — what venerable name, to be ranked with the heroes of the porch, with the Catos and Antonines, the Epicurean school has produced, — the answer is a blank. A blank in history is the school of Epicurus, though not altogether a blank in letters. One poem at least, of prime renown, it has given to the world, the consummate exponent of its doctrine. The poem of Lucretius, "De Rerum Natura," is ranked by the critics among the foremost — by some, indeed, as the very foremost — in Roman literature. Ovid predicted for it a fame i Lib. ii. c. 19.
coeval with the earth's duration. We are safe in pronouncing it the first of didactic poems. It is one of the very few of that class which have won for themselves an enduring fame. Pope's "Essay on Man" is the nearest approach to it in that kind. And this is the only fruit that has reached us from that Epicurean garden, the only product that remains of a school which in point of popularity occupied the foremost place among the philosophic systems of antiquity and filled the classic world with its fame.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF EPICURUS.
In my characterization of Epicurus I spoke of the poverty of his intellectual culture, and noticed the want in him both of the intuitive and the analytical faculty. For speculative inquiry, for discoveries in the realm of thought, he had no aptitude; but for practical philosophy a very decided, inborn vocation. Philosophy for him was a rule of life — ivepyeia Tov evSaifiova jBiov Trepnroiovcra. He sought in it precisely what Socrates had taught men to seek in it, — practical well-being. Especially he sought in it freedom, — the freedom which Athens, deprived of her autonomy, and tending to political downfall, no longer enjoyed. He sought emancipation from the yoke of superstition. Lucretius, as we have seen, celebrates this motive in one of his sublimest strains. But though the philosophy of Epicurus is mainly practical, he did speculate; he was given to system-making; he had his theory of knowledge and his theory of the universe, as well as his theory and rule of life. And so his philosophy, as Diogenes Laertius tells us, divides itself into three systems, the Kavar Vikop, which we may translate psychology, the $v<tikov, and the T)6ikov, — Psychology, Physics, and Ethic.
The Psychology need occupy us but a very few moments; it is crude, even for that period. The prime source of all knowledge in the view of Epicurus is sensible experience. The objects without us throw off certain images; these are received by the senses and communicated to the mind. The senses are infallible: but they have no memory; they can deal only with what is immediately present. An internal faculty operates on the images which sensuous perception has lodged in the mind. Then the sensations — that is, pleasure and pain — advise us of what is conducive or detrimental to our well-being. Hence three criteria of truth, — perception, aiaOrja-K;, conception, irpoXtj'^-ks, and sensation, ird6o<;. IIp6\rjyjri<; — including memory, understanding, reason, judgment, all in one — stores away the images which enter the brain through the senses, calls them up at pleasure, arranges, compares, and draws conclusions from them. Our perceptions are always correct, because they are an efflux from the things themselves. Our opinions are only so far correct as they agree with the testimony of the senses ; where they contradict or differ from this they are false. But whence arises this disagreement, and its consequent error? Epicurus' solution of this question is peculiar. Perception, he says, is a motion from without; opinion, being the result of internal contemplation of the images thrown in upon the mind, is a motion from within. If the motion from within is continuous with the motion from without, like the co-ordinates of an hyperbola, then the opinion is. correct; but if it disconnects or traverses the motion from without, it is false. Thus all knowledge, all truth, is referred at last to material phenomena. All ideas not derivable from these he regards as illusions. He allows no laws of thought, no regulative faculty inherent in the mind. Sensible experience not only supplies the material of thought, but determines all correct thinking; and sensible experience is a lawless aggregation of insulated phenomena. The science of geometry not being founded on sensible experience, or not solely on that, he repudiated as not sufficiently evident. Here is something that marks
the difference between the ancient and modern mind, and discovers a real progress in mental experience. No modern sceptic would dream of questioning the validity of mathematical evidence within its own legitimate sphere. No modern would venture to subordinate the certitude of geometrical demonstration to that of sensible experience. But perhaps what Epicurus really meant was that geometry deals only with abstractions; and that seeing there are no such things in nature as the triangles and circles which constitute the topics of that science, they have not for us the evidence which comes with tangible realities.
In his Physics, his Ontology, although it was his hobby and chief pride, Epicurus appears to no better advantage. His system not only wants the merit of originality, but adds to that defect a misapprehension and a consequent distortion and perversion of the doctrine it undertakes to present. His atomic theory, according to unanimous testimony, he took from Democritus, an Eleatic philosopher of the fourth century B. c, a man of robust intellect and universal learning, greatly the superior of Epicurus as well in the intuitive as in the discursive faculty. He belonged to what is called the New Eleatic, distinguished from the Old by the more materialistic and sensuous direction of its thought. The Old Eleatics applied themselves