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Plotinus seems to have begun his career as a public teacher soon after taking up his residence in Rome. His lectures at first assumed the form of conversations with his private friends. Apparently by way of reviving the traditions of Socrates and Plato, he encouraged them to take an active part in the discussion: but either he did not possess the authority of his great exemplars, or the rules of Greek dialogue were not very strictly observed in Rome; for we learn from the report of an eye-witness that interruptions were far too frequent, and that a vast amount of nonsense was talked.408 Afterwards a more regular system of lecturing was established, and papers were read aloud by those who had any observations to offer, as in our own philosophical societies.

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On the whole, I am afraid that my acquaintance with the modern literature of the subject will be found rather limited for an undertaking like the present. But I do not think that wider reading in that direction would have much furthered the object I had in view. That object has been to exhibit the principal ideas of Greek philosophy in the closest possible connexion with the characters of their authors, with each other, with their developments in modern speculation, with the parallel tendencies of literature and art, with the history of religion, of physical science, and of civilisation as a whole. To interpret all things by a system of universal references is the method of philosophy; when applied to a series of events this method is the philosophy of history; when the events are ideas, it is the philosophy of philosophy itself.!
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With Bacon, experience was the negation of mere authority, whether taking the form of natural prejudice, of individual prepossession, of hollow phrases, or of established systems. The question how we come by that knowledge which all agree to be the most certain, is left untouched in his logic; either of the current answers would have suited his system equally well; nor is there any reason for believing that he would have sided with Mill rather than with Kant respecting the origin of mathematical axioms. With Locke, experience meant the analysis of notions and judgments into the simple data of sense and self-consciousness; and the experientialists of the present day are beyond all doubt his disciples; but the parentage of his philosophy, so far as it is simply a denial of innate ideas, must be sought, not in the Novum Organum, nor in any other modern work, but in the old Organon of Aristotle, or in the comments of the396 Schoolmen who followed Aristotle in protesting against the Platonism of their time, just as Locke protested against the Platonism of Descartes and Malebranche..
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The influence of Aristotle has, indeed, continued to make itself felt not only through the teaching of his modern imitators, but more directly as a living tradition in literature, or through the renewed study of his writings at first hand. Even in the pure sciences, it survived until a comparatively recent period, and, so far as the French intellect goes, it is not yet entirely extinct. From Ab茅lard on, Paris was the headquarters of that soberer scholasticism which took its cue from the Peripatetic logic; and the resulting direction of thought, deeply impressed as it became on the French character and the French language, was interrupted rather than permanently altered by the Cartesian revolution, and, with the fall of Cartesianism, gradually recovered its old predominance. The Aristotelian philosophy is remarkable above all others for clear definitions, full descriptions, comprehensive classifications, lucid reasoning, encyclopaedic science, and disinterested love of knowledge; along with a certain incapacity for ethical speculation,576 strong conservative leanings, and a general tendency towards the rigid demarcation rather than the fruitful commingling of ideas. And it will probably be admitted429 that these are also traits characteristic of French thinking as opposed to English or German thinking. For instance, widely different as is the M茅canique C茅leste from the astronomy of Aristotle鈥檚 treatise On the Heavens, both agree in being attempts to prove the eternal stability of the celestial system.577 The destructive deluges by which Aristotle supposes civilisation to be periodically interrupted, reappear on a larger scale in the theory of catastrophes still held by French geologists. Another Aristotelian dogma, the fixity of organic species, though vigorously assailed by eminent French naturalists, has, on the whole, triumphed over the opposite doctrine of transformism in France, and now impedes the acceptance of Darwin鈥檚 teaching even in circles where theological prepossessions are extinct. The accepted classifications in botany and zoology are the work of Frenchmen following in the footsteps of Aristotle, whose genius for methodical arrangement was signally exemplified in at least one of these departments; the division of animals into vertebrate and invertebrate being originally due to him. Bichat鈥檚 distinction between the animal and the vegetable functions recalls Aristotle鈥檚 distinction between the sensitive and nutritive souls; while his method of studying the tissues before the organs is prefigured in the treatise on the Parts of Animals. For a long time, the ruling of Aristotle鈥檚 Poetics was undisputed in French criticism; and if anything could disentitle Montesquieu鈥檚 Esprit des Lois to the proud motto, Prolem sine matre creatam, it would be its close relationship to the Politics of the same universal master. Finally, if it be granted that the enthusiasm for knowledge, irrespective of its utilitarian applications, exists to a greater degree among the educated classes of France than in any other modern society, we may plausibly attribute this honourable characteristic to the fostering influence of one who has430 proclaimed more eloquently than any other philosopher that theoretical activity is the highest good of human life, the ideal of all Nature, and the sole beatitude of God.
21 August, 2019 - 13:08
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21 August, 2019 - 13:08
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