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“Adiong the superficialities, practicalities, and shows of the world”—its passing and transitory phenomena—its enticements to forgetfulness, and its allurements to carelessness
— Time, the shadow, is continually in motion. Silent is his footstep, but potent his influence-change follows his motions—he passes on in calmness; but, oh! the difference he leaves behind! "Time's changes;” what a tragedy is in these words! Another scene is now ended, but the play continues yet.
The Past is gone, though its memories and its lessons remain; the Present, with its momentous interests, responsibilities, and duties, is here; the Future!—that we can only penetrate by the eye of faith, in the radiance of revelation. The Past invites to study, the Present to enjoyment, the Future to hope. Let us wisely become pupils of all three. They are the true Fates, who rule our destiny, and determine the nature and duration of that "little gleam of time between two eternities” which we call Life. Ever the Present is becoming the Past, and ever as the Past lengthens, the Future is abridged.
“ Time-is the warp of Life: Oh! tell
The young, the fair, the gay, to weave it well!" Again we meet each other as the chimes of a New Year sound. As in the Past, so in the Present, and still more in the Future, may we meet, full of earnest aspirations, and anxiously intent on Self-Culture. Our present prelection refers to the Past, and to those men of the Past
“ Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time." “They were not heroic bringers of the light, but heroic seekers for it.” Let us in this follow their example, even though in that we, like them, may fail. " The mind of the scholar, if you would have it large and liberal, should come in contact with other minds.
It is better that his armour should be somewhat bruised by rude encounters even, than hang for ever rusting on the wall.”
The loving search after wisdom was a phenomenon not seldom witnessed in the ancient world. The example of Thales we exhibited in our former paper on this topic; the labours of some of his successors we intend to review briefly in the present.
The Ionic School comprises some of the earliest wisdom-worshippers of Greece. The circumstance of the Ionic birth of its chief teachers has been sufficient, in the opinion of historians, to justify the name. The chief and predominant element in the speculations of the philosophers who are ranged together under this designation is, the recognition of the intimate relationship subsisting between Man and Nature. To ascertain what Nature is, and what influence it exerts on Man; to know what influence Man might exert on Nature; to comprehend the causes of the phenomena which affected man and which he effected in Nature—these formed chief items in the investigations pursued by the disciples of the Ionic School—the successors of Thales and the predecessors of Socrates.
The opinion generally adopted regarding the parties who belonged to this school is as follows:- Thales originated the course of speculations which forms the peculiar characteristic of this school; he taught his theory of natural and spiritual phenomena to his kinsman, pupil, and successor-Anaximander, whose pupil and successor was Anaximenes; from the academy of Anaximenes two pupils emanated, viz., Diogenes of Apollonia, and Anaxagoras, in whose disciple-Archelaus—the tutor of Socrates—the school closes its individual development.
In opposition to this account several objections have been started, and have been exceedingly cleverly maintained by Ritter, whose opinions, in this case, Mr. Lewes explicitly endorses. Two of these may be stated here, viz.
1st. Chronology decides that a period of 212 years—six or more generations-must have elapsed in the period included by the lives of the four earlier masters of this school -Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, and Anaxagoras.
2nd. The opinions maintained by these philosophers alternate between views directly opposed to each other; the successor advocating opinions precisely contrary to the doctrines of his predecessor: they cannot, therefore, have been sequent system-makers, i. e., philosophic successors.
The chronological difficulty does not materially affect the question of strict and unquestionable discipleship; for although it were proven that no one of these had ever heard the other, it might still hold that the doctrines of these masters might be derived from each other. It is an unquestioned fact, that great minds alone impress their contemporaries and posterity so distinctly that their names become imperishably signatured upon the page of history. Those who adopt, apply, and even extend the doctrines of others, however useful they may be in their own day, and however admirably they may perform their duty, in a style suited to their own times, are not often brought into prominence by the ministrants of Fame. Hence it is quite probable that, despite an hiatus in the personal successorship, there might be a real and valid speculative descent.
In an able paper, “On the Early Ionic Philosophers,” by Mr. H. Fynes Clinton,* however, the arguments from chronology, against the reputed successorship of these philosophers, is exceedingly well argued. A very imperfect abridgment of this paper is all that our space can permit. It proceeds somewhat as follows:-As the period of the origin of the Ionic school is begun at the birth-date of Thales, it cannot rightly be regarded as consisting of four generations, but of five. Averages are only true of sufficiently large numbers, and the laws indicated by them do not hold in individual instances. But even taking the average of this time, it would give fifty-three years to each, so that the difficulty does not result from the whole extent of the period. It originates rather from confusion as to the true date assignable to Anaximenes. Thales lived B.C. 639—547; Anaxagoras, B.c. 500—428; Anaximander was born about B.C. 610, and survived 547, but is supposed to have died soon after. There is, therefore, a period of about forty-six years between the deaths of Thales and perhaps Anaximander and the birth of Anaxagoras, which falls to be occupied by Anaximenes; Anaximenes must, however, have been of mature age, i.e., have attained his majority, say twenty-three years, before the death of Anaximander, and have survived till after the majority of his pupil Anaxagoras, say other twenty-three years; this will make him have attained the age of ninety-two-an age to which Thales had attained. This difficulty would be lessened, did we know how long Anaximander survived the year B.c. 547. There seems, therefore, no great reason for disbelieving the current account.
* “The Philological Museum," vol i., p. 86.
At first sight the second argument seems convincingly decisive of the question. Farther examination, however, may teach us a wholesome neglect of first impressions. We know that the mind continually vibrates between contradictories. Thus Byron ejaculates
Thou pendulum betwixt a smile and tear!
So, also, the proverbs, “ Extremes meet,” and “ Too far east is west,” intimate; and Dryden expresses the same fact when he says
“Great wit to madness nearly is allied:
What thin partitions do the bounds divide !" “Polarity, or action and reaction, we meet in every part of Nature: in darkness and light; in heat and cold; in the ebb and flow of waters; in male and female; in the inspiration and expiration of plants and animals; in the systole and diastole of the heart. If you empty here, you must condense there. An inevitable dualism bisects nature, so that each thing is a half, and suggests another thing to make it whole. Every excess causes a defect; every defect an excess. Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good. Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit, cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end pre-exists in the means, the fruit in the seed.”
We know, too, that excessive asceticism generally leads to unbridled license; that a spendthrift youth very frequently terminates in a niggardly old age; that the intensest scepticism often results in the wildest mysticism; that, in fact, the law of contradiction operates in the human mind with extensive and manifold effects.
The antecedent improbability, therefore, of the successor differing from his predecessor, is not so great as might at first sight appear. If the one enlarged at all the boundary
* Emerson's Essays, " Compensation."
of thought, included in philosophy, how natural that in the flush and excitement of the success of his independent thought, he should push on his discovery to some ultimate theorem, in which a new solution of the mysteries of reason would in all likelihood appear to be revealed. When it is considered, too, that the ties of discipleship were not worn slavishly and servilely in those early days; that the pupil became a pupil solely from his love of wisdom, and would have been a traitor to his own keen desires, had he permitted the shadow of his master to lie obscuringly upon the field of speculation, into which he went forth on a mission, high as his master's, and as well equipped as he:-we are not inclined to overturn the structure piled up by the fathers of the History of Philosophy on reasons of this kind. We shall rather trust the fact, and endeavour to account for it.
The supposed incongruity of doctrinal sequency arises out of the mode in which the disciples of this school—while agreeing in general as to the hypothesis that a primal element of things existed, which element and its mutations it was their office to investigate and understand-differed as to the method in which they understood and explained the eduction and active emergence of present and ever-changing phenomena from the primal element. This difference is denotable by the terms Dynamicism and Mechanicism.
Dynamicism maintains that living energy pervades the universe; that the spontaneous development of this energy, as it necessitates continuous and constant change in form, quality, and appearance, produces phenomena, and, consequently, that all the results, effects, and transmutations observable in nature are processes of development which this energy is undergoing.
Mechanicism rejects the solution attainable by the supposition of spontaneous, selforiginating development, and accounts for phenomena by the assertion that nature consists of certain primal elements which obey permanent laws-either originally inherent in them, or irresistibly impressed upon them from without—which govern their conjunctions, forms, qualities, and appearances, i. e., their phenomena.
In the former you have two problems given you:—What are phenomena, and whence do they originate? as well as, What are the laws to which this living energy conforms? In the latter you free yourself from the second problem, you confine yourself to the knowable and the real, and refuse to enter into the discussion of supposititious entities.
According to the usual arrangement of this school, Thales, a dynamicist, is succeeded by Anaximander, a mechanicist, who again is followed by Anaximenes, a dynamicist, from whose school issues Anaxagoras, a mechanicist, and Diogenes of Apollonia, a dynamicist; and it is maintained that these contradictory views could not have appeared in the ordinary sequences of speculation.
According to the principles above stated, however, this does not appear either so impossible or so improbable as many might suppose, and hence we intend to adhere to the order given in the philosophic literature of antiquity.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.—ANAXIMANDER, the son of Praxiadus, was born in Miletus, about (B.C. 610) the third year of the forty-second Olympiad. By some he is represented as a kinsman of Thales. This is doubtful; but he was, according to the best testimony, both his friend and successor. He is the earliest speculator who, anxious that his opinions on the several topics on which he expended the labour of thought might neither be misinterpreted or forgotten, wrote a treatise on Philosophy. He is said to have led a colony of his fellow-citizens from Miletus to Apollonia, and to have sojourned for a time in the court of Polycrates the Elder. He is known to have survived his sixty-fourth year, but how long has not been ascertained, so that he must have died after the second year of the fifty-eighth Olympiad (B.C. 547). During the greater part of his life, therefore, he must have been contemporaneous with Thales, and must have been intimately acquainted with the doctrine, discoveries, and method of his master.
He is said to have been the earliest discoverer of the Gnomon, i. e., the portion of a sundial which projects from the plate, the shadow of whose' edge indicates the hour; but Herodotus asserts that the Greeks borrowed their knowledge of the Gnomon from the Babylonians; Diogenes Laertius, however, distinctly informs us that he was not only the discoverer of this useful instrument, but that he placed some on the sundials of Lacedemon, which showed the solstices and equinoxes. He was the first who constructed a map of the world, and he made the earliest attempt to form a globe. Pliny ascribes to him the discovery of the obliquity of the ecliptic, though as Thales understood the theory of eclipses, which presupposes an acquaintance with that fact, we can only suppose that Anaximander first comprehended the purposes to which it might be made available, not as an isolated and empirical fact, but as a reasoned discovery. Several astronomical and cosmographic notions are also attributed to him, among others, these, viz., The earth is spherical, and occupies a mid-station in the universe; the moon is not self-luminous, but derives its light from the sun; the sun is as large as the earth, and consists of ethereal fire, &c. It is probable that many of these opinions were merely shrewd guesses or tentative and incomplete hypotheses, or were only ideas deduced from his philosophic scheine.
So much for the facts and traditions regarding the life of Anaximander; let us turn our attention now to his philosophy.
EXPOSITION.— The origin of things and the processes by which they forth-form themselves into phenomena, these are the problems which Anaximander has set his heart on solving. “ Nature was to this man what, to the thinker and prophet, it for ever ispreternatural. This green, flowery, rock built earth; the trees, the mountains, manysounding seas; that great deep sea of azure that swims overhead; the winds sweeping through it; the black cloud fashioning itself together, now pouring out fire, now hail and rain; what is it? Ay, what?” Whence proceeds it? How does it become phenomenized ? From what does it originate? Thales has adopted water as the original element of which all phenomena are but changes; but can water, subject as it is to conditions, be itself the unconditioned? Can that which is itself a thing be also all things? Impossible! The analysis must be carried further, before a trustworthy theory can be established. Beneath the innumerable multitude of the appearances around us, something must lie whose manifestations these are. Can we conceive an answer to the query,—What is the origin of all things—which, were it within the domain of the discoverable, would yield the desired solution? We can.
“ The Infinite is the origin of all things.” But what is this Infinite (Tò úteipov)? That we cannot tell. To find out that ought to be the effort of philosophy; to the investigation of that it should devote itself. This alone we can posit satisfactorily, viz., that whatever the Infinite may be, it must be unchangeable in its essence, however changeable it may be in its manifestations; in other words, however variable appearances in their