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[Pg 292]The first result of this separation between man and the world was a complete breach with the old physical philosophy, shown, on the one hand, by an abandonment of speculative studies, on the other, by a substitution of convention for Nature as the recognised standard of right. Both consequences were drawn by Protagoras, the most eminent of the Sophists. We have now to consider more particularly what was his part in the great drama of which we are attempting to give an intelligible account.
Pyrrho, who probably no more believed in books than in anything else, never committed his opinions to writing; and what we know of them is derived from the reports of his disciples, which, again, are only preserved in a very incomplete form by the compilers of the empire. According to these, Pyrrho began by declaring that the philosophic problem might be summed up in the three following questions:138 What is the nature of things? What should be our relation to them? What is the practical consequence of this determination? Of its kind, this statement is probably the best ever framed, and might be accepted with equal readiness by every school of thought. But the scepticism of Pyrrho at once reveals itself in his answer to the first question. We know nothing about things in themselves. Every assertion made respecting them is liable to be contradicted, and neither of the two opposing propositions deserves more credence than the other. The considerations by which Pyrrho attempts to establish this proposition were probably suggested by the systems of Plato and Aristotle. The only possible avenues of communication with the external world are, he tells us, sense and reason. Of these the former was so universally discredited that he seems to have regarded any elaborate refutation of its claims as superfluous. What we perceive by our senses is the appearance, not the reality of things. This is exactly what the Cyrenaics had already maintained. The inadequacy of reason is proved by a more original method. Had men any settled principles of judgment, they would agree on questions of conduct, for it is with regard to these that they are best informed, whereas the great variety of laws and customs shows that the exact opposite is true. They are more hopelessly divided on points of morality than on any other.227 It will be remembered that Pyrrhos fellow-townsman, Hippias, had, about a hundred years earlier, founded his theory of Natural Law on the arbitrary and variable character of custom. The result of combining his principles with those professed by Protagoras and Gorgias was to establish complete moral scepticism; but it would be a mistake to suppose that moral distinctions had no value for him personally, or that they were neglected in his public teaching.The guards' band played Indian tunes, to a measure I could not yet catch, and Strauss' waltzes very oddly accented. Suddenly the princess appeared,[Pg 84] in soft rose-pink lightly touched with blue. She wore a pearl necklace with slides of ruby and emerald, shoes thickly worked with gold, and a broad pink sash somewhat darker in colour than her silver-striped tunic.
The Epicurean cosmology need not delay us long. It is completely independent of the atomic theory, which had only been introduced to explain the indestructibility of matter, and, later on, the mechanism of sensation. In describing how the world was first formed, Epicurus falls back on the old Ionian meteorology. He assumes the existence of matter in different states of diffusion, and segregates fluid from solid, light from heavy, hot from cold, by the familiar device of a rapid vortical movement.168 For the rest, as we have already noticed, Epicurus gives an impartial welcome to the most conflicting theories of his predecessors, provided only that they dispense with the aid of supernatural intervention; as will87 be seen by the following summary, which we quote from Zeller:With regard to the propagation of the race, Platos methods are avowedly borrowed from those practised by bird-fanciers, horse-trainers, and cattle-breeders. It had long been a Greek custom to compare the people to a flock of sheep and their ruler to a shepherd, phrases which still survive in ecclesiastical parlance. Socrates habitually employed the same simile in his political discussions; and the rhetoricians used it as a justification of the governors who enriched themselves at the expense of those committed to their charge. Plato twisted the argument out of their hands and showed that the shepherd, as such, studies nothing but the good of his sheep. He failed to perceive that the parallel could not be carried out in every detail, and that, quite apart from more elevated considerations, the system which secures a healthy progeny in the one case cannot be transferred to creatures possessing a vastly more complex and delicate organisation. The destruction of sickly and deformed children could only be justified on the hypothesis that none but physical qualities were of any value to the community. Our philosopher forgets his own distinction between soul and body just when he most needed to remember it.
A man of her acquaintance, disgusted by her conduct, remarked one dayAnd then we came away from this hospital, where no sister of charity, no woman even, had brought some little consolation or the kindliness of a smile to these dying creatures, whose wandering or frantic black eyes haunted me.
Little did the other children who made complaints that their books were spoiled, or the nuns  who gave reproofs and decreed punishments, imagine what valuable possessions these scribbled, spoilt books and papers would have become in future years if they had taken care of them, for the artistic genius was in them even then. One evening, when she was seven or eight years old, the child drew the head of a man with a beard which she showed to her father. Transported with delight, he exclaimed:Further off, under the banyan trees, is the sepoys' camp; they have been turned out of barracks on account of the plague; and flashing here and there among the dark, heavy verdure there lies the steely level of motionless ocean.