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Down, almost like a hawk falling to its prey, the seaplane went through the still air.The next and perhaps the most important point in favour of Epicureanism is its theory of pleasure as the end of action. Plato had left his idea of the good undefined; Aristotle had defined his in such a manner as to shut out the vast majority of mankind from its pursuit; the Stoics had revolted every instinct by altogether discarding pleasure as an end, and putting a purely formal and hollow perfection in its place. It must further be admitted that Epicurus, in tracing back justice to the two ideas of interest and contract, had hold of a true and fertile principle. Nevertheless, although ethics is his strongest ground, his usual ill-luck pursues him even here. It is where he is most original that he goes most astray. By reducing pleasure, as an end of action, to the mere removal of pain, he alters earlier systems of hedonism for the worse; and plays the game of pessimism by making it appear that, on the whole, death must be preferable to life, since it is what life can never bea state of absolute repose. And by making self-interest, in the sense of seeking nothing but ones own pleasure or the means to it, the only rule of action, he endangers the very foundations of society. At best, the selfish system, as Coleridge has beautifully observed, stands in a similar relation to the law of conscience or universal selfless reason, as the dial to the sun which indicates its path by intercepting its radiance.210 Nor is the indication so certain as Coleridge admitted. A time may come when116 self-sacrifice shall be unnecessary for the public welfare, but we are not within a measurable distance of it as yet.
This brings us back to the old proposition, that for structures which do not involve motion, mathematical data will furnish dimensions; but the same rule will not apply in machinery. To follow the proportions for shafts that would be furnished by pure mathematical data would in nearly all cases lead to error. Experience has demonstrated that for ordinary cases, where power is transmitted and applied with tolerable regularity, a shaft three inches in diameter, making one hundred and fifty revolutions a minute, its bearings three to four diameters in length, and placed ten feet apart, will safely transmit fifty horse-power.
Philosophy was no sooner domiciled at Athens than its professors came in for their full share of the scurrilous personalities which seem to have formed the staple of conversation in that enlightened capital. Aristotle, himself a trenchant and sometimes a bitterly scornful controversialist, did not escape; and some of the censures passed on him were, rightly or wrongly, attributed to Plato. The Stagirite, who had been brought up at or near the Macedonian Court, and had inherited considerable means, was, if report speaks truly, somewhat foppish in his dress, and luxurious, if not dissipated in his habits. It would not be surprising if one who was left his own master at so early an age had at first exceeded the limits of that moderation which he afterwards inculcated as the golden rule of morals; but the charge of extravagance was such a stock accusation at Athens, where the continued influence of country life seems to have bred a prejudice in favour283 of parsimony, that it may be taken almost as an exoneration from graver imputations; and, perhaps, an admonition from Plato, if any was needed, sufficed to check his disciples ambition for figuring as a man of fashion.
The second Stoic idea to which we would invite attention is that, in the economy of life, every one has a certain function to fulfil, a certain part to play, which is marked out for him by circumstances beyond his control, but in the adequate performance of which his duty and dignity are peculiarly involved. It is true that this idea finds no assignable place in the teaching of the earliest Stoics, or rather in the few fragments of their teaching which alone have been preserved; but it is touched upon by Cicero under the head of Temperance, in the adaptation from Panaetius already referred to; it frequently recurs in the lectures of Epicttus; and it is enunciated with energetic concision in the solitary meditations of Marcus Aurelius.77 The belief spoken of is, indeed, closely connected with the Stoic teleology, and only applies to the sphere of free intelligence a principle like that supposed to regulate the activity of inanimate or irrational34 beings. If every mineral, every plant, and every animal has its special use and office, so also must we, according to the capacity of our individual and determinate existence. By accomplishing the work thus imposed on us, we fulfil the purpose of our vocation, we have done all that the highest morality demands, and may with a clear conscience leave the rest to fate. To put the same idea into somewhat different terms: we are born into certain relationships, domestic, social, and political, by which the lines of our daily duties are prescribed with little latitude for personal choice. What does depend upon ourselves is to make the most of these conditions and to perform the tasks arising out of them in as thorough a manner as possible. It was not only out of ivory, says Seneca, that Pheidias could make statues, but out of bronze as well; had you offered him marble or some cheaper material still, he would have carved the best that could be made out of that. So the sage will exhibit his virtue in wealth, if he be permitted; if not, in poverty; if possible, in his own country; if not, in exile; if possible, as a general; if not, as a soldier; if possible, in bodily vigour; if not, in weakness. Whatever fortune be granted him, he will make it the means for some memorable achievement. Or, to take the more homely comparisons of Epicttus: The weaver does not manufacture his wool, but works up what is given him. Remember that you are to act in whatever drama the manager may choose, a long or short one according to his pleasure. Should he give you the part of a beggar, take care to act that becomingly; and the same should it be a lame man, or a magistrate, or a private citizen. For your business is to act well the character that is given to you, but to choose it is the business of another.So spoke the humble freedman; but the master of the world had also to recognise what fateful limits were imposed on his beneficent activity. Why wait, O man! exclaims Marcus Aurelius.35 Do what Nature now demands; make haste and look not round to see if any know it; nor hope for Platos Republic, but be content with the smallest progress, and consider that the result even of this will be no little thing.78 Carlyle was not a Stoic; but in this respect his teaching breathes the best spirit of Stoicism; and, to the same extent also, through his whole life he practised what he taught."Is that so? I beg your pardon, but won't you come with me? I suppose that you want a passport. I will take you to the commander."
366We have here, indeed, something comparable not only to the scepticism of the New Academy, but also to the Aristotelian criticism of Platos metaphysics; and, at first sight, it might seem as if the Peripatetic philosophy was destined once more to regain the position taken from it by the resuscitation of its ancient foe. But Locke was not inclined to substitute one form of scholasticism for another. By applying the analytical method of Atomism to knowledge itself, he created a weapon equally fatal to the two competing systems. Under his dissection, the concrete individual substance of the one vanished no less completely than the universal ideas of the other. Nothing remained but a bundle of qualities held together by a subjective bond.