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SECT. III. HAVING premised thus much, to clear the way, and abate men's prejudices against a new opinion, I come to a more particular enquiry concerning each of those Sects which have been supposed to BELIEVE the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments.
The ancient Greek philosophy may be all ranged in the ELEATIC, the ITALIC, and the Ionic lines. The Eleatic line was wholly composed of Atheists of different kinds; as the Democritic, the Pyrrhonian, the Epicurean, &c. so these come not into the account. All in the Italic line derive thenselves from PYTHAGORAS, and swear in his name. All in the Ionic, till SOCRATES, busied themselves only in Physics, and are therefore likewise excluded. He was the first who brought philosophy out of the clouds, to a clearer contemplation of HUMAN NATURE; and founded the Socratic school, whose subdivisions were the PLATONIC or OLD ACADEMY, the PERIPATETIC, the Stoic, the MIDDLE, and the NEW ACADEMY.
As to Socrates, Cicero gives this character of him, that He was the first who called philosophy from heaven, to place it in cities, and introduce it into private houses *, i. e. to teach public and private . morals. But we must not suppose, that Cicero simply meant, as the words seem to imply, that Socrates was the first of the philosophers, who studied morals; this being evidently false; for the Pythagoric school had, for a long time before, made morals its principal concern.
morals. * Primus Philosophiam devocavit e cælo, et in urbibus collocavit, et in domos etiam introduxit. Tuscul.
He must therefore mean (as the quotation below partly implies) that He was the first who called off philosophy from a contemplation of nature, to fix it ENTIRELY uport morals. Which was so true, that Socrates was not only the first, but the last of the Philosophers who made this separation; having here no followers, unless we reckon Xenophon; who upbraids Plato, the immediate successor of his school, for forsaking his master's confined scheme, and imitating the common practice of the philosophers in their pursuit of general knowledge; he being, as the same Cicero observes, varius et multiplex et copiosus.
However, This, which Socrates attempted in Philosophy, was a very extraordinary project: and, to support its credit, he brought in those principles of DOUBT and UNCERTAINTY, which some of his pretended followers very much abused: For, while
he Quæst. lib. v.--And again, Acad. I. i. Socrates mihi videtur, id quod constat inter omnes, primus a rebus occultis, et ab ipsa natura involutis, in quibus omnes ante eum philosophi occupati fuerunt, evocavisse Philosor phiam, et ad vitam communem adduxisse, ut de virtutibus et vitiis, omninoque de bonis rebus & malis quæreret; cælestia autem vel procul esse a nostra cognitione censeret, vel, si maxime cognita essent, nihil tamen ad bene vivendum conferre,
he restrained those principles of doubt to natural things, whose study he rejected; they extended them to every thing that was the subject of philosophical inquiry. This we presume was Socrates's true character: who thus confining his searches, was the only one of all the ancient Greek philosophers (and it deserves our notice) who really believed the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments. How it happened that he was so singularly right, will be considered hereafter, when we bring his case to illustrate, and to confirm the general position here advanced.
From Socrates, as we said, came the middle and New Academy, as well as the Old, or Platonic. Arcesilaus was the founder of the middle; and Carneades of the New. Between the principles of these two there was no real difference, as Cicero tells us; and we may take his word ; but both, I will venture to affirm, were as real Sceptics, as the Pyrrhonians themselves : I mean in their principles of philosophising, though not in the professed conclusions each pretended to draw from those principles. For the Academics as well as Pyrrhonians agreed in this, “ That nothing could be known; “ and that, without interfering with any sentiments “ of their own, every thing was to be disputed.” Hence the Pyrrhonians concluded, " that nothing
was ever to be assented to, but the mind to be
kept in an eternal suspense :” The Academics, on the contrary, held, " that the PROBABLE, when “ found, was to be assented to; but, till then, they were to go on with the Pyrrhonians, questioning, “ disputing, and opposing every thing." And here lay the jest: they continued to do so, throughout the whole period of their existence, without ever finding the probable in any thing; except, in what was necessary to supply them with arms for disputing against every thing. It is true, this was a contradiction in their scheme : but Scepticism is unavoidably destructive of itself. The mischief was, that their allowing the probable thus far, made many, both ancients and moderns, think them uniform in their concessions : In the mean time they gave good words, and talked perpetually of their verisimile and probabile, amidst a situation of absolute darkness, and scepticism ; like Saneho Pancha, of his island on the Terra Firma.
This was Lucian's opinion of the Academics ; and no man knew them better ; speaking of the happy island, in his true history, and telling us in what manner it was stocked with the several Sects of Greek philosophy; when he comes to the Academics he observes with much humour, that though they were in as good a disposition to come as any of the rest, they still keep aloof in the Confines, and would never venture to set foot upon the Island. For here truly they stuck; they were not yet satisfied whether it was an Island or not *.
* Tές δε 'Aκαδημαικός έλεγον εθέλειν μεν ελθεϊν, επέχειν δ' έτι, και διασκέπτεσθαι" μη δε γαρ αυτό τετό στως καταλαμβάνειν, ει και moós tis TolaÚThésiv. Ver. Hist. 1. ii.
This I take to be the true key to the intrigues of the ACADEMY; of which famous sect many have been betrayed into a better opinion than it deserved. If any doubt of this, the account which Cícero himself gives of them, will satisfy him. He, who knew them best, and who in good earnest espoused only the more reasonable part of their conduct, tells us, that they held nothing could be known, or so much as perceived: Nihil cognosci, nihil percipi, nihil sciri posse dixerunt- Opinionibus & INSTITUTis omnia teneri; nihil VERITATI relinqui: deinceps omnia tenebris circumfusa esse dixerunt. Itaque Arcesilaus negabat esse quidquam quod sciri posset, ne illud quidem ipsum * : That every thing was to be disputed ; and that the probable was not a thing to engage their assents, or sway their judgments, but to enforce their reasonings, -Carneades vero multo uberius iisdem de rebus loquebatur : non quo aperiret sententiam suam (hic enim mos erat patrius Academia ADVERSARI SEMPER OMNIBUS in disputando) sed t, &c.--Proprium sit Academiæ judicium suum nullum interponere, ea probare quæ simillima veri videantur ;
onferre causas, & quid in quamque sententiam dici possit expromere, nulla adhibita sua auctoritate, judicium audientium relinquere integrum & liberum I: That, though they pretended their end was to find the probable, yet, like the Pyrrhonians,
* Acad. Quæst. 1. i. c. 12, 13. + De Orat. lib. i. c. 18. † De Divin. lib.ii. sub fin. VOL. III. E