Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/974

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released so much intellectual activity from civic duties. The life and death of Cato fired the imagination of a degenerate age in which he stood out both as a Roman and a Stoic. To a long line of illustrious successors, men like Thrasea Paetus and Helvidius Priscus, Cato bequeathed his resolute opposition to the dominant power of the times; unsympathetic, impracticable, but fearless in demeanour, they were a standing reproach to the corruption and tyranny of their age. But when at first, under Augustus, the empire restored order, philosophy became bolder and addressed every class in society, public lectures and spiritual direction being the two forms in which it mainly showed activity. Books of direction were written by Sextius in Greek (as afterwards by Seneca in Latin), almost the only Roman who had the ambition to found a sect, though in ethics he mainly followed Stoicism. His contemporary Papirius Fabianus was the popular lecturer of that day, producing a powerful effect by his denunciations of the manners of the time. Under Tiberius, Sotion and Attalus were attended by crowds of hearers. In Seneca's time there was a professor, with few hearers it is true, even in a provincial town like Naples. At the same time the antiquarian study of Stoic writings went on apace, especially those of the earliest teachers—Zeno and Aristo and Cleanthes.

Seneca is the most prominent leader in the direction which Roman Stoicism now took. His penetrating intellect had Seneca. mastered the subtleties of the system of Chrysippus, but they seldom appear in his works, at least without, apology. Incidentally we meet there with the doctrines of Pneuma and of tension, of the corporeal nature of the virtues and the affections, and much more to the same effect. But his attention is claimed for physics chiefly as a means of elevating the mind, and as making known the wisdom of Providence and the moral government of the world. To reconcile the ways of God to man had been the ambition of Chrysippus, as we know from Plutarch's criticisms. He argued plausibly that natural evil was a thing indifferent—that even moral evil was required in the divine economy as a foil to set off good. The really difficult problem why the prosperity of the wicked and the calamity of the just were permitted under the divine government he met in various ways: sometimes he alleged the forgetfulness of higher powers; sometimes he fell back upon the necessity of these contrasts and grotesque passages in the comedy of human life. Seneca gives the true Stoic answer in his treatise On Providence: the wise man cannot really meet with misfortune; all outward calamity is a divine instrument of training, designed to exercise his powers and teach the world the indifference of external conditions. In the soul Seneca recognizes an effluence of the divine spirit, a god in the human frame; in virtue of this he maintains the essential dignity and internal freedom of man in every human being. Yet, in striking contrast to this orthodox tenet is his vivid conception of the weakness and misery of men, the hopelessness of the struggle with evil, whether in society or in the individual. Thus he describes the body (which, after Epicurus, he calls the flesh) as a mere husk or fetter or prison of the soul; with its departure begins the soul's true life. Sometimes, too, he writes as if he accepted an irrational as well as a rational part of the soul. In ethics, if there is no novelty of doctrine, there is a surprising change in the mode of its application. The ideal sage has receded; philosophy comes as a physician, not to the whole but to the sick. We learn that there are various classes of patients in “progress” (προκοπή), i.e. on their way to virtue, making painful efforts towards it. The first stage is the eradication of vicious habits: evil tendencies are to be corrected, and a guard kept on the corrupt propensities of the reason. Suppose this achieved, we have yet to struggle with single attacks of the passions; irascibility may be cured, but we may succumb to a fit of rage. To achieve this second stage the impulses must be trained in such a way that the fitness of things indifferent may be the guide of conduct. Even then it remains to give the will that property of rigid infallibility without which we are always liable to err, and this must be effected by the training of the judgment. Other peculiarities of the later Stoic ethics are due to the condition of the times. In a time of moral corruption and oppressive rule, as the early empire repeatedly became to the privileged classes of Roman society, a general feeling of insecurity led the student of philosophy to seek in it a refuge against the vicissitudes of fortune which he daily beheld. The less any one man could do to interfere in the government, or even to safeguard his own life and property, the more heavily the common fate pressed upon all, levelling the ordinary distinctions of class and character. Driven inwards upon themselves, they employed their energy in severe self-examination, or they cultivated resignation to the will of the universe, and towards their fellow men forbearance and forgiveness and humility, the virtues of the philanthropic disposition. With Seneca this resignation took the form of a constant meditation upon death. Timid by nature, aware of his impending doom, and at times justly dissatisfied with himself, he tries all means of reconciling himself to the idea of suicide. The act had always been accounted allowable in the school, if circumstances should call for it: indeed, the first three teachers had found such circumstances in the infirmity of old age. But their attitude towards the “way out” (ἐξαγωγή) of incurable discomforts is quite unlike the anxious sentimentalism with which Seneca dwells upon death.

From Seneca we turn, not without satisfaction, to men of sterner mould, such as Musonius Rufus, who certainly deserves Musonius a place beside his more illustrious disciple, Epictetus. As a teacher he commanded universal respect, and wherever we catch a glimpse of his activity he appears to advantage. His philosophy, however, is yet more concentrated upon practice than Seneca's, and in ethics he is almost at the position of Aristo. Epictetus testifies to the powerful hold he acquired upon his pupils, each of whom felt that Musonius spoke to his heart. The practical conclusion of his philosophy is that he must cheerfully accept the inevitable.

In the life and teaching of Epictetus this thought bore abundant fruit. The beautiful character which rose superior to Epictetus. weakness, poverty and slave's estate is also presented to us in the Discourses of his disciple Arrian as a model of religious resignation, of forbearance and love towards our brethren, that is, towards all men, since God is our common father. With him even the “physical basis” of ethics takes the form of a religious dogma—the providence of God and the perfection of the world. We learn that he regards the δαίμων or “guardian angel” as the divine part in each man; sometimes it is more nearly conscience, at other times reason. His ethics, too, have a religious character. He begins with human weakness and man's need of God: whoso would become good must first be convinced that he is evil. Submission is enforced by an argument which almost amounts to a retractation of the difference between things natural and things contrary to nature, as understood by Zeno. Would you be cut off from the universe? he asks. Go to, grow healthy and rich. But if not, if you are a part of it, then become resigned to your lot. Towards this goal of approximation to Cynicism the later Stoics had all along been tending. Withdrawal from the active duty of the world must lead to passive endurance, and, ere long, complete indifference. Musonius had recommended marriage and condemned unsparingly the exposure of infants. Epictetus, however, would have the sage hold aloof from domestic cares, another Cynic trait. So, too, in his great maxim “bear and forbear,” the last is a command to refrain from the external advantages which nature offers.

Epictetus is marked out amongst Stoics by his renunciation of the world. He is followed by a Stoic emperor, M. Aurelius Aurelius. Antoninus, who, though in the world, was not of it. The Meditations give no systematic exposition of belief, but there are many indications of the religious spirit we have already observed, together with an almost Platonic psychology. Following Epictetus, he speaks of man as a corpse bearing about a soul; at another time he has a threefold division—(1) body, (2) soul, the seat of impulse (πνευματίον), and (3) νοῦς or intelligence, the proper ego. In all he writes there is a vein of sadness: the flux of all things, the vanity of