Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/195

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185
EVOLUTION AND ETHICS.

cosmos had no importance for the conscience, except in so far as he chose to think it a pedagogue to virtue. The pertinacious optimism of our philosophers hid from them the actual state of the case. It prevented them from seeing that cosmic nature is no school of virtue, but the headquarters of the enemy of ethical nature. The logic of facts was necessary to convince them that the cosmos works through the lower nature of man, not for righteousness, but against it. And it finally drove them to confess that the existence of their ideal "wise man" was incompatible with the nature of things; that even a passable approximation to that ideal was to be attained only at the cost of renunciation of the world and mortification, not merely of the flesh, but of all human affections. The state of perfection was that "apatheia"[1] in which desire, though it may still be felt, is powerless to move the will, reduced to the sole function of executing the commands of pure reason. Even this residuum of activity was to be regarded as a temporary loan—as an efilux of the divine, worldpervading spirit, chafing at its imprisonment in the flesh, until such time as death enabled it to return to its source in the allpervading logos.

I find it difficult to discover any very great difference between Apatheia and Nirvana, except that stoical speculation agrees with


    letters, as we possess them, are worthless forgeries is obvious, and writers as wide apart as Baur and Lightfoot agree that the whole story is devoid of foundation.

    The dissertation of the late Bishop of Durham (Lightfoot, Epistle to the Philippians) is particularly worthy of study, apart from this question, on account of the evidence which it supplies of the numerous similarities of thought between Seneca and the writer of the Pauline epistles. When it is remembered that the writer of the Acts puts a quotation from Aratus, or Cleanthes, into the mouth of the apostle, and that Tarsus was a great seat of philosophical and especially stoical learning (Chrysippus himself was a native of the adjacent town of Sôli) there is no difficulty in understanding the origin of these resemblances. See, on this subject, Sir Alexander Grant's dissertation in his edition of The Ethics of Aristotle (where there is an interesting reference to the stoical character of Bishop Butler's ethics), the concluding pages of Dr. Weygoldt's instructive little work, Die Philosophie der Stoa, and Aubertin's Sénèque et Saint Paul.

    It is surprising that a writer of Dr. Lightfoot's stamp should speak of Stoicism as a philosophy of "despair." Surely, rather, it was a philosophy of men who, having cast off all illusions and the childishness of despair among them, Avere minded to endure in patience whatever conditions the cosmic process might create, so long as those conditions were compatible with the progress toward virtue, which alone for them conferred a worthy object on existence. There is no note of despair in the stoical declaration that the perfected "wise man" is the equal of Zeus in everything but the duration of his existence. And in my judgment there is as little pride about it—often as it serves for the text of discourses on stoical arrogance. Grant the stoical postulate that there is no good except virtue; grant that the perfected wise man is altogether virtuous, in consequence of being guided in all things by the reason, which is an effluence of Zeus, and there seems no escape from the stoical conclusion.

  1. Our "apathy" carries such a different set of connotations from its Greek original that I have ventured on using the latter as a technical term.