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Once more, looking at the whole current of Greek philosophy, and especially the philosophy of mind, are we entitled to say that it encouraged, if it did not create, those other forms of individualism already defined as mutinous criticism on the part of the people, and selfish ambition on the part of its chiefs? Some historians have maintained that there was such a connexion, operating, if not directly, at least through a chain of intermediate causes. Free thought destroyed religion, with religion fell morality, and with morality whatever restraints had hitherto kept anarchic tendencies of every description within bounds. These are interesting reflections; but they do not concern us here, for the issue raised by Hegel is entirely different. It matters nothing to him that Socrates was a staunch252 defender of supernaturalism and of the received morality. The essential antithesis is between the Socratic introspection and the Socratic dialectics on the one side, and the unquestioned authority of ancient institutions on the other. If this be what Hegel means, we must once more record our dissent. We cannot admit that the philosophy of subjectivity, so interpreted, was a decomposing ferment; nor that the spirit of Plato鈥檚 republic was, in any case, a protest against it. The Delphic precept, 鈥楰now thyself,鈥 meant in the mouth of Socrates: Let every man find out what work he is best fitted for, and stick to that, without meddling in matters for which he is not qualified. The Socratic dialectic meant: Let the whole field of knowledge be similarly studied; let our ideas on all subjects be so systematised that we shall be able to discover at a moment鈥檚 notice the bearing of any one of them on any of the others, or on any new question brought up for decision. Surely nothing could well be less individualistic, in a bad sense, less anti-social, less anarchic than this. Nor does Plato oppose, he generalises his master鈥檚 principles; he works out the psychology and dialectic of the whole state; and if the members of his governing class are not permitted to have any separate interests in their individual capacity, each individual soul is exalted to the highest dignity by having the community reorganised on the model of its own internal economy. There are no violent peripeteias in this great drama of thought, but everywhere harmony, continuity, and gradual development.?
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Speculation now leaves its Asiatic cradle and travels with the Greek colonists to new homes in Italy and Sicily, where new modes of thought were fostered by a new environment. A name, round which mythical accretions have gathered so thickly that the original nucleus of fact almost defies definition, first claims our attention. Aristotle, as is well known, avoids mentioning Pythagoras, and always speaks of the Pythagoreans when he is discussing the opinions held by a certain Italian school. Their doctrine, whoever originated it, was that all things are made out of number. Brandis regards Pythagoreanism as an entirely original effort of speculation,11 standing apart from the main current of Hellenic thought, and to be studied without reference to Ionian philosophy. Zeller, with more plausibility, treats it as an outgrowth of Anaximander鈥檚 system. In that system the finite and the infinite remained opposed to one another as unreconciled moments of thought. Number, according to the Greek arithmeticians, was a synthesis of the two, and therefore superior to either. To a Pythagorean the finite and the infinite were only one among several antithetical couples, such as odd and even, light and darkness, male and female, and, above all, the one and the many whence every number after unity is formed. The tendency to search for antitheses everywhere, and to manufacture them where they do not exist, became ere long an actual disease of the Greek mind. A Thucydides could no more have dispensed with this cumbrous mechanism than a rope-dancer could get on without his balancing pole; and many a schoolboy has been sorely puzzled by the fantastic contortions which Italiote reflection imposed for a time on Athenian oratory.!
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The style of polemics adopted on this occasion, whatever else may be its value, will serve excellently to illustrate the general dialectic method of attack. When Plato particularly disliked a class of persons, or an institution, or an art, or a theory, or a state of consciousness, he tried to prove that it was confused, unstable, and self-contradictory; besides taking full advantage of any discredit popularly attached to it. All these objections are brought to bear with full force against pleasure. Some pleasures are delusive, since the reality of them falls far short of the anticipation; all pleasure is essentially transitory, a perpetual becoming, never a fixed state, and therefore not an end of action; pleasures which ensue on the satisfaction of desires are necessarily accompanied by pains and disappear simultaneously with them; the most intense, and for that reason the most typical, pleasures, are associated with feelings of shame, and their enjoyment is carefully hidden out of sight.
21 August, 2019 - 13:08
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21 August, 2019 - 13:08
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