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the means most likely to attain it? To these questions various answers have been given. Socrates, who had refused to occupy himself with speculations concerning the origin and composition of the universe, but who interested himself in things human, taught that the greatest happiness consisted in an understanding of the True, in knowledge. Knowledge is virtue, and can be acquired by study. Nobody, so Socrates is represented as teaching, would willingly act in an unjust manner or choose the wrong way if he knew the right one. If he does act wrongly or unjustly, it is on account of his ignorance-ignorance of what is good for him. The wise man alone who has reached the goal of knowledge is virtuous and happy, regardless of public opinion, of tradition and custom, knowledge being the ultimate aim of a man's action and identical with the good and with virtue. But virtue and justice, based upon mere habit and education, without knowledge and reflection, are a groping in the dark which will incidentally lead to the right track but give no inner satisfaction. It is necessary to go a step further, and to attempt to find a precise definition of the Good. So, in Plato's “Gorgias” and “Republic,” Kallicles and Thrasymachos maintain that the Good is what pleases us and the Just is that which we have in our power to attain. Plato, who claims to be repeating the teachings of Socrates, denies this. For him Goodness and Justice-identical with the idea of the Divine-are absolute and independent of opinion. Plato's system of Ethics is metaphysical. The art of conduct, he taught, consists in man's striving to bring into his private and public life that harmony, beauty, and order which are the fundamental qualities and characteristics of the great Cosmos, to imitate the Good which the soul, part of the great soul of the universe, had looked upon face to face in its pre-natal state. This is obtained by practising the four virtues : Courage, Temperance, and above all, Wisdom and Justice. Justice reaches its consummation in the organization of the State, the ideal of which Plato has sketched in the “Republic” and in 6 Laws.”
Aristotle, “the eternal prince of all true thinkers," as Auguste Comte calls him in his “ Catechisme Positiviste,"
starts in his Ethics, like Plato, with the question : “ What is the highest good for man? what is his ultimate aim and purpose ?” Man alone, so he taught, in the great mass of organic being, possesses not merely the faculty of feeling and desire, but also that of understanding. In sensibility and perception he resembles the animal, but in reason and understanding he is like God. This combination of animal and intellectual faculties makes him a moral being; for morality is the harmonious co-operation of the animal and intellectual elements, the exercise of human powers and actions under the control of reason. Subject to morality is not the contemplative man who only lives in thought, but he who is engaged in action, and upon whom desire and excitement exercise their influence. In order to choose the right and proper direction, he must employ his powers of judgment, reason, and free will.
This harmony between human will and reason or intellect produces the ethical virtues or happiness, the highest good, man's aim in life. But whilst Socrates held that virtue is only the result of reason and not of education and habit, that it consists in perfect practical wisdom or moral insight, Aristotle thought that education, practice, and habit were also necessary. He defines ethical virtues as “a settled and fixed habit, the outcome of practice, formed under the rule and guidance of reason and intellect.” Other successors of the great masters developed certain aspect of their doctrines. Two schools, that of the Stoics and that of the Epicureans, need especial mention.
The Stoic School was founded by Zeno of Citium, who taught in the Eroà Ilockian (Stoa Poikile), the Painted Porch or Hall,' whence the name Stoics and Stoicism.
Proceeding from the Socratic disregard for tradition and public opinion, and from the predominance of reason over desire, Zeno taught that virtue is all sufficient, and that the wise man, wrapping himself in the beggar's cloak, proud as a king, leads a life in accordance with nature, independent and free. Unable to change nature, he submits to it
1 The great hall in the Agora at Athens, adorned with fresco paintings.
joyfully; while the fool, in his struggle against it, loses his strength and falls a victim, exhausted and crushed. Nothing affects the Stoic; he is resigned because everything, as he believes, is decreed by nature, which is Providence and goodwill.
Epicurus (337 or 341-270 B.C.), who may be styled a Socratic Voltaire or a Voltairian Socrates, taught that the sole good of man is pleasure, which understanding helps him to procure. Epicurus, like other Hellenistic thinkers, admits that morality and happiness are identical, and that the art of conduct is also the art that teaches us how to procure a state of satisfaction for the individual. Morality for Epicurus is nothing else but a right understanding of the individual interest, a refined egotism. Self-denial and self-sacrifice are not based upon man's acting against his nature, against his desire for pleasure deeply rooted in the human breast, but are due to his power of reflection. As a reasoning being he is capable of renouncing immediate pleasurable sensations, in order to enjoy greater ones later on. Passing pleasures and voluptuousness are nothing in comparison with pleasures that endurepleasures of the mind—which procure a state of content, arming man against the tribulations and vicissitudes of
As some pleasures often lead to pain, the desire for pleasure must be regulated by prudence, from which all other virtues follow, for health of body and tranquillity of mind are the consummation of happiness in life. “We cannot live a life of pleasure which is not also a life of prudence, honour, and justice ; nor lead a life of prudence, honour, and justice which is not also a life of pleasure.” In order to obtain permanent pleasure, we sometimes even undergo momentary pain and suffering. By pleasure Epicurus does not mean the sensations which vanish like the moment which procures them, but that state of deep peace and perfect contentment in which we feel secure against the storms of life.
The human spirit, however, could not long be satisfied with Philosophy. Religion took its place. Instead of the poet and philosopher of Greek antiquity, the saint of Christianity came. Christianity wrought the greatest revolution that had ever come over mankind, and caused an entire change in the department of thought. Greek doctrines could not stand against its sway. In the domain of Ethics, or morals, almost all the old pagan teachings were abandoned. “It was," as Nietzsche said, “a complete revaluation of values.”
Christianity, however, has, to a certain extent, made universal the teachings of Judaism and spread the moral seed of the Old Testament over the Western world. Jewish Ethics are in their origin theological. Their fundamental principles are theistic. Morality in Judaism has never been considered otherwise thai as an emanation and result of the divine order and law, the fulfilment of divine command. Man has to observe certain rules and laws regulating his conduct, but the lawgiver is God. Morally good and pleasing to God, divine ordinance and ethical law are inseparable conceptions. A thing is not, however, moral because God has ordained it, but on the contrary God has ordained and enjoined it because it is moral. For morality alone is the vital centre and the world-purpose. “The Hebrews,” says Herman Lotze, the modern German philosopher, in his famous work “Microcosmus,” “ seem to us, among the theocratically governed nations of the East, as sober people among drunkards, but to antiquity they seemed dreamers among working folk. Moral obligations, the consciousness of which is everywhere developed by social action and reaction, appear here (in Judaism), consolidated into a will of God, which has to be fulfilled and glorified, not only by the individual in inward disposition and outward works, but also by the whole nation in the theocratically regulated life of the community.”
The great fundamental principles are love of and obedience to God, and love of man, principles that require the exercise of such virtues as justice and benevolence. While Greek Ethics considered the perfection of the individual to be the ultimate aim of man, obtainable by a thorough exercise of his natural powers and capacities, and culminating in “ happiness," Christian Ethics demanded the striving after pure morality in thought and action, the absolute power of the spirit over the flesh and over natural
desires. The spirituality, however, led to a denial of the flesh and a retirement from the world, to a renunciation and a contempt of the natural life and its interests, to asceticism, vows of poverty, celibacy, and submission to a cult of bodily pain and suffering-in a word, to an " unnatural life.” Another idea entirely novel is the doctrine of “ salvation by grace.” Man, being sinful by nature, is utterly incapable of reaching the good by his own strength and exertion. He obtains salvation only by grace, grace which is dispensed by the Church in an arbitrary manner. Thus the original teachings and doctrines of the Founder of Christianity have been degraded by the mistakes of His disciples. A higher importance is now ascribed in both modern Christianity and Judaism to ceremonies than to moral and ethical purity of life in thought and action, which they were originally intended to symbolize.
§ 7. Modern ethical thought, taking its origin from Martin Luther, the courageous monk at Wittenberg, is characterized by a tendency towards “ reality.” It recognised that the aim of man consisted in the manifestations of his powers and faculties in the practical life, that the field of his moral activity was the world. Proceeding from this tendency, modern Moral Philosophy, especially the English School, gradually separated Ethics from Theology, or Morality from Religion, and established it as a philosophical science. Locke, Hobbes, Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Hume, and Adam Smith in England and Scotland ; Spinoza, Leibniz, and Wolff in Germany were most productive in this field of Philosophy. The questions they raised and the problems they discussed will be mentioned in a subsequent chapter, treating of the Ethical Schools. Kant, in his “ Critique of Pure Reason ” (1788), gave a new direction to the study of Ethics. He maintained that man bears in himself the source of law and the moral spirit. This moral spirit is independent of legislation or any dictation from without. This “ autonomous " moral law is known by the name of the “ categorical imperative.” Only when submitting our will to this moral spirit within us, to the categorical imperative, even against our inclination, do we fulfil our