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"You don't chaw terbaker. You jest eat it," remonstrated the long-suffering Mr. Klegg.
Plotinus himself, we are told, reached the climax of complete unification several times in his life, Porphyry only once, in the sixty-eighth year of his age. Probably the condition so denominated was a species of hypnotic trance. Its importance in the Neo-Platonic system has been considerably exaggerated, and on the strength of this single point some critics have summarily disposed of Plotinus and his whole school as unreasoning mystics. Mysticism is a vague word capable of very various applications. In the present instance, we presume that it is used to express a belief in the existence of some method for the discovery of truth apart from tradition; observation, and reasoning. And, taken in this sense, the Neo-Platonic method of arriving at a full apprehension of the One would be considered an extreme instance of mysticism. We must bear in mind, however, that Plotinus arrives at an intellectual conception of absolute unity by the most strictly logical process. It makes no difference that his reasoning is unsound, for the same criticism applies to other philosophers who have never been accused of mysticism. It may be said that after leading us up to a certain point, reason is replaced by intuition. Rather, what the ultimate intuition does is not to take the place of logic, but to substitute a living realisation for an abstract and negative conception. Moreover, the intuition is won not by forsaking logic, but by straining its resources to the very utmost. Again, one great characteristic of mysticism, as ordinarily understood, is to deny the truth of common observation and reasoning. Now Plotinus never goes this length. As we have already remarked, he does not even share Platos distrust of sensible impressions, but rather follows the example of Aristotle in recognising their validity within a certain sphere. Nor does he mention having received any revelations of divine truth during his intercourse with the absolute One. This alone marks an immense difference between his ecstasiesif such they can be calledand313 those of the Christian mystics with whom he is associated by M. Barthlemy Saint-Hilaire.464CHAPTER XIX A BAFFLING DISCOVERY
We can get somewhere, anyhow, Larry insisted. Captain Parks, can you account for your men?
We are now in a position to understand the full force of Descartes Cogito ergo sum. It expresses the substantiality of self-conscious Form, the equal claim of thought with extension to be recognised as an element of the universe. This recognition of self-consciousness as the surest reality was, indeed, far from being new. The Greek Sceptics had never gone to the length of doubting their own personal existence. On the contrary, they professed a sort of subjective idealism. Refusing to go beyond their own consciousness, they found in its undisturbed self-possession the only absolute satisfaction that life could afford. But knowledge and reality had become so intimately associated with something independent of mind, and mind itself with a mere reflection of reality, that the denial of an external world393 seemed to the vulgar a denial of existence itself. And although Aristotle had found the highest, if not the sole absolute actuality in self-thinking thought, he projected it to such a distance from human personality that its bearing on the sceptical controversy had passed unperceived. Descartes began his demonstration at the point where all the ancient systems had converged, but failed to discover in what direction the conditions of the problem required that they should be prolonged. No mistake can be greater than to regard him as the precursor of German philosophy. The latter originated quite independently of his teaching, though not perhaps of his example, in the combination of a much profounder scepticism with a much wider knowledge of dogmatic metaphysics. His method is the very reverse of true idealism. The Cogito ergo sum is not a taking up of existence into thought, but rather a conversion of thought into one particular type of existence. Now, as we have seen, all other existence was conceived as extension, and however carefully thought might be distinguished from this as absolutely indivisible, it was speedily reduced to the same general pattern of inclusion, limitation, and expansion. Whereas Kant, Fichte, and Hegel afterwards dwelt on the form of thought, Descartes attended only to its content, or to that in which it was contained. In other words, he began by considering not how he thought but what he thought and whence it camehis ideas and their supposed derivation from a higher sphere. Take, for example, his two great methods for proving the existence of God. We have in our minds the idea of a perfect beingat least Descartes professed to have such an idea in his mind,and we, as imperfect beings, could not have originated it for ourselves. It must, therefore, have been placed there by a perfect being acting on us from without. It is here taken for granted that the mechanical equivalence between material effects and their causes must obtain in a world where spatial relations, and therefore measurement, are presumably394 unknown. And, secondly, existence, as a perfection, is involved in the idea of a perfect being; therefore such a being can only be conceived as existing. Here there seems to be a confused notion that because the properties of a geometrical figure can be deduced from its definition, therefore the existence of something more than a simple idea can be deduced from the definition of that idea itself. But besides the mathematical influence, there was evidently a Platonic influence at work; and one is reminded of Platos argument that the soul cannot die because it participates in the idea of life. Such fallacies were impossible so long as Aristotles logic continued to be carefully studied, and they gradually disappeared with its revival. Meanwhile the cat was away, and the mice used their opportunity.