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all men, that they were the only teachers of wisdom, the only guides to happiness, to virtue, and to honors. They taught amid the multitudes, surrounded by the noblest and most promising youth of Greece. They proposed questions, and professed themselves ready to dispute on any topic which any one might wish to hear discussed, that they might win the applause of the unthinking crowd.* They delighted to accumulate money, to sustain the expense of delicate and luxurious living, to provide for the indulgence of every pleasure and every lust. Naturally, therefore, they studied and followed the popular caprice, affirmed the prejudices of the multitude, and by following, swayed their blind impulses, at their own will and to their own purposes.
We may readily conjecture, that a class of men of principles and manners so base and corrupt, could not but exert a most pernicious influence on the youth of Greece, by instructions not less corrupt and base. Some entertained unworthy and degrading opinions of the Deity. Others denied that there be Gods. They taught that all things, which are or may be, are, or may be, by nature, or accident, or art; that the sun, earth, moon, stars, are such, by chance and nature, not by an intelligent wisdom; that all things in the world are but some compound from a chance concurrence of opposites, heat and cold, dryness and moisture, the soft and the hard, etc.; while other things which have uses for human life, music, painting, medicine, agriculture, knowledge of civil affairs, are the product of art alone, or of art combined with nature. But in nature, say they, are no gods, but only in the subtle contrivances of governments, some of which have instituted one and some another, as a politic restraint on the passions of men.t Religion being set aside, the
• Hippias furnishes a good example of the ostentation of the Sophists. At the Olympic games, in the audience of almost all Greece, he boasted, that there was nothing in any science which he did not know. Cicero, de Orat. III. 32. In reference to the same peculiarity, Xenophon calls the Sophists, τους πάντ οίομένους ειδέναι, Mem. Lib. I. 4.1.
† Plato, de Legibus X. sub init. In the same place, Plato complains, that the Greeks were infected with three errors, which the Sophists seem either to have taught, or if the popular opinion bad already embraced them, to have confirmed. Soine denied altogether the being of the gods. Some, while they allowed that there are gods, supposed them too far elevated above human affairs, to care
obligations of justice were easily disposed of, which, from the endless disputes of men about it, they contended, rests on no firmer foundation, and that the only just right is that of successful violence.* What need of more words? They extended their protection to avarice, to the inordinate love of glory, to impure pleasures, to all acts of baseness. Virtue they mocked at. Besides, they well knew how, with rare art, in subtle and captious questions, to entangle their adversary, as in a net. In fine they were strong in a fatal skill to unsettle the notions of men on all subjects, which concern the security of public and private life; and by ever calling good, honorable and just, what the universal sense of men has reckoned wrong, base,
and unjust, and the reverse, (that is by involving all things in crooked and knotty reasonings) they at last persuaded men actually to esteem them so. To be able to maintain any doctrine, on any topic, was the characteristic and mark of a Sophist.
SOME PRELIMINARY REMARKS ON THE MANNER AND TEACHINGS OF
$5. The peculiar character of his Mind. Not only were the minds of the Greeks infected with these envenomed and fatal doctrines of the Sophists, but growing riches, as they are wont, had opened a free access to every indulgence, when Socrates appeared with his more salutary teachings. Yet even he would have attained no measure of success in bis schemes of reforming men, had he not been sustained by a so great, and as it were, divine impulse of genius, by such peculiar piety, temperance, constancy, and, in fine, by a firm persuasion that God himself had called him to philosophy.* Errors were to be shaken off, with which himself had been imbued from his early youth; superstition, neglect of the gods, the prejudged and inveterate opinions of his fellow citizens were to be warred with and overcome; and highest task of all, the Sophists were to be displaced from their influence and authority. And most manifestly, he trod a different path frorn that of those usurers of wisdom. They arrogantly declaimed ambitious and boastful orations ; Socrates in popular discourse and in familiar conversations discussed the conduct of human life. The Sophists abjured truth and virtue.; Socrates undermining by apt questions their insidious sophisms, restored exiled truth and virtue to his country. The Sophists demanded of their pupils large sums of money ; Socrates despising illiberal gain, received never a price for his instructions. I The Sophists were splendid in their equipage, effeminate, and luxurious, unjust, and contemners of the gods ; Socrates, a man of few wants, not neglectful of his person nor yet over nice, patient of heat and cold, frugal, just, pious. Such was the diversity in habits and morals between our philosopher and his adversaries. Auxiliary to these virtues were an uncommon suavity of manners, and a certain native sweetness of disposition, and colloquial humor. Thus armed, Socrates with little difficulty, gained the friendship of noble and ingenuous youth, whom he aided in the acquisition of a knowledge truly useful, and trained to the love of virtue and of honor.
for and control them. (Cf. Xenophon, Mem. I. 4. 10). And some, while they maintained their being and a providence, thought they could be easily appeased and bribed by human service, like the fickleness of inen. (Mem. I. 1. 19. I. 3. 3.)
* Plato. I. c.
$ 6. The peculiarity of the teaching of Socrates. Impelled by weighty reasons, || Socrates omitted to consider the questions, alike without the scope of the human intellect, and distracting it from the duties of life, concerning the primary elements of all things, the universal nature, the origin of things, etc. which former philosophers had vainly labored to explain, and first, as Cicero says,* called down philosophy from the heavens, and gave her a dwelling in cities, and made her even an inmate in our families, and forced her to search out the truths of life and morals, and things good and evil. For, seeing to what extent, virtue and religion, the foundations of the security of human society, had been undermined by the fallacious reasonings of the Sophists, with how little solid knowledge of affairs the young rushed into the administration of the State, and how erroneously on most subjects men judged, from their ignorance of the true intrinsic value of things, Socrates was used to define what is pious, what impious; what honorable, what base ; what just, what unjust; what wisdom, what folly; what courage, what cowardice; and other things, of which it were a shame for a good and honest man to be ignorant.† Most of all therefore did Socrates deserve well of the republic, for which he formed good, just, and well instructed citizens ; of the discipline of morals, the ideas of which he settled by accurate definitions ; and especially of theology, for he sought with no scanty measure of success, for one whose reason was his only guide, after the author and governor of the universe. For he first informed the minds of men with a more salutary idea of the divine nature, and bearing a nearer similitude to the true ; and made such attainments even, that he not only left far behind him the philosophers of former ages, but left almost nothing to be discovered by the acute inquirers, who in after years were guided by his light. No one indeed of those who followed Socrates, although they may have demonstrated the being of a God by a greater number of arguments, or may have more fully investigated those which he brought forward, has surpassed his master, in a clear and well assured knowledge of God, in piety and the application of theology to the formation of moral principles and habits. Nay, since he had well surveyed the liinits of human intellect, (as we may infer from his whole mode of pbilosophizing) and devoted himself to the investigation of those subjects which do not transcend those limits, he wisely avoided* the errors of many later inquirers, who have busied themselves in questions beyond the reach of human knowledge, and which have no relation to human life.
* Plato in Apologia Socratis, p. 67. Ed. Bip.
§ Mem. I. 6. 1. $§ 11. 18. 20. IV. 4, etc. Socrates never sought to attain an empty reputation, by singularity and uncouthness, like Diogenes the Cynic, but only avoided a Greek like effeminacy, and followed the precept which Seneca, (Epist. V.) has expressed, “We are to aim at a better life than the mass of men pursue, not a contrary one; else we put away from us, and beyond our influence, those whom we wish to amend."
Il The reasons may be found in Mem. I. 1. 11 seqq. and IV.7.6.
* Tusc. Quaest. V. 4.
+ Mem. I. 1. 16. All these subjects Socrates calls human, under which term he seems to have included every thing which pertains to the life of man, and tends to promote its happiness, so that from this class would not be excluded the knowledge of the divine mind. To human, he opposes divine and celestial, wbich terms embrace all that pertains to physics, and especially as it was taught in that age, to general cosmology, or the natural theory of the universe.
The philosophy of Socrates is most highly commended by the method he used in communicating bis instructions. This method is set forth by Xenophon, Lib. IV. cap. 6, but is better seen in the Socratic Dialogues, preserved by the same writer. The great art of Socrates lies in this, that starting from certain truths well known by experience to all, by various very simple questions to which the respondent cannot but answer rightly, he led him to perceive a necessary connection between what Socrates would teach him, and that which himself had conceded to be clear and unquestionable. From the use of this method men were induced more readily to admit the instructions of Socrates, because they seemed not so much to have learned from another, as to have taught themselves.
We shall now proceed more closely to our purpose, and at: tempt more exactly to unfold the doctrine of Socrates concerning God. This examination naturally divides itself into two parts, the first of which is the doctrine of Socrates concerning the nature of the Deity, and is chiefly to be derived from the Memorabilia Lib. 1. cap. 1. and 4. and Lib. IV. cap. 3. The other part is the doctrine of Socrates concerning divine worship, which is best explained in Lib. I. cap. 3. and Lib. IV. cap. 3. and 6.
Balbus, apud Ciceronem de Natura Deorum, Lib. II., the defender of the stoical philosophy, uses, for demonstrating the existence of a God, almost every where, the arguments of Socrates, only more widely investigated and applied; and so long as he treads in his footsteps, he is close upon the confines of truth, but the moment he oversteps the limits prescribed by Socrates, he is involved in errors. Again and again were it to be desired that a greater number of those who were trained in the discipline of Socrates, had persisted in his plan, and never, swayed by a fondness for novelty, departed from the noble and admirable simplicity of their master. From a perverse desire to bring forward something of their own, they have often exchanged his truth for their yn falsehood.