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his life for the truth? The man himself claims no such honour. He died, indeed, by injustice, and by a lie. But surely dying by a lie, is not of itself, and without any farther consideration, dying for the truth. A vil. lain, an impostor, an atheist, may have his life sworn away by subornation and perjury; but can such a one be said to die for truth? No : but Dr Beattie bids us read the defence made by Socrates before his judges, and then asks “ if we see there any signs of doubt, hesitation, or fear, any suspicion of the possibility of his being in the wrong, any dissimulation, sophistry, or art, any thing but that noble assurance which so well becomes the cause of truth and virtue ?” “ All which," he says, * is convincing evidence that Socrates felt, believed, 6 and avowed the truth.” But could any one say, that every thing which Socrates believed, and avowed, was truth? Was his hymn to Apollo, and his cock to Æsculapius, the truth? Did he really believe, and sincerely worship these deities, or was he, like some other philosophers, only a well bred conformist to the times? This, Dr Beattie would not allow to be said; and yet, what he has said appears no less strange, from the mouth of a professed Christian, “ that few men have done what So. “ crates did, in laying down his life for the truth.” The phrase "few men” is indeed indefinite, and may be designed to admit any convenient explication ; but it has a diminutive sound, and in a comparison of such moment might have been spared. The Doctor must have read of thousands and ten thousands, who had done as much as Socrates did, had with as much “ steadiness" shewn an uniform attachment to truth, and at last laid down their lives for its sake. Surely he could not have forgotten the noble army
of martyrs, which Christianity has long boasted of : Neither could he call them few, nor consistently doubt that what they suffered for was truth. Perhaps it will be said, that he had not these latter times in his eye, and only referred to what had been before, or contemporary with Socrates. Yet the terms, in which he has expressed himself, will hardly bear this restriction; and even if they could, it would be difficult to justify their intended application, since it is well known what a “ cloud of witnesses,” or martyrs for the truth, had appeared before Socrates, bearing punishments as unjust, and as severe
of hemlock. We have heard of a naces,” and “ lions' dens," and the like. These, and many such instances, prior to the famous æra of Socratic renown, might have met with some notice, and prevented the vilifying expression of few men having suffered as Socrates did.
6 But if the Doctor's zeal for Socrates has produced a strain of panegyric far beyond what a strict regard to truth will be found to warrrant ; the manner, in which he speaks of Aristotle, discovers, if possible, a still higher flight of pompous admiration. Aristotle is called “ the great Philosopher, the great Ancient, who is most admired by those who best understand him." We are told that “ Aristotle's constant aim was to discover truth and establish conviction ;” and assured, on the testimony of Fielding, " that no author ever understood human nature better than Aristotle." I am almost tempted to think, that the substance of the whole Essuy on the Na. ture and Immutability of Truth is extracted from Aristotle's philosophy, and that its solidity rests entirely upon his scheme of intuitive axioms, and self-evident prin
ciples. I do not mean, however, to enter into the merits of this weighty cause. I ingenuously confess my incapacity; and, if I shall be despised for not admiring Aristotle, I shall allow it to be for the reason assigned in the work before me, because I do not understand him. I have studied his history, and looked into some of his works, but cannot see the peculiar tendency of them to ascertain the standard of truth. It has indeed been objected against them, that most of those errors, which are really the “ absurdities of popery," have been drawn from or supported by the subtleties of Aristotle's philosophy. This is evident from the history of those middle centuries of christianity, which are commonly called the dark uges, and which must have been dark indeed, if they enjoyed no light but that of Aristotle's philosophy. Even Dr Beattie himself acknowledges, that “ Aristotle was not exempted from that fallibility which is incident to human nature." Yet he immediately adds, “ it would not be amiss if our modern wits would study him a little, before they venture to decide so positively on his abilities and character." And is his character so sacred, that it must not be suspected ? his abilities so mighty, that they must not be questioned ? So it would appear, from our Author's “ allowing our modern Sceptics to avail themselves, all they can, of the authority" of certain writers, whom he strangely classes together as worthy of nothing but contempt, and then adding, “ but let them not presume to sanctify their trash with the venerable names of Socrates and Aristotle.” If our • modern Sceptics" can be hardy enough to despise names, whose productions are truly sunctified, and generally called the Holy Scrip tures, they may well be supposed capable of inquiring
what it is that can justify the paying such high veneration to the names of Socrates and Aristotle ? Indeed I, who am not a sceptic, cannot help asking, whence comes this spirit of heathen attachment, this wonderful and unaccountable fondness for those, whom the Doctor points out with so much peculiar distinction, as the “ Ancients," and recommends their writings so warmly to the study of modern philosophers? What were these " Ancients ?” Whence had they their knowledge, and whom did they study? If mankind, with all their “ powers, and feelings, and instincts," must still have instructors, why are we always sent to these Ancients for instruction, and yet not told what it is, in which they are to instruct us, or what gives them a right to be invested with that office ? Their admirers will no doubt pretend, that Truth was the great object of their studies, and that which we ought to learn from them. If by Truth, then, we mean the philosophy of nature, and of the origin of things, where is he among these extolled ancients, that can give us any clear insight into these matters ? Which of all their jarring and irreconcileable systems are we to look to for truth or certainty ; especially when our Author acknowledges, that even the great Aristotle himself “was guilty of some speculative errors in Natural Philosophy ?" If so, this at least is one part of study connected with the discovery of Truth, in which, it must be owned, the ancients can give us very little assistance. Truth we are to understand what is called moral Truth, in the knowledge of which, while some tell us that the ancients shone with admirable lustre, others complain of the lameness and insufficiency of all their information ; yet in a matter of so much importance as must be at
But if by
tached to morality, we would wish to have more able and steady directors.
“The many doubtful, and different opinions, which prevailed among the ancients respecting the origin of evil, and what they called the “ summum bonum," or chief good of man, cannot but be sadly perplexing to the serious enquirer after truth, and seem to have forced from our Essayist an acknowledgement, that something more “ has been vouchsafed to man for the regulation of his o moral conduct.” If that be the case, the authority of the ancients is at once superseded, and we are taught to expect direction from another quarter : which, if it be true in regard to moral truth, is still more undeniably evident as to that truth which is called Theological, and which respects the being and nature of the Deity. On this head, what strange fancies, what confused notions do we find among the Pagan poets, and these too, quoted, and commented upon, with great gravity, and of set purpose, by the philosophers ?
“ It is pretended, however, that their theology was more pure and sublime than what we meet with in the poetical fables, and ought not to be measured, or any judgment formed of it, by these absurd fictions, Yet Dr Beattie : owns, * that " in the writings of the most popular poc ts
we have a chance to find the opinions of ancient times “ more genuine than in systems of philosophy; because,'
to advance paradoxes, and consequently to disguise facts, is often the most effectual recommenda" tion of a philosopher, but a poet must conform himself to the general principles and manners of mankind.” G2
* Page 534.