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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

The other leaders of the Cyrenian school


We

see here how the ethics of the Cynic school lost itself in entirely negative statements, a consequence naturally resulting from the fact that the original Socratic conception of virtue lacked a concrete positive content, and was not systematically carried out. Cynicism is the negative side of the Socratic doctrine.

3. ARISTIPPUS AND THE CYRENIANS.--Aristippus of Cyrene, numbered till the death of Socrates among his adherents, is represented by Aristotle as a Sophist, and this with propriety, since he received money for his instructions. He appears in Xenophon as a man devoted to pleasure. The adroitness with which he adapted himself to every circumstance, and the knowledge of human nature by which in every condition he knew how to provide means to satisfy his desire for good living and luxury, were well known among the ancients. Brought in contact with the government, he kept himself aloof from its cares lest he should become dependent; he spent most of his time abroad in order to free himself from every restraint; he made it his rule that circumstances should be dependent upon him, while he should be independent of them. Though such a man seems little worthy of the name of a Socraticist, yet has he two points of contact with his master which should not be overlooked. Socrates had called virtue _and_ happiness coordinately the highest end of man, _i. e._ he had indeed asserted most decidedly the idea of a moral action, but because he brought

this forward only in an undeveloped and abstract form, he was only able in concrete cases to establish the obligation of the moral law in a utilitarian way, by appealing to the benefit resulting from the practice of virtue. This side of the Socratic principle Aristippus adopted for his own, affirming that pleasure is the ultimate end of life, and the highest good. Moreover, this pleasure, as Aristippus regards it, is not happiness as a condition embracing the whole life, nor pleasure reduced to a system, but is only the individual sensation of pleasure which the body receives, and in this all determinations of moral worth entirely disappear; but in that Aristippus recommends knowledge, self-government, temperance, and intellectual culture as means for acquiring and preserving enjoyment, and, therefore, makes a cultivated mind necessary to judge respecting a true satisfaction, he shows that the Socratic spirit was not yet wholly extinguished within him, and that the name of pseudo-Socraticist which Schleiermacher gives him, hardly belongs to him.

The other leaders of the Cyrenian school, _Hegesias_, _Theodorus_, _Anniceris_, we can here only name. The farther development of this school is wholly occupied in more closely defining the nature of pleasure, _i. e._ in determining whether it is to be apprehended as a momentary sensation, or as an enduring condition embracing the whole life; whether it belonged to the mind or the body, whether an isolated individual could possess it, or whether it is found alone in the social relations of life; whether we should regard it as positive or negative, (_i. e._ simply the absence of pain).

4. EUCLID AND THE MEGARIANS.--The union of the dialectical and the ethical is a common character in all the partial Socratic schools; the difference consists only in this, that in the one the ethical is made to do service to the dialectical, and that in the other, the dialectical stands in subjection to the ethical. The former is especially true of the Megarian school, whose essential peculiarity was pointed out by the ancients themselves as a combination of the Socratic and Eleatic principles. The idea of the good is on the ethical side the same as the idea of being on the physical; it was, therefore, only an application to ethics of the Eleatic view and method when Euclid called the good pure being, and the not-good, not-being. What is farther related of Euclid is obscure, and may here be omitted. The Megarian school was kept up under different leaders after his death, but without living force, and without the independent activity of an organic development. As hedonism (the philosophical doctrine of the Cyreneans that pleasure is the chief good) led the way to the doctrine of Epicurus, and cynicism was the bridge toward the Stoic, so the later Megaric development formed the transition point to scepticism. Directing its attention ever more exclusively towards the culture of the formal and logical method of argument, it left entirely out of view the moral thoughts of Socrates. Its sophistries and quiddities which were, for the most part, only plays of word and wit, were widely known and noted among the ancients.


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