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his philosophical researches to the proper objects of human understanding: the chief attainment whereof could rise no bigher, he said, than to know how little can be known.
It was, indeed, one of the principal labours of this noble moralist to subue the vanity of pretended science; to call down philosophy from those ideal flights in which she had hitherto wasted her strength and powers; and bring her home to her proper office, the moral improvement of human life.
The truth is, the preceding sages, Pythagoras alone perhaps excepted, had little concerned themselves with establishing the important principles of ethics; their studies being chiefly directed to physiological inquiries. Accordingly each philosopher endeavoured to distinguish himself by some new theory; and with all the “rash dexterity of wit” employed his talents in constructing worlds, and disclosing the imaginary secret by which nature performed all her wonderful operations.
Socrates considered these specious reveries of misapplied genius as so many philosophical romances, and with great force of ridicule exposed them to the contempt they deserved. The philosophy which he himself taught, was altogether of a different cast: it turned upon a
subject, (to borrow the poet's expression, "quod
magis ad nos pertinet et nescire malum est * ;" as it investigated the principles of moral science, and pointed out the paths that lead to present and future felicity.
* More interesting to mankind because to be ignorant of it is an evil.
FIRMNESS IN ADVERSITY
(Lord Boling broke.)
IGNOMINY can take no hold on virtue, for virtue is in every condition the same, and challenges the same respeet. We applaud the world 'when she prospers; and when she falls into adversity, we applaud her, like the temples of the gods, she is venerable even in her ruins. After this must it not appear a degree of madness, to defer one moment acquiring the only arms capable of defending us against all attacks, to which at every moment we are exposed ? Our being miserable, or not miserable, when we fall into misfortunes, depends upon the manner in which we have enjoyed prosperity. If we have applied ourselves betimes to the study of wisdom, and to the practice of virtue, then evils become indifferent; but if we have neglected to do so, they become necessary. In one case they are evils; and in the other remedies for greater evils than themselves.
* In the original these remarks are applied to Exile ; but we have substituted the word Adversity as of more general sigaification.
Zeno rejoiced that a shipwreck had thrown him on the Athenian coast; and he owed to the loss of his fortune the acquisition which he made of virtue, of wisdom, of immortality. Prosperity often irritates our chronic distempers, and leaves us no hopes of finding any specific but in adversity. In such cases the evils we suffer are like rough medicines applied to inveterate diseases. What Anacharsis said of the vine, may aptly enough be said of prosperity. She bears the grapes of drunkenness, of pleasure, and of sorrow; and happy is it if the last can cure the mischief which the former work. When af flictions fail to have their due effect, then the case is desperate. They are the last remedy which indulgent Providence uses; and if they fail, we must languish and die in misery and contempt. Vain men! How seldom do we know what to wish or pray for. When we pray against misfortunes, and when we fear them most, we want them most. It was for this reason that Pythagoras forbade his disciples to ask any thing in particular of God. The shortest and the best prayer
we can address to him who knows our wants, and our ignorance in asking, is: “ Thy will be done."
Tully says, in some part of his works, that, as happiness is the object of all philosophy, so the disputes among philosophers arise from their different notions of the sovereign good. Reconcile them in that point, you reconcile them in the rest. The school of Zeno placed this sovereign good in naked virtue, and wound the principle up to an extreme beyond the pitch of nature aud truth. A spirit of opposition to another doctrine, which grew into great vogue when Zeno flourished, might occasion this excess. Epicurus placed the sovereign good in pleasure. Aristotle took a middle way, or explained himself better, and placed happiness in the joint advantages of the mind, of the body, and of fortune. They are reasonably joined; but certain it is, that they must not be placed on an equal foot. We can much better bear the privation of fortune than the others; and poverty itself, of which mankind is so afraid,
“Per mare pauperiem fugiens, per saxa, per igncs.” is surely preferable to madness or the stone, though Chrysippus thought it better to live mad, than not to live.
If adversity, therefore, by taking from us the