is God, have we a gospel for the world. The claim that Buddha is ?the Light of Asia? reminds one of the man who declared the moon to be of greater value than the sun, because it gives light in the darkness when it is needed, while the sun gives light in the daytime when it is not needed.
3. THE GREEK SYSTEMS. Pythagoras (584-504) based morality upon the principle of numbers. ?Moral good was identified with unity; evil with multiplicity; virtue was harmony of the soul and its likeness to God. The aim of life was to make it represent the beautiful order of the Universe. The whole practical tendency of Pythagoreanism was ascetic, and included a strict self control and an earnest culture.? Here already we seem to see the defect of Greek morality in confounding the good with the beautiful, and in making morality a mere self-development. Matheson, Messages of the Old Religions: Greece reveals the intensity of the hour, the value of the present life, the beauty of the world that now is. Its religion is the religion of beautiful humanity. It anticipates the new heaven and the new earth. Rome on the other hand stood for union, incorporation, and a universal kingdom. But its religion deified only the Emperor, not all humanity. It was the religion, not of love, but of power, and it identified the church with the state.
Socrates (469-400) made knowledge to be virtue. Morality consisted in subordinating irrational desires to rational knowledge. Although here we rise above a subjectively determined good as the goal of moral effort, we have no proper sense of sin. Knowledge, and not love, is the motive. If men know the right, they will do the right. This is a great overvaluing of knowledge. With Socrates, teaching is a sort of midwifery ? not depositing information in the mind, but drawing out the contents of our own inner consciousness. Lewis Morris describes it as the life work of Socrates to ?doubt our doubts away.? Socrates holds it right to injure one?s enemies. He shows proud self praise in his dying address. He warns against pederasty, yet compromises with it. He does not insist upon the same purity of family life, which Homer describes in Ulysses and Penelope. Charles Kingsley, in Alton Locke, remarks that the spirit of the Greek tragedy was ?man mastered by circumstance?; that of modern tragedy is ?man mastering circumstance.? But the Greek tragedians, while showing man thus mastered, do still represent him as inwardly free, as in the case of Prometheus, and this sense of human freedom and responsibility appears to some extent in Socrates.
Plato (430-348) held that morality is pleasure in the good, as the truly beautiful, and that knowledge produces virtue. The good is likeness to God, ? here we have glimpses of an extra-human goal and model. The
<- Previous Table of Contents Next ->
Was this article helpful?