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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

A History of Greek Philosophy / THE SCEPTICS AND EPICUREANS


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Greek decay—The praises of Lucretius—Canonics—Physics—The proofs of Lucretius—The atomic soul—Mental pleasures—Natural pleasures—Lower philosophy and higher

Philosophy, equally complete, equally perfect in all its parts, had its final word in Plato and Aristotle;[1] on the great lines of universal knowledge no further really original structures were destined to be raised by [ancient] Greek hands. We have seen a parallelism between Greek philosophy and Greek politics in their earlier phases; the same parallelism continues to the end. Greece broke the bonds of her intense but narrow civic life and civic thought, and spread herself out over the world in a universal monarchy and a cosmopolitan philosophy; but with this widening of the area of her influence reaction came and disruption and decay; an immense stimulus was given on the one hand to the political activity, on the other, to the thought and knowledge of the world as a whole, but at the centre Greece was ‘living Greece no more,’ her politics sank to the level of a dreary farce, her philosophy died down to a dull and spiritless scepticism, to an Epicureanism that ‘seasoned the wine-cup with the dust of death,’ or to a Stoicism not undignified yet still sad and narrow and stern. The hope of the world, alike in politics and in philosophy, faded as the life of Greece decayed.

Elpenor's note : [1] It was perfected (though it did not ‘stop’) in Plato.

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