Christianity and Greek Philosophy: Or, the Relation between Spontaneous and Reflective Thought in Greece and the Positive Teaching of Christ and His Apostles

By B. F. Cocker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV. THE PROPÆDEUTIC OFFICE OF GREEK PHILOSOPHY.

"Philosophy, before the coming of the Lord, was necessary to the Greeks for righteousness, and it now proved useful for godliness, being in some part a preliminary discipline (U+03COƍπαίδU+03BSία τç οὺα) for those who reap the fruits of faith through demonstration. Perhaps we may say it was given to the Greeks with this special object; for philosophy was to the Greeks what the Law was to the Jews, 'a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ.'" -- CLEMENS ALEXANDRINUS.

PHILOSOPHY, says Cousin, is the effort of reflection -- the attempt of the human mind to develop in systematic and logical form that which has dimly revealed itself in the spontaneous thought of ages, and to account to itself in some manner for its native and instinctive beliefs. We may further add, it is the effort of the human mind to attain to truth and certitude on purely rational grounds, uncontrolled by traditional authorities. The sublime era of Greek philosophy was, in fact, an independent effort of human reason to solve the great problems of existence, of knowledge, and of duty. It was an attempt to explain the phenomenal history of the universe, to interpret the fundamental ideas and laws of human reason, to comprehend the utterances of conscience, and to ascertain what Ultimate and Supreme Reality underlies the world of phenomena, of thought, and of moral feeling.1 And it is this which, for us, constitutes its especial value; that it was, as far as possible, a result of simple reason; or, if at any time Faith asserted its authority, the distinction is clearly marked. If this inquiry was fully, and honestly, and logically conducted,

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1
Plato sought also to attain to the Ultimate Reality underlying all æsthetic feeling -- the Supreme Beauty as well as the Supreme Good.

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