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SECTION XIII.

From Socrates there sprang up several mutually-differing schools, the peculiarity and difference of which lie especially in their ethical views.—The Cynics (through Antisthenes) develop the doctrine of Socrates as to the ethical significancy of knowledge, into one-sided prominence in its practical application. Knowledge works directly the good; virtue, as resting exclusively on knowledge, is the highest goal of human life. It manifests itself essentially in the 73struggle against irrational desires; desirelessness is the highest virtue.—Over against the Cynics, the Cyrenaics (through Aristippus) emphasize the other phase of the wisdom-life, namely, happiness. Happiness is the highest good, and therefore the highest goal of the moral; virtue is only a means to this end. And happiness consists in the feeling of pleasure, in enjoyment. Hence enjoyment is the goal of the moral striving; in it alone man becomes free, because in it the desires that press and disturb him come to quiet.

Both of these schools undertake to find an objective ground for the moral; in fact, however, neither of them finds any thing more than a strictly subjective one; the Cynics take their starting-point in subjective knowledge, and in the will as determined thereby; the Cyrenaics, in feeling. Both schools are equally one-sided developments of tendencies that existed in germ in Socrates. If knowledge, virtue, and happiness are essentially the same thing, then it is indifferent which of these phases is made the starting-point,—whether it be said that virtue consists in an unconditional obedience to knowledge, or in the striving after happiness; and hence the Cynic is right when he asserts, that in following knowledge we need not inquire as to the sensation of pleasure or displeasure, for true happiness follows from virtue of necessity; and if sensation should seem to contradict this, then it is simply to be despised as a false one. The Cyrenaic is likewise consequential when he asserts, that in following the feeling of happiness we need not inquire as to philosophical knowledge, for as happiness follows from virtue of necessity, hence in the feeling of pleasure we have certain proof that we are practicing virtue, and hence also that we correctly understand the good.

The Cynics give exclusive predominance to the rational tendency in Socrates; there is for the good in the widest sense of the word no other decisive criterion than knowledge. And the knowledge of the good and the manner of action that rests exclusively upon this knowledge, are the sole thing which has real worth for man. Only the good in this sense is beautiful, and 74only evil is deformed; whatever else is pleasant for the senses or feelings is entirely worthless; and even all knowledge that does not relate to the good is useless. True freedom consists in perfect indifference to whatever lies outside of the individual spirit. All evil rests upon error,—has its source in false impressions and ideas, but not at all in the heart. The wise man is, in virtue of his knowledge, free from all evil.—The independence of the personal spirit is here most one-sidedly conceived of, as a contemptuous turning-away from all objective reality,—as an over-confident trusting in one’s (evidently very immature and fortuitous) subjective knowledge, as a complete self-isolation of the persistently opinionated subject. Hence there result an absolute indifference to all outer existence, even to all historical reality and to social custom, a throwing off of all reverence for the objective reality of the spirit as developing itself in history. However much of truth may lie in the ground-thought of Cynicism, still its practical development on the basis of its defective presuppositions leads almost necessarily to a caricature,—to an unbridled insolence of the immature spirit, giving birth to such phenomena as that of Diogenes. There is manifested in this school the pride of easily-satisfied self-righteousness, the haughty self-isolation of the subject as breaking loose from all objective realization of the rational spirit.

The Cyrenaics pushed to its extreme the other phase. A happiness which I do not feel as pleasure, is none at all. If virtue makes happy, then I must at once also feel it. Hence that which is truly good, must at once evince itself as such in the sphere of the sensibilities; and, conversely, that which impresses me pleasurably must be good, otherwise there would be another form of happiness than that produced by virtue. Hence between one pleasure and another there can be no essential moral difference; consequently the feeling of pleasure or of displeasure is a perfectly safe guide in the sphere of the moral. Hence the chief point in practical wisdom is, to procure for one’s self the feeling of pleasure; from this principle the inquiry must first take its start. By observation, for example, I find that temperateness is a virtue, because intemperateness occasions suffering. Hence true wisdom as founded on this basis consists in the rational governing of the measure of each particular pleasure, and not in the knowledge of any general principles; such principles, 75other than the one just given, do not exist, but each enjoyment is governed by its own particular measure, which is discovered for the most part simply through experience.

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