ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf


(From the latter half of the second century B.C. to the third century A.D.)

70. Causes of the Rise of Eclecticism. -- The philosophical systems studied in the preceding section were inspired by one underlying principle, the predominance of ethics. Developing on parallel lines, with Athens as their centre, it was but natural that they should influence one another. Eclecticism is, in a certain sense, the outcome of scepticism. The Sceptics, in reality, did not stop at negative doubt; they had been led by practical needs to a theory of probability bordering on dogmatism. But this probability, according to the Sceptics, belonged equally to the different systems then in vogue; any one of these was sufficient to engender a subjective conviction, and to serve as a basis of conduct. As a matter of fact, eclecticism made its first appearance among the disciples of Carneades. A political event facilitated its development: the conquest of Greece by the Romans (146). The vanquished imposed on the victors their philosophy, their science, and their education; but they had to respect the root tendencies of the Roman mind and thought. Now, in philosophy the Romans sought mainly for practical utility, for ethical precepts, for instruction in the arts of oratory and politics. To the speculative theories, with which these precepts were bound up, they paid little attention, adopting one or the other theory indifferently.

<< ======= >>