71. General Character and Division. -- The Eclecticism of this period chose its theories by submitting them to the test of convergence towards the practical ends of life, and the supreme criterion of this convergence is our immediate consciousness of it, the instinctive conviction we have of it independently of all other considerations, such as the real objectivity of knowledge. An interior voice makes itself heard, and its whisperings are accepted as dictates above dispute. This is subjectivism: here again the Eclectics are at one with the Sceptics.
Eclecticism occupied a century and a half before, and three centuries after Christ. The philosophical systems of this epoch may be divided a potiori, according to the different schools with which each was most closely allied. For, notwithstanding the reciprocal infiltrations of the four post-Aristotelian systems, each of these latter preserved its individuality distinct, and traced for itself a well-marked furrow. Under the Empire even, the Platonic and Aristotelian schools might be seen affirming energetically each its original distinctive individuality, by a profound study of the works of their respective founders. In addition to this, public courses of philosophy were established, and Marcus Aurelius officially sanctioned the distinction between the four schools by assigning to each a special chair at Athens (176 A.D.). But it was not a matter of going back to the past; irresistible forces conspired to combine together those movements, which had issued from different starting-points. Passing over the eclecticism of the Epicurean school, where the master's doctrines were perpetuated almost intact, let us come to study the Stoic, Platonic, and Peripatetic forms of Eclecticism.
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