), the distinguished disciple of Plato, was a native of Athens by birth, and the son of Eurymedon and Potone, a sister of Plato (Diog. Laert. iv. l; Suid. s. v.
). We hear nothing of his personal history till the time when he accompanied his uncle Plato on his third journey to Syracuse, where he displayed considerable ability and prudence, especially in his amicable relations with Dion (Plut. Dio 100.22. 17
). His moral worth is recognised even by the sillographer Timon, though only that he may heap the more unsparing ridicule on his intellectual endowments (Plut. Dion. 17
). And indeed he is not comparable either to Plato or to Aristotle, though the latter appears, among all his Academic antagonists, to have deemed Speusippus worthy of the honour of being refuted, and is even said to have purchased his books for three talents (D. L. 4.5
; A. Gellius, Noct. Att.
The report about his sudden fits of anger, his avarice, and his propensity to voluptuousness, are probably derived from a very impure source : Athenaeus (vii. p. 279e., xii. p. 546d.) and Diogenes Laertius (4.1, 2; camp. Suid. s.v. Tertullian, Apolog.
100.46) can adduce as authority for them scarcely any thing more than some abuse in certain letters of the younger Dionysius, who was banished by Dion, not without the co-operation of Speusippus. Having been selected by Plato as his successor in the office of president of the Academy, he was at the head of the school for only eight years (B. C. 347-339).
He died, as it appears, of a lingering paralytic illness (D. L. 4.1
). Another account, at variance with this, appears to rest upon a misunderstanding (l.c.
4.4, ib. Interp.).
From the list of his numerous dialogues and commentaries Diogenes Laertius gives us an extract, which contains only titles, which do not always admit of any conclusion as to their contents, and the scanty notices in other writers furnish us with little that can supply the void or throw any light upon them. Speusippus seems to have continued Plato's polemical attacks upon the hedonistic theory of Aristippus (Ἀρίστιππος ά
, Περὶ ἡδονῆς ὰ
, Περὶ πλούτου ά
), to have developed somewhat further the ideas of justice
and of the citizen,
and the fundamental principles of legislation (Περὶ δικαιοσύνης ά
, Πολίτης ά
, Περὶ νομοθεσίας
He appears also to have discussed the idea of the philosopher, and philosophy, and to have treated of preceding philosophers (φιλόσοφος ά
, Περὶ φιλοσοφίας ά
, or Περὶ φιλοσόφων
, according to Menage's conjecture; at any rate a book of that kind is quoted by Diogenes, in his life of Parmenides, 9.23).
His efforts, however, were especially directed to the bringing together of those things that were similar as regards their philosophic treatment (Diog. Laert. l.100.5, διάλογοι τῶν περὶ τὴν πραγματείαν ὁμοίων ά--ί
, Διαιρέσεις καὶ πρὸς τὰ ὅμοια ὑποθέσεις
comp. Athenaeus. vii. passim), and to the derivation therefrom, and laying down, of the ideas of genera and species (Περὶ γενῶν καὶ εἰδῶν παραδειγμάτων
[?] ) : for in the sciences he had directed his attention especially to what they had in common, and to the mode in which they might be connected (Diodorus, apud Diog. Laert., l.100.2 ;
Casaubon is hardly correct in restricting the word μαθήματα
to the mathematical sciences). Thus he seems to have endeavoured to carry out still further the threefold division of philosophy into Dialectics, Ethics, and Physics, for which Plato had laid the foundation, without, however, losing sight of the mutual connection of those branches of philosophy. For he maintained that no one could arrive at a complete definition, who did not know all the differences by which that which was to be defined was separated from the rest (Themist. in Arist. Anal. Post.
vid. Schol. in Aristot.
ed. Brandis, p. 248a.). With Plato, moreover. he distinguished between that which is the object of thought, and that which is the object of sensuous perception, between the cognition of the reason and sensuous perception.
He endeavored, however, to show how the latter can be taken up and transformed into knowledge, by the assumption of a perception, which, by participation in rational truth (τῆς κατα τὸν λόγον ἀληθείας
), raises itself to the rank of knowledge.
By this he seems to have understood an immediate, in the first instance aesthetic, mode of conception; since he appealed, in support of his view, to the consideration that artistic skill has its foundation not in sensuous activity, but in an unerring power of distinguishing between its objects, that is, in a rational
perception of them (Sext. Emp. ad v. Math.
The idea of essence
also he endeavoured to seize more distinctly by separating its kinds, the difference between which he considered would result from the difference between the principia on which they are based. Thus he distinguished essences of numbers, of size, of soul, while Plato had referred them, as separate definitudes, to the ideal numbers (Arist. Met.
6.2, 11, 12.10, de Anima,
1.2; Iamblich. apud Stob. Eclog.
1.862). Nevertheless Speusippus also must have recognised something common in those different kinds of essences, inasmuch as in the first place he set out from absolute unity, and regarded it as a formal principium which they had in common (Arist. Met.
6.2, p. 1028, 14.3, 13.9 ; comp. Ravaisson, Speusippi de Primis Rerum Principiis Placita,
Paris, 1838), and in the next place he appears to have presupposed multitude and multiformity as a common primary element in their composition.
But it is only the difficulties which led him to make this and similar deviations from the Platonic doctrine, of which we can get any clear idea, not the mode in which he thought he had obviated those difficulties by distinguishing different kinds of principia.
The criticism of Aristotle, directed apparently against Speusippus, shows how little satisfied he was with the modification of the original Platonic doctrine.
With this deviation from Plato's doctrine is connected another which takes a wider range.
As the ultimate principium, Speusippus would not, with Plato, recognise the Good,
but, with others, who doubtless were also Platonics, going back to the older Theologi, maintained that the primordium or principia of the universe were to be set down, indeed, as causes of the good and perfect, but were not the good and perfect itself, which must rather be regarded as the result of generated existence, or development, just as the seeds of plants and animals are not the fully formed plants or animals themselves (Arist. Met.
14.4, 5, 13.7, 12.10, Eth. Nic.
1.4; Cic. de Nat. Deor.
1.13; Stob. Ecl.
i. p. 862; Theophrast. Met. 9
The ultimate primordium he designated, like Plato, as the absolutely one,
but would not have it to be regarded as an existing
entity, since all definitude can only be the result of development (ib.
12.7, 9.8, 14.5; comp. Ravaisson, l.c.
p. 11, &c.). When, however, with the Pythagoreans, he reckoned the One
in the series of good
things (Arist. Eth. Nic.
1.4), he probably conceived it only in its opposition to the manifold, and wished to indicate that it was from the One
and not from the Manifold,
that the good and perfect is to be derived Comp. Arist. Met.
14.4, 12.10; Ravaisson, l.c.
p. 15, &c.). Nevertheless Speusippus seems to have attributed vital activity to the primordial unity, as inseparably belonging to it (Cic. de Nat. Deor.
1.13; comp. Minuc. Felix Octav. 19 ;
12.7 ; Ravaisson, pp. 22, &c.), probably in order to explain how it could grow, by a process of self-development, into the good, spirit, &c.; for spirit also he distinguished from the one,
as well as from the good, and the latter again from pleasure and pain (Stob. Ecl. Phys.
i. l; comp. Arist. Metaph.
14.4, Eth. Nic.
7.14; Ravaisson, p. 20). Less worth notice is the attempt of Speusippus to find a more suitable expression for the material principium, the indefinite duality of Plato (Metaph.
14.4, 5, comp. 2, 1, 13.9), and to connect the ideal numbers of Plato with mathematical numbers (comp. Ravaisson, pp. 29, &c., 35, 38, &c., 44).
With his Pythagorizing mode of treating the doctrine of numbers we gain some acquaintance by means of the extracts of his treatise on the Pythagorean thagorean numbers. (Theologumena Arithmetica,
ed. Paris, p. 61.)
[Ch. A. B.