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Eclecticism

Eclecticism (Gk. eklegein, to choose out), a term applied to those systems of philosophy which are composed of doctrines borrowed directly from other systems and more or less harmonised. Such systems are not uncommon when conflicting philosophical schools with developed doctrines exist and philosophical interest and study are general, as in the present day. Usually eclecticism exists side by side with scepticism. While the sceptic rejects all systems on the ground that none is satisfactory and that they are mutually destructive, the eclectic sees truth in all and tries to select and combine it. When Greek philosophy came into Rome as part of Greek culture, it was natural that such Romans as studied it more profoundly should not take decidedly to any one school. And as the scepticism of Carneaxles (q.v.), with its destructive criticism, had emphasised the need of practical standards of belief and conduct, it was natural that an attempt should be made to supply them from previousthought. We find, moreover, a certain tendency to similarity and compromise in the Stoic and Epicurean as well as the Sceptic schools in the first century B.C. All this prepared the way for the Eclecticism of which Cicero may be taken as the type. While considering himself one of the New Academy, and therefore bound to maintain that final acceptance of any philosophical doctrine is impossible, he nevertheless accepts definitely the Stoic doctrines of the existence and providence of God and the equality of men as rational beings bound by a law of nature and reason; yet he is not, like the Stoics, materialist, nor does he accept all their moral doctrines. Another "eclectic," Sotion of Alexandria, the teacher of Seneca, combined Stoic and Pythagorean views. It need hardly be said that this fusion and reconciliation of views prepared the way for that far more extensive fusion which culminates in Neo-Platonism.