Christianity and Greek Philosophy
by Benjamin Franklin Cocker
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[Footnote 670: "Laws," bk. ix. ch. vi.]

[Footnote 671: "Gorgias," Secs. 52, 53.]

How is it, then, it may be asked, that men become evil? The answer of Plato is, that the soul has in it a principle of change, in the power of regulating the desires—in indulging them to excess, or moderating them according to the demands of reason. The circumstances in which the soul is placed, as connected with the sensible world by means of the body, present an occasion for the exercise of that power, the end of this temporal connection being to establish a state of moral discipline and probation. The humors and distempers of the body likewise deprave, disorder, and discompose the soul.[672] "Pleasures and pains are unduly magnified; the democracy of the passions prevails; and the ascendency of reason is cast down." Bad forms of civil government corrupt social manners, evil education effects the ruin of the soul. Thus the soul is changed—is fallen from what it was when first it came from the Creator's hand. But the eternal Ideas are not utterly effaced, the image of God is not entirely lost. The soul may yet be restored by remedial measures. It may be purified by knowledge, by truth, by expiations, by sufferings, and by prayers. The utmost, however, that man can hope to do in this life is insufficient to fully restore the image of God, and death must complete the final emancipation of the rational element from the bondage of the flesh. Life is thus a discipline and a preparation for another state of being, and death the final entrance there.[673]

[Footnote 672: "Gorgias," Secs. 74-76.]

[Footnote 673: "Phaedo," Secs. 130, 131.]

Independent of all other considerations, virtue is, therefore, to be pursued as the true good of the soul. Wisdom, Fortitude, Temperance, Justice, the four cardinal virtues of the Platonic system, are to be cultivated as the means of securing the purification and perfection of the inner man. And the ordinary pleasures, "the lesser goods" of life, are only to be so far pursued as they are subservient to, and compatible with, the higher and holier duty of striving after "the resemblance to God."





Aristotle was born at Stagira, a Greek colony of Thrace, B.C. 384. His father, Nicomachus, was a physician in the Court of Amyntas II., King of Macedonia, and is reported to have written several works on Medicine and Natural History. From his father, Aristotle seems to have inherited a love for the natural sciences, which was fostered by the circumstances which surrounded him in early life, and which exerted a determining influence upon the studies of his riper years.

Impelled by an insatiate desire for knowledge, he, at seventeen years of age, repaired to Athens, the city of Plato and the university of the world. Plato was then absent in Sicily; on his return Aristotle entered his school, became an ardent student of philosophy, and remained until the death of Plato, B.C. 348. He therefore listened to the instructions of Plato for twenty years.

The mental characteristics of the pupil and the teacher were strikingly dissimilar. Plato was poetic, ideal, and in some degree mystical. Aristotle was prosaic, systematic, and practical. Plato was intuitive and synthetical. Aristotle was logical and analytical. It was therefore but natural that, to the mind of Aristotle, there should appear something confused, irregular, and incomplete in the discourses of his master. There was a strange commingling of questions concerning the grounds of morality, and statements concerning the nature of science; of inquiries concerning "real being," and speculations on the ordering of a model Republic, in the same discourse. Ethics, politics, ontology, and theology, are all comprised in his Dialectic, which is, in fact, the one grand "science of the idea of the good." Now to the mind of Aristotle it seemed better, and much more systematic, that these questions should be separated, and referred to particular heads; and, above all, that they should be thoroughly discussed in an exact and settled terminology. To arrange and classify all the objects of knowledge, to discuss them systematically and, as far as possible, exhaustively, was evidently the ambition, perhaps also the special function, of Aristotle. He would survey the entire field of human knowledge; he would study nature as well as humanity, matter as well as mind, language as well as thought; he would define the proper limits of each department of study, and present a regular statement of the facts and principles of each science. And, in fact, he was the first who really separated the different sciences and erected them into distinct systems, each resting upon its own proper principles. He distributed philosophy into three branches:—(i.) Theoretic; (ii.) Efficient; (iii.) Practical. The Theoretic he divided into—1. Physics; 2. Mathematics; 3. Theology, or the Prime Philosophy—the science known in modern times as Metaphysics. The Efficient embraces what we now term the arts,—1. Logic; 2. Rhetoric; 3. Poetics. The Practical comprises—1. Ethics; 2. Politics. On all these subjects he wrote separate treatises. Thus, whilst Plato is the genius of abstraction, Aristotle is eminently the genius of classification.

Such being the mental characteristics of the two men—their type of mind so opposite—we are prepared to expect that, in pursuing his inquiries, Aristotle would develop a different Organon from that of Plato, and that the teachings of Aristotle will give a new direction to philosophic thought.


Plato made use of psychological and logical analysis in order to draw from the depth of consciousness certain fundamental ideas which are inherent in the mind—born with it, and not derived from sense or experience. These ideas he designates "the intelligible species" (ta nooumena gene) as opposed to "the visible species"—the objects of sense. Such ideas or principles being found, he uses them as "starting-points" from which he may pass beyond the sensible world and ascend to "the absolute," that is, to God.[674] Having thus, by immediate abstraction, attained to universal and necessary ideas, he descends to the outer world, and attempts by these ideas to construct an intellectual theory of the universe.[675]

Aristotle will reverse this process. He will commence with sensation, and proceed, by induction, from the known to the unknown.

The repetition of sensations produces recollection, recollection experience, and experience produces science.[676] "Science and art result unto men by means of experience...." "Art comes into being when, from a number of experiences, one universal opinion is evolved, which will embrace all similar cases. For example, if you know that a certain remedy has cured Callias of a certain disease, and that the same remedy has produced the same effect on Socrates and on several other persons, that is Experience; but to know that a certain remedy will cure all persons attacked with that disease, is Art. Experience is a knowledge of individual things (ton kathekasta); art is that of universals (ton katholou)."[677]

[Footnote 674: "Republic," bk. vi. ch. xx.]

[Footnote 675: "Timaeus," ch. ix.]

[Footnote 676: "Metaphysics," bk. i. ch. i.]

[Footnote 677: Ibid.]

Disregarding the Platonic notion of the unity of all Being in the absolute idea, he fixed his immediate attention on the manifoldness of the phenomenal, and by a classification of all the objects of experience he sought to attain to "general notions." Concentrating all his attention on the individual, the contingent, the particular, he ascends, by induction, from the particular to the general; and then, by a strange paralogism, "the universal" is confounded with "the general" or, by a species of logical sleight-of-hand, the general is transmuted into the universal. Thus "induction is the pathway from particulars to universals."[678] But how universal and necessary principles can be obtained by a generalization of limited experiences is not explained by Aristotle. The experiences of a lifetime, the experiences of the whole race, are finite and limited, and a generalization of these can only give the finite, the limited, and at most, the general, but not the universal.

[Footnote 679: "Topics," bk. i. ch. xii.; "Ethics," bk. vi. ch. iii.]

Aristotle admits, however, that there are ideas or principles in the mind which can not be explained by experience, and we are therefore entitled to an answer to the question—how are these obtained? "Sensible experience gives us what is here, there, now, in such and such a manner, but it is impossible for it to give what is everywhere and at all times."[680] He tells us further, that "science is a conception of the mind engaged in universals, and in those things which exist of necessity, and since there are principles of things demonstrable and of every science (for science is joined with reason), it will be neither science, nor art, nor prudence, which discovers the principles of science;... it must therefore be (nous) pure intellect," or the intuitive reason.[681] He also characterizes these principles as self-evident. "First truths are those which obtain belief, not through others, but through themselves, as there is no necessity to investigate the 'why' in scientific principles, but each principle ought to be credible by itself."[682] They are also necessary and eternal. "Demonstrative science is from necessary principles, and those which are per se inherent, are necessarily so in things."[683] "We have all a conception of that which can not subsist otherwise than it does.... The object of science has a necessary existence, therefore it is eternal. For those things which exist in themselves, by necessity, are all eternal."[684] But whilst Aristotle admits that there are "immutable and first principles,"[685] which are not derived from sense and experience—"principles which are the foundation of all science and demonstration, but which are themselves indemonstrable,"[686] because self-evident, necessary, and eternal; yet he furnishes no proper account of their genesis and development in the human mind, neither does he attempt their enumeration. At one time he makes the intellect itself their source, at another he derives them from sense, experience, and induction. This is the defect, if not the inconsistency, of his method.[687]

[Footnote 680: "Post. Analytic," bk. i. ch. xxxi.]

[Footnote 681: "Ethics," bk. vi. ch. vi.]

[Footnote 682: "Topics," bk. i. ch. i.]

[Footnote 683: "Post. Analytic," bk. i. ch. vi.]

[Footnote 684: "Ethics," bk. vi. ch. iii.]

[Footnote 685: Ibid., bk. vi. ch. xi.]

[Footnote 686: "Post. Analytic," bk. i. ch. iii.]

[Footnote 687: Hamilton attempts the following mode of reconciling the contradictory positions of Aristotle:

"On the supposition of the mind virtually containing, antecedent to all experience, certain universal principles of knowledge, in the form of certain necessities of thinking; still it is only by repeated and comparative experiments that we compass the certainty; on the one hand, that such and such cognitions can not but be thought as necessary, native generalities; and, on the other, that such and such cognitions may or may not be thought, and are, therefore, as contingent, factitious generalizations. To this process of experiment, analysis, and classification, through which we attain to a scientific knowledge of principles, it might be shown that Aristotle, not improperly, applies the term Induction."—"Philosophy," p. 88.]

The human mind, he tells us, has two kinds of intelligence—the passive intelligence (nous pathetikos), which is the receptacle of forms (dectikon tou eidous); and the active intelligence (nous poietikos), which impresses the seal of thought upon the data furnished by experience, and combines them into the unity of a single judgment, thus attaining "general notions."[688] The passive intelligence (the "external perception" of modern psychology) perceives the individual forms which appear in the external world, and the active intelligence (the intellect proper) classifies and generalizes according to fixed laws or principles inherent in itself; but of these fixed laws—prota noemata—first thoughts, or a priori ideas, he offers no proper account; they are, at most, purely subjective. This, it would seem, was, in effect, a return to the doctrine of Protagoras and his school, "that man—the individual—is the measure of all things." The aspects under which objects present themselves in consciousness, constitute our only ground of knowledge; we have no direct, intuitive knowledge of Being in se. The noetic faculty is simply a regulative faculty; it furnishes the laws under which we compare and judge, but it does not supply any original elements of knowledge. Individual things are the only real entities,[689] and "universals" have no separate existence apart from individuals in which they inhere as attributes or properties. They are consequently pure mental conceptions, which are fixed and recalled by general names. He thus substitutes a species of conceptual-nominalism in place of the realism of Plato. It is true that "real being" (to on) is with Aristotle a subject of metaphysical inquiry, but the proper, if not the only subsistence, or ouaia, is the form or abstract nature of things. "The essence or very nature of a thing is inherent in the form and energy"[690] The science of Metaphysics is strictly conversant about these abstract intellectual forms just as Natural Philosophy is conversant about external objects, of which the senses give us information. Our knowledge of these intellectual forms is, however, founded upon "beliefs" rather than upon immediate intuition, and the objective certainty of science, upon the subjective necessity of believing, and not upon direct apperception.

[Footnote 688: "On the Soul," ch. vi.; "Ethics," bk. vi. ch. i.]

[Footnote 689: "Metaphysics," bk. vi. ch. xiii.]

[Footnote 690: Ibid., bk. vii. ch. iii.]

The points of contrast between the two methods may now be presented in a few sentences. Plato held that all our cognitions are reducible to two elements—one derived from sense, the other from pure reason; one element particular, contingent, and relative, the other universal, necessary, and absolute. By an act of immediate abstraction Plato will eliminate the particular, contingent, and relative phenomena, and disengage the universal, necessary, and absolute ideas which underlie and determine all phenomena. These ideas are the thoughts of the Divine Mind, according to which all particular and individual existences are generated, and, as divine thoughts, they are real and permanent existences. Thus by a process of immediate abstraction, he will rise from particular and contingent phenomena to universal and necessary principles, and from these to the First Principle of all principles, the First Cause of all causes—that is, to God.

Aristotle, on the contrary, held that all of our knowledge begins with "the singular," that is, with the particular and the relative, and is derived from sensation and experience. The "sensible object," taken as it is without any sifting and probing, is the basis of science, and reason is simply the architect constructing science according to certain "forms" or laws inherent in mind. The object, then, of metaphysical science is to investigate those "universal notions" under which the mind conceives of and represents to itself external objects, and speculates concerning them. Aristotle, therefore, agrees with Plato in teaching "that science can only be a science of universals,"[691] and "that sensation alone can not furnish us with scientific knowledge."[692] How, then, does he propose to attain the knowledge of universal principles? How will he perform that feat which he calls "passing from the known to the unknown?" The answer is, by comparative abstraction. The universal being constituted by a relation of the object to the thinking subject, that is, by a property recognized by the intelligence alone, in virtue of which it can be retained as an object of thought, and compared with other objects, he proposes to compare, analyze, define, and classify the primary cognitions, and thus evoke into energy, and clearly present those principles or forms of the intelligence which he denominate "universals." As yet, however, he has only attained to "general notions," which are purely subjective, that is, to logical definitions, and these logical definitions are subsequently elevated to the dignity of "universal principles and causes" by a species of philosophic legerdemain. Philosophy is thus stripped of its metaphysical character, and assumes a strictly logical aspect. The key of the Aristotelian method is therefore the


Pure Logic is the science of the formal laws of thought. Its office is to ascertain the rules or conditions under which the mind, by its own constitution, reasons and discourses. The office of Applied Logic—of logic as an art—is "to form and judge of conclusions, and, through conclusions, to establish proof. The conclusions, however, arise from propositions, and the propositions from conceptions." It is chiefly under the latter aspect that logic is treated by Aristotle. According to this natural point of view he has divided the contents of the logical and dialectic teaching in the different treatises of the Organon.

[Footnote 691: "Ethics," bk. vi. ch. vi.]

[Footnote 692: "Post. Analytic," bk. i. ch. xxxi.]

The first treatise is the "Categories" or "Predicaments"—a work which treats of the universal determinations of Being. It is a classification of all our mental conceptions. As a matter of fact, the mind forms notions or conceptions about those natures and essences of things which present an outward image to the senses, or those, equally real, which utter themselves to the mind. These may be defined and classified; there may be general conceptions to which all particular conceptions are referable. This classification has been attempted by Aristotle, and as the result we have the ten "Categories" of Substance, Quantity, Quality, Relation, Time, Place, Position, Possession, Action, Passion. He does not pretend that this classification is complete, but he held these "Predicaments" to be the most universal expressions for the various relations of things, under some one of which every thing might be reduced.

The second treatise, "On Interpretation," investigates language as the expression of thought; and inasmuch as a true or false thought must be expressed by the union or separation of a subject and a predicate, he deems it necessary to discuss the parts of speech—the general term and the verb—and the modes of affirmation and denial. In this treatise he develops the nature and limitations of propositions, the meaning of contraries and contradictions, and the force of affirmations and denials in possible, contingent, and necessary matter.

The third are the "Analytics," which show how conclusions are to be referred back to their principles, and arranged in the order of their precedence.

The First or Prior Analytic presents the universal doctrine of the Syllogism, its principles and forms, and teaches how must reason, if we would not violate the laws of our own mind. The theory of reasoning, generally, with a view to accurate demonstration, depends upon the construction of a perfect syllogism, which is defined as "a discourse in which, certain things being laid down, something else different from the premises necessarily results, in consequence of their existence."[693] Conclusions are, according to their own contents and end, either Apodeictic, which deal with necessary and demonstrable matter, or Dialectic, which deal with probable matter, or Sophistical, which are imperfect in matter or form, and announced, deceptively, as correct conclusions, when they are not. The doctrine of Apodeictic conclusions is given in the "Posterior Analytic," that of Dialectic conclusions in the "Topics," and that of the Sophistical in the "Sophistical Elenchi."

Now, if Logic is of any value as an instrument for the discovery of truth, the attainment of certitude, it must teach us not only how to deduce conclusions from premises, but it must certify to us the validity of the principles from whence we reason and this is attempted by Aristotle in the Posterior Analytic. This treatise opens with the following statement: All doctrine, and all intellectual discipline, arises from a prior or pre-existent knowledge. This is evident, if we survey them all; for both mathematical sciences, and also each of the arts, are obtained in this manner. The same holds true in the case of reasonings, whether through [deductive] Syllogism or through Induction, for both accomplish the instruction they afford from information previously known—the former (syllogistic reasoning) receiving it, as it were, from the traditions of the intelligent, the latter (inductive reasoning) manifesting the universal through the light of the singular.[694] Induction and Syllogism are thus the grand instruments of logic.[695]

[Footnote 693: "Prior Analytic," bk. i. ch. i.; "Topics," bk. i. ch. i.]

[Footnote 694: "Post. Analytic," bk. i. ch. i.]

[Footnote 695: "We believe all things through syllogism, or from induction."—"Prior Analytic," bk. ii. ch. xxiii.]

Both these processes are based upon an anterior knowledge. Demonstrative science must be from things true, first, immediate, more known than, prior to, and the causes of, the conclusion, for thus there will be the appropriate first principles of whatever is demonstrated.[696] The first principles of demonstration, the material of thought, must, consequently, be supplied by some power or faculty of the mind other than that which is engaged in generalization and deductive reasoning. Whence, then, is this "anterior knowledge" derived, and what tests or criteria have we of its validity?

1. In regard to deductive or syllogistic reasoning, the views of Aristotle are very distinctly expressed.

Syllogistic reasoning "proceeds from generals to particulars."[697] The general must therefore be supplied as the foundation of the deductive reasoning. Whence, then, is this knowledge of "the general" derived? The answer of Aristotle is that the universal major proposition, out of which the conclusion of the syllogism is drawn, is itself necessarily the conclusion of a previous induction, and mediately or immediately an inference—a collection from individual objects of sensation or of self-consciousness. "Now," says he, "demonstration is from universals, but induction from particulars. It is impossible, however, to investigate universals except through induction, since things which are said to be from abstraction will be known only by induction."[698] It is thus clear that Aristotle makes deduction necessarily dependent upon induction. He maintains that the highest or most universal principles which constitute the primary and immediate propositions of the former are furnished by the latter.

[Footnote 696: "Post. Analytic," bk. i. ch. ii.]

[Footnote 697: Ibid., bk. i. ch. xviii.; "Ethics," bk. vi. ch. iii.]

[Footnote 698: "Post. Analytic," bk. i. ch. xviii.]

2. General principles being thus furnished by induction, we may now inquire whence, according to Aristotle, are the materials for induction derived? What is the character of that "anterior knowledge" which is the basis of the inductive process?

Induction, says Aristotle, is "the progression from singulars to universals."[699] It is an illation of the universal from the singular as legitimated by the laws of thought. All knowledge, therefore, begins with singulars—that is, with individual objects. And inasmuch as all knowledge begins with "individual objects," and as the individual is constantly regarded by Aristotle as the "object of sense," it is claimed that his doctrine is that all knowledge is derived from sensation, and that science and art result to man (solely) by means of experience. He is thus placed at the head of the empirical school of philosophy, as Plato is placed at the head of the ideal school.

[Footnote 699: "Post. Analytic," bk. i. ch. xviii.]

This classification, however, is based upon a very superficial acquaintance with the philosophy of Aristotle as a whole. The practice, so commonly resorted to, of determining the character of the Aristotelian philosophy by the light of one or two passages quoted from his "Metaphysics," is unjust both to Aristotle and to the history of philosophic thought. We can not expect to attain a correct understanding of the views of Aristotle concerning the sources and grounds of all knowledge without some attention to his psychology. A careful study of his writings will show that the terms "sensation" (aisthesis) and "experience" (empeira) are employed in a much more comprehensive sense than is usual in modern philosophic writings.

"Sensation," in its lowest form, is defined by Aristotle as "an excitation of the soul through the body,"[700] and, in its higher form, as the excitation of the soul by any object of knowledge. In this latter form it is used by him as synonymous with "intuition," and embraces all immediate intuitive perceptions, whether of sense, consciousness, or reason. "The universe is derived from particulars, therefore we ought to have a sensible perception (aisthesis) of these; and this is intellect (nous)."[701] Intelligence proper, the faculty of first principles, is, in certain respects, a sense, because it is the source of a class of truths which, like the perceptions of the senses, are immediately revealed as facts to be received upon their own evidence. It thus answers to the "sensus communis" of Cicero, and the "Common Sense" of the Scottish school. Under this aspect, "Sense is equal to or has the force of Science."[702] The term "Experience" is also used to denote, not merely the perception and remembrance of the impressions which external objects make upon the mind, but as co-extensive with the whole contents of consciousness—all that the mind does of its own native energy, as well as all that it suffers from without. It is evidently used in the Posterior Analytic (bk. ii. ch. xix.) to describe the whole process by which the knowledge of universals is obtained. "From experience, or from every universal remaining in the soul, the principles of art and science arise." The office of experience is "to furnish the principles of every science"[703]—that is, to evoke them into energy in the mind. 'Experience thus seems to be a thing almost similar to science and art.[704] In the most general sense, "sensation" would thus appear to be the immediate perception or intuition of facts and principles, and "experience" the operation of the mind upon these facts and principles, elaborating them into scientific form according to its own inherent laws. The "experience" of Aristotle is analogous to the "reflection" of Locke.

[Footnote 700: "De Somn.," bk. i.]

[Footnote 701: "Ethics," bk. vi. ch. xi.; see also ch. vi.]

[Footnote 702: "De Cen. Anim."]

[Footnote 703: "Prior Analytic," bk. i. ch. xix.]

[Footnote 704: "Metaphysics," bk. i. ch. i.]

So much being premised, we proceed to remark that there is a distinction perpetually recurring in the writings of Aristotle between the elements or first principles of knowledge which are "clearest in their own nature" and those which "are clearest to our perception."[705] The causes or principles of knowledge "are prior and more known to us in two ways, for what is prior in nature is not the same as that which is prior to us, nor that which is more known (simply in itself) the same as that which is more known to us. Now I call things prior and more known to us, those which are nearer to sense; and things prior and more known simply in themselves, those which are remote from sense; and those things are most remote which are especially universal, and those nearest which are singular; and these are mutually opposed."[706] Here we have a distribution of the first or prior elements of knowledge into two fundamentally opposite classes.

(i.) The immediate or intuitive perceptions of sense,

(ii.) The immediate or intuitive apperceptions of pure reason,

[Footnote 705: "Ethics," bk. i. ch. iv.; "Metaphysics," bk. ii. ch. i.; "Rhetoric," bk. i. ch. ii.; "Prior Analytic," bk. ii. ch. xxiii.]

[Footnote 706: "Post. Analytic," bk. i. ch. ii.]

The objects of sense-perception are external, individual, "nearest to sense," and occasionally or contingently present to sense. The objects of the intellect are inward, universal, and the essential property of the soul. They are "remote from sense," "prior by nature;" they are "forms" essentially inherent in the soul previous to experience; and it is the office of experience to bring them forward into the light of consciousness, or, in the language of Aristotle, "to evoke them from potentiality into actuality." And further, from the "prior" and immediate intuitions of sense and intellect, all our secondary, our scientific and practical knowledge is drawn by logical processes.

The Aristotelian distribution of the intellectual faculties corresponds fully to this division of the objects of knowledge. The human intellect is divided by Aristotle into,

1. The Passive or Receptive Intellect (nous paphetikos).—Its office is the reception of sensible impressions or images (Phantasmata) and their retention in the mind (myeme). These sensible forms or images are essentially immaterial. "Each sensoriurn (aistheteron) is receptive of the sensible quality without the matter, and hence when the sensibles themselves are absent, sensations and phantasikos remain."[707]

[Footnote 707: "De Anima," bk. iii. ch. ii.]

2. The Active or Creative Intellect (nous pointikos).—This is the power or faculty which, by its own inherent power, impresses "form" upon the material of thought supplied by sense-perception, exactly as the First Cause combines it, in the universe, with the recipient matter.

"It is necessary," says Aristotle, "that these two modes should be opposed to each other, as matter is opposed to form, and to all that gives form. The receptive reason, which is as matter, becomes all things by receiving their forms. The creative reason gives existence to all things, as light calls color into being. The creative reason transcends the body, being capable of separation from it, and from all things; it is an everlasting existence, incapable of being mingled with matter, or affected by it; prior, and subsequent to the individual mind. The receptive reason is necessary to individual thought, but it is perishable, and by its decay all memory, and therefore individuality, is lost to the higher and immortal reason."[708]

This "Active or Creative Intellect" is again further subdivided, by Aristotle—

1. The Scientific (epistemonikon) part—the "virtue," faculty, or "habit of principles." He also designates it as the "place of principles," and further defines it as the power "which apprehends those existences whose principles can not be otherwise than they are"—that is, self-evident, immutable, and necessary truths[709]—the intuitive reason.

2. The Reasoning (logistikon) part—the power by which we draw conclusions from premises, and "contemplate contingent matter"[710]—the discursive reason.

The correlatives noetic and dianoetic, says Hamilton, would afford the best philosophic designation of these two faculties; the knowledge attained by the former is an "intuitive principle"—a truth at first hand; that obtained by the latter is a "demonstrative proposition"—a truth at second hand.

The preceding notices of the psychology of Aristotle will aid us materially in interpreting his remarks "Upon the Method and Habits necessary to the ascertainment of Principles."[711]

[Footnote 708: "De Anima," bk. iii. ch. v.]

[Footnote 709: "Ethics," bk. vi. ch. i.]

[Footnote 710: Ibid.]

[Footnote 711: "Post. Analytic," bk. ii, ch. xix., the concluding chapter of the Organon.]

"That it is impossible to have scientific knowledge through demonstration without a knowledge of first immediate principles, has been elucidated before." This being established, he proceeds to explain how that "knowledge of first, immediate principles" is developed in the mind.

1. The knowledge of first principles is attained by the intuition of sense—the immediate perception of external objects, as the exciting or occasional cause of their development in the mind.

"Now there appears inherent in all animals an innate power called sensible perception (aisthesis); but sense being inherent, in some animals a permanency of the sensible object is engendered, but in others it is not engendered. Those, therefore, wherein the sensible object does not remain have no knowledge without sensible perception, but others, when they perceive, retain one certain thing in the soul,... with some, reason is produced from the permanency (of the sensible impression), [as in man], but in others it is not [as in the brute]. From sense, therefore, as we say, memory is produced, and from the repeated remembrance of the same thing we get experience.... From experience, or from every universal remaining in the soul—the one besides the many which in all of them is one and the same—the principles of art and science arise. If experience is conversant with generation, the principles of art; if with being, the principles of science.... Let us again explain: When one thing without difference abides, there is then the first universal (notion) [developed] in the soul; for the singular indeed is perceived by sense, but sense is [also] of the universal"—that is, the universal is immanent in the sensible object as a property giving it "form." "It is manifest, then, that primary things become necessarily known by induction, for thus sensible perception produces [develops or evokes] the universal." 2. The knowledge of first principles is attained by the intuition of pure intellect (nous)—that is, "intellect itself is the principle of science" or, in other words, intellect is the efficient, essential cause of the knowledge of first principles.

"Of those habits which are about intellect by which we ascertain truth, some[712] are always true, but others[713] admit the false, as opinion and reasoning. But science and (pure) intellect are always true, and no other kind of knowledge, except intellect [intellectual intuition], is more accurate than science. And since the principles of demonstration are more known, and all science is connected with reason, there could not be a science of principles. But since nothing can be more true than science, except intellect, intellect will belong to principles. From these [considerations] it is evident that, as demonstration is not the principle of demonstration, so neither is science the principle of science. If, then, we have no other true genus (of habit) besides science, intellect will be the principle of science; it will also be the principle (or cause of the knowledge) of the principle."

[Footnote 712: The "noetic."]

[Footnote 713: The "dianaetic."]

The doctrine of Aristotle regarding "first principles" may perhaps be summed up as follows: All demonstrative science is based upon universals "prior in nature"—that is, upon a priori, self-evident, necessary, and immutable principles. Our knowledge of these "first and immediate principles" is dependent primarily on intellect (nous) or intuitive reason, and secondarily on sense, experience, and induction. Prior to experience, the intellect contains these principles in itself potentially, as "forms," "laws," "habitudes," or "predicaments" of thought; but they can not be "evoked into energy," can not be revealed in consciousness, except on condition of experience, and they can only be scientifically developed by logical abstraction and definition. The ultimate ground of all truth and certainty is thus a mode of our own mind, a subjective necessity of thinking, and truth is not in things, but in our own minds.[714] "Ultimate knowledge, as well as primary knowledge, the most perfect knowledge which the philosopher can attain, as well as the point from which he starts, is still a proposition. All knowledge seems to be included under two forms—knowledge that it is so; knowledge why it is so. Neither of these can, of course, include the knowledge at which Plato is aiming—knowledge which is correlated with Being—a knowledge, not about things or persons, but of them."[715]

[Footnote 714: "Metaphysics," bk. v. ch. iv.]

[Footnote 715: Maurice's "Ancient Philosophy," p. 190.]


Theoretical philosophy, "the science which has truth for its end," is divided by Aristotle into Physics, Mathematics, and Theology, or the First Philosophy, now commonly known as "Metaphysics," because it is beyond or above physics, and is concerned with the primitive ground and cause of all things.[716]

In the former two we have now no immediate interest, but with Theology, as "the science of the Divine,"[717] the First Moving Cause, which is the source of all other causes, and the original ground of all other things, we are specially concerned, inasmuch as our object is to determine, if possible, whether Greek philosophy exerted any influence upon Christian thought, and has bequeathed any valuable results to the Theology of modern times.

"The Metaphysics" of Aristotle opens by an enumeration of "the principles or causes"[718] into which all existences can be resolved by philosophical analysis. This enumeration is at present to be regarded as provisional, and in part hypothetical—a verbal generalization of the different principles which seem to be demanded to explain the existence of a thing, or constitute it what it is. These he sets down as—

[Footnote 716: "Physics are concerned with things which have a principle of motion in themselves; mathematics speculate on permanent, but not transcendental and self-existent things; and there is another science separate from these two, which treats of that which is immutable and transcendental, if indeed there exists such a substance, as we shall endeavor to show that there does. This transcendental and permanent substance, if it exist at all, must surely be the sphere of the divine—it must be the first and highest principle. Hence it follows that there are three kinds of speculative science—Physics, Mathematics, and Theology."—"Metaphysics," bk. x. ch. vii.]

[Footnote 717: "Metaphysics," bk. i. ch. ii.]

[Footnote 718: Aition—cause—is here used by Aristotle in the sense of "account of" or "reason why."]

1. The Material Cause (ten ylen kai to ypokeimenon)—the matter and subject—that out of which a given thing has been originated. "From the analogy which this principle has to wood or stone, or any actual matter out of which a work of nature or of art is produced, the name 'material' is assigned to this class." It does not always necessarily mean "matter" in the now common use of the term, but "antecedents—that is, principles whose inherence and priority is implied in any existing thing, as, for example, the premises of a syllogism, which are the material cause of the conclusion."[719] With Aristotle there is, therefore, "matter as an object of sense," and "matter as an object of thought."

2. The Formal Cause (Ten ausian kai to ti einai)—the being or abstract essence of a thing—that primary nature on which all its properties depend. To this Aristotle gave the name of eidos—the form or exemplar according to which a thing is produced.

3. The Moving or Efficient Cause (othen e arche tes kineseos)—the origin and principle of motion—that by which a thing is produced.

4. The Final Cause (to ou eneken kai to agathon)—the good end answered by the existence of any thing—that for the sake of which any thing is produced—the eneka tou, or reason for it.[720] Thus, for instance, in a house, the wood out of which it is produced is the matter (yle), the idea or conception according to which it is produced is the form (eidos morphe), the builder who erects the house is the efficient cause, and the reason for its production, or the end of its existence is the final cause.

[Footnote 719: Encyclopaedia Britannica, article "Aristotle;" "Post. Analytic," bk. ii. ch. xi.]

[Footnote 720: "Metaphysics," bk. i. ch. iii.]

Causes are, therefore, the elements into which the mind resolves its first rough conception of an object. That object is what it is, by reason of the matter out of which it sprang, the moving cause which gave it birth, the idea or form which it realizes, and the end or object which it attains. The knowledge of a thing implies knowing it from these four points of view—that is, knowing its four causes or principles.

These four determinations of being are, on a further and closer analysis, resolved into the fundamental antithesis of MATTER and FORM.

"All things that are produced," says Aristotle,[721] "are produced from something (that is, from matter), by something (that is, form), and become something (the totality—to synolon);" as, for example, a statue, a plant, a man. To every subject there belongs, therefore, first, matter (yle); secondly, form (morphe). The synthesis of these two produces and constitutes substance, or ousia. Matter and form are thus the two grand causes or principles whence proceed all things. The formative cause is, at the same time, the moving cause and the final cause; for it is evidently the element of determination which impresses movement upon matter whilst determining it; and it is also the end of being, since being only really exists when it has passed from an indeterminate to a determinate state.

[Footnote 721: "Metaphysics," bk. vi. ch. vii.]

In proof that the eidos or form is an efficient principle operating in every object, which makes it, to our conception, what it is, Aristotle brings forward the subject of generation or production.[722] There are three modes of production—natural, artificial, and automatic. In natural production we discern at once a matter; indeed Nature, in the largest sense, may be defined as "that out of which things are produced." Now the result formed out of this matter or nature is a given substance—a vegetable, a beast, or a man. But what is the producing cause in each case? Clearly something akin to the result. A man generates a man, a plant produces another plant like to itself. There is, therefore, implied in the resulting thing a productive force distinct from matter, upon which it works. And this is the eidos, or form. Let us now consider artificial production. Here again the form is the producing power. And this is in the soul. The art of the physician is the eidos, which produces actual health; the plan of the architect is the conception, which produces an actual house. Here, however, a distinction arises. In these artificial productions there is supposed a noesis and a poiesis. The noesis is the previous conception which the architect forms in his own mind; the poiesis is the actual creation of the house out of the given matter. In this case the conception is the moving cause of the production. The form of the statue in the mind of the artist is the motive or cause of the movement by which the statue is produced; and health must be in the thought of the physician before it can become the moving cause of the healing art. Moreover, that which is true of artificial production or change is also true of spontaneous production. For example, a cure may take place by the application of warmth, and this result is accomplished by means of friction. This warmth in the body is either itself a portion of health, or something is consequent upon it which is like itself, which is a portion of health. Evidently this implies the previous presence either of nature or of an artificer. It is also clearly evident that this kind of generating influence (the automatic) should combine with another. There must be a productive power, and there must be something out of which it is produced. In this case, then, there will be a yle and an eidos.[723]

[Footnote 722: Ibid.]

[Footnote 723: Maurice's "Ancient Philosophy," pp. 205, 206.]

From the above it appears that the efficient cause is regarded by Aristotle as identical with the formal cause. So also the final cause—the end for the sake of which any thing exists—can hardly be separated from the perfection of that thing, that is, from its conception or form. The desire for the end gives the first impulse of motion; thus the final cause of any thing becomes identical with the good of that thing. "The moving cause of the house is the builder, but the moving cause of the builder is the end to be attained—that is, the house." From such examples as these it would seem that the determinations of form and end are considered by Aristotle as one, in so far as both are merged in the conception of actuality; for he regarded the end of every thing to be its completed being—the perfect realization of its idea or form. The only fundamental determinations, therefore, which can not be wholly resolved into each other are matter and form.[724]

[Footnote 724: Schwegler's "History of Philosophy," pp. 120, 123.]

The opposition of matter and form, with Aristotle, corresponds to the opposition between the element of generality and the element of particularity. Matter is indeterminate; form is determinate. Matter, abstracted from form, in thought, is entirely without predicate and distinction; form is that which enters into the definition of every subject, and without which it could not be defined. Matter is capable of the widest diversity of forms, but is itself without form. Pure form is, in fact, that which is without matter, or, in other words, it is the pure conception of being. Matter is the necessary condition of the existence of a thing; form is the essence of each thing, that in virtue of which substance is possible, and without which it is inconceivable. On the one side is passivity, possibility of existence, capacity of action; on the other side is activity, actuality, thought. The unity of these two in the realm of determined being constitutes every individual substance. The relation of matter and form, logically apprehended, is thus the relation of POTENTIALITY and ACTUALITY.

This is a further and indeed a most important step in the Aristotelian theology. Matter, as we have seen, after all, amounts to merely capacity for action, and if we can not discover some productive power to develop potentiality into actuality, we look in vain for some explanation of the phenomena around us. The discovery, however, of energy (energeia), as a principle of this description, is precisely what we wanted, and a momentary glance at the actual phenomena will show its perfect identity with the eidos, or form.[725] "For instance, what is a calm? It is evenness in the surface of the sea. Here the sea is the subject, that is, the matter in capacity, but the evenness is the energy or actuality;... energy is thus as form."[726] The form (or idea) is thus an energy or actuality (energeia); the matter is a capacity or potentiality (dynamis), requiring the co-operation of the energy to produce a result.

These terms, which are first employed by Aristotle in their philosophical signification, are characteristic of his whole system. It is, therefore, important we should grasp their precise philosophical import; and this can only be done by considering them in the strictest relation to each other. It is in this relation they are defined by Aristotle. "Now energeia is the existence of a thing not in the sense of its potentially existing. The term potentially we use, for instance, of the statue in the block, and of the half in the whole (since it may be subtracted), and of a person knowing a thing, even when he is not thinking of it, but might be so; whereas energeia is the opposite. By applying the various instances our meaning will be plain, and one must not seek a definition in each case, but rather grasp the conception of the analogy as a whole,—that it is as that which builds to that which has a capacity for building; as the waking to the sleeping; as that which sees to that which has sight, but whose eyes are closed; as the definite form to the shapeless matter; as the complete to the unaccomplished. In this contrast, let the energeia be set off as forming the one side, and on the other let the potential stand. Things are said to be in energeia not always in like manner (except so far as there is an analogy, that as this thing is in this, and related to this, so is that in that, or related to that); for sometimes it implies motion as opposed to the capacity of motion, and sometimes complete existence opposed to undeveloped matter".[727] As the term dynamis has the double meaning of "possibility of existence" as well as "capacity of action" so there is the double contrast of "action" as opposed to the capacity of action; and "actual existence" opposed to possible existence or potentiality. To express accurately this latter antithesis, Aristotle introduced the term entelecheia[728]—entelechy, of which the most natural account is that it is a compound of en telei echein—"being in a state of perfection."[729] This term, however, rarely occurs in the "Metaphysics," whilst energeia is everywhere employed, not only to express activity as opposed to passivity, but complete existence as opposed to undeveloped matter.

[Footnote 725: "That which Aristotle calls 'form' is not to be confounded with what we may perhaps call shape [or figure]; a hand severed from the arm, for instance, has still the outward shape of a hand, but, according to Aristotelian apprehension, it is only a hand now as to matter, and not as to form; an actual hand, a hand as to form, is only that which can do the proper work of a hand."—Schwegler's "History of Philosophy," p. 122.]

[Footnote 726: "Metaphysics," bk. vii. ch. ii.]

[Footnote 727: "Metaphysics," bk. viii. ch. vi.]

[Footnote 728: "Entelechy indicates the perfected act, the completely actual."—Schw.]

[Footnote 729: Grant's Aristotle's "Ethics," vol. i. p. 184.]

"In Physics dynamis answers to the necessary conditions for the existence of any thing before that thing exists. It thus corresponds to yle, both to the prote yle—the first matter, or matter devoid of all qualities, which is capable of becoming any definite substance, as, for example, marble; and also to the eschate yle—or matter capable of receiving form, as marble the form of the statue." Marble then exists potentially in the simple elements before it is marble. The statue exists potentially in the marble before it is carved. All objects of thought exist, either purely in potentiality, or purely in actuality, or both in potentiality and in actuality. This division makes an entire chain of all existence. At the one end is matter, the prote yle which has a merely potential existence, which is necessary as a condition, but which having no form and no qualities, is totally incapable of being realized by the mind. At the other end of the chain is pure form, which is not at all matter, the absolute and the unconditioned, the eternal substance and energy without matter (ousia aldios kai energeia aneu dynameos), who can not be thought as non-existing—the self-existent God. Between these two extremes is the whole row of creatures, which out of potentiality evermore spring into actual being.[730]

[Footnote 730: Id., ib., vol. i. p. 185.]

The relation of actuality to potentiality is the subject of an extended and elaborate discussion in book viii., the general results of which may be summed up in the following propositions:

1. The relation of Actuality to Potentiality is as the Perfect to the Imperfect.—The progress from potentiality to actuality is motion or production (kinesis or genesis). But this motion is transitional, and in itself imperfect—it tends towards an end, but does not include the end in itself. But actuality, if it implies motion, has an end in itself and for itself; it is a motion desirable for its own sake.[731] The relation of the potential to the actual Aristotle exhibits by the relation of the unfinished to the finished work, of the unemployed builder to the one at work upon his building, of the seed-corn to the tree, of the man who has the capacity to think, to the man actually engaged in thought.[732] Potentially the seed-corn is the tree, but the grown-up tree is the actuality; the potential philosopher is he who is not at this moment in a philosophic condition; indeed, every thing is potential which possesses a principle of development, or of change. Actuality or entelechy, on the other hand, indicates the perfect act, the end gained, the completed actual; that activity in which the act and the completeness of the act fall together—as, for example, to see, to think, where the acting and the completed act are one and the same.

2. The Relation of Actuality to Potentiality is a causal Relation.—A thing which is endued with a simple capacity of being may nevertheless not actually exist, and a thing may have a capacity of being and really exist. Since this is the case, there must ensue between non-being and real being some such principle as energy, in order to account for the transition or change.[733] Energy has here some analogy to motion, though it must not be confounded with motion. Now you can not predicate either motion or energy of things which are not. The moment energy is added to them they are. This transition from potentiality to actuality must be through the medium of such principles as propension or free will, because propension or free will possess in themselves the power of originating motion in other things.[734]

[Footnote 731: "Metaphysics," bk. viii. ch. vi.]

[Footnote 732: Ibid., bk. viii. ch. vi.]

[Footnote 733: Ibid., bk. viii. ch. iii.]

[Footnote 734: Ibid., bk. viii. ch. v.]

3. The Relation of Actuality and Potentiality is a Relation of Priority.—Actuality, says Aristotle, is prior to potentiality in the order of reason, in the order of substance, and also (though not invariably) in the order of time. The first of all capacities is a capacity of energizing or assuming a state of activity; for example, a man who has the capacity of building is one who is skilled in building, and thus able to use his energy in the art of building.[735] The primary energizing power must precede that which receives the impression of it, Form being older than Matter. But if you take the case of any particular person or thing, we say that its capacity of being that particular person or thing precedes its being so actually. Yet, though this is the case in each particular thing, there is always a foregone energy presumed in some other thing (as a prior seed, plant, man) to which it owes its existence. One pregnant thought presents itself in the course of the discussion which has a direct bearing upon our subject. [Dynamis] has been previously defined as "a principle of motion or change in another thing in so far forth as it is another thing"[736]—that is, it is fitted by nature to have motion imparted to it, and to communicate motion to something else. But this motion wants a resting-place. There can be no infinite regression of causes. There is some primary [dynamis] presupposed in all others, which is the beginning of change. This is [Greek: physis], or nature. But the first and original cause of all motion and change still precedes and surpasses nature. The final cause of all potentiality is energy or actuality. The one proposed is prior to the means through which the end is accomplished. A process of actualization, a tendency towards completeness or perfection ([Greek: telos]) presupposes an absolute actuality which is at once its beginning and end. "One energy is invariably antecedent to another in time, up to that which is primarily and eternally the Moving Cause."[737]

[Footnote 735: "Metaphysics," bk. viii. ch. viii.]

[Footnote 736: Ibid., bk. iv. ch. xii.]

[Footnote 737: Ibid., bk. viii. ch. viii.]

And now having laid down these fundamental principles of metaphysical science, as preparatory to Theology, Aristotle proceeds to establish the conception of the Absolute or Divine Spirit as the eternal, immutable Substance, the immaterial Energy, the unchangeable Form of Forms, the first moving Cause.

I. The Ontological Form of Proof.—It is necessary to conceive an eternal and immutable substance—an actuality which is absolute and prior, both logically and chronologically, to all potentiality; for that which is potential is simply contingent, it may just as easily not be as be; that which exists only in capacity is temporal and corruptible, and may cease to be. Matter we know subsists merely in capacity and passivity, and without the operation of Energy,(energeia), or the formative cause, would be to us as non-entity. The phenomena of the world exhibits to us the presence of Energy, and energy presupposes the existence of an eternal substance. Furthermore, matter and potentiality are convertible terms, therefore the primal Energy or Actuality must be immaterial.[738]

2. The Cosmological Form of Proof.—It is impossible that there should be motion, genesis, or a chain of causes, except on the assumption of a first Moving Cause, since that which exists only in capacity can not, of itself energize, and consequently without a principle of motion which is essentially active, we have only a principle of immobility. The principle "ex nihilo nihil" forbids us to assume that motion can arise out of immobility, being out of non-being. "How can matter be put in motion if nothing that subsists in energy exist, and is its cause?" All becoming, therefore, necessarily supposes that which has not become, that which is eternally self-active as the principle and cause of all motion. There is no refuge from the notion that all things are "born of night and nothingness" except in this belief.[739]

[Footnote 738: "Metaphysics," bk. xi. ch. vi.]

[Footnote 739: Ibid., bk. xi. ch. vii., viii.]

The existence of an eternal principle subsisting in energy is also demanded to explain the order of the world. "For how, let me ask, will there prevail order on the supposition that there is no subsistence of that which is eternal, and which involves a separable existence, and is permanent."[740] "All things in nature are constituted in the best possible manner."[741] All things strive after "the good." "The appearance of ends and means in nature is a proof of design."[742] Now an end or final cause presupposes intelligence,—implies a mind to see and desire it. That which is "fair," "beautiful," "good," an "object of desire," can only be perceived by Mind. The "final cause" must therefore subsist in that which is prior and immovable and eternal; and Mind is "that substance which subsists absolutely, and according to energy."[743] "The First Mover of all things, moves all things without being moved, being an eternal substance and energy; and he moves all things as the object of reason and of desire, or love."[744]

[Footnote 740: Ibid., bk. x. ch. ii.]

[Footnote 741: "Ethics," bk. i. ch. ix.]

[Footnote 742: "Nat. Ausc.," bk. ii. ch. viii.]

[Footnote 743: "Metaphysics," bk. xi. ch. vii.]

[Footnote 744: Ibid.]

3. The Moral Form of Proof.—So far as the relation of potentiality and actuality is identical with the relation of matter and form, the argument for the existence of God may be thus presented: The conception of an absolute matter without form, involves the supposition of an absolute form without matter. And since the conception of form resolves itself into motion, conception, purpose or end, so the Eternal One is the absolute principle of motion (the proton kinoun), the absolute conception or pure intelligence (the pure ti en einai), and the absolute ground, reason, or end of all being. All the other predicates of the First Cause follow from the above principles with logical necessity.

(i.) He is, of course, pure intellect, because he is absolutely immaterial and free from nature. He is active intelligence, because his essence is pure actuality. He is self-contemplating and self-conscious intelligence, because the divine thought can not attain its actuality in any thing extrinsic; it would depend on something else than self—some potential existence for its actualization. Hence the famous definition of the absolute as "the thought of thought" (noesis noeseos).[745] "And therefore the first and actual perception by mind of Mind itself, doth subsist in this way throughout all eternity."[746]

[Footnote 745: Schwegler's "History of Philosophy," p. 125.]

[Footnote 746: "Metaphysics," bk. xi. ch. ix.]

(ii.) He is also essential life. "The principle of life is inherent in the Deity, for the energy or active exercise of mind constitutes life, and God constitutes this energy; and essential energy belongs to God as his best and everlasting life. Now our statement is this—that the Deity is a living being that is everlasting and most excellent in nature, so that with the Deity life and duration are uninterrupted and eternal; for this constitutes the essence of God."[747]

(iii.) Unity belongs to him, since multiplicity implies matter; and the highest idea or form of the world must be absolutely immaterial.[748] The Divine nature is "devoid of parts and indivisible, for magnitude can not in any way involve this Divine nature; for God imparts motion through infinite duration, and nothing finite—as magnitude is—can be possessed of an infinite capacity."[749]

(iv.) He is immovable and ever abideth the same; since otherwise he could not be the absolute mover, and the cause of all becoming, if he were subject to change.[750] God is impassive and unalterable ([Greek: apathes kai analloioton]); for all such notions as are involved in passion or alteration are outside the sphere of the Divine existence.[751]

[Footnote 747: "Metaphysics," bk. xi. ch. vii.]

[Footnote 748: Ibid.]

[Footnote 749: Ibid.]

[Footnote 750: Ibid., bk. xi. ch. viii.]

[Footnote 751: Ibid., bk. xi. ch. vii.]

(v.) He is the ever-blessed God.—"The life of God is of a kind with those highest moods which, with us, last a brief space, it being impossible they should be permanent; whereas, with Him they are permanent, since His ever-present consciousness is pleasure itself. And it is because they are vivid states of consciousness, that waking, and perception, and thought, are the sweetest of all things. Now essential perception is the perception of that which is most excellent,... and the mind perceives itself by participating of its own object of perception; but it is a sort of coalescence of both that, in the Divine Mind, creates a regular identity between the two, so that with God both (the thinker and the thought, the subject and object) are the same. In possession of this prerogative, He subsists in the exercise of energy; and the contemplation of his own perfections is what, to God, must be most agreeable and excellent. This condition of existence, after so excellent a manner, is what is "so astonishing to us when we examine God's nature, and the more we do so the more wonderful that nature appears to us. The mood of the Divine existence is essential energy, and, as such, it is a life that is most excellent, blessed, and everlasting.[752]

[Footnote 752: "Metaphysics," bk. xi. ch. vii.]

The theology of Aristotle may be summed up in the following sentences selected from book xi. of his "Metaphysics:"

"This motionless cause of motion is a necessary being; and, by virtue of such necessity, is the all-perfect being. This all-pervading principle penetrates heaven and all nature. It eternally possesses perfect happiness; and its happiness is in action. This primal mover is immaterial; for its essence is in energy. It is pure thought—thought thinking itself—the thought of thought. The activity of pure intelligence—such is the perfect, eternal life of God. This primal cause of change, this absolute perfection, moves the world by the universal desire for the absolute good, by the attraction exercised upon it by the Eternal Mind—the serene energy of Divine Intelligence."

It can not be denied that, so far as it goes, this conception of the Deity is admirable, worthy, and just. Viewed from a Christian stand-point, we at once concede that it is essentially defective. There is no clear and distinct recognition of God as Creator and Governor of the universe; he is chiefly regarded as the Life of the universe—the Intellect, the Energy—that which gives excellence, and perfection, and gladness to the whole system of things. The Theology of Aristotle is, in fact, metaphysical rather than practical. He does not contemplate the Deity as a moral Governor. Whilst Plato speaks of "being made like God through becoming just and holy," Aristotle asserts that "all moral virtues are totally unworthy of being ascribed to God."[753] He is not the God of providence. He dwells alone, supremely indifferent to human cares, and interests, and sorrows. He takes no cognizance of individual men, and holds no intercourse with man. The God of Aristotle is not a being that meets and satisfies the wants of the human heart, however well it may meet the demands of the reason.

[Footnote 753: "Ethics," bk. x. ch. viii.]

Morality has no basis in the Divine nature, no eternal type in the perfections and government of God, and no supports and aids from above. The theology of Aristotle foreshadows the character of the


We do not find in Aristotle any distinct recognition of an eternal and immutable morality, an absolute right, which has its foundation in the nature of God. Plato had taught that there was "an absolute Good, above and beyond all existence in dignity and power;" which is, in fact, "the cause of all existence and all knowledge," and which is God; that all other things are good in proportion as they "partake of this absolute Good;" and that all men are so far good as they "resemble God." But with this position Aristotle joins issue. After stating the doctrine of Plato in the following words—"Some have thought that, besides all these manifold goods upon earth, there is some absolute good, which is the cause to all these of their being good"—he proceeds to criticise that idea, and concludes his argument by saying—"we must dismiss the idea at present, for if there is any one good, universal and generic, or transcendental and absolute, it obviously can never be realized nor possessed by man; whereas something of this latter kind is what we are inquiring after." He follows up these remarks by saying that "Perhaps the knowledge of the idea may be regarded by some as useful, as a pattern (paradeigma) by which to judge of relative good." Against this he argues that "There is no trace of the arts making use of any such conception; the cobbler, the carpenter, the physician, and the general, all pursue their vocations without respect to the absolute good, nor is it easy to see how they would be benefited by apprehending it."[754] The good after which Aristotle would inquire is, therefore, a relative good, since the knowledge of the absolute good can not possibly be realized.

[Footnote 754: "Ethics," bk. i. ch. vi.]

Instead, therefore, of seeking to attain to "a transcendental and absolute good "—a fundamental idea of right, which may be useful as a paradigm by which we may judge of relative good, he addresses himself solely to the question, "what is good for man"—what is the good attainable in action? And having identified the Chief Good with the final and perfect end of all action, the great question of the Ethics is, "What is the end of human action?" (ti esti to ton prakton teloa).[755]

[Footnote 755: "Ethics," bk. i. ch. xiii.]

Now an end or final cause implies an intelligence—implies a mind to perceive and desire it. This is distinctly recognized by Aristotle. The question, therefore, naturally arises—is that end fixed for man by a higher intelligence, and does it exist for man both as an idea and as an ideal? Can man, first, intellectually apprehend the idea, and then consciously strive after its realization? Is it the duty of man to aim at fulfilling the purposes of his Creator? To this it may be answered that Aristotle is not at all explicit as to God's moral government of the world. "Moral government," in the now common acceptation of the term, has no place in the system of Aristotle, and the idea of "duty" is scarcely recognized. He considers "the good" chiefly in relation to the constitution and natural condition of man. "It is" says he, "the end towards which nature tends." As physical things strive unconsciously after the end of their existence, so man strives after the good attainable in life. Socrates had identified virtue and knowledge, he had taught that "virtue is a Science." Aristotle contended that virtue is an art, like music and architecture, which must be attained by exercise. It is not purely intellectual, it is the bloom of the physical, which has become ethical. As the flower of the field, obeying the laws of its organization, springs up, blooms, and attains its own peculiar perfection, so there is an instinctive desire (orexis) in the soul which at first unconsciously yearns after the good, and subsequently the good is sought with full moral intent and insight. Aristotle assumes that the desires or instincts of man are so framed as to imply the existence of this end (telos).[756] And he asserts that man can only realize it in the sphere of his own proper functions, and in accordance with the laws of his own proper nature and its harmonious development.[757] It is not, then, through instruction, or through the perfection of knowledge, that man is to attain the good, but through exercise and habit (ephos). By practice of moral acts we become virtuous, just as by practice of building and of music, we become architects and musicians; for the habit, which is the ground of moral character, is only a fruit of oft-repeated moral acts. Hence it is by these three things—nature, habit, reason—that men become good.

[Footnote 756: Ibid, bk. i. ch. ii.]

[Footnote 757: "Ethics," bk. i. ch. vii.]

Aristotle's question, therefore, is, What is the chief good for man as man? not what is his chief good as a spiritual and an immortal being? or what is his chief good as a being related to and dependent upon God? And the conclusion at which he arrives is, that it is the absolute satisfaction of our whole nature—that which men are agreed in calling happiness. This happiness, however, is not mere sensual pleasure. The brute shares this in common with man, therefore it can not constitute the happiness of man. Human happiness must express the completeness of rational existence. And inasmuch as intelligence is essential activity, as the soul is the entelechy of the body, therefore the happiness of man can not consist in a mere passive condition. It must, therefore, consist in perfect activity in well-doing, and especially in contemplative thought,[758] or as Aristotle defines it—"It is a perfect practical activity in a perfect life."[759] His conception of the chief good has thus two sides, one internal, that which exists in and for the consciousness—a "complete and perfect life," the other external and practical. The latter, however, is a means to the former. That complete and perfect life is the complete satisfaction and perfection of our rational nature. It is a state of peace which is the crown of exertion. It is the realization of the divine in man, and constitutes the absolute and all-sufficient happiness.[760] A good action is thus an End-in-itself (teleion telos) inasmuch as it secures the perfection of our nature; it is that for the sake of which our moral faculties before existed, hence bringing an inward pleasure and satisfaction with it; something in which the mind can rest and fully acquiesce; something which can be pronounced beautiful, fitting, honorable, and perfect.

[Footnote 758: "If it be true to say that happiness consists in doing well, a life of action must be best both for the state and the individual. But we need not, as some do, suppose that a life of action implies relation to others, or that those only are active thoughts which are concerned with the results of action; but far rather we must consider those speculations and thoughts to be so which have their end in themselves, and which are for their own sake."—"Politics," bk. vii. ch. iii.]

[Footnote 759: "Ethics," bk. i. ch. x.]

[Footnote 760: "Ethics," bk. x. ch. viii.]

From what has been already stated, it will be seen that the Aristotelian conception of Virtue is not conformity to an absolute and immutable standard of right. It is defined by him as the observation of the right mean (mesotes) in action—that is, the right mean relatively to ourselves. "Virtue is a habit deliberately choosing, existing as a mean (meson) which refers to us, and is defined by reason, and as a prudent man would define it; and it is a mean between two evils, the one consisting in excess, the other in defect; and further, it is a mean, in that one of these falls short of, and the other exceeds, what is right both in passions and actions; and that virtue both finds and chooses the mean."[761] The perfection of an action thus consists in its containing the right degree—the true mean between too much, and too little. The law of the mesotes is illustrated by the following examples: Man has a fixed relation to pleasure and pain. In relation to pain, the true mean is found in neither fearing it nor courting it, and this is fortitude. In relation to pleasure, the true mean stands between greediness and indifference; this is temperance. The true mean between prodigality and narrowness is liberality; between simplicity and cunning is prudence; between suffering wrong and doing wrong is justice. Extending this law to certain qualifications of temper, speech, and manners, you have the portrait of a graceful Grecian gentleman. Virtue is thus proportion, grace, harmony, beauty in action.

[Footnote 761: Ibid, bk. ii. ch. vi.]

It will at once be seen that this classification has no stable foundation. It furnishes no ultimate standard of right. The mean is a wavering line. It differs under different circumstances and relations, and in different times and places. That mean which is sufficient for one individual is insufficient for another. The virtue of a man, of a slave, and of a child, is respectively different. There are as many virtues as there are circumstances in life; and as men are ever entering into new relations, in which it is difficult to determine the correct method of action, the separate virtues can not be limited to any definite number.

Imperfect as the ethical system of Aristotle may appear to us who live in Christian times, it must be admitted that his writings abound with just and pure sentiments. His science of Ethics is a discipline of human character in order to human happiness. And whilst it must be admitted that it is directed solely to the improvement of man in the present life, he aims to build that improvement on pure and noble principles, and seeks to elevate man to the highest perfection of which he could conceive. "And no greater praise can be given to a work of heathen morality than to say, as may be said of the ethical writings of Aristotle, that they contain nothing which a Christian may dispense with, no precept of life which is not an element of Christian character; and that they only fail in elevating the heart and the mind to objects which it needed Divine Wisdom to reveal."[762]

[Footnote 762: Encyclopaedia Britannica, article "Aristotle."]





Philosophy, after the time of Aristotle, takes a new direction. In the pre-Socratic schools, we have seen it was mainly a philosophy of nature; in the Socratic school it was characterized as a philosophy of mind; and now in the post-Socratic schools it becomes a philosophy of life—a moral philosophy. Instead of aiming at the knowledge of real Being—of the permanent, unchangeable, eternal principles which underlie all phenomena, it was now content to aim, chiefly, at individual happiness. The primary question now discussed, as of the most vital importance, is, What is the ultimate standard by which, amid all the diversities of human conduct and opinion, we may determine what is right and good in individual and social life?

This remarkable change in the course of philosophic inquiry was mainly due—

1st. To the altered circumstances of the times. An age of civil disturbance and political intrigue succeeded the Alexandrian period. The different states of Greece lost their independence, and became gradually subject to a foreign yoke. Handed over from one domination to another, in the struggles of Alexander's lieutenants, they endeavored to reconquer their independence by forming themselves into confederations, but were powerless to unite in the defense of a common cause. The Achaean and Etolian leagues were weakened by internal discords; and it was in vain that Sparta tried to recover her ancient liberties.

Divided amongst themselves, the smaller states invoked the aid of dangerous allies—at one time appealing to Macedon, at another to Egypt. In this way they prepared for the total ruin of Greek liberty, which was destined to be extinguished by Rome.[763]

[Footnote 763: Pressense, "Religions before Christ," pp. 136-140.]

During this period of hopeless turmoil and social disorder, all lofty pursuits and all great principles were lost sight of and abandoned. The philosophic movement followed the downward course of society, and men became chiefly concerned for their personal interest and safety. The wars of the Succession almost obliterated the idea of society, and philosophy was mainly directed to the securing of personal happiness; it became, in fact, "the art of making one's self happy." The sad reverses to which the Grecian mind had been subjected produced a feeling of exhaustion and indifference, which soon reflected itself in the philosophy of the age.

2d. In connection with the altered circumstances of the age, we must also take account of the apparent failure of the Socratic method to solve the problem of Being.

The teaching of Aristotle had fostered the suspicion that the dialectic method was a failure, and thus prepared the way for a return to sensualism. He had taught that individuals alone have a real existence, and that the "essence" of things is not to be sought in the elements of unity and generality, or in the idea, as Plato taught, but in the elements of diversity and speciality. And furthermore, in opposition to Plato, he had taught his disciples to attach themselves to sensation, as the source of all knowledge. As the direct consequence of this teaching, we find his immediate successors, Dicearchus and Straton, deliberately setting aside "the god of philosophy," affirming "that a divinity was unnecessary to the explanation of the existence and order of the universe." Stimulated by the social degeneracy of the times, the characteristic skepticism of the Greek intellect bursts forth anew. As the skepticism of the Sophists marked the close of the first period of philosophy, so the skepticism of Pyrrhonism marked the close of the second. The new skepticism arrayed Aristotle against Plato as the earlier skeptics arrayed atomism against the doctrine of the Eleatics. They naturally said: "We have been seeking a long time; what have we gained? Have we obtained any thing certain and determinate? Plato says we have. But Aristotle and Plato do not agree. May not our opinion be as good as theirs? What a diversity of opinions have been presented during the past three hundred years! One may be as good as another, or they may be all alike untrue!" Timon and Pyrrhon declared that, of each thing, it might be said to be, and not to be; and that, consequently, we should cease tormenting ourselves, and seek to obtain an absolute calm, which they dignified with the name of ataraxie. Beholding the overthrow and disgrace of their country, surrounded by examples of pusillanimity and corruption, and infected with the spirit of the times themselves, they wrote this maxim: "Nothing is infamous; nothing is in itself just; laws and customs alone constitute what is justice and what is iniquity." Having reached this extreme, nothing can be too absurd, and they cap the climax by saying, "We assert nothing; no, not even that we assert nothing!"

And yet there must some function, undoubtedly, remain for the "wise man" (sophos).

Reason was given for some purpose. Philosophy must have some end. And inasmuch as it is not to determine speculative questions, it must be to determine practical questions. May it not teach men to act rather than to think? The philosopher, the schools, the disciples, survive the darkening flood of skepticism.

Three centuries before Christ, the Peripatetic and Platonic schools are succeeded by two other schools, which inherit their importance, and which, in other forms, and by an under-current, perpetuate the disputes of the Peripatetics and Platonists, namely, the Epicureans and Stoics. With Aristotle and Plato, philosophy embraced in its circle nature, humanity, and God; but now, in the systems of Epicurus and "Zeno", moral philosophy is placed in the foreground, and assumes the chief, the overshadowing pre-eminence. The conduct of life—morality—is now the grand subject of inquiry, and the great theme of discourse.

In dealing with morals two opposite methods of inquiry were possible:

1. To judge of the quality of actions by their RESULTS.

2. To search for the quality of actions in the actions them selves.

Utility, which in its last analysis is Pleasure, is the test of right, in the first method; an assumed or discovered Law of Nature, in the second. If the world were perfect, and the balance of the human faculties undisturbed, it is evident that both systems would give identical results. As it is, there is a tendency to error on each side, which is fully developed in the rival schools of the Epicureans and Stoics, who practically divided the suffrages of the mass of educated men until the coming of Christ.


Epicurus was born B.C. 342, and died B.C. 270. He purchased a Garden within the city, and commenced, at thirty-six years of age, to teach philosophy. The Platonists had their academic Grove: the Aristotelians walked in the Lyceum: the Stoics occupied the Porch: the Epicureans had their Garden, where they lived a tranquil life, and seem to have had a community of goods.

There is not one of all the various founders of the ancient philosophical schools whose memory was cherished with so much veneration by his disciples as that of Epicurus. For several centuries after his death, his portrait was treated by them with all the honors of a sacred relic: it was carried about with them in their journeys, it was hung up in their schools, it was preserved with reverence in their private chambers; his birthday was celebrated with sacrifices and other religious observances, and a special festival in his honor was held every month.

So much honor having been paid to the memory of Epicurus, we naturally expect that his works would have been preserved with religious care. He was one of the most prolific of the ancient Greek writers. Diogenes calls him "a most voluminous writer," and estimates the number of works composed by him at no less than three hundred, the principal of which he enumerates.[764] But out of all this prodigious collection, not a single book has reached us in a complete, or at least an independent form. Three letters, which contain some outlines of his philosophy, are preserved by Diogenes, who has also embodied his "Fundamental Maxims"—forty-four propositions, containing a summary of his ethical system. These, with part of his work "On Nature," found during the last century among the Greek MSS. recovered at Herculaneum, constitute all that has survived the general wreck.

[Footnote 764: Diogenes Laertius, "Lives of the Philosophers," bk. x. ch. xvi., xvii.]

We are thus left to depend mainly on his disciples and successors for any general account of his system. And of the earliest and most immediate of these the writings have perished.[765] Our sole original authority is Diogenes Laertius, who was unquestionably an Epicurean. The sketch of Epicurus which is given in his "Lives" is evidently a "labor of love." Among all the systems of ancient philosophy described by him, there is none of whose general character he has given so skillful and so elaborate an analysis. And even as regards the particulars of the system, nothing could be more complete than Laertius's account of his physical speculations. Additional light is also furnished by the philosophic poem of Lucretius "On the Nature of Things," which was written to advocate the physical theory of Epicurus. These are the chief sources of our information.

[Footnote 765: Some fragments of the writings of Metrodorus, Phaedrus, Polystratus, and Philodemus, have been found among the Herculanean Papyri, and published in Europe, which are said to throw some additional light on the doctrines of Epicurus. See article on "Herculanean Papyri," in Edinburgh Review, October, 1862.]

It is said of Epicurus that he loved to hearken to the stories of the indifference and apathy of Pyrrhon, and that, in these qualities, he aspired to imitate him. But Epicurus was not, like Pyrrhon, a skeptic; on the contrary, he was the most imperious dogmatist. No man ever showed so little respect for the opinions of his predecessors, or so much confidence in his own. He was fond of boasting that he had made his own philosophy—he was a "self-taught" man! Now "Epicurus might be perfectly honest in saying he had read very little, and had worked out the conclusions in his own mind, but he was a copyist, nevertheless; few men more entirely so."[766] His psychology was certainly borrowed from the Ionian school. From thence he had derived his fundamental maxim, that "sensation is the source of all knowledge, and the standard of all truth." His physics were copied from Democritus. With both, "atoms are the first principle of all things." And in Ethics he had learned from Aristotle, that if an absolute good is not the end of a practical life, happiness must be its end.[767] All that is fundamental in the system of Epicurus was borrowed from his predecessors, and there is little that can be called new in his teaching.

[Footnote 766: Maurice's "Ancient Philosophy," p. 236.]

[Footnote 767: "Ethics," bk. i. ch. vi]

The grand object of philosophy, according to Epicurus, is the attainment of a happy life. "Philosophy," says he, "is the power by which reason conducts men to happiness." Truth is a merely relative thing, a variable quantity; and therefore the pursuit of truth for its own sake is superfluous and useless. There is no such thing as absolute, unchangeable right: no action is intrinsically right or wrong. "We choose the virtues, not on their own account, but for the sake of pleasure, just as we seek the skill of the physician for the sake of health."[768] That which is nominally right in morals, that which is relatively good in human conduct, is, therefore, to be determined by the effects upon ourselves; that which is agreeable—pleasurable, is right; that which is disagreeable—painful, is wrong. "The virtues are connate with living pleasantly."[769] Pleasure (edone), then, is the great end to be sought in human action. "Pleasure is the chief good, the beginning and end of living happily."[770]

[Footnote 768: "Fundamental Maxims," preserved in Diogenes Laertius, "Lives of the Philosophers," bk. x. ch. xxx.]

[Footnote 769: "Epicurus to Menaeceus," in Diogenes Laertius, "Lives of the Philosophers," bk. x. ch. xxvii.]

[Footnote 770: Id., ib.]

The proof which Epicurus offers in support of his doctrine, "that pleasure is the chief good," is truly characteristic. "All animals from the moment of their birth are delighted with pleasure and offended with pain, by their natural instincts, and without the employment of reason. Therefore we, also, of our own inclination, flee from pain."[771] "All men like pleasure and dislike pain; they naturally shun the latter and pursue the former." "If happiness is present, we have every thing, and when it is absent, we do every thing with a view to possess it."[772] Virtue thus consists in man's doing deliberately what the animals do instinctively—that is, choose pleasure and avoid pain.

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