Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

our necessary introduction to the grand, the immortal achierements of the Alexandrian school.

Aristotle was born at Stagira, in Thrace, B.C. 384. His Biography of father was an eminent author of those times on Aristotle subjects of Natural History ; by profession he was a physician. Dying while his son was yet quite young, he bequeathed to him not only very ample means, but also his own tastes. Aristotle soon found his way to Athens, and entered the school of Plato, with whom it is said he remained for nearly twenty years. During this period he spent most of his patrimony, and in the end was obliged to support himself by the trade of a druggist. At length differences arose between them, for, as we shall soon find, the great pupil was by no means a blind follower of the great master. In a fortunate moment, Philip, the King of Macedon, appointed him preceptor to his son Alexander, an incident of importance in the intellectual history of Europe. It was to the friendship arising through this relation that Aristotle owed the assistance he received from the conqueror during his Asiatic expedition for the composition of the Natural History,” and also gained that prestige which gave his name such singular authority for more than fifteen centuries. He eventually founded a school in the Lyceum at Athens, and, as it was his habit to deliver his lectures while walking, his disciples received the name of Peripatetics, or walking philosophers. These lectures were of two kinds, esoteric and exoteric, the former being delivered to the more advanced pupils only. He wrote a very large number of works, of which about one-fourth remain.

The philosophical method of Aristotle is the inverse of We found the that of Plato, whose starting-point was univerinductive phi- sals, the very existence of which was a matter losophy of faith, and from these he descended to particulars or details. Aristotle, on the contrary, rose from particulars to universals, advancing to them by inductions; and his system, thus an inductive philosophy, was in reality the true beginning of science.

Plato therefore trusts to the Imagination, Aristotle to Reason. The contrast between them is best seen by the attitude in which they stand as respects the Ideal theory.

that of Plato.

Plato regards universals, types, or exemplars as having an actual existence; Aristotle declares that they His method are mere abstractions of reasoning. For the ci mpared with fanciful reminiscences derived from former experience in another life by Plato, Aristotle substitutes the reminiscences of our actual experience in this. These ideas of experience are furnished by the memory, which enables us not only to recall individual facts and events witnessed by ourselves, but also to collate them with one another, thereby discovering their resemblances and their differences. Our induction becomes the more certain as our facts are more numerous, our experience larger. “ Art commences when, from a great number of experiences, one general conception is formed which will embrace all similar cases. “ If we properly observe celestial phenomena, we may demonstrate the laws which regulate them.” With Plato, philosophy arises from faith in the past; with Aristotle, reason alone can constitute it from existing facts. Plato is analytic, Aristotle synthetic. The philosophy of Plato arises from the decomposition of a primitive idea into particulars, that of Aristotle from the union of particulars into a general conception. The former is essentially an idealist, the latter a materialist.

From this it will be seen that the method of Plato was capable of producing more splendid, though The results of they were necessarily more unsubstantial results; Plat nism and that of Aristotle was more tardy in its operation, but much more solid. It implied endless labour in the collection of facts, the tedious resort to experiment and observation, the application of demonstration. In its very nature it was such that it was impossible for its author to carry by its aid the structure of science to completion. The moment that Aristotle applies his own principles we tind him compelled to depart from them through want of a sufficient experience and sufficient precision in his facts. The philosophy of Plato is a gorgeous castle in the air, that of Aristotle is a solid structure, laboriously, and, with many failures, founded on the solid rock.

Under Logic, Aristotle treats of the methods of arriving at general propositions, and of reasoning from them. His logic is at once the art of thinking and the instrument

Aristotelism.

Aristotle's

ex

and meta

of thought. The completeness of our knowledge depends

on the extent and completeness of our Logic perience. His manner of reasoning is by the syllogism, an argument consisting of three propositions, such that the concluding one follows of necessity from the two premises, and of which, indeed, the whole theory of demonstration is only an example. Regarding logic as the instrument of thought, he introduces into it, as a fundamental feature, the ten categories. These predicaments are the genera to which everything may be reduced, and denote the most general of the attributes which may be assigned to a thing.

His metaphysics overrides all the branches of the physical sciences. It undertakes an examination of the po-tu

lates on which each one of them is founded, deterphysics. mining their truth or fallacy. Considering that all science must find a support for its fundamental conditions in an extensive induction from facts, he puts at the foundation of his system the consideration of the individual; in relation to the world of sense, he regards four causes as necessary for the production of a fact—the material cause, the substantial cause, the efficient cause, the final cause.

But as soon as we come to the Physics of Aristotle we Temporary

see at once his weakness. The knowledge of his failure of his age does not furnish him farts enough whereon

to build, and the consequence is that he is forced into speculation. It will be sufficient for our purpose to allude to a few of his statements, ei her in this or in his metaphysical branch, to show how great is his uncertainty and confusion. Thus he asserts that matter contains a triple form-simple substance, higher substance, which is eternal, and absolute substance, or God himself; that the universe is immutable and eternal, and, though in relation

with the vicissitudes of the world, it is unaffected The Pertpatetic philo- thereby; that the primitive force which gives

rise to all the motions and changes we see is Nature; it also gives rise to Rest; that ihe world is a

living being, having a soul; that, since every

thing is for some particular end, the soul of man Space, Time.

is the end of his body; that Motion is the conclition of all nature; that the world has a definite boundary

system.

sophy.

Substance,
Motion,

and a limited magnitude ; that Space is the immovable vessel in which whatever is may be moved; that Space, as a whole, is without motion, though its parts may move ; that it is not to be conceived of as without contents ; that it is impossible for a vacuum to exist, and hence there is not beyond and surrounding the world void which contains the world; that there could be no such thing as Time unless there is a soul, for time being the number of motion, number is impossible except there be one who numbers; that, perpetual motion in a finite right line being impossible, but in a curvilinear path possible, the world, which is limited and ever in motion, must be of a spherical form ; that the earth is its central part, the heavens the circumferential : hence the heaven is nearest to the prime cause of motion; that the orderly, continuous, and unceasing movement of the celestial bodies implies an unmoved mover, for the unchangeable alone can give birth to uniform motion; that unmoved existence is God; that the stars are passionless beings, having attained the end of existence, and worthy above other things of human adoration ; that the fixed stars are in the outermost heaven, and the sun, moon, and planets beneath : the former receive their motion from the prime moving cause, but the planets are disturbed by the stars ; that there are five elements-earth, air, fire, water, and ether; that the earth is in the centre of the world, since earthy matter settles uniformly round a central point; that fire seeks the circumferential region, and intermediately water floats upon the earth, and air

The world.

upon

water ; that the elements are transmutable into one another, and hence many intervening substances arise; that each sphere is in interconnection with the others; the earth is agitated and disturbed by the sea, the sea by the winds, which are movements of the air, the air by the sun, moon, and planets. Each inferior sphere is controlled by its outlying or superior one, and hence it follows that the earth, which is thus disturbed by the conspiring or conflicting action of all above it, is liable to the most irregularities; that, since animals are nourished by the earth, it needs must enter into their composition, but that water is required to hold the carthy matters together; that every element must be

looked upon as living, since it is pervaded by the soul of the world; that there is an unbroken chain from the simple element through the plant and animal up to mai, the different groups merging by insensible shades into one Organic

another: thus zoophytes partake partly of the

vegetable and partly of the animal, and serve as an intermedium between them; that plants are inferior to animals in this, that they do not possess a single principle of life or svul, but many subordinate ones, as is shown by the circumstance that, when they are cut to pieces, each piece is capable of perfect or independent growth or life. Their inferiority is likewise betrayed by their belonging especially to the earth to which they are rooted, each root being a true mouth; and this again displays their lowly position, for the place of the mouth is ever an indication of the grade of a creature : thus in man, who is at the head of the scale, it is in the upper part of the body; that in proportion to the heat of an animal is its grade higher : thus those that are aquatic are cold, and therefore of very little intelligence, and the same may be said of plants; but of man, whose warmth is very great, the soul is much more excellent; that the possession of locomotion by an organism always implies the possession of sensation ; that the senses of taste and touch indicate the qualities of things in contact with the organs of the animal, but that those of smell, hearing, and sight extend the sphere of its existence, and indicate to it what is at a distance : that the place of Physivlogical reception of the various sensations is the soul,

be ngs.

from which issue forth the motions : that the blood, as the general element of nutrition, is essential to the support of the body, though insensible itself: it is also essen tial to the activity of the soul ; that the brain is not the recipient of sensations : that function belongs to the heart; all the animal activities are united in the last; it contains the principle of life, being the principle of motion. it is the first part to be formed and the last to die; that the brain is a mere appendix to the heart, since it is formed after the heart, is the coldest of the organs, and is devoid of blood : that the soul is the reunion of all the functions of the body: it is an energy or active essence; being neither body nor magnitude, it cannot have extension, for

conciusions.

« AnteriorContinuar »