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he adds, that if water be in a vessel, the vessel being at rest, the parts of the water may still move, for they are included by each other; so that while the whole does not change its place, the parts may change their places in a circular order. Proceeding then to the question of a void, he, as usual, examines the different senses in which the term is used, and adopts, as the most proper, place without matter; with no useful result, as we shall soon see. Again,' in a question concerning mechanical action, he says, “When
, a man moves a stone by pushing it with a stick, we say both that the man moves the stone, and that the stick moves the stone, but the latter more properly."
Again, we find the Greek philosophers applying themselves to extract their dogmas from the most general and abstract notions which they could detect; for example,- from the conception of the Universe as One or as Many things. They tried to determine how far we may, or must, combine with these conceptions that of a whole, of parts, of number, of limits, of place, of beginning or end, of full or void, of rest or motion, of cause and effect, and the like. The analysis of such conceptions with such a view, occupies, for instance, almost the whole of Aristotle's Treatise on the Heavens.
The Dialogue of Plato, which is entitled Parmenides, appears at first as if its object were to show the futility of this method of philosophizing; for the philosopher whose name it bears, is represented as arguing with an Athenian named Aristotle," and, by a process of metaphysical analysis, reducing him at least to this conclusion, that whether One exist, or do not exist, it follows that both it and other things, with reference to themselves and to each other, all and in all respects, both are and are not, both appear and appear not." Yet the method of Plato, so far as concerns truths of that kind with which we are here concerned, was little more efficacious than that of his rival. It consists mainly, as may be seen in several of the dialogues, and especially in the Timæus, in the application of notions as loose as those of the Peripatetics; for example, the conceptions of the Good, the Beautiful, the Perfect; and these are rendered still more arbitrary, by assuming an acquaintance with the views of the Creator of the uni
The philosopher is thus led to maxims which agree with those
• Physic. Ausc. viii. 5.
* This Aristotle is not the Stagirite, who was forty-five years younger than Plato, but one of the "thirty tyrants," as they were called.
of the Aristotelians, that there can be no void, that things seek their own place, and the like."
Another mode of reasoning, very widely applied in these attempts, was the doctrine of contrarieties, in which it was assumed, that adjectives or substantives which are in common language, or in some abstract mode of conception, opposed to each other, must point at some fundamental antithesis in nature, which it is important to study. Thus Aristotle says, that the Pythagoreans, from the contrasts which number suggests, collected ten principles,-Limited and Unlimited, Odd and Even, One and Many, Right and Left, Male and Female, Rest and Motion, Straight and Curved, Light and Darkness, Good and Evil, Square and Oblong. We shall see hereafter, that Aristotle himself deduced the doctrine of Four Elements, and other dogmas, by oppositions of the same kind.
The physical speculator of the present day will learn without surprise, that such a mode of discussion as this, led to no truths of real or permanent value. The whole mass of the Greek philosophy, therefore, shrinks into an almost imperceptible compass, when viewed with reference to the progress of physical knowledge. Still the general character of this system, and its fortunes from the time of its founders to the overthrow of their authority, are not without their instruction, and, it may be hoped, not without their interest. I proceed, therefore, to give some account of these doctrines in their most fully developed and permanently received form, that in which they were presented by Aristotle.
Sect, 2.—The Aristotelian Physical Philosophy.
The principal physical treatises of Aristotle are, the eight Books of “ Physical Lectures,” the four Books “Of the Heavens,” the two Books “ Of Production and Destruction :" for the Book “Of the World” is now universally acknowledged to be spurious; and the “Meteorologics,” though full of physical explanations of natural phenomena, does not exhibit the doctrines and reasonings of the school in so general a form; the same may be said of the “ Mechanical Problems." The treatises on the various subjects of Natural History, “ On Animals," " On the Parts of Animals," "On Plants," " On Physiognomonics,” “On Colors," " On Sound,” contain an extraordinary accumu
6 Timæus, p. 80. VOL. I.-5
• Metaph. I. 5.
lation of facts, and manifest a wonderful power of systematizing ; but are not works which expound principles, and therefore do not require to be here considered.
The Physical Lectures are possibly the work concerning which a well-known anecdote is related by Simplicius, a Greek commentator of the sixth century, as well as by Plutarch. It is said, that Alexander the Great wrote to his former tutor to this effect; “You have not done well in publishing these lectures; for how shall we, your pupils, excel other men, if you make that public to all, which we learnt from you?” To this Aristotle is said to have replied : “My Lectures are published and not published; they will be intelligible to those who heard them, and to none besides.” This may very easily be a story invented and circulated among those who found the work beyond their comprehension; and it cannot be denied, that to make out the meaning and reasoning of every part, would be a task very laborious and difficult, if not impossible. But we may follow the import of a large portion of the Physical Lectures with sufficient clearness to apprehend the character and principles of the reasoning; and this is what I shall endeavor to do.
The author's introductory statement of his view of the nature of philosophy falls in very closely with what has been said, that he takes his facts and generalizations as they are implied in the structure of language. “ We must in all cases proceed,” he says, “from what is known to what is unknown." This will not be denied; but we can hardly follow him in his inference. He adds, “We must proceed, therefore, from universal to particular. And something of this," he pursues, “ may be seen in language; for names siguify things in a general and indefinite manner, as circle, and by defining we unfold them into particulars.” He illustrates this by saying, “ thus children at first call all men father, and all women mother, but afterwards distinguish."
In accordance with this view, he endeavors to settle several of the great questions concerning the universe, which had been started among subtle and speculative men, by unfolding the meaning of the words and phrases which are applied to the most general notions of things and relations. We have already noticed this method. A few examples will illustrate it further :- Whether there was or was not a void, or place without matter, had already been debated among rival sects of philosophers. The antagonist arguments were briefly these :-There must be a void, because a body cannot move into a space except it is
empty, and therefore without a void there could be no motion :-and, on the other hand, there is no void, for the interval between bodies are filled with air, and air is something. These opinions had even been supported by reference to experiment. On the one hand, Anaxagorus and his school had shown, that air, when confined, resisted compression, by squeezing a blown bladder, and pressing down an inverted vessel in the water; on the other hand, it was alleged that a vessel full of fine ashes held as much water as if the ashes were not there, which could only be explained by supposing void spaces among the ashes. Aristotle decides that there is no void, on such arguments as this ::—In a void there could be no difference of up and down; for as in nothing there are no differences, so there are none in a privation or negation; but a void is merely a privation or negation of matter; therefore, in a void, bodies could not move up and down, which it is in their nature to do. It is easily seen that such a mode of reasoning elevates the familiar forms of language and the intellectual connections of terms, to a supremacy over facts; making truth depend upon whether terms are or are not privative, and whether we say that bodies fall naturally. In such a philosophy every new result of observation would be compelled to conform to the usual combinations of phrases, as these had become associated by the modes of apprehension previously familiar.
It is not intended here to intimate that the common modes of apprehension, which are the basis of common language, are limited and casual. They imply, on the contrary, universal and necessary conditions of our perceptions and conceptions; thus all things are necessarily apprehended as existing in Time and Space, and as connected by relations of Cause and Effect; and so far as the Aristotelian philosophy reasons from these assumptions, it has a real foundation, though even in this case the conclusions are often insecure. We have an example of this reasoning in the eighth Book,' where he proves that there never was a time in which change and motion did not exist; "For if all things were at rest, the first motion must have been produced by some change in some of these things; that is, there must have been a change before the first change;" and again,“ How can before and after apply when time is not ? or how can time be when motion is not? If,” he adds, " time is a numeration of motion, and it time be eternal, motion must be eternal.” But he sometimes intro
7 Physic. Ausc. iv. 7, p. 215.
& Ib. viii. 1, p. 258
duces principles of a more arbitrary character; and besides the general relations of thought, takes for granted the inventions of previous speculators; such, for instance, as the then commonly received opinions concerning the frame of the world. From the assertion that motion is eternal, proved in the manner just stated, Aristotle proceeds by a curious train of reasoning, to identify this eternal motion with the diurnal motion of the heavens. “There must,” he says, “be something which is the First Mover :"9 this follows from the relation of causes and effects. Again, “ Motion must go on constantly, and, therefore, must be either continuous or successive. Now what is continuous is more properly said to take place constantly, than what is successive. Also the continuous is better ; but we always suppose that which is better to take place in nature, if it be possible. The motion of the First Mover will, therefore, be continuous, if such an eternal motion be possible.” We here see the vague judgment of better and worse introduced, as that of natural and unnatural was before, into physical reasonings.
I proceed with Aristotle's argument. “We have now, therefore, to show that there may be an infinite single, continuous motion, and that this is circular.” This is, in fact, proved, as may readily be conceived, from the consideration that a body may go on perpetually revolving uniformly in a circle. And thus we have a demonstration, on the principles of this philosophy, that there is and must be a First Mover, revolving eternally with a uniform circular motion.
Though this kind of philosophy may appear too trifling to deserve being dwelt upon, it is important for our purpose so far as to exemplify it, that we may afterwards advance, confident that we have done it no injustice.
I will now pass from the doctrines relating to the motions of the heavens, to those which concern the material elements of the universe. And here it may be remarked that the tendency (of which we are here tracing the development) to extract speculative opinions from the relations of words, must be very natural to man; for the very widely accepted doctrine of the Four Elements which appears to be founded on the opposition of the adjectives hot and cold, wet and dry, is much older than Aristotle, and was probably one of the earliest of philosophical dogmas. The great master of this philosophy, however, puts the opinion in a more systematic manner than his predecessors.
• Physic. Ausc. viii. 6. p. 258.
10 Ib. vüi. 8.