To put it otherwise, we know any thing or being, only when we discern all the elements that are necessary to it in their distinction and in their relation; and we can recognise it as a real whole or individual substance, only in so far as these distinctions and relations are determined by one idea or principle. In short, it is just the determination of all its properties by one universal principle that makes us separate it from other things and beings as a true individual; and on the other hand, if, and so far as, its character be determined by external or accidental relations to other things, it is imperfectly individualised.
This, of course, implies that ultimately there is no existence which is universal and none which is individual in the highest sense of these words, except the universe as a whole, or the divine Being who is its principle. But it also implies that no existence can have individuality even in a relative sense, except in so far as it has universality, that is, in so far as all its aspects are determined by one idea; and that no existence can have universality, unless it is self-determined and individual. Now, just in so far as the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle can be taken in this latter sense, there is no real opposition between them; while, if they can only be taken in the former sense, they must be regarded as wholly irreconcileable.
The truth may perhaps best be expressed by saying that, to one who takes their first words in their most obvious sense, Plato and Aristotle seem respectively to begin with the abstract universal and the abstract individual, but that in their most developed doctrine they substitute for these what we may call the concrete universal and the concrete individual.
This is partly hidden from us by the fact that Aristotle seems often to take Plato in his lowest sense, as many later writers have taken Aristotle in his lowest sense. In his criticisms may be isolated by abstraction, but which have no independent reality apart from each other, or from the concrete existence in which they are elements. It is true that he treats each of these substances as having a specific principle realised in it, but he draws a broad line of separation between the properties which belong to it in virtue of this specific principle, and the accidents which come to it from the peculiar character of its matter or from its external relations to other things.
Nor does he seem to admit that there is any point of view from which these accidents shall be conceived as themselves the manifestation of a higher necessity. In other words, he does not realise that what, in view of the principle realised in a particular substance, might be regarded as accidental, may be necessary from the point of view of some larger whole, in which it is contained. Yet such isolation of the individual involves exactly the same error as the Platonic isolation of the universal. And this leads me to point out what may be regarded as the common source of the errors of the Platonic and the Aristotelian philosophies.
This is that both Plato and Aristotle start with presuppositions, which they are unable either to explain or to explain away: Plato, with the presupposition of a given multiplicity which he seeks to reduce to unity; Aristotle, with the presupposition of a confused unity or continuity 4 which he is never able distinctly to resolve into its elements or to show to be individually determined in all its parts.
The result is that, in both cases, that which is regarded as the ideal of knowledge, and, therefore, as the supreme reality, cannot be recognised as the truth or reality of the world of our immediate experience. In that world, according to Plato, we fail to find the pure manifestation of the universal truth, which yet everything seems to suggest; and when, in our practical endeavours, we seek to realise that universal Good, which is ultimately the object of all our desires, what we attain must always fall short of what we think.
In like manner, according to Aristotle, what we require for our intellectual satisfaction is demonstrative system; it is to resolve the world into a multitude of individual substances, each of which is determined in all its properties by one principle; but what we find is a multitude of imperfect specimens of each specific kind, none of which is free from accidental modifications.
And, again, in the sphere of practical reason we are met by the same contradiction of the ideal and the actual; for, while it is the chief end of man to realise himself as a rational being, to turn his life into a perfectly ordered whole in which every activity plays its proper part, he has to work out this ideal in the contingent matter of an individual human existence, and under the influence of passions which can never be entirely subjected to reason.
Yet on the other hand, that which in this world appears as the ideal which man must seek to find or to produce is, for both Plato and Aristotle, the supreme reality.
For Plato, the Idea of Good is the unity of being and knowing, it is the idea which sums up all other ideas in itself, or it is the intelligence in which all other intelligences are embraced: but, as such, it is essentially separated from the finite world, and from the psychical as well as the corporeal existence of men. In like manner, the divine or absolute Being is for Aristotle a pure self-determined, self-contemplating reason, which can be grasped only by the pure intelligence of man, and can hardly be distinguished therefrom.
As such, God is the first mover and the final end of the universe; yet, as we shall see, Aristotle has great difficulty in connecting him with the finite at all, and only succeeds in doing so by a metaphysical tour de force. And, as his conception of matter, as the necessary basis of existence in this world of finitude and change, is more positive than Plato's, the ultimate result of his system is even more decidedly dualistic than that of his master.
This last point, however, is a subject of much controversy, and in order to deal with it fairly, it will be necessary to consider Aristotle's main lines of thought in two opposite aspects. I shall endeavour, therefore, to show that Aristotle goes much beyond Plato in the fulness and definiteness with which he works out his idealistic system; and yet that, in doing so, he makes concessions to a dualistic mode of thinking which are greater than anything admitted by Plato.
The advance which Aristotle makes upon Plato lies mainly in two directions. In the first place, his individualistic tendency brings with it a greater respect for immediate experience: it saves him to a great extent from the dangers of a too rapid synthesis, and it keeps alive his curiosity for all the details of existence where no synthesis is yet possible. Aristotle is no mere empiricist; he is well aware that we must go beyond immediate experience to know things as they really are; but he has nothing of that impatience with particular phenomena, and that desire at once to get away from them to general principles, which was the main weakness of Plato.
Plato had, indeed, to a certain extent, maintained the rights of opinion, that is, of our immediate empirical consciousness, but Aristotle does much more. His collections of empirical data, especially in biology, ethics, and politics, greatly widen the area of scientific enquiry; and his constant effort to mark out the different spheres of knowledge and to find the principles appropriate to each sphere, exhibits a great advance upon a method of philosophising which brought all things at once within the scope of its grand generalisations.
The difficulty with Aristotle is rather that each science or department of philosophy is treated so independently, and with so little reference to the others, that it is often hard to see how the various researches can be combined into one whole. To this formal improvement in the method of science, another of even more importance has to be added. The ideas of organism and development, indeed, were not quite alien to Plato: they were partly involved in his scheme of education based as it is on the idea of the latent rationality of opinion which it is the object of all philosophical teaching to bring to self-consciousness.
He saw clearly that the highest ideal for man is to become what potentially he is, to develop the capacities which are inherent in his nature. But Plato's almost exclusive occupation with the theoretical and practical interests of men caused him to neglect the relations between humanity and the lower forms of life, or, so far as he paid regard to them, to interpret the animal as a degraded and degenerated form of man. Hence all appearances of design in the products of nature were apt to be attributed to conscious purpose rather than to the working of an immanent teleological principle.
On the other hand, Aristotle recognises a purposive activity in all organised beings, an activity which is independent of consciousness, but which, in becoming conscious, does not essentially change its character. There is thus a correspondence or analogy running through all the steps of the scala naturae , connecting the unconscious life of plants with the relatively conscious life of animals, and the self-conscious life of man. For, in each case, there is an organising principle, which Aristotle calls the soul.
The Aristotelian idea of the soul is, indeed, a new and original conception: for in Plato the soul is not generally distinguished from the intelligence; and, though, in the Timaeus , it appears as the principle that combines the intelligence with the body, this mediation is little more than a word, and shows only that Plato felt the need of some connecting link, which he was unable from the resources of his philosophy to supply. Aristotle, on the other hand, grasps the idea of organism, and declares the soul to be the form which realises, or brings into activity and actuality, the capacities of an organic body.
Stroumsa on Maimonides. Greek Church Fathers Gutas on Avicenna It limits itself to intellectual demonstrations. We might call them the traditionalists. At least three accounts typical of his perspectival approach are usually included: there is his account in the On the soul, dealing with perception and mental processes, another in the Ethics on mental states preceding proper actions, and yet another one in Posterior Analytics on a formalised system of demonstration based on unmediated, true premises. Marenbon on Boethius.
Hence in his view the soul cannot exist without the body, nor the body without the soul. In short, on the first aspect of Aristotle's philosophy, and subject to a reservation in favour of the reason, soul and body seem to be taken by him as different but essentially correlated aspects of the life of one individual substance. Thus he rejects the Platonic idea that all souls are simply minds in various degrees of obscuration, owing to the nature of the bodies in which they are incorporated; and with it he repudiates the doctrine of transmigration, and, especially the transmigration of the soul of a man into the body of an animal.
In place of this doctrine, he substitutes the conception of a hierarchical order of psychical existence, in which the higher soul includes the lower, and reduces it into the basis or material of its own new principle of life. Each of the finite creatures is thus regarded as seeking for the divine, but able to realise it only within the limits of its own form.
Aiming at eternity, it is confined within the conditions of an individual existence which is finite and perishable, though it attains to a kind of image of eternity in the continuity of the species. It attains it, however, in a still higher way, in so far as its own limited life is made the basis of a higher life; till in the ascending scale we reach at last the rational life of man, who, at least in the pure activity of contemplation, can directly participate in the eternal and the divine.
So far the evolutionary conceptions of Aristotle seem to carry us beyond many of the difficulties of the Platonic theory, and to point towards a more complete idealism than Plato had ever imagined. For, if a philosopher be able to regard all nature as the realisation of an immanent design, which becomes more and more completely manifested the higher we rise in the scale of being; if, further, he be able to view the imperfect life of the lower orders of creatures as subordinated to the fuller existence of those which stand higher in that scale, it is natural to expect that in the last resort he will be able to regard all being as the manifestation or realisation of the perfectly self-determined life of God.
On this view accident could exist only from the point of view of the part, as separated from, and opposed to the whole; it would be eliminated more and more as we advance to the point of view of existences which are relatively more complete, and it would disappear altogether from the point of view of the divine centre of the whole system. Matter, as opposed to form, would become a relative conception, and the phenomenal world would simply be the real world imperfectly understood.
Such a view, however, we cannot attribute to Aristotle. Aristotle, in fact, while accepting the Platonic opposition of form to matter, gives to the latter a definite name, and a more distinct position than Plato had assigned to it. And in the Timaeus he seemed still farther to lower the character of phenomena by treating them as mere images or reflexions of true Being, explaining the appearance of substantial reality which they present by the spatial conditions which attach to such images.
The change of properties is, he argues, impossible, unless there be a substance which undergoes this change; and the genesis and decay of substances is impossible, unless there is something which passes from the one form of existence to the other. Hence, as all forms of being are changeable, we are ultimately driven by a necessary argument from analogy, to conceive pure matter as the ultimate substratum of all that movement or transitionary process to which finite things as such are subjected.
Matter is, therefore, the possibility of all things and the actuality of nothing; an idea which is made to seem less irrational by the doctrine that it never exists except under some elementary form. The Order of Aristotle's Psychological Writings. The American Journal of Philology , 82 1 , p.
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