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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

Aristotle investigates in the books of Physics


As

would appear from this statement, Aristotle has never fully developed the idea of his absolute spirit, and still less has he harmonized it with the fundamental principles and demands of his philosophy, although many consequences of his system would seem to drive him to this, and numerous principles which he has laid down would seem to prepare the way for it. This idea is unexpectedly introduced in the twelfth book of the Metaphysics simply as an assertion, without being farther and inductively substantiated. It is at once attended with important difficulties. We do not see why the ultimate ground of motion or the absolute spirit must be conceived as a personal being; we do not see how any thing can he a moving cause and yet itself unmoved; how it can be the origin of all becoming, that is of the departing and arising, and itself remain a changeless energy, a principle of motion with no potentiality to be moved, for the moving thing must stand in a relation of passive and active with the thing moved. Moreover, Aristotle, as would follow from these contradictory determinations, has never thoroughly and consistently determined the relation between God and the world. He has considered the absolute spirit only as contemplative and theoretical reason, from whom all action must be excluded because he is perfect end in himself, but every action presupposes an end not yet perfected; we have thus no true motive for his activity in reference to the world. He cannot be truly called the first
mover in his theoretical relation alone, and since he is in his essence extra-mundane and unmoved, he cannot once permeate the life of the world with his activity; and since also matter on one side never rises wholly to form, we have, therefore, here again the unreconciled dualism between the Divine spirit and the unmistakable reality of matter. Many of the arguments which Aristotle brings against the gods of Anaxagoras may be urged against his own theory.

IV. THE ARISTOTELIAN PHYSICS.--The Aristotelian Physics, which embraces the greater portion of his writings, follows the becoming and the building up of matter into form, the course through which nature as a living being progresses in order to become individual soul. All becoming has an end; but end is form, and the absolute form is spirit. With perfect consistency, therefore, Aristotle regards the human individual of the male sex as the end and the centre of earthly nature in its realized form. All else beneath the moon is, as it were, an unsuccessful attempt of nature to produce the male human, a superfluity which arises from the impotence of nature to subdue the whole of matter and bring it into form. Every thing which does not gain the universal end of nature must be regarded as incomplete, and is properly an exception or abortion. For instance, he calls it an abortion when a child does not resemble its father; and the female child he looks upon as an abortion in a less degree, which he accounts for by the insufficient energy of the male as the forming principle. In general, Aristotle regards the female as imperfect in comparison with the male, an imperfection which belongs in a higher degree to all animals except man. If nature did her work with perfect consciousness, then were all these mistakes, these incomplete and improper formations inexplicable, but she is an artist working only after an unconscious impulse, and does not complete her work with a clear and rational insight.

1. The universal conditions of all natural existence, _motion_, _matter_, _space_ and _time_, Aristotle investigates in the books of Physics. These physical conceptions may, moreover, be reduced to the metaphysical notions of potentiality and actuality; motion is accordingly defined as the activity of being potentially, and is therefore a mean between the merely potential entity and the perfectly realized activity;--space is the possibility of motion and possesses, therefore, potentially, though not actively, the property of infinite divisibility; time is in the same way the infinitely divisible, expressing the measure of motion in number, and is the number of motion according to before and after. All three are infinite, but the infinite which is represented in them is only potentially but not actually a whole: it comprehends nothing, but is itself comprehended,--a fact mistaken by those who are accustomed to extol the infinite as though it comprehended and held every thing in itself, because it had some similarity with the whole.


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