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The nature of dialectic is still further elucidated in the Phaedrus, where it is also contrasted with the method, or rather the no-method, of popular rhetoric. Here, again, discussions about love are chosen as an illustration. A discourse on the subject by no less a writer than Lysias is quoted and shown to be deficient in the most elementary requisites of logical exposition. The different arguments are strung together without any principle of arrangement, and ambiguous terms are used without being defined. In insisting on the necessity of definition, Plato followed Socrates; but he defines according to a totally different method. Socrates had arrived at his general notions partly by a comparison of particular instances with a view to eliciting the points where they agreed, partly by amending the conceptions already in circulation. We have seen that the earliest Dialogues attributed to Plato are one long exposure of the difficulties attending such a procedure; and his subsequent investigations all went to prove that nothing solid could be built on such shifting foundations as sense and opinion. Meanwhile increasing familiarity with the great ontological systems had taught him to begin with the most general notions, and to work down from them to the most particular. The consequence was that dialectic came to mean nothing but classification or logical division. Definition was absorbed into this process, and reasoning by syllogism was not yet differentiated from it. To tell what a thing was, meant to fix its place in the universal order of existence, and its individual existence was sufficiently accounted for by the same determination. If we imagine first a series of concentric circles, then a series of contrasts symmetrically disposed on either side of a central dividing line, and finally a series of transitions descending from the most absolute unity to the most irregular diversity鈥攚e shall, by combining the three schemes, arrive at some understanding of the Platonic dialectic. To assign anything its place in these various sequences was at once to define it and to demonstrate the necessity of222 its existence. The arrangement is also equivalent to a theory of final causes; for everything has a function to perform, marked out by its position, and bringing it into relation with the universal order. Such a system would inevitably lead to the denial of evil, were not evil itself interpreted as the necessary correlative of good, or as a necessary link in the descending manifestations of reality. Moreover, by virtue of his identifying principle, Plato saw in the lowest forms a shadow or reflection of the highest. Hence the many surprises, concessions, and returns to abandoned positions which we find in his later writings. The three moments of Greek thought, circumscription, antithesis, and mediation, work in such close union, or with such bewildering rapidity of alternation, through all his dialectic, that we are never sure whither he is leading us, and not always sure that he knows it himself.

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The mere fact that Aristotle himself had pronounced in favour of the geocentric system did not count for much. The misfortune was that he had constructed an entire physical philosophy in harmony with it; that he had linked this to his metaphysics; and that the sensible experience on whose authority he laid so much stress, seemed to testify in its behalf. The consequence was that those thinkers who, without being professed Aristotelian partisans, still remained profoundly affected by the Peripatetic spirit, could not see their way to accepting a theory with which all the hopes of intellectual progress were bound up. These considerations will enable us to understand the attitude of Bacon towards the new astronomy; while, conversely, his position in this respect will serve to confirm the view of his character set forth in382 the preceding pages. The theory, shared by him with Aristotle, that Nature is throughout composed of Form and Matter reached its climax in the supposition that the great elementary bodies are massed together in a series of concentric spheres disposed according to some principle of graduation, symmetry, or contrast; and this seemed incompatible with any but a geocentric arrangement. It is true that Bacon quarrelled with the particular system maintained by Aristotle, and, under the guidance of Telesio, fell back on a much cruder form of cosmography; but his mind still remained dominated by the fancied necessity of conceiving the universe under the form of a stratified sphere; and those who persist in looking on him as the apostle of experience will be surprised to find that he treated the subject entirely from an 脿 priori point of view. The truth is that Bacon exemplified, in his own intellectual character, every one of the fundamental fallacies which he has so picturesquely described. The unwillingness to analyse sensible appearances into their ideal elements was his Idol of the Tribe; the thirst for material utilities was his Idol of the Den: the uncritical acceptance of Aristotle鈥檚 metaphysics, his Idol of the Theatre; and the undefined notions associated with induction, his Idol of the Market..
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We have said, in comparing him with his predecessors, that the Stagirite unrolled Greek thought from a solid into a continuous surface. We have now to add that he gave his surface the false appearance of a solid by the use of shadows, and of a?rial perspective. In other words, he made the indication of his own ignorance and confusion do duty for depth and distance. For to say that a thing is developed out of its possibility, merely means that it is developed out of something, the nature of which we do not know. And to speak about such possibilities as imperfect existences, or matter, or whatever else Aristotle may be pleased to call them, is simply constructing the universe, not out of our ideas, but out of our absolute want of ideas..
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Nevertheless Bacon鈥檚 own attitude towards final causes differs essentially from Descartes鈥. The French mathematician, had he spoken his whole mind, would probably have denied their existence altogether. The English reformer fully admits their reality, as, with his Aristotelian theory of Forms, he could hardly avoid doing; and we find that he actually associates the study of final with that of formal causes, assigning both to metaphysics as its peculiar province. This being so, his comparative neglect of the former is most easily explained by the famous comparison of teleological enquiries to vestal virgins, dedicated to the service of God and bearing no offspring; for Mr. Ellis has made it perfectly clear that the barrenness alluded to is not scientific but industrial. Our knowledge is extended when we trace the workings of a divine purpose in Nature; but this is not a kind of knowledge which bears fruit in useful mechanical inventions.553 Bacon probably felt that men would not be very forward to improve on Nature if they believed in the perfection of her works and in their beneficent adaptation to our wants. The teleological spirit was as strong with him as with Aristotle, but it took a different direction. Instead of studying the adaptation of means to ends where it already existed, he wished men to create it for themselves. But the utilitarian tendency, which predominated with Bacon, was quite exceptional with Descartes. Speaking generally, he desired knowledge for its own sake, not as an instrument for the gratification of other wants; and this intellectual disinterestedness was, perhaps, another aspect of the severance effected between thought and matter.
21 August, 2019 - 13:08
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21 August, 2019 - 13:08
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