Images de page

who are so much burthened with this difficulty; viz. that they may, if they please, suppose the souls of brutes, being but so many particular eradiations or effluxes from that source of life above, whensoever and wheresoever there is any fitly prepared matter capable to receive them, and to be actuated by them, to have a sense and fruition of themselves in it, so long as it continues such; but as soon as ever those organized bodies of theirs, by reason of their indisposition, become incapable of being further acted upon by them, then to be resumed again and retracted back to their original head and fountain.

As for the bodies of animals, Aristotle first resolves in general, that nature in them is either the whole soul, or else some part of it; "Nature, as the moving principle, or as that which acts artificially for ends (so far as concerns the bodies of animals,) is either the whole soul, or else some part of it."

And that there is plastic Nature in the souls of animals, he elsewhere affirms and proves after this manner; 66 What is that, which, in the bodies of animals, holds together such things as, of their own nature, would otherwise move contrary ways, and fly asunder, as fire and earth, which would be distracted and dissipated, the one tending upwards, the other downwards, were there not something to hinder them? Now if there be any such thing, this must be the soul, which is also the cause of nourishment and augmentation."

Besides this plastic Nature, which is in animals, forming their several bodies artificially, as so many microcosms, or little worlds, there must be also a general plastic Nature in the macrocosm, the whole corporeal Universe, that which makes all things thus to conspire every where, and agree together into one harmony. Concerning which plastic nature of the Universe, Aristotle says; "It seemeth, that as there is art in artificial things, so in the things of Nature there is another such like principle or cause, which we ourselves partake of; in the same manner as we do of heat and cold, from the Universe. Wherefore it is more probable, that the whole world was at first made by such a cause as this (if at least it were made) and that it is still conserved by the same, than that

mortal animal should be so; for there is much more of order and determinate regularity in the heavenly bodies than in ourselves; but more of fortuitousness and inconstant irregularity among these mortal things. Wherefore, it is manifest, that there is some such thing as that which we call Nature ;"—that is, that there is not only an artificial, methodical, and plastic Nature in animals, by which their respective bodies are framed and conserved; but also, that there is such a general plastic Nature likewise in the Universe, by which the heavens and whole world are thus artificially ordered and disposed.

Now as Aristotle, in the forecited words, tells us, that we partake of life and understanding from that in the Universe, after the same manner as we partake of heat and cold from that heat and cold that is in the Universe; it is observable, that this was a notion borrowed from Socrates (as we understand both from Xenophon and Plato ;) that philosopher having used it as an argumentation to prove a Deity.

Aristotle thus sums up: It hath been delivered down to us from very ancient times, that the stars are gods also; besides that supreme Deity, which contains the whole Nature. But all the other things were fabulously added hereunto, for the better persuasion of the multitude, and for utility of human life and political ends, to keep men in obedience to civil laws. As, for example, that these gods are of human form, or like to other animals; with such other things as are consequent hereupon.


[ocr errors]



From the Encyclopedia Britannica; Ed. III. Art. Metaphysics. None of the Philosophers of ancient Greece appear to have believed a creation posssible; for it was a maxim universally received among them,

De nihilo nihil fit, in nil posse reverti ;

Nothing can come from nonentity, or go to nonentity. For instance, when Aristotle writes of Parmenides and Melissus, "they say that no real entity is either made or destroyed;" what can be his meaning, but that those philosophers taught that nothing could be either created or annihilated? He testifies the same thing of Xenophanes and Xeno, when he says that it was a fundamental principle of their philosophy, "that it is impossible that any thing should be made out of nothing". And of Empedocles, also, "that he acknowledges the very same thing with other philosophers, viz. that it is impossible that any thing should be made out of nothing." But it is needless to multiply quotations respecting the opinions of single philosophers. Of all the physiologers before himself and Plato, Aristotle says, without exception, "That they agree in this opinion, that it is impossible that any thing should be made out of nothing;" and he calls this the common principle of naturalists; plainly intimating, that they consider it as the greatest absurdity to suppose that any real entity in Nature could either be brought from nothing or reduced to nothing.

Those who maintained that the world was uncreated, maintained upon the same principle that their souls were uncreated likewise; and as they conceived all bodies to be formed of one first matter, so they conceived all souls to be either emanations from the one first mind, or discerpted parts of it. Aristotle, who distinguishes between the intellectual and sensitive souls, says expressly of the former, that "it enters from without, and is divine;" adding this reason for his opinion, that, its "energy is not blended with that of the body." As to the Stoics, Cleanthes held (as Stobæus informs us,) that, "every thing was made out of one, and would be again resolved

into one." But let Seneca speak for them all: "Why should you not believe something to be divine in him, who is indeed part of God? That whole in which we are contained in one, and that one is God; we being his companions and members." Epictetus says, "The souls of men have the nearest relation to God, as being parts or fragments of him, discerpted and torn from his substance." Plato writes to the very same purpose, when, without any softening, he frequently calls the soul God, and part of God. And Plutarch says, that "Pythagoras and Plato held the soul to be immortal; for that, launching out into the soul of the Universe, it returns to its parent and original." Plutarch declares his own opinion to be, that "the soul is not so much the work and produc tion of God, as a part of him; nor is it made by him, but from him, and out of him." But it is needless to multiply quotations. Cicero delivers the common sentiments of his Greek masters on this head, when he says, "As it has appeared to the most learned and most wise men, we have our souls drawn, or torn, or poured out from the nature of the Gods." "The human soul, discerpted or separated from the divine, can be compared with nothing but God himself."

Whilst the philosophers were thus unanimous in maintaining the soul to be a part of the self-existent substance, they differ in opinion, or at least expressed themselves differently, as to the mode of its separation from its divine parent. Cicero and the Stoics talk as if the supreme mind were extended, and as if the human soul were a part literally torn from that mind, as a limb can be torn from the body. The Pythagoreans and Platonists seem to have considered all souls as emanations from the divine substance rather than as parts torn from it, much in the same way as rays of light are emanations from the sun. Plato, in particular, believed in two self-existent principles, God and matter. The former he considered as the supreme intelligence, incorporeal, without beginning, end, or change; and distinguished it by the appel lation of to agathon, the Good. Matter, as subsisting from eternity, he considered as without any one form or quality whatever, and as having a natural tendency to

disorder. Of this chaotic mass, God formed a perfect world, after the eternal pattern in his own mind, and endowed it with a soul or emanation from himself. In the language of Plato, therefore, the Universe being animated by a scul which proceeds from God, is called the son of God; and several parts of Nature, particularly the heavenly bodies, are gods. The human soul, according to him, is derived by emanation from God, through the intervention of this soul of the world; and receding farther from the first intelligence, it is inferior in perfection to the soul of the world, though even that soul is debased by some material admixture.

Aristotle taught, in terms equally expressive, that the human soul is a part of God, and of course that its substance is of eternal and necessary existence. Some of his followers, indeed, although they acknowledged two first principles, the active and the passive, yet held, with the Stoics, but one substance in the Universe; and to reconcile these two contradictory propositions, they were obliged to suppose matter to be both active and passive. Their doctrine on this subject is thus delivered by Cicero ; They divided Nature into two things, as the first principle; one whereof is the efficient or artificer, the other that which offers itself to him for things to be made out of it. In the efficient principle, they acknowledged active force; in the passive, a certain matter; but so, that in each, both of these were together; forasmuch as neither the matter could cohere together unless it were contained by some active force, nor the active force subsist of itself without matter; because that is nothing which may not be compelled to be somewhere. Agreea bly to this strange doctrine, Arrian, the interpreter of Epictetus, says of himself, "I am a man (a part of the to pan or Universe,) as an hour is part of the day."

Aristotle himself is generally supposed to have believed in the eternal existence of two substances, mind and matter; but treating of the generation of animals, he says, "In the Universe there is a certain animal heat, so as that after a manner, all things are full of mind; wherefore they are quickly completed (or made complete animals) when they have received a portion of that heat."

« PrécédentContinuer »