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It remains to glance at another aspect of the dialectic method first developed on a great scale by Plato, and first fully defined by Aristotle, but already playing a certain part in the Socratic teaching. This is the testing of common assumptions by pushing them to their logical conclusion, and rejecting those which lead to consequences inconsistent with themselves. So understood, dialectic means the complete elimination of inconsistency, and has ever since remained the most powerful weapon of philosophical criticism. To take an instance near at hand, it is constantly employed by thinkers so radically different as Mr. Herbert Spencer and Professor T. H. Green; while it has been generalised into an objective law of Nature and history, with dazzling though only momentary success, by Hegel and his school.

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To the objection that his suspensive attitude would render action impossible, Arcesilaus replied that any mental representation was sufficient to set the will in motion; and that, in choosing between different courses, probability was the most rational means of determination. But the task of reducing probable evidence to a system was reserved for a still abler dialectician, who did not appear on the scene until a century after his time. Arcesilaus is commonly called the founder of the Middle, Carneades the founder of the New Academy. The distinction is, however, purely nominal. Carneades founded nothing. His principles were identical with those of his predecessor; and his claim to be considered the greatest of the Greek sceptics is due to his having given those principles a wider application and a more systematic development. The Stoics regarded it as a special dispensation of providence149 that Chrysippus, the organising genius of their school, should have come between its two most formidable opponents, being thus placed in a position to answer the objections of the one and to refute by anticipation those of the other.232 It might seem to less prejudiced observers that the thinker whose cause benefited most by this arrangement was Carneades. Parodying a well-known iambic, he used to say:.
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With regard to the universal soul of Nature, there is, indeed, no difficulty at all. In giving a sensible realisation to the noetic ideas, she suffers no degradation or pollution by contact with the lower elements of matter. Enthroned on the outer verge of the cosmos, she governs the whole course of Nature by a simple exercise of volition, and in the enjoyment of a felicity which remains undisturbed by passion or desire. But just as we have seen the supreme Nous resolving itself into a multitude of individual intelligences, so also does the cosmic soul produce many lesser or partial souls of which our own is one. Now these derivative souls cannot all be equal, for that would be to defeat the purpose of creation, which is to realise all the possibilities of creation from the highest to the lowest. Thus each has an office corresponding to her place in the scale of perfection.452 We may say of the human soul that she stoops to conquer. Her mission is to cope with the more recalcitrant forms of matter. It is to the struggle with their impurities that the troubles and passions of our life are due. By yielding to earthly temptations, we suffer a second fall, and one much more real than the first; by overcoming them, as is perfectly in our power to do, we give scope and exercise to faculties which would otherwise307 have remained dormant and unknown. Moreover, our soul retains the privilege of returning to her former abode, enriched by the experience acquired in this world, and with that clearer perception of good which the knowledge of its opposite alone can supply. Nay, paradoxical as the assertion may seem, she has not entirely descended to earth, but remains in partial communication with the noetic world by virtue of her reasoning faculty; that is to say, when its intuitions are not darkened and disturbed by the triumph of sensuous impressions over the lower soul. On this and on many other occasions, Plotinus betrays a glimmering consciousness that his philosophy is purely subjective, and that its attempted transcendentalism is, in truth, a projection of psychological distinctions into the external world. Starting with the familiar division of human nature into body, soul, and spirit (or reason), he endeavours to find an objective counterpart for each. Body is represented by the material universe, soul by the animating principle of Nature, reason by the extramundane Nous. Under these three heads is comprised the totality of real existence; but existence itself has to be accounted for by a principle lying above and beyond it, which has still to be obtained by an effort of abstraction from the data that self-consciousness supplies.453.
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Bruno himself acted as a mediator between the two philo384sophies. His sympathies with Platonism were strongly pronounced, he looked with admiration on its mediaeval supporters, especially David of Dinan; and regretted the time when Oxford was a focus of realistic teaching, instead of being what he found her, devoted to the pedantic humanism of the Renaissance.547 He fully accepted the pantheistic conclusions towards which Platonism always tended; but in proclaiming an absolute principle whence all specific differences are evolved, he is careful to show that, while it is neither Form nor Matter in the ordinary sense, it may be called Matter in the more refined signification attached to that term by Plotinus and, indeed, by Aristotle himself. There is a common substance underlying all abstract essences, just as there is a common substance left behind when the sensible qualities of different bodies are stripped off; and both are, at bottom, the same. Thus monism became the banner round which the older forms of Greek speculation rallied in their assault on Aristotle鈥檚 philosophy, though what monism implied was as yet very imperfectly understood.?
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But neither when he left the darkling womb,.
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VI.
On Alexander鈥檚 departure for the East, Aristotle returned to Athens, where he now placed himself at the head of a new philosophical school. The ensuing period of thirteen years288 was fully occupied by the delivery of public lectures, and by the composition of those encyclopaedic writings which will preserve his memory for ever, along, perhaps, with many others which have not survived. Like Anaxagoras, he was not allowed to end his days in the city of his adoption. His youthful attacks on Isocrates had probably made him many enemies among that rhetor鈥檚 pupils. It is supposed by Grote, but warmly disputed by Zeller, that his trenchant criticisms on Plato had excited a similar animosity among the sectaries of the Academy.178 Anyhow, circumstances had unavoidably associated him with the detested Macedonian party, although his position, as a metic, or resident alien, debarred him from taking any active part in politics. With Alexander鈥檚 death the storm broke loose. A charge was trumped up against Aristotle, on the strength of his unlucky poem in honour of Hermeias, which was described as an insult to religion. That such an accusation should be chosen is characteristic of Athenian bigotry, even should there be no truth in the story that certain philosophical opinions of his were likewise singled out for prosecution. Before the case came on for trial, Aristotle availed himself of the usual privilege allowed on such occasions, and withdrew to Chalcis, in order, as he said, that the Athenians need not sin a second time against philosophy. But his constitution, naturally a feeble one, was nearly worn out. A year afterwards he succumbed to a stomach complaint, aggravated, if not produced, by incessant mental application. His contemporary, Demosthenes, perished about the same time, and at the same age, sixty-two. Within little more than a twelvemonth the world had lost its three greatest men; and after three centuries of uninterrupted glory, Hellas was left unrepresented by a single individual of commanding genius.
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21 August, 2019 - 13:08
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