Page images
PDF
EPUB

another very essential point, namely, that Aristotle thought the human reason to be something different in kind from the instinct of brutes and quite incapable of being developed out of lower perceptive functions. A detailed examination of Aristotle's psychology on this point, and a comparison of it with modern views, would have been very interesting; but Grote in his summary does not attempt it, he only aims at simple exposition. In fulfilling this task he strikes us by the great definiteness which he gives to Aristotle's theory by bringing in from other treatises and giving prominence to Aristotle's conception (not referred to by himself in his treatise On the Soul ') of the Celestial Body, or outer sphere of the Kosmos, as the seat of all divinity, and the source of the vitalising principle in all souls, and especially of the divine principle of Nous in man. In drawing this out he is perhaps more definite than Aristotle himself ever is, but we think that the inferences are on the whole legitimate, though many points in the theory still require elucidation. With regard, however, to the important question of the immortality of the soul, Grote makes deductions from Aristotle, and then seems to fasten them upon Aristotle as if Aristotle himself had drawn them. Thus he says (vol. ii. p. 233), 'We see here the full extent of Aristotle's difference

from the Platonic doctrine, in respect to the immortality of the soul. He had defined the soul as the first actualisation of ' a body having potentiality of life with a determinate organism. • This of course implied, and he expressly declares it, that soul • and body in each individual case were one and indivisible, so

that the soul of Sokrates perished of necessity with the body of Sokrates.' Grote to the word · Sokrates' here appends a foot-note referring the reader, without however quoting the words, as is his usual custom in important references, to * Aristot. De Animâ, 11. i. p. 413 a. 3.' He thus leaves those who do not verify the reference to suppose that Aristotle himself had drawn the above deduction about the soul and body of Socrates, whereas the inference is entirely Grote's, and what Aristotle really says in the passage referred to is something with almost an opposite bearing. The words are, * We cannot

· • doubt, then, that the soul is not separable from the body, or that certain parts of it are not, if it be made

up

of ' in regard to some of its parts it is the actuality of nothing else than the corresponding part of the body. Nothing, however, prevents that certain parts of it may be separable, as they are not the actualities of any bodily substance. And again, it is uncertain whether the soul be not the actuality of the ·body in the same way as the sailor is the actuality of his

[ocr errors]

6

parts, for boat.' Aristotle had been showing that the senses, while they are psychical functions, are also the functions of the bodily organs ; in regard to these, then, the soul is inseparable from the body, that is, the soul considered as a whole, with all the perceptive powers which it exhibits in this life, cannot have an independent existence. But Aristotle proceeds to say that there is nothing to prevent certain parts of the soul, which are not the functions of our material organisation, from existing independently of the body. By this he of course means the Nous, which he elsewhere tells us is introduced from without,

not being the result of organic conditions.' He goes on here to make the remarkable addition that after all it is uncertain • whether the soul be not related to the body as the sailor to

his boat.' It is very singular that Grote should have taken no notice of this striking sentence; it is introduced in supplement to, and possible modication of, former metaphors under which Aristotle had figured the relation of soul to body. He had said soul is to body as the sight to the eye, as the flower to the seed, as the impression of the seal to the wax on which it is stamped. He now throws out the final suggestion,

after all, I know not whether it be not as the sailor to his "boat.' He does not follow out this metaphor, or pronounce either for or against its appropriateness. Were it ratified it would be nothing less than an unqualified assertion of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, for the sailor, when his voyage is completed, steps ashore out of his boat. But Aristotle by leaving this conception as a possible one, shows at all events that he did not definitely and dogmatically assert, in the way in which Grote represents him to have asserted, that the soul perishes with the body.

Aristotle says nothing at all about the soul of Socrates, nor would he have been likely to make so blunt and ungracious an assertion as that which Grote attributes to him, in the face of Plato's • Phædo' and the sublime anticipations of a future life there put into the mouth of Socrates. In his · Ethics' (Eth. Nic. I. xi. 1) he declines even to affirm that the dead cannot be affected and made more or less happy by the fortunes of their descendants and friends upon earth, because this would seem a

heartless doctrine and opposed to general belief' (Alav a inov φαίνεται και ταϊς δόξαις εναντίον). Such a concession to popular feeling as this may prove nothing in itself as to Aristotle's belief about the soul after death, but it proves at all events the ten

6

* "Ετι δε άδηλον εί ούτως εντελέχεια του σώματος ή ψυχή ώσπερ πλωτήρ πλοίου.

was

derness with which he treats so important a question. In his earlier life, B.C. 354, when he was about thirty years of age, Aristotle had written a dialogue, now unfortunately lost, on the immortality of the soul. It was entitled Eudemus,' and

on the occasion of the death of his friend and fellowstudent of that name—a refugee from the island of Cyprus, and not to be confounded with his scholar and posthumous editor, Eudemus of Rhodes. The Cyprian Eudemus, being grievously sick in the town of Pheræ, saw a vision which imparted to him three prophecies: first that he would recover from his sickness; second that Alexander the tyrant of Pheræ would shortly die; third that in five years he would be restored to his home. The two first prophecies received immediate fulfilment; and when the appointed five years were nearly concluded, Eudemus and his friends looked out for some chance which should restore him to Cyprus, in accomplishment of the third prediction. At this period Eudemus fell in battle at Syracuse, and thus in another sense he was 'restored to his • home.' Such a circumstance would form an excellent motif to a discourse on the state of the soul after death, though of course it would be out of the question that it should be used by a friend of the deceased as an occasion for impugning the doctrine of immortality. The fragments which remain of Aristotle's dialogue Eudemus' (see Bernays, pp. 21, 143) prove that his object partly was to show that it was possible to hold that doctrine without accepting the theory of Ideas, with which Plato had connected it. His conclusion appears to have been that the Nous of man is immortal, and there is no appearance of his ever having abandoned that view. In the · Metaphysics’ (x1. iii. 6) he says, ' About the ultimate permanence of some things there can be no difficulty, as for instance, suppose we say the soul-not all the soul, but the Nous, for ‘perhaps it is impossible that all the soul should be permanent.' Other passages might be quoted to the same effect, and the only question is what he means to imply by the permanence of the Nous. In Eth. Nic. X. vii. 9 and elsewhere, he tells us that the Nous is each man's proper self, and the permanence of the Nous, if taken in the same sense without qualification, can mean nothing else than the permanence of individuality. And indeed unless something like this were meant, it would seem strange for Aristotle to have said that the soul, or a portion of it, is ultimately permanent.

There is only one passage that can be said to make against this view, and that is the famous place in the treatise · On the • Soul' (111, v. 2–3), in which Aristotle distinguishes between

VOL. CXXXVI. NO. CCLXXVIII,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

OO

6

6

the Active and the Passive Nous. And it is from this that Grote draws his, as we think, too definite conclusion. After describing the Passive (or receptive) Nous as ' becoming all

things 'by receiving their forms, and the Active Nous as giving existence to all things in the same way that light calls colour into being, Aristotle adds that the Active Nous transcends the body, being capable of separation from it; that it is an everlasting existence, incapable of being mingled with matter or affected by it; that it is prior and subsequent to the individual mind. He concludes,* But when separated it is of its own nature alone, and it is that only which is immortal and eternal. We have no recollections, because it is incapable of being affected, while the Passive Nous on the other hand is perishable, and has no thoughts without the assistance of this.' A good deal turns here on the meaning of the phrase,' we have

no recollections, but in all probability this is merely a reference to the Platonic doctrine of Anamnesis-that the soul having seen divine things in a former state of existence, is reminded of them in this life. Aristotle argues that the part of our soul which existed prior to our birth was the Active Nous, which from being incapable of receiving impressions could not bring with it any associations. The words when

separated 'may therefore be meant to refer to the condition of the Active Nous before birth in this world. It might be argued that if the Passive Nous is perishable, the Active Nous, which (according to Aristotle) survives the body, will be left again without associations, and that all the individuality which in this world was gathered round it, will vanish away from it. But Aristotle himself never makes this deduction. He merely leaves it said that part of the soul is immortal, and we cannot tell, since the dialogue Eudemus 'is lost, in what sense we are to understand the immortality of the Nous, whether in the sense of a Buddhist Nirvana, or of the ultimate persistence in another life of human individuality.

We have said enough on different points to indicate that we do not consider Grote's fragment to furnish, even so far as it goes, a trustworthy and satisfactory, in all respects, exposition of Aristotle. Every allowance must be made for a work not only confessedly unfinished, but also composed under peculiar circumstances, having been begun in advanced age, and having been written under pressure almost against time.' The sub

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a

* Χωρισθείς δ' εστί μόνον τούθ' όπερ εστί, και τούτο μόνον αθάνατον και αΐδιον. Ου μνημονεύομεν δε, ότι τούτο μεν απαθές, ο δε παθητικός νούς φθαρτός, και άνευ τούτου ούθεν νοεί.

[ocr errors]

ject too was one that stands by itself, and requires almost the devotion of a life, while to the venerable Grote it was comparatively new ground. To use Aristotle's favourite language, this work cannot be viewed as an actuality,' it has hardly emerged from the regions of the potential.' But its tendencies are, in its present state, somewhat one-sided, and Grote would have required to enlarge his view of Aristotle in order to fairly expound him. During many ages Aristotle had been too exclusively regarded as an à priori and deductive philosopher, and the tendency of this book is to run into the extremely opposite direction, and to represent Aristotle as almost purely inductive. This to many minds would seem to be an enhancement of Aristotle's merit by the removal of what such minds would consider a weak side in him. But however that may be, Aristotle cannot legitimately be so represented, as he was not merely inductive and experiential, like Locke or Mr. Mill, but he was also full of speculations which are more akin to those of Kant and Hegel. We do not doubt that Grote has performed a useful work in calling attention to the large portion of Aristotle's thought which consisted in a reference to observation of facts, and in a common sense view removed from transcendentalism. But this work requires to be completed, especially by such a chapter as Grote himself had projected on the Aristotelian theory of cognition, and the seeming discrepancies which it involves. We want to have clearly set forth what Aristotle meant by a thing existing,' and by our perceiving' or 'knowing anything. We want to understand his position in comparison with Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Schelling, or other great thinkers of modern times, in regard to this, the primary question of philosophy. Grote's posthumous volumes may not impossibly give a stimulus to this sort of inquiry in England. Oxford, which makes so large, and we may say fruitful, a use of Aristotle for the purposes of education, might fairly be looked to for more results in the shape of scholarly and philosophic exposition of this great ancient thinker, than she has hitherto given to the world. Grote's example should certainly recommend itself to a University which owes so much to the study of Aristotle. Dr. Arnold, when he elected to send his sons to Oxford in order that they might not miss reading the 'Ethics' and · Politics,' was acknowledging the great educational advantages which he felt himself to have derived from having been indoctrinated in these treatises. And the same benefit has been derived from the same source, though perhaps not so gratefully acknowledged, by some of our greatest statesmen of the present day. The

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »