- Software name: appdown
- Software type: Microsoft Framwork
- size: 76MB
Ever since the age of Parmenides and Heracleitus, Greek thought had been haunted by a pervading dualism which each system had in turn attempted to reconcile, with no better result than its reproduction under altered names. And speculation had latterly become still further perplexed by the question whether the antithetical couples supposed to divide all Nature between them could or could not be reduced to so many aspects of a single opposition. In the last chapter but one we showed that there were four such competing pairsBeing and Not-Being, the One and the Many, the Same and the Other, Rest and Motion. Plato employed his very subtlest dialectic in tracing out their connexions, readjusting their relationships, and diminishing the total number of terms which they involved. In what was probably his last great speculative effort, the Timaeus, he seems to have selected Sameness and Difference as the couple best adapted to bear the heaviest strain of thought. There is some reason for believing that in his spoken lectures he followed the Pythagorean system more closely, giving the preference to the One and the Many; or he may have employed the two expressions indifferently. The former would sooner commend itself to a dialectician, the latter to a mathematician. Aristotle was both, but he was before all things a naturalist. As such, the antithesis of Being and Not-Being, to which Plato attached little or no value, suited him best. Accordingly, he proceeds to work it out with a clearness before unknown in Greek philosophy. The first and surest of all principles, he declares, is, that a thing cannot both be and not be, in the same sense of the words, and furthermore that it must either be or not be. Subsequent340 logicians prefixed to these axioms another, declaring that whatever is is. The three together are known as the laws of Identity, Contradiction, and Excluded Middle. By all, except Hegelians, they are recognised as the highest laws of thought; and even Hegel was indebted to them, through Fichte, for the ground-plan of his entire system.235
Nobody ever saw the tapestry in question because it did not exist, and Louis XV., speaking of the story, said scornfully, Have there ever been such things as tapestries chez les Montmorin?
We have seen how Greek thought had arrived at a perfectly just conception of the process by which all physical transformations are effected. The whole extended universe is an aggregate of bodies, while each single body is formed by a combination of everlasting elements, and is destroyed by their separation. But if Empedocles was right, if these primary substances were no other than the fire, air, water, and earth of everyday experience, what became of the Heracleitean law, confirmed by common observation, that, so far from remaining unaltered, they were continually passing into one another? To this question the atomic theory gave an answer so conclusive, that, although ignored or contemned by later schools, it was revived with the great revival of science in the sixteenth century, was successfully employed in the explanation of every order of phenomena, and still remains the basis of all physical enquiry. The undulatory theory of light, the law of universal gravitation, and the laws of chemical combination can only be expressed in terms implying the existence of atoms; the laws of gaseous diffusion, and of thermodynamics generally, can only be understood with their help; and the latest develop34ments of chemistry have tended still further to establish their reality, as well as to elucidate their remarkable properties. In the absence of sufficient information, it is difficult to determine by what steps this admirable hypothesis was evolved. Yet, even without external evidence, we may fairly conjecture that, sooner or later, some philosopher, possessed of a high generalising faculty, would infer that if bodies are continually throwing off a flux of infinitesimal particles from their surfaces, they must be similarly subdivided all through; and that if the organs of sense are honeycombed with imperceptible pores, such may also be the universal constitution of matter.26 Now, according to Aristotle, Leucippus, the founder of atomism, did actually use the second of these arguments, and employed it in particular to prove the existence of indivisible solids.27 Other considerations equally obvious suggested themselves from another quarter. If all change was expressible in terms of matter and motion, then gradual change implied interstitial motion, which again involved the necessity of fine pores to serve as channels for the incoming and outgoing molecular streams. Nor, as was supposed, could motion of any kind be conceived without a vacuum, the second great postulate of the atomic theory. Here its advocates directly joined issue with Parmenides. The chief of the Eleatic school had, as we have seen, presented being under the form of a homogeneous sphere, absolutely continuous but limited in extent. Space dissociated from matter was to him, as afterwards to Aristotle, non-existent and impossible. It was, he exclaimed, inconceivable, nonsensical. Unhappily inconceivability is about the worst negative criterion of truth ever yet invented. His challenge was now35 taken up by the Atomists, who boldly affirmed that if non-being meant empty space, it was just as conceivable and just as necessary as being. A further stimulus may have been received from the Pythagorean school, whose doctrines had, just at this time, been systematised and committed to writing by Philolaus, its most eminent disciple. The hard saying that all things were made out of number might be explained and confirmed if the integers were interpreted as material atoms.
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