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METAPHYSICS


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METAPHYSICS


the manifold, diversified, imperfect world originated from the One, Unchangeable, and Perfect Being. They exaggerated the Platonic doctrine of matter to the point of maintaining that all evil, moral as well as physical, originates from a material source. At the same time, they ascribed to the spiritualized Ideas which they called Saliioves (spirits) all actuality, intel- ligence, and force in the whole universe. These intelli- gences were derived, they said, from the One by a process of emanation, which is akin to the "streaming forth" of light from the illuminating body. This sys- tem of metaphysics teaches, therefore, that the One, and intelligences derived from the One, are the only positive principles, while matter is the only negative principle of things. This is the system which was most widely accepted in pagan circles during the first cen- turies of the Christian era.

(3) Early Christian Philosophy. — ^The first heretics among the Christian thinkers were influenced in their philosophy by Neo-Platonism. For the most part, they adopted the Gnostic view (see Gno.sticism) that in the last appeal, the test of Christian truth is not the official teaching of the Church or the exoteric doctrine of the gospels, but a secret gnosis, a body of doctrine imparted by Christ to the chosen few. This body of doctrine was in reality a modified Neo-Platonism. Its most sahent point was the theory that evil is not a creation of God but the work of the devil. The prob- lem of evil thus came to occupy an important place in the philosophical systems of orthodox Christian think- ers down to the time of St. Augustine. Other prob- lems, too, claimed special attention, notably the question of the origin of the universe. From the theological controversies concerning the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation, arose the discussion of the meaning of nature, substance, and person. From all these sources sprang the Christian Neo-Platonism of the great Alexandrian School, which included Clement and Origen, and the later phase of Christian Platonism exemplified by St. Augustine. In the phi- losophy of St. Augustine we have the greatest con- structive efi'ort of the Christian mind during the Patristic Era. It is a philosophy which centres in the problems arising from the nature of God, and the nature and destiny of the human soul. The most crucial of these problems is that of the existence of evil. How can evil exist in a world created and governed by a God, Who is at once supremely good and all-power- ful? Rejecting the Manichean theory that evil has an origin distinct from God, St. Augustine devotes all his efforts to showing, from the nature of evil, that it does not demand a direct efficient act on the part of God, but only a permissive act, and that this toleration of evil is justified by the gradation of beings which re- sults from the existence of imperfection, and which is essential to the harmony and variety of the universe in general. Another question which attains a good deal of prominence in St. Augustine's metaphysics is that of the origin of the world. All things, he teaches, were created at the beginning, material creatures as well as angels, and the subsequent appearance of plants, ani- mals, and men in a chronological series is merely the development in time of those "seeds of things" wliich were implanted in the material world at the beginning. However, St. Augustine is careful to make an excep- tion in the case of the individual human soul. He avoids the doctrine of pre-existence which Origen had taught, and maintains that the individual soul origi- nates at the same time as the body, although he is not prepared to decide definitively whether it originates by a distinct creative act or is derived from the souls of the child's parents (see Traduciamsm).

(4) Medirral Philosophy. — The first scholastic phil- osophers devoteil their attention to the discussion of logical problems arising out of the interpretation of the texts which were studied in the schools, such as Porphyry's " Isagoge ", and Boethius's translation of


portions of Aristotle's "Organon". From these dis- cussions they passed to problems of psychology, but it was not until the end of the twelfth century, when Aristotle's metaphysical treatise and his works on psychology became accessible in Latin, that scholastic metaphysics rose to the dignity and proportions of a system. By way of exception, John the Scot (see Eriugena), as early as the first half of the ninth century, developed a highly wrought system of meta- physical speculation characterized by idealism, pan- theism, and Neo-Platonic mysticism. In the eleventh century the school of Chartres, under the influence of Platonism, discussed in a metaphysical spirit the prob- lems of the nature of reahty and the origin of the universe.

The philosophy of the thirteenth century, repre- sented by Alexander of Hales, St. Bonaventure, Roger Bacon, Albert the Great, St. Thomas, and Duns Scotus, accorded to metaphysics its place as the science which completes and crowns the efforts of the mind to attain a knowledge of things human and di- vine. It acknowledged the importance of the relation which metaphysics bears, on the one hand, to the other portions of philosophy, anfl, on the other hand, to the science of theology. Fundamentally Aristote- lean in its conception of method and scope, the meta- physics of the golden age of scholasticism departed from Aristotle's teaching only to supply the defects and correct the faults which it detected in Aristotle's philosophy. Thus, it worked out on Aristotelean lines the problems of person and nature, substance and ac- cident, cause and effect; it took up and carried to higher systematic development St. Augustine's recon- ciliation of evil with the goodness of God; it elabo- rated in detail the question of the nature of matter and the origin of the universe by (!od's creative act. At the same time, the metaphysics of the schools was obliged to face new problems which were thrust on the attention of the schoolmen by the exegetical and edu- cational activity of the Arabians. Thus, it drew the line of distinction between Theism and Pantheism, dis- cussed the question of fatalism and free will, and re- jected the Arabian interpretation of Aristotle which jeopardized the doctrine of personal immortality. Towards the end of the scholastic period the appear- ance of the anti-metaphysical nominalism of Ockham, Durandus, and others had the effect of driving some of the later schoolmen to adopt an extreme a priorism in philosophy, which more than any other single cause contributed to bring about the antagonism between metaphysics and natural science, which marks the era of scientific discovery. This condition, though wide- spread, was not, however, universal. Men like Suarez and other great commentators continued down to the seventeenth century to present in their metaphysical treatises the best traditions of the scholasticism of the thirteenth century.

(5) Modern Philosophy. — At the beginning of the modern era we find a divergence of opinion concerning the scope and value of metaphysical speculation. On the one hand, Bacon, while himself retaining the name metaphysics to designate the science of the essential properties of bodies, is opposed to the metaphysical philosophy of the scholastics, and chiefly because that philosophy gave too much prominence to final causes and the study of the mind. On the other hand, Des- cartes, while declaring that " philosophy is a tree, which has metaphysics for its root", understands that the science of metaphysics is based exclusively on the data of the subjective consciousness. Spinoza ac- cepts this restriction, implicitly at least, although his explicit aim in philosophy is ethical, namely to pre- sent that view of reality which will lead to the deliver- ance of the soul from bondage. Leibniz takes a more objective view. He tries to adojit a definition of real- ity which will reconcile the idealism of Plato with the results of scientific re.searcb) and he aims at harmoniz.