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THIS book, which a careful and exact translation now 
introduces to English readers, is a collection of studies, 
independent of one another, and written mostly at the 
express invitation of my pupils or colleagues. As I 
had devoted numerous lectures at the fccole Normale 
Superieure and the S or bonne to a minute analysis of 
various philosophical systems, and as I was unable to 
find time to set them forth in detail, the suggestion was 
made that I might, at all events, publish a resume of 
the conclusions at which I had arrived. My first 
impulse was to decline a task which seemed somewhat 
ingrate and risky. Indeed, it is no easy matter to act 
upon the mind of the reader, unless you lead him, 
to some extent, along the paths you have already 
traversed, on to the position you yourself have reached. 
And even though he may not feel inclined to make 
your conclusions his own, he will regard them with a 
certain amount of indulgence if he sees that you have 
been at considerable pains to reach them. Frequently, 
too, quite apart from your results, he will fully 




appreciate the investigations you have made. As 
Victor Hugo said : 

. . . Dieu benit 1'homme 
Non pour avoir trouve, mais pour avoir cherche. 

It may be that there are critics good enough to be less 
severe than God, but if scarcely anything beyond results 
are set forth, the reader will not feel inclined to show 
you much indulgence ! 

In spite of these scruples, the reason I consented to 
write these short studies, almost devoid, as they are, of 
the critical basis on which they are constructed, is that 
I cannot accustom myself to the idea often tacitly 
admitted if it be not openly avowed that in dealing 
with the history of philosophy all inquiry into the true 
and inmost thought of a master can never be other 
than premature, and that a genuine savant should 
concentrate his attention upon the search after texts, 
their comparison with one another, and the discussions 
to which they give rise. I am aware that Fustel 
de Coulanges, one of our great historians, has said that 
a single hour of synthesis presupposes centuries of 
analysis. His own admirable generalisations, however, 
form a magnificent contradiction of this formal, abstract 
doctrine. Perhaps we should regard as more truly 
in conformity both with the conditions of scientific 
research and with the method actually adopted by 
Fustel de Coulanges, the following maxim of an 
eminent geographer, Professor W. M. Davis, of 


Harvard University : Invention may advisedly go hand 
in hand with observation. The analytical study of the 
texts suggested to me a certain interpretation of the 
works of the masters, just as certain previous hypo- 
theses as to the meaning of these works had served me 
as heuristic principles in the analytical study itself: 
some of the best established results are given in the 
present volume. I am disposed to regard them as 
nothing more than starting-points for subsequent 
research, ideas to be tested anew and revised by a com- 
parison with facts ; still they form, in some measure, 
the living synthesis of several of my previous studies. 

Moreover, I do not think it will ever be possible, 
in setting forth a system of philosophy, to content 
oneself with collecting extant documents, manipulating 
them, and finally extracting their substance, by quite 
mechanical processes, after the fashion of a chemist. 
One of our cleverest linguists, M. Michel Breal, in his 
famous work, Essai sur la Stmantique, is altogether 
opposed to the opinion that language possesses an 
existence of its own, and is capable of being studied 
per se, independently of the living mind of man who 
is continually building it up and perfecting it. " Under- 
neath the phenomena presented by language," he con- 
cludes, " we feel the action of a thought releasing 
itself from the form to which it is chained down . . . 
Mens agitat molem" 

A fortiori is this the case with systems of philo- 


sophy, which, assuredly, are something more than 
a blind impulse, an enthusiastic aspiration of the mind : 
they represent the methodical effort of an intelligence 
employing all its knowledge and dialectic power in 
an attempt to confine reality within clear and well- 
connected formulas. Still, the living mind of the 
philosopher is never absent from his work ; the 
system should never be conceived as separate from 
its creator, like fruit as distinct from the tree on 
which it has grown. Consequently, in order to under- 
stand an author's work in the way he meant it to be 
understood, i.e. to understand it aright, we must make 
it our constant endeavour not merely to search into the 
visible letter of the text and all the details of docu- 
ments, but also to think and live with the author 
himself, to enter into his spirit. In reality, it is this 
interior principle of development, which, in truth, 
cannot be isolated from the visible forms but rather 
governs them and gives them their particular aspect, 
it is the active, ever-present soul of the author, that 
the historian should endeavour to set before us, 
enabling us to enter intuitively, as it were, into that 
soul and attain to direct participation therewith. 

If this effort be made, our understanding of the 
work becomes as profound and adequate as we can make 
it. Nor is this all. Just as we must enlarge our own 
mind, if we would thus comprehend thoughts greater 
than our own, so it would seem that to cultivate the 


history of philosophy in this way is not only to learn to 
know philosophers but also to become more capable of 
philosophizing ourselves. To what heights might we 
not aspire, what claims might we not make, if some- 
thing of the genius of the masters could really live 
again within us and enter into our thought ! " Das ist," 
said Goethe, " die Eigenschaft des Geistes, dass er den 
Geist ewig anregt." Is not this submission in a happy 
blend of effort and abandon to the potent influence of 
the masters, this attempt to carry on their work and 
message, the natural and legitimate object and end of 
our historical investigations ? 


PARIS, March 7, 1912. 


THE word science throughout, and especially in the 
essays on Socrates and Aristotle, has been frequently 
used both in this translation and in the original work, 
to render the word a-o<j>ia, as being preferable to wisdom 
and to sagesse alike. It is therefore to be interpreted 
as connoting the highest branches of learning and 





ARISTOTLE . . . . . . . .74 


DESCARTES. . . . . . . . . .234 

KANT . . 255 

INDEX ... ...... 331 


i rb iSiov. ARISTOTLE, Eth. Nic. i. 7. 1097 b 35. 

THE more historical works on every subject multiply, 
the more difficult does it become to find agreement as 
to the object of history itself. Can the science studied 
by a Renan, when investigating the moral laws of man- 
kind and the universe, be the same as that studied by 
a Fustel de Coulanges, who is ignorant as to the very 
existence of historical laws, and whose sole ambition is 
to connect a few facts with their immediate causes ? 

The history of philosophy cannot escape this con- 
dition of things. Hegel understands it in a far different 
fashion from Grote. In turn, it is philosophical, 
psychological, social, philological and naturalistic, nor 
do we clearly see what definite form it tends to assume. 
It has become necessary for any one who undertakes 
this study, unless he wishes to confine himself to some 
particular current of thought, to reflect upon the end 
of this science and examine the various definitions that 
may be given thereof. 

What, then, is the proper object of the history of 
philosophy ? What is the most suitable method to 
adopt ? 

Have we simply to collect and classify, geographic- 
ally and chronologically, such facts as may rightly be 
called philosophical ? 


Once this selection is effected, have we to connect 
each of these facts with the particular environment in 
which it happened, and also with its- conditions or 
causes ? 

Or rather, if we consider that philosophy, up to a 
certain point, has an existence and development of its 
own, and constitutes a kind of organism, shall we un- 
ravel, as it were, and follow up this autonomous de- 
velopment through the apparently capricious inventions 
of individuals ? Shall we consider each philosopher as 
the more or less docile instrument of an immanent and 
universal spirit? Has our task to consist in finding 
and completing those parts of each thinker's work which 
are productive and likely to live, and neglecting those 
which, sooner or later, time must destroy? Is it not 
expected that a historian should read, study and criticise 
everything, so that he may relegate to the waters of 
oblivion such events as have no claim upon the memory 
of mankind ? 

But if we have scruples about thus judging of 
philosophical productions in the name of the more or 
less mystical idea of an eternal philosophy, should we 
not like, at all events, to distinguish those conceptions 
of a man of genius in which he is really himself and 
is introducing innovations or preparing the future, from 
those in which he shows himself nothing more, at that 
stage, than an echo of his predecessors ? 

In short, is there not a conception of the history of 
philosophy a very plausible one by reason of its con- 
nection with the positive sciences according to which 
it seems to be the historian's task to take philosophers, 
not philosophy, as the object of his investigations ; and, 
by a process of psychological analysis, to show with 
reference to each of them, the line of evolution he has 


of necessity had to follow taking into consideration 
his temperament, his education and the circumstances of 
his life in the production of the ideas he has given to 
the world ? 

Evidently each of these points of view has an interest 
and importance of its own, but none of them seems 
to be the special point of view of the historian of 

To confine oneself to the collection and chronological 
arrangement of philosophical manifestations would be 
too modest a task ; for though we may somewhere find 
a logical concatenation of facts along with the facts 
themselves, still it is in doctrines and systems that 
philosophy finds its realisation. 

On the other hand, he would be a bold man who 
would affirm that some particular conception has a future 
before it, whereas some other has had its day. In 
Voltaire's time, metaphysics was an utterly exploded 
doctrine. Now, that was the very period when German 
philosophy was beginning to become known. 

And what an ambition, to find the historical and 
unconscious origins, the mechanical genesis of a thinker's 
ideas ! Which of us, even the most wide-awake and 
skilled in analysing mental states, could correctly explain 
the origin of his opinions and doctrines ? Amongst the 
many influences under which our increasingly complex 
life is continually bringing us, how can we set apart 
those that have been deep and lasting, or state exactly 
in what direction they have been exercised ? Besides, 
why do we so strongly insist that our ideas spring only 
from external influences and that we ourselves have 
nothing to do with their production ? 

Apart from these various conceptions of the history 
of philosophy conceptions in turn excessively timid and 


boldly venturesome there is one of a less striking 
nature, from the fact that it does not seem to be so 
scientific, though perhaps it is more in accordance with 
the nature of the subject under investigation. It is 
also the one, unless I am mistaken, generally applied by 
writers whose distinctive object is to take up the history 
of philosophy, without troubling about anything else. 

It consists in regarding as the subject of investigation 
from the very outset, what to us are immediate data, 
to wit, any particular doctrine that is one in its greater 
or less complexity, any collection of ideas set forth by 
the philosopher as forming a whole. Where this con- 
dition is not fulfilled, we may indeed be dealing with a 
shrewd moralist or a profound, original thinker, but 
certainly we are not dealing with a philosopher. The 
problem to be solved is that of finding out what logical 
connection the philosopher has really set up between his 
ideas, which he has taken as principles, and in what 
order and fashion he makes the rest depend on the main 
ideas. A philosopher is a man who sets up men's 
knowledge over against their beliefs, and tries to find 
their relations to one another. We want to know how 
a Plato or a Leibnitz conceived of these relations. And 
since the philosopher is not a seer to whom truth is 
revealed in a flash, but rather a patient seeker who re- 
flects and criticises, doubts and hesitates, and listens to 
reason alone, we want to know the methods, observations 
and reasonings by which our author has reached his 
conclusions. We are not now dealing with the uncon- 
scious, mechanical work of his brain, but with his 
conscious, determined efforts to overcome the limits of 
his individuality, to think in an all-embracing manner, 
and to bring the truth to light. 

If such be the case, it is neither philosophy in general, 


throughout its development, nor the psychological 
evolution of each philosopher in particular, that is the 
immediate object of the history of philosophy : it is the 
doctrines that have been thought out by philosophers. 
To know and understand these doctrines well, to explain 
them to the extent of one's capacity as the author 
himself would do, to set them forth in the spirit of that 
author, and to some extent, in his style : this is the one 
essential task, to which all the rest must be subordinated. 

It is, indeed, useful to consider the man, and not 
the work only, but it is so because, in most cases, the 
man helps us to understand the work. Cartesianism is 
indebted for more than one of its characteristics to 
Descartes, the man. And yet, what a mistake to insist 
on regarding Cartesianism as nothing more than the 
history of an individual mind ! 

It is likewise an interesting question to ask oneself : 
What becomes of philosophy fer se throughout the 
succession of systems? Does it advance or remain 
stationary ? This general study of philosophy, however, 
cannot replace that of the doctrines considered in them- 
selves from each author's point of view : rather it pre- 
supposes it. 

Let it not, then, be said that some particular portion 
of a philosopher's doctrines may be neglected, under the 
plea that it is to be found in the writings of some 
earlier philosopher. That is an insufficient reason. A 
great mind does not seek after novelty or originality ; 
it seeks after truth. Why should it refuse any portion 
thereof under the plea that it was discovered by some- 
one else ? In the classic ages of literature, authors did 
not feel themselves bound to create, ex nihilo, after the 
fashion of God. A Corneille and a Moliere make lavish 
use of the works of their predecessors. No one finds 


fault with their lack of originality when they take 
advantage of this material in writing fine and noble 
works. With still more reason, an Aristotle, a Leibnitz 
and a Kant carefully retain whatever those who have 
gone before have found to be of advantage. In reality, 
they make it their own by the way in which they use it. 
" When two men are playing tennis," said Pascal, " both 
play with the same ball, but one of them places it better 
than the other." It often happens that the most common- 
place idea assumes a new aspect by reason of the new 
relations in which it finds itself. 

On the other hand, some idea destined at a later 
period to prove an important and fruitful one, may 
have played only a secondary or eclipsed part in the 
system in which it first appeared. Though picking it up 
as a chance find, so to speak, or regarding it as an interest- 
ing presentiment, we must be careful not to place it in 
the foreground under pretence of serving the author by 
giving him a more modern aspect. It is not Descartes 
as one would imagine he would be at the present time, 
but the Descartes of 1 644, referring every problem to the 
one of certainty, whom it is our object to make known. 

The task in hand determines exactly the means it 
behoves us to put into operation. In the ulterior 
developments a system may have gone through, the 
doctrines to which it has given birth, the appreciations 
and interpretations of contemporaries and successors, or 
even the historical and biographical information regard- 
ing the author's person and works, we ought not to 
look for anything else than sign-posts of the problems 
we must set before ourselves, or material data which 
determine the ground on which to work. The spring 
and origin of the history of philosophy can be found 
only in the monuments left by philosophers themselves. 


Each philosophical work requires to be considered 
both as a whole and in detail. The work of the mind 
is one continual oscillation from the whole to the parts 
and from the parts to the whole. Such is the method 
applied in the understanding of a drama, a poem, or a 
work of art. This alternate movement of induction and 
deduction is the origin of the sciences. In the same 
way, if we explain the author by himself, his general 
ideas by his particular doctrines and his particular 
doctrines by his general ideas, the probabilities are that 
we shall thoroughly grasp his meaning and enter into 
his thought. 

It is not enough to discover curious even un- 
published texts. Which of us can enter completely 
into all an author says ? What likelihood is there that 
a letter written to some correspondent or other, how- 
ever ill fitted he be to understand the philosopher, 
should prove of greater importance than treatises that 
have been slowly matured and are destined for posterity ? 
The historian, whose aim it is not to make a collection of 
anecdotes, but to form a correct appreciation of a great 
man's work, will be less anxious to marshal and array 
an imposing number of disconnected texts than to 
become increasingly imbued with the author's thought, 
by reading the whole of his works not once, but many 
times. His aim will be to see things from the author's 
point of view, following him along the winding by- 
paths of meditation, sharing in his emotions as a philo- 
sopher, and, along with him, enjoying that harmony 
wherein his intelligence has found repose. 

Systems of philosophy are living thoughts. It is by 
seeking in the written word for the means of reviving 
these thoughts within ourselves that we may hope to 
hear them deliver their message. 


" Les memes pens6es poussent quelquefois tout autrement dans 
un autre que dans leur auteur." PASCAL. 

AFTER the keen rivalry that has existed amongst those 
most capable of dissipating the clouds and mists that 
hang about the figure of Socrates, inquiring men of 
letters, shrewd moralists, philosophers of penetrating 
intellect, learned historians, and even doctors, whose 
object it has been to collect and interpret such docu- 
ments as are calculated to make him known to us, is 
there anything left to say about him ? Is not the 
writer on such a theme compelled to repeat mere 
commonplaces if he is determined to say only what is 
true, to give expression to paradoxes if he claims to 
have anything new to advance ? 

In this connection it would seem as though a dis- 
tinction must be made. Doubtless, all possible light 

1 The present essay deals less with the feelings and the soul of Socrates 
than with his philosophy and his work. In one aspect Socrates, as a man, 
is an enthusiast in the literal meaning of the word, almost a mystic. He 
is Apollo's messenger, and feels within himself the divine afflatus. His 
unique originality consisted in introducing religious zeal into the preach- 
ing of rational morals. Here we confine ourselves to the consideration of 
the doctrine which Socrates taught his disciples and bequeathed to man- 



has been shed on most of the details of the life and 
teaching of Socrates, but it is not so certain that this 
could be said concerning the ensemble of the man and 
his doctrine. The reader is astonished when he com- 
pares with one another those works of our contemporaries 
that deal with Socrates. If we would know of his 
life, the causes of his condemnation, the meaning of 
maieutics, the doctrines of virtue, or some other 
portion of Socratic philosophy, each of these authors 
gives almost identical answers. But if we ask what 
Socrates was in himself, the basis of his character and 
the root idea of his teaching : regarding this question 
in which all the rest culminate opinions are 

Thus, according to Zeller, 1 ancient physics having 
finally disappeared beneath the action of sophistic, 
Socrates regenerated philosophy by founding it upon a 
new principle : the general or concept, regarded as the 
object of science. The work of Socrates, then, was 
the invention of a principle of theoretical logic. 

Grote, in a series of life-like sketches, presents 
Socrates as a religious missionary, appointed by the 
oracle of Delphi for putting the would-be wise on the 
rack and inducing them to confess their ignorance. 
Socrates is the god of debate, " an elenchtic or cross- 
examining god." 2 His work, religious in its inspira- 
tion, is a living dialectic in itself. 

Fouillee regards Socrates as a speculative philosopher, 
who substitutes final causes for physical ones in the 
explanation of all phenomena, both physical and moral. 
He is the creator of spiritual metaphysics. 

Leveque considers that Socrates endeavoured to 

1 Die Philosophie der Griechen, 3rd edit. vol. ii. p. 93-94. 
2 History of Greece, vol. viii. p. 566. 


bring about the moral and political reform of Athens, 
and, with this end in view, established morals as a 
science independent of the physical sciences. 

Janet's brief though important sketch in the Dic- 
tionnaire philosophique shows us Socrates as a philo- 
sopher above all else ; he mentions two main char- 
acteristics of his : the moral sentiment, which dominates 
his personality and appears throughout his doctrine ; 
and maieutics, from which the Platonic dialectic was 
to originate. 

In a short work, published in 1881, Gustave 
d'Eichthal considers the outstanding feature of the 
Socratic doctrine to be religious instruction. Socrates, 
he says, with a view to checking the evils he saw 
ravaging his country, wished to give his fellow-citizens 
what, to him, was the principle of all virtue and the 
first condition of every reform, namely, religious faith, 
especially faith in divine Providence. 

Finally, Franck, in an article that appeared in the 
Journal des savants on d'Eichthal's book, likewise 
admits that Socrates was not only a reasoner and a 
philosopher, but more than all else a profoundly 
religious soul, in the real meaning of the word, a soul 
in whom faith in God, admiration of his works, the 
certainty of his kingdom throughout nature and of his 
providence over men, were tinged with a certain degree 
of mysticism. 

All these interpretations, moreover, are based on 
texts of the greatest importance. Thus, confining 
ourselves to the three of our contemporaries who have 
written most about Socrates, Zeller, in support of his 
position, quotes that clear, precise passage in Aristotle * 
where it is mentioned that Socrates seeks the ri 

1 Met. xiii. 4. 1878 b 23 sqq. 


the general essence, though without regarding this 
essence as existing apart, as Plato did. Grote draws 
his conclusions from the Apology? which, indeed, 
mainly shows us Socrates as having received from the 
gods the mission of convincing men of their ignorance. 
And lastly, the statement of Fouillee 2 appears inspired 
by those luminous passages of the Phaedo? in which we 
find Socrates reproaching Anaxagoras for omitting to 
take into account, in his explanation of the details of 
the world, that ordaining and regulating intelligence he 
had so wisely proclaimed to be the universal cause ; 
considering, for his part, that any purely mechanical 
explanation was superficial ; and satisfied only with such 
explanations as, in the ultimate analysis, were given by 
final causes. 4 

But why is it that each of these authors has taken 
up some particular text in preference to others ? In 
all likelihood, personal preoccupation or different mental 
habits may give a partial explanation. An old Hegelian 
like Zeller, whose object above all is to find out the 
place occupied by men and doctrines in the general 
development of the human mind, was bound to take, 
as his main guide, Aristotle, who emphasises in his 
predecessors just those ideas that have paved the way 
for his own. Grote, the historian, who would point 
out the part played by famous men throughout the 
entire social and political life of their times, was bound 
to rely mainly on the Apology^ a life-like picture, it 
would seem, of Socrates as he appeared to his fellow- 
citizens. Lastly, Fouillee, the eloquent and profound 
interpreter of the theory of Ideas, was naturally disposed 

1 Grote, History of Greece, viii. 565. 
2 La Philosophie de Platan, vol. i. p. 17 sqq. 

3 Ch. xlv. sqq. 
* Phaedo, ch. xlvi. p. 97 B. 


to regard Socrates as the precursor of Plato, and to 
find in his doctrines the germ of Platonic metaphysics. 
It is not surprising that he should take as his starting- 
point those passages in which Plato himself connects 
his theory of Ideas with the speculations of his master. 

In these investigations into the real character of 
Socrates, Zeller appears to have adopted the standpoint 
of absolute mind, Grote that of a cultured Athenian of 
the fifth century, and Fouillee that of Plato. What 
would be the result were we to adopt the standpoint 
of Socrates himself, asking ourselves what Socrates 
must have been, not in the eyes of others but in his 
own ? The apostle of the yv&Oi o-avrov must have 
been acquainted with himself. We should regard our- 
selves as having sufficient knowledge of him were we 
acquainted with him to the same extent. 

But then, how can we enter into the soul of Socrates, 
since he left nothing in writing? Is it not this very 
difficulty of adopting his point of view which induces 
historians to seek one from without ? 

Perhaps the difficulty is partly artificial. It showed 
itself most prominently when Schleiermacher advanced 
the principle that, for an exposition of the Socratic 
doctrine to be a faithful one, it must above all else 
explain how Plato came to regard Socrates as the 
promoter of his philosophic activity. From this stand- 
point a comparison was made between the Socrates of 
Xenophon and the Socrates of Plato and Aristotle, and 
the two were found to differ widely. Naturally, the 
followers of Schleiermacher adopted the views of Plato 
and Aristotle, and so the authority of the only one of 
our witnesses who was a historian by profession, and 
who had made it his business to tell us what Socrates 
had really been in his own person, was discredited. 


A change, however, has come about since then. 
Whilst the champions of Xenophon and Plato were 
wrangling over Schleiermacher's theory, a less biassed 
criticism compared the testimonies of Xenophon, Plato 
and Aristotle with one another. Now, these testimonies 
have been found to agree as regards the main issue. 1 
Henceforth, to an impartial critic, the authority of 
Xenophon was restored. The charge might still be 
brought against him that he set forth the person and 
teachings of his master more or less incompletely, though 
not that he presented them in a wrong light. If such be 
the case, the historian of the present day has the right, 
not only to invoke the testimony of Xenophon, along 
with those of Plato and Aristotle, but even to assign 
the greatest importance to this testimony, for Xenophon 
is the only one of the three who does nothing more 
than repeat what he personally knew. True, the 
immediate object of his work would appear to have 
been to refute the harangue of Polycrates, the rhetor, 
about the year 393 B.C. ; none the less, Xenophon 
must have brought to his task those qualities of fidelity 
and impartiality that distinguish his strictly historical 

Of course, we must not repeat the mistake made by 
the historians of old, who, reading Xenophon in a very 
superficial manner, saw depicted only the account of a 
simple-minded moralist ; we must allow Plato and 
Aristotle to breathe life into and complete the picture 
sketched by Xenophon. Still, it would be wise to use 
the contributions of the two former only as a scholar 
uses a hypothesis, that is, in stating or asking questions, 
not in solving or answering them. To analyse the 
data of Xenophon, interpreting and developing them 

1 Such is the opinion of Zeller, Grote and Fouiltee. 


according to a scientific induction whose leading ideas 
are to be supplied by Plato and Aristotle : such seems 
to be the method we must pursue, if we would know 
Socrates in a really historical fashion. 

Along with Xenophon's Memorabilia we must con- 
sider Plato's Apology, which most critics 1 look upon as 
trustworthy with regard to facts ; also certain portions, 
difficult to define, it must be confessed, of the Crito, 
Phaedo, Laches and The Banquet. 

Now, what is the root thought of Socrates, regarded, 
as far as possible, from his own point of view ? 


The first result we obtain, if we take the Memorabilia 
as the main source of the history of Socratic thought, is 
a confession of ignorance as to what happened previous 
to the last ten years of the philosopher's career. The 
temptation is almost irresistible to seek in other works 
for some means of going back to an earlier year in 
Socrates' life than the Memorabilia allow. For instance, 
Fouillee believes he has found, in the famous passage of 
the Phaedo on the early philosophical reflections of 
Socrates, 2 and the coincidence of this text with the 
Clouds of Aristophanes, the proof that Socrates, before 
devoting himself to moral research, passed through a 
previous stage, in which he was engaged in speculations 
on nature. Disappointed in this direction, he would 
appear to have fallen back on morals for a solution 
of the very problem of ancient Greek philosophy : that 
of the explanation of the universe. Besides the fact, 
however, that the Memorabilia contain no indication 

1 Schleiermacher, Zeller, tlberweg and Grote. 
2 Ch. xlv. sqq. 


whatever of such a starting-point, the statement of the 
Socrates of the Phaedo contradicts the formal declara- 
tions of the Socrates of the Apology, where it is affirmed 
that he never studied physics. 1 The objection may be 
urged that the character of Socrates in the Clouds must 
rest upon some historical basis. But it is precisely 
when speaking of the Clouds that Socrates makes this 
solemn declaration in the Apology. True, the question 
is decided by dismissing the Apology , under the pretext 
that it is a speech, and alleging that the text of the 
Phaedo itself gives one the impression of historical 
reality. Such preference, however, is unjustified. As 
it is the object of the text of the Phaedo to show us the 
origin of the theory of ideas, which theory, moreover, 
is likewise attributed to Socrates, it is best to attribute to 
Plato himself the reflections with which this exposition 
commences. The Apology is certainly possessed of 
historical value, as is proved, along with other details, 
by the strange prediction Socrates made to the judges, 2 
that, when he was dead, the Athenians would find a far 
greater number of censors (eXey^oi/re?) rising up against 
them, and these would be all the more unpleasant 
because they would be younger. . This prediction, 
which does not appear to have come to pass, would 
certainly have been omitted in an apology invented by 
Plato himself. But if Socrates indeed challenged his 
listeners to prove that he ever even mentioned physics, 3 
how could we affirm the contrary ? Shall we set the 
fiction of a comic poet above the testimony of Socrates 
himself ? 

Consequently, we will abandon the attempt to dis- 
cover what ideas Socrates held in youth and even in 

1 Ch. iii. p. 19 c D. 2 Ch. xxx. p. 39 c D. Cf. Grote. 

3 Ch. iii. p. 19 D. 


mature age. Besides, we have ground to suppose they 
were in conformity with those he held at the end of his 
life, for Socrates, in the Apology^ tells his listeners that 
the reason they are prejudiced against him, and look 
upon him as a physicist and a sophist, is that ever 
since they were children they have been deceived by 
his enemies regarding himself. 1 At all events, to 
claim to throw light on the Socrates of his latter years 
by the Socrates of the Clouds period is trying to 
explain the known by the unknown. 

The starting-point of the established doctrine of 
Socrates we shall find in his critical reflections on the 
two disciplines which then occupied men's minds : 
physics and sophistic. 

Socrates never applied himself to physics. The 
testimony of Plato 2 and Aristotle 3 is a proof of this, 
without mentioning that of Xenophon. There can be 
no doubt, however, that he had studied the subject, 
though it was principally as a philosopher that he 
was interested in it. It was not the details of the 
science, the particular theories which in all probability 
were the main object of research on the part of the 
ancient physiologists, that he cared about, but rather 
those general principles that controlled all the rest, the 
mechanical or dynamical conceptions of nature which 
led philosophers to explain everything without having 
recourse to supernatural powers. Is being one or 
multiple ; is it in motion or at rest ; is it subject to a 
state of becoming and destruction, or is it exempt from 
generation and corruption ? Such were the philosophical 
questions that physiologists asked themselves. 4 

Socrates wasted no time in examining one by one 

1 Ch. ii. p. 18 c. 3 Met. i. 6. 987 b i. 

2 Apol. ch. iii. p. 19 D. 4 Xenophon, Mem. i. i. 14. 


the different doctrines to which the idea of natural 
physics had given birth. He condemned them en bloc, 
as being useless, barren and sacrilegious. 

Physics was useless, for physicists were unable to 
agree on a single point. Some maintained that being is 
one, the rest that it is infinitely multiple ; some that 
everything is in motion, the rest that everything is for 
ever motionless, and so on. 1 Now, contradiction is a 
sign of ignorance. 

And it was barren as well. Do those who trouble 
about such matters, said Socrates, imagine that when 
they have discovered the law of necessity according to 
which everything is produced, they will be able to make 
the winds, waters and seasons at their own pleasure ? 2 

And these two features were themselves the result 
of a radical vice : to wit, the sacrilegious nature of 
the task. All that is, said Socrates, may be divided 
into two categories, 3 human things (ra avOpaTreia), such 
as pious and impious, beautiful and ugly, just and 
unjust, matters dealing with civic life and authority, 4 
and divine things (&u/*owa), such as the formation of 
the world, 5 or even the distant and final consequences 
of our actions. 6 Now, the gods have given us power 
to know the former by reasoning ; the latter they have 
reserved for themselves. 7 Physicists, when speculating 
on things divine and neglecting the human, invert the 
order set up by the gods themselves : they disdain 
knowledge which the gods have placed within our 
reach, and try to acquire that knowledge the gods have 
reserved for themselves. 

It is noteworthy that Pascal makes a similar dis- 

1 Xenophon, Mem. iv. 2. 4 Ibid. i. i. 16. 

2 Ibid. i. i. z5. 6 Ibid. i. i. n. 

3 Ibid. i. i. 12. Ibid. i. i. 8. 

7 Ibid. i. i. 7-8. 


tinction. He also 1 divides things into human and 
divine, and accuses men of having perverted the order 
established by God when they use profane things as they 
ought to use sacred ones, and vice versa, that is to say, 
when they consider profane things with the heart and 
divine ones with the mind. To Pascal, however, it is 
physical things that are profane and moral ones that are 

Both this resemblance and this difference enable us 
all the better to understand the thought of Socrates. 
The same religious spirit, both in Socrates and Pascal, 
sets a limit upon human reason. To the Hellene, 
however, man himself is his own master ; it is nature, 
with its mysteries and remoteness, that is divine. To 
the modern man and the Christian it is the infinitude of 
the interior life that is divine, and nature, brute, passive 
matter, that is the object set before human activity. 

The original cause of Socrates' condemnation of 
ancient physics may be found in the stock or fund of 
ideas peculiar to his nation. Greece could not wholly 
adapt herself to those speculations on the principles of 
things into which physiologists had plunged. Doubt- 
less the power of reasoning, the ingenious subtilty and 
wonderful sense of harmony displayed by these pro- 
found investigators, were a good thing, but the imme- 
diate application of these mental qualities to material 
objects most foreign to mankind was opposed to the 
genius of a race that was essentially political, and 
mightily enamoured of fine speeches and noble deeds. 
Besides, how could one reconcile a philosophy which 
undertook to explain physical phenomena by perfectly 
natural causes with a religion which everywhere intro- 
duced the immediate action of the gods? Certainly 

1 De I' Esprit giom. 2nd frag. 


they were Greeks who had planned these beautiful 
systems in which nature was subject to the laws of 
thought ; still, they were citizens of the colonies, and had 
dealings with the Egyptians, Phoenicians and Babylonians. 
They had created the form : the East had supplied 
them with the matter. To detach human affairs from 
the totality of things, to make them the proper domain 
of man's activity and intelligence, and at the same time to 
restore physical phenomena once more to the gods, was 
to place oneself again in the position of the Hellene : 
more especially of the Athenian. This was quite 
natural for the philosopher who never left Athens except 
to fight in the ranks of his fellow-citizens. 

Socrates' judgment on physics, therefore, is no for- 
tuitous accidental fact ; it is not the outcome of a posi- 
tive, a prosaically utilitarian mind. It is not even 
altogether that depreciation of the past, habitual to 
innovators, that antagonism to a rival idea : the condi- 
tion of the realisation and development of the new idea 
which claims the right to exist. Socrates' objections to 
physics are the philosophic expression of that antipathy 
of a religious, artistic people to a mechanical explana- 
tion of things, whereof Aristophanes set himself up as 
the interpreter in the Clouds. The real Socrates flouts 
the Socrates of Aristophanes, as do the people. The 
only difference is that he knows better why he does so. 

But this very discernment of his prevents him from 
altogether condemning the work of the physicists. 
Though declaring it useless, barren and sacrilegious, he 
yet discovers in it a principle which he is jealously 
anxious to adopt. This principle is the form and 
mould, so to speak, of Hellenic thought into which the 
physiologists cast the matter they borrowed from the 
East : it is the consciousness, henceforth acquired by 


the human mind, of its need of unity and harmony ; 
the notion of an impersonal truth, distinct from opinion 
and fancy ; the abstract idea of science. When 
Socrates asks the physiologists l if the reason they 
undertake to speculate on divine things lies in the fact 
that they think they know enough of human things, he 
evidently retains of ancient physics the general idea of 
science as being a special, a superior mode of know- 
ledge, whilst leaving on one side the object to which this 
idea has hitherto been applied. 

And so the general idea of science does not spring 
forth all at once in the mind of Socrates, with the intui- 
tion of genius, as one might imagine from Schleier- 
macher's profound though abstruse dissertation. Nor 
is it the reaction of subjectivism against objectivism, a 
reaction which was evidently determined by the excesses 
of objectivism itself, in accordance with the general law 
of the development of the human mind, as appears to 
be admitted by the former Hegelian, Zeller. This idea 
of science is nothing else than the proper share of the 
Hellenic genius in the formation of ancient physics. 
Socrates' work lies in freeing it from the foreign 
elements with which it was confused, owing to a subtle 
distinction between matter and form which the different 
opponents of the physiologists had been unable to draw. 
In this he was doubtless aided by his power of inven- 
tion, as well as by his singularly Hellenic turn of 
mind. In him the Greek genius recognised its own 
good fortune through the scientific form that the 
physiologists had given to the practical knowledge or 
astronomical speculations of the Orientals. 

Though Socrates concerned himself with physics, he 
paid even more attention to sophistic. Here he dis- 

1 Mem. i. i. 12. 


tinguished two things : the end and the means. In his 
opinion, the end or object of sophistic was to make 
men capable of speaking and acting well, of managing 
efficiently the business of city and home, in a word, of 
being useful to others as well as to themselves. 1 The 
means consisted solely of exercise and routine, the 
immediate practice of that action the capacity for 
which it is one's object to acquire, and so the Sophist, 
in the mind of Socrates, is the man who identifies the 
means with the end, who considers, for instance, that, 
in order to learn to speak well, all that is necessary is 
to hear others speak and to speak oneself, without 
taking the trouble to study theoretically the conditions 
of eloquence. Practice is sufficient in itself. Talent is 
like some physical aptitude which men acquire by being 
shaped and drilled to acquire it. 

Socrates approved of the object of this discipline, 
though he condemned the method employed. 

It was not ironically that he called the sophistic art 
the finest and greatest of them all, a truly royal art. 2 
If we consider nothing but the end set up for human 
activity, we find that Socrates is not only in agreement 
with the Sophists, he is himself one of them. Like the 
Sophists, he considers that man should trouble himself 
about none but human affairs. Like them, he thinks 
that, apart from and above men engaged in special pro- 
fessions and trades, carpenters, pilots, and doctors, etc., 
there is man, pure and simple, who calls for and 
deserves distinct culture and training. Evidently 
Socrates does not limit philosophy to the study of 
human things for the same reason as do the Sophists. 
The latter extolled mankind because they denied the 
existence of the gods. Socrates sees the proof of the 

1 Mem. iv. 3. i ; iv. 2. n. 2 Ibid. iv. 2. ti. 


existence and greatness of the gods in the very limits 
imposed on man. Socrates and the Sophists arrive at 
the same conclusion, though along different paths. 

In this comparison between Socrates and the Sophists 
there is nothing disparaging to our philosopher if we 
form a correct idea of sophistic. The Sophists were 
something more than the destroyers of whom Zeller 
speaks, something more than that impersonal echo of the 
prevailing morals that Grote would have us believe. It 
fell to the creators of sophistic, men like Protagoras and 
Gorgias, to be the first to conceive of the legitimacy 
and utility of intellectual culture of a general nature, 
applied not to some particular faculty, but to the man him- 
self, in such a way as to make him capable of acting nobly 
under all circumstances. To gymnastics the national 
education had now added music, or the teaching of 
knowledge which moulds the intelligence.! The Sophists, 
however, rose to a loftier conception of education, the 
end of which they regarded as being not only the intro- 
duction into the mind of more or less determined 
knowledge, but also the creation of universal aptitudes. 
In doing this it may be said that they brought within 
the sphere of consciousness the principle which had 
long controlled the practical life of the Hellene^ and 
which showed itself in a strange admiration for men 
fertile in expedients, and skilled in getting out of a 
difficulty under all circumstances j men like Ulysses, 
Themistocles or Alcibiades. The special form the 
Sophists gave to their principle indicates even more 
clearly its Hellenic nature, for it was essentially in the 
ability and skill to speak and debate that they placed a 
man's peculiar wortrj it was to develop this virtue in 
their pupils that they established what might be called 
intellectual gymnastics. 


No wonder Socrates approved of whatever there was 
in sophistic that was lofty and in conformity with the 
genius of the race. But he did not therefore accept the 
principles of the Sophists. 

Indeed, the thought came to him to find out if per- 
formance came up to promise, and if the Sophists really 
carried out that intellectual and moral education the 
excellence of which they well understood. It must be 
confessed that the process he adopted to assure himself 
thereof was that of a man prepossessed in favour of a 
contrary doctrine, rather than that of an impartial critic 
who unreservedly sees things from the point of view of 
his interlocutors. He did not trouble about seeing 
people at work, or trying to discover if the pupils of 
the Sophists behaved as clever politicians, just, clear- 
sighted men. He started with the idea that the proof 
of ability was knowledge, and that the proof of know- 
ledge was the power to explain to others what one 
knows. 1 Then he went about the town, questioning 
the Sophists and their pupils, calling upon them to tell 
him what piety, justice, courage and virtue were, and 
satisfactorily to answer all possible questions thereon, 
without ever contradicting themselves. Not one came 
successfully out of this test ; so Socrates concluded that, 
though the Sophists made fine promises, their perform- 
ances were not in conformity with them. 

Now, what but the method employed by the Sophists 
could be the cause of their failure ? This method con- 
sisted of practice left to itself and rejecting all theory 
as vain and useless ; it was art considered as its own 
means and end. 

Here Socrates saw a double error. In the first place, 
art cannot be an end unto itself. Consider bodily 

1 Mem. iv. 6. i ; iii. 3. n. Cf. Laches, 190 C. 


gymnastics. If you admit this to be an absolute end, 
you will be led to attach as much importance to tricks 
of strength which deform the body as to the well- 
planned exercises which make it supple and strong. 
It is the same with intellectual gymnastics. In itself 
it is quite as likely to make men more unjust and 
wicked as to make them more just and noble. 1 Will it 
have the same value, then, in both cases ? 

There is more than this, however. Not only cannot 
art be an end unto itself; it cannot come into being 
from exercise and practice alone. If art for art's sake 
is dangerous, art by means of art is impossible. Is it 
imagined, as Aristotle says later on, that, according to 
Socrates' meaning, in teaching a man the trade of a 
shoemaker, it is sufficient to place in his hands a collec- 
tion of ready-made shoes ? 2 To call forth art itself is 
a very different thing from imparting the products of 
art. A pupil trained by external means can, more or 
less faithfully, reproduce whatever he has seen his master 
do, but he has not within him that general, self-sufficing 
ability which constitutes true art. Art is independence, 
whereas such a pupil is his master's slave. 3 

Art by means of art is, in a word, routine, ignorance, 
chance. Now, a man must be very simple-minded if 
he thinks that, whereas it is impossible to become a 
carpenter, pilot, or general unless one possesses special 
knowledge of these different professions, all the same, 
skill in the general conduct of life can spring up within 
us as the result of mere chancel Take any mental 
quality you please, if, in acquiring it, you restrict your- 
self to practice alone, you can never be certain you will 

1 Mem. iv. 3. i. 2 Arist. Soph. Elench. 184 a i. 

3 Mt'm. iv. 7. i : a&TdpKeis iv rcus 7rpocnr;Koij<rais Trpd^effiv. 

4 I*>id. iv. 2. 2 sqq. ; iii. 5. 21 sqq. 


not end in the very opposite of what you are aiming at. 
Take justice, for instance. The man who has learnt it 
by nothing but practice and routine will regard it as 
consisting of certain determined modes of action : e.g. 
never stealing or deceiving another. Deceit is just, when 
you are dealing with enemies ; and so is pillage, when 
it is the foe you are plundering. 1 

But if art is insufficient unto itself, where can it find 
the rule and principle it needs ? Nowhere but in just 
ideas on the use of mental qualities, and on the con- 
ditions of these very qualities : in a word, it can find 
them only in science. \The Sophists missed their goal 
because they were too eager, and made straight for it, 
instead of proceeding along the winding path which 
alone could have led them to it. Before laying claim 
to skill in practical speech or deed, one must acquire 
that theoretical knowledge which alone confers general 
ability. 2 We are good at the things with which we are 
acquainted, and bad at those we know nothing about. 3 
Art implies science : a thing the Sophists did not see. 

Such were the views of Socrates regarding physics 
and sophistic. One judgment was the reverse of the 
other. He blamed the physiologists for not having 
that sense of human affairs which he praised the 
Sophists for possessing : he blamed the Sophists for 
being without that conception of science which he 
found in the physiologists. The latter had applied the 
form of science to something that goes beyond it: the 
Sophists had omitted to apply it to the thing that re- 
quires and admits of it. Physics was science isolated 
from art and practical life, losing itself in empty specu- 
lations; sophistic was art isolated from science and so 
reduced to dangerous routine. 

1 Mem. iv. 2. 14 sqq. 2 Ibid. iv. 3. i ; iii. 9. 4. 3 Laches, 194 D. 


Such an appreciation of physics and sophistic natur- 
ally led Socrates to collect and combine the principles 
which to him appeared viable in each of these two 
disciplines, i.e. scientific form, on the one hand, and 
exclusive preoccupation about human things, on the 
other. By applying to the object of sophistic the scien- 
tific form invented by the physiologists, there would be 
established a wisdom as useful as art and as universal 
and communicable as science, capable of moulding man 
and influencing his morals, capable also of being self- 
sufficient and defending itself against objections, in a 
word, proportioned to the forces and the needs of 
human nature. 

iThis idea of a union of science and art is the very 
germ of Socratic philosophy.) Socrates does not first 
cultivate science and art separately, and make them 
serve each other afterwards. To his mind, each strays 
from the path whenever it claims to be journeying alone. 
In their close co-operation, their mutual penetration, lies 
the condition of their existence and success. 

Here we find determined the general object of 
Socrates' investigations. This object is the domain he 
clearly discerned and circumscribed between things divine 
and the mechanical arts, i.e. human nature in what- 
ever it offers of a general and definable character ; l it is 
real and substantial human happiness, as distinct from 
imaginary, fragile and delusive happiness ; 2 it is the art of 
using men and human things well, not only under certain 
circumstances and by chance, but with certainty and under 
all circumstances ; 3 in a word, it is all that is necessary 
and sufficient for the making of an honest man. 

Such was his idea when he went about repeating 
the Apollonian maxim : Tif&Ot a-avrov. According to 

1 Mem. i. i. 16. 2 Apol. 36 D. 3 Mem. iv. i. 2. 


Socrates to know oneself was not simply to be con- 
scious, under all circumstances, of what one is or is not, 
capable. It meant entering deep into one's own soul, 
beyond the particular and the fleeting, to find the one 
identical, permanent substratum. It meant finding that 
secret nature we carry about everywhere with us, and 
which contains within itself the conditions of our wisdom 
and happiness far more than do external things. In a 
word, the Socratic maxim is an exhortation to become 
conscious of whatever in us is general. 

Socrates does not consider the Tvwdt <ravrov as simply 
the first step in the search after the whole of truth. He 
does not mean that knowledge of self is the condition of 
attaining to all other knowledge, and that once it is 
acquired we shall be in a position to enter upon the 
search for all the rest. The TvwOt, a-avrov is the end 
as well as the beginning of science ; there can be no 
other science for man to acquire than that of himself. 

True, we read in the Phaedrus of Plato l that Socrates 
regards it as ridiculous to trouble about other things, 
when one is still ignorant of oneself ; this passage would 
seem to indicate that Socrates merely postpones physical 
and theological research, not that he rejects it. Here, 
however, he is speaking ironically. To his mind, the 
time will never come for taking up the science of 
universal being, because man will never know himself 
completely. Probably no one, before the time of Socrates, 
was as conscious as he was of the infinite complexity and 
the unfathomable profundity of man's moral nature, as 
we see from the passage just quoted in the Phaedrus : 
" I am trying to find out," he says, " whether I am 
more complicated and wicked than the serpent Typhon, 
or if I am of a simple nature, participating in divinity." 

1 229 E. 


How could Socrates recognise research even so far as 
to postpone it which had not man for its object ? Apart 
from human things, there are none but physical or divine 
things and the mechanical arts. Now, the former are 
beyond man's reach, 1 and the rest, such as the art of the 
shoemaker, the carpenter, the wrestler, and the pan- 
cratiast, are practised very well by special men, without 
the aid of theoretical science. 2 

Moreover, wisdom, when thus restricted to man, is 
that which is of the greatest interest to him. Indeed, 
what most dignifies human nature if it be not freedom, 
independence with regard to other men and external 
matters, and the possession of everything necessary for 
good conduct and happiness ? Now, what kind of 
occupation is capable of conferring on us this divine 
independence ? Not the mechanical arts, subjected to 
the needs of the body ; not advanced astronomy and 
geometry, difficult and useless sciences, whose object 
is quite foreign to the human soul. 3 Close investiga- 
tion will reveal to us the fact that, under all circumstances, 
it is one and the same thing that makes man dependent 
and a slave, to wit, ignorance of real good and evil, 
ignorance of himself. 4 Therefore, what is to set man 
free and enable him to be sufficient unto himself, under all 
circumstances, 5 is science, not any particular science, but 
the knowledge of what we are and of what tallies with 
our nature. 

(Thus, Socrates regards the science of human things 
as the object most worthy of man's powers^ Great is 
the distance, however, between the idea of such a science 
and its realisation. The scientific form, as we find it in 
ancient physiology, is not adapted to things dealing with 

1 Mem. iv. 7. 6. 2 Ibid. iii. 5. 21 ; iv. 2. 12. 

3 Ibid. iv. 7. 2. 4 Ibid. iv. 2. 22-23 ; i. i 16. 6 Ibid, iv, 7 i. 



the moral life, nor does art, as the Sophists conceived it, 
lend itself to scientific development. For the physicists 
science consisted in knowing the generation of things, 
in being able to say whether there is only one substance 
or several, whether everything is immovable or in 
motion. How can these categories be applied to 
intellectual and moral things? (On the other hand, 
for the Sophists there is nothing fixed or universal in 
human nature, good and happiness are entirely relative 
to individuals) Human things offer for our study only 
an infinite number of particular cases unconnected 
with one another. How can such material be an object 
of science ? 

The idea, then, of a moral science such as Socrates 
had conceived it, called forth a double task. On the 
one hand, the idea of science had to be elaborated so 
that it might be adapted to moral things ; on the other, 
moral things had to be looked upon from such a bias, 
so to speak, as to make them appear fit to become 
objects of science. A mould suited to the matter had 
to be made, and the matter rendered capable of flowing 
into the mould. The mind of Socrates was directed to 
the solution of this double problem. The results of 
his reflections on both points may be grouped together 
under the terms dialectic and ethic. Still, we must 
not attribute to Socrates a dialectic and an ethic distinct 
from each other. The characteristic of his dialectic is 
that it is built up with a view to his ethic, and the 
characteristic of his ethic is that it is the working out 
of his dialectic. They are only two phases of one and 
the same discipline : the more or less artificial duplica- 
tion of the " Moral Science." 

In this sense, in what do the dialectic and ethic of 
Socrates consist ? In the details of his philosophy shall 


we find those characteristics that seem to us to have 
indicated his general conception of human wisdom ? 


Both Zeller and Schleiermacher maintain that 
Socrates, far from being a merely popular moralist, 
does not limit himself to moral philosophy : he follows 
after true science, the science of the essence of things. 
First of all, he forms a universal conception of science, 
regarding it as consisting of the methodical determina- 
tion of the concept or the expression of the general 
element of the things given. Then, in accordance with 
the law of the human mind, he applies this universal 
form to the particular incomplete object with which 
experience supplies him. This object happens to be 
human life. The subsequent task of the Socratics 
consists in applying this very form to the other domains 
of reality. 1 

According to this interpretation, the Socratic theory 
of science would appear to have a distinct existence. 
Logically, if not chronologically, it would seem to be 
anterior to and independent of the Socratic ethic ; a 
system of symbols which the philosopher had created 
from quite an abstract point of view, and without con- 
sidering the peculiar nature of the things he had 
undertaken to investigate. 

It cannot be denied but that this interpretation 
accords with the destiny of Socratic philosophy. Indeed, 
we find Plato and Aristotle applying to the whole study 
of nature a method analogous to the one employed by 
Socrates in the investigation of moral questions. 

1 Schleiermacher, Werke, iii. 2, p. 300 sqq. ; Zeller, Phil. d. Gr. 3rd 
edition, vol. ii. 93 sqq. 


But does an interpretation need only to be in 
agreement with the historical fortune of a philosophy 
for us to regard it as the faithful expression of the 
thought of the philosopher himself? To find out what 
a thing is in its true nature by what it subsequently 
becomes is a method dear to Hegelians. Indeed, 
to their mind, creation is being itself. It does not 
seem, however, to be without reason that Pascal said : 
"Sometimes the self-same thoughts develop quite 
differently in others from the way in which they 
develop in their author." How many principles 
expand or shrink, become modified or transformed, 
when they pass from one mind to another which 
examines them from its own point of view ! We 
could not say with Schleiermacher and the Hegelians : 
u To know what Socrates was, we must above all find 
out how Plato came to regard him as his master." 
For Plato may have applied the Socratic method to 
objects for which it was not meant. 

Now, if we consider the main elements of this 
method, one by one, we shall find that, in the form 
in which they appear in Socrates' speeches, they can 
be explained only by a continual preoccupation upon 
the moral object to which they are to be applied. We 
shall not find Socrates determining the idea of science 
for itself, and afterwards applying it to morals. Science, 
he imagines, can be separated from morals only in a 
totally abstract manner, in language, if you will, never 
in the nature of things. In a word, we shall find 
Socrates stating the logical problem in the following 
terms : of what should science consist, in order that 
virtue and happiness may become objects of science ? 

First of all, the criterion of science, in the mind of 


Socrates, is agreement with itself, and the power to 
get accepted infallibly by all, what one thinks he 
knows. 1 Socrates does not show himself anxious to 
confront philosophical doctrines with the nature of 
things as this nature is capable of existing in itself, 
independently of the conceptions of the human mind. 
According to him, the necessary and all-sufficient con- 
dition of certainty lies in the double agreement of man 
with himself and with the rest of mankind ; in other 
words, in the agreement of the human mind with itself. 

Now, this principle, new to philosophy, would 
indeed be strange were the knowledge of being and 
of the universal principles of nature the object of 
philosophy. In that case, if we would understand 
Socrates' doctrine, we should have to infer that he was 
already identifying human thought with the principle 
of being in general. But such identification was 
possible only when several regions had been distin- 
guished in the human mind, and the existence of an 
eternal reason had therein been found. Such an 
analysis was the distinctive work of Plato and Aris- 
totle. Socrates, for his part, clearly distinguishes 
opinion from reasoning, but he goes no farther ; he 
considers that our power of reasoning cannot claim to 
know the first principles and final ends of things. 

On the other hand, it may well be understood that 
the agreement of the human mind with itself should be 
looked upon as the criterium of truth, if we are dealing 
only with truth in moral affairs. For it is quite 
natural to admit that, innate in the human mind, there 
is the general idea of what is suitable for man, and that 
this intellectual substratum is the same in all individuals. 
It is this that is called common sense, a sure guide so 

1 Alcibiades I. iii. D-E ; Mem. iv. 6. i and 15. 


long as we are concerned with the conduct of life, but 
pregnant with error when dealing with the knowledge 
of the laws of the universe. 

Now, to what object must one apply oneself to 
realise that agreement with oneself and the rest of the 
world which forms the condition of certainty ? In 
other words, what is the matter proper to science ? 

Here we find what constitutes the essence of the 
logical doctrine of Socrates, that original and fruitful 
principle which was to remain the guide of the human 
mind for two thousand years. Science, asserted Socrates, 
has for its object that which is general. There is no 
science of the individual, of the accidental, of particular 
things as they are presented to us. The object of the 
science of courage, for instance, is not courageous 
deeds, it is that which is common to all courageous 
deeds, it is the answer to the question : rL ea-rcv q 
avSpeia ; it is, as Plato says later on, 1 TO Bia Travrav 
Trepl avSpeias 7r(f>v/c6<;. 2 

This maxim is the very one advanced to prove that 
Socrates considered science in itself, apart from the 
matter to which it must be applied. But though it 
is true that the maxim of Socrates became after his 
time a logical and even metaphysical doctrine superior 
to any particular domain, it does not therefore follow 
that it was so to himself. This will be evident if, 
instead of considering it separately, it is replaced in 
the ensemble of the Socratic philosophy. 

The whole work of Xenophon 3 clearly shows that 
Socrates never sought the general except in human things. 

Consequently the matter at issue has less bearing on 
the question of fact than on that of right. 

1 See Mem. i. i. 16. 2 Laches, 192 E. 

3 See principally Mem. i. i. 16. 


What was it that Socrates meant by the general, and 
why did he see in it the only object that admitted of 
scientific knowledge ? 

By the general, Socrates did not mean the simple 
permanent element which may lie hidden in the com- 
pound things that strike our senses. In reality, that 
is not the general ; it is rather substance, that is to say, 
the very object which physicists had considered and 
which Socrates regards as inaccessible. On the other 
hand, the general is not yet to him what it will be to 
Plato and Aristotle : the normal type of a species, the 
natural being as it would be if the cause peculiar to it 
were acting alone without being opposed, as happens 
in the sensible world, by outer influences. The general, 
of which Socrates speaks, is not related to the material 
world, nor even to an intelligible world : strictly 
speaking, it is the common substratum of men's 
speeches and actions. Socrates starts with the idea 
that the reason we use one and the same word, justice, 
to designate quite different modes of action, such as 
doing good to one's friends and doing evil to one's 
enemies, lies in the fact that we have in mind a certain 
notion which is single in its nature, and the object of 
which we find in the various actions we designate as 
just. And as men, when they talk to one another in 
good faith, come sooner or later to agree as to the use 
of their words, the ideas represented by these words are 
bound to be identical in the minds of all. 

And now, why does Socrates make the general, thus 
understood, the proper object of science ? 

Because he finds in it the necessary and sufficient 
condition of that agreement with oneself and others 
which, in his mind, is the mark of knowledge. 

Apart from these determined, fixed notions, which 


form the foundations of words, there is no guiding- 
mark for the mind in its reasonings, and therefore no 
means of coming to an understanding with oneself and 
others. On the other hand, it is sufficient to make 
one's discourse conform to those general notions on 
which all men are agreed, to be sure of obtaining the 
assent of one's interlocutors. Why does Homer call 
Ulysses an orator sure of success? Because Ulysses, 
in his discourse, is guided by ideas which all men 
accept : Sia rwv SOKOVVTOW dvdpcorroi^. 1 

Francis Bacon, the modern legislator of the sciences 
of nature, said, not without reason, that from human 
language one can deduce only words, not things, if we 
would know the nature of the external world ; but 
human language is certainly the first testimony that 
must be consulted if it is desired to become acquainted 
with the thoughts and wishes of the human mind. 
There is nothing to indicate that the categories of 
language reproduce those of things ; but it is evident 
they are an image of the categories of our thoughts 
and actions. The discourse of men can supply the 
physicist only with an altogether provisional ensemble 
of signs and conjectures. Such language, when dealing 
with moral philosophy, is the very thing we have to. 

If we now consider in detail the method of Socrates, 
we find that it consists of two parts which may be 
designated by the names of exterior form and logical 
substratum. The former consists of dialogue along 
with certain features peculiar to Socrates, such as irony 
and maieutics, as well as the leading rble assigned to 
self-possession and love. Logical substratum consists 

1 Mem. iv. 6. 15. 


of definition and induction. Each of these parts, accord- 
ing to Socrates, has a special aspect. 

Zeller says that the reason Socrates makes use of the 
dialogue form is that he is conscious of his own ignor- 
ance, because of the contradictions he finds in the 
various systems of philosophy, and that it is his desire 
to escape from this state of ignorance. Hence, accord- 
ing to Zeller, his disposition to appeal to others, with 
the object of discovering if perchance they are in 
possession of the very science he lacks. 

This explanation is not altogether satisfactory. In 
the first place, Socrates does not consult his interlocutors 
on things in general, but only on what concerns man- 
kind : he expects to learn nothing from the dialogue 
form any more than from any other method of in- 
vestigation about physical things. Then, too, Socrates 
does not see in the dialogue form merely a convenient 
and suggestive method of philosophising ; to his 
mind dialectic cannot be distinguished from wisdom 

Though investigation into the causes of the world is 
a matter of solitary speculation, it is not the same with 
investigation into the conditions of human life. How 
can man be known, except by conversing with men ? 
And if science consists in discovering the points on 
which all men are agreed, and which form the substratum 
of all their judgments (ra fiaKicrra opoX.oyovfjieva), what 
shorter and more certain method can one have than to 
bring together men's opinions and compare them with 
one another ? In a word, if science must be used for 
instructing men and persuading them of things of which 
we have become certain, once for all, is not methodical 
conversation, from its beginning right on to its end, 
an integral part of philosophy and wisdom ? 


Consequently, it is not from modesty, from deference 
to the science of others, that Socrates constantly speaks 
of examining things in common, Kotvfj (3ov\ve<r0ai,, 1 
Koivrf a-KeTTTecrOai,, tcoivf) tyreiv, (rvtyrelv : this form of 
investigation is implied in the very object he has in 
view. For a dissertation on the principles of nature, 
writing is sufficient ; but to know men and succeed in 
convincing them, one must converse with them. 

Socratic dialogue frequently assumes the form of 
irony. Socrates puts his questions without ever answer- 
ing them, 2 and thus brings his interlocutor either to the 
point of contradicting himself or coming to a dead stop, 
and acknowledging his ignorance of the very things he 
thought he knew. 3 

Now, the use of such a method is far more compre- 
hensible when dealing with the knowledge of human 
things than when dealing with that of nature. How, 
when dealing with external things, can a man confine 
himself to questioning others without bringing their asser- 
tions face to face with reality itself? In order profitably 
to undertake such questioning, would not a man need 
previously to have shown himself competent in both 
physics and metaphysics ? And again, would not the 
listeners also need to be specially competent if their 
judgment on the discussion is to be of any value ? But 
when dealing with human things, every one is competent, 
for he bears within himself just the touchstone needed 
for the testing of opinions. In conversation itself, the 
questioner may find all that is needed for proving that 
his interlocutor is not only in flagrant contradiction with 
himself, but with the very nature of things as well. 
Moreover, is it not especially such human qualities as 

1 Mem. iv. 5. 12. 2 Arist. Soph. el. ch. xxxiii. 

3 Plat. Repub. i. 337 A E ; Sophistes, 183 B. 


piety and justice, courage and virtue, with whose nature 
every man thinks he is acquainted, though really such 
is not the case ? The physiologists would not have 
accepted the contest to which Socrates invited his inter- 
locutors. Only such men as were occupied in moral 
affairs could submit to such a mode of questioning : 
only they, in fact, did so. 

It is the same with maieutics. Socrates would have 
us think that he is barren as regards wisdom ; but by 
his questions he helps others to bring to birth what they 
bear in their own mind, and that unconsciously. Then, 
after thus eliciting the secret ideas of his interlocutors, 
he carefully examines whether the offspring of their soul 
is nothing but fancy, or fruit that is real and capable of 
living. 1 What must we think of such a method ? 

Socrates, we are told, considers himself barren as 
regards wisdom. What kind of wisdom is here meant, 
if not practical wisdom, which indeed has the strange 
characteristic of being, in one aspect, incapable of com- 
munication, of existing within us only if it is ourself, 
of being produced within our person only if it springs 
forth from our own inmost nature ? 

How is Socrates able to generate, in the minds of 
his interlocutors, ideas likely to be true and capable of 
living ? This doctrine is a very strange one, if we are 
dealing with physical or metaphysical truths. That 
audacious doctrine which identifies the mind of man 
with the principle of things is nowhere to be found in 
Socrates : if it happens that he predicts the future 2 it 
is not by the might of his intelligence alone, but owing 
to a mysterious and quite supernatural revelation. 
Maieutics, however, is a very reasonable and legitimate 
method, if our object is to bring moral truths before 

1 Theaet. 149, 157 c. 2 Mem. i. i. 5. 


men, for these truths are nothing but the expression 
and reflective knowledge of human nature : and human 
nature is what every man has within himself. The 
fiction of Meno is a Platonic and paradoxical extension 
of Socratic maieutics. Socrates, for his part, elicits 
from the minds of his listeners only knowledge that 
relates to piety, justice, temperance, courage, urban 
government, and everything that goes to make up an 
honourable man. 1 

Finally, how can Socrates, who professes to be ignor- 
ant, rightly estimate the true value of the fruit which 
he assists human intelligence in bringing forth ? Are 
we not here dealing exclusively with those moral and 
practical ideas upon which every man, in his human 
capacity, is competent, when in forming his judgments 
he imposes silence on his distinctive tastes and passions 
and puts himself just at that point of view, superior to 
the individual, which Socrates had defined ? 

Dialectic, besides, possesses two very remarkable 
moral conditions : self-possession and love : eyKpdreia 
and 6/9o>9* 

" To those who are self-possessed, and to them only, 
is it given to investigate the best in everything, and, 
distinguishing things by a dialectic of actions and words, 
according as they belong to the good or the evil, to 
choose the one and abstain from the other." 2 It is 
because dialectic has for its object the determination of 
the value of things, from the moral and human point 
of view, that self-possession is its essential condition. 
Indeed, the true moral value of things lies in the interest 
they offer to human nature in general, not to the indi- 
vidual, regarded from the standpoint of his tastes and 
passions, which are superficial and fleeting. Now, it is 

1 Mem. i. i. 16. 2 Ibid. iv. 5. n. 


owing to self-control that man, in his judgments, lays 
his individual and accidental preferences on one side. 

And finally, love, epw?, plays an important part in 
the dialectic of Socrates. The same may be said regard- 
ing all the Socratics. Not only Xenophon and Plato, 
but also Euclid, Crito, Simmias and Antisthenes, have 
written on the subject of love. What is the love\that 
is here meant ? Doubtless Socrates does not mean 
friendship, pure and simple, but rather affection mingled 
with sense attraction. It is a kind of spiritual ardour 
that enters the whole man, causing in him an emotion 
that has nothing to do with mere friendship. Evidently 
Socrates disparages physical love, though not in all its 
elements. He retains its soul-uplifting charm, which 
is lacking when the intelligence alone is at play. 
He keeps, one might say, its vital impulse, if not its 
object. 1 

This love, moreover, could not go to the point of 
passion and frenzy, like the love of which Plato speaks in 
Phaedrus. Even here self-possession is still a superior, 
inviolable duty. The Platonic distinction between good 
and evil frenzy would have been rejected by Socrates, 
to whom all frenzy is slavery. 

How is the rule that governs such a mental state to 
be explained ? 

Certainly Socrates does not dream of investing love 
with the rble that Plato assigns to it, and which consists 
in introducing us into the world of beauty, as into the 
vestibule, as it were, of divine, transcendent truth. In 
order that love might appear as endowed with such 
power, it would have to be a state of rapture and ecstasy, 
whereas Socratic love is inseparable from self-possession. 
Already Socrates condemns poets for writing poetry 

1 Xen. Banquet, ch. viii. 


not by science but by enthusiasm, a kind of divine 
inspiration. 1 With all the more reason would he have 
condemned as sacrilegious the claim that the secrets 
the gods have removed from our mental grasp could 
be reached in a state of frenzy. 

In investigations upon human things there is room 
for a kind of love which combines sense attraction and 
self-possession. In accordance with the principle of 
maieutics, the soul must bring forth its wisdom from 
itself, just as the body brings forth from itself the fruit 
to which it gives birth. Therefore the soul, as well as 
the body, must be impregnated. Love here intervenes 
for the purpose of playing a part similar to that it 
plays in physical procreation. Intelligences impregnate 
each other, as bodies do. By the influence of noble 
love the soul becomes big with noble thoughts and 
feelings. " Orestes and Pylades, Theseus and Pirithous, 
and several other demi-gods are famous . . . because, 
admiring one another, they performed together the most 
glorious deeds." 2 Moreover, it was a familiar idea 
amongst the Greeks that the mutual love of youths 
exalted their courage, and made them capable of mighty 

And so we find that dialogue, irony, maieutics, self- 
possession and love, all of which are elements of the 
Socratic method, if regarded not as abstract formulas 
but rather in their historical aspect, testify to a reflective 
and exclusive preoccupation to establish the science of 
morals. But, so far, these are nothing but the externals 
of the method. What must we think of that which 
constitutes their basis, to wit, of the process of refu- 
tation which, in some way, makes up the negative 
method, and of the processes of definition and induction 

1 Plat. Apol. 22 B-C. 2 Xen. Banquet, ch. viii. 


of which the positive method consists ? Does it not 
appear that here, at all events, we have to do with 
instruments that are really of universal importance, and 
with conditions, not merely of the science of morals, 
but of science in general, whatever be its object ? 

Of what does the Socratic refutation consist ? Socrates 
begins by eliciting or drawing forth from the problem 
in question the very datum he presupposes. 1 For 
instance, if he is told that any one man is a better 
citizen than another, he asks his interlocutor what, in 
his mind, constitutes a good citizen. When the other 
man has replied, Socrates asks him additional questions, 
dealing with cases to which the term " good citizen " is 
generally applied. By this method he makes him give 
answers that are incompatible with the original reply : 
the result being that the definition put forward was 
either too restricted or too wide, or defective in some 
other way. 2 

Socrates applies this method of refutation to the 
judgments either of ordinary men, politicians, poets and 
artists of renown, 3 professors of eloquence and virtue, 
or of sophists ; in a word, he applies it to all ideas that 
deal with morals ; but we do not find that he made use 
of it to refute physical or metaphysical doctrines. As 
regards the latter, he contents himself with emphasising 
the contradiction that prevails between the various ideas 
of philosophers. 

Naturally, the Socratic method of refutation may be 
employed under all circumstances, but its most legitimate 
use is in regard to morals. If we carefully notice, we find 
that Socrates bases the truth of any given particular asser- 

1 Mem. iv. 6. 1 3 : tvl rrjv vir&deffw fTravrjyev &v Trdvra rbv \6yov. 

2 For instance, Mem. iv. 2 : Conversation between Socrates and 

3 Apol. ch. vi. to viii. 


tion on knowledge of the general principle relating to 
that assertion. Now, such a method is incomprehensible, 
if we are dealing with the order of physical realities, where 
the particular is given before the general. Is it con- 
ceivable that, when affirming we see the sun turning 
round the earth, we should be interrupted and asked 
whether, before expressing ourselves in this way, we 
have assured ourselves that we know what sight and 
movement are ? All philosophies even ancient philo- 
sophy have necessarily subordinated knowledge of the 
principles of physics to the facts and appearances that 
have to be explained, not the existence of facts or 
appearances to a knowledge of the principles. In the 
moral order of things, however, the particular is not 
" given " : it is to be sought for. Aristides is not 
" given " to me as a virtuous man : I ask myself if I 
ought to declare him to be so. The conduct I should 
observe if I would practise piety is not " given " : it is 
to come, it is only possible. And how can it be deter- 
mined except by starting from the general idea of piety? 
Socrates is therefore right in subordinating the truth of 
particular judgments to the knowledge of the general, 
if he is specially considering the moral domain ; for 
here the particular is nothing more than we make it ; 
and we make it of such or such a nature only by virtue 
of the ideas inherent in our own mind. Now, universal 
principles exist in most men only under the form of 
habits or blind instincts ; hence the principitancy and 
inconsistency noticed in their judgments. It is the 
very object of the method of Socrates to substitute 
deliberate, resolute maxims for these blind, wavering 

But we have not yet entered upon the two Socratic 
processes, which, more than all others, appear to be 


of universal, theoretical application : definition and 
induction ; l definition, the supreme object of dialectic ; 
induction, the methodical march leading to definition. 

Definition is the adequate expression of that general 
essence which is the object of science. The Socratic 
definition possesses this in particular : it does not con- 
fine itself to offering a distinctive sign of things ; it 
claims to set forth the necessary and all - sufficient 
condition of their existence. It not only states what 
the thing is, seen from without, it even tries to discover 
what is capable of producing it. For instance, to call 
a just man the one who does just things is not to 
define him. It is possible to do just things by chance, 
not by justice ; and one may be just without mani- 
festing justice within oneself. On the other hand, to 
say that the just man is he who knows what the 
laws ordain with reference to men, is to offer a true 
definition. For we do not find that men ever do 
anything else than what they 'think they ought to do, 
and those who know justice will necessarily do just 
things under all circumstances. 2 They have within 
themselves the universal capacity for justice. 

Thus the Socratic definition consists of the declara- 
tion of the inner capacity, of which the thing to be 
defined is the outer manifestation. 

Now, where, in the first place, is this distinction 
between the concrete, particular thing and the invisible, 
general power to be found, if not in man ? And does 
not this search after a metaphysical essence justified, 
if we are dealing with the human soul, by consciousness 
itself become extremely rash and dangerous if we 
claim to practise it with regard to the outer phenomena 
of nature. 

1 Arist. Met. xiii. 4. 1078 b 25. 2 Mem. iv. 6. 6. 


Why, too, does Socrates regard the capacity, or 
total principle of the action as reposing in an idea, in 
the knowledge, pure and simple, of the conditions of 
action, leaving aside the force necessary to realise it? 
The reason is that, in man, force or activity is ever 
present, and is always determined conformably with 
knowledge. Such, at all events, is the opinion of 
Socrates regarding will. Will is, as it were, a constant 
datum which it is practically needless to mention. 
It would not be so were we dealing with the pro- 
duction of physical phenomena, for in the latter case 
the nature of the generating causes and their mode 
of action are unknown and inaccessible. 

To arrive at definition, thus regarded, the method 
Socrates uses is induction. This operation consists of 
two parts, which may be called invention and discussion. 

To discover the general essence, Socrates takes as 
his starting-point a certain number of instances of the 
thing to be defined. These instances, however, do 
not consist of natural facts, directly observed : Socrates 
takes them exclusively from human discourse. Language, 
opinions, ordinary judgments or even nature seen 
through man : such is the material of which his 
induction is formed, such the ground in which it 
must germinate. From the outset Socrates interests 
himself preferably in the feelings of men regarding 
paltry matters and commonplace pursuits. 1 Initiation 
into the lesser mysteries, he says, must precede initiation 
into the greater. This is the reason he is constantly 
speaking of shoemakers and smiths, carpenters and 
drovers : a reproach brought against him by his 
enemies. 2 

To observation, as thus understood, Socrates adds 

1 Gorgias, ch. li. p. 497 B-c. 2 Mem. i. 2, 37. 


analogy. He appeals to things his interlocutor knows ; 
and, showing him the resemblance between these things 
and those that form the subject of conversation, he 
draws him on to the discovery that even the latter 
were not really unknown to him. 1 What, for instance, 
constitutes a just man ? We know that a carpenter 
is a man who knows carpentry ; a musician is one who 
knows music ; a doctor, one who knows medicine. 
Our conclusion, by analogy, will be that the just man 
is the man who knows justice. 2 The usual and, as it 
were, essential theme of these analogies consists in the 
transition from mechanical, special arts to moral and 
general art ; in a word, the transition from things of 
the body to those of the soul. 

Still, observation and analogy give only provisional 
results : discussion alone affords decisive ones. Having 
once invented a general formula by means of carefully 
chosen cases, Socrates considers the greatest possible 
number of cases and applies his formula to all these 
instances, retaining it unmodified if it emerges success- 
fully from the test, and suitably modifying it if it docs 
not. Not only does he vary, he even reverses the 
experiment, trying to find a definition for the contrary 
object, and ascertaining whether this new definition 
is to the former what negation is to affirmation. 

Such is Socratic induction. Now, all the details of 
this process are applicable to human things, whereas 
they are inapplicable to physical or metaphysical things. 

To take as one's starting-point the language and 
discourse of ordinary life, and not external facts, is a 
method that may rightly be regarded as meaningless 
and fantastic if our object is to know the absolute 
essence of being and of things ; but it is a very natural 

1 Xen, Economicus, 19. 15. 2 Gorgias, 460 B. 


and legitimate method if our object is to find out what 
lies at the bottom of human judgments. It is also 
quite conceivable that the philosopher should bestow 
particular attention upon common and ordinary things, 
if his express purpose is to know man, for it is in this 
order of things that human nature appears as it really 
is, stripped of the mask of convention and false 

The complaisant use of the method of analogy and 
the fact that this mode of reasoning is regarded as 
proof, would indicate anything but a scientific mind 
if one's investigation were compelled to cover every 
domain of reality. But if we are to move in one and 
the same domain only, and that the domain of human 
things, then analogy is a useful method to follow. 
For then, its action is limited to passing from one 
species to another in the same genus, and that, too, 
in the order of things most familiar to us, in which we 
need only retire within ourselves to find points of 
reference at each step. 

In short, the Socratic process of discussion and 
control is a very uncertain and inadequate method, 
if we would have knowledge of the things of nature. 
Socrates endeavours to verify his induction by examin- 
ing every instance that offers itself. But how can one 
gather together all the instances of one and the same 
genus in the order of physical and material things? 
How can we call up at will the manifestations of the 
essence contrary to the one whose definition we are 
seeking ? Doubtless modern experimentation must 
have realised these conditions to some extent ; but 
the ancients had no idea whatever of such a method 
of investigation. On the other hand, they must have 
thought that, in human things, the conditions in 


question were quite realisable. Though it is foolish 
to claim to know all the different cases in which cold 
and heat, generation and destruction may be met with, 
it would seem easier to set forth a complete list of 
such actions as we call just and of those we call unjust. 
The number of names representing these actions is 
limited and they are all at the disposal of man, for 
they are his work. This possibility of comprehending 
the entire domain of moral things must, above all, 
have been recognised in a nation where the conditions 
of human life were relatively simple, where the totality 
of human duties naturally clustered round a few pre- 
cise, concordant ideas, and there was entire ignorance of 
those conflicts between the individual and society, con- 
science and public interests, family and country, country 
and humanity, physical comfort and lofty culture, that 
have introduced inextricable confusion into the moral 
life of modern nations. 

The logical method of Socrates is limited to in- 
duction and definition as thus understood. Aristotle 
finds fault with this dialectic, which is carried on 
exclusively by a process of questioning, because it pins 
its faith to common opinion, and goes no farther than 
probability. His appeal is to special, direct intuition, 
the indispensable condition of a complete, infallible 
demonstration. Aristotle's reproach is comprehensible, 
if our object is to go back to the first principles of all 
things. But if we have only to find in human nature 
a rule for human judgment and conduct, to discover and 
set forth the principles applied by human reason when 
tranquil and free from routine and passion, with the 
object of discovering in these principles, which are now 
objects of clear consciousness, a weapon against routine 
and passion themselves ; in a word, if we have to set 


man free by enabling him to know mankind, we can 
understand why Socrates contented himself with the 
observation of human phenomena, and made no attempt 
to pierce, by metaphysical intuition, into the mysteries 
of absolute thought. 


Thus we see that the nature and import of the 
Socratic method are in exact proportion to the object 
Socrates had in view, which was nothing less than the 
constitution of ethics as a science. Conversely, the 
concrete doctrine of Socrates, his conclusions on things 
and on man himself are exactly what might have been 
expected from the use of such a method. Matter 
responds to form as form responds to matter. 

It may seem, if we cast a general glance at the 
teaching of Socrates, that the science of which it con- 
sists does indeed go beyond the limits marked out by 
his method, and, in a sense, includes not only human 
but also physical and divine things. 

Is not his reason for throwing overboard the 
mechanistic physics of the ancient philosophers, that he 
wishes to substitute therefor a teleological system of 
physics ? l Though he condemns cosmological theology, 
the investigation into the way in which the gods 
formed the universe, does he not extol what may be 
called moral theology in his endeavour to demonstrate 
the existence of a divine intelligence and providence ? 
The considerable importance given, in the Memorabilia, 
to speculations of this kind, the originality of Socrates' 
views on these matters, have induced several critics 
to regard them not only as significant parts of his 

1 Mem. i. 4, iv. 3. 


philosophy, but even as its very centre and ground- 
work. Thus, to Fouillee, Socrates is essentially the 
promoter of a system of teleological metaphysics, 
whereas to Franck 1 he is above all else a theological 

But in order to discover if teleology and moral 
theology form an integral part of the object of science 
according to Socrates, it is not sufficient to examine and 
see whether Socrates advanced profound ideas on these 
subjects or not. We must also ask ourselves what 
relation these ideas bear to the fundamental principles 
of his philosophy. 

Now, one can, it would appear, divide the teleo- 
logical and the theological ideas of Socrates into two 
parts ; the one overstepping the limits of ethics, though 
at the same time offered us as the fruit of supernatural 
inspiration superior to science ; the other, of a more 
scientific nature, though connected with ethics as its 
source and raison d'etre. When Socrates speaks of his 
daemonic sign and of the power it sometimes affords 
him of foreseeing the future ; 2 when he speaks of the 
divinity that is not far from each one of us and is 
ready to utter a warning call to the man who listens in 
silence ; when he declares that to fear death is to believe 
oneself wise without really being so, for it is to believe 
that one knows what one does not know, 3 he is evi- 
dently speaking of those things which, as they are 
beyond our power to control, are also beyond the reach 
of our science. 4 

When, on the contrary, he deals with physical and 
divine things in a scientific method, we see him pre- 
occupied about considering things, not in themselves, 

1 Journal ties Savants, October 1881. 
2 Mem. i. i. 3-5. 3 Apol. 29 A. * Mem. i. i. 9. 


but from without and with reference to man. Thus, 
he constantly tends to substitute for the gods the 
daemons, who are nearer to ourselves, and for the 
daemons the mere daemonic phenomena or visible signs 
of the gods, perceived directly by man. 1 He believes 
that we cannot see the gods ; that we see nothing but 
their manifestations to us. 2 The order and harmony 
the gods have introduced into things consists in the 
appropriation of these things to our needs. 3 In this 
way, physical or teleological objects are brought within 
the compass of moral and human ones. 

These conjectures on the adaptation of the outer 
nature to the needs of man, besides the fact that, in the 
case of Socrates, they spring naturally from a very 
sincere and deep religious sentiment, are called for, or 
required, by his ethical doctrine, in accordance with 
which the happiness of man depends on himself, on 
nothing whatever but self-knowledge. Since, in spite 
of his efforts to suffice unto himself, man cannot free 
himself from physical nature, he. must admit, if he 
claims to be good and happy without occupying himself 
with externals, that the gods are occupied with them on 
his behalf, and control them so as to meet his needs. 
Teleology and the doctrine of providence were the 
necessary postulates of Socratic morals. 

This very role shows us that they are complementary, 
not essential parts, of the philosophy of Socrates. 

The proper object of this philosophy, not only in 
theory but in fact, is the one that the Sophists had 
brought into credit ; that is, art, or practical skill, 
understood, however, in an original manner, which we 
have now thoroughly to investigate. 

Art, in the mind of Socrates, is not the search after 

1 Apcl. 27 B, E. 2 Mem. iv. 3. 13. 3 Ibid. iv. 3. i, 4. 


absolute good, the power to regulate our actions by 
the whole of the consequences which must result there- 
from, so as to perform only those whose consequences, 
even the most far-reaching, are in conformity with our 
wishes. The gods have reserved to themselves the 
knowledge of the final result of our actions. Does the 
man who plants an orchard know who will gather the 
fruit thereof? Does he who builds a house know who 
will dwell in it ? 1 

On the other hand, however, art worthy of the 
name resembles no special profession such as that of 
the carpenter, the shoemaker, or the armourer. These 
men have in mind the realisation of some particular 
material object ; whereas art pursues a general, im- 
material end, viz. the happiness and good of man. 
This is what the Sophists had already taught, and 
rightly taught. But though they had the idea of what 
may be called the moral end, they were mistaken as to 
the manner of attaining to it. They imagined this 
could be effected by regular practice, similar to that 
which proves successful in special professions. But, 
even in these latter, regularity or routine is far from 
being sufficient. Every good artisan possesses not only 
the practice but also the science of his trade, in so far 
as his trade is capable of being an object of science. A 
well-drawn analogy will lead us to think that moral art 
also must be a science, according to the acceptation of 
this word in the moral domain. 

To sum up, moral art, occupying a position midway 
between religion and the special professions, art which 
has for its aim the present good and happiness of man, 
and for its province the science of human things : such 
is the object of Socrates' reflections. 

1 Mem. i. i. 8. 


'It is this object that exactly answers to his idea of 
science. Science tries to discover that which is general, 
and which forms the material for the discourse of men ; 
i.e. the categories in which they place particular things. 
But is it not in moral things that we find a perfect 
instance of that relation of genus to species, of principle 
to application, of latent to manifest knowledge, which 
such an idea of science implies ? Moral things do not 
contain within themselves the absolute, the one in itself, 
the supreme principle of being and knowing ; but then, 
Socratic science does not aim so high as that. On the 
other hand, however, and in contradistinction to the 
opinion of the Sophists, in human nature itself there 
are certainly fixed, solid points, which enable one to 
gain a satisfactory science of the general. 

Moreover, is it not moral things that form the usual 
matter of human discourse ? Is it not on these questions 
that each man has acquired experience and is capable of 
advancing an opinion worthy of consideration? If so, 
then it is along this line that there will be the best 
chance of success for a science that seeks its various 
elements in the discourse of men, even of the humblest 
and most ignorant. 

When considered with a view to the knowledge of 
moral principles the Socratic method thus reacts on the 
conception of moral things themselves. In the light of 
the idea of science, Socrates found in human nature that 
substratum of common and invariable notions that had 
escaped the notice of the Sophists ; thereupon, every- 
thing human was invested with new dignity in the mind 
of the philosopher. 

This reaction of method on object appears no less 
clearly in the details of Socratic morals. 

Here two essential parts may be distinguished : ist, 


the general principle : all virtues are sciences ; l 2nd, 
the deduction of the virtues, which deduction is supplied 
by this principle. 

In what sense did Socrates claim that all virtues are 
sciences ? 

According to Zeller, 2 the science here in question is 
evidently science in general, the science of the nature of 
things. But in none of the texts dealing with our 
question do we find this abstract expression : science. 
They all state more or less explicitly : the virtues are 
sciences. 8 

Consequently, virtue is not identified with science in 
general, but with some particular science. Now, what 
is this science ? 

Fouillee 4 says that the science of which Socrates 
speaks is probably the science of good in itself, i.e. the 
science of the real and absolute worth of things. 

Such an object, however, would go beyond the end 
aimed at. When, says Socrates, one is thinking of 
becoming a good shoemaker, or pilot or musician, the 
science each man regards as indispensable is that of 
shoemaking, ship-management or music: that special 
science alone, in each category, makes the man com- 
petent. Now, competency is also what Socrates extols 
in moral matters. The analogy he is constantly drawing 
between the special professions and the practice of 
virtue shows that he places the condition of this new 
competency not in a universal and necessarily vague 
science, but in the science of virtue itself. Though 
Socrates does not agree with the Sophists, who made too 
close a comparison between moral art and the mechanical 

1 Aristot. Eth. Nic. vi. 13. 1144 b 28. 2 ii. (3rd edit.), 93, 117. 

3 Mem. iii. 9. 5, iv. 2. 22, iv. 6-7 ; Aristot. Eth. Nic. vi. 13. 1144 b 17. 
* La Phil, de Socrate, i. 177, 281, 285. 


arts, he yet does not go so far as to abolish all analogy 
between these latter arts and the former. Virtue is still 
a special, determinate art ; just men as well as artisans 
have their own distinctive work. 1 

Science, thus determined, i.e. the special science of 
virtue, is, according to Socrates, the very definition or 
essence of science. Socrates means thereby that it is 
its necessary and all-sufficient condition. 

It is the necessary condition of virtue. If com- 
petency is necessary in mechanical arts, how can it be 
superfluous in an art that is surely more delicate and 
complicated, since it has to work upon things that are 
invisible, accessible to the understanding alone ? The 
masses are wrong when they think that nature in moral 
matters is all-sufficient. In vain did the Sophists substi- 
tute practice for nature. He who is ignorant of the 
definition of good may, by a happy chance, sometimes 
meet with it, but he will never be certain that he has 
not altogether passed it by. He will even run the risk 
of taking evil for good, and vice versa. For instance, if 
one does not possess a definition of justice, one may regard 
it invariably as unjust to deceive and injure others, 
whereas it is just to deceive the enemies of the State, and 
to reduce an unjust nation to a state of subjection. 2 
Again, if one is without this definition, one will stop to 
examine such a question as the following : " Who is the 
more unjust : the man who wittingly deceives, or the 
man who unwittingly deceives ? " One will be astonished 
at finding arguments in support of both positions, 
whereas, at bottom, the question is an absurd one, since 
the terms " unjust " and " unwittingly " immediately 
exclude each other. Science renders certain actions good, 
which, without it, would be indifferent or even evil ; for 

1 Mem. iv. 2. 12. 2 Ibid. iv. 2. 14-15. 3 Ibid. iv. 2. 19. 


instance, the use of money. By science and science 
alone does skill in speech and action become a virtue : 
this skill, if left to itself, might readily cause men to 
become more unjust and maleficent than nature made 
them. 1 

Science is not only necessary, it is all-sufficient for the 
engendering of virtue. This doctrine is what may be 
called the Socratic paradox. Perhaps the paradox is not 
so pronounced as it at first seems. 

It would, indeed, be strange for Socrates to attribute 
such efficacy to science, if we were dealing with a 
purely theoretical science, or even with the science of 
good in itself and of the rational value of things. At 
the outset the objection will be made that such know- 
ledge supplies a law to the intelligence, but that it does 
not determine the will. 

The science, however, of which Socrates speaks, is 
distinctly the science of the suitability and utility of 
things from the human point of view ; it is the know- 
ledge of the relation that exists between things, and the 
end that man follows of his own accord, naturally and 
of necessity. u In order to be obeyed by my sub- 
ordinates," said a cavalry officer to Socrates, 2 " will it 
suffice if I show them that I am their superior ? " " Yes," 
was the answer, " provided you prove that obedience 
to you is safer and more beautiful for them than 
the contrary (/caXXtoi/ re ical awT'rjpKOTepov aurot?)." 
Socrates reasons in this fashion : it is acknowledged that 
men invariably do what they believe they ought to do, 
i.e. what they look upon as most profitable to them- 
selves. If, then, it is demonstrated to them that virtue 
is most profitable, they will infallibly practise virtue. 
In a word, our philosopher transfers to the science of 

1 Mem. iv. 3. i. 2 Ibid. iii. 3. 10. 


the good the practical efficacy he usually notes in the 
mere opinion of the good. More than this : the science 
of the good seems to him as though it must be even 
more efficacious in determining the human will than 
the mere opinion of the good can be, because science is 
immovable, whereas opinion is at the mercy of circum- 

Fouillee l considers that the Socratic paradox consists 
essentially in the negation of free-will. It rather con- 
sists in the claim to demonstrate that virtue is always 
that which is most advantageous to man. 

(As regards free-will, Socrates neglects to take it 
into consideration rather than denies it) And, indeed, 
free-will is almost useless in a doctrine which only 
requires man to decide in the way he considers most 
beautiful and advantageous. This method of determi- 
nation, according to Socrates, is that of the masses ; it 
is quite spontaneous, and does not imply the conscious- 
ness of being able to determine in favour of the opposite 
course of action. 

True, the objection may be advanced that, for a man 
to regard as insufficient the mere opinion of good, and 
try to discover the constituents of real good, he must 
make an effort which involves the intervention of 

Socrates is far from denying the necessity of such an 
effort ; though he connects it with self-control and 
temperance, which latter is itself, in his mind, a science, 
and the most important of them all. 2 The obligation 
of self-control and temperance is demonstrated in the 
same fashion as that of all the other virtues : by its 
useful effects. It by no means follows that, in acquir- 
ing this virtue, the first condition of all the rest, free-will 

1 La Phil, de Socr. i. 173. 2 Mem. i. 5. 4. 


has no part to play. The negation of free-will might 
be deduced from the doctrine if Socrates distinctly set 
up self-control (eyre pare to) between science (cro^ta) and 
temperance (a-atfypoa-vvrj) as being a consequence of the 
former and nothing more, as Fouillee l states. Socrates, 
however, regards self-control as both a condition and a 
result of science. " Do you not think," he says, " that 
lack of self-control (arcpaa-ia) turns men away from 
science (<ro<ia), the greatest of all things, and drives them 
to its opposite ? " " Only to such as are self-possessed," 
he says in another place, "is it given to practise 
dialectic." 3 It is, therefore, no abstract science, but a 
living science, action and knowledge combined, which 
is the root of virtue. 

Thereby we find clearly determined the relation 
Socrates sets up between science and practice. He 
maintains that science engenders virtue to which it plays 
the part of an efficient cause ; but he also maintains 
that the search for science has, for its province, the 
desire to attain to virtue, and thus virtue plays the part 
of final cause, as regards science. Science is both cause 
and means, virtue both end and result. Between the two 
terms there is solidarity, mutual action. It must be 
granted that such a relationship raises difficulties for 
him who would understand it thoroughly. Socrates, 
however, must have found it tolerably clear, at a period 
when neither the efficient nor the final cause had yet 
been studied for themselves and no clear line of demar- 
cation drawn between will and intelligence. 

Though such is the Socratic doctrine as to the 
relation between science and virtue, Socrates, doubtless 
explicitly, went beyond the stand-point of ordinary 

1 La Phil, de Socr. i. 173. 2 Mem. ix. 5. 6. 

3 Ibid. iv. 5. n. 


morals which merely sets forth isolated precepts without 
connecting them with any principle. He also went 
beyond that of the ancient sages, as well as of the great 
writers of his time, who confined themselves to deriving, 
direct from their own consciousness, maxims that were 
frequently profound, without attempting to demon- 
strate them scientifically. He was the first to make 
science an integral element of morals ; the first to 
bring action, which appears as individual, within the 
compass of true knowledge, which is universal. 

But this does not mean that he applied to morals 
the universal idea of science, and not merely that idea 
of a science of man which appears as the term of his 
dialectic. Where can Socrates obtain the rational 
knowledge of good and virtue, which is all that he here 
means by science, except in the discourse of men, that 
immediate testimony of their desires, their needs and 
experience ? What more certain method of giving a 
practical definition of things, expressing the interest 
they offer to man, than that of using the analogy and 
induction which take human facts themselves for their 
basis, and interpret them in the light of human 
reason ? Likewise, what science will have most chance 
of acting upon the will, what science will better 
merit those bold words of praise : ovSev lo-^vporepov 
ffrpovrjcrews, 1 than that truly living science which Socratic 
maieutics evolves from our soul, and which is, at bottom, 
only the consciousness of our own nature ? If care be 
taken, the details of the doctrine of the relations that 
exist between virtue and science, coincide, step by step, 
with the details of dialectic ; in such fashion that, the 
latter being posited, the former necessarily follows. 

Dialectic, sprung from the general and still vague 

1 Eth. Eud. vii. 13. 


idea of moral science, reacts upon this idea and 
determines it. Moral science is but dialectic in action. 

We reach a similar conclusion if we examine the 
second part of Socratic morals, to wit, the deduction of 
the virtues, supplied by the general principle of morals. 

What are the chief maxims of this science of good 
which is the necessary and all-sufficient condition of 
virtue ? 

In this connection Socrates distinguishes between 
good in general and particular good. 

Good in general is the truly useful as distinguished 
from the pleasant. 1 The whole of morals consists in 
distinguishing what distinctly constitutes our own good 
from what seems to do so, though in reality giving us 
only passing pleasure, perhaps even loss. Why is in- 
temperance evil ? Because, says Socrates, it turns man 
aside from useful things (w^eXoOz/ra) and inclines him 
towards pleasant things (^Sea). 2 

Though Socrates makes a broad distinction between 
what is good in appearance and what is good in reality, 
we do not find that he is thinking of an absolute good, 
of which the good of man would seem to be only one 
particular manifestation. He appears to have com- 
pletely identified the good with the useful, 3 and the 
reason he recommends the acquisition of science, the 
practice of justice, soul-culture and the attainment of 
the loftiest virtues, is that he regards them as useful for 
man's happiness. Even when he prefers death to 
shame, the reason he gives is that, in the absence of the 
daemonic sign which usually warns him whenever he is 
about to do something destined to injure him, he is 
convinced death will do him no harm. 4 

1 Mem. iv. 6. 8. 2 Ibid. iv. 5. 6. 3 Ibid. iv. 6. 8. 

4 Apol. CC. xxix. sqq. 


Clearly, this doctrine, in the Socratic philosophy, is 
the reaction of form on matter. Matter was first the 
vague idea of pleasure and well-being, as found in the 
reasonings of the Sophists concerning the goal of our 
actions. Now, science, according to Socrates, is the 
search after the general. Therefore, when brought 
into contact with the idea of science, the idea of well- 
being becomes two-fold, engendering, on the one hand, 
the idea of pleasure, pure and simple, or a chance, fleet- 
ing enjoyment, incapable of becoming an object of 
science, and, on the other hand, the idea of true utility 
and happiness, corresponding, in its generality, with the 
conditions of dialectic. True utility is that object, at once 
stable and human, the type and standard of which each 
of us bears within himself and which it is for maieutics, 
induction and definition to find out and determine. 

Now, what is the teaching of Socrates regarding 
particular good ? 

Socrates is sometimes represented as deducing a 
priori particular good from the idea of absolute good, and 
judging custom and legality in the name of reason and 
justice. This is by no means his method of procedure. 
Instead of criticizing tradition and the positive law 
in the name of reason, it is in the traditional and the 
positive that he seeks the expression of the rational. 
According to Socrates, particular good consists of those 
things that men are agreed in regarding as good : 
health and strength of body and soul, 1 easy domestic 
circumstances, 2 useful knowledge, 3 family and friendly 
relations, 4 civil society and the country's prosperity, 5 
good repute, 6 and, speaking generally, skill in the 
management of life. 

1 Mem. in. 12. 4, 6. 2 Ibid. ii. 17. 3 Ibid. iv. 2. 23-35. 

4 Ibid. ii. 3. 19. 6 Ibid. iii. 7. 9. Ibid. ii. i. 31. 


Socrates distinctly identifies justice with legality, and 
piety with the observance of the religious laws of one's 
country. <f>r)fu yap eyo> l TO vofupov Si/caiov elvai . . ., 
TO avro vofit/jiov re ical Siiccuov : " I say that justice con- 
sists in the observance of the law ; that the just and 
the legal are both the same thing." After all, what is 
law ? It is what the citizens, gathered together, have 
decreed, in writing, as something that must either be 
done or avoided. 2 Piety itself is nothing else than the 
knowledge and practice of those laws of one's country 
which refer to the gods : TO, frepl rov<s 0eou? vofupa. 3 

True, Socrates also speaks of divine, unwritten 
laws. 4 By these he means not laws of an abstract, 
universal nature, but laws that are quite as positive 
(yofiL^ov) as human laws. These laws are written in 
the soul, though they may not be found on material 
tablets. When Socrates wishes to cite examples thereof, 
he speaks of the recommendation to honour the gods, 
the prohibition from marrying one's own children : 
maxims that partake of the nature of particular and 
positive statutes. In his own words : " In the divine 
as in the human order of things justice is identical with 
legality." 6 

The doctrine of Socrates regarding particular good 
is, however, not limited to this. To common, tradi- 
tional morals as matter he connects the idea of science 
as form ; and, by contact with this new element, 
morals is completely transformed without this appearing, 
externally, to be so. 

The first function of science is to justify, to deduce 
what common sense and tradition offer to us only as 
independent facts. 

1 Mem. iv. 4. 12. 2 Ibid. iv. 4. 13. 3 Ibid. iv. 6. 4. 

4 Ibid. iv. 4. 19. 6 Ibid. iv. 4. 25. 


This deduction is effected by demonstrating that all 
actions which common sense and tradition prescribe to 
us are calculated to procure advantages for us, whereas 
the opposite of these actions must sooner or later do 
us harm. For instance, temperance is a good thing, 
because it is the condition of pleasure, helps us to bear 
privation, and makes us esteemed by our fellow-beings. 
If a general, a tutor, or a steward is wanted, the 
temperate man, not the intemperate, is the one who 
will be chosen. 1 The observance of civil laws is a good 
thing, for, under all circumstances, those who observe 
the laws are the ones best treated in the State ; in 
public or private life it is they who inspire most confi- 
dence. 2 The same reasoning holds regarding unwritten 
laws. It is good to observe them, for the man who 
violates them is punished : thus, parents who marry 
their own children have misshapen offspring. 3 In this 
sense Socrates affirms that what is legal is likewise 
just. A law is just, in so far as its observance procures 
advantages, whilst its violation has disastrous conse- 
quences. 4 

Science thus deduces and justifies the established laws. 
Nor is this all. As the wise man, by means of science, 
searches into and understands the rational value of 
tradition and legality, and thus learns to conform 
with the laws of his country, not blindly, as do the 
masses, but by reflection and reason, he regards action 
inspired by science as superior to that emanating from 
instinct or custom. Science no longer seems to him 
merely to confirm the positive rules of morals : it 
becomes itself an indispensable condition of virtue, the 
root of all virtue : virtuepar excellence. To act under the 

1 Mem. iv. 5. 2 Ibid. iv. 4. 17. 3 Ibid. iv. 4. 19 sqq. 

4 Ibid. iv. 4. 25. 


influence of nature alone, like prophets and soothsayers, 1 
means not only exposing oneself to continual failure in 
some direction or other, it likewise means having 
nothing but the mask of art or virtue. He alone who 
is virtuous through science (o-o^ta) truly merits the title 
of virtuous. Nothing blind or inconsiderate could be 
really good : on the other hand, once a man acquires 
self-possession, his actions are of necessity good. And 
so Socrates, when accused, refuses to move his 
listeners to compassion, because compassion is a blind 
sentiment. 2 On the other hand, he declares that, as he 
has never, willingly and knowingly (e/e&>i>), done wrong, 
he is certain he has never really done wrong at all. 3 

The mental state which immediately corresponds to 
science, because it is both its condition and first result, 
is self-control (ejicpdreia) or freedom (e^evOepLa}. f Self- 
control thus becomes the first of all virtues^ the one 
whose possession is both necessary and all-sufficient for 
the performance of good under all circumstances. To 
know how he ought to act, the wise man has definitively 
only one question to ask himself: is this particular 
line of conduct seemly in a free man, or not ? 

On several puzzling occasions, this doctrine explains 
^jhe line of conduct adopted by Socrates.] The reason 
he refused to accept money from his listeners, was not 
liberality on his part or the fear of slanderers, it was 
because he considered that to receive money from 
another was equivalent to acknowledging that man to 
be one's master. 5 The reason he extolled manual work 
was not from sympathy with the occupations of the 
humble, but because he saw in such work a source of 
independence and easy circumstances from a material 

1 Apol. 22 B. 2 Ibid. 35 B. 3 Ibid. 37 A. 

4 Mem. i. 5. 4. 5 Ibid. i. 5. 6. 


point of view. 1 If it is true that, on one occasion, he 
walked barefoot on the ice, and on another, remained 
standing for a whole day and night in the self-same 
spot, 2 this was not done in a spirit of folly or boasting, 
though it might have been an instance of mystic con- 
templation ; perhaps, too, these experiments were made 
for the purpose of seeing how far his independence of 
the external world could be carried. Again, the reason 
he endured the peevish temper of Xanthippe his wife, 
was not from resignation or good temper, it was be- 
cause his wife offered him a splendid opportunity for 
practising self-control. The reason he delighted in 
banquets and feasts, conversed in perfect freedom with 
Tljeodota, the courtezan, 8 considered it quite right that, 
in the relations between the sexes, one should obey 
the promptings of nature, provided one is caused no 
embarrassment thereby, 4 acknowledged so strange and 
dangerous a kind of love between young men ; was to 
be found in the fact that he saw nothing in all this, 
irreconcilable with self-possession, nothing but a witness 
to or an instrument of freedom. 

In this dignified conception of life, the positive and 
traditional rules of morals are by no means neglected ; 
but from the role of principles they descend to that of 
matter or external conditions. The wise man has self- 
possession, and that is enough for him ; after all, he 
speaks and acts like the rest of mankind. He is con- 
scious of his freedom in the very act of observing the 
laws and customs of his country. These laws govern 
his outward actions, just as science governs his inner 
disposition, and harmony between the two disciplines 
is all the better established in that self-possession, the 

1 Mem. ii. 7. 4. 2 Plat. Banquet, c. xxxv-xxxvi. 

3 Mem. iii. n. 4 Ibid. i. 3. 14. 



supreme command of the inner law, becomes reconciled 
of itself with the most multiple and diverse modes of 
outer action. Besides, it is evident that amongst the 
various positive disciplines conceivable, the wise man 
will decide for that of his own nation. What, indeed, 
could be more favourable to the inner freedom after 
which he aspires, than to live in harmony with those 
around him ? What, on the other hand, could be more 
prejudicial to quiet and self-possession than that dis- 
turbing, harassing conflict with things which makes us 
lose control of ourselves ? 

The whole of this doctrine was summed up in two 
famous aphorisms : " Virtue is one in JUself." and 
" Virtue can be taught." 


By the oneness of virtue, Socrates did not mean, 
after the fashion of the mystics, the elimination of all 
particular virtues in favour of some transcendent 
perfection. He simply meant that all virtues have one 
common root, to wit, the science of good, as he under- 
stood it. To the wise man, the diversity of virtues 
held in honour amongst men is nothing but the 
multiplicity of the aspects shown forth by the one 
sovereign virtue, according to the various objects to 
which it applies. Thus, virtue was neither absolutely 
one nor altogether multiple : it was unity in multiplicity, 
self-possession and the science of good realised in the 
virtues sanctioned by tradition. 

Socrates claimed that virtue is taught, but he by 
no means meant thereby that it is taught by purely 
theoretical teaching or speculation, like the doctrines 
of the physiologists. Nor, in his opinion, is it taught 
by practice alone, as the Sophists had imagined. 
Virtue is taught, said Socrates, by instruction combined 
with exercise or practice (fidd^cn^ and /ueXen?). All the 


texts dealing with this doctrine J clearly show that 
Socrates invariably employs these two words together. 
This is the natural outcome of the intimate union of a 
theoretical and a practical element in the very science 
which is the principle of wisdom. 

If such is the doctrine of Socrates upon particular 
good, it bears the impress of the Socratic dialectic, as 
does his doctrine of the good in general. Scrupulous 
respect for tradition and for the laws of one's country 
is in conformity with this method, which places the 
starting-point of knowledge not in pure reason, but 
rather in general ideas. The philosopher, without 
contradicting himself, could not turn against these 
ideas the very principles he extracted from them. 

On the other hand, the dialectician must go back as 
far as possible into antiquity when seeking the general 
principles implied in human discourse. Now, in the 
accomplishment of this task, Socrates comes to regard 
the essence of virtue as existing not in external acts 
that conform with legality but in self-possession and 
the science of good, which form the common, permanent 
substratum of these acts. Self-possession and the science 
of good bear the same relation to good actions that 
definition does to the class of objects to be defined. 

In short, the special sense in which Socrates teaches 
that virtue is one and can be taught, exactly answers to 
the nature of the general in Socratic dialectic. This 
" general," indeed, has by no means a distinct existence, 
it is only what is continually assumed in human 
discourse ; and, since it is drawn from the common 
ideas relating to social and private life, it possesses, 
of necessity, both a practical and a theoretical nature. 

1 Mem. m. 9. 2 ; iv. i. 3 ; i. 2. 19. Cf. Laches, 190 E. 


Thus do Socratic dialectic and ethic interpenetrate 
and determine each other. yThe idea of moral things 
as an object of science, leads Socrates to invent a 
scientific method applicable to such an object.) On the 
other hand, the use of this method reacts on the object 
itself, giving it a new aspect. From the elaboration of 
the form with a view to the object arose the theory of 
practical induction and definition ; from the elaboration 
of the object by means of the form arose the doctrine 
of virtue, dwelling in the free and deliberate observance 
of positive laws and maxims. 

\ The expression " moral science " thus would seem 
to characterize the invention of Socrates exactly and 
fully, provided we mean by these words, not morals 
founded on the science of things in general, but rather 
an effort of the human mind to build up a science 
without leaving the circle of moral facts themselves, 
and confining itself to the fertilisation of moral ex- 
perience by an appropriate mode of reflection. 

Here, indeed, is the centre of Socrates' doctrine, the 
principal mobile of his thought. 

It is because he institutes a new order of investiga- 
tion that he rejects and dismisses the investigations of 
his predecessors. All innovators possess this disdain of 
the past : it forms part of their faith in their own 

Because his conception of science is exclusively 
calculated with a view to the reasoned knowledge of 
human things, he says, along with Protagoras, that 
science does not attain to things divine. Stricter in 
his reasoning, however, he has not the impertinence to 


suppress a given object, under the 'pretext that our 
intelligence cannot grasp it : on the contrary, he 
acknowledges the limits of our faculties as soon as he 
discovers their powers ; and, faithful to his country's 
religion, he trusts to the gods in regard to everything 
beyond the reach of human understanding. 

The belief of Socrates in an Apollonian mission and 
in the supernatural warnings of a protecting divinity 
can be perfectly reconciled with this doctrine, which 
both respects the domain of the gods and takes 
possession of that of men. 

flThat it was the ambition of Socrates to restore the 
political fortunes of his city by a moral reformVwas 
only natural and legitimate for one able to distinguish 
the principles of virtue and of success in human things, 
and whose very philosophy gave him a fresh motive for 
gratitude and attachment to his country. 

Finally, that Socrates submitted to death rather 
than renounce the testing of the Athenians for the 
purpose of convincing them of their ignorance, is, as 
he says himself, the logical consequence of a doctrine 
which looks upon self-examination as the principle and 
condition of all things good, and expects the gods to 
complete what human wisdom began. 

Of Socrates' many preoccupations, the idea of setting 
up morals as a science is the principal one ; for it alone 
brings harmony and light into this apparently strange, 
contradictory character. It alone explains how Socrates 
is both a believer and a free thinker ; positive and 
speculative ; a man of his own age and country, ever 
disposed to adapt himself to his environment, and yet 
one who retired within himself, was ever master of 
himself, obstinately jealous of his freedom and independ- 
ence ; an aristocrat attached to the past, contemptuous 


towards popular caprice, and at the same time a 
revolutionist, demanding that the functions of the State 
be given to the best instructed citizens ; in a word, to 
sum up everything perhaps, it alone explains how he 
was both a philosopher and a man of action. 

The idea of Socrates is not only novel and original, 
it has occupied a prominent place in the intellectual 
and moral history of mankind. This r6le has been a 
double one : showing itself both in the order of the 
practical and in that of the theoretical sciences. 

In vain did Socrates scrupulously confine himself to 
the study of human things ; the productiveness of his 
method in this domain, and its conformity with the 
Greek genius, quickly caused it to be regarded as 
applicable to all objects, physical and metaphysical. 
Plato and Aristotle set forth the principle of Socrates : 
" The only science is that of the general," as including 
not merely the science of human things but also 
universal science. 

The syllogism, or deductive reasoning in qualitative 
matter, the final definitive form of the Socratic method, 
was regarded as the expression of the connection 
between things in nature herself. From Aristotle this 
method passed on to the Schoolmen, who misinter- 
preted it, substituting for the living discourse of men 
which the Greeks had taken as the starting-point of 
their discussions, the mute, rigid text of some particular 
book, which was looked upon as being truth itself. 
Nevertheless, positive science gradually developed. 
On attaining to self-consciousness, so to speak, it 
declared, with Bacon, that syllogistic science was nothing 
but a science of words ; and with Descartes, that the 
general essences of the Socratics were only empty 


fiction, that science had as its object not quality or 
the general, but quantity or the relations of dimension. 
The progress of science has proclaimed Descartes to 
be more and more in the right, and one is nowadays 
tempted to ask oneself whether the Socratic principle : 
" The only science is that of the general," when applied, 
as it has been, to the investigation of the laws of nature, 
has not rather bewildered and unsettled the human 
mind than helped it. 

Even were such to be the case, Socrates, who de- 
nounced all investigation into moral causes, and claimed 
only to build up moral science, would not be responsible 
for it. This extension of the Socratic method, how- 
ever, was by no means an aberration of the human 
mind. Before knowing things in themselves, they 
must be known in their relations to us, and it is this 
indispensable provisional knowledge that we obtain 
from Socratic induction and definition. It may be that 
in all things the element of quantity is the ultimate 
object for which science ought to look. But it could 
not attain to this all at once : it must first define the 
qualities which form its support. In every department 
of knowledge, classification and induction must precede 
the application of mathematical analysis. 

Anyhow, the Schoolmen with their syllogistic 
science, even Plato and Aristotle, in so far as they 
place being, strictly so called, in forms expressed by 
our concepts, are not the true successors of Socrates. 
Those he would have recognised as such, are the 
philosophers who, taking as their starting-point the 
observance of the moral facts of human nature, have 
endeavoured to set up morals as a distinct and self- 
sufficient science. tThe purest and finest fruit of the 
Socratic method consists of the Nicomachean Ethics, 


in which, without appealing to the physical sciences or 
demanding of metaphysics anything else than an ardent 
flow of the mind and general views on finality and 
activity, Aristotle condensed in a series of maxims 
the very thought of those who have experience of life 
think vaguely regarding the conditions of virtue and 

Nor is the influence of Socrates, along this line of 
investigation confined to antiquity. When the Christian 
religion, after proving adequate to the moral needs of 
men for fifteen centuries, began to lose its power 
over their souls, the Socratic study of man was restored 
to favour. They were not content with finding the secret 
springs of human actions in any particular case, after 
the fashion of the moralists. Morals was proclaimed 
anew as a distinct and separate science, with an object 
and a method of its own. So great an advance was 
made in this direction that a daring system of philo- 
sophy, that of Kant and Fichte, not content with claim- 
ing a place for moral science, began by making a clean 
sweep of the whole of metaphysics, in order that morals 
might establish itself, unchecked, in its own fashion ; 
nor would this philosophy acknowledge that theoretical 
reason had any other rights than those admitted by 
moral science, thus organised. And soon afterwards, 
just as in former times Plato and Aristotle had built up 
a metaphysical philosophy on the basis of Socratic 
morals, we find Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel founding a 
new philosophy of the absolute on the morals of Kant. 

Moral science, though for a brief space compromised 
by the excess of its claims, now that it has been restored 
within the limits marked out for it by Socrates, has 
acquired fresh precision and vitality at the present time. 
Even nowadays, there are many who consider that the 


time has not yet come if it is ever to come for morals 
to assume the same scientific form as physics or even 
the natural sciences, and yet they consider that it 
admits of something else than the particularities, in 
which the moralist confines himself, or the oratorical 
developments that suffice for the man of action. The 
truth in this matter would seem to be, even nowadays, 
that morals has a distinct domain, i.e. the sum total of 
the moral facts of human nature, a method proper to 
itself, to wit, qualitative induction and definition, and 
that, by modestly confining itself to its own domain 
and scrupulously adapting its means of investigation to 
the object under study, it can attain, more certainly 
than by any other means, to the twofold end it has in 
view : the knowledge and the direction of human 
activity. ^The man whose ideas are most instinct with 
life in contemporary society! is Socrates. 


Tb irpwrov ov anrepfia CCTTLV, dAXa TO reAaov. 

ARISTOT. Met. xii. 7. 1073 a i. 

IF it be true that the genius of a people is sometimes 
incarnated in certain men, and that these mighty, com- 
prehensive minds form, as it were, the act and perfection 
in which a whole world of virtualities finds its goal and 
completion, then Aristotle, more than any one, was such 
a man : in him the philosophic genius of Greece found 
its universal, its perfect expression. It is therefore 
something more than the thought of a single individual, 
far-reaching and profound though it be, that we now 
summon forth ; it is the spirit of Greece itself, which 
has reached the highest pitch of its intellectual great- 
ness. It will be conformable to the analytical tempera- 
ment of the philosopher with whom we are now 
dealing, and also practically indispensable to set up 
numerous divisions in so vast a subject, and consider 
its different parts one after another. 


Aristotle was born at Stageira, a Greek Ionian 
colony of Thrace, situated on the coast of the peninsula 

1 The ancient writers who deal with the life of Aristotle are the follow- 
ing : (i) Diogenes Laertius, v. 1-35 ; (2) Denys of Halicarnassus, letter to 
Ammaeus, 1.5; (3) the anonymous author of a biography of Aristotle, 



of Chalcidice, in the year 384 B.C. He died, aged 
sixty-two, at Chalcis, in Euboea. 

His father, Nicomachus, was a doctor, as also were 
his ancestors. They traced their descent back to 
Machaon, son of Aesculapius ; and, like many others, 
were called Asclepiads. Nicomachus was physician to 
the king of Macedonia, Amyntas II., Philip's father. 
This circumstance may have brought it about that 
Aristotle was summoned to the court of the king of 
Macedonia to undertake the education of Alexander. 
It is probable that, as an Asclepiad, Aristotle was 
instructed in anatomy at an early age. 

When about seventeen years old, he lost his parents. 
Being now independent an in possession of a large 
fortune, he was attracted to Athens. He went to this 
city the following year. Plato, who had founded his 
school there about 387 B.C., was then absent ; he had 
started for Syracuse, 368 B.C., left that town three years 
later, and returned about 360 B.C. Aristotle joined 
Plato's pupils, remaining with them for twenty years, 
until the master's death. Here we find refuted the 
story of a quarrel, which was alleged to have arisen 
between the master and the disciple long before the 
death of Plato, and to have been caused by Aristotle's 
ingratitude and lack of consideration. It is said that 
Plato, having remarked Aristotle's zeal and keenness of 
mind, called him " the reader," and " intelligence." In 

published by Menage in the second volume of his edition of Diogenes 
Laertius ; (4) the Pseudo - Ammonius ; (5) the Pseudo - Hesychius ; 
(6) Suidas, under the article, 'Apto-roT-A^s. These texts may almost all be 
found in vol. i. of the edition of Aristotle's works undertaken by Buhle, 
between 1791 and 1800. The relative importance of these different 
sources cannot be determined a priori. All that is possible is the separate 
examination of each hint or indication from the standpoint of its internal 
and external probability. 


all probability he studied not only Platonism at Athens, 
but also the other systems then in vogue. 

Long previous to the death of Plato, he gave proof 
of his independence of thought and action. Quite 
possibly, as a member of the Platonic school, he had 
already taught on his own account. At all events, he 
began to write at that period, and though his early 
works were Platonic in form and substance, none the less 
did they contain, even then, objections to the theories 
of ideas along with the affirmation of the eternity of the 
world. He tells us that it is with regret, and because 
of his zeal for the superior interests of truth, that he 
thus opposed his master. Moreover, he set an example 
of respect for the genius of Plato. In a poem which 
has come down to us, he celebrates his master as one 
whom the wicked have no right to praise, and who 
showed, both by his life and his teachings, how a good 
man is also a happy man. 

The death of Plato (347 B.C.) begins a new period 
in the life of Aristotle. He left Athens, accompanied 
by Xenocrates, and went to Atarnea, in Mysia, to his 
friend and fellow-disciple, Hermias, the ruler of that 
town, whose sister, or niece, Pythias, he subsequently 
married. Later on, he married a woman named Her- 
pyllis. After the fall and death of Hermias (345 B.C.) 
Aristotle went to Mytilene. From there he would seem 
to have returned to Athens and opened the school of 
rhetoric, in which he set up as an opponent to Isocrates. 
In 342 B.C., he responded favourably to the summons 
of Philip, king of Macedonia, who requested him to 
undertake the education of his son Alexander, at that 
time about fourteen years of age. He remained at the 
court of Macedonia until Alexander undertook his 
expedition into Asia (334 B.C.). Without losing him- 


self in pursuit of an ideal too far removed from the 
conditions of practical life, Aristotle appears to have 
instilled generous qualities in the mind of his pupil. 
Throughout his life Alexander retained feelings of 
respect and love for his master, though after the death 
of Callisthenes, Aristotle's nephew, in 325 B.C., all 
relations between the two were discontinued. 

In 335 B.C. or 334 B.C., Aristotle returned to Athens, 
and at Lycaeum opened what was called the Peripatetic 
School, probably on account of the master's habit of 
walking about with his disciples as they talked of science 
and philosophy. In the mornings, relates Aulus-Gellius, 
Aristotle gave, to a chosen body of hearers, acroamatic, 
or esoteric, instruction, dealing with the most difficult 
portions of philosophy, mainly dialectic and the philo- 
sophy of nature. In the evenings he gave exoteric 
instruction to all who offered themselves, dealing with 
rhetoric, topics and politics. His teaching took the form 
both of classes and lectures ; and his school, like that 
of Plato, was a band of friends who assembled on fixed 
days, and took their meals in common. 

Wealthy himself, and able to rely on the assistance 
of the king, Aristotle was in a position to obtain all the 
scientific resources the society of the times could offer. 
It is said that Alexander sent him eight hundred talents 
to enable him to complete his Historia animalium. It 
is even related that he placed at his disposal millions of 
men, whose duty it was to seek out animals of every 
kind, especially fishes, to maintain in perfect order 
aviaries and gardens filled with animals, and to keep 
the philosopher informed on such observations and dis- 
coveries as were calculated to advance science. These 
are, doubtless, mere inventions, though facts were at the 
bottom of them. Certainly Aristotle gathered together 


all the documents of every kind it was possible for him 
to obtain. He was the first to form a large collection 
of books. 

Although Aristotle had broken off all relations with 
Alexander in 325 B.C., none the less did the king's 
death, two years afterwards, prove an occasion of peril 
for him. When the Lamian war broke out, he was 
looked upon as a friend of the kings of Macedonia and 
Antipater, and was prosecuted on the charge of atheism. 
He left Athens, so that the Athenians, as he said, might 
not a second time be guilty as regards philosophy. 
He fled to Chalcis, in Euboea, where he fell sick and 
died in the summer of 322 B.C., a few months before 
Demosthenes, who was born in the same year as himself. 
He was sixty-two years of age. 

Though early attacked by his political and scientific 
opponents, he would appear from his writings to have 
been of a noble, humane, and loyal nature, and we are 
acquainted with no actual proved fact to the contrary. 
His life bears the impress of moral philosophic dignity. 
Aristotle was both a creative and a universal genius, and 
an indefatigable worker. He is devoid of the ardent 
buoyancy of Plato. With mind bent on the reality 
presented to him, whatever bears no relation thereto he 
looks upon as fantastic ; he does not bury himself in the 
facts of the sensible world, however, but is always look- 
ing for the intelligible. In all things he recommends 
moderation, the golden mean. A moderate fortune, 
government by the moderate classes : such, to his mind, 
is the best condition both for the individual and for 

We are told that he was short and thin, with small 
eyes and an ironical expression playing about his mouth. 
By Pythias, his first wife, he left a daughter of the same 


name ; and by his second wife, Herpyllis of Stageira, 
a son Nicomachus, whose name we find in the Nico- 
machean Ethics. In his will he speaks affectionately of 
both his wives and of his two brothers and their children ; 
he also refers in sympathetic terms to his friends and 
distant relatives. 


The story of the preservation of Aristotle's works is 
but little known. According to Strabo and Plutarch, 
the writings of Aristotle and Theophrastus, after the 
latter's death, fell into the hands of Neleus, who took 
them to his home in Skepsis, Mysia. There they would 
appear to have been hidden away in a cellar, where they 
were discovered by Apellicon, in the time of Sylla. The 
latter is reported to have had them transferred to Rome. 
Whatever degree of truth there may be in these anec- 
dotes, the texts that had been preserved were revised and 
classified in the first century before Christ by Andronicus, 
a Peripatetic philosopher of Rhodes, who published a 
complete edition about 60-50 B.C. It is this text of 
Aristotle, more or less remodelled, that we now possess. 
In all probability our collection contains everything 
authentic that existed in the time of Andronicus, and 
we have good grounds for regarding as apocryphal the 
works mentioned by Diogenes Laertius, that are absent 
from this collection. Most likely, however, all that is 
contained in the so-called Andronicus edition, is not by 
Aristotle ; even the authentic works themselves are not 
free from additions and changes. There have also come 
down to us the titles of works that are certainly authentic, 
and yet are lacking in our collection, having apparently 
been lost at the time of Andronicus. All the same, it 


would appear that the most important works on Aris- 
totelian philosophy and science have been preserved. 

Which of the works we possess are to be laid aside 
as unauthentic ? In many cases the question cannot be 
answered with any degree of precision or certainty. The 
following are the results reached by Zeller in his Philo- 
sophic der Griechen, 3rd vol. 3rd edition. The authen- 
ticity of the following works is either inadmissible or 
very doubtful : De Xenophane, Zenone et Gorgia ; De 
animalium motu ; De plantis ; De coloribus ; De audi- 
bilibus ; De mirabilibus auditis Physiognomonica ; Me- 
chanica problemata ; De indivisibilibus lineis ; De 
mundo ; De respiratione ; De virtutibus et vitiis ; 
Oeconomica ; Rhetorica ad Alexandrum. The Eudemian 
Ethics and the Great Ethics are alterations of the Nico- 
machean Ethics. Such fragments of letters as we possess 
have undergone considerable additions and changes. 

The works left by Aristotle may in all probability be 
placed in the three following categories : 

I st. Books of instruction and science properly so 
called : summaries and treatises of which he made use 
in his classes. He did not publish them, but merely 
imparted their teachings to his pupils. 

2nd. Published writings : intended for the masses 
of the people. They were written, we are told, with 
considerable fluency and charm, and were partly in the 
form of dialogues. 

Using Aristotle's own terms, the unpublished writ- 
ings have been called acroamatic or acroatic, and the 
published ones exoteric. These expressions clearly 
answer to a fundamental distinction in Aristotle's 
philosophy. In his. mind, there are two modes of 
instruction, proportioned to the two degrees of know- 
ledge. That which is cognizable as necessary and 


absolutely certain is a matter of demonstration strictly 
so called ; that which is cognizable as being only likely 
is a matter of dialectic. In his classes Aristotle taught 
complete science ; he gave demonstrations ; the pupil 
had nothing to do but to listen. Apart from these classes, 
however, Aristotle directed dialectic conversations, in 
which reasoning from probabilities, and from considera- 
tions more or less foreign to the subject in question, was 
carried on ; to these conversations others were admitted 
as well as pupils. Such is the significance of the words 
acroamatic and exoteric, used with reference to the 
teaching of Aristotle. He himself does not apply 
them to his works, though such application may well 
be made. 

3rd. To these two categories must be added a third, 
viz., notes intended for the personal use of Aristotle. 
These latter writings may be called hypomnematic. 

Last of all, Aristotle left behind him speeches, letters 
and poems. Of these three classes, only the first have 
come down to us, and a few fragments of the second 
and third. Amongst the lost works, the most important 
are, in the first category : the Treatise on Plants, Anatomy, 
Astrological Theorems ; in the second : the Dialogues, 
and the History of Rhetoric ; in the third : extracts from 
some works of Plato, and writings on the Pythagoreans 
and other philosophers. In this third category, evidently, 
we must place the Constitutions (HoXtretai), in which 
were to be found all kinds of information about 158 
Greek and foreign cities, a lost collection of which we 
possess many very interesting extracts. The treatise 
entitled The Constitution of the Athenians was recently 
discovered on a papyrus, and published in 1891. 

We may classify as follows the scientific, properly 
so called, or unpublished writings, in our possession, 



representing, in a probably complete manner as regards 
essentials, the philosophical work of Aristotle : 

i st. Works on logic, collected at the Byzantine 
period only under the name of opyavov : Karyyopiat 
(categories), partially added to and altered ; Hepl 
eppyveias (on speech or propositions) this appears 
to be the work of a Peripatetic of the third century 
before Christ ; 'AvaXim/ca Trporepa (Prior Analytics), 
dealing with syllogism ; 'AvaXvTiKa wrepa (Posterior 
Analytics), dealing with demonstration; Tom/cd (Topics), 
dealing with dialectic, or reasoning in probabilities. 
The ninth book of this work is usually given as a 
special work, entitled Hepl a-ofaa-Tiicwv eKeyxwv (On 
Sophistical Refutations). 

2nd. Works on natural philosophy : Qvaiicr) a/cpoacr^ 
(Physics), in eight books, the seventh of which, though 
edited from Aristotelian notes, does not appear to 
have been written by Aristotle ; Hepl ryeveaeax; KOI 
<f>0opas (On Generation and Destruction) ; Hepl 
ovpavov (On the Heavens) ; MerewpoKoyt/cd (Meteoro- 
logies) ; Hepl ^/ru^5 (On Soul), and divers treatises 
referring thereto, entitled Parva Naturalia ; Hepl 
ra %wa iaroplai (Animal History), in ten books, a 
work that has undergone considerable changes and 
the tenth book of which is not authentic ; Hepl 
fjbopiwv (The Parts of Animals) ; Hepl Tropelas 
(The Motor Organs of Animals) ; ITe^l tyw 
(On the Generation of Animals), a work that has been 
considerably changed. 

3rd. So-called metaphysical works, dealing with what 
Aristotle calls first philosophy (TT/JCOTT; ^tXoo-o^ta) : 
the work called Metaphysics, in fourteen books, is a 
collection made, in all probability, shortly after the 
death of Aristotle ; it comprises all that his papers 


contained referring to first philosophy. These writings 
owe their present name (Ta /tera ra <j>v<ritca) to their 
position after physics in the edition of Andronicus. 
The substance of these writings is comprised in Books 
i., iii., iv., vi. to ix., x. (numbers of the Berlin edition). 
Book ii. and Book xi., from chapter viii., 1065, a, 26, 
are unauthentic. 

4th. Works on the practical sciences : 'HOnca 
Nt/co/ia^em (Morals addressed to Nicomachus, or Nico- 
machean Ethics) ; IIo\m/ca (Politics), an unfinished 
work. According to Zeller, Books vii. and viii. of 
the Politics ought most probably to be inserted between 
Books iii. and iv. ; Te^v^ pyropiicij (Rhetoric) ; Hepl 
TroiriTucfy (On Poetry). 

With regard to the didactic works, the question of 
chronology is only of moderate importance. Indeed, 
they were all written during the last twelve years of 
the philosopher's life (335-322), they make references 
to each other, and, in their ensemble, offer us the com- 
pleted system, without any proof of progress. So far 
as can be judged by the paltry indications that may be 
obtained from historical testimony and the examination 
of the works in themselves, Aristotle first wrote the 
works on logic (except the notes from which the liepl 
epWveLas were compiled, and which appeared after the 
Hepl ^v%^?). Then the writings on natural history 
appeared, followed by the physiological and psycho- 
logical works and those relating to the practical 
sciences ; last of all, most probably and in any case 
subsequent to the physics, the collection called meta- 
physics. Thus Aristotle appears to have proceeded 
from the abstract to the concrete, and, in the domain 
of the concrete, from changing being to immutable 



As indicated by the very title of his writings, 
universality is the first characteristic of Aristotle's 
work. Theory and practice, metaphysics and the 
science of observation, erudition and speculation, his 
philosophy includes everything. It is, or would like 
to be, knowledge in its totality. The idea of science, 
considered as the loftiest object of activity, stands out 
in Aristotle as more precise than in Plato and more 
general than in Anaxagoras and Democritus. It is 
not the curiosity of a scholar, it is the ambition to enter 
into the very essence and cause of things. Without 
exception, everything that is, even what appears mean 
and insignificant, calls in this sense for the philosopher's 
investigations. He knows he will find the divine and 
the intelligible in all the productions of nature, even 
those that are apparently the humblest. 

It was thus that he approached everything accessible 
to human intelligence ; and, provided with all the positive 
knowledge it was at that period possible to acquire, a 
philosopher of penetrating intuition and strict reasoning 
power, he either created or constituted most of the 
sciences which the genius of mankind was subsequently 
destined to develop. The list of the sciences he thus 
organised is but the list of those he himself studied : 
the history of philosophy, logic, metaphysics, general 
physics, biology, botany, ethics, politics, archaeology, 
literary history, philology, grammar, rhetoric, poetics 
and the philosophy of art. In each of these sciences 
Aristotle is at home ; for each of them he lays down 
special and appropriate principles. A pure ethicist when 
dealing with justice and friendship, he is a professional 
naturalist when dealing with zoology. 


Are we then to conclude that Aristotle comprises 
many human beings in himself, so to speak ; is his 
vast work nothing but the juxtaposition of the most 
diverse labours, such as might result from the collabora- 
tion of many learned men ? Such an appreciation 
would certainly be a superficial one. First and foremost, 
there is community of spirit and method between the 
different works of Aristotle. This common substratum 
might be defined as a harmonious blend of idealism, 
observation and logical formalism. Aristotle always 
seeks for the idea in the fact ; for the necessary and 
the perfect in the contingent and the imperfect ; every- 
where he endeavours to substitute fixed conceptions 
and definitions for the fleeting data of sensible observa- 
tion. Nor is this all ; according to him, the different 
parts of knowledge hold a fixed relation to one another, 
and this relation he very clearly defines. Speaking 
generally, the superior is known only after the inferior, 
and that only by the help of the knowledge of this 
inferior ; at the same time, however, the true cause and 
raison d'etre of the inferior is to be found in the superior. 
For instance, the soul can be known only after the 
body, which is its basis and the condition of its exist- 
ence. But the body exists only for the soul ; from 
this latter it obtains the regulated movement which con- 
stitutes its being. This principle of Aristotle's will 
assist us in classifying the many forms of his philo- 
sophical activity. 


Without attaining to precision or even permanence 
in detail, Aristotle was none the less the first to con- 
ceive of science from an encyclopaedic point of view 


and to endeavour to discover a principle for the com- 
plete classification of knowledge. 

In the first place, science stands clearly out from 
the very things to which it relates. It consists of the 
conception of things as necessary, and admits of different 
degrees according as the object under consideration 
itself admits of necessity or only of probability. 

Science, in its ensemble, follows a double line of 
direction, according as the human mind adopts as its 
starting-point that which is first from its own point of 
view, or that which is first absolutely. These two 
steps are the very opposites of each other : for facts 
are what is first to us, and, in the internal order of 
nature, facts are what exists in the last resort ; and vice 
versa, what is first in itself consists of principles, and 
principles are the last thing to which we can attain. 

Philosophy, in the broad sense of the word, is science 
in general. In the first place, it comprises first philo- 
sophy or the science of unconditioned principles ; in 
the second place, the totality of the particular sciences, 
the chief of which are : mathematics, physics, ethics 
and poetics. Philosophy is one, thanks to first philo- 
sophy, which is the common reservoir whence all par- 
ticular sciences draw their principles. 

This division, although fundamental, does not always 
reappear in Aristotle's classifications of the sciences. 
In certain places he divides the propositions, after the 
fashion of the Platonists, into ethical, physical and 
logical, these latter comprising the very propositions 
that refer to first philosophy. 

More frequently he divides the sciences into theo- 
retical, practical (or relating to action) and poetical 
(or relating to production by means of matter) ; 
placing, from the logical and absolute point of view, 


theory before practice, and practice before poetics. 
Then he subdivides the theoretical sciences into theo- 
logy, mathematics and physics. Theology may be 
brought under first philosophy, of which it forms the 
summit. Mathematics deals with essences still stable 
though not separable from matter, except by abstraction. 
Physics deals with sensible i.e. movable and perishable 
substances. The practical sciences, or sciences of 
human things, are subdivided, if we proceed from 
potency to act, i.e. from that which is first for us to 
that which is first in itself, into ethics > economics and 
politics. In fact, economics is often given by Aristotle 
as included in politics. Rhetoric is more particularly 
set forth as an auxiliary science to politics. Poetics 
includes all the arts, the most important of them being 
poetry and music. No mention is made of logic in 
this classification, doubtless because the latter embraces 
only the sciences dealing with realities, whereas logic 
deals with concepts. 


The object Aristotle has in view is essentially theo- 
retical. To know in order to know, to understand, to 
adjust things to the intelligence : such is the end of all 
his efforts. 

All men, he says, have a natural desire to know. 
We love science quite apart from any advantage to be 
gained thereby. Wisdom is independent of utility ; 
in fact, the greater it is. the less useful it is. The 

o - 

highest science is that of the goal or end, in view of 
which, beings exist. This science alone is truly free, 
because it alone exists solely in view of knowledge 
itself. It is the least necessary of all sciences, and 


therefore the most excellent. Science enables us to 
become acquainted with the intelligible reasons of things. 
The ignorant man, who all the same observes, is 
astonished that things are as they are, and this very 
astonishment is the beginning of science : the wise man 
would be astonished were things otherwise than as he 
knows them. 

How does Aristotle proceed in order to acquire 
science, thus understood ? Aristotle is neither the 
dogmatic idealist that Bacon supposes, building up the 
world with nothing but the categories of language, nor 
the empiric that many moderns see in him. He is both 
an observer and a constructor : speaking generally, he 
closely allies and combines the scrupulous study of facts 
with the effort to make them intelligible. For him, 
facts are the starting-point, but he does not stop there : 
he tries to distil from them the rational truths he knows 
beforehand to be contained therein. The end he has 
in view is the knowledge of things in demonstrative 
form, i.e. in the form of a deduction in which the 
properties of the thing are known by its very essence. 

Most frequently, and especially when dealing with 
metaphysical or moral matters, before entering upon 
the study of things in themselves, he investigates and 
discusses all the opinions of others thereon. This is 
the dialectic method ; drawing its arguments not from 
the essence of the thing, but rather from the admissions 
of one's interlocutor, it does not go beyond proba- 
bility. In using this method, Aristotle frequently begins 
with popular conceptions : he finds a philosophical 
meaning in them and utilises it in constructing his 
theory. He also starts with language which, for him, 
is a sort of intermediary between things and reason. 
He pays special attention to the doctrines of his pre- 


decessors, carefully going over all the opinions they have 
upheld ; and even when rejecting these opinions, he tries 
to find out the reason they were held and the degree 
of truth in them. His philosophical dissertations are 
generally composed as follows: ist, he determines the 
object of investigation, so as not to be exposed to mis- 
understanding, as is the case with Plato ; 2nd, he 
enumerates and estimates the indications and opinions 
held on the matter in hand ; 3rd, he investigates and 
examines as completely as possible the difficulties or 
airopiai offered by the question asked ; 4th, considering 
things in themselves, and utilising, in his reasonings, the 
results of the foregoing discussions, he seeks for the 
solution of the problem in the determination of the one 
eternal essence of the object in question. 


We see from the preceding that Aristotle is a his- 
torian above all else. He began by learning as much 
as possible. According to report, Plato called him 
the reader. But history was not a final end for him, 
although he manifested extraordinary curiosity regarding 
facts ; it was, however, an indispensable means to an end. 
It supplied the mind with materials without which it 
would have nothing to work upon. Aristotle gave 
himself up to profoundly historical studies in every 
domain of science. 

As regards the history of philosophy, he wrote mainly 
on Platonism and the Pythagoreans. The whole of 
the first book of the Metaphysics is full of historical 
research: it is a summary of the principles set forth 
from the time of Thales to that of Plato. But as the 
object he has in view is dogmatic, he makes previous 


systems fit into the framework of his own philosophy. 
He tries to find their perfect form, the idea within 
each, their end and completion ; he is determined to 
understand them more profoundly than even their 
authors did, and he summarises them into rules created 
by himself, which rules are used as stepping-stones to 
his own system. When he classifies doctrines, he does 
so according to the resemblances and differences they 
offer from his own point of view, not according to the 
influence they have had upon one another. Thus, the 
summary contained in the first book of the Metaphysics 
is intended to prepare the ground for the Aristotelian 
theory of the four causes. Aristotle shows that, before 
his time, the material, motive and formal principles were 
more or less discerned and rightly estimated, but that 
the final cause was spoken of as though by accident, as 
something unessential. Anaxagoras, who had caught a 
glimpse of the final cause, stands out, says our author, 
as a sensible man amongst men who speak at random. 
Chronological investigations have little to do with these 
considerations. Aristotle, likewise, troubles himself 
little with the relations of master to disciple. He notes 
the services rendered by each of his predecessors to 
philosophy in general, as he conceives it ; he points out 
anything of a lasting nature that each thinker has found, 
and mentions the inventors and promoters of ideas that 
have played some part in the development of science 
and appear to him deserving of examination. In a word, 
making no attempt to find out the historical origins of 
the systems, he all the same elicits from the crude mass 
of facts, the logical formation of definitive philosophy. 

With political history are connected the famous 
TroTuretat in which Aristotle set forth the constitutions 
of 158 Greek and foreign cities. This collection 


of treatises belonged to what we call archaeology and 
the history of civilisation. In them were to be found 
many a striking national custom, and even the proverbs 
and popular songs of different peoples. According 
to certain Greek commentators, the order of the con- 
tents was alphabetical. Diogenes says that the con- 
stitutions were classified according as they resembled 
democracies, oligarchies, aristocracies or tyrannies. We 
can nowadays form some idea of the iro\Lrela^ thanks 
to the recently discovered treatise on the Constitution of 
the Athenians. The first part of this treatise is an 
explanation of the political transformations of Athens 
from its historical beginnings. The second describes 
the political and administrative organisation of Athens 
about the time of the Crown trial (330 B.C.). 

In the literary order of things, Aristotle had written 
the history of rhetoric and poetry. This history, which 
has not come down to us, was greatly praised by Cicero. 
" Aristotle," he said, " had noted down all the precepts 
given by the rhetors, and that, too, with such a degree 
of perfection that these precepts were found to be more 
clearly set forth by him than by their authors them- 
selves ; so that when one wished to become acquainted 
with them, it was in Aristotle's works that search was 

He had also drawn up chronological lists of dramatic 
performances as well as lists of the victors in the Olympic 
and Pythian games. These works are lost. 

As may be seen, Aristotle's curiosity is insatiable and 
embraces every department of nature. Still, he is 
determined to know and understand, not to amuse him- 
self with the mere statement of facts : history for him 
is nothing but an instrument of science, and a fact has 
no value except as the vehicle of an idea. 



Aristotle is determined to become acquainted with 
facts, not only as regards what they are, but as regards 
what they ought to be ; he wishes to resolve the con- 
tingent into the necessary. First, then, he has to find 
out under what conditions the mind conceives some- 
thing as necessary ; in other words, he has first to 
consider science in its form, putting on one side its 
content : this is the object of logic. 

Logic is the determination of the laws of reasoning 
and of the conditions of science. In knowledge Aristotle 
makes a distinction between form and matter, he regards 
form as possessed of an existence and laws of its own. 
Its existence lies in the reality of stable concepts, or 
general, single ideas, exactly determined both as regards 
their comprehension and their extension. Its funda- 
mental law is the principle of contradiction : " It is 
impossible for one and the same attribute to belong 
and not to belong to a given subject, regarded in one and 
the same connection." Moreover, according to Aristotle, 
there is proportion as well as agreement between thought 
and being ; consequently, our philosopher does not 
object to the introduction into his logic of many 
elements of a metaphysical nature. 

Aristotelian logic is the rational analysis of the condi- 
tions which any reasoning must satisfy for its conclusion 
to be regarded as necessary. The thing is not to know 
how, as a matter of fact, we reason in ordinary life, but 
rather how reasoning must be built up in order that the 
necessity of the connection it establishes may appear 
immediately and irresistibly evident. This is why the 
problem of the psychological analysis of natural reason- 
ing, indicated by Locke, could be substituted for that 


of Aristotle only by admitting the reduction of the 
necessary to the contingent, the ideal to the real, 
precept to fact, and art to nature. 

It is advisable to distinguish between : ist, the 
instruments of thought ; 2nd, the role and value of 
these instruments in the constitution of science. 

The instruments of thought are : notions, proposi- 
tions and reasoning. 

The general heading of notions includes the predic- 
ables, the categories and the notions of logical relations. 

The predicableSy which Aristotle, it would seem, calls 
the genera of problems, are the universal notions that 
relate to the general modes according to which one 
thing may be enunciated with reference to another. 
These are what are called the universals, viz. genus, 
species, difference, property and accident. 

The categories are the irreducible genera of words, 
and consequently of things, for classes of words are the 
classes of the things themselves. These are the ultimate 
genera. The categories are ten in number : ist, essence, 
for instance, man, horse ; 2nd, quantity : two ells long ; 
3rd, quality : white ; 4th, relation : double, half ; 5th, 
place : at school ; 6th, time : yesterday ; yth, position : 
to be seated, lying ; 8th, possession : to be shod, armed ; 
9th, action : to cut, to burn ; loth, passivity : to be cut, 
burnt. The categories are divided into two classes, 
essence alone forming the first, and the nine other 
categories constituting the second. 

This table of categories seems to have been drawn 
up empirically by comparison of the words with one 
another. It differs fundamentally from Kant's, which 
sets forth the different ways of connecting, a priori and 
necessarily, the various elements of an intuition in general, 


i.e. of bringing this scattered matter under the unity of 
transcendental apperception. 

The different logical relations of terms to one another 
are identity and opposition, the latter including con- 
trariety, contradiction and the relation between 
deprivation and possession. 

The general principle with regard to opposition is 
that two terms opposed to each other always depend on 
one and the same science. 

Propositions result from the union of concepts. 
They are affirmative or negative, universal or particular. 
They alone admit of truth or error, whereas isolated 
concepts are neither true nor false. The result is not 
the same, when two judgments are contradictory to 
each other, as when they are simply contrary. Two 
contrary judgments cannot both be true, though they 
may be false, whereas one of two contradictory judg- 
ments is of necessity true and the other false : this 
results from the principle of excluded middle, a par- 
ticular expression of the principle of contradiction. 

Propositions admit of conversions or inversions of 
subject and predicate, the rules of which are determined 
by Aristotle. 

Reasoning consists essentially of syllogism. The 
theory of syllogism and of demonstration, or perfect 
syllogism, is called by Aristotle analytics. Aristotle 
claims to have invented it. He affirms that, previous 
to his time, there existed nothing on this subject, that 
he had not merely to improve but to invent, and that 
he attained his end by dint of laborious attempts. 
Kant said regarding the theory of the syllogism that, 
ever since the days of Aristotle, it had not moved a 
step, either backwards or forwards. 

The syllogism is a process of reasoning in which, 


certain things being posited, something different 
necessarily results. The property of the syllogism is 
that it makes evident the necessity of the conjunction. 
This result is obtained by the use of elements adapted 
to an exact application of the principle of contradiction. 
These elements are terms regarded as holding to each 
other the relation of the part to the whole. Granted 
that A contains B and B contains C, it necessarily 
follows, in accordance with the principle of contradiction, 
that A contains C. This is the type of the syllogism, 
and the three terms it implies are therefore called 
major, middle and minor. This relation of extent is 
regarded by Aristotle as equivalent to the relation 
between general and particular. The genus is a kind 
of definite circle, containing the various species. 

The syllogism is perfect or imperfect, according as 
it conforms immediately to the type we have just in- 
dicated, or becomes conformable thereto only by the 
aid of transformations or reductions. 

The origin of this theory may be found in mathe- 
matics. It consists in an adaptation to the qualitative 
notions of the relations of dimension. It was natural 
that Aristotle should seek, in an analogical imitation of 
mathematics, for the means of demonstrating necessarily 
in qualitative matter ; since it was acknowledged by all 
that mathematics realised that necessity in the con- 
catenation of the terms, which he had in view. In the 
syllogism the instrument of necessary connection is the 
middle term. 

Of the particular cases of syllogism, the most im- 
portant is induction, or the reasoning which proceeds 
from particular to general. The following is an in- 
stance of this reasoning : " The man, the horse and the 
mule live long. Now the man, the horse and the mule are 


animals devoid of gall. Therefore, all animals devoid 
of gall live long." The condition of the legitimacy of 
the conclusion lies in the convertibility of the minor 
premise. Here, for instance, for the proposition : 
" The man, the horse and the mule are animals devoid 
of gall," we should have to be permitted to substitute : 
" All the animals devoid of gall are man, the horse and 
the mule." The legitimacy of this substitution is no 
longer a matter of logic. In fact, the series of animals 
devoid of gall is an infinite one. But the essence of 
the animal devoid of gall is entirely in each animal 
devoid of gall. The question is to discern this 
essence, to find the type of the animal devoid of gall, 
so as to distinguish the characteristics belonging to 
animals devoid of gall, in this particular condition of 
being devoid of gall, and separate them from the 
characteristics belonging to them independently of this 
condition. To effect this, we consider a certain number 
of animals devoid of gall, compare them with one 
another, find out what they have in common, and so 
what there is in them that is essential and necessary. 
In other words, we consider the beings of nature not 
only with the senses, but with the vovs the seat of the 
essences which is capable of finding and recognising 
them in the data of the senses. 

Aristotle's induction thus aims at the classification 
of beings and facts, and also at a natural classification. 
In so far as it is applied in distinguishing necessary 
relations from contingent ones, it makes prediction 
possible, and thus supplies us with true laws, in the 
modern sense of the word. This possibility of pre- 
diction, however, is restricted to the facts that proceed 
immediately from a determined essence ; it does not 
extend to the facts that result from the mingling of 


several essences. There is no necessary reason for 
the mingling of the essences ; this is something purely 
contingent. The genera, according to Aristotle, are 
radically separated from one another ; each of them is 
an absolute. In this doctrine of the independence of 
genera, the Aristotelian theory of induction is opposed 
both to Cartesianism, which reduces physical laws to 
mathematical determinations, the heterogeneous to the 
homogeneous ; and also to evolutionism, which re- 
cognises the present existence of species, though 
attributing to them a natural genesis in the past, 
starting from one common origin. 

Syllogism, properly so called, and induction are 
to each other, says Aristotle, as the order of nature 
and that of human knowledge. In itself, syllogism is 
the more intelligible ; to us, induction is the more 
distinct. A syllogism starts from the general. Now, 
it is impossible for us to have knowledge of the 
general except by induction. Not that general prin- 
ciples rest on sensation and induction as their founda- 
tion ; it is rather that induction discovers these principles 
for us and supplies us with the intelligible elements 
which the i/oO? acknowledges to be both necessary and 

Such are the instruments of science. How, by 
means of them, is science formed ? 

Science is the knowledge of things in so far as they 
are necessary. A thing is known scientifically when 
we know that it could not be otherwise than it is. 
Now, this knowledge is realised when we succeed in 
connecting the given thing with its cause. 

In nature there are three kinds of connections : ist, 
conjunctions that are always realised, for instance : the 



relations of astronomical phenomena ; 2nd, conjunctions 
that are usually realised, for instance : the relations of 
physical things to one another, and, even more so, of 
moral things ; 3rd, chance, i.e. the coincidences that are 
but seldom, or never, reproduced. The first kind of 
connection admits of perfect science ; the second, of 
imperfect science, limited to probability ; the third is 
outside of the domain of science. There is no science 
of what is passing away. 

Neither opinion nor sensation can produce science, 
for as they are both incapable of perfect determination 
and finity, they cannot grasp the finite and immovable. 
Platonic dialectic, too, is powerless to afford us science, 
for as it consists of questions and answers, it relies only 
on the consent of the opponent, not on truth in itself. 
Starting from hypothesis, it does not go beyond a 
purely formal and logical inference. It is by demon- 
stration that we arrive at science. Apodeictic, or the 
theory of demonstration, differs essentially from 

Demonstration is effected by direct syllogism of the 
first figure. Reductio ad absurdum and syllogisms of 
the second and third figures are not yet demonstration, 
which has its starting-point in a principle that is not 
only granted by the opponent, but is necessary in 
itself. This is how the mathematician reasons. 

Demonstration comprises three elements : ist, the 
subject ; 2nd, the predicate, which has to be linked to 
the subject by a bond of necessity ; 3rd, the general 
principles on which demonstration is based. These 
latter are the principle of contradiction and its de- 
rivatives. Though indispensable, they are empty 
and insufficient in themselves. It is in the nature 
of the subject that the basis of demonstration lies. 


There are, in effect, principles proper to the subject, 
for instance the continuous, inherent in extent ; and 
the discontinuous, inherent in number : it is these 
special principles that have a content and are productive. 
On these principles it is good to rely, and, in deduction, 
we should never pass from one genus to another unless 
the one is properly subordinated to the other. Thus, 
geometry could not be explained by arithmetic ; it 
would be impossible to adapt to dimensions of ex- 
tension demonstrations proper to number. When 
this rule is violated, we have for our guidance none but 
the principles common to all sciences ; and so the con- 
nections established are known only as accidental and 
contingent, not as essential and necessary : we have 
been proceeding by analogy, not by demonstration. The 
impossibility here seen by Aristotle was at a later date 
removed by Descartes and Leibnitz. 

Proper principles cannot be proved like common 
ones. To claim to demonstrate everything would be 
to condemn oneself either to progress ad infinitum or 
to the argument in a circle. Thus each science has its 
special irreducible principles. 

Whence come these principles? They are neither 
innate, nor received purely and simply from without. 
There is within us a disposition to conceive them ; 
and, as the result of experience, this disposition passes 
into action. It is in this, after all, that induction con- 
sists, and so it is by induction that we know the first 
principles proper to each science. 

Demonstration implies definition. There must be 
undemonstrable definitions : otherwise we should pro- 
ceed ad infinitum. There is no definition, either of the 
individual or of the accident or the indeterminate 
general but only of intermediate species between the 


general and the individual. Definition is effected by 
indicating the next genus and the specific differences. 
In order to constitute a definition, we must proceed 
from the particular to the general and verify this induc- 
tion by a deduction proceeding from genus to species. 

To sum up, a thing is known as necessary when 
connected, by deduction, with a specific essence. 

Below apodeictic, which teaches how one comes to 
know a thing as necessary, stands dialectic, or the logic 
of the probable : we find it set forth in the Topics. 
The domain of dialectic is opinion, a mode of know- 
ledge admitting of truth or of falsehood. The 
dialectician takes, as his starting-point, not definitions 
necessary in themselves, but opinions or theses pro- 
pounded either by philosophers or by common sense ; 
he tries to discover which of these divers opinions is 
the most probable. Proceeding by means of questions 
and answers, he contradictorily examines the yes and 
the no regarding each subject. Thus, he arranges his 
questions in such fashion as to present first a thesis, 
then an antithesis ; afterwards he discusses both pro- 
positions. This discussion consists in examining the 
difficulties that arise, when we wish to apply the pro- 
position to particular instances. The dialectician 
reasons syllogistically, though he starts with the pro- 
bable. The probable, taken as the given, is in reality 
the purely generic essence, not yet determined by the 
specific difference. Only by the addition of the specific 
principle to the generic principle could the conclusion 
be made necessary. The specific principles, however, 
cannot be deduced from the generic ones, for every 
genus admits alike of different species. 

The rble of dialectic is important : it is the only 
possible mode of reasoning in things which do not 


admit of necessary definitions. And in the search after 
necessary truths themselves, dialectic is the indispensable 
preliminary of demonstration. 

What dialectic is in logic, rhetoric is in morals. 
If the former seeks after the probable, the object of 
the latter is to commend it to acceptance. And so 
rhetoric and dialectic go well together, or rather, as 
practice is to theory what the particular is to the general, 
so rhetoric is a part of dialectic. The mode of reason- 
ing proper to rhetoric is the enthymeme, a syllogism in 
which one of the three propositions is left unexpressed, 
and the reasons are not obtained from the essence of 
things, but from probabilities and signs. The main 
element of the enthymeme that rhetoric uses, is analogy, 
or the induction which proceeds from particular to 

Finally, a distinction must be made between dialectic 
and eristic. Whereas the former has to deal with 
things that are general and ordinary, without being 
necessary, the latter deals with pure accident, and that 
deliberately. Eristic contents itself with a probability 
that is accepted by the hearer ; consequently eristic 
reasonings are pure sophisms. Aristotle minutely 
exposes and describes them. 

Below things that always happen, which depend on 
an essence both generic and specific and are capable of 
being known as necessary, even below things that 
usually happen, which depend on a simply generic 
essence and are capable of being known as probable, 
there are those that happen accidentally, apart from 
any rule at all. As things that usually happen result 
from the mingling of species, so isolated phenomena 
result from the mingling of genera ; but whereas that 
which is not determinable by species is still determin- 


able, to some extent, by genus, the common substratum 
of several species, that which is not even determinable 
by genus is no longer determinable at all, since, above 
genera, there are none but universal principles, which, 
as they apply to everything, determine nothing. There 
is no science, then, of hazard, as such, the meet- 
ing with the two genera. Only the elements of which 
the fortuitous phenomenon consists can be known as 
necessary or possible, in so far as they are connected 
with their respective specific or generic essences : the 
union of these elements, which, properly speaking, 
constitutes the fortuitous phenomenon, is without 
reason, because genera, as such, are without mutual 

Aristotelian logic held undisputed sway down to the 
time of Bacon and Descartes. From the beginning of 
modern philosophy, it has been attacked and battered 
on every side ; either reproached for being the logic of 
exposition, and not that of invention, or else regarded 
as artificial and illegitimate. Discussion bears mainly 
on the value of the concept or general idea, the basis of 
the theory. The empirics, in particular, to whom ideas 
are only traces of sensation, estimate the value of 
generalities by the number of ascertained facts they 
represent ; they maintain that, as the truth of the 
major premise of a syllogism implies that of the con- 
clusion, the syllogism is necessarily an argument in a 

Here the thing to discover is whether a concept 
is anything else than a collective idea, or a static or 
dynamic unity, valid for an indefinite series of past, 
present and future facts. But even should the Aris- 
totelian concept not exactly coincide with the nature 
of things, as would be the case were continuity the 


fundamental law of being, the logic of Aristotle would 
none the less retain real value. Not only would it 
subsist as an analysis of the conditions of ideal know- 
ledge for the human mind, but it would be legitimate 
in proportion as there exist species in nature. Now, 
these do exist, if not in an eternal, primitive fashion, 
perhaps, at all events in actuality and at the present 
time. Superior beings, especially, form relatively stable 
groups. Even though continuity were the fundamental 
law, none the less would it be necessary to recognise in 
nature a tendency to discontinuity and specification. 
Aristotelian logic would answer to that part or side of 
nature which is governed by the law of specification. 
Deprived of the metaphysical and absolute value its 
founder attributed to it, it would retain a relative and 
experimental value. 


Whereas each science considers some particular 
species of beings ; physics, for instance, considers being 
in so far as it has matter and motion ; mathematics, the 
form of mobile being in so far as it is isolated by 
abstraction from the matter in which it is realised ; 
first philosophy, as Aristotle calls it, considers being, in 
so far as it is being, TO ov, y ov, and in this way tries to 
discover its principles. 

Aristotelian metaphysics has been set up as opposed to 
Platonic philosophy. Thus, we find Aristotle beginning 
his exposition by a criticism of his master. Plato, he 
says, seeks both the object of science and being, in 
so far as it is being, in the general essences conceived 
of as existing apart, outside of things and also outside 
of one another. Now, here, the true is confounded with 


the false. Plato clearly saw that the general alone can 
be an object of science and that the sensible world as 
such cannot, therefore, be known scientifically. But he 
was mistaken in thinking that genera can exist apart, that 
they are themselves principles and substances. Genera 
exist only in individuals. We get entangled in in- 
extricable difficulties if we insist that they exist per se. 
Under this hypothesis, what will be the relation of 
things to their respective genera ? Will it be one 
of participation ? Then how can this participation 
be conceived ? Besides, how many substantial genera 
will there be ? How can the idea, the one substance, 
be met with in an infinite number of individuals ? If 
the general idea is substance, either there are no 
individuals or there is only one. In addition, the 
general cannot be principle and substance, because it 
is devoid of force and cannot exist per se. The general 
is always an attribute, a predicate : substance, on the 
other hand, is a subject, a thing existing apart. There- 
fore, it is quite true that the general alone is an object 
of science ; substance, on the contrary, can be only 

Here, however, a difficulty arises. If, on the one 
hand, all science rests on the general, and, on the other, 
substance can be only something individual, how can 
there be a science of substance ? Does not our theory 
end in the following result : a science whose object is 
not in being ; a being which cannot be an object of 
science ? 

To solve this difficulty, we must enlarge our notion 
of science. All science does not rest on the general. 
Science has two modes, two degrees. There is science 
in potency and there is science in act. The former has 
the general for its object, but it is not so with the 


latter, which has for its object the perfectly determined 
being, the individual. 

In this doctrine we find the central idea of Aris- 
totelianism. The general is not the constitutive prin- 
ciple of being, it is nothing but the matter thereof. 
Though determined in one direction, it is indeterminate 
in another : every general type may be realised in 
divers ways. A real being, a substance, is a completed 
being, which, in every respect, is this and not that : 
consequently, in any real being whatsoever, there is 
something more than in any general idea. The entire 
science of the general could not build up the in- 
dividuality of Socrates. There are necessarily two 
things outside of this abstract science : accidents, be- 
cause they are below the general ; individuals, because 
they are above it. The knowledge of individuals is 
effected by an intuition, which, immediately, grasps the 
x substantial unity that could not be deduced. 

This irreducibleness of the individual to the general 
will be seen through the philosophy of Aristotle. By 
virtue of this principle, abstract speculation will be power- 
less to enable us to know nature ; to do this, experience 
will be necessary. And in the moral order of things, laws 
will be inadequate to bring about the reign of justice ; 
the magistrate must be brought in, empowered by law 
to apply general rules to the endless diversity of 
individual cases. 

What are the principles of being ? Being, which is 
given to us, is subject to a process of becoming. Now, 
becoming, in so far as it exists, implies principles that 
have not been generated : a halt must necessarily be 
made in the retrogression towards causes, when we 
have to find out what are the integral elements of 
'present existence. 


What are the principles required in order to explain 
becoming ? They are four in number : ist, a sub- 
stratum or matter, the scene of change, i.e. of the 
substitution of one mode of being for another ; 2nd, 
a form of determination ; 3rd, a motor cause ; 4th, an 
aim or end. For instance, the principles of a house are : 
the timber, as matter or material, the idea of the house, 
as form, the architect, as motor cause, and the dwelling 
to be realised, as object or end. 

These four principles, in turn, may be reduced to 
two : matter and form. In fact, the motor cause is 
nothing more than form in an already realised subject : 
thus, the motor cause of the house is the idea of the 
house, as conceived by the architect. And the final 
cause is also the form, for the final cause of each single 
thing really consists of the perfection or form towards 
which it is tending. 

And so matter and form are definitely the two non- 
generated principles that are necessary and sufficient to 
explain becoming. Matter is the substratum. It is 
neither this nor that ; it is capable of becoming this or 
that. Form is that which makes of matter a deter- 
minate (roSe rt) and real thing. It is the perfection, 
activity or soul of the thing. As Aristotle interprets 
it, the word form has quite a different meaning from 
ours. For instance, in Aristotle's phraseology, a 
sculptured hand possesses the figure and not the form 
of a hand, because it cannot perform such functions as 
are proper to the hand. 

There is a scale of existences from lowest matter, 
which has no form at all, to highest form, which is 
devoid of matter. Absolutely indeterminate matter is 
non-existent. Form without matter is outside of 
nature. All the beings of nature are compounds of 


matter and form. The opposition of matter and form 
is relative. That which is matter from one point of 
view is form from another. Timber is matter in 
relation to the house, and form in relation to uncut 
wood. The soul is form with regard to the body, 
matter the intelligence. 

Aristotle does not content himself with this reduction 
of the four principles to matter and form ; he attempts 
to bring together these two principles themselves. To 
effect this, he brings them within the scope of potency 
and act. For him, matter is not mere receptivity, as it 
is for Plato : it has a propensity to receive form, it 
desires form. The latter is not something hetero- 
geneous as regards matter : it is its natural completion. 
Matter is potency, potency that is capable of two 
determinate contraries. The logical mechanism of the 
substitution of forms in inert matter thus resolves itself 
into a metaphysical dynamism. There is an inner 
action in the transition from potency to act. This is 
no longer a juxtaposition or separation of inert, pre- 
existing elements : it is a spontaneous creation of being 
and perfection. If a force of determinate quantity, 
says Aristotle, is needed to produce a certain effect, the 
half of this force, applied separately, does not produce 
this effect at all. Were it not so, given a ship which 
several men, with united effort, set in motion, a single 
man would be able to communicate a certain amount 
of motion to the ship, but this, as we know, is contrary 
to experience. Any particular part, which produces 
motion when united with the whole, if taken separately 
and acting alone, becomes altogether powerless. Truth 
to tell, the part has no existence as a part in what is 
really a whole : a part exists only potentially in the 
whole from which it may be taken. 


As we see, the Aristotelian concept of potency and 
act is very empirical. Aristotle takes it for granted 
that the effort of a single man produces no result on a 
ship, because he does not know that the work which 
does not become manifest in the form of movement, at 
all events, generates heat. None the less is the push of 
a single man really ineffective, so far as actual removal 
from one place to another is concerned. Even at the 
present time, there is a school of chemists who reason 
like Aristotle, and do not regard hydrogen and oxygen 
as existing in water in act, but, relying on experience, 
these scientists say that hydrogen and oxygen exist in 
water in potency, in this sense that, if water is subjected 
to certain conditions, hydrogen and oxygen may be 

To sum up, becoming, according to Aristotle, origin- 
ates neither in absolute being nor in absolute non-being ; 
it originates in being in potency, midway between being 
and non-being. 

From this being in potency, or matter, proceeds all 
that is indetermination and imperfection in the world. 
Matter is the principle of brute necessity or dvdy/cr), 
which is mechanical and blind causality, in contrast with 
the motor cause which acts with a view to an end. If 
such necessity exists, it is because nature is compelled 
to employ material causes in its creations. Now, in a 
sense, matter is resistant to form. That is why the 
creations of nature are invariably imperfect ; there are 
even produced many things that are devoid of purpose, 
in so far as they come into being by the action of 
mechanical forces only. Slaves, for instance, whose 
actions are regulated often, nevertheless, act on their 
own account, quite apart from regulations. Matter 
is the principle of the contingence of future events. 


As regards the future, the position of a determinate 
alternative is alone necessary : the realisation of either 
term of this alternative is indeterminate. From matter 
proceeds hazard. In any given being, those phenomena 
are fortuitous which do not spring from the essence of 
that being, but are the result either of its imperfection 
or of the influx of extraneous causes. Hazard manifests 
itself by the rarity of the event. The fortuitous event 
is mechanically necessary, though necessary only from 
this point of view : in relation to finality it is indeter- 
minable and uncognisable. Matter is the cause of the 
imperfection of beings as well as the cause of evil. 
It is likewise the cause of the multiplicity of species, 
for, in all their infinite variety, the beings of nature 
are only more or less complete realisations of one and 
the same type supplied by the form. Animals are only 
incomplete men, arrested at a certain stage of their 
natural development. From the presence of matter in 
natural things, it follows that these things cannot be the 
object of perfect science, i.e. they cannot be known as 
fully determined. In itself, the material element of 
things does not admit of science. 

Such are the proximate causes of being when sub- 
mitted to a process of becoming. We could not have 
a full explanation of this being, however, were we to 
confine ourselves to a consideration of its elements. 
Being in process of becoming finds its ultimate explana- 
tion only in an eternal being. 

The existence of God is already proved, in a popular 
way, by the gradual perfection of beings and the finality 
that reigns throughout nature. Scientifically it is proved 
by the analysis of the conditions of motion. This is 
what is called the argument of the prime mover. 


Motion is change, the relation of matter to form. 
In this sense, the motion of the world is eternal. In- 
deed, time is necessarily eternal ; now, without motion or 
change, time could not exist. But motion implies both 
something movable and a moving principle. Motion, 
then, in so far as it is eternal, presupposes something 
eternally movable and an immovable first mover. 
The " eternally movable " moves in a circle ; this is 
the first heaven, the heaven of the fixed stars. The 
immovable first mover is what men call God. 

This proof may be generalised as follows. The 
actual is always previous to the potential. The first, 
in the absolute, is not the germ, but rather the com- 
pleted being. Besides, actuation could not take place 
were not pure act already in existence. God is this 
pure act. 

In a word, demonstration of the existence of God 
is based on the following dual principle : ist, act, from 
the point of view of the absolute nature of things, is 
anterior to potency ; 2nd, the conditioned presupposes 
the unconditioned. 

What is God? His nature is determined by his 
rtle as first mover. God is pure act, i.e. he is exempt 
from indetermination, imperfection and change. He is 
both immovable and immutable. He is thought which 
has thought and nothing else as its object (rj vorja-is 
z/oTjcreo)? vori<n<^. He sees not the world, for when 
we are dealing with imperfect things, not to see 
them is better than to see them : the dignity of an 
intelligence is gauged by the perfection of its object. 
He is eternal, all-excelling life, and therefore supremely 

To this thought which thinks itself the world is 
suspended, as a thought which does not think itself 


and tends to do so. This is how God moves the 
world. What is desired and thought moves without 
oneself moving. It is the intelligible that determines 
intelligence, not intelligence that determines the intel- 
ligible. Now, God is the supremely desirable and the 
supremely intelligible. God, therefore, moves the 
world as final cause, without himself moving. God is 
not the ultimate product of the world's development ; 
logically, he is anterior to the world. Nor is he 
immanent in the world, as order is immanent in an 
army : he is out of the world, as a general is distinct 
from his army. 

The immediate effect of divine action is the rotatory 
motion of the whole universe, which gives rise to 
the motions or changes of perishable things. The 
world is one, because God is one. Because God is 
intelligent, the world is a harmonious whole, a well- 
composed poem. Everything therein is arranged with 
a view to a single end. The relation of the various 
beings to the whole is all the closer from the fact that 
these beings are higher in the scale of nature ; just as, in 
a well-ordered house, the actions of free men are more 
regulated than those of slaves. God, moreover, to 
whom the world is as though it did not exist, intervenes 
in no single detail of his own events. 

This theology is an abstract monotheism. All the 
beings and facts of nature are wholly referred to natural 
causes. It is only nature, regarded in its entirety, that 
is made contingent on divinity. There is neither special 
providence nor supernatural reward in another life. The 
only thing in popular religion that Aristotle admits to 
be true is the general belief in divinity and in the 
divine nature of the sky and the stars. To his mind, 
the rest consists of nothing but mythical additions, the 


explanation of which a philosopher finds either in the 
tendency of men towards anthropomorphic conceptions, 
or in the calculations of politicians. 


The object of first philosophy was immovable and 
incorporeal being ; the object of physics, or second 
philosophy, is movable and corporeal being, in so far 
as the latter has within itself the principle of its motion. 
<&vo-i,<s is spontaneous motion, in opposition to that which 
results from compulsion. 

Does nature exist as such ? Is there, in the universe, 
an internal principle of motion, a tendency to an end ? 

According to Aristotle, it is the fundamental principle 
of physics that God and nature do nothing in vain ; that 
nature always tends towards something better ; that, as 
far as possible, it always brings to pass what is to be 
the most beautiful. The existence of finality in the 
universe is proved by observation. In the smallest as 
in the largest things, if we take notice, we find there 
is reason, perfection, divinity. Nature converts even 
its own imperfections to good. 

But if order and harmony exist throughout the 
universe, does it follow that the universe is the product 
of a <vo-9 properly so called, a divine creative power ? 
Is not there some other possible explanation of this 
order and harmony ? Why, for instance, should we 
not say : Jupiter does not send the rain in order to 
make the corn grow ; the corn grows because it rains. 
Necessity makes the rain fall, and when this pheno- 
menon takes place, the wheat profits thereby. Necessity 
likewise makes the organs of animals, and of these they 
make use. Whereas everything appears to take place 


with a view to an end, it is really only things that 
survive, because they happen to have been constituted 
by chance so as to conform with their conditions of 
existence. And those things which did not happen to 
be constituted in that way, die out, and have always 
died out, as, according to Empedocles, happened in 
the case of the oxen with human faces. 

A vain explanation, replies Aristotle, for the organs 
of animals and the majority of the beings with which 
nature brings us in contact are what they are, to wit, 
harmonious compounds, either in every case, or in most, 
at all events. Now, it is never so with things produced 
by chance ; here, fortunate occurrences are never any- 
thing but exceptions. 

But, we shall be told, there exist monsters. 
Monsters are but incomplete pieces of work, the 
results of effort which is incapable of realising the 
perfect type. Nature, as well as art, may make 
mistakes, by reason of the obstruction which the very 
matter, on which it is working, sets up against it. 

Finally, will the objection be raised that we do not 
see the mover deliberating and choosing ? That matters 
little, for art does not deliberate either ; it acts 
intelligently, without giving account of what it does. 

Nature, then, is a cause, and a cause that acts 
with a view to an end. It must, however, be recog- 
nised that it is not the only cause in the universe. 
Its action is only possible owing to the co-operation 
of the material or mechanical cause, which, though 
yielding to its attraction, never allows itself to submit 
completely. . Along with finality, then, we find every- 
where throughout the universe, a certain proportion of 
brute necessity and chance. 

This explains why, on the one hand, the principle 


of the best may legitimately be employed in explaining 
the things of nature ; though, on the other hand, the 
things of nature can never come within the domain of 
perfect science, wherein everything seems wholly deter- 
mined from the point of view of the intelligence. 
The science of nature is always imperfect in some 
direction ; it admits of degrees, as do the parts of 
nature itself. In accordance with these principles, the 
cause of natural things may be found, either in their 
matter, or in their form or destination. And, as far as 
possible, the teleological explanation should complete 
the mechanical one, which, however finished it be, 
leaves things indeterminate in the sight of reason. 
Such is the method Aristotle is to pursue in his 
investigations into natural things. 

Motion or change is the realization of a possible. 
There are four kinds of change : ist, substantial change, 
which consists in being born and in perishing. This is 
motion which proceeds from relative non -being to 
being, and from the latter to the former. There is 
no such thing as absolute generation and destruction. 
Individuals alone are born and die : genera remain. 
2nd, quantitative change : increase or diminution ; 3rd, 
qualitative change, or the transition from one sub- 
stance to another ; 4th, spatial change, or displacement. 

All modes of change are conditioned by motion in 
space. Aristotle makes a profound study of this 
motion. He brings against the arguments of the 
Eleatics, who deny the possibility of motion, the 
doctrine that the infinite exists only in potency, not in 
act. The infinite consists only in the possibility of an 
indefinite increase of numbers and in the indefinite 
divisibility of dimensions : it cannot be the given. 


When, therefore, we reason about the real, we should 
presuppose only finite quantities. 

As regards space, Aristotle investigates the nature 
of place. The place of a body is not something in 
itself, it is the interior limit of the surrounding body. 
It is like a motionless vase which contains the body. 
Consequently, all bodies are not in a place, but only 
those enclosed in other bodies. The sky, the universal 
container, is not itself in a place. Space, or rather the 
extent of the world, is limited. 

Time is the number of motion as regards before and 
after. It is limitless in both directions. 

Continuousness is the characteristic of time and space. 
It is divisible ad infinitum, though in dimensions that 
are themselves continuous : not, as Zeno supposed, 
in indivisible points. All dimension is divisible into 
dimensions. Moreover, continuousness is an imperfect 
notion, and relates to sensible things, for it is divisible 
ad infinitum, and consequently is indeterminate as 
regards the number of its elements. 

From these principles Aristotle concludes that, out- 
side the world, there is neither space nor time, that the 
vacuum of the atomists is inconceivable, that all motion 
takes place in the plenum by a process of substitution, 
and that time, which is a number, presupposes, as does 
every number, a soul which counts its units. Motion 
in space, the condition of all other motions, is the only 
one that is continuous. And circular motion is the 
only kind that is capable of being both one and con- 
tinuous, without beginning or end. 

Aristotle does not regard it as possible to explain all 
changes by motion in space alone. He looks upon 
qualities as realities, and admits that qualitative change 
is incapable of being reduced to motion in space. This 


theory he sets up in opposition to the mechanism of 
Democritus and the mathematisme of Plato. He raises 
two objections to the doctrines of these philosophers : 
1st, Democritus and Plato reduce dimensions to in- 
divisible points : now, all dimension is divisible ad 
infinitum ; 2nd, however we set about it, it is impossible 
to extract quality from quantity, pure and simple. 

It is for this reason that Aristotle lays down the 
principle of a qualitative distinction in substances. 

And, just as there is a qualitative nature, there is 
likewise a qualitative transformation. One substance, 
acted upon by another, becomes modified in its inner 
nature. This phenomenon is possible when two bodies 
are partly alike and partly unlike, that is to say, when 
two substances are opposed to each other within one 
and the same genus, and it is possible only in this case. 
The changing of one of these substances into the other 
is no mere mechanical displacement, in which the 
elements remain identical throughout the change in the 
compound substance : it is really the formation of a 
new substance, fundamentally different from the former. 
The given substance bears the same relation to the 
substance resulting from the qualitative change that 
potency bears to act. 


Mathematics considers relations of dimension, 
quantity, and continuousness, neglecting the other 
physical qualities. Thus, it deals with things that are 
immovable without existing apart, essences intermediary 
between the world and God. By a process of abstrac- 
tion the mathematician isolates form from matter, in 
sensible things. 


Mathematics is either pure or applied. Geometry 
and arithmetic constitute pure mathematics. Mathe- 
matics may be applied either to the practical arts, 
geodesy, for instance, or to natural sciences, such as 
optics, mechanics, harmonics, or astrology. In the 
latter case the question of fact is the business of the 
physicist, the why or wherefore is the business of the 

Mathematics makes use of the notions of the good 
and the beautiful, because order, symmetry, and deter- 
mination, all of which are pre-eminently mathematical, 
are some of the most important elements in the good 
and the beautiful. 

None of Aristotle's mathematical works have come 
down to us. His principal ones were treatises on 
mathematics, unity, optics, and astronomy. In the 
works we possess we frequently come across examples 
taken from mathematics. 


From the eternity of form and matter follows the 
perpetuity of motion, as well as that of the existence of 
the world. Species in themselves are eternal, and there 
have always been men : individuals alone are born and 
perish. As the world is eternal, the science of the 
world is not a cosmogony, but rather a cosmology. 
Aristotle has not the formation of the universe to 
explain, but only its system. 

The world is one, finite and well regulated. It is a 
work of art, as beautiful and good as the resistance of 
the material element permits. It has a perfect form, 
the spherical, the only one, moreover, that enables the 
whole to move without causing a vacuum outside itself. 


It consists of two unequal halves: ist, the supra- 
lunar or celestial world, the vault to which the fixed 
stars are attached ; 2nd, the infralunar or terrestrial 

The celestial world is animated with a rotatory 
motion produced directly by God. The imperishable 
nature of the stars and the unchangeable regularity of 
their motions prove that they differ, as regards matter, 
from terrestrial things, which are subject to continual 
change. The matter composing the stars is ether, or 
the fifth element (quint-essence), the body that is with- 
out a contrary, and is therefore incorruptible, admitting 
of no other change than that of place, and no other 
motion than a circular one. The other elements, on 
the contrary, being formed of terrestrial bodies, are 
corruptible and admit of motion from below, upwards, 
and from above, downwards, that is to say, from centre 
to circumference and from circumference to centre. 
The heaven of the fixed stars is the abode of being, of 
perfect life, and of unchangeable order. The stars are 
beings which are not subject to old age, beings that live 
a life of happiness whilst exercising eternal and inde- 
fatigable activity. They are far more divine than man. 
Our ancestors had a vague intuition of the truth when 
they regarded the stars as being gods. 

Within the heaven of the fixed stars is the region of 
the planets, including, says Aristotle, the sun and the 
moon, as well as the five planets known to the ancients. 
In the middle of the world is the earth, spherical in 
form. The heaven of the planets is made of a sub- 
stance that is less and less pure in inverse ratio to its 
distance from the heaven of the fixed stars. In contra- 
distinction to the first heaven, which is a single sphere 
bearing all the stars, the heaven of the planets consists 


of a multiplicity of spheres, for the movements of the 
planets, being relatively irregular, presuppose a multi- 
plicity of movers whose actions combine with one 

Beings other than the fixed stars are made of the 
four elements. Each element has a motion of its own, 
the rectilineal march towards the place natural to it. 
Hence we obtain weight and lightness. Weight is 
the tendency of each body to follow its own direction. 
It is not possible to say, with Democritus, that all 
motion is simply the result of impacts ad infinitum. A 
halt in retrogression must be made, in the logical order 
of things, at all events. The motion that results from 
compulsion presupposes spontaneous motion. 

It is the property of the terrestrial element to in- 
cline towards the centre, hence the position of the earth, 
immovable in the centre of the universe. The earth is 
spherical. Its elements are in double opposition of 
weight and quality to one another. On the one 
hand, they are heavy or light ; on the other, they are 
hot or cold, dry or moist. The result of this opposi- 
tion is that the elements of the earth are constantly 
changing into one another. Heat and light are 
generated by the friction to which the air is subjected 
owing to the extreme velocity of the celestial spheres. 
By reason of the inclination of the ecliptic, light and 
heat are produced in different degrees in different 
regions of the earth and at different times of the year. 
This is the origin of the circulus of generation and 
destruction, that image of eternity in perishable nature. 
Action proceeds from periphery to centre ; the heaven 
of the fixed stars representing highest form, the earth 
representing lowest matter. The various mineral and 
organised bodies are formed by the mutual action of the 


two active potencies, heat and cold, and of the two 
passive potencies, moisture and dryness. 

Terrestrial beings form a hierarchy, extending from 
the being which is nearest to brute matter up to the 
male human being. Each lower form is the basis of 
the higher ones ; each higher form the relative comple- 
tion of the lower ones. The principal stages in the 
hierarchy are represented by lifeless bodies, plants, 
animals, and man. 


Aristotle made much study of astronomy. Simpli- 
cius, so Porphyry tells us, relates that, with a view to 
investigations in this science, he instructed Callisthenes 
to collect the astronomical observations made by the 
Chaldaeans in Babylon, especially those that dated back 
nineteen hundred years before the time of Alexander. 
Aristotle himself tells us that he utilised the observa- 
tions of the Egyptians and Babylonians, dating back to 
a very distant age. He wrote an 'Ao-rpovofurcov, which 
is lost. 

All the celestial beings, according to Aristotle, are 
spherical. The first heaven, that of the fixed stars, is a 
sphere. The planets are moved by spheres ; the earth 
is spherical. 

All simple motion is rotation round an axis. The 
heaven of the fixed stars has only one motion. The 
heaven of the planets (Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, 
Mars, the Sun, the Moon) has several for each planet. 
The earth is without motion. 

Aristotle maintains the doctrine of the sphericity of 
the earth, and gives the correct explanation of the 
phases of the moon. 


He worked with the astronomer Callipus in com- 
pleting and rectifying the theory of the spheres formed 
by Eudoxus, the first astronomer of his day, as well as 
the theory of Callipus himself. His theory may be 
summed up as follows : 

We must admit, said Aristotle, along with Plato 
who in this matter followed the lead of Eudoxus and 
Callipus the number of spheres and their mode of 
motion, necessary for the explanation of the revolutions 
of the planets, as they appear under observation, with 
no other elements than uniform rotatory motions. 
Presenting the problem in this way, Eudoxus inferred 
that there were twenty-six spheres, Callipus thirty- 
three. Aristotle accepts the latter figure. But since, 
in his philosophy, the exterior spheres are to the 
interior what form is to matter, he is obliged to add 
antagonistic spheres, in order that each exterior sphere 
may not communicate its motion to all the spheres 
interior to itself, as does the sphere of the fixed stars. 
For each planet, then, there are as many antagonistic 
spheres as are needed to counteract the action of the 
exterior planetary spheres. The supplementary spheres 
are twenty-two in number, and these, added on to the 
thirty-three of Callipus, make fifty-five spheres. But if 
we consider that the sun and the moon, being far away 
from the rest of the planets, have no need of antagonistic 
spheres, the total number of the spheres will be reduced 
to forty -seven. This, says Aristotle, is probable 

To each of these spheres motion must be communi- 
cated, as it was to the first heaven, by an incorporeal 
substance, a spirit, or a god. The constellations, the 
object and end of the motions of the spheres, are 
moreover, for that reason, their true causes. Conse- 


quently the constellations are animated beings, endowed 
with reason and superior to man. 


Meteorology had been much studied since the time 
of Thales. Aristotle profited by the labours of his 
predecessors, though he also made original investigations 
in this science along the lines of his own philosophy. 

Meteorological phenomena are the result, he says, of 
the action of the four elements upon one another. In 
accordance with the nature of these elements, the results 
of their mutual action are less determined and obey less 
strict laws than the phenomena that take place in the first 
element : the ether. It is for this reason that Aristotle, 
when considering meteors, seeks after explanations 
that are mainly of a mechanical and empirical nature. 
He attributes a preponderating influence to heat. In 
this way he explains comets, the Milky Way, clouds, 
fogs, winds, the relations between seas and continents 
and the formation of the sea. His explanations often 
testify to exact observation and skilful reasoning. 
Winds, for instance, are explained by the motion of 
vapours, as a result of their differences of tempera- 
ture. Earthquakes are due to the action of subterranean 
gases. The rainbow is but a phenomenon caused by 
reflection : in the sun's light, the spray composing the 
clouds acts as a mirror. 

These investigations are purely theoretical : Aristotle 
does not dream of using them for the purpose of pre- 
dicting phenomena. 


Minerals are homogeneous bodies which remain so, 
without becoming organised into individuals consisting 


of different parts. These bodies are formed by cold 
and heat, combining or disintegrating in so far as 
they are active properties the moist and the dry, which 
play the rtk of passive properties. 


Biology forms a considerable portion of Aristotle's 
scientific work. He probably utilised many of the 
works of his predecessors, mainly those of Democritus, 
but he went so far beyond the rest that he stands out 
as the true founder of biology in Greece. He works 
mainly by observation, the determination of phenomena 
being made to precede the investigation of causes. To 
simple observation he would appear to have added 
dissection. He proceeds from anatomy to physiology 
and, speaking generally, regards biology as the ground- 
work of physics, basing it on a knowledge of the 
four elements. He deals not only with every conceiv- 
able problem of his own times, but also with almost all 
the problems that engage the attention of modern 
scientists. The solutions he offers are, for the most 
part, carefully set forth ; and, considering the state of 
knowledge at the time, his reasonings are correct 
and ingenious. It must be confessed, however, that his 
explanations are frequently arbitrary or rather meta- 
physical ; at times, even, he appears to have given 
demonstrative value to mere legends. 

Life is motion. Now, all motion presupposes a 
form that moves and matter that is moved. The form 
is the soul ; matter the body. The soul is neither body 
nor without body. It moves without moving ; it is 
immovable, not self-moving, as Plato imagined. As 
being the form of the body, it is its goal ; the body 


is nothing but the instrument of the soul, and its 
structure is guided by this destination. Aristotle 
correctly defines the soul as the first entelechy of an 
organic physical body. This means that the soul is 
the permanent force which moves the body and deter- 
mines its constitution. 

It is natural for the finality of nature to appear in 
living beings more clearly than anywhere else, because 
everything, in them, at the outset, is calculated with 
a view to the soul. But just as form only gradually 
overcomes the resistance of matter, so there are degrees 
in the psychic life, and these are essentially three in 
number : nutritiveness, sensibility, and intelligence. 
Nutritiveness is the fundamental quality of living 
beings ; from it proceed vital development and death. 
It exists both in plants and in animals. The latter 
possess sensibility in addition. Man, a superior animal, 
possesses all three : nutritiveness, sensibility, and 

Aristotelian biology deals principally with animals. 
The body of an animal consists of homoeomerous 
substances : a mixture of elementary substances. The 
immediate matter of the soul is breath (Trvevpa), the 
principle of vital heat, a body akin to ether, along with 
which the soul is transmitted, in the semen, from father 
to child. The principal seat of heat is the central 
organ, that is to say, the heart, in animals endowed with 
blood. In the heart the blood is cooked, after being 
formed of the nutritive substances introduced by the 
veins, and blood, as final, definite nourishment, feeds 
and sustains the body. It becomes flesh and bone, nail 
and horn, etc. The nutritive power of foods is not 
the result of their containing particles of flesh, bone, 
and marrow, which would go to unite directly with like 


substances existing in the body, it is rather owing to the 
food being cooked several times that it reaches a state 
enabling it to be assimilated by the organism. Though 
very precise on the matter of assimilation, Aristotle 
would appear never to have thought of disassimilation. 


Aristotle's works on botany are lost, but he certainly 
gave an impetus to the investigations made on plants 
in his school ; he seems to have largely contributed to 
the creation of scientific botany. 


A distinction must be made between general 
anatomy and physiology and comparative anatomy and 

The parts of the animal organism are of two kinds : 
the homogeneous, such as the tissues ; and the hetero- 
geneous, such as the organs. Each organ has a 
function, the tongue, hand, etc. The tissues have 
properties. Aristotle studies first the homogeneous, 
then the heterogeneous parts. 

The homogeneous parts are : ist, veins, bones, 
cartilages, nails, hair, horn, etc. ; 2nd, fat, grease, 
blood, marrow, flesh, milk, semen, membranes. In 
many cases, Aristotle's explanations regarding these 
parts are finalistic, and derive the nature of the part 
from its function. For instance, he says the incisors 
appear before the molars, because food must first be 
cut up or torn to be in a fit state to be ground. 

The anatomical study of the heterogeneous parts is 
not distinct from their physiological study. 


The first of all the organs is the heart. Aristotle 
has no notion of the circulation of the blood, as we 
understand the word, nor does he say anything of the 
two kinds of blood ; he acknowledges, however, that it 
is carried throughout the body by the veins, as by 
canals. The heart is the centre of the living being, the 
seat of the forhiation of the blood, and the source of its 
heat. All animals possess a heart and blood, or substi- 
tutes for these primary conditions of life. Those 
animals that can be divided or cut up without the parts 
immediately ceasing to live, are not simple animals, but 
rather aggregates of animals. The degree of unity is 
the standard of the perfection of the being. No 
mutilated animal recovers from its injuries as does the 
plant, in which the life principle is dispersed throughout 
the entire being. 

The other heterogeneous parts are : the diaphragm, 
the sense organs, the organs of motion, the encephalon, 
the lungs, the abdominal viscera, and the sex organs. 

Aristotle enlarges on the senses. Sensation consists 
in being moved, in experiencing some change. There are 
two kinds of senses : the mediate, which act through the 
medium of the atmosphere, as sight, hearing, and smell ; 
and the immediate, which act by contact, as touch and 
taste ; the latter being more important for the preserva- 
tion of the individual. The mediate senses estimate 
either differences in the nature of objects, or else 
distances ; consequently we must make a distinction 
between their acuteness and their sphere of action. 

The eye is not a mere mirror : the presence of an 
image would not suffice to produce vision : there is 
required a psychic property, which a mere mirror does 
not possess. The inmost recesses of the eye not only 
reflect the image, they have the property of seeing as well. 


Indirectly, hearing is the most intellectual of all the 
senses, for it enables ideas to be communicated by means 
of language. Speech is nothing but a sequence of sounds 
that have entered the ear ; it is one and the same motion 
diffused from ear to throat. 

Touch differs from the rest of the senses in that the 
latter supply us with oppositions or contrasts of a single 
kind only, whereas touch enables us to distinguish hot 
and cold, dry and moist, hard and soft. 

Aristotle is acquainted with no other organs of 
motion than the tendons, and these he calls nerves. 
He tries to discover the principle thereof, not in the 
limbs themselves, but in a central organ of motion. 
The principle of motion is the heart, or, in the case of 
animals that have none, the corresponding organ. 
Motions are of two kinds, voluntary and involuntary. 
The beating of the heart, for instance, belongs to the 
second type of motion. 

As the heart is a calorific organ, so the encephalon 
and the lungs are refrigerant organs. 

Of the abdominal organs, Aristotle carefully studies 
the stomach, giving remarkably correct descriptions as 
regards ruminants, birds and the organs of sex upon which 
his observations are frequently very apt and successful. 
His investigations lead him to discuss the part played 
by both sexes in the production of the new being. 

He also applies himself to the question of heredity. 
He rejects pangenesis (which states that the parents 
contribute germs resembling themselves), alleging that 
there are products which do not resemble their parents : 
for instance, caterpillars born of butterflies. According 
to Aristotle, the material that goes to the formation of 
the new being is made up of substances different from 
that of the parents themselves. There is a male seminal 


fluid, the sperm, and a female one, the menstrua. From 
the blending of these two elements, as from the union 
of form with matter, results the germ. Thus, from the 
man there is born the soul, and from the woman the 
body, of the child resulting from their union. 

The difference in the sexes may be reduced to a 
difference in degree. In the woman food has not 
received so complete an elaboration as in man, the 
creative power has not finished its work. 

In like manner Aristotle explains instances of tera- 
tology. Monstrosities are only greater or less dis- 
similarities, the result of excess or defect. They deviate 
from the ordinary course of events, though having their 
basis in natural forces. 

In the same spirit Aristotle dealt with embryogeny. 
Interpreting the results of his delicate observations in 
accordance with the principles of his philosophy, he admits 
that the development of the germ is an epitome of the 
general progress of life in nature. First, the life of the 
germ is comparable to vegetable life ; afterwards, the 
embryo is in a state that may be compared to sleep : 
sleep, however, from which there is no awakening. The 
foetus becomes animal when it acquires feeling ; then 
only is it capable of genuine sleep. The order in which 
the organs appear is determined by their utility and by 
the share they have in the formation of the other organs. 
Thus, the heart is the first organ to be developed. 

In Aristotle we find numerous aphorisms and biolo- 
gical considerations resulting from what we call com- 
parative anatomy and physiology. He makes a careful 
study of organic resemblances and differences. Organs 
may resemble one another in form. Organs apparently 
different may be only more or less complete develop- 
ments of one and the same type, so that, at bottom, 


excess or deficiency really constitutes the whole differ- 
ence. There may be resemblance by analogy ; for 
instance, the feather is to the bird what the scale is to 
the fish. There is the same relation between the bones 
of land animals and those of fishes, between nails and 
horns, etc. Different species may have the same organs 
diversely situated. Different organs may perform the 
same function. 

Aristotle determines numerous organic correlations. 
For instance, all animals have blood, or its equivalent. 
Animals with no feet at all, and those with two and four 
feet, possess blood ; in those with more than four feet 
lymph takes the place of blood. In ruminants there is 
a correlation between the possession of horns and the 
lack of canine teeth. The lateral movements of the 
lower jaw are found only in such animals as grind their 
food. All truly viviparous animals breathe in air, etc. 

The law regarding division of work is clearly formu- 
lated. Nature, says Aristotle, if there is nothing to 
hinder, always employs two special and distinct organs 
for two different functions. When this cannot be done, 
the same instrument is used for several purposes ; though 
it is preferable that the same organ should not be used 
for several functions. 

The influences of environment are shown to con- 
tribute to the determination of animal forms. In hot 
climates, says Aristotle, it is principally animals which 
are cold by nature, such as serpents, lizards and 
those covered with scales, that grow to considerable 

Aristotle also studied physiognomy, or the relation 
which the physical bears to the moral. In all probability 
the Physiognomonica is not an authentic work, though 
doubtless it owes its origin to his teaching. In the 



Historia animalium we find him trying to find out to 
what moral differences the physical differences in the 
human face correspond. 

According to our philosopher, the species, properly 
so called, are stable and separated from one another. 
Along with the absolute, however, Aristotle recognises 
the existence of the contingent. Consequently, there 
is a certain freedom of action in nature, and organic 
forms and faculties admit of restricted variability. An 
apparently insignificant difference, found in small parts, 
may suffice to produce considerable differences in the 
ensemble of the animal's body. For instance, only a 
small portion of an animal's body is removed by castra- 
tion, and yet this removal changes its nature, bringing 
it into closer resemblance with the other sex. When 
the animal is in the embryonic state, a very slight differ- 
ence will cause it to be either a male or a female. The 
difference between the terrestrial and the aquatic animal 
results from the different arrangement of small parts. 
In a word, says Aristotle, in nature there is unity of 
composition and progressive continuity. Man himself, 
who, as far as we know, is at the top of the ladder, is 
only separated from the animals, physically speaking, 
by more or less pronounced differences. The transition 
from one kingdom to another is imperceptible. Thus, 
in the sea we find beings at a stage intermediate between 
animals and plants, e.g. sponges. The principal types 
and stages of growth, as it were, are none the less 
determined and mutually irreducible. 


Aristotle was the first classifying zoologist. Truth 
to tell, he does not appear to have had any intention to 


set up a zoological classification, and his attempts in 
this direction are offered only as examples. Nor did he 
make any sharply-drawn distinction of animals, distri- 
buting them in a hierarchy of genera and species ; he 
merely assigned limits to the principal groups. He 
clearly saw, however, that the criterion of species is 
obtained through reproduction interfecundity. He 
regards as of the same species only such animals as 
spring from common parents. His classification aims 
at being natural, that is to say, it tends to bring together 
those animals that have a fundamental resemblance to 
one another. Here, as elsewhere, his object is to 
distinguish essence from accident. 

The first division is that between animals that have 
blood (our vertebrates) and those that have no blood 
(our invertebrates). The divisions between sanguineous 
animals are mainly based on embryogeny and a considera- 
tion of the element in which they live. Sanguineous 
animals are divided into true vivipara, ovovivipara and 
ovipara. Animals devoid of blood are divided into 
mollusks (corresponding to our cephalopoda), Crustacea, 
testacea (corresponding to our mollusks, with the excep- 
tion of the cephalopoda) and insects. 

In his description of the species he mentions about 
four hundred of them Aristotle shows that he pos- 
sesses extensive knowledge. Amongst other things, he 
deals with the mental and moral faculties of animals. 
Bees he calls the wise the well-behaved ones. 

As regards the first origin of man and of the other 
sanguineous animals, he is inclined to think that they 
proceed from a sort of scolex (head of the tapeworm), or 
else from a perfect egg, in which only a portion becomes 
the germ, developing at the expense of the rest. He 
considers the spontaneous production of a perfect egg 


as not at all likely, since we never meet with an instance 
of it. Testacea and worms, on the contrary, have 
spontaneous birth. 


That which differentiates man from the rest of the 
animal kingdom is the 1/01)9, which, in him, is united 
to the animal soul. He possesses faculties common 
to himself and the animals, and faculties peculiar to 
himself. In common with the animals, man has sensa- 
tion and the faculties derived therefrom. 

Sensation is the change effected in the mind by a 
sensible object, as by a contrary, through the agency 
of the body, and consisting in the form of the object 
that is sensed being communicated to the subject that 
senses. Thus, sensation is the common act of a 
sensible objec^and a sensing subject. 

Each sense gives us exclusive information regarding 
the properties of those things with which it specially 
deals ; what it tells us of these properties is always 
true. General properties are known by the sensorium 
commune, in which all sensible impressions meet. Here, 
too, sensations are compared and related to objects as 
causes, and to ourselves as conscious subjects. The 
organ of the sensorium commune is the heart. Its data 
may be either true or false. 

Sensation is the basis of animal psychic life. Both 
from the theoretical and the practical standpoint it is 
capable of a development which brings several other 
faculties into being. 

When motion in the sense-organ continues beyond 
the duration of the sensation, extends to the central 
organ, and there causes a new appearance of the sensible 


image, we have imagination. The products of this 
faculty may be either true or false. When an image 
is recognised as the reproduction of a past perception, 
we have memory. Aristotle adds to the study of these 
faculties investigations as to the nature of sleep, death 
and dreams, from the psychological point of view. 

Looked upon from the practical standpoint of good 
and evil, sensation admits of development along the 
lines just mentioned. From the sole fact that an 
animal is endowed with sensation, it is capable of 
pleasure and pain. When its activity is unchecked, 
we have pleasure ; in the contrary event, pain. Plea- 
sure and pain, in beings fully susceptible to them, are 
really judgments upon the true value of things. Con- 
sequently, beings capable of pleasure and pain have 
desire, which is nothing but the seeking after what is 
agreeable. They also have passions. 

All these functions already appertain to animals, 
though they are realised to perfection only in man. 
Man possesses intelligence in addition to the rest. 
Hitherto we have seen that there has been continual 
development and progress. Between the animal soul 
and the i/oi)?, however, there is a break of continuity. 
The vovs is the knowledge of first principles. It has 
no birth, but is eternal. Exempt from passivity, it 
exists in act. Being without organ, it is not the result 
of the development of sensation, but comes from 
without, and is separable. 

Human intelligence, however, is not merely this com- 
plete, immovable z/ov?. It learns, becomes acquainted 
with perishable things, things capable of being as they 
are or otherwise. The z/ofc, therefore, in man blends 
with the soul : there is a lower intellect, intermediary 
between the absolute vovs and the animal soul. This 


intellect may be called vovs Tra^ri/co?, passive intellect, 
in opposition to 1/01)9 airadr)?, or active intellect. This 
lower i/oi)? is the subject, but not the object ; perishable 
things are its object. Depending on the body, it 
perishes with the body. There are rudiments of this 
passive intellect in certain animals, e.g. in bees, but 
only in man is it fully developed. 

The I/oik 7ra077Tt/co5 has two kinds of functions, 
theoretical and practical. 

From the theoretical point of view, the 1/01)5 7ra^7/Tt/co5, 
at first, is 1/01)5 only in potency. It is a tabula rasa on 
which nothing has yet been written. The z/ov5 ira&prMcof 
thinks only by the aid of images, and under the 
influence of the higher 1/01)5. It thus deduces from 
sensation the general contained therein, and which 
sensation reaches only by accident : it gradually becomes 
determined by reason of these general essences. Per- 
fect science, however, belongs only to the z/o>5 OewprjriKos, 
the higher 1/01)5, which, starting from causes, proceeds 
a priori. 

The i/ou5, as regards its practical use, has no prin- 
ciples of its own : practice consisting only of the 
application of theoretical ideas. This realisation comes 
about in two ways : ist, by production (Troielv) ; 2nd, 
by action (Trpdrreiv). 

With regard to action, Aristotle offers a theory of 
will, the spring of action. Will is the combination of 
intellect and desire. As desire, it posits ends to be 
realised ; as intellect, it determines the means that 
correspond to these ends. \The objects of will are 
determined with reference to two principal ends : the 
good and the possible. 

Free-will is connected with the existence of will. 
In beings devoid of reason, desire can only spring from 


sensation. In man, it may be engendered either by 
sensation or by reason. Engendered by sensation, it is 
appetite ; engendered by reason, it is will. Between 
appetite and will we have free-will : the faculty of self- 
determination. Virtue and vice depend on ourselves ; 
each man is the principle of his own actions. The reality 
of free-will is proved by moral imputability, which 
legislation, praise and blame, exhortation and prohibi- 
tion imply. .The essence of free-will is spontaneity^ in 
more precise language, that spontaneity which mani- 
fests preference ; for children and animals show con- 
siderable spontaneity, but man alone is truly free, for 
he alone is capable of choice. 



In the case of beings without intelligence, ends 
are attained immediately and of necessity. Man has 
a loftier end, which is not only realised by the sole 
operation of natural forces, but also by using his free- 
dom. The problem is to find out how to organise 
one's life in order to realise the human idea, to act 
according to one's own essence, and not from necessity 
or chance. Hence the idea of practical philosophy : 
the philosophy of human affairs. The aim of this 
philosophy is to find out what are the end and the 
means of that activity which is proper to mankind. 

Practical philosophy comprises three parts, corre- 
sponding to the three spheres of action that open out 
to man : ist, ethics > or the rules of individual life ; 2nd, 
economics, or the rules of family life ; and 3rd, politics, 
or the rules of social life. In chronological order, 
ethics precedes economics which itself precedes politics. 
In the order of nature and perfection, the relation is 


inverted. Politics, indeed, is the completion of econo- 
mics, which itself determines human activity with 
greater precision than ethics, pure and simple. 

We will begin with ethics or morals. Morals may 
be divided into general and particular morals. 

In Aristotle morals does not bear the same relation 
to physics as in Plato. The good is not transcendent ; 
nature is not hostile or simply passive when brought 
in contact with the ideal. As form exists in potency 
in matter, so nature is inclined to virtue, which is only 
the normal development of natural tendencies. We 
may not be born virtuous, but of ourselves we tend 
to become so : culture and art are the completion of 
nature. Moreover, we must distinguish between good 
in itself and good for mankind. The good which is 
taken into consideration by morals is not good in itself, 
but only so far as it deals with human nature. 

What is moral good ? ( Since all action has an object, 
there must be a supreme object, and this can only be 
that good which is superior to all other good, the best. 
What is this best ? The general impression is that it 
is happiness, but there is no agreement as to the defini- 
tion of happiness. We must try to find out in what 
it really consists. 

For every living being, good consists in the perfec- 
tion or full realisation of the activity peculiar to itself. 
Such is the distinctive mark of true happiness. This 
happiness, then, cannot be said to be either in the 
enjoyment of the senses, which is common to man and 
animal, nor in pleasure, which is not an end in itself 
but is pursued only with a view to happiness, nor in 
honour, which does not lie within our power and comes 
from without. Perhaps even virtue alone does not 


afford happiness, for we could not designate as happy 
a virtuous man, hindered in his activity or suffering 
acutely. Happiness consists of the constant exercise 
of our strictly human, i.e. intellectual, faculties. Happi- 
ness is action guided by reason, in circumstances 
favourable to that action. 

If such be the case, the element that constitutes 
happiness is doubtless virtue or the self-realisation of 
the higher part of the soul : virtue plays the part of 
form and principle as regards happiness. But happiness 
has also, as material to work upon or condition of 
existence, the possession of external forms of good : 
health, beauty, birth, fortune, children and friends ; 
although it is true that even the greatest of misfortunes 
cannot make a virtuous man really miserable. 

Pleasure, regarded as an end, is not an integral 
element of happiness ; since, however, it naturally 
accompanies action, being its complement, it is closely 
allied to virtue. Pleasure is inherent to action as 
vigour is inherent to youth. It is the consciousness 
of activity. The value of pleasure may thus be gauged 
by that of the activity it accompanies. Virtue carries 
with it a special kind of satisfaction, necessarily pos- 
sessed by the virtuous man. Pleasures are admissible 
in so far as they spring from virtue or can be reconciled 
therewith. Coarse or violent pleasures, which disturb 
the soul, ought to be spurned. In a word, pleasure 
has its place in happiness not as an end, but ratKer 
as a result. 

Finally, happiness implies leisure, one condition of 
activity. This latter, indeed, needs relaxation ; it is 
not, however, leisure that is the end of work, but work 
that is the end of leisure. Leisure should be devoted 
to art, science, and above all, philosophy. 


And what is virtue, the principle of happiness? 
What are the principal virtues? Virtue is a habit 
whose characteristic is the complete realisation ot the 
powers of man. Now, human nature is two-fold, to 
wifTTntellectual and rnoraL The intellectual element 
has thenecessary for its""object, and is immovable ; the 
moral element, in so far as it is connected with the con- 
tingent, desires and acts. Thus there are two kinds of 
virtues : the dianoetic or intellectual, and the ethical or 

The dianoetic virtues are the higher of the two 
kinds ; they can only be acquired by instruction, not 
by an effort of the will. The virtue that affords the 
greatest felicity is science or contemplation. This is 
the noblest of all human occupations, for the vovs, its 
organ or instrument, is the most divine of all things. 
It is the most disinterested activity, the one that causes 
least fatigue, and most readily admits of continuity. 
And it is the calmest, the one that best suffices unto 
itself. It is by science that man draws nearest to divinity. 
Therefore we must not follow the advice of those who 
maintain that we should have only human feelings 
because we are men, and only aspire after the destiny 
of a mortal creature because we are mortal. As far 
as in us -lies, we should do our best to make ourselves 
worthy of immortality. 

Supreme felicity, however, joined to the possession 
of perfect science, falls but seldom to the lot of man. 
It is the ethical or moral virtues that are truly congenial 
to him and adapted to his condition as spirit joined to 
a body. Ethical virtue is a mental habit or disposi- 
tion which tends, in all things, to choose the golden 
mean suitable to our nature, and is determined by the 
practical judgment of the intelligent man. 


It is a habit, a mode of the will. Socrates, who 
made a science of it, forgot that, in considering virtue, 
we have nothing to do with the knowledge of moral 
rules, but only with their realisation. Moreover, to 
constitute virtue, there is needed not only a present 
determination of the will, but rather a habit, a lasting 
mode thereof. 

Again, all virtue is a mean between two vices, and 
this mean varies in different individuals. Virtue in 
a man is different from virtue in a woman, a child 
or a slave. Time and circumstance must likewise be 
taken into account. Thus, courage is the mean between 
rashness and cowardice ; magnanimity is the mean 
between insolence and baseness, and so on. 

Finally, it is the good man who is the rule and 
standard of the good in each particular instance. 
Indeed, abstract rules determine only what is good in 
a general way. In each instance that offers itself there 
is something unique which these rules neither could 
nor must have foreseen. The living, universal judg- 
ment of the highly gifted man makes up for their 

Aristotle studies in detail the different virtues, both 
dianoe"tic and moral. 

The dianogtic virtues are the perfect habits of the 
intelligent part of the soul. Now, the intellect is of 
two kinds : scientific and logistic. The virtues of 
the scientific intellect are : ist, the 1/01)9, which knows 
the principles of things ; 2nd, science, which, from 
these principles, deduces particular truths. The union 
of the z/o/s and science constitutes wisdom (<ro<ia). 
The virtues of the logistic intellect are : the art or 
capacity of producing with a view to an end ; 2nd, 
judgment, or practical intelligence. 


The moral virtues are as numerous as the different 
relations in human life. Since the number of these 
relations is indeterminate, no complete list of the moral 
virtues is possible ; a fortiori^ these virtues cannot be 
reduced to a single principle, as Plato insists upon. 
Aristotle investigates the most important of the moral 
virtues. His dissertations are very remarkable, abound- 
ing in keen psychological and moral observations. His 
analyses of justice and friendship are particularly deserv- 
ing of mention. 

Justice, he says, is the restoration of true or pro- 
portional equality in social life. Equity is more perfect 
than justice, for whereas the latter takes actions into 
consideration only from a general and abstract point of 
view, equity takes account of the particular element in 
each separate action. It is the completion of justice, 
demanded by reason, since the law cannot provide for 
every individual case. It is concrete, actual justice 
superposed on abstract, and still indeterminate justice. 

Friendship is supreme justice, delicate and perfect, 
wherein a blind, dead rule is entirely replaced by the 
living intelligence of the good man. Friendship has 
three sources : pleasure, interest and virtue. Virtue 
alone creates firm and lasting friendships. 


Man, in family life, attains to a degree of perfection 
superior to that of which individual life admits. The 
family is a natural society. It comprises three kinds of 
relation : that between man and wife, that between 
parents and children, and that between master and slave. 

The family relation between man and wife is a moral 
one, based on friendship and mutual service. The wife 


has her own will, her own virtue, different from the 
man's : she ought to be treated not as a slave, but as 
a free person. Still, as the wife is less perfect than the 
man, the latter ought to have authority over her. The 
family is an aristocracy or community of free beings, to 
whom different attributions are assigned. The wife, 
man's free companion, ought to have in the home her 
own sphere of influence, with which man does not 

The relation between parents and children is that 
between a king and his subjects. Parents and children 
form a monarchy. As regards his father, the child has 
no rights whatsoever, for he is still a part of the father ; 
it is the father's duty, however, to watch over his 
child's best interests, for the child also has a will and 
a virtue of his own, imperfect though they be. The 
father should transmit his own perfection to his son, 
and the latter appropriate to himself the former's per- 

Aristotle makes a special study of slavery, showing 
its necessity and justifiableness, and determining the way 
in which slaves ought to be treated. Slavery is neces- 
sary, for the home has need of living and intelligent 
workers. And slavery is justifiable. Given, indeed, a 
being fit only for bodily labour, such a being is the 
justifiable possession of one who is capable of intellectual 
activity ; the relation of the former to the latter being 
that of matter to form. Now, such a relation actually 
exists between the Barbarians and the Greeks. Thus, 
the free man is owner of the slave. None the less 
ought he to look upon the slave as a human being, and 
treat him as such. 



Aristotle's politics deals : ist, with the State in 
general ; 2nd, with the Constitutions. 

Politics is the end and completion of economics, as 
the latter is the proximate end of morals. The indi- 
vidual, of himself, cannot attain to virtue and happiness. 
Now, the tendency towards social life lies in the very 
nature of man. This kind of life, which is one of the 
conditions of human existence, is likewise a means of 
moral improvement. Politics, which sets forth the ideal 
and the rules relating to human communities, is thus 
intimately linked with morals : it is the whole, whereof 
morals and economics are but parts ; the act, of which 
they are the potency. Politics is the true name of all 
practical science. Philosophy should set forth the 
ideal of politics ; but just as morals, in its application, 
takes individuals into account, so applied politics will 
take circumstances into account. 

How is political society formed ? In the order of time, 
the family is the first society to be formed. Then we 
have the union of several families, or the K^^TJ. Finally 
comes the State, or city (-TroXt?) : the highest society of 
all. This is the chronological order ; from the stand- 
point of nature and truth, however, the State is before 
individuals, family and village, as the whole is before its 
parts : the latter having in the former their final cause 
and loftiest realisation. 

The end of the State is the highest that can be 
conceived, for the State is the most perfect expression 
of the social tendency. This end is neither the mere 
satisfaction of physical needs, the acquisition of wealth 
commerce, nor even the protection of the citizens by 
means of laws. It should consist in the happiness of 


the citizens. It is the mission of the State to see that 
its citizens possess, first, inner good, or virtue, and 
afterwards, outer good. The State completes the pro- 
gress of human nature, rising from potency to act. 

Although in agreement with Plato as regards the 
final good of politics, Aristotle is none the less led 
to criticise his master in things that concern the rights 
and duties of the State. He opposes the Platonic 
doctrine that tends to dower the State with the greatest 
possible unity, from which doctrine resulted the necessity 
of sacrificing property and family to the State. Unity 
belongs only to the individual. Already the family has 
ceased to be a unit. By nature, the city is a plurality, and 
a heterogeneous one. The Platonic theories of property 
and the family cannot be admitted. Not only are they 
inapplicable ; they even misunderstand both the tendency 
of nature and the interests of the State. Property and 
the family are by no means artificial products, they are 
the objects of natural tendencies. Besides, they are 
useful to the State, procuring for it advantages it could 
not obtain by any other means. The State, therefore, 
ought to regulate property and the family, not to do 
away with them. In practice, of course, Aristotle often 
agrees with Plato, whom he opposes in theory ; but the 
conclusion could not therefore be drawn that there is 
no difference between Platonic and Aristotelian politics. 
The importance assigned to nature in the latter turns 
it in quite another direction. 

The following, then, is the essential tendency of 
Aristotle's politics. As supreme good lies in intellectual 
leisure, the useful professions are incompatible with the 
title of citizen : farmers, business men, workmen, cannot 
be members of the city ; of an ideal one, at all events. 
The rtle of the State is to educate its citizens ; its efforts 


are directed to regulating their actions. The worst of 
States is that which allows every man to live as he 
pleases. The State regulates the age and the season for 
procreation, fixes the number of the population, orders 
that abortion be practised, in case this number is likely 
to be exceeded, and likewise the exposing and abandon- 
ing of crippled children. Education should be public, 
ever keeping in view the good of the intellect through 
the attention bestowed on sensibility, and that of 
the soul through the attention bestowed on the body. 
It includes grammar, gymnastics, music and drawing. 
In all things, its aim is to form the moral habits of the 
child. It is essentially liberal ; such arts and sciences 
as are of a mechanical and utilitarian nature being 
eliminated. The essential virtue of the State is justice, 
i.e. the order by virtue of which each member of the 
State occupies the post and condition of life suitable 
to him, and is entrusted with the function he is able and 
worthy to exercise. 

The maxim by which the Constitutions ought to be 
regulated is as follows : the realisation of the end of 
the State presupposes two instruments : laws and the 
magistracy. The true sovereign, the only ruler, is reason, 
order. As this sovereign or ruler is invisible, reason, in 
practice, must be represented by laws. But laws are, 
of necessity, set forth in general formulae. Now, how- 
ever comprehensive a formula, Tt necessarily allows of 
an infinity of particular cases escaping through its toils. 
Hence the necessity of the magistrate. He is sovereign 
arbiter whenever the law is unable to solve a difficulty, 
owing to the impossibility of specifying all the details 
of the case under general regulations. 

Aristotle does not, like Plato, lay down one form of 


government as being good, and all others bad. He says 
that the Constitutions ought to fit in with the character 
and the needs of the nations for whom they are framed ; 
that the one which is worst in itself may be the best 
under certain circumstances. He also examines how 
bad governments may be utilised, when they alone are 
possible. With these reservations, he classifies the 
different forms of government. 

There are three kinds of government, differing in 
the number of those who govern : power may be in the 
hands either of one, of several, or of the majority of the 
nation. Each of these has two forms, the one just, the 
other corrupt, according as those who govern have in 
view the general interest or their own private interest. 
To the just forms of government, Aristotle gives the 
names of royalty, aristocracy and polity ; the corrupt 
forms he calls tyranny, oligarchy and democracy. 

The best Twm of government is a republic which 
combines order with freedom. This is an aristocracy. 
All the citizens are allowed to participate in public 
functions ; only those, however, are citizens, whose 
position and culture enable them to fulfil civic duties. 
All corporal toil, especially agriculture and the various 
industrial arts, must be done by slaves or half- 

Lower than this ideal form of government we have 
forms less perfect, though justifiable according to cir- 
cumstances. The most practical of these, under ordin- 
ary conditions, is a temperate republic, a mean between 
democracy and oligarchy. Democracy is characterised 
by freedom and equality, as well as by the fact that the 
government is in the hands of the majority of free men 
and of the poor. In an oligarchy the government is 
carried on by a minority of the wealthy and the noble. 


A temperate republic bestows power on the middle 
classes. It is the political equivalent of moral virtue, 
which is the mean between two extremes. 

Evidently Aristotle's political ideas are often only 
the putting into theory of the facts that fall under his 
observation ; still, it would be an exaggeration to see 
in them nothing else. Though the means he advocates 
are frequently the result of a necessarily restricted ex- 
perience, the ends he has in view are determined by 
reason and philosophy, and even nowadays Aristotle's 
politics is a mine of information for statesmen and 


In rhetoric, Aristotle tells us, he had nothing to 
create, for this science had been developed before his 
time by Tisias, Thrasymachus, Theodorus and many 
others. These authors, however, confined themselves 
to the particular, never going beyond the empirical 
point of view. To Aristotle belongs the idea of 
scientific rhetoric, and more particularly the determina- 
tion of a close connection between rhetoric and logic. 
Plato had unsuccessfully endeavoured to base rhetoric 
on science. Aristotle, thanks to his logical theories, 
finds in dialectic, as distinguished from apodeictic, the 
very basis of rhetoric. Rhetoric is the application of 
dialectic to politics, i.e. to certain practical ends. Logi- 
cally, dialectic is anterior to rhetoric ; it is the whole 
of which rhetoric is only a part. In the order of time, 
rhetoric is anterior to dialectic ; but in the order of 
science, it is the contrary that holds good. 

Rhetoric teaches persuasion by likely reasons. Thus, 
the essential part of rhetoric is the doctrine of oratorical 


means. These are of three kinds : ist, those referring 
to the object ; 2nd, those referring to the speaker ; 
3rd, those referring to the listener. 

The first consist in making affirmations appear true. 
They are based on proof. Proof is thus the main 
element in rhetoric ; it is also the one on which Aristotle 
insists most. As dialectic proves by means of syllogism 
and induction, so rhetoric proves by means of enthy- 
meme or imperfect demonstration, and by example or 
imperfect induction. There is no kind of proof, it 
would appear, that cannot be reduced to these two 
arguments. The enthymeme is a syllogism in which 
reasoning is carried on by probabilities or signs. Ex- 
ample, like induction, consists in judging of a thing by ' 
other particular things similar to the one in question, 
but example does not proceed from the part to the 
whole, it proceeds only from the part to the part. 
Rhetoric determines the points of view that give rise 
to enthymemes and examples : this determination is the 
object of oratorical topic. 

Aristotle distinguishes three kinds of speech : the 
deliberative, the legal and the epideictic ; he also lays 
down the rules governing each. 

Such are the oratorical means relating to the object. 
The speaker's rtk is to have himself regarded as 
intelligent, upright, and benevolent. 

Finally, the means relating to the listener consist in 
being able to rouse passion and to lull it to sleep. 
Aristotle dwells at length on this part of his subject, 
giving proof of a very shrewd psychological sense. 
He makes an interesting study of the influence of 
age and environment on character and disposition. 

Following on these theories, which constitute the 
basis of rhetoric, come studies on elocution and dis- 


position, denoting a considerable degree of truth and 
sagacity in judgment, along with a profound knowledge 
of the matter in hand. 


Aristotle divided philosophy into three parts : the 
theoretical, the practical and the poetical, or the one 
relating to art. Though he made no attempt to develop 
this latter, the proofs and examples he gives show him 
to be the founder of esthetics. 

Aristotelian esthetics does not proceed so much from 
the concept of the beautiful as from that of art ; all the 
same, a theory of the beautiful is therein outlined. 
According to Aristotle, coordination, symmetry and 
precision form the essential characteristics of the 
beautiful. Sensible manifestation is not an essential 
element of the beautiful, which shows forth as being 
realised more especially in the mathematical sciences. 
The beautiful dwells in the general. Poetry, which 
bears upon the general, is more beautiful, more serious 
and philosophical than history, which is contained in 
the particular. 

Aristotle, like Plato, regards imitation as the essence 
of art. Art results from man's tendency to imitate 
and the pleasure he thereby obtains. What man 
imitates is nature, that is to say, according to the 
Aristotelian philosophy, not only the outer appearance, 
but the inner, the ideal essence of natural things. Art 
is capable of representing things as they are or as they 
should be. The representation is all the more beautiful 
in proportion as the artist proves himself able to com- 
plete, in the way in which nature herself was going, the 
work she necessarily leaves unfinished. All art tends 


to represent the general and the necessary. This is 
true even of comic poetry, the real aim of which is the 
representation of characters. 

The arts include more than one kind of utility, or 
service. They produce distraction, moral culture, intel- 
lectual enjoyment, and that particular effect which 
Aristotle calls cleansing, or purification (/edBapo-is). 
Purification is the proprium of the highest arts, more 
especially of serious poetry. 

What is this famous purification ? It is not exactly 
moral improvement, but rather the suppression, by 
homeopathic treatment, of some passion that troubled 
and domineered over the soul. Moreover, it is im- 
portant to note that not all excitation to passion is 
capable of producing this curative effect. Excitation 
of a salutary nature is that which comes from art, it is 
subject to law and propriety, and, by magnifying the 
object of the passions, detaches them from the circum- 
stances of individual life in order to apply them to the 
destiny common to all men. 

Aristotle gives no systematic classification of the 
arts, the highest of which, according to him, are music 
and poetry. 


Almost all that is left of Aristotle's Poetics deals 
with the study of tragedy, though he is known to have 
dealt fully with poetics. 

Poetry arises from the tendency to imitation. A 
tragedy is the imitation of a serious and complete 
action, of a certain extent, in noble language and 
a dramatic form devoid of narrative : an imitation 
that excites terror and pity, thereby cleansing the soul 


of these passions. In the persons and destinies of his 
heroes, the tragic poet offers us general types of nature 
and human life. He shows us immutable laws which 
dominate and control apparently accidental events. 
Hence the efficacy of tragedy in cleansing the soul of 
all its inordinate affections. 

The most important part of tragedy is action. 
Action ought to be natural. Not that the author 
should simply set forth what has happened, he ought 
also to show what might have happened, what is pos- 
sible either according to the laws of probability or 
according to those of necessity. Action ought to be 
one and complete. It should be impossible to disturb 
or curtail any part of the work without disuniting and 
spoiling the ensemble. For, in any whole, that which 
can be added or taken away, without the change being 
noticed, forms no part of that whole. 

The only unity on which Aristotle insists is that of 
action. He does not mention unity of place, and, as 
regards unity of time, merely states that, speaking 
generally, in tragedy an effort is made to confine the 
action within a single day or to go beyond that limit 
but slightly. 

He determines the rules that refer to the parts of 
the action, to the characters, which ought to be more 
finished and beautiful than they are in real life, and also 
to composition and elocution. 

He regards tragedy as superior to epic poetry 
because its unity is more strict and confined, whereas 
an epic poem includes parts, each one of which would 
suffice to form material for a tragedy. 




In ancient times Aristotle was looked upon as the 
founder of grammar and criticism, for he had written 
works now lost on the subject of poetical explana- 
tion and the criticism of poets. Such indications with 
reference to grammar as we possess are not given for 
themselves, but only as they affect something else. 
None the less are they important in the formation of 
the science of grammar. Aristotle applied his usual 
powers of observation to the subject of grammar ; but 
the theory of language was then in its infancy : hence 
the vagueness and obscurity frequently met with in his 

He recognises three parts of speech : noun, verb 
and conjunction. The two former are subject to 
inflection. Nouns are divided into masculine, feminine, 
and neuter. 

Words are based rather on mutual agreement 
amongst men than on nature. Subsequently, in their 
formation, it is less the principle of analogy than the 
arbitrary that dominates. 


Several speeches of Aristotle are mentioned, includ- 
ing a ^0705 SiKaviicos or Apology, in which he defends 
himself against the accusation of impiety, a Eulogy of 
Plato, a Eulogy of Alexander ; but the authenticity of 
these works now lost has been much disputed. 

He also composed poems, a few authentic lines of 
which remain, though many fragments are of very 
doubtful authenticity. The most important of these 
is a portion of a scolion in honour of Hermias of 


Atarnea, his friend. Aristotle here sings of virtue, 
to which, like the ancient heroes of Greece, Hermias 
has sacrificed his life. Mention may also be made of 
a few distachs of an elegy to Eudemus, composed in 
honour of Plato, " a man whom the wicked may not 
even praise." 

The following is the fragment of the Scolion to 
Hermias : 

Virtue, object of effort on the part of the race of mankind, 
supreme reward of life ! For thee, O virgin, for thy beauty, 
the Greeks are ready to brave death, to endure terrible, never- 
ending toil. So beautiful is the fruit thou dost engender in 
the heart, immortal fruit more precious than gold, nobility or 
soft-eyed slumber ! For thee, Hercules, the son of Zeus, and 
the sons of Leda bore many a trial, for they were noble hunters 
in pursuit of the power thou bestowest. Through love of thee, 
Achilles and Ajax entered the abode of Hades. Thou, too, 
wert ever the object of the love of Atarnes' son ; for the sake 
of thy beauty he deprived his eyes of the glorious light of the 
sun. That is why he is praised in song for his noble deeds ; 
the Muses shall magnify his name and make it immortal, the 
Muses, Mnemosyne's daughters, who honour the majesty of 
Jupiter the protector of hospitality, and who likewise honour the 
glory of faithful friendship. 


Aristotle's letters have been celebrated by Demetrius 
and other authors as being models of epistolary style. 
Simplicius states that the style of these letters com- 
bined clearness with charm of diction to a degree 
attained by no other known writer. Diogenes men- 
tions letters to Philip, the letters of the Selymbrians, 
four letters to Alexander, nine to Antipater, and others 
to Mentor, Ariston, Philoxenes, Democritus, &c. As 
the fragments that have come down to us are for the 


most part unauthenticated, we are unable to judge 
for ourselves of either the contents or the form of 
Aristotle's letters. 


Aristotle wrote in the Attic language of his age. 
The multitude of new ideas he undertook to express, 
however, had a considerable influence upon the instru- 
ment he used. The consideration of things in their 
individuality, the clear delimitation of scientific domain, 
the effort to form concepts exempt from every sensible 
element, are all reflected in his language and style. 
As Aristotle's logical analysis only ceases when it has 
grasped the final, specific differences, so also, in Aris- 
totelian language, apparent synonyms are distinguished 
from each other and defined with great preciseness. 

Aristotle had two ways of defining terms : the 
scientific determination of the meanings of traditional 
words, and the creation of new terms. He used both 
methods, especially the former. He mainly starts with 
an ordinary term ; and then, sometimes restricting, 
sometimes extending its meaning, he makes it the exact 
expression of a logical concept. Traditional language, 
however, was full of gaps. To fill them up, Aristotle 
coined words, always, as far as possible, seeking a basis 
to work upon in tradition itself. Owing to the perfec- 
tion of the terminology thus constituted, he proved 
himself the true founder of the language of science 
throughout the world. 

The following are instances of expressions coined by 
Aristotle : aSialperos (individual) ; aireia-Qat TO ev 
(petitio principii, begging of the question) ; 
(immediate) ; avd\va-t,<s (analysis) ; avo/j,oiopepr)s (hetero- 


geneous) ; dvrtyacris (contradiction) ; dTroSeircriKos (de- 
monstrative) ; a7ro^)aa-49 (affirmation) ; yevirco? (generic) ; 
SiXOTopia (dichotomy) ; e'yu/Tret/H/co? (empiric) ; evavnor^ 
(opposition) ; evepjeta (energy) ; every? (unity) ; eWe- 
Xe^eta (entelechy) ; egwrepiKos (exoteric) ; e7ra/cTt/co9 
(inductive) ; erepor^ (alterity or otherness) ; rj0uc6s 
(morals) ; 0eo\ojtK^ (theology) ; KariyyopiKos (categori- 
cal) ; \oytKos (logical) ; opyaviicos (organic), &c. 

The following instances may be quoted in which 
Aristotle confined himself to a scientific determination 
of the meaning of the term : avrlOea-is (antithesis) ; 
aglmjua (axiom) ; evavrios (contrary) ; ewTrdp^eiv (to be 
immanent) ; eTraywyij (induction) ; ea-^arov (last) ; 
iSiov (characteristic property of a species) ; o-vfifiefirjKos 
(accident) ; crv\\oY%ecr0ai (to reason) ; a-vve^? (con- 
tinuous) ; crvve^eta (continuity) ; crvv6\ov (whole) ; 
v\t) (matter) ; v-rrofceifjievov (substratum). 

Finally we will take a few instances of the distinc- 
tions he draws between concepts, by means of analysis 
and opposition : 761/05 (genus) ; etSo? (species) ; /az^o-t? 
(movement) ; evepyeia (act) ; dvTi<j>ao-i<; (contradiction) 
and evavriov (opposition) ; iroietv (to make) and 
(to do) ; Svva/Mi? (potency) and evepyeia (act) ; eT 
(induction) and o-v\\oyia-fj,6<; (deduction) ; ovo-ia (essence) 
and <rv/j,{3{3r)tc6Ta (accidents) ; StaXe/crt/co? (dialectic) and 
aTToBeiKTiKos (demonstrative) ; irporepov ry fyvaei (anterior 
per se) and Trporepov Trpb? ^a? (anterior from our 

Aristotle's style is no less personal than his language. 
The ancients extolled his fluency and charm ; the 
words flowed from his lips, said Cicero, in a golden 
stream. Such praise evidently applies to his dialogues, 
his published works. In his didactic works (Trpay- 
which alone have come down to us, we note 


the exactness of his definitions, inimitable clearness, 
precision and brevity, a strictness and exactness in the 
meaning of words, suggestive of the language of 
mathematics. In a word, Aristotle's style is dis- 
tinguished by an exact appropriation of form to content. 
Frequently, however, especially in such of his works as 
are incomplete, Aristotle writes with a certain degree of 
aridity and carelessness. Not only are the sentences 
not arranged in periods, but there are numerous anaco- 
lutha and parentheses, which, in no small measure, 
militate against clearness. At times, too, in these 
abstract dissertations, we come across passages that are 
not lacking in fire and eloquence. Of such a character 
is the end of chapter 7, book 10, of the Nicomachean 
Ethics : 

The life of the statesman and of the soldier, then, though 
they surpass all other virtuous exercises in nobility and grandeur, 
are not leisurely occupations, but aim at some ulterior end, and 
are not desired merely for themselves. 

But the exercise of the reason seems to be superior in 
seriousness (since it contemplates truth), and to aim at no end 
beside itself, and to have its proper pleasure (which also helps 
to increase the exercise) ; and its exercise seems further to be 
self-sufficient, and leisurely, and inexhaustible (as far as anything 
human can be), and to have all the other characteristics that 
are ascribed to happiness. 

This, then, will be the complete happiness of man, i.e. 
when a complete term of days is added ; for nothing incomplete 
can be admitted into our idea of happiness. 

But a life which realised this idea would be something more 
than human ; for it would not be the expression of man's 
nature, but of some divine element in that nature the exercise 
of which is so far superior to the exercise of the other kind of 
virtue (i.e. practical or moral virtue), as this divine element is 
superior to our compound human nature. 1 

1 I.e. our nature as moral agents, as compounds of reason and desire. 


If, then, reason be divine as compared with man, the life 
which consists in the exercise of reason will also be divine in 
comparison with human life. Nevertheless, instead of listening 
to those who advise us as men and mortals not to lift our 
thoughts above what is human and mortal, we ought rather, 
as far as possible, to put off our mortality and make every 
effort to live in the exercise of the highest of our faculties j 
for though it be but a small part of us, yet in power and value 
it far surpasses all the rest. 1 


The first effect of Aristotle's teaching was to bring 
into being the Peripatetic school, which flourished for 
a period of from two to three centuries, and whose 
principal representatives are : Theophrastus of Lesbos 
(372.^287 ? B.C.), Eudemus of Rhodes (fourth century), 
Aristoxenus of Tarentum (born about 350 B.C.), sur- 
named the Musician, Decearchus of Messena (flourished 
320 B.C.) and Strato of Lampsacus (flourished 287 B.C.). 
Critolaus, a member of the embassy sent to Rome 
in 156 B.C., by which philosophy was introduced into 
the Roman world, was a Peripatetic philosopher. The 
school was distinguished for its minute investigations in 
logic, morals and natural science, but the naturalistic 
tendency gradually prevailed over the metaphysical. 
Strato even went so far as to identify divinity with the 
<f>va-is which acts unconsciously throughout the world, 
and to substitute for the Aristotelian teleology an 
altogether mechanical explanation of things, based on 
the properties of heat and cold. 

With the publication of Aristotle's works by 
Andronicus of Rhodes, about 70 B.C., began the long 
list of interpreters and commentators of the Stageirite, 

1 F. H. Peter's translation. 


including Boethus of Sidon, Nicolas of Damascus, 
Alexander of Aphrodisias in Cilicia, surnamed the 
Exegete far excellence (icar egoxtfv), Porphyry of Bat- 
anaea, the Neoplatonist, Themistius of Paphlagonia, 
Philopon of Alexandria and Simplicius of Cilicia. 

Though the Peripatetic school consists mainly of 
disciples not very advanced in metaphysics or of purely 
erudite commentators, still, the master's doctrines are 
very vigorous and instinct with life in philosophies 
which did not originate with him but were largely 
inspired by his influence. The principle of the Stoics, 
intermediary between potency and act, and limited by 
tension, immanent in all things, the intelligent and 
supreme final cause, would indeed appear to be nothing 
else than the <f>v<n,s of Aristotle, into which the vovs would 
seem to be absorbed. Through the precise distinction 
he made between mechanism and finality, between the 
physical and the metaphysical order of things, between 
chance and intelligent action, Aristotle rendered possible 
Epicureanism, which seems largely to be made up of 
the doctrines which Aristotle defined or created for the 
purpose of refuting them. Neoplatonism itself, in the 
matter of its doctrine regarding the vovs, is greatly 
indebted to Aristotle. The Neoplatonists endeavoured 
to reconcile Plato and Aristotle ; and Plotinus main- 
tained that his doctrine of the transcendent one from 
which the vov? emanates, was the inevitable consequence 
of Aristotelian teaching. 

After defending ancient philosophy to the very end, 
Aristotelianism, becoming embodied in the beliefs of 
the Middle Ages, transformed them into philosophical 
doctrines. It was mainly owing to the influence of 
Aristotle that there developed, in that period of religious 
mysticism, the spirit of logic and of rational speculation. 


Tardily and indirectly did Aristotle's writings pene- 
trate into the western world. Even in the middle of 
the twelfth century, only small portions of the Organon 
were known, to wit, the Categories and the Hermeneia, 
in the Latin translation of Boetius. These, along with 
the EtVo7&>y?7 of Porphyry and the Timaeus of Plato, 
formed almost the entire possessions of philosophical 
antiquity. From A.D. 1150 to 1210, the other works 
of Aristotle appeared in the form of a Latin version of 
Arabic translations, which in their turn had been trans- 
lated by Christian Syrians, from Syriac translations, in 
the ninth century. Shortly afterwards (thirteenth cen- 
tury), the Greek text was communicated to the scholars 
of the West, mainly by Greeks from Constantinople ; 
and a translation direct from the Latin was substituted 
for the indirect translations. Robert Greathead, Albert 
le Grand and Saint Thomas were the principal persons 
engaged in this refining process of translating into Latin. 

As showing how dependent on his will is man's 
intelligence, people of the most diverse opinions, 
strangely enough, found in Aristotle a rational basis 
for their beliefs and aspirations. There could be 
nothing apparently more one than the Middle Ages, 
for Aristotle was invoked by everybody, though, as a 
matter of fact, there were as many Aristotles as 
philosophers. There were even Aristotles who had 
only the name in common with the Stageirite. 

It was Aristotle's Organon that gave rise to the 
famous quarrel between the universities, which lasted 
from the ninth to the end of the eleventh century. 
About this time, complete systems of Aristotelian 
philosophy grew up amongst the Arabs and Jews, who 
had possession of all the master's writings. The Arabs, 
who were naturalists and monotheists, were captivated 


by Aristotle's teachings about God and by his investi- 
gations into natural history. AverroSs, of Cordova 
(A.D. 1126-1198), regards himself as a true Aristotelian 
when maintaining that active understanding is an 
emanation from God, that it is one for all men and 
alone is immortal. Moses Maimonides, a Jew of 
Cordova (A.D. 1135-1204), finds no difficulty in re- 
conciling miracles and the creation of matter with 

The most brilliant period of Christian scholasticism 
is also that during which Aristotle's authority is at its 
highest. Though his doctrines on physics, which are 
regarded as advocating the eternity of the world and of 
time, are for a certain period regarded with suspicion, 
from the year A.D. 1230, the whole of his works begin 
to be used as text-books for lessons in philosophy. Just 
as the truths of faith are the expression of supernatural 
illumination, so the Aristotelian doctrine is the ex- 
pression of natural illumination. Reason does not 
coincide with faith, but it is moving towards it. 
Aristotle, as representing reason, is the forerunner of 
Christ in the things of nature, as Saint John the Baptist is 
his forerunner in those of grace. Thus defined, circum- 
scribed and subordinated, Aristotelianism becomes the 
origin of what has since been called deism and natural 
religion. At that time there was found in it all that 
theology required. Naturally it cannot demonstrate 
the truth of the dogmas, for that would be contradictory ; 
still, it refutes objections brought against them and 
establishes their probability. In particular, it sets up a 
theory of substantial form and of real and separable 
accidents, which makes transubstantiation conceivable 
in the persistence of the same sensible elements in the 


And, indeed, Aristotelianism is as favourable to dis- 
sent as it is to orthodoxy. Amaury of Chartres and 
David of Dinant (thirteenth and fourteenth centuries) 
claim that it upholds pantheism, for the one identifies 
the God of the Stageirite with form, the other with 
universal matter. The German mystics, too, Theodoric 
of Freiburg and " Meister Eckhart " (thirteenth and 
fourteenth centuries), present their doctrine of the 
substantial union of the soul with divinity, as the 
development of the Aristotelian theory of the 

And lastly, Aristotle is not only the master of 
philosophers in the Middle Ages ; he is even regarded 
as the patron of those who, in opposition to the Church 
and the philosophy of the times, claim to harness and 
control the mysterious forces of nature. These re- 
probates look upon Aristotle as a magician. He is 
credited with having written alchemical treatises on the 
occult philosophy of the Egyptians, and is placed, with 
Plato, at the head of the list of oecumenical alchemists. 
Alchemists called themselves the new commentators of 
Plato and Aristotle. 

Thus we find Aristotle, in the Middle Ages, every- 
where stirring up the minds of men and regarded as an 
authority : his main work, however, was undoubtedly 
the organisation of that Christian philosophy which was 
so complete and detailed, so logical and firmly based 
throughout, that it seemed destined to last for ever. This 
philosophy held sway in the] colleges of the University 
of France up to the eighteenth century. In the Sorbonne, 
in 1624, it was forbidden, under penalty of death, to pro- 
pound doctrines opposed to those held by the ancients. 
Even in 1671, the professors were called upon to 
respect Peripateticism under penalty of exclusion. Only 


at the beginning of the eighteenth century did scholastic 
Aristotelianism make way for new ideas. 

It was from faith, not from reason, that the first 
really savage attack came. Not only did Luther 
note how important were the differences that divided 
Aristotelian philosophy from Christianity, he even re- 
garded it as impious to seek for a reconciliation 
between God-given faith and sin-stained reason. Aris- 
totelian philosophy, the work of man, with its claim to 
deal with things divine, could be nothing else than 
error and sacrilege ; religion, once reconciled thereto, 
could only become distorted and misrepresented. Aris- 
totle was an arch-heretic : religion would only be safe 
on condition his doctrines were utterly abolished. 

Opposed in the name of the Christian religion, 
Aristotelianism, in spite of its glorious revival by the 
scholars of the Renaissance, Pomponatius, Scaliger, 
Vanini, Gennadius, and George of Trebizond, speedily 
became an object of attack by science and philosophy. 
Bacon saw in the Aristotelian method nothing but 
deduction applied to the data of opinion and language ; 
in his eyes, Aristotelian metaphysic was only the claim 
to explain things, exclusive of mechanical causes, by 
supernatural and divine actions. He therefore con- 
demned the philosophy of Aristotle, as being contrary 
to the conditions of science, which latter seeks 
mechanical explanations and proceeds by induction. 
Descartes looked upon Aristotelianism as the doctrine 
that realised sensible qualities, and explained phenomena 
by these chimerical entities. Barren and obscure ideas, 
these abstractions could not possibly be the principles 
of things. In direct opposition to Aristotle, Descartes 
restores quality to quantity, not quantity to quality. 

It appeared as though the Aristotelian doctrine would 



have definitely lived, when Leibnitz triumphantly re- 
stored it to philosophy, declaring that in the theory of 
substantial forms and entelechy, when rightly under- 
stood, there was more truth than in the entire philo- 
sophy of the moderns. Following in the steps of 
Aristotle, Leibnitz placed substance in a principle of 
action, relegated extent and matter from the class of 
substance to that of phenomenon, and reconciled final 
with efficient causes by making mechanism dependent on 
finality. Aristotelianism, since the time of Leibnitz, 
has maintained a place of its own in philosophy, more 
particularly playing an important part in the formation 
of the Hegelian system. 

However great his place in history, can it be said 
that Aristotle, even at the present time, is one of the 
masters of human thought ? 

As regards philosophy strictly so called, there can 
be no question as to the answer that must be given. 
It appears as though Aristotelianism responds particu- 
larly to the preoccupations of modern times. The 
two doctrines that until recently, have occupied the 
largest place in the world of philosophy were Kantian 
idealism and evolutionism. Now, Aristotle's system 
may without disadvantage be set up against these two 

It is opposed to Kantism. As a matter of fact, 
Kant rejects the dependence of the mind in respect of 
being, the ontological value attributed to the laws of 
the mind, the theoretical unconditioned and the sub- 
ordination of practice to theory ; all of which belong to 
the very essence of Aristotelianism. The philosophy of 
Kant has been set up in direct opposition to dogmatic 
philosophy, of which Aristotle is the representative 


par excellence. But if Kant discovered a new conception 
of things, a conception which must henceforth be 
examined by all interested in philosophy, it cannot be 
affirmed that he fully succeeded in getting his hypo- 
thesis accepted universally. If this hypothesis has 
on its side the testimony of conscience, which, by the 
way, it undertakes to satisfy, it cannot obtain the 
frank, complete approval of the intellect. This latter 
persists in saying, with Aristotle : " Everything has a 
reason of its own, and the first principle must be the 
final reason of things. Now, explanation implies deter- 
mination, and the final reason cannot be anything else 
than fully determined being. When we consider the 
infinite and the finite, it is the finite, in so far as it is 
intelligible, that is the principle ; the infinite, in so 
far as it is unintelligible, can only be phenomenon." As 
regards Aristotle and Kant, what we have to do is to 
find out whether the supremacy must be attributed to 
the will or to the intellect ; now, even at the present 
time, this question does not appear to have been 
answered once for all. 

The position of Aristotelianism as compared with 
evolutionism is quite different. Not only does it not 
oppose the latter, it even recognises and includes 
it, at the same time affording the means of going 
beyond it. Historically, it is one of the most direct 
antecedents of evolutionism. Whether in nature or in 
man, Aristotle shows that everywhere we have con- 
tinuity a process of development from the lower to 
the higher. Plants imply minerals, animals imply 
plants, man implies animals, and man is nothing but 
the completion of the being roughly outlined in the 
lower productions of nature. Even in man, imagination 
springs from sensation, memory from imagination, and 


the intellect cannot think without images. We can find 
no scientific thesis of evolutionism that would be in- 
compatible with the natural philosophy of Aristotle. 
But is this mechanical order of things the absolute 
order ? Do these explanations fully satisfy the in- 
telligence ? This is the question Aristotle asks, a 
question he finds it impossible to answer along the 
lines of spiritualistic metaphysics. 

To our philosopher, the order which proceeds from 
the indeterminate to the determinate, from genus to 
species, cannot be regarded by the intellect as the 
absolute order of the generation of things, for the in- 
determinate always admits of other determinations than 
those it receives in the real world. Though man is the 
completion of the animal, still, the animal admitted of 
other determinations than those that made it into a man. 
Why do genera find their realisation in certain species 
rather than in others ? The reason of this choice from 
amongst all possible developments can be found only 
in the very being which is the term of the development. 
The perfection of this being must be a force controlling 
the evolution of the matter from which it is to be born. 
In this way, the order which proceeds from the inde- 
terminate to the determinate does not exclude ; it calls 
for a symmetrically contrary order, the hidden principle 
of its direction and realisation. And so Aristotle 
reconciles the evolutionistic mechanism with finality by 
making a distinction between the order of things in 
time and that of things in the absolute. Evolutionism 
is truth from the standpoint of the senses ; from that 
of the intellect, however, the imperfect exists and is 
determined only with a view to the more perfect. 
The finalistic explanation is the justifiable and indis- 
pensable complement of the mechanistic one. 


Thus Aristotelianism still has a place of its own in 
philosophy. But has it not become, for the future, 
banned and barred from science ? 

Here a distinction must be made between the 
moral sciences, on the one hand, and the mathematical 
and physical sciences on the other. Aristotle's ethics, 
and even, in many important respects, his politics, far 
from being forgotten, are in greater vogue than ever 
nowadays. The recommendation to live as a man 
when one is born a man, and to attribute real 
sovereignty in politics to reason and law, are by no 
means on the point of sinking into oblivion. But the 
sciences dealing with nature, all henceforth positive, 
seem to have little in common with the natural philo- 
sophy of the great metaphysician. 

In order to express a fair judgment on this subject, 
it should at once be stated that a man may have exercised 
great influence on the development of the sciences 
without any of his ideas being recognised in present- 
day teachings. The sciences are built up stage by 
stage ; and though some particular ancient theory may 
not be recognised in modern theories, it may well have 
played its part in paving the way for their reception. 
Now, merit of this kind may certainly be attributed to 
Aristotle. He advanced theories and concepts which 
may be vastly different from modern methods and 
principles, and yet have none the less controlled the 
formation of these very principles. For instance, we 
have the Aristotelian theory of induction which doubtless 
determines rather the end to be attained than the means 
to be employed, and prefers to regard this end as being 
the discovery of types and not that of laws, but which 
is none the less very important because of the precision 
with which, in induction, it shows how we have to set 


free the necessary from the contingent, the universal 
from the particular. Such also are the ideas of genus 
and species, potency and act, mechanical blending and 
qualitative combination, chance, in reference to the con- 
junction of causes independent of one another, con- 
tinuity in the scale of beings, classification of the 
sciences, etc. 

But the simple acknowledgment that Aristotle has 
supplied science with many starting - points is not 
sufficient. Many of his principles may still quite well 
be recognised in the spirit of contemporary science 
itself. His great principle that there are laws in 
nature and that they can be discovered only by deducing 
them from experience by the aid of reflection, his 
constant wish to investigate things in their details, to 
understand them not by means of vague formulae, but 
in themselves with their own characteristics, his definition 
of cause as existing in that element which makes pro- 
duction known as necessary, his doctrine of biological 
continuity and of the solidarity of the higher with 
respect to the lower ; all these essential features of 
Aristotelian philosophy may be met with in modern 
science. Though an authority belonging to the past, 
Aristotle has not ceased to be a master, even in these 

The objection, however, will be urged that Aristotle 
is finalistic and that science does not now trouble itself 
with the consideration of ends. 

Perhaps there is some misunderstanding here. 
Aristotelian finality is not the building up of the world, 
as though it were a watch, by an artisan who sets 
before him an idea and calculates how to realise it. It 
consists, we may say, of the three following principles : 
ist, throughout the world, order is the rule, disorder 


the exception ; this is equivalent to saying that the 
combinations of phenomena which result immediately 
from the laws of nature, harmoniously united in types, 
and consequently normal in their development, are far 
more numerous than the combinations due to the 
fortuitous conjunction of laws independent of one 
another ; 2nd, in every individual there is an organising 
force or Averts by virtue of which it tends to be and to 
realise a certain form ; 3rd, the specific types are strictly 
determined, separated from one another, and immut- 
able. Is it quite certain that finality, thus interpreted, 
is altogether absent from modern science ? 

The first of these three principles signifies that it is 
possible to obtain knowledge of fundamental laws by 
means of observation and induction. In contrast with 
this theory we have the mathematical theory of Descartes, 
according to which there are really no qualitative and 
multiple laws of nature, but only various determina- 
tions of homogeneous and mathematical quantity. 
But though we have the Cartesian conception as an 
ideal representing complete science, the Aristotelian 
method of advance is still the one best suited to our 
means of knowledge. The only thing in which Aristotle 
erred was in imagining that by the process of induction 
we could arrive at simple and absolute laws which 
presuppose nothing anterior to themselves. 

The second principle bears a striking resemblance 
to that of the struggle for life. Here, too, we pre- 
suppose in every individual a tendency to exist and 
develop along fixed lines. It is true that modern 
science would like to reduce life itself to a mechanism ; 
all the same, it acknowledges that life, as we find it, 
plays the part and possesses the characteristics that 
Aristotle attributed to it. The entire difference con- 


sists in regarding as derived what Aristotle looked upon 
as primitive ; but until this reduction is effected, we do 
not think we are wrong in saying: everything takes 
place as though there were in each living being a 
tendency to exist, and that in some determinate manner. 
Finally, the third principle, which still counts 
adherents amongst scientists themselves, is not, as 
Aristotle understood it, in absolute contradiction to the 
teachings of the evolutionists, from the physical point 
of view. What is it that Aristotle means ? He does 
not wish to affirm that the history of the beings of 
nature began in time, with the creation of separate 
species : he means that the realisation of a certain 
number of types, both distinct from and in harmony 
with each other, is the end and rule of the productions 
of nature. He admits that nature, for the most part, 
succeeds in realising this end ; but, apart from the 
perfectly regular productions of nature, he acknow- 
ledges productions partly regular, partly irregular. 
Now, if we leave the past out of account, and also any 
beginning in time, about which Aristotle did not trouble 
himself, we shall find no very great divergence between 
this point of view and that of evolutionism. In contra-, 
distinction to materialism and the doctrine of chance, 
evolutionism recognises that species exist, at the present 
time, at all events. It also recognises the tendency in 
nature towards an increasingly complete specification. 
The principle of Aristotle, then, subsists, even in these 
days, in the hypothetical form at any rate, the only 
form a principle can admit of in science ; everything 
takes place as though there were a hierarchy of ideal 
forms, distinct from one another, and which the beings 
of nature tend to realise. 


" Gott ist von der Natur frei, und die Natur ist doch seines 
Wesens." J. BOEHME (Vom dreifachen Leben des Menschens). 


IT is not the custom, even in Germany, to assign a 
place of importance in the history of philosophy to 
Jacob Boehme, the shoemaker theosophist of the Renais- 
sance. Along with Hegel, he is recognised as a man of 
powerful mind ; but whilst it is admitted that from the 
whole of his obscure, involved writings a certain number 
of doctrines capable of being understood to some extent 
by the intellect can be evolved, these doctrines are 
regarded as coming under the category of theology and 
Christian edification rather than as monuments of profane 
and rational science. Such appreciation is natural in 
France where philosophy, in the spirit of Descartes, 
mostly depends on the understanding, and is suspicious 
of anything resembling mysticism. In Germany, how- 
ever, philosophy has not adopted the rationalistic form 
in so constant a fashion. Alongside of Leibnitz, Kant, 
Fichte, and Hegel, the Schoolmen, so to speak, of 
modern Germany, we find philosophers of belief, religion, 
or feeling, such as Hamann, Herder, Jacobi, Schelling 
the theosophist, and the famous Christian philosopher 
Franz von Baader. These latter, as against the former, 



are mystical dissidents, just as, in former times, Eckhart 
and Tauler were opposed to Thomist rationalism. Even 
the German philosophers of concept and reflection, the 
followers of Kant and Hegel, if we consider the basis 
and spirit of their teaching, and not the form in which 
they set it forth, are not so free from mysticism and 
theosophy as would seem to be the case, or even as they 
state. For they too look upon the veritable absolute as 
being not in space or thought, but rather in spirit, which 
is regarded as superior to the categories of the under- 
standing ; they too endeavour to base nature on 
this absolute. Now, taking into consideration this 
element of mysticism and theosophy, set forth in 
Germany not merely by a whole series of important 
philosophical systems, but even by the preeminently 
classical systems, if we inquire into the origins of 
German philosophy, we can hardly fail to bestow con- 
siderable attention upon the shoemaker theosophist. We 
will seriously ask ourselves whether he did not deserve 
the name of German philosopher given him during his 
lifetime by his admirer and friend, Dr. Walther. 

True, at first sight, the name scarcely seems to suit 
him. Boehme is neither a scientist, a dialectician, nor 
even a disinterested investigator. The son of peasants, 
his first occupation was that of a cowherd. Then he 
became a shoemaker at GOrlitz, the town adjoining his 
birthplace, and here he conscientiously practised his trade 
in the fear of the Lord. He married the daughter of 
a worthy butcher living in the town, Catharina Kuntz- 
schmann, by whom he had four sons, and, it is said, 
two daughters. He brought up his sons in his own 
station of life and made workmen of them. He lived 
in piety, simplicity, and Christian meekness, and was 
ever engaged in meditation on religious things. But 


it was his continual desire, he tells us, to seek in the 
heart of God for a refuge from divine wrath and the 
wickedness of the devil. He wrote a considerable 
number of books. But what was the source of his 
inspiration ? He had read neither the classic authors 
nor the Schoolmen, and was acquainted only with 
mystical and theosophical writings. And even for 
what he knows he is indebted to personal and super- 
natural revelations. Four times the heavenly light was 
revealed to him, when he saw either Christ or the 
eternal Virgin ; during the few moments these visions 
lasted he learned more than he would have done had he 
attended classes for years. At the beginning of each of 
his books we find the words geschrieben nach g'ottlicher 
Erleuchtung, written by divine enlightenment. 

The work corresponds with the conditions under 
which it was composed. It is a mixture of abstruse 
theology, alchemy, speculations on the undiscernible, 
and the incomprehensible, fantastic poetry and mystic 
effusions ; in fact, a dazzling chaos. His first book is 
entitled, The dawn at its rise, or the root and mother of 
-philosophy r , astrology, and theology considered in their true 
principle : a description of nature, in which is seen how all 
things were in the beginning, etc. Boehme herein sets 
forth the genesis of the holy Trinity, the creation and 
fall of the Angels, the creation and fall of man, the 
redemption and the end of the world. He sees, and 
would have others see, far more than he demonstrates ; 
his science is a metaphysical hallucination. Accord- 
ingly he is constantly doing violence to language, requir- 
ing it to express the inexpressible. He uses the terms 
of ancient mysticism, of alchemy and philosophy ; he 
imposes on them meanings of extraordinary subtilty, 
and insists on there being the infinite and the mysteri- 


ous at the base of all thought. Is it possible that from 
such a work anything can be gleaned by the historian 
of philosophy, unless by an arbitrary interpretation he 
transforms into concepts what, on the part of the author, 
is pure intuition and imagination ? 

In forming an opinion of this man, whose sole aim 
was to set the spirit free from the letter, it would be 
unbecoming to judge by appearances. In reality, Boehme 
is not the simple, ignorant man he tells us he is. He 
was open-minded and possessed of a keen intellect, as 
his first teachers immediately recognised. He lived in 
a country and at an epoch in which the greatest of all 
problems were being discussed. The mysticism of old 
was still flourishing in Germany during the times of 
Schwenckfeld and Sebastien Franck. At the same time, 
ever since Nicolas de Cusa, there had been developing, 
beneath the influence of Italian naturalism, a profound 
and brilliant theosophy represented by Agrippa von 
Nettesheim and Paracelsus, the rehabilitation and deifica- 
tion of that nature which the mystics of the Middle 
Ages were destroying. In another direction, over against 
the moral optimism of Eckhart and his disciples, Luther 
had recently set up the doctrine of a positive, radical 
evil, rising up to oppose God and incapable of being 
brought within the compass of mere diminution or 
deprivation. The new principles had early entered 
either into connection or into conflict with the principle 
of ancient mysticism. Protestantism was already attempt- 
ing that reconciliation of its mystical with its Pauline 
origins, its spiritualistic monism with its moral dualism, 
and its principle of liberty with that of discipline, which 
she is still following. Theosophy was united with 
mysticism in Valentin Weigel, who submitted as matter 
for the subjective reflection of Eckhart, the man of 


Paracelsus, a resume and perfection of the three natures, 
the terrestrial, sidereal, and the divine, of which the 
created universe consists. 

From his youth onwards, Boehme eagerly took an 
active part in this movement of ideas. In his wander- 
ings to and fro as a journeyman before becoming a 
master-shoemaker, he conversed of things religious and 
theosophical ; he observed, read, and reflected. Though 
he read but little, what he did read was important and 
full of profound thought. The Bible was for him the 
book of books, that thrilling, deep word which, especi- 
ally since the days of Luther, has ever been the most 
powerful incentive to reflection. But Boehme read the 
writings of many other masters besides. He read 
Schwenckfeld, noting his objections to that doctrine 
of vicarious atonement which tends to replace by ex- 
ternal and accidental action the internal working of 
grace, the only possible source of essential conversion. 
He read Paracelsus, and was delighted to find in him 
an enthusiastic apostle of life, a revealer of the magic 
power of imagination, a seer who finds, in the world 
and in natural man, that image of God which mystics 
had ceased to find therein. He studied alchemy, trying 
to discover its true, its spiritual meaning. To him, 
transmutation was the symbol of the new birth to which 
man is called ; the philosopher's stone found its realisa- 
tion for him in the power of faith and of surrender to 
God. He read Valentin Weigel, and became imbued 
with the spiritual mysticism this pious pastor inherited 
from Tauler, from German theology, from Schwenckfeld, 
and from Sebastien Franck ; thanks to him, also, he con- 
ceived the idea of combining mysticism with theosophy. 

Boehme read not only books of written characters, 
he also read the book of nature. Every manifestation 


of nature is instruction for him ; matter is not a being 
apart, foreign to spirit ; it is spirit itself, revealed and 
visible. The stars, the sun, the elements of the earth, life 
everywhere, in its origin and in every one of its phases, 
the growing tree, the animal with its desires and dis- 
interested instincts, man with his inner life, his struggle 
with evil, his defeats and triumphs all these things 
Boehme contemplates and meditates upon, and in this 
immediate and religious communion with nature, waits 
for her to infuse into him her own spirit and reveal the 
mysteries of being. 

It is eternal, interior, and living being that he seeks 
everywhere and in all things. Thus, the phenomena of 
nature, like the teachings set forth in books, are 
signs for him to decipher, not the object about which 
knowledge is sought. The reason why he reads and 
observes is to have matter on which his spirit may 
dwell for reflection. It is Boehme's endeavour to set 
the spirit free from the letter, to find out the force 
which works at the heart of inert phenomena, and to 
penetrate to the very source of all reality. Therefore 
inner experience and reflection are, once for all, his true 
means of investigation. True, he was an illuminate ; 
his meditation was a prayer ; his discoveries, divine 
revelations. Still, what matters the explanation the 
individual himself gives of the channel along which 
his ideas entered his consciousness ? Is Descartes' 
analytical geometry any the less true because he claimed 
that he owed its invention to the assistance of the holy 
Virgin ? It may be because of the way in which the 
human mind is constituted that he at first attributed to 
supernatural revelation the new ideas that arose within 
him, impressing him by their beauty and illuminat- 
ing power, and that he regarded them as entering his 


mind from without. Plato's essences, the z/oOs of Aris- 
totle, the Christian ideal, the supreme principles of 
knowledge and action, were looked upon as beings and 
things in themselves, before they came to be explained 
by the laws of the human mind. The natural has first 
been supernatural ; for the genius does not know how 
he arises ; to himself he appears as a god visiting his 
creature. Boehme, indeed, is not content to receive 
into his own intelligence the revelations of divine 
intelligence ; he is a seer of visions. Increate wisdom, 
the eternal Virgin, appeared to him several times. 
But enthusiasm, even when of a somewhat sickly 
nature, is just as likely to strengthen as it is to 
weaken the powers of the human mind, and a shock to 
the organism is nothing but the result of the excessive 
tension to which the mind has had to subject the body 
for the realisation of its creations. The thinking reed 1 
bends beneath the effort of thought, even more than 
beneath the weight of matter. After all, there is only 
one interpretation, only one standard of either a thinker's 
or an artist's work, and that is the work itself. The 
author is the mould which is broken that the statue 
may be made visible. 


What is it, then, that we find in the work of Boehme 
when considered in itself, both in its spirit and inner mean- 
ing, as the author would have it studied, and in its real 
and objective content, as history would have it studied ? 

First of all, what is the motive of the theosophist 
shoemaker's reflections ? 

1 Pascal in his Pens&s (Edition Ha<vet, i. 6) says : " L'homme n'est qu'un 
roseau le plus faible de la nature, mais c'est un roseau pensant." (Translator's 


" From my youth up," he tells us, " I have sought 
only one thing : the salvation of my soul, the means of 
gaining possession of the kingdom of God." Here, 
apparently, is nothing more than an altogether practical 
and religious object ; but in Boehme's mind, this object 
is destined to raise the most profound, metaphysical 

He learnt from the mystics what it means to possess 
God. One must take care, so these masters teach, not 
to liken the possession of God to the possession of any- 
thing material. God is spirit, i.e. for the man who 
understands the meaning of the term, a generating 
power previous to all essence, even the divine. God 
is spirit, i.e. pure will, both infinite and free, with 
the realisation of its own personality as its object. 
Henceforward, God cannot be accepted by any passive 
operation. We possess him only if he is created 
within us. To possess God is to live the life of 

On the other hand, Boehme learnt from Luther 
that the natural man is not simply a son separated 
from his father, that between God and his creature 
there is something more than inert space, unresisting 
non-being. The natural man has rebelled against his 
creator : between him and God, sin raises its head, 
like a real, positive power, endeavouring to defeat the 
divine action. Evil is not non-being, it is a real being 
that combats the principle of good. Everywhere in 
nature Boehme finds that effective warfare being waged, 
which Luther enabled him to see in the human con- 
science. Whether he beholds sun and stars, clouds or 
rain or snow, creatures with reason or creatures without 
reason, such as wood, stones, earth, or elements ; 
no matter in which direction he turns, he sees every- 


where evil over against good, anger opposing love, 
affirmation opposed to negation. Even justice, here 
below, is at grips with its contrary. For the godless 
are as prosperous as the god-fearing, barbarous nations 
possess the richest lands and enjoy the good things 
of earth more than do the servants of God. Observing 
these things, Boehme tells us, I fell into a state of deep 
melancholy and my spirit was troubled. Not a single 
book, of all those with which I was acquainted, brought 
me any consolation. And the devil was there, watching 
for me, and filling my mind with heathenish thoughts 
such as I should be ashamed to express here. Is it true 
that God is love, as Christianity teaches, that God is 
omnipotent, that there is nothing which has reality 
in his presence ? Such, doubtless, are the questions 
Boehme felt starting to life, deep in his consciousness. 
Gladly would the devil have seen him give up all 
hope of fathoming the mystery and sink to sleep in 
indifference. Boehme, however, guessed his designs 
and determined to foil them. 

How was he to reconcile the end of human activity, 
of which mystics had so noble a conception, with the 
reality of things, so concisely stated by the founder 
of Protestantism ? If mankind and the whole of nature 
have radically rebelled against God, how can one main- 
tain the possibility of the birth of God within the 
human soul ? If man, like a decayed tree, can will 
and do nothing but evil, 1 there is no middle course 
to adopt, it would appear, between leaving the tree to 
rot, and, after uprooting it, flinging it into the fire. 
If nature is absolutely opposed to God, either God 
has no power over her, or he ought to destroy her. 

To maintain the spiritual and optimistic ideal of the 

1 According to Luther's expression. 



mystics, whilst at the same time regarding nature from 
the pessimistic standpoint of Luther, and, in a more 
general way, from a realistic standpoint : such is the 
task Boehme sets himself. This task determines itself 
in his mind as follows. Whereas the mystics wished to 
know how God can be born in that which is not himself, 
Boehme asks himself how God can be reborn in that which 
has violently separated from him. Now, he imagines 
he can solve this problem if he is able to discover both 
the source of divine existence and the origin of the 
world and of sin. This science will be regeneration 
itself. For knowledge, when it penetrates to its source 
and origin, blends and unites with action and reality. 
To see things from the standpoint of God is to be 
reborn to divine life. 

The following, therefore, is to be the fundamental 
division of Boehme's system : ist, How does God 
engender himself? 2nd, Why and how did God 
create the world and how did evil enter therein ? 
3rd, How can God be reborn in the heart of the 
corrupt creature, and what is the final end of all 
beings ? 

As we see, this is the question of the beginning and 
the end, stated in all its generality and dominating all 
others. Whereas the ancients tried to discover a 
posteriori what stable, determinate principles lie hidden 
beneath the movement and indetermination of pheno- 
mena, and knew no mean between an altogether 
illusory, indeterminate absolute such as chance, and a 
full and perfected absolute such as intelligence, our 
philosopher, for whom the whole of nature is the result 
of an action, tries to find out how the absolute itself 
came into being, in so far as it is this and not that ; 
even as regards God, he descends from infinite power 


to the production of determinate being. The philosophy 
of the ancients was a classification, more than anything 
else, that of Boehme is to be a construction. The 
problem of the genesis of things has been substituted for 
that of their essence. And as the being whose genesis is 
here sought and whose internal movement should explain 
nature is distinctly the conscious, free and acting person, 
the system we are about to study appears before us as 
the dawn of a new philosophy, which may be called the 
philosophy of personality, considered in itself and in its 
connection with nature. 

What method does Boehme recommend in this 
enquiry ? 

The problem now before us, we must remember, is 
to see being proceed from its primary source, that is, 
to apprehend the transition from nothing to something. 
Now, the means at the disposal of ordinary philosophy 
are powerless for such a task. What will erudition 
give us, except opinions, abstract ideas ? The Bible 
itself, if we seek enlightenment therein without going 
farther back in time, is nothing but a dead letter, a 
symbol that cannot be explained. It is the same with 
the senses and the reason as it is with erudition. The 
senses enable us to know only the cut-and-dry appear- 
ances of things and their products, not their real nature 
and inner life. Exterior reason, or the natural elaboration 
of the data of experience, is as dead as the materials it 
brings together. It analyses and separates ; and the 
objects it considers, thus snatched from the living 
whole of which they formed part, are no more than 
fictitious beings, incapable of telling us anything of 
their origin and true nature. It is this exterior reason, 
which, seeing the wicked in this world of ours prosper 
equally with the good, insinuates to man that evil is the 


equal of good, and consequently that the existence of 
the God of religion is problematical. 

All these methods have the same flaw : they are 
passive and dead. They presuppose a given, realised 
object, and set the mind, like a motionless mirror, 
opposite that object. A living method, alone, enables 
us to penetrate into the mysteries of life. Being, alone, 
knows being ; we must generate with God in order to 
understand generation. Therefore the true method 
consists in witnessing, or rather taking part in the 
divine operation whose end is the blossoming and 
dominion the rule of the personality ; it is knowledge as 
consciousness of action: a method, indeed, which proceeds 
from cause to effect, whereas any purely logical method, 
limited to the working out of the data of experience, 
is and can be nothing more than a vain effort to rise 
from effect to cause. 

But then, how can man thus place himself at the 
standpoint of God ? It is impossible for him to ascend 
to God : there is no transmutation of creature into 
creator. Still, though man cannot ascend into God, 
God can descend into man. Not that God can be 
evoked and materially constrained, as it were, by the 
practices of false magic or outward devotion, but rather 
that God descends into man, when man dies to his 
corrupt, inborn nature, to give himself up to divine 
action. Christ said that you " must be born again," if 
you would see u the kingdom of God." The conversion 
of the heart opens the eye of the intelligence. Just 
as the exterior man sees the exterior world, so the new 
man sees the divine world in which he is living. And 
this return to God is possible for man, since man was 
created in the image of God. He has only to go down 
to the deepest recesses of himself and set free the interior 


man from the exterior man in order to participate in 
divine life. " Reflect on thyself, search thyself, find 
thyself: this is the key of wisdom. Thou art the 
image and child of God. Such is the development of 
thy being ; eternal birth in God. For God is spirit, 
and likewise in thee that which commands is spirit and 
is the creation of divine sovereignty." 

Once man thus adopts the eternal standpoint of 
universal genesis, everything which at the outset was 
only veil and mist interposed between himself and the 
light, becomes a transparent symbol, a faithful expres- 
sion. Erudition, the Bible, tradition, concepts, the 
phenomena of nature, all these things, though dead in 
themselves, become animated and living when regarded 
with the eye of the spirit. The eternal word, speaking 
within ourselves, tells us the true meaning of the written, 
the sensible word. Nor is this all, for between the 
within and the without there is reciprocity of action. 
Of a surety, the sight of exterior things, in itself alone, 
would never have revealed to us the principle which 
these things manifest, this principle wills to be under- 
stood in itself. Primary being, however, is to us 
nothing but empty form ; it is by the correct inter- 
pretation of phenomena that it assumes body and is 
determined. All the same, it could never find adequate 
expression in phenomena. Being infinite, spirit could 
not be wholly manifested, for all manifestation takes 
place by means of the finite. Spirit is eternal mystery 
in its essence. Therefore not only should we make 
use of phenomena in order to catch a faint glimpse of 
the details of divine perfection, but we should also 
remember that phenomena are never anything else than 
an imperfect manifestation of this perfection. And 
when we speak of the origin of God and of things, we 


ought to appeal to all the images with which our senses 
and reason supply us, and always look upon these images 
as but clumsy metaphors which should be understood in 
spirit and in truth. The wisdom of God is beyond all 


This maxim meets with its application at the very 
first step theosophy attempts to take. To begin with, 
we have to set forth the birth of God, the way in which 
God generates himself. To speak of the birth of God, 
however, taking these words literally, is to speak the 
devil's language ; it is saying that eternal light flashed 
out of darkness, that God had a beginning. Still, I am 
compelled to employ this term : the birth of God ; 
otherwise, thou couldst not understand me. Restricted 
as we are, we speak only by parcelling things out, by 
breaking the unity of the whole. In God there is 
neither Alpha nor Omega, neither birth nor develop- 
ment. I, however, am compelled to place things one 
after the other. The reader must by no means read 
me with the eyes of flesh. 

Eternal nature generates itself without any begin- 
ning. How does this generation come about ? 

Boehme here sets himself the famous problem of 
self-originated existence of aseity. Whereas, however, 
by this term the Schoolmen understand a mere property 
of perfect being, a property, too, that is, above all, 
negative ; Boehme insists that the strange expression, 
" God self-caused," shall have a precise, concrete and 
positive meaning. To fathom the mystery it contains 
is, to him, the first and main question, the solution of 
which will throw light on all other questions. Nor does 
he think he ought to abandon the search until he has 


reconstructed in thought the logical sequence of the 
operations by which God rises from a state of nothing- 
ness to one of fulness of existence. 

What, then, was there in the beginning ? From 
what germ did God generate himself? 

In the beginning was being which presupposes 
nothing anterior to itself; in which, consequently, 
nothing is essence, or nature, or finite, determinate 
form : for everything that exists as a determinate thing 
demands a cause and a reason. We, for our part, can 
conceive of this being only as the eternal no-thing, the 
infinite, the abyss, the mystery. Boehme uses the word 
Ungrund to designate this first source of things, mean- 
ing thereby that, beneath God, there is nothing to serve 
him as a foundation, and also that in the first being 
the ground or reason of things is not yet manifested. 
Thus, the primordial infinite in itself is nothing but 
silence, rest without beginning or end, absolute peace 
and eternity, unity and identity. In it is neither goal, 
nor place, nor even the impulse to seek and find. It 
is free from suffering, that companion of desire and 
quality. It is neither light nor darkness. It is an un- 
fathomable mystery unto itself. 

Such is the initial condition of divinity. Is it also 
its fulfilment? If the answer is in the affirmative, 
God is reduced to being nothing more than an abstract 
property, wanting in force, intelligence and science ; he 
is rendered incapable of creating the world in which 
the very perfections he lacks are to be found. But it 
is impossible that God should be an inert being, dwell- 
ing somewhere beyond the skies. The Father is omni- 
potent and omniscient ; he is the essence of gentleness 
and love, pity and blessing. The world, too, derives 
from him all the perfections to be found therein. Then 


how is the transition to be brought about from God, 
who is nothingness, to God the person and creator ? 

Here we come to the main point in Boehme's 
system. The solution of the problem of eternal 
generation, given by our theosophist, is the distinctive 
task he set himself; it opens up a new path along 
which many philosophers were subsequently to proceed. 

Of course, the mystics of old had already taken up 
this line of research. Eckhart asked himself how 
merely potential, motionless and inactive divinity, which 
is the first being, becomes the living and personal God, 
who alone is true God. He explained the transition 
from the one to the other, by considering the part 
played by the image or idea of God, which emanates 
spontaneously from primordial power, just as from 
each of our tendencies there goes forth an idea that 
makes it objective and manifest. Beholding itself in 
its own image, absolute substance became conscious of 
itself and was constituted a person. 

Boehme is inspired by this doctrine, but he does 
more than return to and continue it ; with that sense 
of concrete existence, of life and nature, which char- 
acterises him, he can find no satisfaction in the abstract 
God of the mystics of old. Eckhart had almost ex- 
plained how God becomes conscious of himself ; con- 
sciousness of self, however, is no more than the shadow 
of existence. In order then that God may really be 
a person and that nature may find in him the elements 
of a positive existence, divine generation must be some- 
thing different from what Eckhart teaches. 

Boehme starts with the principle that God, who is 
mystery, wills to reveal himself in all the fulness of his 
being, i.e. to manifest himself as a living person, capable 
of creating. In so far as he pursues the revelation of 


himself, God wills and posits all the conditions of this 
revelation. Now, according to Boehme, there is one 
supreme law which governs all things, both divine and 
human : that all revelation calls for opposition. As 
light is visible only when reflected by a dark body, 
so anything whatsoever is posited or constituted only 
by being set over against its opposite. That which 
meets with no obstacle always goes forward and never 
returns within itself, never manifestly exists, either for 
itself or for another. Two moments may be distin- 
guished in the relation of the given principle to its 
contrary. The mere presence of the negative principle 
over against the positive principle manifests the latter 
only as a potency or a possibility. If it is desired that 
this potency become reality, it must act upon the 
negative principle, discipline it and make thereof its 
instrument and expression. This law of opposition 
and reconciliation governs divine genesis. If the divine 
spirit is to be revealed, it will not remain within itself, 
it will create its contrary. Nor is this all ; for, acting 
on this contrary, it will assimilate it to itself and 
spiritualise it. And so we find that Boehme is to 
involve God in a series of oppositions. In proportion 
as contradictions and reconciliations come about, in like 
proportion will divine personality be realised. The 
contrary essence or nature on which God will rely in 
order to personify himself, will constitute, within God 
himself, the eternal basis of our created nature. 

Such are the ideas that govern Boehme's system 
and give it its distinctive character. They have their 
centre in a principle which may be formulated as 
follows : being is constituted as potency by opposing 
itself and as reality by reconciling to itself that which 
is opposed to it. These general ideas, however, are not 


so much formulated in one special place, as employed 
in the development of the system. 

In the beginning was no-thing. This no-thing is not 
absolute nothingness. On the contrary, it is being 
itself, eternal Good, eternal gentleness and eternal love, 
but still, being in itself, i.e. non-manifested. And so 
in this no-thing there dwells an internal opposition. It 
is nothing, and it is all ; it is indifference and it is 
excellence. That is the reason this no-thing must 
appear to us as unstable and living. It will move 
itself, in order to become reconciled with itself. 

The first result of the opposition just noticed is the 
scission of the primordial infinite into two contraries : 
desire (Sucht) and will (Wille). No-thing is desire, 
because it is mystery, and mystery tends to manifest 
itself; no-thing is the desire to become some-thing. 
But the object to which it tends is not an indeterminate 
one : it is the manifestation and possession of oneself. 
And so the infinite is desire on the one hand, and what 
is called will on the other. Unconscious and un- 
assuaged desire generates will ; but will, to which 
belong knowledge and understanding, regulates and 
determines desire. The one possesses motion and life ; 
the other, independence and power of command. Will 
is greater than the power which gave it birth. 
This duality is the origin of all the oppositions which 
the march of divine revelation will arouse. Will is 
the germ of divine personality and the basis of all 
personality ; desire, the essence and body of will, is 
the germ of eternal nature and the basis of sensible 

And so will is manifested because of the presence of 
desire, with which it is contrasted. Yes and no, how- 




ever, are not two things outside of each other ; they 
are one and the same thing, divided only to allow the 
yes to reveal itself. That is why separation, in its turn, 
is an unstable condition. The yes which, in this 
separation, is per se devoid of essence and looked 
upon as no-thing, endeavours to make itself concrete 
by absorbing the no and reconstituting unity to its own 
advantage. On to the two opposite terms, desire and 
will, there is now added a third, the idea of a recon- 
ciliation of the first with the second. The production 
of this third term is the work of imagination. Speak- 
ing generally, this faculty of imagination is desire, 
applied to an image and tending to absorb it as 
hunger absorbs food and then to produce it in the 
outer world, transformed into a living reality by the 
action of the subject itself. Now, the will which is mind, 
and whose object is the revelation of itself, unites with 
desire, in order to imagine this revelation ; and, in 
doing so, become capable of realising it. Imagination 
makes the will into a magician. What the will wills is 
determined in the very effort it makes to represent it 
to itself. It wills to find and lay hold upon itself ; 
consequently, to form an interior mirror of itself ; and 
as desire is the matter on which it works, it wills that 
infinite desire, fixing itself on the Good, shall become 
this mirror. 

The task, then, before God or the will is the follow- 
ing : the regulating of desire according to the law of 
the Good, and hence, the forming of an object which is 
a mirror of the will, and wherein the latter can con- 
template and recognise itself. In accomplishing this 
task, divine will is to issue from a state of nothingness 
and attain to reality. 

God wills to manifest himself, to form a mirror of 


himself. He can do this only in a threefold manner. 
First, he must posit himself as indeterminate will, 
capable of willing good or evil. Such a will, however, 
is neither good nor bad : God must come out of this 
indifference. He does this by generating within him- 
self the one, eternal Good, or determinate will. This 
good, which is God, is not an object or a thing ; it 
remains will, though strong, infallible will. With the 
generation of this will, a beginning has been constituted 
in the infinite, a foundation has been formed in the 
abyss, and a reason for things has been superposed upon 
the eternal mystery. Nevertheless, the first will has 
not exhausted itself in the generation of determinate 
will : it retains its infinite fecundity. Thus, from the 
conjuncture of infinite will and determinate will springs 
a third will, to wit, will that goes forth of itself to 
produce an object. The object resulting from this 
threefold action is none other than the mirror of will 
itself, eternal wisdom. This image is not God, it is 
only the image of God. Still, by it, God is henceforth 
self-revealed, he sees himself as a will that is threefold 
and one at the same time. These three moments of 
divine activity may be characterised by the names of 
willy strictly so called, reason and force. They may 
also be named Father, Son and Spirit. These are not 
three gods, for each of the three is a spiritual being, 
and separation of substances exists only in the material 
world. Nor are they even three persons ; for will, as 
against its image or idea, is only knowledge and 
consciousness of itself, it does not yet exercise that 
empire over a thing-being, which is the condition of 
personality. In truth, God is person only in Christ. 
In the generation that has just been considered, there is 
nothing else than a threefold action of the one will. 


Eternal wisdom, whose production is the result of 
this action, in which, too, the Trinity sees and finds itself 
acting, is not a fourth will, but is set over against the 
Trinity as its representation or object. It is this 
reconciliation of desire with will that the latter had 
undertaken to effect. Like every mirror, it is passive and 
does not generate at all. It is the eternal virgin. In it 
are all the divine perfections, though rather as ideas and 
paradigms than forces and living beings. For these 
perfections are objects of will, not wills themselves : and 
life could not exist without will, on which it is founded. 
Life and fruitfulness belong not to ideas or generalities, 
but to persons only, in so far as they act in accordance 
with ideas. 

Such is the divine genesis following the appearance 
of desire and will in the heart of the primordial infinite. 
Here, indeed, we have God far removed from a state 
of nothingness. He knows himself as will, and even 
good will. But is he God the Father, omnipotent and 
omniscient, love and pity, light and joy, of whom we 
try to catch a glimpse and whom we seek ? 

This God, if we note well, by no means realises 
personality yet. He is intelligence ; he knows himself. 
But intelligence, such as we see it within ourselves, is 
not something concrete, something we can grasp. It is 
not an essence, but rather the potency or germ of an 
essence. The God, whose action, altogether interior, 
has no other object than himself, is still a hidden, an 
incompletely revealed God. He is God as far as possi- 
bility will allow : the divine ideal. In order that this 
ideal may be realised and God be the living person, will 
must continue the work of eternal generation, which, so 
far, has only been begun. God must have a second birth. 

Here, more especially, the law of contraries will find 


its application. If we consider' all the things that really 
exist in this world, we find they are made up of yes and 
no : In Ja und Nein bestehen alle T)inge. Day could 
not be without night, nor night without day ; cold is 
the condition of heat, and heat of cold. Do away with 
opposition and struggle, and everything will return to 
silence and immobility, everything will revert to a state 
of nothingness. The one, in so far as it is one, has 
nothing that it can will. For it to will and live, it must 
divide into two. In the same way, unity cannot sense 
itself, but in duality sensation is possible. For a being, 
then, to be posited as real, it must be opposed against its 
contrary, and the degree of opposition is the measure of 
the degree of realisation. 

Now, in the development of the divine activity just 
considered, God was not opposed against anything which 
might rightly be called his contrary. The power of 
objectivation in whose presence he has found himself and 
which he determined and limited so as to form his true 
image of it, differed from him only as idea differs from 
intelligence. In this passive principle, there is nothing 
to oppose divine action : a mirror reflects without 
resisting the rays that fall upon it. In this altogether 
ideal opposition, God could acquire only an ideal 
existence. In order that he may assume bodily form, 
as a person, he must be engaged in strife with a real 
contrary, i.e. with a positive power whose action is 
opposed to his own. Therefore God must raise up 
such a contrary, become connected with it, oppose it 
and finally discipline and permeate it ; only thus will 
the work of divine generation be accomplished. How 
is this new development to be effected ? 

The will that has realised itself in the evolution 
through which we have just passed, and which may be 


called reason, is still pure spirit, infinitude, a mystery. 
But mystery, whilst it continues such, calls for revela- 
tion which alone determines it as mystery. Like all 
contraries, mystery and revelation imply each other. 
Therefore, the will could not remain the obscure dark 
potency it still is (Finsterniss). Within its murky gloom 
is kindled a new desire, the desire to exist in a real, 
concrete, that is to say, corporeal fashion. But it is not 
of itself that darkness glows and becomes fire, or that 
motionless reason is changed into the desire to live. The 
term or goal to which divine will tends is the realisation 
of the personality, the excellent form of life. At the basis 
of reason, then, there was light as well as darkness, the 
dawn of perfect life as well as the dim desire of 
life in general ; and it was by contact with the new- 
born light that the dark was kindled and became fire. 
The desire to live is, at bottom, the will to live well. 
And so the possible God divides himself into desire 
of life in general and will to realise perfect life. 
These are no longer two abstract, ideal entities, but 
rather two forces, alike positive and living. And these 
forces first appear as two rival energies, ready to enter 
upon a struggle with each other. For the love of life, 
when left to itself, impels the being to exist in every 
possible manner : it makes no distinction between good 
and evil, the beautiful and the ugly, the divine and the 
diabolical. On the contrary, the will to live well and 
be a person requires a choice from amongst all possible 
forms of life, and excludes those that do not conform 
with the ideal. The dividing of the eternal no-thing 
into passivity and activity, desire and will, had produced 
only the logical opposition of subject and object. The 
dividing of will into negative and affirmative will, 
fire and light, force and love, results in a real opposition 


and the beginning of internal warfare within the heart 
of divinity. The first of the two rival powers, force or 
life in general, is the principle and the mother ; the 
second, love or enlightenment, is the law and the end. 
The one is the substratum of real nature, the other that 
of divine personality. 

In this second opposition, God awakes to personal 
life ; set over against nature, however, as against some 
inimical power, he is at first nothing more than latent 
energy, mere capacity for love and light. In order 
that this energy may be displayed and realised, love 
must enter into relation with force, imposing its law 
on this latter. And so the progress of divine revelation 
demands a reconciliation of the two contraries that have 
sprung up in the heart of will. Now, that this recon- 
ciliation may come about, it must in the first place be 
posited as both idea and goal : afterwards, the divine will 
must work to realise this idea. But the reconciliation 
of force with love, or of fire with light, is nothing else 
than the realisation of that eternal wisdom, which divinity 
has formed as a mirror wherein to contemplate and know 
itself. Thus, what has to be done is to bring down the 
idea from the empty heights of a transcendent heaven, in 
order to blend it with living forces and manifest it in 
a corporeal nature. Ideal wisdom as an object to be 
realised : that is the third term superposed on the two 
contraries into which divine will has divided itself. 

How will the new task resulting from the position 
of these three terms be accomplished ? Here we are on 
the plane of life : matter, agent and end are, each of 
them, beings endowed with force and activity. It is by 
the cooperation of these three principles that reconcilia- 
tion will be brought about. If love is an action that 
tends to temper force, force is an unconscious impulse 


towards love ; and the idea itself, ideal wisdom, seized 
with the desire to live, tends to its own realisation : 
the virgin, God's companion, aspires after the mani- 
festation of the divine wonders slumbering within her. 
From these elements, eternal magic forms God in 
person. Will is linked in imagination to the idea it pur- 
poses to realise ; contemplating, it becomes enamoured 
of it ; and, eagerly desiring union, seizes upon and 
absorbs it. It absorbs it in order to generate it within 
itself and produce it in the form of a reality. On its 
side, too, the idea is active and desires existence : it is 
a soul seeking for itself a body. It goes to meet the 
will that is calling to it. The idea is accordingly 
realised, beneath the generating action of imagination 
and desire : spirit, by a wholly interior operation, 
devoid of any pree"xistent corporeal reality, takes to 
itself a nature, an essence and a body. 

This realisation of divine wisdom is a wonderful and 
complex work which it is important to consider in 

God effects it by means of seven organising spirits 
which he generates with a view to this task. These 
spirits are the forces born in the heart of the dark 
element beneath the influence of the light element, forces 
whose mission it is to transform the will which says 
" no " into the will which says " yes " ; to discipline 
and deify nature. Boehme here resumes and adapts to 
his system the ancient kabbalistic doctrine of the seven 
natural essences, the last of which is the divine kingdom. 
According to Boehme, the seven spirits are born in 
succession from one another, and their succession marks 
the progress of nature in the direction of God. The 
first three bring nature or the dark element to the point 
at which contact will be possible between itself and the 



light element. The fourth realises this contact, and the 
last three cause light and love to reign over nature, now 
prevailed upon and induced to follow spontaneously. 

First, there springs up in the will, desire properly 
so called, or the egoistic tendency. The will wills to 
be something. Now, there is nothing over against it, the 
possession of which is capable of determining it. There- 
fore it takes itself as object and wills everything for 
itself. It then imagines itself to be something, though 
it is still nothing but hunger and emptiness. This first 
essence is the dark, the solid, the force of contraction, 
the salt of the alchemists. 

Then there comes about motion, as the second essence 
or second natural spirit. For, as it is infinite and void, 
the will cannot find any satisfaction in taking itself as 
object. Therefore it turns without and becomes the 
acute, the bitter ; pain : that spur of sensibility, the 
force of expansion, the mercury of the philosophers. 

Meanwhile the two forces thus produced are in con- 
flict with each other. The first directs being towards 
itself, the second directs it towards something else. The 
result of this opposition is the third essence, restlessness, 
the incessant motion of a soul that cannot find its good 
within itself and knows not where to look for it. The 
two forces in the soul, the forces of contraction and 
expansion, are contradictory, and yet they cannot be 
separated from each other. The soul, void in itself, 
cannot remain fixed in egoism : moved by ego'fsm even 
when it goes forth from itself and seeks its good without, 
it cannot attain to abnegation and love. It is con- 
tinually fleeing from and seeking itself. This restless 
motion is that of a wheel, a motion which reaches no 
goal and yet is in perpetual pursuit of itself. Thus, 
the third essence has for its expression : rotation, or 


the combination of the centripetal and the centrifugal 
forces. It forms the base of the sulphur of the 

Nature rises to this point of herself, but here her 
power stops. She has shaken off the dull slumber and 
ignoble ease of ego'fsm, and sought without for the 
thing she could not find within. To the eye of the 
body, however, the exterior infinite is just as void as 
the interior infinite ; and the soul has done no more 
than abandon itself to two contradictory impulses and 
bring itself into a state of embarrassment, placing itself 
before a spinning-wheel, as it were. This interior con- 
tradiction in a being which seeks for rest by means of 
agitation, is an intolerable torture ; but nature, of 
herself, cannot put an end to it. She has exhausted 
all her resources : nothing within will extricate her from 
the state in which she is. Salvation can come only 
from what is above nature, i.e. from God or eternal 
freedom. But how will these two contrary powers 
succeed in reuniting with each other ? 

The restlessness with which nature is tortured has 
this advantage, that it manifests her weakness and cries 
out to her that she cannot suffice unto herself and form 
a whole. The man who knows his wretchedness is not 
so wretched as he who is ignorant of it. Under the 
influence of the spirit hovering above nature, the latter 
soon feels an anxious desire for freedom. Something 
tells the soul that it must give itself to that which is 
superior to it, that in self-sacrifice it will find itself, that 
in dying unto itself it will be born in very truth. On 
the other hand, spirit and freedom need nature in order 
to manifest and realise themselves. If nature has a dim 
consciousness of her own law and harmony in spirit, 
the latter seeks in nature his own reality and body. 


Spirit wills to exist, as nature tends to free herself from 
suffering. Thus impelled in the direction of each other, 
spirit and nature approach each other. Nature, how- 
ever, has her own distinctive motion, and her force 
of inertia. The new desire she feels only just shows 
itself, it does not modify her wonted course. And 
so nature comes into collision with spirit whom she is 
seeking and who now comes down to her ; from the 
impact a new phenomenon is born : the lightning flash. 
This is the fourth moment in the march of existence, 
the fourth essence. This moment is the manifestation 
of the contact of nature and spirit. In the flash of the 
lightning, the dark, the coarse and the violent, all that 
makes up the ego'lstic tendency of nature, is swallowed 
up and reduced to nothingness. The darkness is illu- 
mined and becomes living, manifest fire, the centre of 
light. Henceforth, nature is subject to and capable of 
realising spirit. There has come to pass a divine law 
which will henceforth apply to all beings. All life, accord- 
ing to this law, implies a dual birth. Suffering is the 
condition of joy, only through fire or by way of the 
cross do we attain to light. Per crucem ad lucem. Both 
in the intellectual and the physical order of things, 
parturition is preceded by a state of unrest and anxiety. 
Nature labours and suffers, feeling she has not the 
strength necessary to bring forth the fruit she has con- 
ceived. Suddenly, however, a supernatural effort, as it 
were, takes place ; suffering and joy clash together in 
one indivisible instant, the lightning flashes forth and 
the new being passes out of darkness into light. Hence- 
forth the child of flesh is in possession of his own form 
and will develop by himself in accordance with his con- 
trolling idea ; the fruit of intelligence is no longer a 
chaos of vague, incoherent ideas, it is a conscious thought, 


sure of itself, entering unhesitatingly into the expression 
which manifests it. 

With the appearance of the lightning flash, the first 
existence of divine nature, the development of the 
negative triad, comes to an end. At the same time 
there begins the development of a positive triad, repre- 
senting the second and definitive existence of nature. 
Contraction, expansion and rotation, will be found in 
the march of this regenerate nature, though in a new, 
a supernatural sense. 

The new concentration is the work of love : the uni- 
fying power of the spirit. Beneath its influence, forces 
abandon all their violence and take delight in each other. 
Ego'fstic passions die away, and in place of the unity 
of individuals, each one of whom claims to exist alone, 
there is substituted a unity of penetration where each 
seeks, in its accord with the whole, a participation in 
true unity. Thus, love is the fifth spirit, the fifth 
essence. Its symbol is water, which extinguishes the 
fire of desire and confers second birth, birth according 
to the spirit. 

Still, beings ought to do more than simply melt 
into each other. Their unification cannot be absorption 
and annihilation. The march of revelation ought to 
make multiplicity perceptible, even to that profound 
spiritual unity conferred by love. And so there appears 
a sixth spirit, which releases the elements of the divine 
symphony and causes them to be heard in their indi- 
viduality as well as in their relation to the general effect. 
This sixth spirit is the intelligent word, or sound, by means 
of which voices cease to be indistinct noises, for they 
acquire that determination which makes them discern- 
ible and comprehensible in themselves. As love was 
the unification of the multiple, so the sixth essence is 


the perception of the multiple in the heart of unity 

All that now remains to be done, in the completion 
of the task of realising God, is to collect and coordinate 
all the forces that have successively created each other. 
If the higher is to govern the lower, it is not to 
substitute itself therefor and annihilate it, for the lower 
is its reality and its very existence ; deprived of this 
support, the higher element would be dissipated in the 
void of transcendent space. Light can only exist with 
darkness as its background. Therefore there appears 
a seventh spirit which, winning over the lower to the 
higher by persuasion, and bringing down the higher 
into the lower by grace, summons the whole of nature, 
great and small, first and last, to the manifestation of 
the divine will. This essence is body or the spirit of 
harmony. By its action the revelation of the Eternal 
is finally accomplished. Wisdom is no longer an idea. 
It is a kingdom of living beings, the kingdom of God 
or of Glory. 

Thus Boehme regards as a reality and an essential 
condition of divine life, this uncreated heaven, the 
kingdom of the Father, the glory of God, of which 
the Scriptures speak in so many places though the 
language used is often interpreted metaphorically. The 
lily is clad in beauty, a beauty surpassing the splendour 
of Solomon. Man has his vesture of glory : his wealth 
and his home, power and honours, all that manifests his 
invisible personality. God, too, reveals himself in a 
phenomenon that has no other content thaa himself, and 
yet is distinct from him. The Glory of God is his 
vesture, his outer form, his body and reality : it is God 
seen from without. 

To describe the harmony and beauty of this kingdom 


of Glory is impossible. It sums up all we see on earth, 
though in a state of perfection and spirituality to which 
the creature cannot attain. Its colours are more brilliant, 
its fruits more savoury, its sounds more melodious, and 
its whole life more happy. Along with purity of spirit, 
divine beings possess the full reality of body. Their 
life is not an imperfectly satisfied desire : it is being 
in all its fulness and completion. Above all else it is 
harmony, reconciled with the free and perfect growth of 
all individuals. Consider the birds in our forests : each 
praises God in its own fashion, in all keys and modes. 
Do we find God offended by this diversity, does he 
impose silence on the discordant voices ? All forms of 
being are precious in the sight of Infinite Being. But if 
divine gentleness is manifested in our world, a fortiori, 
beings in the kingdom of Glory are free from all restraint, 
since all in that kingdom, each according to its nature, 
not only seek God but also possess and manifest him. 

Such, in its completion, is eternal nature, the revela- 
tion of the divine mystery. She carries within herself 
three principles, the three reasons, as it were, or bases 
of determination, born of primordial no-thing. The 
first principle is the substratum of the first three qualities, 
or of nature left to herself. It is darkness, or latent 
fire, waiting for the spark in order to become manifest. 
Boehme generally calls it fire. The second principle is 
the substratum of the last three qualities, i.e. of the 
form or expression of ideal wisdom. This is the prin- 
ciple of light. Each of these principles is eternal ; and, 
in a sense, they exclude each other. Fire admits of no 
limit, it devours everything with which it is brought 
into contact. Light is the absolute of sweetness and 
joy, the negation of darkness, the goal of all aspiration. 
The former is the life of the all or of the inde- 


terminate infinite : the latter is the life of God or of 
the excellent, the determinate one. Still, neither of these 
two principles can suffice unto itself. In vain does fire 
will to be the whole, it is only a part. In vain does 
light scorn darkness : it is realised only when reflected 
from the dark. That is why a third principle is neces- 
sary, which will unite the first to the second, in such a 
manner as to produce real existence. This third principle 
is body. By it, spirit incarnates in matter and becomes 
real and living. This union of the first principle with 
the second is, after all, not a complete absorption, and 
the three principles remain irreducible. Indeed, the 
operation which places fire under the laws of light does 
not annihilate even the basis of fire. Infinitude of life 
subsists beneath the form of perfection that determines 
it. The divine command is not addressed to slaves ; 
it wills to have free beings and finds them. Fire, light, 
body, i.e. life, good and their union in one real being ; 
such are the three principles of divine nature. 

We must now take care not to identify this nature 
with the true God. However excellent she be, 
divine nature exists neither in herself nor for her 
own benefit. She is the realisation of the perfections 
comprised in the idea of wisdom. She is the eternal 
virgin, who, at the voice of God, has come down from 
the limbo of the possible into the paradise of actual 
existence. Nature will now return thanks to her 
creator, handing over to him her life and her bodily 
existence. The eternal virgin, fecundated by spirit, 
henceforth brings to birth, and the fruit of her womb 
is God the person, i.e. the God who not only knows 
and possesses himself, but also projects himself with- 
out, in love and action. Whereas the latter, God the 
person, set before himself, as a mirror of his infinite 


will, eternal wisdom or the idea of divinity, God con- 
stituted himself only as ideal trinity, a possible person- 
ality. By giving himself in nature a living contrary, 
and bending this contrary to the laws of his good will, 
God enters upon a differentiation which is real and no 
longer ideal, and hence attains to effective personality, 
that of the Christian trinity. Self-knowledge confers 
only existence for self; action alone generates absolute 
existence and completes personality. 

Now, this action is threefold : it posits three per- 
sons corresponding to the three principles of nature. 
In the first place, God is the will that presides over 
life in general, or over eternal fire. In this sense he is 
the Father, power, justice, divine wrath : he is, as it 
were, the consciousness of infinite vital activity. God, 
however, does not desire life for life itself. His will 
is to have life as a realisation of idea, to generate the 
living word. This is why the Father gives birth to 
the Son, who is the consciousness of the second prin- 
ciple or of light, and wills the subordination of life to 
good, its raison d'etre. By the Son, the God of love 
and compassion, the fire of wrath is for ever appeased. 
Accordingly, the Son is greater than the Father. Still, 
the existence of the good will as against the universal 
will to live is not sufficient to realise the good ; these 
two wills must come together and become reconciled, 
and this is what takes place in a third consciousness 
and a third person, whence proceeds the third principle 
called the Holy Ghost. 

Thus, whilst forming eternal nature, and by reason 
of the very activity expended in forming it, God truly 
constitutes himself Father, Son, and Spirit, without on 
that account abdicating his unity. Because the three 
realisations of God are indeed persons and not things, 


they do not come under that law of time and space 
which insists that unity is incompatible with multi- 
plicity. Personality admits of mutual penetration : 
further than that, it implies it. Only in its union 
with other persons can a personal being be constituted 
as such. In so far as a being is conceived as external 
to other beings it is constituted in space and attributes 
to itself individuality, that enemy of true personality. 
Ego'fsm is the basis of individuality : it is the gift of 
oneself that makes the person. 

The generation of God is now accomplished. God 
is perfect personality realised in three persons, each of 
which is the part and the whole, at one and the same 
time. These three persons are the Father, or the con- 
sciousness of force ; the Son, or the consciousness of 
good ; and the Spirit, or the consciousness of the 
harmony set up in God between force and good. And 
over against God, as being his work and his glory, 
stands arrayed eternal nature, in whom all possibilities 
are realised, in proportion as they express divine per- 

Such is the teaching of Boehme regarding the birth 
of God. Through the theological and alchemical 
symbols in which this teaching is clothed for the pur- 
pose of self-manifestation is it not clear that it pos- 
sesses a philosophical meaning and import ? The main 
idea of the teaching is that the person is the perfect 
being and must exist ; consequently, that all the condi- 
tions of the person's existence must themselves be 
realised. From this principle all else follows. Per- 
sonality, says Boehme, implies thought and action ; 
now, in order to think and act, one must be in rapport 
with something opposed to oneself. Thought must 
have some object to consider and resolve into itself ; 


action must have matter which it may subdue and 
spiritualise. This law is universal ; absolute person- 
ality itself could not escape from it without contradic- 
tion. On the other hand, absolute being must be self- 
caused, must depend on nothing foreign to itself. Thus 
if absolute being wills to become person, it must draw 
from itself an object opposed to itself, to which its in- 
telligence applies, and which its activity modifies. It is 
necessary that the one infinite divinity be transformed 
of itself into a duality, one of whose terms will be the 
true God, and the other will be nature, of whom this 
God has need. Thus conceived of as being subject 
and agent as against object and matter springing from 
his own inmost being, God has a task to perform : the 
solution of the antinomy he has created within him- 
self; and by the accomplishment of this task he realises 
himself qua person. His action and thought, life and 
existence, are henceforward something else than the 
shadow of human life and activity : they are perfect 
types of which the existence of creatures affords us 
nothing but feeble images. 

Now, what is this system wherein God generates 
himself by positing and rising above his contrary ? Is 
it not that ancient doctrine of Night as a first principle 
which Aristotle had already repudiated in his prede- 
cessors ? The first being, said Aristotle, is not the 
imperfect, but the perfect ; in the order of phenomena, 
the perfect is subsequent to the imperfect ; but in the 
order of being, it is the perfect that is first and 
absolute. Boehme's doctrine, like that of the old 
theologians, appears to be only an anthropomorphism 
or a naturalism. He noticed, we may say, that in the 
case of man, indetermination precedes determination ; 
that struggle is the condition of life and progress ; 


that an image is necessary for the understanding, and 
matter for the will ; that the action of our faculties 
consists in assimilating to oneself external objects ; and 
he transferred to God this condition of human existence. 

Even were this judgment well founded we could not 
regard it as a condemnation of the doctrine, purely and 
simply. Though Boehme's system were, in reality, to 
apply only to finite beings, it would not, on that 
account, be without importance. We must forgive 
our theosophist for his imperfect teaching as to the 
history of the divine trinity, if, when thinking he is 
speaking to us of God, he is really speaking of our- 
selves, and that with much sagacity. The great prin- 
ciple that will is the basis of life and existence, and 
that, in its turn, life finds in freedom its end and raison 
d'etre^ will lose none of its interest by being concerned 
only with the created world instead of being applied to 
the Creator as well. This strange system, whose very 
opulence is utter confusion, and whose glory is dazzling 
lightning, contains many a delicate, modest, and psycho- 
logical observation, many a wise, practical, and moral 
reflection. As Boehtne tells us, it is in the depths of 
his consciousness that he seeks after divinity ; it is 
because God generates himself in man that man can 
be made acquainted with divine generation. What 
wonder if his knowledge of God is, above all, knowledge 
of ourselves ? 

Moreover, it does not follow that Boehme, from the 
metaphysical point of view, is a mere naturalist. With- 
out delighting, as he does, in speculations that we 
cannot possibly verify regarding the birth and develop- 
ment of God, at all events we can see the difference 
between his teaching and that rejected by Aristotle. 
According to the ancient philosophy of chaos and the 


infinite, the generation of the perfect by the imperfect 
was the absolute reality of things. To Boehme there is 
no before or after in God, the absolute. It is our con- 
dition as finite and belonging to nature that forces us 
to regard God from the standpoint of nature, and to 
picture to ourselves his life as being progressive. 

This is not all, however. The chaos of the ancients 
was a given nature, a thing, and that the most confused 
and indeterminate conceivable ; and from this thing, by 
a necessary process of development, determinate and 
perfect being was brought forth. The standpoint of 
the ancients was an objective one. Aristotle, under the 
name of pure action, contrasts the thing that is wholly 
determinate with the thing that is wholly indeter- 
minate ; whereas Neo-Platonism, returning to the idea 
of progress, posits, as first being, a unity which, superior 
or inferior to intelligence and life, unnamable and 
unintelligible, still seems to be only the thing, stripped 
of the last of its qualities by the final effort of abstrac- 
tion. The principle of our theosophical mystic is 
something quite different. A Christian and a spirit- 
ualist, he assigns the first place to personality in its 
most perfect form. From the point of view at which 
he is placed, indetermination, infinitude, no-thing have 
quite different meanings from those contained in ancient 
philosophy. No longer is no-thing the lack of quality 
and perfection in a thing that can exist only if it is 
determinate ; it is the infinite fecundity of a spirit 
which is by its very potency, and is exhausted by none 
of its productions. Negative, from the outer stand- 
point of objectivity, Boehme's principle is altogether 
positive from the inner standpoint of life and genera- 
tion. In itself this principle is not the imperfect, it is 
the perfect ; and the progress admitted by Boehme, 


though in a way relative to the human mind, is pro- 
gress in manifestation, not in the intrinsic perfection of 
God. The system of the metaphysical world has been 
inverted ; no longer is it intelligence that depends on 
the intelligible, it is the intelligible that depends on in- 
telligence. It is no longer the subject that derives its 
existence from the object, it is the object that exists by 
the subject. The reason this substitution has come 
about is that man has discovered in that which consti- 
tutes the foundation of the subject, in mind and will, 
something irreducible that baffles description, and which 
he regards as more real in its indetermination and 
nothingness than all the tangible realities of given sub- 

Thus, Boehme's course is by no means that of 
the Pythagoreans or even of the Neo-Platonists. The 
progress which proceeds from will to its workings 
cannot be assimilated to the progress which proceeds 
from the indeterminate thing to the determinate. 
The theology of Boehme is not an evolutionistic 

Nor, on the other hand, is it a system of dualism : 
Does it not, indeed, appear as though Boehme escapes one 
danger only to fall into an opposite one ? How does 
Boehme maintain the perfection of the divine principle 
unless it be by positing, outside of God, as a subject of 
evil, a hostile and coeternal principle ? And, accord- 
ing to him, God himself is one with and responsible for 
this latter principle. Per crucem ad lucem : this is both 
the divine and the human law. No light without dark- 
ness, no action without matter, no subject without object, 
no God without nature. Is it not just this universal 
and necessary coexistence of two principles, the one 
positive, the other negative, that is called dualism ? 


It cannot, indeed, be denied that Boehme sees in 
matter the condition of the manifestation of spirit ; this 
is even an essential part of his system. But Boehme 
does not regard himself as a dualist on that account. 
In his eyes it is monstrous to make evil the equal of 
good, and nature the equal of God. The negative 
principle does not exist in itself, but only by the action 
of the positive principle, which creates it in order to 
manifest therein. God alone is sovereign ruler, and 
it is the internal motion of divine will that posits 
matter, outside of God, as the condition of this very 
motion. Matter is the exterior aspect, the phenomenon 
of the invisible action of spirit. It fixes in dead forms 
the continuous flashing forth of living light. Dependent 
on spirit as regards her origin, nature is subject to 
spirit as regards her final purpose. Her end is to supply 
spirit, by manifesting it, with the object it needs in 
order to lay hold of and personify itself. She resists 
spirit only in order to afford it an opportunity to display 
its might, her instinct is an intelligence that is ignorant 
of itself ; her passion, an unconscious desire for freedom. 
Far from nature being the equal of God, it is at God's 
summons that she begins to exist, and the limit of her 
development is her exact adaptation to the will of 

Thus Boehme's theology borders on dualism as it 
did on evolutionism without running counter to it or 
foundering therein. At bottom, Boehme purposes to 
find a middle term between these two doctrines. In 
his opinion, the mystics of old were in the wrong when 
they rejected dualism altogether. This was the reason 
they could not realise the philosophy of personality that 
they had conceived. Their God lacks the conditions 
of real existence, he does not outstep the limits of ideal 


existence. It is only by borrowing from dualism 
the idea of the eternal existence of matter as contrary 
to spirit and giving this matter as a body to divine 
spirit, that divine personality can be conceived of as 
really existing. But, on the other hand, God the 
person must remain infinite being outside of which 
nothing exists in itself. Dualism is repugnant to 
religious thought which would have God not only a 
form and an ideal, but also omnipotent and independent 
being. Thus, matter must not be a first being for the 
same reason that God is, its very existence must result 
from the working of divine power. How can matter 
issue from God and yet, at the same time, be the con- 
trary of God ? Boehme solves the difficulty by saying 
that God, in order to reveal himself, makes himself 
objective and real, and that this object and this exterior 
reality, though posited by God, are not confounded 
with him, because will, which is the basis of his being, 
is infinite ; its efforts cannot possibly be wasted. Thus 
God has a nature or body that is not himself and that 
forms his real existence ; but this body is posited by 
God and is none other than his will itself, seen from 
without. In this phenomenon of God, the eternal 
mystery is revealed, without the revelation ever dispelling 
the mystery. Nature is of the essence of God but God 
is independent of nature. This system is a kind of 
concrete or naturalistic spiritualism. 


The knowledge of divine genesis is the first we need, 
in order to attain to the possession of God. But this 
knowledge is not enough. It was a mistake on the 
part of the mystics to believe that all science was com- 


prised in the science of God. Nature and man cannot 
be explained by a mere diminution of perfect essence. 
In creatures there is something peculiar to themselves 
that distinguishes them from God and even allows them 
to rebel against him. Evil, the work of creatures, is 
not a non-being, it is a being that says no ; hatred that 
would destroy love ; violence that would break the law. 
Accordingly, there is a science of nature, apart from 
the science of God. The difficulty consists in account- 
ing for this distinction whilst maintaining that relation 
of dependence which should link all science with that of 
absolute being. 

The first problem raised by the existence of nature is 
that of creation. On this point Boehme cannot adopt 
the doctrine usually called theism. According to this 
doctrine, it would appear that God made the world 
from absolute no-thing, i.e. created it by his infinite 
will alone, without using any matter at all, either 
sensible or suprasensible. But such a world would have 
no true reality, for its reality would not be founded in 
God. It would be simply a possible and ideal world, 
like the very principle to which it would owe its birth : 
intelligence without matter creates only ideas. There- 
fore there is no true personality in creatures. The 
reason some are good and others bad, some predestined 
to happiness and the rest given up to damnation, is not 
because there are living and opposite energies in the 
souls of creatures, it is because it has so been willed 
by the God who transcends all arbitrary wills. Idealism 
and fatalism are the consequences of the doctrine of 

Still, if Boehme rejects theism, will he not, as a con- 
sequence, sink into pantheism ? We know that he 
recognises in God the existence of a nature. Is it not 



this nature that is to constitute the substratum of 
visible nature ? Can the latter be anything else than a 
development of the former ; and must we not say, with 
the pantheists, that the world is, if not God himself, at 
all events the body and manifestation of God ? 

Certainly such an interpretation would be contrary 
to Boehme's plan, which is even more energetically 
opposed to pantheism than to theism. Surely, he says, 
in one sense God is everything, heaven and earth, spirit 
and world ; for everything has its origin in him. But 
then, what becomes of his glorious immensity if the 
world is the standard of his perfection ? Doubtless he 
created the world by his wisdom and might : but he did 
not form it so that he himself might become more 
perfect. His perfection is complete independently of 
all creation. God formed the world so as to be mani- 
fested in a manner that would be sensible. Let not 
sophists tell me that, in my doctrine of the divine 
nature, I am confounding God with the world. I am 
not confounding exterior with interior nature. The 
latter is truly living and is perfect. The other has 
nothing but a derived life, and remains imperfect. No, 
the exterior world is not God, nor could it without 
blasphemy be called God. To say that God is all, that 
God is himself and heaven and earth and the outer 
world, is to speak as the heathen, to make profession of 
the devil's religion. 

Boehme's problem, therefore, is to derive matter 
from spirit and yet not sink into theism, and to base 
sensible nature on divine nature without falling into 
pantheism. How does he solve the problem ? 

Whereas the birth of God was a mere generation, 
i.e. a magical production accomplished by spirit through 
its two powers at once homogeneous and contrary, 


and without any pre-existing matter, the birth of the 
world is a creation, or production brought about by a 
spiritual agent through matter. The spiritual agent is 
the one God in three persons. Matter is eternal 
nature. Neither of these two principles is the world, or 
contains it. God the person, as such, is pure spirit. 
Eternal nature is perfect harmony, in which beings, 
although distinct, interpenetrate : it is a multiplicity 
each part of which, in its own way, expresses the unity 
of the whole. These perfections radically distinguish 
God and the divine nature from the sensible and 
created world, which, on the one hand, is material, and 
on the other consists of parts and fragments exterior to 
one another. But though God the person and eternal 
nature are not the world, they contain its elements ; the 
world has its own mobility and reality so far as there is 
in it something of the divine perfection. And first ,God, 
seeing, from all eternity, in wisdom, the ideas of things, 
formed the design of creating the world, i.e. of causing 
to exist in corporeal fashion what existed in him in 
essential fashion, or rather of causing to appear separate 
what, in him, was together. He formed this design 
from love alone, without being constrained or forced 
thereto in any way. There is not the slightest reason 
for creation. Its wherefore is a mystery and admits of 
no revelation whatsoever. If creation had its first 
origin in the manifested God and not in the primordial 
abyss, it would be explained, it would be necessary, and 
would force itself upon God. But God wills to have 
children, not masters. Though the world depends on 
God, God has no need of the world. 

The world was not made from some thing, i.e. 
brute matter, the absolute contrary of a person. It was 
made of the divine nature, in the sense that the seven 


spirits constituting this nature realised in the form of 
bodies the ideas contained in wisdom. The productions 
of these spirits in the world of Glory were figures with 
floating contours, instinct with life and spirituality : the 
infinite visible in the finite. The same spirits now 
fix the idea in hard compact matter which conceals 
the infinite that it realises. In the world of Glory the 
real and the ideal balance each other : in the created 
world, it is the real that predominates. 

Such is the portion of God the person, such the 
portion of the divine nature in creation. A third 
worker, however, intervenes in order to realise the 
world, this worker is the creature itself. Just as when 
the artist is working, the work itself, that wills to be, 
furthers by its distinctive life the efforts of will and 
intelligence ; so the creature, when brought to the 
threshold of existence by the union of spirit and increate 
nature, endeavours to cross this threshold and display 
itself in fulness of light. All spirit is a soul which desires 
a body. Now, the creative word had the effect of 
breaking the bond that held together the spiritual forces 
in union and harmony. Each of them, thenceforward, 
wills to exist for itself, to become manifest in accordance 
with its distinctive tendency. 

What, then, is creation ? It is the introduction of 
space and time into the world of particular wills. Deep 
in the heart of eternity, wills, individual in themselves, 
were universal in their object. Realised in bodies 
separated from one another by time and space, wills are 
thereby detached from the all and thrown back upon 
themselves. Thus, space and time are the special 
foundation of the reality of the sensible world. Here, 
there is nothing that does not come from God, but 
nothing that was in God could produce this form of 


existence by mere development : it is by a free, original 
act, a veritable creation, that God causes the world of 
discontinuity and exteriority to appear. 

God, then, is by no means swallowed up in his 
creation, any more than the intelligence of man is 
exhausted by being manifested. The divine will is as 
tenuous as a no-thing. No given solid being is capable 
of enclosing it within itself and making it immovable. 
Besides, the world does not issue from God himself, but 
from his glory, i.e. his exterior form. And this very 
glory, the periphery of divinity, remains after creation 
what it was before. For if the less is included in the 
more, the more is not included in the less ; a fortiori^ the 
different cannot be included in the different. Neither 
as subject nor as object is divinity absorbed in its 
sensible manifestation. Creation is not at all a trans- 
formation of force. 

Thus God creates, at the same time, from nothing 
and from matter. God the person creates with the 
divine nature as matter, but personality and the divine 
nature alike have their root in the primordial no-thing, 
in the mystery of infinite will. 

Now what is it that God creates, what are the 
essential parts of the world system ? The model and 
instruments of creation are found, under the form of 
eternity, in the divine wisdom and nature. Creation is 
to be the realisation of this wisdom and nature under the 
form of time and separation. And so there is a relation 
between created things and eternal things, and it is 
to a certain extent possible to deduce from the latter 
the knowledge of the former, by placing oneself at the 
standpoint of God. This deduction is what is called 
the philosophy of nature, a speculation destined later 
on to assume a considerable degree of development 


in Germany, and rudiments of which we find in 
Boehme's theosophy. 

The construction of the exterior world is brought 
about in a manner similar to that of the interior, divine 
world. In sensible bodies as in eternal nature, it is 
personality that seeks manifestation for itself : the only 
difference is that this manifestation, which is fully 
effected in eternal nature, remains of necessity incom- 
plete in sensible nature. In the world there will then be 
three principles corresponding to the three divine prin- 
ciples : fire, light, and the union of these two principles 
in corporeity. Of the first and second, without appeal- 
ing to the third, God forms the angels, who are still 
as near to divine perfection as the created condition 
permits of. The angels are spirits only. They do not 
exist of themselves, however, and their body, though 
spiritual, is harder and more compact than the glorious 
body of divinity. The angels are not yet placed in 
time ; they enjoy a derivative eternity intermediary 
between absolute eternity and the succession of parts 
independent of one another. At the same time that 
God formed the angels from the first two principles, he 
formed from the third a terrestrial nature, more concrete 
and material than the divine though still subject to spirit 
and relatively harmonious. This nature is governed by 
the angels. All these beings were created in order that 
divine light, reflected from harder surfaces, might 
appear more shining, that sound might have a clearer 
ring, and the kingdom of joy extend beyond the circle 
of divine glory. Not that the manifestation of God 
might thereby become more perfect, for it is at the cost 
of a diminution of harmony that any particular quality 
thus becomes more vivid, but rather that it was ex- 
pedient for infinite power and love to realise possibilities 


which, though they had no place in the divine nature, 
still showed forth the signs of perfection. 

To fulfil their destiny, the angels must proceed from 
Father to Son, from wrath to love, after the fashion of 
God himself. Besides, they were created free, and, like 
God, determine themselves, without compulsion from 
without. They are masters of their determinations. 
Now, whereas one portion of the angels made their own 
freedom of will conformable with the divine will, another 
portion rebelled against God. Lucifer was the chief of 
these rebel angels and the first author of evil : he sinned 
freely in accordance with his own will and without 

Sin came about in the following manner. A com- 
pound of nature and spirit, Lucifer, employing his own 
free will, fixed his imagination on nature. Beneath the 
gaze of this magician, nature was transformed; from 
being dark she became shining ; full of defects, she 
decked herself with all simple perfections ; from being 
a part she became so puffed up as to appear like the all. 
The soul of the angel became enamoured of this idol, 
desiring it exclusively. In doing so, it rejected God 
and separated from him. 

Then hell was created. Lucifer obtained what he 
wished for : separation. This result he obtained not 
by the transcendent intervention of God, but by the 
immediate effect of wrath or nature to whom he had 
devoted himself. Hell is the principle of darkness, 
nature, force, life pure and simple, given up to itself 
and henceforth contradictorily opposed to love and light, 
and so deprived of all direction, control, and harmony. 
Hell is life that has no other end than to live. Thanks 
to Lucifer, it was now let loose. 

Nor was this all ; Lucifer was created eternal. The 


desire for life and the desire for good, which God had 
implanted within him, had not as their common support 
a sensible body subject to succession and consequently 
capable of breaking with its past habits. The free will 
of a mere spirit is exhausted in a single act. Lucifer's 
fault, therefore, is irremediable. No conversion is 
possible for him, for he is nothing more now than fire and 
wrath, and light has no longer any hold upon him. The 
hell he has created is as eternal as his own will itself. 

And yet, the terrestrial nature ruled by the angels 
suffers from the effects of their wrongdoing. Con- 
fusion finds its way into this nature. Love, being exiled 
therefrom, the bond uniting the forces is broken, and each 
of these latter escapes and goes wherever it pleases. We 
no longer have personal unity, in which the parts are 
the organs of a whole ; but individual multiplicity, in 
which each part regards itself as the whole to the 
exclusion of the rest. 

Such now is nature : the earth is formless and void, 
darkness covers the face of the deep. The spirit of 
God, however, hovers above his shattered work, and 
the Father resolves to effect a new creation by drawing 
nature out of the darkness into which she has fallen. 
This creation is the one related by Moses. God said, 
" Let there be light ! " and the light was separated from 
the darkness. In seven days, in accordance with the 
number of divine spirits, God restored nature to a 
state of harmony. He did not, purely and simply, 
destroy Lucifer's work ; he gave nature a weapon 
against evil and an instrument of regeneration, to wit, 
time. Thanks to succession in time, to conceive is no 
longer to act ; will may halt at the very brink of the 
precipice. Even when accomplished, the act no longer 
exhausts activity. Henceforth, the good are neither 


fixed in good nor the evil in evil. To time is attached 
space, which makes individuals relatively independ- 
ent of one another. Life in space and time has 
for its object sensible matter, i.e. matter properly so 

The term and perfection of creation is man, the 
excellent and harmonious concentration of the three 
principles. There are in man three parts : soul or the 
infinite power of good and evil ; mind or intelligence 
and sound will ; and body, or concrete reality. The 
first of these three parts corresponds to the principle 
of fire, the second to that of light, and the third to that 
of essence or reality. The three principles are mani- 
fested in man with all the perfection that existence in 
time and space implies. 

Man's duty is to subordinate within himself two of 
these principles to the third, i.e. will and action to 
the law of good, and his end is to generate the king 
of nature, whom God has resolved to create in order 
to dethrone Lucifer. As God the Father eternally wills 
to generate his heart and his Son, so the soul ought to 
fix its will in the heart of God. Adam is to be the 
seed of the Christ. The task that has fallen to man, 
however, is by no means a purely spiritual one. The 
paradise in which he is placed and which he must cause 
to blossom forth is a sensible nature. It is by working 
to draw out of this nature all the treasures she 
contains, and bring them to light, that man prepares 
for the coming of the Son. The world, developing in 
time and space, consists of individuals separated from 
one another : these individuals have to be united in one 
common homage paid to the Eternal, and, without their 
distinctive characteristics being effaced, these latter must 
be raised to participation in absolute personality. 


This is the destiny prescribed for man, though not 
imposed upon him. His will is free. In him there is 
fire and light, violence and gentleness, egoism and self- 
denial. In addition, as the result of his terrestrial 
nature, there is a temporal will, set between these two 
principles and capable of being turned in the direction 
of the one or the other. Man, therefore, possesses all 
the conditions of freedom, and is able, as he pleases, 
either to be lost himself or to find himself effectively by 

How has he used this power ? That is a question 
of fact, it finds an answer in tradition and experience. 
Now, we know that man, following the example of 
Lucifer, disobeyed God and fell from his original state 
of nobility. The fall of man, according to the Mosaic 
account, when interpreted in the light of the spirit, 
was brought about in the following manner. 

Giving reins to his imagination, man began to con- 
template and admire nature, in preference to God. By 
degrees, he attributed to his idol every imaginable per- 
fection, making her the all, including even divinity 
itself. Then he grew enamoured of her and ardently 
longed to engender her as he saw her in his imagination. 
Forgetful of the rights of spirit, he wished nature, 
untrammelled, to be all she was capable of being. 
Soon afterwards, in accordance with the law of being, 
the idea of image and desire became a body ; nature 
proclaimed her autonomy, and man fell beneath the 
sway of the violent, egoistic forces he had let loose. 
Such, abridged, is the story of the fall. The sacred 
text, however, enables us to distinguish its different 
phases and note its various stages. 

The starting-point was the desire to know things, 
no longer in their union and harmony, as God had 


made them, but by separating and analysing them, 
attributing to them a fictitious individuality. Man 
was determined to know what hot and cold, moist 
and dry, hard and soft, and all the other qualities, 
taken separately, were in themselves. In death, the 
congealer and disperser, he was determined to dis- 
cover the secret of life, the organiser. No longer had 
that divine fruit, concrete knowledge, any savour or 
attraction for him : he was determined to taste of 
abstract knowledge, parcelled out, the fruit of terrestrial 
nature. Nature, thereupon, responded to his desire by 
making this latter objective in the form of the tree 
of the knowledge of good and evil. This tree of 
temptation is none other than the sensible realisation 
of the will to know good and evil separately, in so 
far as they are opposite and contradictory. Through 
it, man sees good and evil as two things exterior to 
each other, according to the condition of objects set 
in space : he is able to choose the latter to the exclusion 
of the former. The fact of having raised up the tree 
of analytical science is the first sin, that of under- 
standing. This is a dangerous declivity, for man now 
conceives evil, and, consequently, is capable of willing 
it; still, this does not yet constitute the fall, since he 
possesses the power to choose between good and evil. 

A second temptation follows the first. Hitherto, 
Adam has had the eternal virgin for his companion ; 
hitherto, the ideal or the image of God has been the 
object of his thought. Having begun to look upon 
things from the view-point of analysis, in their ter- 
restrial form, he became enamoured of the world of 
forces and instincts which henceforth appeared before his 
gaze. He wished to live an animal life, to reproduce 
himself after the fashion of the beasts. The image of 


God was effaced, the virgin fled before the passion 
kindled within him. Then Adam fell asleep : for the 
image of the world is not of like nature to the 
image of God. The latter, which slumbers not, con- 
stantly keeps awake the spirit contemplating it. But 
the image of the world, being subject to succession 
in time, tires the sight and engenders sleep. A change 
of condition was then brought about. Man had fallen 
to sleep in the world of angels, the world of eternity : 
he awoke in time, in the exterior world. Before him 
he saw the human objectivation of his earthly desire in 
the form of a woman created by God during his sleep. 
Aware that the woman came from himself, man sought 
to unite with her, to unite with her in body. This is 
the second sin, the sin of sensibility. Man has taken 
another step towards perdition. Still, he is not fallen, 
for carnal desires, in themselves, do not deprive man 
of self-possession ; his will still remains his own. 

The fall, that neither the perversion of the intelli- 
gence nor that of sensibility has brought about, is to 
be effected by the perversion of the will. The devil 
breathed into man the desire to live by his own distinctive 
will, to suffice unto himself, to make himself God. Man 
consented to the temptation, and, by disobedience, set 
himself over against God as his equal. From that 
time he was not only inclined towards evil, he plunged 
therein. He became what he had willed to be, though 
in a way contrary to what he had imagined. He 
became god, not the god of love, light, and life, the 
only true God, but the god of wrath, darkness, and 
death, who is nothing more than the sacrilegious and 
diabolical personification of the mysterious substratum 
of divinity. 

Thereupon, man was cursed ; or rather, he declared 


himself to be the child of the devil. His will, evil in 
itself, separated him from God, and dedicated him to 
wrath. Following on this curse, the world, of which 
man was both the resume and the mover, passed from 
a condition of harmony to one of individual dispersion. 
Each human being claimed to live in the world for 
himself alone, and to effect his own development with- 
out any thought for his neighbours. The struggle for 
life became the world's only law. 

Still, man was not condemned by God for all 
eternity as Lucifer had been ; the conditions of the 
fall were different. The devil, of himself alone, was 
the entire cause of the sin he had committed. Before 
him, indeed, evil was non-existent, there was only the 
possibility of evil. Of this possibility, Lucifer had 
formed evil with all that it comprises, its matter as 
well as its form : he was the author of the motives 
that had tempted him, as well as of the determination 
he had arrived at in accordance with these motives. 
The position of man was quite different. Before him, 
evil was already in existence as a given reality, and, 
along with evil, a downward tendency to new falls. 
It was at Satan's solicitation that man sinned. Though 
the decision he came to was his own, the motives of 
this decision were not at work. They were within him 
as instincts, a pre-existing nature. Man is thus respon- 
sible for his own determination alone, not for the 
motives to which he has yielded. This is the reason 
why the fall of Adam, which indeed would be a mortal 
one were man left to himself, is not irremediable. It 
is possible, if not for justice, at all events for divine 
mercy, to set the tendency towards good, deep in the 
human soul, in opposition to evil solicitations, and to 
give man's will, which is temporal in its nature, the 


power to retract its resolution. Will God now come 
to the aid of man, who has rebelled against him ? 
Will he send man a redeemer and saviour ? This is 
what no necessity either commands or excludes, it is 
something to be decided in the mysterious depths of 
infinite will. 

God, having already restored harmony to the world, 
harmony that had been disturbed by Lucifer, resolved 
to summon man to regeneration. Good and evil were 
now in the presence of each other, not only in eternity 
but also in time : God decided to bring about, as far as 
possible, the reconciliation of these two principles. In 
accordance with the divine decrees anterior to the fall 
of man, the Son was some day to be born in human 
form, so that the word might be manifested in time. 
As man was given up to wrath and the devil, God 
decreed that the coming of the Christ should be not 
only the coming of one who would compass human 
perfection, but also that of a redeemer and saviour. 
He prepared for this coming by the series of events 
related in the Old Testament, and finally gave up his 
Son to the world to be crowned with thorns and 
crucified. Per crucem ad lucem ! The Christ is a 
human creature, and he is the Son of the eternal Virgin. 
In him death is overcome. He who suffers with him 
is also glorified with him. 

Still, we must examine more closely and see how 
man's salvation is realised by Jesus Christ. 

When the reason hears mention of God, of his 
nature and will, it imagines that God is something 
foreign and far away, living outside this world and 
above the stars, ordaining things mechanically after the 


manner of a force situated in space. Hence reason, 
assimilating God to his creatures, attributes to him a 
mode of thought and action analogous to that of man. 
It believes that God, before creation, deliberated within 
himself as to the place he should assign to each creature. 
It also implies that God decided to summon a portion 
of mankind to heavenly joy, in order to manifest his 
grace, and condemned the rest to damnation, in order 
to manifest his wrath. Thus, God would appear to 
have made a difference, for all eternity, between men, 
for the purpose of manifesting his power in the direction 
both of wrath and of love. 

Most certainly there is an election of grace, though 
it could not come about in the way reason imagines. 
Were God to deliberate and come to a decision as we 
do, were he to govern things from without, he would 
be divided against himself, he would be changeable, 
not eternal. Besides, how could God will to condemn 
a portion of his creatures ? God is love ; he wills the 
good of all beings. Election and damnation are not 
the act of a will exterior to man. Man is free, 
absolutely free ; for the root of his being is plunged 
in the eternal, infinite substratum of things. There 
is nothing behind the human will capable of constraining 
it. Itself is the first beginning of its own actions. 
Election or damnation is the result of this very freedom. 
By it, man can turn, as he pleases, towards light or 
towards darkness, towards love or towards egoism : 
man can make either an angel or a devil of himself. 
Within himself he bears his own paradise and hell : the 
exterior paradise and hell are nothing but symbols of 
good and evil will. Not that man is sufficient unto 
himself and can do without divine grace. His good 
will is but a prayer, unavailing without the help of 


God ; God has foreseen from all eternity that he either 
would or would not offer up this prayer. Free actions, 
however, remain free in divine foreknowledge, which, 
sunk in the primordial deep, cannot be distinguished 
from the common substratum of all wills. 

The first sign and the first effect of election is faith. 
Like election, faith is often misunderstood. Every one 
boasts of having faith. Where is it in reality ? Present- 
day faith is nothing but a story learnt by heart. Where 
is the man with a child-like faith in the birth of Jesus ? 
Did he really believe it, he would draw nigh to the Infant 
Jesus whom he would welcome and tenderly nurture 
within himself. No : he is acquainted only with the 
historic child, deceiving his conscience with vain erudi- 
tion. Never has there been so much talk of faith, and 
never was real faith more lacking. Would you have a 
proof of this ? Never before has there been so much dis- 
puting, so much judging and condemning of one another. 
Does God judge and condemn the birds of the forests 
because each of them praises him in his own way, and 
in a different tone from the rest ? Does not the 
infinite might of God admit of an infinite variety of 
expressions of homage ? You, who persecute your 
brothers, are more useless than the flowers of the fields, 
more foolish than beasts lacking in intelligence. You 
are the birds of prey that affright the other birds, 
preventing them from chanting the praises of God. 
To believe in Jesus Christ from an historical point of 
view is no more helpful than believing a fable. How 
many Jews and Turks are more Christian than those 
sham Christians who know what Jesus did and yet do 
what the devil does ! But, the answer will come, 
we believe in the word. Then we must try to under- 
stand what the true word is. The Scriptures are 


helpful, but they are not the word, they are only its 
mute, obliterated signs. The word is living, for it is 
the vehicle of the spirit. No formula can define it, 
for it is infinite as God himself. That is why true 
faith is, in fine, a righteous will, freely subject to the 
law of the spirit. It consists in renewing within 
oneself the birth and life of Christ, his baptism and 
temptations, sufferings and death. The imitation of 
Christ is the distinctive mark of the children of God. 
Consequently, the true Christian is of no sect ; he may 
live in one, but he does not belong to it. His religion 
is interior, it cannot be confined within any form. 

Faith, when thus understood, is the beginning of 
regeneration. What is to be thought of the exterior 
means and methods that the Churches add on to it? 
Speaking generally, works are nothing in themselves, 
and the Roman Catholic Church, which attributes value 
thereto, is the Babel of the Christian world. Erroneous 
also is it to believe that faith saves us because through 
it the merits of Christ would be attributed to us from 
without, just as a new form may be given to passive 
matter. Such an operation would not change the root 
nature of the soul, it would not be a second birth. 
Faith could not save us by some theurgic operation 
that compelled divine justice to benefit us : it saves us 
only by the sanctifying grace it bears within itself, and 
which, from without, engenders within us both penitence 
and the redeeming Christ. Justification is sanctifica- 
tion. It is not the object of faith that regenerates us, 
it is faith itself. 

For this reason no particular means of regeneration 
is efficacious if faith be not the soul thereof. True 
prayer is not a passive request for divine assistance, it 
is the humble action of the will that recognises its 



need and goes to God as for food ; it is the soul 
beseeching and receiving sanctifying grace. True 
preaching is not the teaching specially given by the 
priest or even by the Bible. The faithful who see and 
hear with the spirit learn from all creatures. Sacraments 
are not aids granted to man without himself contributing 
thereto. The true sacrament consists of divine grace 
descending upon the soul, which can appropriate it only 
by faith. And regeneration, the object of prayer, of 
sermons and sacraments alike, is not a new nature 
grafted on to the old : it is the spirit, awakening and 
expanding, deep within the nature ; it is the person 
creating himself by renunciation of the individual I, 
the interior man who is substituted for the exterior man. 
Now, of what nature is the life of the regenerate 
man ? Is it only apathy and indifference, mere reflec- 
tion of the spirit upon itself, annihilation deep in 
primordial no-thing ? Spirit, we know, is not this inert 
no-thing at the conception of which, by suppressing 
differences, human logic arrives. All interior being tends 
to become exterior, all infinitude is the desire to take 
form, all mystery is an effort to reveal itself, all spirit 
is the will to become a body. So also is it with the 
Christian virtues. They do not remain abstractions ; 
they develop and become manifest. They become 
manifest by complete renunciation of self, by total 
abandonment to the will of God, by meekness, by 
human love, by communion of souls in spite of all 
outer differences, by mastery over nature, i.e. over 
earthly desires, and by joy, that foretaste of eternity. 
The new man does not destroy the old, the outer man, 
though he takes care not to forget himself therein. 
Thou art in the world, Christian ! Thou art engaged 
in an honourable trade. Remain in it, work, act, earn 


the money thou need'st, make the elements produce 
all they are capable of producing, dig in the ground for 
silver and gold, make them into works of art, build 
and plant. All this is well and good. Listen, however, 
to the A B C of wisdom : Put not thy soul into this 
exterior life. Chain not thy free spirit down in this 
prison. If thou retainest thy freedom, all that thou 
do'st in the world will prosper. For everything sings 
forth the praises of God to him who has ears to hear. 
Even the backslidings of thy earthly companion shall 
not harm thy soul, but they will be beneficial to him. 
A single action is not a habit ; a powerful tree stands 
erect before the raging storm. When thou see'st the 
exterior man offend, thou wilt the better understand 
the frailty of nature, the greatness and might of divine 
mercy. Let not man, however, imagine that in his 
life on earth he can ever dispense with prayer and effort. 
Man is and remains free ; consequently, he is never 
established in good. Time cannot hold eternity. How- 
ever strong be our link with God, we remain in the 
devil's power. Resistance to evil is our condition 
in this world, right on to the end. If we grow 
remiss, nature once more lays hold upon us : the form 
in which the spirit is manifested binds and imprisons 
this latter as soon as it ceases to act. Each moment 
we must correct ourselves, revive our new birth, create 
God anew within ourselves. Only when life comes to 
an end does the tree of faith, hope and love, nurtured 
by our own unremitting efforts, stand erect and in- 
capable of being uprooted. 

And so, in the world of time, there is being prepared 
the rapprochement of the good and the evil principle, 
and the conscious, definitive reconstitution of primor- 
dial unity. All end has a tendency to rejoin its beginning, 


though on a higher plane, ascending right to the fixed 
point on which this beginning depends. As long as man is 
a terrestrial body, he can and ought to choose. Along 
with his temporal nature, however, disappears the con- 
tingency of his actions. Death introduces him to eternity. 
The fruit of his free determinations is now ripe : he 
detaches himself ; that which he is, he is once for all. 
Man, then, according to the nature he has created 
within himself, henceforward belongs either to God or 
to the devil. His free will has become changed either 
into freedom and love or into caprice and violence. 

And so the final end of things is the definitive 
dualism of good and evil, so far as they are the products 
of a will that is free. In the beginning, God engendered 
good and evil considered as possibilities, i.e. he created 
the conditions and materials of good and evil actions. 
From the way in which free beings acted, there resulted, 
in fact, the realisation of the two possibilities God had 
formed. On both sides, being has passed through 
three phases : possibility, the contingent fact, definitive 
determination. It was by thwarting conscious will that 
idea became thing ; and possibility, necessary. The 
kingdom of God is the harmony, henceforth inde- 
structible, between spirit and nature. Individuals subsist 
therein, and continue to be distinguished from one 
another, otherwise there would be no more nature ; but 
they live without strife, each according to his character : 
they subsist by love alone and have nothing to do with 
hatred. They have attained true unity which is not 
an exterior rapprochement practised with a view to the 
satisfaction of egoistic interests, but rather the common 
participation of individual souls in divine personality. 
In the kingdom of the devil, on the other hand, the 
will to live has definitively thrown off all law and 


direction. It has what it willed : life as the sole end 
of life. Henceforward, there is no harmony, goodness 
or love. Ego'fsm and anarchy reign without a rival. 
The individual is his own master ; and this sovereignty, 
which rests on rebellion, not on obedience, is the endless 
struggle, infinite torment. 


Boehme's doctrine concludes with an exposition of 
the final ends of all things. This doctrine presents 
itself to us as the metaphysical history of Being, apper- 
ceived by intuition deep within its physical history. 
Starting from the eternal, we have come back, through 
time, to the eternal. The circle is closed again : 
revelation is accomplished. 

Now, what is this doctrine which is called by its 
author Aurora or the Morning Redness, the explanation 
of the celestial and terrestrial mystery, the setting forth 
of the genesis of God and of all things, and, speaking 
generally, Christianity interpreted after the spirit ? 

There can be no doubt but that it is, first of all, a 
religious doctrine, and it is only natural that Boehme's 
disciples should mainly be found amongst theologians. 
But would it be legitimate to abide by the letter of the 
doctrine in judging one who ever affirmed that truth 
is in the spirit, not in the letter, and that it is the 
characteristic of the spirit to be for ever impossible of 
expression? Evidently, by this theory alone, Boehme 
relegates to a second place, religion properly so called, 
religion that is inconceivable without some given reve- 
lation, some positive fact, and puts in the first place 
philosophy, or rather, religion so far as it is allied with 
philosophy. Indeed, whoever reads Boehme's works 


in the way he himself recommends us to read them, 
trying to discover the spiritual meaning in sensible and 
intellectual images, finds that doctrines of a philosophical 
character appear at each step beneath his religious 

The theological mysteries of the Trinity, the Fall 
and the Redemption are, of a certainty, the promptings 
that cause him to reflect. But beneath these mysteries 
he sees the problem of the reconciliation of evil and the 
finite, as positive realities, with infinite personality as 
the first and only source of being. And the way in 
which he solves this problem is certainly metaphysics 
under the cloak of theology. From the finite and evil, 
to whose existence our senses testify, the suprasensible 
conditions of finite nature and evil action are distin- 
guished, and these conditions are deduced from the 
divine will, in so far as that will wills to be manifested 
and posited as a person. No manifestation without 
opposition. And so God posits his contrary in order 
to lay hold upon himself, by distinguishing himself from 
this contrary and imposing on it his law. This contrary, 
or eternal nature bound to the very existence of God, 
without itself being the finite and evil, is the foundation 
of their reality. The finite is the dissemination freely 
effected by God, by means of time of the essences 
contained in the divine nature. Evil is nature, which 
is only a part, posited as the all by the untrammelled 
will of created beings. The finite and evil, after all, as 
regards their matter, are deduced from the conditions 
of existence of the personality, whereas in their sensible 
form and realisation they result from the free initiative 
of the will. Consequently the world is something quite 
different from mere non-being or the unstable effect 
of an act of arbitrary will : it possesses reality, a true, 


internal existence : though founded on God it is not 
God : it is based upon the very nature God needs in 
order to become manifest. 

It cannot be denied that in these ideas, clearly ex- 
pressed by Boehme in all his metaphors, are the germs 
of a philosophic system. But what is the value and 
signification of this system ? Is it not an isolated work, 
without any important relation to the general history of 
philosophy ? 

It must be confessed that with the exception of 
Louis Claude de Saint-Martin (the " Unknown Philo- 
sopher"), Baader the Catholic theologian, and Schelling 
in the final phase of his philosophy the philosophers 
by profession, after reading and forming an opinion on 
Boehme, are rather inclined to bestow on him vague 
encomium than to attempt to assimilate his doctrines. 
Saint-Martin's ideas have scarcely been mentioned in 
France except by historians ; and the Germans have 
developed more especially the intellectualist philosophy 
born of Leibnitz, Kant and Spinoza, which rejects the 
absolute reality of nature and the freedom of the will, 
those essential elements in Boehme's system. 

On this point, nevertheless, we must guard against 
judging by appearances or details. Two traits, in a 
word, mainly characterise the speculations of our theo- 
sophist : spiritualism, posited as a fundamental truth ; 
and realism, admitted on the faith of experience and 
connected by way of deduction with the spiritualist 
principle. On the one hand, Boehme holds that spirit 
alone is the first and true being : spirit, i.e. infinite 
freedom, that creates for itself objects and forms, and 
remains infinitely superior to all its creations, imper- 
ceptible being that is everywhere in action and itself 
incapable of being realised and becoming an object of 


experience ; the perfect person, in word, living and 
truly metaphysical existence, of which all given, deter- 
minate existence can be nothing but an imperfect mani- 
festation. But, on the other hand, Boehme is a realist. 
He does not admit that the multiple and the diverse 
may be a vain image of the imagination, or the purely 
phenomenal effect of a transcendent cause ; he does not 
acknowledge that evil may only be a lesser good. 
Nature has her own principle of existence, contrary to 
that of spiritual existence. Evil is a living force that 
tends to destroy good. To posit spiritualism as a thesis 
and realism as an antithesis, and, in a synthesis, to 
reconcile the reality of the objects of experience with 
the supremacy of spirit : such is Boehme's task. 

Such, too, in fine, is the ground of the principal 
German systems. With Leibnitz, Kant, Fichte, Schelling 
and Hegel it is spirit that is being, and spirit is the 
living infinite that no form can contain. For all these 
philosophers, however, the world has a reality of its 
own, a reality that is a stumbling-block to spirit and 
yet must be deduced from the nature of spirit. It is 
in this antinomy of spirit as principle, and matter as 
reality, that German philosophy flounders ; and monad- 
ology, transcendental idealism, the philosophy of the 
absolute, and absolute idealism are only different solu- 
tions of one and the same problem. Nor is this all. 
Idealism, realism, and the search after the reconciliation 
of the latter with the former, are traits of German 
philosophy that are, it would seem, to be met with in 
the nation itself; so, at all events, historians have 
observed. Thus, whatever may have been the exterior 
link between the German philosophers and Jacob Boehme, 
they are united to him by a stronger and closer bond 
than mere influence, they are his brothers, at least, if 


not his sons, children of one and the same genius, 
expressions of one and the same aspect of the human 
mind. Was he, then, a false prophet, who, in 1620, 
after reading the Psychologia vera of Jacob Boehme, 
greeted its author by the unexpected name of "Philoso- 
phus teutonicus " ? J 

1 "He is known," says Hegel, "as the Philosophus Teutonicus, and 
in reality through him for the first time did philosophy in Germany come 
forward with a characteristic stamp. The kernel of his philosophizing is 
purely German" (Gesch. Ph. iii. 1836, p. 300) (Translator's note). 


REGARDING things only from the historical standpoint, 
Cartesianism dominates the entire development of modern 
philosophy. Amongst others, the German savants, 
intent on finding the internal principles of historical 
developments, took delight in discovering, in Cartesian 
problems, the starting-point of all the great questions 
that have stirred the minds of modern philosophers. 
More particularly, they saw, in the Cogito, the living 
germ from which, by immanent dialectic, all the great 
systems that have so far appeared were to blossom 
forth. Thus, Kuno Fischer distinctly regarded Cartes- 
ianism, and the antinomies into which it enters as it 
develops, as the origin or necessary condition of the 
occasionalism of Malebranche, the monism of Spinoza, 
the monadology of Leibnitz, the sensualism of Locke, 
the materialism of La Mettrie, the idealism of Berkeley 
and the criticism of Kant. In most of the German 
historians of philosophy similar deductions may be 

Speaking generally, it may be said that the central 
problem of Cartesian metaphysics was the transition 
from thought to existence. Thought alone is indis- 
solubly inherent in itself: how, then, by what right 
and in what way, can we, in our judgments, affirm 
existences? There is one case, and only one, wherein 
existence is immediately connected. with thought in the 



intuition of the understanding : and that is when we 
say : " Cogito, ergo sum." How and in what way can 
we extend to other existences the certainty we directly 
attribute to that of thought ? This is the knotty point 
in the Cartesian philosophy. Now, this problem of 
existence controlled the investigations of Locke, Hume, 
Reid and Kant, as it did those of Malebranche, Spinoza 
and Leibnitz. Existence, which, to the ancients, was 
a thing given and immediately apprehensible, and that 
had only to be analysed, is here something far away, 
which has to be attained to, if that be possible. There 
we find the distinctive characteristic of modern as 
compared with ancient philosophy, and this characteristic 
is the mark of Cartesianism itself. 

Not only does Cartesianism thus control the progress 
of modern philosophy, it is also of considerable im- 
portance in the general history of the human mind. 
Doubtless, our seventeenth century in France largely 
drew upon Christian and classic sources, but science 
developed alongside of literature ; and science, in those 
days, was the Cartesian conception of the world : it was 
the control of the mathematical mechanism over all that 
was not thought strictly so called, the condition of this 
very mechanism. As Huyghens wrote on the occasion 
of the death of Descartes : 

Nature, prends le deuil, et pleure la premiere 
Le grand Descartes ! . . . 
Quand il perdit le jour, tu perdis la lumiere : 
Ce n'cst qu'a sa clarte que nous t'avons su voir. 

And when Newton reformed Cartesianism, did he not 
do so by adopting this very basis of natural philosophy, 
treated mathematically, which Descartes had discovered 
and assured ? 

Nor is this all : as Descartes is a dualist and looks 


upon all blending of philosophy with religion, corporeal 
with spiritual philosophy, as spurious, so too the 
seventeenth century is simultaneously religious and 
rationalistic, partaking both of the moralist and of the 
scientist, without these various disciplines interpenetrat- 
ing or being weakened by one another. Pascal the 
mystic does no harm to Pascal the physicist, and vice 

^ In a word, Descartes regards thought as without an 
equal ; he sees in it alone the principle of certainty. 
The seventeenth century, likewise, considers that in 
thought lies human dignity, that by it, and not by 
material greatness, can we rise to our true stature. The 
conviction of the power of reason creeps into the minds 
of men to such a degree that the obstacles, both 
provisional and even definitive, which Descartes had set 
up, are speedily overthrown. Social and political ques- 
tions which could not, for a long time, in his opinion, 
be accessible to science ; religious questions which went 
altogether beyond it, were submitted to the examination 
of reason. The eighteenth century dedicated itself to 
this work ; it has even been said that the French 
Revolution had its origin in the Discours de la Methode. 
A false statement, if it means that Cartesianism contained 
such a consequence ; and yet an assertion capable of 
being upheld, if the statement is taken as signifying 
that it was in the name of the Cartesian principle of 
rational evidence that society was revived in 1789. 

And so we see that Cartesianism is an essential 
element in the philosophical and moral history of modern 
times. But does it belong only to history ? Has it no 
longer anything to teach us ? 

Huxley, the English philosopher and scientist, 
affirmed that Descartes' system, far from being a 


subject of scholarly curiosity, was the very soul both of 
contemporary philosophy and science. Our philosophy 
is idealistic, and it is the Cogito of Descartes that is the 
principle of this idealism. Our science is mechanistic, 
and it is the Cartesian reduction to extent of all that is 
not spirit, which has founded this mechanism. 

Independently of these general tendencies, many 
questions more especially connected with contemporary 
speculation have been bequeathed to us by Descartes' 

Such, in metaphysics, are the problem of existence, 
that of the relations between will and understanding, 
that of certainty, that of the relations between science 
and metaphysics, and that of the relations between 
spirit and matter. The philosophy of science is specially 
concerned nowadays with the question of the relation 
between mathematics and experience. How and in 
what sense can that which is proved by demonstration 
agree with that which is known by perception ? How 
comes it to pass that physics can be treated mathe- 
matically ? Now, this is the very question Descartes 
first asked himself, and he may be said to have con- 
structed his system of metaphysics for the purpose of 
answering it. 

As regards science, the alliance between geometry 
and analysis, the mechanical interpretation of phenomena, 
the exclusion of final causes, mathematical mechanism 
applied not only to the systematisation of phenomena 
but also to the explanation of the genesis of the world ; 
not only to the study of inorganic bodies but also to 
that of life itself, are all to be found, as so many essential 
elements, in the Cartesian philosophy. It is also the 
Cartesian spirit that has brought into existence certain 
special modern sciences, such as experimental psychology 


and positive sociology, which attempt to examine 
psychical or social facts in their elements or mathematic- 
ally measurable equivalents. 

Moreover, let it not be said that, in order to possess 
these leading ideas, it is enough to receive them from 
present-day savants in the form they have assumed as 
the result of two centuries of discussion. It is not the 
same with ideas as with facts, the knowledge of which 
almost inevitably becomes more and more perfect. 
What advantage is it for a man to acquire a rough 
measurement of some phenomenon when he can 
become acquainted with an exact one thereof? An 
idea, however, is a mysterious plant which does not 
always develop in another in the same way as it does 
in its originator, without counting the fact that it may 
have long to wait before encountering soil favourable 
for its perfect fruition. This is the reason it is so 
important to consider ideas as they appeared to the 
genius who gave birth to them. How often have they 
thus shown themselves to be greater and more fertile than 
they had seemed as interpreted by disciples incapable of 
thoroughly understanding them ! " Philosophia duce 
regredimur " was a profound motto of the Renaissance. 

Is it necessary to call to mind Descartes' excellence 
as a writer ? From this standpoint, too, his importance 
could not be exaggerated. As regards the part he 
played in history, Desire Nisard has shown that he was 
the first to offer a perfect model of French prose. The 
language of Descartes is the fabric on which the 
style of our great writers is woven. Considered in 
itself, this language, stamped with the philosopher's 
method, possesses in the highest degree the noblest 
qualities of every language : propriety of terms, and the 
expression of order in ideas. Cartesian intuition and 


deduction have left their impress on the style of the 
Discours de la Mtthode. Not that this language is 
abstract or impersonal. Descartes' reason is a living, 
enthusiastic reason ; it does not merely put acquired 
truths in the form of syllogisms, but rather endeavours 
to discover and create, to communicate its creative 
activity to men's intellects. This life of thought 
animates the style itself, which, in a surprising way, 
unites to precision and demonstrative order, motion, 
accent, originality, colour, wit, and even charm, or 
irony or pride, according to the intellectual passion 
which is pouring into the soul of this lover of truth. 
Whatever impression may at first be felt, when one 
at times becomes bewildered with those long sentences 
which demand an alert reader, capable of making his 
own deductions, one speedily comes under the charm 
and power of this masterly style. Even nowadays, if 
an author's manner merely suggests that of Descartes 
in some respect or other, people vie with each other in 
praising its superiority and austere seductiveness. 

In a word, why should we not call to mind the 
special motives which cause us to desire that the works 
of Descartes should be read by as large a circle of 
readers as possible, both in France and abroad ? 

Descartes is one of the purest and finest expressions 
of the genius of our race : the diffusion of his thoughts 
represents our life and influence. 

We love reason, a middle path between the spirit 
of positivism, which contents itself with facts, properly 
so called, and the spirit of mysticism, which tends to 
believe without demanding proof. Of all intellectual 
qualities, the one we most prize is the faculty of 
judgment, in whose sight even experience and reasoning 
are sources of truth only on condition they have been 


submitted to the control of the mind. It is in this 
direction that we seek after clarity and order in ideas. 
For a system to be well constructed and consistent is 
not sufficient for us, we want every part of it, taken 
separately, to be intelligible and true, and we would 
rather hold separately the two ends of the chain of 
reasoning without apperceiving the intermediary links, 
than let slip the truths we have won in order to 
grasp the hypothetical connection between them. Qne 
ofL_ih^dences.- in. which-JBce -~exceL is... mathematics. 
Our sense of clarity and logic is here afforded un- 
restrained activity. In the moral order of things, 
we love reason with an ardent, enthusiastic love, 
that has at times gone astray or formed a striking 
contrast with the very object of that love ; but through 
all our fluctuations the goal of our endeavours is 
clearly a harmonious blending of individual freedom 
and rational law, in which neither would be sacrificed. 
And whilst seeking, in a practical spirit, for what suits our 
own nation, it is impossible for us to separate in thought 
the happiness of others from our own, or to desire good 
in any other than the universal form which reason ordains. 

Now, we find in Descartes these different traits, 
which are amongst the principal ones in our nature. 
A clear-headed and profound philosopher and mathe- 
matician, excelling in finesse and in geometrical precision 
alike, jealous of independence though obedient to reason, 
solicitous of the practical ends of life and ambitious to 
work for the happiness of all mankind, he offers us, pre- 
eminently, the model, and, as it were, the archetype of 
the qualities we aspire to show forth. 

To study Descartes and make him better known is 
to work for the fulfilment of the scientific and civilising 
mission of France. 



Mirum mihi videtur, plerosque homines plantarum vires, siderum 
motus, mctallorum transmutationes, similiumque disciplinarum 
objecta diligentissime perscrutari, atquc interim fere nullos de bona 
mente . . . cogitare, quum tamen alia omnia non tarn propter se 
quam quia ad hanc aliquid conferunt, sint aestimanda. DESCARTES, 
Reg. ad dir. ing. Reg. i . 

That portion of Descartes' writings referring to 
morals is not insignificant, though neither in form nor 
content does it, at first glance, appear to belong to his 
philosophical work, properly so called. It consists 
mainly of the letters to the Princess Elizabeth and the 
Queen of Sweden ; in them Descartes visibly adapts 
himself to the needs and desires of his illustrious 
correspondents. True, a sketch of practical morals 
forms part of the Discours de la Mtthode. According 
to a document published in 1896, by Ch. Adam, it 
would appear that Descartes added these rules some- 
what against his will, because of the pedagogues and 
others of the same type who were quite ready to 
accuse him of having neither religion nor faith, and of 
wishing to destroy both the one and the other by his 
method. As regards the contents of these writings on 
morals, they are certainly very dignified and lofty in 
thought and admirable in form, though evidently 
possessed of little in common with the philosopher's 
doctrine itself. Borrowed from St. Thomas, as Baillet 
says, and intended, according to Descartes himself, to 
reconcile the teachings of Aristotle, Zeno and Epicurus 1 
with one another, they seem to have been particularly 

1 OEuvres philos. de Descartes, edit. Gamier, iii. 184-5. 



stamped with the impress of stoicism. Now, stoicism 
was then a well-known and popular philosophy. Des- 
cartes is a stoic, as the heroes of Corneille are stoics. 
His mathematics has nothing to do with his stoicism. 
It would therefore seem either that Descartes, so far as 
he personally was concerned, had no interest in moral 
research, or that, if he did make profession of moral 
maxims, they resulted rather from individual feelings or 
outer influences than from the logical development of 
his philosophy. 


It is worthy of note that this appreciation, which the 
first rapid examination of Descartes' moral writings 
induces us to make, by no means conforms with the 
continually repeated declarations of the philosopher 
concerning the object of philosophy. 

What, according to the Regulae? is the earnest way 
of seeking after truth ? It is to think solely of increasing 
the natural light of reason, not for the solving of any 
particular scholastic difficulty, but rather, at every 
conjuncture in life, for the purpose of making the 
understanding capable of prescribing to the will the line 
of action it ought to choose. The reason Descartes is 
keenly desirous of learning to distinguish the true from 
the false is, as he tells us in the Discours de la Mhhode? 
because he knows this to be the means of seeing clearly 
into his own actions and going through life with calm 
assurance. Again, in the Preface to the Principes? he 
defines philosophy as the study of wisdom, which, he 
says, consists of a perfect knowledge of everything a 
man is capable of knowing, both in the conduct in life, 
the preservation of health and the invention of all the 

1 i. i. 2 i. 14. 3 Baillet, La Vie de M. Descartes, i. 115. 


arts. This study, he adds, is more necessary for the 
regulation of our morality than the use of our eyes for 
the guidance of our steps. 

And indeed, according to Clerselier, who appears to 
have known him most intimately, morals was the object 
of his most frequent meditation. 1 True, he did not 
like writing about such matters, but that is from a 
feeling of prudence, as he himself explains. 2 In physics, 
also, he more than once preferred silence to the risk of 

All the same, we may ask ourselves whether, in the 
work he has left us, the moral ideas and the physical 
doctrines really form part of one and the same system, 
or whether they are not like two streams which flow 
parallel to each other, without their waters ever mingling. 
Certainly Descartes offers us the rules of his provisional 
system of morals as being deduced from his method. 
But then, of what use is it to affirm this, if he intro- 
duced these rules only to throw pedagogues off the 
scent ? In themselves, they appear anything but part 
and parcel of his philosophy. It is also true that, in 
the Preface to the Prmcipes 5 he speaks of a definitive 
system of morals which presupposes a complete know- 
ledge of all other sciences. Many, however, consider 
that he did not even outline this system of morals, 
and that it is his provisional system which is in reality 
his final one. 4 

The question is a puzzling one. It would be unfair 
to judge Descartes solely by those portions of his work 
which his prematurely curtailed life enabled him to 
complete. In creations of thought the inner tendency 
and the living principle of development are frequently 

1 Baillet, La Vie de M. Descartes, i. 115. 2 ii. 282. 

3 Edition Gamier, i. 592. 4 Cf. e"d. Gamier, iii. 179. 


more important than the immediately observable results. 
The reality of a Cartesian system of morals would be 
satisfactorily proved if it were shown that the philo- 
sophy of Descartes contained within itself the germs of 
such a system. 


There can be no doubt but that this philosophy, 
speaking generally, deals with practical experience. 
Although fond of withdrawing into solitude and seclu- 
sion for the purpose of meditation, Descartes is anything 
but an armchair philosopher. He possesses in the 
highest degree the sense of reality, interests himself in 
the doings of his times, converses with men of divers 
stations and temperaments, and listens attentively to 
the remarks of each on his own particular subject. He 
considers that our highest duty is to bring about the 
general good of all men, to the best of our ability >-j 
Consequently his chief grievance against the scholastic I 
philosophy is that it is purely speculative and gives no^l 
results. Instead of this philosophy of arguers and 
disputants, he seeks after a practical system of philo- 
sophy calculated to place at man's disposal the power 
and action of fire, water, air and all the other bodies 
around us, and which will make him, as it were, master 
and owner of nature. 1 It is his dream to preserve 
mankind from illness and disease, perhaps even from 
the debility of old age. His death was announced in 
the Gazette d' Anvers in the following terms : 2 "In 
Sweden there has just died a fool, who said that he 
could live as long as he wished." 

Descartes, like Bacon, following the traditions of 

1 Mfth. vi. 2. 

2 Adam, GOttingen MS. (Revue bourgnignonne de I'Enseignement 
suptneur, 1896). 


the magicians and alchemists, was inspired with the 
ambition to dominate that nature which the ancients 
had contented themselves with gazing upon. 

The alchemists, however, believed that in order to 
make nature act as they pleased, all that was needed 
was to set it going by an altogether external and 
empirical imitation of its processes. The magicians 
regarded nature as a mysterious, perhaps diabolical, 
power, whose will had to be chained down by means 
of formulas. Bacon himself, in his immediate search 
after an active philosophy, can find no reason for 
admitting that nature will respond to human promptings, 
except that such response is necessary in order that man 
may be able to act upon her. His science remains 
blind because, confounding the means with the end, it 
recognises no other principles than the rules that admit 
of being applied, just as they stand, to practice. 1 

Descartes' originality consisted in regarding the 
legitimacy of the problem of man's rule over nature as 
uncertain, and its solution doubtful, as long as no 
attempt was made to discover by what internal mode of 
working, nature really brings about any particular effect - 
from any particular cause. He considered that practice 
implied theory in the real sense of the word ; the 
knowledge of the interior of things. To his mind it 
was from this standpoint that nature must be considered, 
if we would succeed in becoming master of her. So, 
too, in the past, dealing with the moral order of things, 
Socrates had taught that the practical skill, quite legiti- 
mately sought after by the Sophists, could only be 
attained in a roundabout way, viz. by a rational know- 
ledge of the essence of virtue. And since, to Descartes, 
the very type of theory, the king of sciences, was 

1 Nov. Org. i. 4.; ii. 1-5. 


mathematics, he made it his object to demonstrate that 
everything in nature is brought about mathematically ; 
hence his metaphysical speculations. He proves, both by 
the perfections of God and by the clear, distinct nature 
of the idea of extent, that we are entitled to consider 
mathematical qualities as the essence of material things. 

Consequently, he studies mathematics, and his whole 
work is dominated by this science ; only, however, 
because, according to him, it is by considering things 
from this point of view that we can really make them 
our own. 1 And it is this practical end, ever present 
in his mind, that determines the general line of his 
investigations. He does not dwell upon the develop- 
ments of science, which would be merely of speculative 
interest. He is content with setting up, in mathematics, 
the few general principles which will enable him to base 
mechanics and physics on this discipline. These two 
sciences, in turn, need to be developed only in the 
direction and degree necessary to make possible the 
science of life. His object is to prove that life itself 
is nothing but a mechanism, and is, consequently, subject 
to our control. Whilst studying one science, Descartes 
is thinking of the science which, in the nature of things, 
is to come after, and bring him nearer to practice. 
The idea of the goal in view, which never leaves him, 
controls and restrains his efforts. Semper ad eventum 

This method enabled him to conceive the possibility 
of carrying through, alone, his project of instituting a 
universal science. In 1637 ne came to the conclusion 
that the truths he had found in the various sciences 
were nothing but the consequences of five or six main 
difficulties he had overcome, on which they depended ; 

1 Baillet, ii. 227. 


and he imagined he needed only to win two or three 
other like battles to bring his plans to a successful issue. 1 

Here, too, is the explanation of his apparently 
capricious passing from one science to another. From 
1623 he began to neglect geometry, 2 and six years 
afterwards plunged into metaphysical meditation, to 
which, however, he devoted only nine months. A year 
afterwards he reminds Mersenne that he has long ago 
abandoned the study of mathematics, anxious not to 
waste his time any longer in unproductive effort. From 
1629 to 1633 he is mainly occupied with physics. At 
the end of the Discours de la Methode he announces 
his intention to spend the rest of his life in wresting 
from physics a more certain medicine, or art of curing 
disease, than the one in vogue. 

This, in short, is the explanation of that particularity 
of his system for which Newton reproached him so 
strongly, viz. hypothesis, regarded in certain cases as a 
sufficient explanation of phenomena. A strict adherent 
of the principle of following the line of least resistance 
in his own method of work, Descartes contents himself, 
in his theories, with what is indispensable for practice. 
Now, from this point of view, provided it be possible 
to make a forecast of the result, it matters little that 
the mechanism of nature, in detail, should be in every 
respect what it has been conceived to be. Well aware 
that in mathematics several solutions are often possible, 
Descartes comes to regard it as sufficient, even in physics, 
if he obtains one. He believes he has done everything 
necessary if the causes he has explained are such that 
all the effects they are capable of producing are similar 
to those we find in the manifested world. He considers 
it useless to inquire whether the effects are really brought 

1 Mfth. iv. 4. 2 Baillet, i. in. 


about by these causes or by others. He thinks it is as 
useful in life to know causes thus imagined as to know 
the real ones. 1 On this point he is satisfied with moral 
certainty. 2 

In the progress of knowledge, as thus understood, 
morals cannot fail to find a place, all the more so 
because, according to Descartes, the root and trunk of 
a tree are mainly held in esteem on account of the fruit 
they should produce, and it is mostly on the sciences 
which should come last, medicine, mechanics and morals, 
that the primary utility of philosophy depends. 3 And 
Descartes does not despair of satisfying himself as 
regards these ultimate objects, in spite of the shortness 
of human life and the limits of our intelligence, for the 
very reason that he is able to economise his strength 
and demand of each science only what it can and should 
give him for the carrying out of his plans. The pro- 
ductiveness of knowledge lies not in its extent, but 
rather in its clearness and precision. 


But now, what is the nature of the morals to which 
this progress will lead ? Does it not merely tend to 
enable us to dispose of human nature, by means of the 
science of man, just as we dispose of the corporal nature, 
by means of the science of the body ? Is not psychical 
mechanics all that Descartes has in view ? 

As a matter of fact, Descartes laid the foundations 
of some such morals in his Traite des Passions, in which, 
expounding the principle governing these mental 
activities, he teaches us to modify and control them. 

1 Prindpes, iv. 104. 2 Baillet, ii. 227-8. 

3 Pref. of the Prin. Gamier, i. 192. 


As, moreover, this study shows us how far the mind 
depends on the temperament and arrangement of the 
organs of the body, Descartes distinctly concludes that, 
if it is possible to find any means whereby men, gener- 
ally, may be made wiser and more skilful, this means 
must be sought for in medicine. 

Thus would appear to be completed the edifice 
planned by our philosopher. Its culminating point is 
a system of morals, though how different from that 
indicated in the Discours de la Methode and the Lettres \ 
This latter, instinct with the spirit of antiquity or 
with Christian influences, was either an exhortation, 
a metaphysic or a religion. That of the Principcs and 
the Traite des Passions was only the final and most 
immediately practical application of modern science. 
According to the Lettres, man ought to seek outside 
of the world, in those perfections that depend solely 
on free-will, resignation, constancy, and the mystical 
love of God and men, for those things to which he is 
to bend his will. According to the Traite des Passions, 
man, a mere part of nature, could aim at nothing 
else than maintaining the integrity of his existence 
by utilising the mechanism of the universe for his 
own advantage. Now, it is easy to see how these 
scientific morals are the fruit of the Cartesian philo- 
sophy, whereas the former seem to remain outside the 
logical development of this philosophy. 

And yet, is it right to content oneself with this 
result, and declare that Descartes, as a philosopher, 
knows no other morals than applied science ? 

It is unnecessary to have recourse to such of 
Descartes' writings as deal specially with morals in 
order to see how narrow and incomplete such an inter- 
pretation would be. Speaking generally, it is not 


science that is the centre of the Cartesian philosophy ; 
it is man, or rather the reason within man. Even when 
studying the sciences of nature, it is not science itself 
that our philosopher has in view, it is the formation 
of the judgment by science. Judgment is the power 
to distinguish the true from the false in all things 
without hesitation or uncertainty. To do this we 
must develop within ourselves a kind of sense of truth. 
Mathematics, especially algebra, is a wonderful help in 
this respect. 1 By accustoming the mind to feed upon 
truth and never be satisfied with false reasons, mathe- 
matics compels it to quit its natural indifference and 
leads it in the direction of its own perfection. It is 
this mental culture, not the knowledge of particular 
truths, that forms the real utility of the sciences. 2 
They cannot be detached from reason, as the fruit is 
detached from the tree, for it is in reason that they 
have both their principle and their end. 

Descartes, however, does more than train his reason 
mechanically by exercise and habit ; he uses the intel- 
lectual force thus gained in studying the nature of 
reason itself, analysing its content, gauging its power 
and trying to discover its purpose. He rises above 
science to metaphysics. Not that this makes it neces- 
sary that he should free himself from the requirements 
of science. Rather is it science which, properly inter- 
preted, opens up the path leading to this higher know- 
ledge. He remarks that the mathematical method, 
however perfect it be, is nothing but the outer cover 
of the true method. 3 The latter, apart from the parti- 
cular form given to it by geometricians, is of universal 
import, and allows of the truths contained in any sub- 
ject being obtained. By the use of this method, then, 

1 Regulae, i. 2 M/th. iii. 5. 3 Regulae, iv. 20. 


one may succeed in strictly demonstrating the truths 
of metaphysics as well as those of geometry. To 
attempt thus to know God, oneself and the first prin- 
ciples of the science of nature, is the main use man 
ought to make of his reason. 1 

If, therefore, it is conceived that a purely natural 
philosophy has for its ultimate object the supremacy of 
man over nature, a more complete philosophy sees in 
this very supremacy only a means at the service of a 
loftier end. No longer is it merely a question of 
governing, but of doing so in the name of, and with 
a view to, reason. To moderate the influence of the 
body by medicine is indeed the most practical external 
means of helping men to become wise ; but medicine is 
not wisdom, any more than the tool is the work upon 
which it is used. 2 In the same way, to control one's 
passions, owing to our knowledge of their mechanism, 
is not the same as directing them to their true use. 
Not any thought we please should we attempt to sub- 
stitute for those which passion suggests, but rather the 
thoughts which really free the soul, those of which the 
reason approves. For it is the duty of reason to 
examine the correct value of the various benefits, the 
attaining of which depends on ourselves. 3 And even 
above the right use of the passions, which concerns the 
soul from the standpoint of its union with the body, 
Descartes places the benefits of the soul itself from the 
standpoint of its own life. There is a joy that is purely 
intellectual. 4 The soul can have its own pleasures 
apart from all else. 5 The practice of virtue, to which 

1 Letter to Mersenne, i5th April 1630, Garn. iv. 303. 

2 Baillet, ii. 11-12. 

3 Passions, art. 144. Cf. Letter to the Princess Elizabeth, ist June 1645, 
Gamier, iii. 189. 

4 Passions, art. 91. 5 Ibid. art. 212. 


these pleasures are linked, is not only a sovereign 
remedy against the passions, 1 it is also the greatest 
perfection to which one can lay claim, for it is the 
genuine action of a will that is free. 2 

Above the morals of means, then, which is hardly 
anything but applied physics, Descartes conceives of 
a morals of ends which is founded directly on the 
loftiest elements of metaphysics. Both of these morals 
are based on science, if this word is taken in its Cartesian 
sense, i.e. as signifying the clear, distinct knowledge 
both of corporeal and of spiritual things. The second, 
however, cannot be derived solely from the science of 
nature, whose domain does not include reason and will. 

Now, when Descartes undertakes to define this 
superior morals, it is only natural that he should again 
come into touch with the Stoics and other philosophers 
of antiquity, to whom the culture of reason formed 
the main interest in life. Human reason has not 
changed its nature, from the time of Aristotle to that 
of Descartes. The most perfect expressions it has met 
with, ever since men have been able to reflect, thus find 
their place in the Cartesian system, and that not as 
mere patchwork, but as integral parts thereof. 

They have not, however, been transferred into that 
system just as they were. Stoic morals, in particular, 
is for Descartes nothing but a provisional system of 
morals. To try to conquer oneself rather than fortune 
is surely the wisest decision to arrive at, as long as we 
are powerless to modify the outer world. But it is this 
very power that the Cartesian philosophy confers upon 
us ; therefore, in place of morals inculcating abstention 
it substitutes positive and active morals. Likewise, 
to endeavour to find the rules of conduct in the outer 

1 Passions, art. 148. 2 Ibid. art. 17-18. 


order of things themselves is the best course to follow, as 
long as we are ignorant of the first principles of which 
this order is a continuation. But when, as the result 
of a methodical culture of reason, man has come to 
know the principal truths from which the laws of nature 
are derived, he substitutes -and that in a precise and 
positive sense of which the ancients knew nothing 
for the maxim : " Follow nature," that other maxim : 
" Follow true reason." * 

The doctrine of a proper content of reason, and of 
man's possibility to conform things thereto, gives an 
original stamp to Cartesian morals. When brought in 
contact with a mysterious, inflexible nature, the ancients 
could only contemplate and acquiesce in it, or else 
retire within themselves. In the case of Descartes, 
reason, grounded on a science which opens out things 
for its consideration, becomes an efficient power, a 
natural force ; it assumes the task of employing in its 
own perfecting the mechanism of external things. 
And so, whereas Socrates regarded the claim to investi- 
gate the causes of physical phenomena as vain and 
sacrilegious, and the Stoics looked upon resignation and 
detachment from the world as the principle and the 
goal of all felicity, Descartes can see no limit to the 
conquests that science and by means of science, human 
reason will achieve over the world. Whereas the 
Stoics only condemned passion, in which they recog- 
nised the violence and indiscipline of brute nature, 
Descartes, by the aid of a science which penetrates to 
the causes of passion, subjugates and converts it into 
an auxiliary of reason. Man is no longer crushed by 
nature, he makes use of her. The soul, no longer a 

1 Letters to the Princess Elizabeth, ist and i5th May 1645, Gamier, 
Hi. 181, 183. 


prisoner of the body, guides and controls it. Morals 
is no longer the art of retiring from the world and 
being sufficient unto oneself; it is the command to 
make of reason which is our very essence a living, 
sovereign reality, the queen of nature. 

And this very sovereignty of reason over things is, 
to Descartes, nothing but the means it has for pursuing 
the ends proper to itself, such as the love of God, 
and interest in the all, of which one forms part. 1 Car- 
tesian metaphysics, by its method, enables us to know, 
with certainty these ultimate truths which are the 
indispensable illumination of the will. This gives 
us another originality of Descartes' morals. Most 
certainly the ancients raised the virtues to a lofty pitch ; 
but as they were ignorant of true metaphysics they 
could not possibly become well acquainted with the 
virtues, and what was called by so fine a name was 
frequently nothing more than an aberration of the will. 2 

Thus it is really for its close union with science that 
Cartesian morals is distinguished throughout. Still, 
the pure and simple statement that it is derived from 
science, especially the science of natural things, could 
not be made. In all its phases it makes use of science 
for the attainment of its object : the complete deter- 
mination of will by reason. The full realisation of 
reason is the end : all else is but the means. In all 
things, said Descartes, 3 what we must seek after is 
the bona mens ; nothing else deserves to be taken 
into consideration except in so far as it contributes 

1 Letter to the Princess Elizabeth, i5th June 1645, Gamier, iii. 192-3. 

2 Mtth. i. 10. 3 Reg. i. 


"Was uns zu thun gebtihrt, dess sind wir nur gewiss." KANT (1782). 

THE philosophy of Kant is one of the most important 
facts in the history of the human mind. Kuno Fischer, 
the well-known historian of modern philosophy, affirmed 
that it represents nothing less than a revolution of like 
nature to that wrought by Socrates when he brought 
mankind back from the study of the world to the study 
of self ; indeed, it sets before the human mind the task, 
not of discovering the principles of being and forming 
a conception of the universe, but rather of looking for 
the conditions of knowledge itself, the origin of our 
representations and judgments, and their importance. 
Windelband shrewdly said that the rationalism of Kant 
is the concentration in a living unity of all the motor 
principles of modern thought. 

Kant's philosophy, in fact, was the beginning of the 
development of German philosophy, strictly so called. 
From Fichte or Schelling on to Wundt or Riehl, there 
is not a single German philosopher who does not either 
continue or elaborate Kantian ideas. But even outside of 
Germany, Kantianism exercises an influence that grows 
greater and greater the better it is known. Though 
refuted by some, it is accepted by the rest and is one 
of the essential factors of contemporary philosophic 
thought. In France, particularly, it attracts not merely 
a keen historical interest, but a theoretical one as well. 



There exists a very flourishing French neo-criticism and 
scarcely a single philosophic dissertation appears in which 
Kant's point of view is not discussed, whilst its action 
makes itself felt even in literature and social life. 

It is no easy task to set forth the true nature of a 
doctrine dealing with present-day preoccupations and 
controversies. The safest course to pursue will be to 
leave on one side the many developments it may have 
undergone, and look upon it, as far as possible, from 
the philosopher's own standpoint. 


Kant was a contemporary of Frederick the Second and 
the French Revolution. His principal works appeared 
between 1770 and 1797. Though he valued the 
triumphs of right more highly than those of might, 
yet he would never agree to separate freedom from 
order and discipline. The moral environment, in which 
his thought developed, was Pietism on the one hand, 
and the philosophy of the eighteenth century on the other. 
Pietism, which is opposed to abstract, theological Pro- 
testantism, set practice before dogma ; it extolled feeling 
and the spirit of devotion, interior piety and the private, 
individual interpretation of the Scriptures. The philo- 
sophy of the eighteenth century, the philosophy of en- 
lightenment (Aufklarungsphilosophie), as it was called in 
Germany, teaches that all the evil from which mankind 
suffers, is the result of ignorance and of the bondage that 
succeeds it, and also that the progress of enlightenment, in 
itself alone, procures happiness and its ensuing liberation. 

The life of Kant may be divided into three main 
periods, that correspond to the different phases of his 
philosophic development : ist, childhood and youth 

KANT 257 

from 1724 to 1755, a P er id f study and preliminary 
essays ; 2nd, the years he spent as Privatdozent, from 
1755 to 1770, immediately preceding his critical work; 
3rd, his professorship, from 1770 to 1797, devoted to 
criticism and the development of his teachings. 

Immanuel Kant was born in KOnigsberg on the 
22nd of April 1724. This town, in which the whole 
of his life was destined to be spent almost without a 
break, was a large commercial centre to which there 
flocked a considerable number of Jews, Poles, English 
and Dutch. Here the philosopher found ample material 
for psychological and moral observations. KOnigsberg, 
a university town, was likewise the centre of intellectual 
and political life in the Duchy of Prussia. 

The family of Kant was of Scotch origin. His name 
was spelt Cant, which, as it was pronounced tsant in 
German, he changed to Kant. His father was a saddler, 
poor and of stern morality. His mother, Anna Regina 
Reuter, says our philosopher, was a woman of consider- 
able intelligence and lofty ideals ; she was an earnest 
and devout Pietist, though her religion was free from 
both mysticism and fanaticism. Kant was the fourth in 
a family of eleven children. The importance of and 
respect for everything that was religious and moral was 
inculcated on him from his earliest years. He quietly 
acquiesced in this influence and retained a keen and 
pious memory thereof throughout life. 

At the age of nine he entered the Collegium 
Fredericanum, the master of which was Franz Albert 
Schulz, professor of theology at the University of 
KOnigsberg. Schulz was Kant's first master. An 
ardent Pietist, he put his entire soul into his teachings. 
From him Kant learnt to regard interior piety as 
superior to reasoning, and practice as more important 



than dogma. It may be noted that he invariably spoke 
with respect and gratitude of his Pietist masters. Was 
it the philosopher, or was it the former Pietist, who, in 
1782, wrote in the epitaph of Lilienthal, the minister 
who had married his parents, the line : 

Was uns zu thun gebiihrt, des sind wir nur gewiss ? l 

Kant spent seven years at the Collegium Fredericanum. 
He was devoted to Latin and to Roman stoicism, which 
he looked upon as the religion of discipline. Right to 
the end of his life he adopted as his motto these lines 
of Juvenal : 

Summum crede nefas animam praeferre pudori 
Et propter vitam vivendi perdere causas. 

In 1740, at the age of seventeen, he entered the 
University of Konigsberg, intending to study theology. 
His idea at the time was to become a minister, but he 
quickly changed his mind. At first he attended the 
classes of Martin Knutzen, professor of mathematics 
and philosophy. Knutzen was his second master, and 
he too was a Pietist. Although a disciple of Wolf in 
philosophy, he was opposed to dualism, and came round 
to the genuine teaching of Leibnitz, according to which 
representative and motor force participate in and imply 
each other. 

Kant was indebted to Knutzen for his acquaintance 
with the works of Newton, who may be called his 
third, and perhaps his principal master. The New- 
tonian philosophy was to Kant an experimental proof 
of the possibility of an a priori knowledge of nature. 
Henceforth it was his object to explain this possibility, 
and along that line to become, in a way, the Newton 
of metaphysics. 

1 What duty calls upon us to do, of that alone are we certain. 

KANT 259 

Knutzen did much to turn Kant from theology to 
philosophy. And, by degrees, he dropped the strict 
orthodoxy of his Pietism, retaining nothing but its 
moral rigidity. 

Unable to obtain a living on the fees from his 
lessons, Kant became a private tutor in 1746, in which 
capacity he remained for nine years. He was thus 
brought into connection with foreigners and the 
nobility, and began to take considerable interest in 
foreign literature and politics. He went into society, 
anxious to show himself a worthy citizen. 

This the first period of his life concluded with the 
anonymous publication of his Universal History of Nature 
and Theory of the Heavens (1755), a work that prepared 
the way for the theory of Laplace on the formation of 
the heavenly bodies. 

After obtaining promotion by the writing of a dis- 
sertation on fire, and habitation by one on the first 
principles of metaphysical knowledge, he was appointed 
Pr'matdozent. He taught mathematics, physics, the 
theory of fortification, pyrotechnics, logic, morals, and 
philosophical Encyclopedism. His teaching was full of 
life. Whatever his subject, he spoke as one possessed 
of special knowledge, the result being that he met with 
considerable success. Between 1760 and 1769 he also 
lectured on natural theology, anthropology, criticism of 
the proofs of the existence of God, and the doctrine 
of the beautiful and the sublime. 

Here we find the influence of Rousseau, whose 
works were then becoming known and being consider- 
ably discussed. Kant devoured Rousseau's books and 
was thus brought to take a passionate interest in moral 
problems, the combat against prejudice, and the return 
to nature and reason. Rousseau taught him, he tells 


us, not to despise man's natural tendencies. Physical 
science a priori as a fact was what he had found in 
Newton ; Rousseau now made him see morality as a 
fact. These facts he purposed to analyse. 

With the object of thoroughly investigating moral 
questions, he read the English moralists : Shaftesbury, 
Hutcheson and Hume. Shortly afterwards, about 
1762, he became acquainted not only with the moral 
but also with the metaphysical theories of Hume. This 
initiation proved to be a psychological moment in the 
development of his thought. " Hume was the first," 
he says, " to shake me out of my dogmatic indolence 
and start me on a fresh line of investigation in the 
domain of speculative philosophy." He adds immedi- 
ately afterwards : " Of course, I was careful not to 
accept his conclusions." To his mind, Hume's skepti- 
cism was adequately refuted by the reality of moral 
action. His object was to do justice to Hume's 
criticisms in so far as they were well founded without 
agreeing with his conclusions, to steer his course safely 
between the Scylla of skepticism and the Charybdis of 
dogmatism. A slight clue which he found in Locke 
(book 4, chap. 3, 9, etc.) proved the starting point 
of his own theory. And so Hume's influence, though 
certainly considerable, manifested itself in Kant as a note 
of warning or a stimulus for reflection. There is no proof 
that Kant passed through a phase of skepticism ; it was 
to escape from Hume's skepticism that he sought to 
take a stand outside traditional dogmatism. 

It may be that his transcendental idealism drew its 
inspiration from the teaching of Leibnitz, now set forth 
in all its purity in the New Essays, which appeared in 
1765. Leibnitz demonstrated how the principle of 
innateness may be held, whilst considering experience 

KANT 261 

as indispensable to the formation of knowledge. Kant's 
forms and categories, however, are quite different from 
the Leibnitzian virtualities. 

To become an ordinary professor, Kant wrote and 
defended a dissertation in Latin on the form and prin- 
ciples of both the sensible and the intelligible worlds 
(1770). He was appointed to the University of 
KOnigsberg by Frederick II., at a salary of 400 thalers 
(60 pounds sterling). From that time he refused all 
invitations from other Universities. He now lectured 
publicly only on logic and metaphysics, and privately 
on natural law, morals, natural theology, anthropology 
and physical geography. His ability as a professor was 
wonderful ; he did not teach his pupils philosophy, he 
rather trained them to become philosophers. His lessons 
were simple, clear and attractive ; he reserved all 
abstruse deductions and special terminology for his 
books intended for scholars. On moral subjects he 
spoke with warmth and conviction ; his eloquence was 
virile, leaving a profound impression on the souls of his 

The problem of the criticism of human knowledge was 
not long before it captivated him. How can we explain 
why ideas, conceived of a priori, conform with things 
that exist outside of ourselves ? At first he thought he 
would be able to answer the question in a few months : 
he spent twelve years on it. Even then he allowed 
himself only four or five months to put his thoughts 
into words, for fear of delaying the solution too long. 
It was at Riga, in the beginning of 178 1, that the Critique 
of Pure Reason appeared, one of the pillars of human 
thought. Kant was then fifty-seven years of age. The 
originality and purport of his book were not at first 


understood. No one cared to regard him as anything 
else than a Platonic dreamer or a Cartesian idealist; 
Hamann called him a Prussian Hume. Kant stoutly 
explained his position in a treatise entitled : Prolegomena 
to all Future Metaphysic that may present itself as Science 
(1783), and also in the preface to the second edition of 
the Critique (1787). Sure of his principles, he con- 
centrated his efforts more and more exclusively on 
developing their consequences, finishing his work of 
criticism, and establishing on this basis a complete 
doctrine of speculative and moral philosophy. His 
writings devoted to this task appeared between 1785 
and 1797. 

His reputation began to increase. In 1790, Fichte, 
then quite a young man, forwarded him his Aphorisms 
on Religion and Deism, along with an enthusiastic letter. 
Schiller studied his teachings on esthetics and induced 
Goethe to do the same. J. P. Richter recorded his 
opinion that Kant was not so much a light of the 
world as an entire system of dazzling suns. His fame 
spread to Holland and England. His dissertation on 
eternal peace, published in 1795, was translated into 

The government accorded him its esteem and pro- 
tection. Once only was he near receiving a check in 
the promulgation of his doctrines : when writing on 
religious subjects. In 1792 he had sent an article on 
the root evil in human nature to the Berlin Monthly 
Review, and the Board of Censors had authorized its 
insertion. A second article, however, on the struggle 
between the good and the evil principles, was not 
accepted. Now, Kant had still two more to bring out. 
Refused by the Board, he applied to the Faculty of 
Theology, who granted the imprimatur. The four 

KANT 263 

dissertations appeared under the title, Religion within 
the Limits of Reason alone (1793). The government 
grew alarmed at the success of the book, and on 
the ist of October 1794 Kant received a letter asking 
for an explanation and commanding him never again 
to write on the subject of religion. Outwardly Kant 
yielded, and gave a written promise not to teach or 
write on religion " as a loyal subject of His Royal 
Majesty." When the king, however, died in 1797, 
he regarded himself as released from his promise. 

In other respects he lived quietly enough, though he 
was very sympathetic towards the French Revolution. 
This sympathy is a special characteristic of his moral 
make-up. He looked upon the Revolution as an effort 
to establish the organisation of human societies on 
reason. Even after 1794 he persevered in his political 
convictions though he despaired of a favourable issue to 
events in France itself. To the very end he believed 
in the justice and practical value of theory ; in right, as 
a principle ; and in eternal peace, as the practicable goal 
of politics. Behind personal disputings he saw the 
conflict between history and philosophy, between the 
positive and the rational ; in all things he relied on the 
triumph of reason. 

After the year 1790 his intellectual powers began to 
decline, and in 1797 he resigned his professorship. All 
the same, he continued to work right on to the end. 
The book on which he was engaged was to be his 
chef-d" ceuvre, his object being to explain the transition 
from the metaphysics of the science of nature to physics. 
This work, which he left unfinished, was lost ; it has 
been found recently. Kant's last year of life was 
marked by ever -increasing feebleness of body. He 
died on the I2th of February 1804. His last words 


were : Es ist gut (It is well). His funeral took place 
amid universal homage and admiration. The body was 
interred beneath the arcades of Konigsberg Cathedral. 
Several statues were erected in his honour, the most 
famous being the one by Rauch in Konigsberg. Kant 
was a man of small, short stature, only a little over five 
feet in height, with poorly developed bones and muscles, 
a narrow, almost concave chest, the right shoulder joint 
slightly displaced, high forehead and fine blue eyes. A 
cast of his head was taken by Knorr, and his remains 
were exhumed in 1880. 

Kant lived for philosophy alone. He held no 
political office and never married. All the same, he 
did. not consider it possible to be a philosopher, without 
at the same time being a man, and so regarded it as 
necessary to come into contact with the realities of life 
before attempting to understand and regulate them. 
In his loftiest aspirations he was careful not to overstep 
the limits of this terrestrial world of ours. His object 
was to live here below in accordance with his own 
principles, which he looked upon as absolute and followed 
out to the letter. To his mind, the reconciliation of 
law and independence was to be found in reason ; by 
it he determined to form his opinions and control his 
life. In politics he professed liberalism, but would 
not admit of any separation between liberty and order, 
whilst he maintained a conscientious respect for estab- 
lished power. In religion he was a rationalist, though 
he deemed it right to uphold the spirit of Christianity, 
and valued the work done by the positive religions. In 
philosophy he attacked dogmatism, though rejecting 
skepticism. In morals he repudiated all exterior laws, 
though obeying an interior command of greater severity 

KANT 265 

than the laws he rejected. Boldness in speculation, 
respect towards practical life and the material order of 
things : such were his distinguishing traits. 

Kant was a thinker more than a writer. Some of 
his earlier works such as the Observations on the Beautiful 
and the Sublime ', the Methodology of the Critique of Pure 
Reason, and, speaking generally, the passages in which 
he expresses his moral convictions, manifest a facile, 
pleasing and vigorous style. In metaphysical analysis, 
however, his style is complicated, laboured and redun- 
dant, and often only the more obscure from the fact that 
the author has made every effort to be clear. Kant's 
work is a thought seeking its form. In more finished 
shape, would it have stirred the human intellect to the 
same degree ? 

The following is a chronological list of Kant's 
principal works, written, for the most part, in German : 

Thoughts on the True Estimate of Living Force (Vis Fiva}^ 
and an Investigation into the Proofs of Leibnitz and other 
Mechanical Philosophers thereon (1747). Kant, in this 
work, reconciles the doctrines of Descartes and Leibnitz 
with each other, as regards the measurement of the force 
of a moving body. 

Has the Earth^ from its Origin^ undergone any Modifications in 
its Rotatory Motion ? (magazine article, 1754). Relying 
on Newton's principles Kant clearly shows that the speed 
of the earth's rotation must have diminished. 

Is the Earth growing Old ? A research made from the physical 
standpoint (article, 1754). 

A Universal History of Nature and Theory of the Heavens^ 
dealing with the System and Mechanical Origin of the 
Universe^ in accordance with Newton's Principles (1755), a 
famous work that appeared anonymously, with a dedica- 
tion to Frederick II., and serving as a kind of prelude to the 
exposition of the world-system, published by Laplace in 1 796. 


Brief Account of some "Thoughts on Fire (in Latin) (1755). 
Heat, like light, is a vibratory movement of the ether. 

A New Explanation of the First Principles of Metaphysical 
Knowledge (1755), a thesis in Latin; written to obtain 
the right to be appointed privatdocent. It deals with the 
principles of contradiction and determinative reason. 

Three dissertations On Earthquakes that took place at >uito and 
Lisbon in 1755. 

Physical Monadology (1756), Latin thesis; Kant defended this 
thesis with a view to a professorship which he did not 
obtain. In it he transformed the monad of Leibnitz into 
a physical atom. 

Explanatory Remarks on the Theory of the Winds (1756), a 
precise explanation of periodical winds. 

A New Conception of Motion and Rest (1758). 

A Few Thoughts on Optimism (1759). Kant claims that 
everything is good if we regard things as a whole. At 
the end of his life he repudiated this work, inspired by 

The False Subtlety of the Four Syllogistic Figures (1762). The 
first figure alone, he affirmed, was pure and primitive. 

An Attempt to Introduce into Philosophy the Notion of Negative 
Quantities (1763). Real opposition, in which the two 
terms are equally positive in themselves cannot be reduced 
to logical opposition, in which one of the terms contradicts 
the other. 

The only possible Foundation for a Demonstration of the Exist- 
ence of God (1763). The possible, regarded not in its 
form but in its matter or data, presupposes existence, and, 
in the final analysis, the existence of a necessary being. 

An Essay on the Evidence of the Fundamental Propositions of 
Natural Theology and Ethics (1764), a work written for a 
competition inaugurated by the Berlin Academy. Kant 
obtained only the accessit^ the prize being awarded to 
Mendelssohn. Both contrast philosophy with mathe- 
matics, and Kant concludes that the methods employed in 
the latter are not suitable for the former. 

Observations on the Sentiment of the Beautiful and the Sublime 
(1764) ; a work on morals and criticism. 

KANT 267 

Programme of Classes for the Winter Session (1765-17 66). The 
education of the various faculties of the mind should 
precede the acquiring of knowledge. In this treatise a 
critical propensity begins to show itself. 

Dreams of a Spirit-seer (or Clairvoyant] explained by the Dreams 
of Metaphysic (i 766, anonymous). This work was inspired 
by Swedenborg's visions. Kant here appears in a skeptical 
and somewhat inconsiderate vein, a la Voltaire. The 
only difference between illuminism and metaphysics, to his 
mind, is that the former is the dream of sentiment, the 
latter that of reason ; one is no better than the other. 
Let us not claim to know the unknowable. 

Grounds for distinguishing Positions in Space (1768). A refuta- 
tion of the Leibnitzian theory which posits things before 
space, this latter being reduced to nothing but a concept. 
According to Kant, we must admit the existence of 
universal, absolute space. 

Form and Principles of the Sensible and the Intelligible Worlds 
(1770), a dissertation in Latin, written in order to 
obtain the right of being appointed professor of logic 
and metaphysics. Kant breaks away from dogmatism as 
regards sensible though not intelligible knowledge. 

Letters to Marcus Herz^ from 1770 to 1781. Kant endeavours 
to find some mean between idealism and realism. 

The Different Human Races. The races are varieties that 
have become stable. A true history of natural beings 
would doubtless reduce many so-called species to the 
position of simple races, the offshoot of one common 

The Critique of Pure Reason (1781). Theoretical knowledge 
implies both intuition and necessary connection. As we 
can realise the first condition only with regard to sensible 
things, these latter are the only ones we can know 
theoretically. In 1787, Kant published a second edition 
of the Critique. Whether the changes in this second 
edition refer to the substance or only to the form is a 
much-disputed question. Rosenkranz, Schopenhauer and 
Kuno Fischer agree that a thorough modification took 
place, tending to restore the " thing-in-itself," which, 


they alleged, the first edition had abolished. According 
to Kant himself, the second edition merely emphasises 
the realistic side of the doctrine, an aspect that had been 
disregarded by certain readers. Kant's affirmation may 
very well be maintained. The first edition did not abolish 
the " thing-in-itself," but rather the theoretical knowledge 
of the u thing-in-itself," a very different matter. 

Prolegomena to all Future Metaphysics which may present itself 
as Science (1783). This short work gives an analytical 
exposition of the doctrine which the Critique of Pure 
Reason had set forth synthetically, and rectifies the mistakes 
made with reference to certain points in this doctrine. 

Notion of a Universal History in a Cosmopolitan Sense (magazine 
article, 1784). 

Answer to the question : What is enlightenment ? (magazine 
article, 1784). Enlightenment, says Kant, is the emanci- 
pation of the intelligence. 

An Account of Herder s work entitled : Ideas on the Philosophy of 
the History of Mankind (magazine article, 1785). Kant 
rejects the doctrine of the essential unity of nature and 

Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785; 4th edition, 
1797). Here Kant determines and affirms the funda- 
mental principle of morality. 

Metaphysical Elements of Natural Science (1786 ; 3rd edition, 
1800). In this work the axioms of pure physics are given. 

Conjectures on the Beginning of Human History (1786). 

Corporeal Medicine in so far as it comes under Philosophy ', a 
discourse in Latin (1786 or 1788). 

The Employment of Teleological Principles in Philosophy (article, 

Critique of Practical Reason (1788; 6th edition, 1827). A 
determination of the nature of the moral law, and of the 
kind of adhesion that practical principles allow of. 

Critique of Judgment (1790; 3rd edition, 1799). Here Kant 
deals with the basis and value of the ideas of beauty and 

Illuminism and the Remedies against it (1790). Dissertation on 

KANT 269 

The Failure of all Philosophic Effort in Theodicy (1791). 

Religion within the Bounds of Reason only (1793 ; 2nd edition, 
1794). The deduction or legitimation of religion. Only 
what relates to morals is founded on religion. We must 
tend to make religion purely rational. 

The Commonplace Remark : " That is all Right in Theory but 
Worthless in Practice" (magazine article, 1793). Kant 
rejects this well-known aphorism not only as regards 
morality, but also with reference to political and human 

The Influence of the Moon upon the Weather (article, 1 794). 

Eternal Peace, a Philosophical Essay (1795). Eternal peace 
Kant regards as the goal of the historic development of 
mankind, and that, not from sentiment, but from the idea 
of justice. 

Metaphysical Principles of the Theory of Right (1797 ; 2nd 
edition, 1798). The theory of right or legality as deduced 
from the criticism of practical reason. 

Metaphysical Principles of the Theory of Virtue (1797 ; 2nd 
edition, 1803). The theory of morality, also as the result 
of criticism. These two latter works bear the title : 
Metaphysics of Morals. 

Contest of the Faculties (to this work is added an article that 
appeared in 1797 : The Power of the Mind to Master its 
Morbid Feelings by Will alone] (i 798). This was the conflict 
of the Faculty of Philosophy, representing rational truth, 
with the three other Faculties : Theology, Law, and 
Medicine, representing the positive disciplines. 

Anthropology Treated from the Pragmatic Point of View (1798 ; 
2nd edition, 1800). Pragmatic anthropology is the art of 
using men for one's own purposes. 

Logic, a work published by Jasche (1800). 

Physical Geography, published by Rink (1802-1803). 

Paedagogics, published by Rink (1803). Notes taken from 

several lectures delivered by Kant on this subject. 
Transition from the Metaphysical Principles of the Science of 
Nature to Physics, an unfinished work, written between 
1783 and 1803, first published by Reicke between 1882 
and 1884 in the Altpreussische Monatsschriften, and then, 


more completely, by Albrecht Krause (1888). Here we 
have the progress of deduction proceeding from the meta- 
physics of material nature to experimental physics regarded 
as a science, i.e. as a system. 

Kant's Reflections on Critical Philosophy^ published by Benno 
Erdmann (1882-1884). 

Letters. About a hundred, nineteen of which were addressed 
to Marcus Herz. 


On the 2Oth of August 1777 Kant left it on record 
that his investigations, hitherto professional and frag- 
mentary, had finally taken systematic form and brought 
him to the idea of the whole. Thus, in the first place, 
the development of Kantian thought shows a long 
period of formation, during which works of different 
kinds were undertaken for themselves alone without 
reference to a general standpoint, and afterwards 
brought together with a view to being reconciled with 
each other. And so Kant's thought progresses from 
the parts to the whole. His main idea is arrived at by 
a process of synthesis. This first period extends to 
the time of his elaboration of criticism, i.e. up to and 
including the year 1770. 

The starting-point of Kantian thought is, on the 
one hand, a substratum of Christian, and more especi- 
ally of Pietistic beliefs, faith in duty, the cult of moral 
intention, conviction of the superiority of practice over 
dogmatism ; on the other, a very clear, keen sense of 
science, the determination to be guided, so far as a 
knowledge of nature is concerned, only by the evidence 
of experience and mathematical reasoning. Hence- 
forth Kant is principally concerned with the connec- 
tion between science and religion ; this, too, after both 

KANT 271 

have been developed in his mind independently, each 
according to its own method. 

During the antecritical period Kant meditates in 
turn on the divers objects presented both by his studies 
and by the circumstances of life. 

From 1747 to 1755 he is a Leibnitzo-Wolfian, 
though with a tendency to accentuate the difference 
between the mathematical and the real. 

With Newton, he studies the mechanism of the 
heavens, from 1754 to 1763. Like him, he determines 
to employ experience only in conjunction with mathe- 
matics. Newton, however, did not state the problem 
of origins. Kant believes that the method which has 
established the present system is capable of going 
back to the genesis of this very system : the forces that 
preserve must also be the forces that have created. 
He undertakes to trace not only the possible but the 
real, the actual history of the formation of the world. 

In the beginning was one homogeneous, elementary 
matter, moved by forces of attraction and repulsion : a 
gaseous chaos. This matter was maintained in a state 
of extreme tenuity by being kept at a very high 
temperature. In obedience to the forces contained 
within itself this chaos is subjected to a movement of 
rotation. Purely as the result of these physical condi- 
tions the homogeneous becomes differentiated. Rota- 
tion occasions the formation of nebulae, which themselves 
acquire a rotatory movement. In turn these nebulae, 
as the result of the centrifugal force, produce rings, and 
these rings represent the orbits of future planets. Then 
the rings break, and collect together again in planets. 
Satellites are formed in the same way. 

The scientific value of this theory is now recognised 
even by such men as Helmholtz (Mdmoire sur la conser- 


vation de la force , 1847) anc ^ F ave (Revue scienttfique^ 

The theory was the result of purely scientific con- 
siderations. Kant, however, at once confronts it with 
the teachings of religion. Religion, he says, has 
nothing to fear from a doctrine which, though dis- 
missing accidental and extrinsic finality, as met with in 
the works of men, implies, on the other hand, a fruitful 
and essential finality, which alone is truly worthy of 
God. Besides, who will ever be able to say, " Give 
me matter and motion and I will make a snail " ? At 
its very lowest stage life is immeasurably superior to 
mechanism ; it is a witness to God. 

Following on Wolf, Kant studies the relations 
between possibility and existence (1755). The prin- 
ciple of contradiction is the law of the former ; the 
principle of determining reason, irreducible to that of 
contradiction, is the law of the latter. Determining 
reason is either antecedently determining and a reason 
of existence, or subsequently determining and a reason 
of knowledge. Antecedently determining reason alone 
gives us complete science. From these principles Kant 
deduces the impossibility of, explaining, solely by the 
analysis of their distinctive essence, either change or 
the real connection between substances* All rela- 
tions between substances must come from without. 
Thus, succession has its foundation in an external 
action which constitutes the reality of the world, whilst 
coexistence is based on an extrinsic connection which 
implies the existence of God. And so, speculating 
on Wolr's metaphysics, Kant ends in a deduction of the 
principles of Newtonianism. His system at this period 
may be defined as realistic mechanism dependent on 
natural theology. 

KANT 273 

Dealing with the relations between philosophy and 
mathematics, as did his contemporaries (1756-1764), 
Kant neither admits that the concepts of the mathema- 
ticians, infinite divisibility, an absolute plenum, the 
exclusive mechanism of all notion of force, are intel- 
ligible to the understanding, nor that these concepts 
are meaningless and devoid of real value. Though a 
stumbling-block to the logician, mathematics is none 
the less the key of the science of nature, as Newton 
proved. The problem is to reconcile mathematics 
with transcendental philosophy, not to sacrifice the one 
to the other. Now, if we analyse the conditions of 
mathematical speculation, and those of philosophic 
speculation, we find that in both cases the object is a 
synthesis, but that in the former it is built up by the 
mind, and in the latter it is given to the mind. Hence, 
the method that suits the one is useless for the other. 
Everything referring to dimension will be dealt with 
mathematically, but if we would know qualities and 
existences, we shall use experience and metaphysical 
systematisation, along with Newton. There are two 
certainties, two outlooks upon nature : that of mathe- 
matical proof and that of experience. These two 
paths of knowledge, starting from opposite poles, can 
never meet. 

Yielding to the influence of the aesthetician Baum- 
garten, Rousseau and the English philosophers, Kant 
takes up the questions of taste and morals (1763-1766). 
His method consists in taking, as his starting-point, 
an impartial observation of human nature. We must 
proceed, he says, from what is to what ought to be. 
His observation, however, in spite of himself, is tinged 
with metaphysical analysis. In the given he is about 
to discover the absolute. What he thinks he ought 



to observe is not so much ideas and things as the inner 
movements of sensibility. Taking this point of view, 
he is led to make a profound distinction between the 
beautiful and the sublime. This distinction introduces 
enlightenment and precision into literature and art. 
Thus, it is the province of tragedy to be sublime, that 
of comedy to be beautiful. The distinction likewise 
applies to morals. True virtue is sublime ; good quali- 
ties : a kind heart, the sense of honour, modesty, are only 
beautiful. The spring of virtue is the sentiment of the 
beauty and dignity of human nature, regarded as a 
motive of action. This principle must be understood 
in a formal sense : it consists essentially of an obligatory 
rule. This principle, too, is impossible of demonstra- 
tion ; and it is good that it should be so. Providence 
has not willed that knowledge indispensable to our 
happiness should depend on subtle reasoning ; it has 
entrusted such knowledge to natural common sense. 

Swedenborg's claim that he held direct communica- 
tion with spirits, affords Kant an opportunity to examine 
the value of metaphysics, so far as it also affirms the 
possibility of becoming acquainted with suprasensible 
existences (1763-1766). Metaphysics seems to meet 
with unexpected confirmation in the facts affirmed by 
illuminism. It is apparently justified by the theory it 
advances thereof, as Newtonianism is justified by the 
explanation it affords of the experimental laws of motion. 
Unfortunately, illuminism can be explained in a far 
simpler and more satisfactory manner, as hallucination 
caused by certain organic disturbances. Might it not 
then possibly happen that metaphysics had a like origin ? 
What if it were, after all, a mere hallucination of the 
understanding, endowing the phantoms of sensible 
hallucination with an apparently logical existence ? All 

KANT 275 

the same, we must beware of leaping to the conclusion 
that metaphysics is altogether inane. In one scale of 
the balance it places the hope of a future life. Now, 
we could not will that this weight remain actionless on 
our mind. What we do know, is that we can expect 
nothing from experience calculated to confirm our moral 
and religious beliefs. But these beliefs need no experi- 
mental confirmation ; they both will and ought to be 
free. In a word, the result of our examination is that 
we must offer the following new definition of meta- 
physics, one alike favourable to practice and imposed 
upon theory : metaphysics is the science of the limits 
of human reason. 

Kant, like Leibnitz, studies the nature of space and 
time (1768-1770). Several facts of experience, includ- 
ing the real existence of symmetrical figures, prove that 
geometrical space is no mere consequence of the relations 
between things in point of position, but rather the basis 
of the possibility of these relations. The reality of 
absolute space being thus established, Kant asks himself 
how space is possible, i.e. conceivable without contra- 
diction. Space and time are known a priori ; at the 
same time they are intuitions. How can these two 
characteristics be reconciled ? The only way of doing 
so, is to regard space and time as the conditions imposed 
on the human mind, by its very nature, for the percep- 
tion of sensible objects. Space and time do not concern 
things as they are in themselves, but only as they 
appear to our sensibility. The " critique " idea has 
come to birth, but Kant applies it, so far, only to 
sensible or mathematical knowledge. 

It was through Hume's influence that Kant's thought, 
which had hitherto wandered over all kinds of subjects, 
was finally to become concentrated and steadied (1762- 


1780). Hume's dialectic made such an impression on 
Kant's mind that he soon thought of nothing else than 
solving the difficulties raised by the famous skeptic. In 
this task his true originality was shown, and there 
blossomed forth the idea which was to be the soul of his 
philosophy. Kant had long ago pondered on the rela- 
tion between cause and effect, he soon saw the element 
of strangeness in a connection which could not be 
analytical, and yet was necessary. Still, he did not 
think of criticising its legitimacy. It was Hume who 
roused him out of his dogmatic calmness, proclaiming 
that the concept of causality a concept foreign to 
reason, formed by nothing but imagination on the occa- 
sion of a mere habit and under the influence of some 
obscure instinct could have no object outside of our- 
selves. Kant refused to follow Hume in the deductions 
the latter claimed to found on this analysis of his. 
Indeed, what would become of the freedom of the will, 
the condition of moral determination, if there existed 
for us nothing but phenomena ; and what would become 
of science itself, the knowledge of things as necessary, 
if causality were nothing more than a subjective con- 
nection ? In Kant's mind, science and morals are given, 
as are also the characteristics peculiar to them ; it is 
the part of philosophy to explain their possibility or 
conditions, not to discuss their reality. 

And so Hume's thesis was not a doctrine, but rather 
a problem, a starting-point for Kant. How comes it 
to pass that a relation, the terms of which are hetero- 
geneous, should also be posited as necessary as valid 
for things ? This was the question to be answered. 

First, he had to satisfy himself that the principle of 
causality did not proceed from experience, for in that 
event its necessity would have been radically unintelli- 

KANT 277 

gible. Having noticed, however, that many other 
concepts, such as those of substance, mutual action, etc., 
held the same position as the one with which Hume had 
grappled, and having succeeded in determining the exact 
number of these concepts by means of a single principle, 
a thing impossible in the case of concepts of experience, 
Kant from that time regarded it as established that the 
concept of cause may be acknowledged to have an origin 
a priori. And yet, can there conceivably be concepts 
that are at once a priori and synthetical ! Have we 
not here two incompatible characteristics? This was 
Hume's idea, and so he gave up the problem, discarding 
causality in favour of experience. The reason was that 
he shared a prevailing error of the age upon an im- 
portant point closely connected with the question : the 
nature of mathematical judgments. These latter he 
regarded as analytical, and so refused to consider them. 
In reality, they are synthetical ; and as their character 
of necessity and apriority is indisputable, and even un- 
disputed, they afford an instance of the effective union, 
within our knowledge, of apriority and synthetic con- 
nection. There is nothing, therefore, to prevent the 
judgment of causality from being both synthetic and 

Nevertheless, it is not enough for it to be necessary 
in the sense that mathematical judgments are necessary. 
Necessary, in the sense of causal connection, means : 
applicable a priori to real things. How is such a 
property possible ? If objects were produced by the 
understanding, or ideas by objects, the agreement between 
concepts and things would afford no difficulty ; but such 
is not the case : mind and things form two distinct 
worlds. Then how does the mind come to have the 
right to dictate laws for things ? It acquires this right, 


answers Kant, from the conditions of experience itself, 
both inner and outer : no other explanation is possible. 
This view, the origin of transcendental deduction, is 
the goal of the regressive movement occasioned by 
Hume's criticism. It includes the formula of Kant's 
criticism, and the central idea of the system he is now 
to build up. 


The Kantian criticism of pure reason is strictly a 
theory of science. As Newton sought for the principle 
governing the system of celestial bodies, so Kant seeks 
for the principle governing the system of our knowledge. 
Science is given, just as the universe is given ; philosophy 
does not ask whether it is possible or not, but how it 
is possible, i.e. conceivable without contradiction. 

Science consists of two disciplines, mathematics and 
physics, and the union of the two ; we must take these 
facts into account. Mathematics consists of a priori 
synthetic judgments, i.e. judgments in which the subject 
is attached a priori to a predicate not contained in it. 
It is the same with physics. Ever since the time of 
Newton, the certainty of physics, which deals with 
things themselves, is in no way inferior to that of 
mathematics, which deals only with relations of dimen- 
sion. How are these characteristics intelligible, whence 
do they proceed, and what is science, considered in its 
generating principles ? It is the object of Kant's in- 
vestigations to answer these questions. 

And it is the province of philosophy to institute 
these investigations. Now, the inviolable principle 
philosophy gives us in this matter, is the following : 
all our knowledge has its starting-point in experience. 
We have to discover if, from this principle, there can 

KANT 279 

be deduced the theory of science, as given to us. 
Thus, the problem resolves itself into the following 
question : " What is experience ? Is it an irreducible 
unity, or can analysis discern different elements in it ? 
Of these elements, are there any a 'priori ? Will these 
a priori elements account for the necessity proper to 
the judgments of science, and in what way ? " 

In experience, an object is first given, secondly 
thought. How is that possible ? 

For an object to be given to us, it must be presented 
in space and time. Are the notions of space and time 
supplied by experience ? No, for before experience, 
we know that the objects given will be given in space 
and time. Consequently, they are a priori elements. 
What is their nature ? Are they concepts ? No, for 
space and time are objects that are integral, homo- 
geneous, and infinite, characteristics opposed to those 
offered by the objects of the concepts. Space and 
time are substrata of the things and objects of intuition. 
Then, are they suprasensible realities outside of our- 
selves ? No, for the conception of two infinite non- 
beings as substances is impossible. After all, the 
representation of space and time can only be an intuition 
resting on the form of our sensibility. Space and time 
are our way of seeing things. 

But then, if such is the case, are not our ideas of 
place and duration purely subjective ? With such 
a doctrine, what is to become of the truth of mathe- 
matics ? 

The objection is groundless, for, as a matter of fact, 
it is in dogmatic theories, isolating the sensible from 
the mathematical, that the agreement of the one with 
the other is undemonstrable. Mathematics is justified 
if regarded in its true nature as a system of a priori 


synthetic judgments, when once objects are capable of 
affecting us only by becoming subject to the laws of time 
and space. Doubtless we cannot say that things, in 
themselves, possess modes of being that we can only 
explain as forms of our power to feel. But we know, 
a priori^ that every object of our sensibility will con- 
form with mathematics, and that is sufficient to insure 
the objectivity of this science. Transcendental ideality 
and empirical reality are the two characteristics of time 
and space. They explain and determine the possibility 
of mathematics. 

This is the explanation of the first condition of 
experience : there is a second. For an object to be 
given is not sufficient, it must also be thought. Does 
thought imply a priori elements ? 

Thought consists in setting up between two terms 
an objective relationship of subject and predicate, i.e. in 
affirming that the one, really and of necessity, belongs 
to the other. This is what takes place, for instance, 
when we say that one thing is the cause or substance 
of another. Such a connection cannot be supplied by 
experience, which gives nothing necessary. There- 
fore, it is known a priori, though in what way ? If we 
consider logic as it has been conceived of ever since the 
time of Aristotle, we note that it supplies many necessary 
connections, but yet is unable to determine one term as 
being a real subject regarding the other. In every 
declaration relative to existence, there is something 
more than simple logic. To affirm of an object that it 
is a cause, is to go beyond the limits of its concept. 
Now, we are without that intellectual intuition of the 
whole, which alone would enable its parts to be dis- 
closed by a process of analysis. We proceed, in discur- 
sive fashion, from the parts to the whole. On what 

KANT 281 

principle, then, do the different relations that constitute 
thought, depend ? 

Apart from those we have had to reject, there 
remains only the understanding itself, or the faculty 
of judging. As relations of dimension are, at bottom, 
only the forms of our sensibility, so qualitative relations 
of things cannot be anything else than the categories of 
our understanding. 

If this is so, the logical function of the under- 
standing will enable us to detect and systematise all 
the concepts that control judgments of existence. For, 
on both sides, it is the province of the understanding 
to unify ; the extent of this unification alone causes 
difference. The table of the modes of logical unification 
thus supplies a model for the table of categories. 

The following is the logical table of judgments : 
ist, from the standpoint of quantity : universal, par- 
ticular and individual propositions ; 2nd, from the 
standpoint of quality : affirmative, negative and in- 
determinate propositions ; 3rd, from the standpoint 
of relation : categorical, hypothetical and disjunctive 
propositions ; 4th, from the standpoint of modality : 
problematical, assertorial and apodeictic propositions, 

The following is the transcendental table of the 
concepts of understanding : ist, from the standpoint of 
quantity : unity, multiplicity, universality ; 2nd, from 
the standpoint of quality : reality, negation, limitation ; 
3rd, from the standpoint of relation: inherence and 
subsistence, causality and dependence, reciprocal action ; 
4th, from the standpoint of modality : possibility or 
impossibility, existence or non-existence, necessity or 

This is the system of concepts or categories by whose 
aid we unite our representations of things. As these 


concepts are only the modes of action of our under- 
standing, in themselves they are devoid of all content. 
They can find a use only if they are supplied with 
matter, and the only matter at our disposal is sensible 
intuition. Have concepts, then, only a subjective 
value ; and whereas transcendental esthetics or the 
analysis of sensibility may have pronounced for mathe- 
matical realism, will the analysis of the understanding 
or transcendental logic have to confine itself to that 
logical idealism which resolves things into modes of 
thought ? 

Here we have the famous transcendental deduction 
whose object is to establish the objective value of the 
categories, i.e. the possibility of obtaining, by means 
of the categories as they have been determined, the 
knowledge not only of our way of thinking, but of the 
things themselves. This possibility will be demon- 
strated if it can be proved that the categories are them- 
selves the condition of the existence of realities, from 
our standpoint. Categories apply to things, if things, 
to us, are possible only by their means. 

According to our condition, in order that there may 
be knowledge of a thing, there must be distinction 
between subject and object : " I think " should accom- 
pany all our representations. For such a condition to 
be possible, however, there must exist between the 
two terms a relation analogous to that between positive 
and negative quantities in mathematics, a relation of 
opposition on a common ground. The subject being 
a unifying action, the object must be a unified multiple. 
And so it is because things are unified, and unified for 
the subject, that they can be presented as an object. 

Now, how could this condition be satisfied, were 
not the multiple unified by the subject itself? Doubt- 

KANT 283 

less the empirical consciousness does not perceive this 
formation of the object. The operation takes place in 
the depths of transcendental apperception implied by the 
empirical consciousness ; and when the particular I is 
posited, it finds the object ready formed before it, and 
takes it for a brute thing. This thing, however, is the 
work of thought, therefore thought, in each of us, 
recognises its own laws therein. Thus the categories 
are necessarily applied to the things themselves, so far 
as they exist for us ; consequently they have an 
objective value. 

Again, as the only intuitions at the disposal of our 
understanding, for the forming of objects thereof, are 
our sensible intuitions, and as the latter do not represent 
things as they are in themselves, but only the exigencies 
of our sensibility, one consequence of our human con- 
dition is that even our intellectual knowledge is unable 
to attain to the absolute, it remains confined to the 
world of experience. Empirical realism, and trans- 
cendental idealism are allied and correlative terms. 

Thus, on the other hand, we find a place reserved 
for the suprasensible itself. Indeed, the concept of the 
" thing-in-itself," whilst limitative of the claims of our 
science, enables us to conceive of a world other than 
the one with which we are acquainted, and there- 
fore susceptible of being freed from the conditions 
of our knowledge, and especially from the necessary 
connection which is opposed to freedom.^ We are 
permitted to superpose the noumenon on to the pheno- 

It is essentially this doctrine that contains the philo- 
sophic revolution wrought by Kant. Instead of 
admitting, as appearances would seem to indicate, that 
thought gravitates around things, Kant, like a modern 


Copernicus, causes things to gravitate around thought. 
From this point of view, he says, the disorderly and 
the inexplicable give way to the orderly and the intel- 
ligible. The agreement between the laws of nature 
and the laws of our mind is no longer either an in- 
soluble problem or an object of faith : it is a scientifi- 
cally demonstrated truth. And this revolution, which 
guarantees the objective value of science, is equally 
favourable to morals, which latter, in the field opened 
up by criticism, can now be developed unhindered, in 
conformity with the laws proper to itself. " It was 
only by abolishing learning," says Kant, with reference 
to the so-called knowledge of the suprasensible, " that 
I could find room for belief." 

It is not enough, however, to lay down that, in 
order to be thought of and to become objects, the 
divers elements of intuition must be brought under the 
concepts of the understanding. How will concept, the 
one and universal, unite with phenomenon, the diverse 
and particular ? How shall we be brought to apply 
to intuition any one category rather than any other ? 
A middle term is here necessary. 

This middle term is supplied by a faculty inter- 
mediary between understanding and sensibility : viz. 
imagination. In the form of the inner sense, i.e. in 
temporal intuition, imagination traces out, a priori^ 
frames into which phenomena are capable of fitting, 
and which indicate under what category they are to 
be brought. Kant calls these frames schemata of the 
concepts of pure understanding. Each category has its 
own schema. The schema of quantity is number, that 
of substance is the permanence of the real in time ; 
that of causality, the regular succession of phenomena, 
and so on. The observance of regular succession, for 

KANT 285 

instance, is a signal to us that the category of cause is 
being employed. 

Still, the schemata are not yet sufficient to objectivise 
phenomena, because they only call forth the employ- 
ment of a given category, without justifying this 
operation. But they make possible a priori synthetic 
judgments which complete the elimination of the 
subjective. These judgments are the principles of pure 
understanding. Understanding forms them a priori^ 
by determining the conditions of an objective employ- 
ment of the schemata. They are : the principle of 
quantity : " All intuitions are extensive dimensions " ; 
the principle of quality : " In all phenomena, sensation, 
as well as the real which corresponds thereto in the 
object, possesses an intensive dimension, a degree " ; 
the principle of relation : " All phenomena have a 
necessary connection in time." The principle of 
modality indicates the way in which a thing should 
agree with the conditions of experience, in order to be 
possible, real, or necessary. The proof of these prin- 
ciples consists in showing that, without them, the 
meaning of the schemata remains indeterminate ; that 
the sensible can be determined and objecti vised only by 
the intellectual. Thus, succession, for instance, instead 
of itself founding causality, can be regarded as objective 
only if it is founded thereon. 

On reaching this stage, Kant was enabled to accom- 
plish the second of the two tasks he had set himself : 
that of justifying physics and its alliance with mathe- 
matics. The first two principles so-called mathema- 
tical establish the application of mathematics to the 
science of nature. The second two so-called dynamic 
establish the physical laws strictly so called. In 
their entirety, the principles of pure understanding 


constitute the first distinctive features of natural 
philosophy. This theory, whilst being the meta- 
physical justification of Newtonian science, was the 
starting-point of that speculation which, with Schelling, 
enjoyed so dangerous a renown, under the name of the 
philosophy of nature. 

Up to this point, Kant has analysed sensibility and 
understanding. There remains reason, properly so 
called, the object of which faculty is the complete 
unification of knowledge. Its syllogisms infer the 
unconditioned as their starting-point. So we see that 
reason is the faculty of the ideas, or concepts, of the 
total synthesis of the conditions. 

From what precedes, we find that the ideas of 
reason have no real object. Going beyond all possible 
experience, they can be nothing but regulative, non- 
constitutive principles of knowledge. The illusion, 
however, which makes us believe in their objectivity, is 
natural, as is that of the man who believes the moon to 
be larger at its rise than at its meridian. To destroy 
this illusion it is not enough to demonstrate the falsity 
of our opinion ; its origin must be disclosed, it must 
be shown that, in this domain, in contradistinction to 
what takes place when dealing with objects of possible 
experience, it is wholly illegitimate to pass from the 
logical to the real ; and that the dialectic which lies deep 
hidden in dogmatic metaphysics must be denounced. 

Reason thinks it can build up : ist, a rational 
psychology, on the idea of the soul-substance ; 2nd, a 
rational cosmology, on the idea of the world as absolute 
reality ; 3rd, a rational theology, on the idea of God as 
the absolute basis of the possibility of being in general. 
In each of these domains it is mistaken regarding its 
own power. 

KANT 287 

When inferring the existence of an absolute subject 
from the reality of the thinking being, it illegitimately 
passes from a unity of form to one of substance, and 
commits a paralogism. 

When attempting to determine the absolute existence 
it attributes to the world, reason becomes involved in 
insurmountable antinomies. Indeed, it proves, with 
like rigour, by the absurdity of the contradictory 
proposition, that the world both has, and has not, 
limits ; that it consists of simple parts, and is divided 
ad infinitum ; that freedom exists and that nothing free 
exists ; that there is a necessary being, and that there 
exist only contingent beings. The very production of 
these antinomies proves the illegitimacy of the point of 
view that gives birth to them, that is, of the supposition 
of a world existing in itself. In the first two anti- 
nomies, thesis and antithesis are alike false. In the 
latter two, they become true of each other if we have 
recourse to that distinction between phenomenon and 
noumenon called forth by analysis of the understanding. 
The free and the absolute are possible in the world of 
noumena, whereas natural causality and contingency 
hold sway in that of phenomena. 

Finally, when reason speculates on perfect being, 
it gratuitously converts into a reality, a substance, a 
person, the ideal in which it unites all the modes of 
being possessed by finite things. Consequently, the 
reasonings it forms to prove the existence of this 
supreme person will not hold together. The onto- 
logical argument, the basis of all the rest, wrongly 
considers existence as a predicate, which can be obtained 
from a concept by analysis : existence is the position of 
a thing outside of thought and is absolutely inaccessible 
to analysis. To this error the cosmological argument 


adds the affirmation of a first cause in the name of 
the principle of causality, and this principle, just in 
so far as it is vouched for, excludes the possibility of 
a first cause. Lastly the physico-theological argument, 
or the argument of final causes, adds to the defects of 
the first two the false comparison of the world to a 
work of man, and the arbitrary transition from an 
" architect " God to a perfect " creator " God. 

The general cause of this dialectic of our reason is 
our natural disposition to believe that the conditions of 
our thought are also the conditions of being, that the 
laws of our knowledge are the laws of reality. Criti- 
cism alone can dispel this illusion ; but the necessity 
of criticism is seen only in the consequences of this 
very illusion. The ideas of our reason correspond to 
nothing real : none the less are they useful as excitative 
and regulative principles. They forbid our halting in 
our search after causes. We cannot begin with God, 
but our efforts should tend in his direction. 

And so criticism is established, wherein Kant sees 
the goal of the education of reason. The human 
mind began, and was compelled to begin, with dog- 
matism, or a blind belief in the absolute existence of 
the objects of our thoughts : Leibnitzo-Wolfianism is 
the complete expression thereof. Then came skepticism, 
excellently represented by Hume, who inferred, from 
the vices of dogmatism, the impossibility of knowing 
reality and the absolute subjectivity of knowledge. But 
skepticism is only a warning to mistrust dogmatism. 
Criticism, or the science of our ignorance, forbids us to 
speculate on the nature of things as they are in them- 
selves ; at the same time, it withdraws experience from 
imagination and the individual sense, to make it an 
object common to all human intelligences and conse- 

KANT 289 

quently substantial and real to ourselves. At the same 
time, criticism frees being in itself from the fatum 
which the presumption of the understanding caused to 
lie heavy on it ; it makes conceivable a world wherein 
freedom and the moral laws would hold undivided 
sway. The advantage is twofold, being both practical 
and speculative ; it attests to the providential harmony 
of our needs with our powers of knowing. 

The " critique " of pure reason has explained the 
possibility of science ; in the same way, the possibility 
of morals must now be explained. We are not trying 
to find out if morality is possible, since it exists, but 
rather on what it rests and what its meaning is. Here, 
too, a sane philosophy can recognise no other starting- 
point for knowledge than experience, but this ex- 
perience must be analysed. 

The general idea afforded, in this connection, by 
common reason, is the concept of good will. Is this 
concept altogether empirical ? 

When examined, it is found to imply the idea of a 
law which ought to be observed for itself, without 
regard for the consequences of the actions it enforces. 
This law is not a hypothetical imperative, dependent 
on such or such an end to be attained : it is a categori- 
cal imperative. It can be formulated only in the 
following terms : act in such a way that you would 
wish the maxim of your action to be set up as a uni- 
versal Jaw. Now, such a principle does not proceed 
from experience, it is known a priori. 

Can we find its origin ? If we try to discover under 
what conditions a practical principle may be universally 
obligatory upon us, we shall find that it ought to imply 
no object or matter as a mobile of the will. Indeed, 



given the faculties we possess, there are none other than 
empirical objects as far as we are concerned, the only 
matter at our disposal in the practical order of things 
is pleasure or the satisfaction of the love of self ; and 
pleasure cannot supply a universal, obligatory prin- 
ciple. The intention of our will, alone, depends entirely 
on ourselves and fulfils the requisite conditions. Law, 
then, is a purely formal principle which implies nothing 
else than itself and a will free to accomplish it. It has 
its root in the autonomy of the will. 

But even in this, is it not illusory ? Detached from 
things and referred to the subject, is it not purely sub- 
jective ? Can we escape from idealism in the practical, 
as we have done in the theoretical order of things ? 

To deduce the moral law from the conditions of 
experience is impossible, since every object of experience 
ought to be separated from moral determination ; but, 
on the other hand, the moral law itself establishes a 
deduction from freedom. If I ought to, it is because 
I can. Moreover, if speculative reason has had to 
be debarred from knowing freedom, it has none the 
less regarded it as possible, even theoretically ; and 
thus the moral law has a basis in the reality of things, 
as this reality is theoretically known to us, viz. in that 
region of existence to which the knowledge of things as 
phenomena refers us. If the moral law is the ratio 
cognoscenti of freedom, the latter supplies the former 
with its ratio essendi. 

So far, however, we have only reached a principle, a 
formal law. Now, morality also offers us concepts, the 
two principal of which are those of good and evil. Can 
we search into and understand these concepts ? After 
eliminating all empirical matter, we have to deduce fresh 
matter from a principal posited as purely formal. 

KANT 291 

The course we must take is apparently paradoxical. 
Is it not duty that is deduced from good, and not good 
that is determined by duty? The ancients, in their 
search after the sovereign good, constantly followed the 
first, the dogmatic course. Now, willingly or unwillingly, 
it came about that they founded morals on empirical 
data. It could not be otherwise. From good, one 
cannot deduce duty, unless this good is already moral 
good, and it is only moral if there has previously been 
instilled into it the very duty it is desired to deduce 
therefrom. On the other hand, it is possible, by means 
of duty, to determine good ; it is possible for law 
posited as primary, to find a suitable object in the 
sensible world itself, the only one we can affect. For 
this sensible world not only does not clash with the 
universality characterising the moral law, but is itself 
subject to universal laws. Good, therefore, is the realisa- 
tion in the sensible world of a form of universality 
capable of being the symbol of practical reason. 

This doctrine of Kant's rejects mysticism as well as 
empiricism. Though the principle of determination 
ought to be obtained from the world of noumena, it is 
in the world of phenomena that morality will be realised 
and practised. And the very principle of determina- 
tion will not remain unrelated to nature. There exists 
a feeling which is within nature and which likewise 
goes beyond it, and that is respect, a special affection 
aroused by the idea of law in a soul endowed both with 
sensible tendencies and with reason. Respect is the 
moral mobile. The inclination it enshrouds, and which 
comes from the will, does no harm to the disinterested 
practice of duty. 

And so the'given morality is explained and defined 
in all its elements : mobiles, concepts, and principles. 


Here, too, we had only to go back from experience to 
its conditions, in order to explain whatever is absolute 
in our knowledge, without detracting from the general 
principle of modern science and philosophy. 

And not only does criticism thus insure the founda- 
tions of morals, it also discloses the spring and reason 
of religious beliefs from the very point to which this 
investigation has brought it. Reason requires the full 
performance of duty, it exacts the union of virtue with 
happiness. How can such an object be realised ? 

The necessity of answering this question leads us on 
to theoretical propositions that cannot be demonstrated 
as such, but are inseparably bound to practical truths 
of an absolute character. These propositions Kant 
calls postulates. They are three in number : 

1. Freedom : necessary in order that man may 
determine himself, apart from all sensible attraction, 
in accordance with the laws of a purely intelligible 
world. Doubtless, freedom does not intervene in the 
course of phenomena, which would cease to be objects 
of possible experience if the law of cause and effect 
were violated in them. It is complete and entire, how- 
ever, in the world of noumena, in which it establishes 
personality and creates within each of us an intelligible 
character, of which our empirical character is the symbol. 

2. Immortality : necessary in order that indefinite 
progress may be realised, without which the perfect 
adaptation of our will to the moral law is inconceivable. 

3. God : necessary in order that we may establish 
that agreement which reason demands, between morality 
and happiness, and the principle of which is contained 
in neither the one nor the other. 

Thus, morality leads to religion, not as to some 
theoretical science explaining the nature of things, but 

KANT 293 

rather as to the knowledge of our duties in so far as they 
are divine commands. 

And so criticism, continuing its progress, gradually 
re-establishes all the suprasensible existences it had 
overthrown. Is it self-contradictory in doing this? 
By no means ; since it no longer regards these exist- 
ences in the same manner. The criticism of pure 
reason has demonstrated that such objects cannot be 
known theoretically, i.e. by the aid of intuitions which 
determine them. This result subsists. The criticism 
of pure reason, however, did not prevent our conceiving 
of objects above experience, on the contrary it allowed 
and invited this. On the other hand, the criticism of 
practical reason in no way shows us the world shut out 
from us by the criticism of pure reason, it does not 
give us an intuition thereof, but offers us, as connected 
with the existence of duty, the objects on which theo- 
retical reason could not declare itself. It brings us to 
say, not : It is certain there is a God and immortality ; 
but rather : I will there to be a God, I will my being, 
in one aspect, to be free and immortal. That is not 
a matter of science, it is a practical, pure, and rational 
belief. We can neither see the object nor deduce it 
from what we see ; we can only conceive of it. How 
fortunate this inability ! For were we in possession of 
the missing faculty, instead of duty tempering and 
ennobling our will, God and eternity, with all their 
awful majesty, would ever be before our eyes, and 
would reduce us, through fear, to the condition of 
marionettes, making the proper movements but devoid 
of life or moral worth. " The mysterious wisdom by 
which we exist is no less admirable in the gifts it has 
refused than in those it has granted to us" (Critique of 
Practical Reason, Part i. Book ii. Chapter ix.). 


Criticism has explained the existence of science and 
morals. To complete the different orders of our know- 
ledge, it remains for us to examine the notions of taste 
and finality. Will experience be able to supply us 
with their principle and their limits ? 

The experimental datum here considered is judg- 
ment ; not determining judgment, which proceeds from 
the general to the particular, but reflecting judgment, 
which rises from the particular to the general. This 
judgment is that which affirms the existence in nature, 
not only of laws in general, but of certain determinate 
laws. It calls for a special principle which can be only 
the following : just as the universal laws of nature are 
based in our understanding, which prescribes them to 
nature, so, as regards empirical and particular laws, 
everything takes place as though they also had been 
dictated by an understanding that purposed to make 
intelligible and objective the very details of the pheno- 
mena. This reason of particular laws may be sought 
for, either in the agreement of things with our faculty 
of knowing, i.e. in the beautiful, or in the agreement 
of things with themselves, i.e. in finality. 

Appreciation of the beautiful cannot be explained 
by sensation alone, as Burke would have it. The 
beautiful is not the agreeable ; it is disinterested, the 
object of a real judgment. Nor is it explained by 
reason alone, according to Baumgarten the Wolfian. 
The beautiful is not the perfect : it dwells only in the 
form, not in the matter, of the object, and it pleases 
without aiming at pleasing but solely by reason of its 
harmony, by a kind of endless finality : in a word, it 
has something of feeling in its nature. Formed a 
priori and being subjective at the same time, what is 
the origin of the judgment of taste ? 

KANT 295 

It can only be explained as the working of an 
aesthetic common sense, or the faculty of perceiving 
some agreement between our sensible faculty of know- 
ing and our intellectual faculty. Those objects are 
beautiful, before which our imagination finds itself, of 
its own accord, satisfying our understanding. The 
beautiful is the feeling that our faculties are at play, 
somewhat analogous to a physical pastime, wherein the 
spontaneous observance of a rule freely laid down in 
no way trammels the free expression of activity. Con- 
sequently, the beautiful dwells only within ourselves ; 
it has no other origin or rule than the special sense in 
which sensibility and understanding meet each other. 

From the beautiful, properly so called, that we are 
now analysing, we must distinguish the sublime, as 
being another species of the same genus. Whereas the 
beautiful object is the adequate sensible realisation of 
the idea, the sublime object utterly routs the imagina- 
tion, which spends itself in vain attempts to represent 
an idea transcending it. There are no images, but only 
symbols, of the infinite. The substratum of the sub- 
lime and the beautiful alike can therefore be nothing 
else than our suprasensible nature, and the need of 
agreement between that nature and our sensible nature. 

But then does not this analysis result in the judg- 
ment of taste being denied all objective value ? Such 
would be the case, had the objectivity of the beautiful 
to consist, in our mind, of some property of things in 
themselves : such an objectivity, however, is an illusion. 
The sense of taste that we have found, has an objec- 
tive import, in so far as it alone makes intelligible the 
characteristic of beauty that we attribute to objects, 
and in so far as this very sense should be considered 
identical in all beings capable of sensibility and dis- 


cursive understanding. The universality of the faculty 
is sufficient to establish the objectivity of the operation. 

But if we now consider things of taste, especially art, 
whose existence is given, our doctrine will supply die 
theory thereof. Art is a product of intelligence, and 
ought to appear a product of nature ; it has an object 
and ought to seem not to have one ; it punctually 
observes rules and does this without manifesting effort. 
All these characteristics are explained as soon as man 
possesses a faculty wherein the understanding, which 
thinks and rules, coincides with the imagination, which 
sees, feels, and invents. The spring of genius is dis- 
covered in the general essence of man. And it is also 
seen that the more human the object of an art, the 
more sublime that art is. 

Moreover, the ideality of the beautiful is the only 
doctrine that enables us to solve the antinomy to which 
the judgment of taste gives rise. We discuss about the 
beautiful, and yet we cannot account for it by demon- 
stration. This would be incomprehensible, did the 
beautiful belong to things in themselves. But then, on 
the other hand, the beautiful could not, like time and 
space, be enclosed within the sensible world. We 
discuss about the beautiful and yet we cannot demon- 
strate anything, because the judgment of taste is based 
on a principle connected both with concept and intuition, 
on an indeterminate concept : that of a suprasensible 
substratum of phenomena. The beautiful is the symbol 
of moral good, and it is towards this good that taste 
dimly leads us. 

The second principle of particular natural laws is 
derived from finality. Do there really exist in nature 
harmonies that cannot be explained by mechanism or 
the system of causes and effects ? 

KANT 297 

Wherever finality is only exterior, consisting only in 
the utility of one being with reference to another, the 
mechanical explanation is sufficient, for this agreement 
of different beings with one another is far from being 
the rule in nature. But there is one case in which 
finality, being internal, cannot be explained by the 
hazards of mechanism : the case of organised beings. 
That which is living produces itself, both as species and 
individual, and the parts thereof are conditioned by the 
very ensemble which is to result therefrom. The effect 
here is the cause of its cause ; the cause is the effect of 
its effect. Such a relation goes beyond mechanism, such 
a being is an end, as well as a product of nature. How 
is that possible ? 

In vain does dogmatism attempt to reply either by 
hylozoism, which looks upon nature as intelligent, or 
by theism, which weaves the action of intelligence into 
the tissue of phenomena : the former attributes to 
matter qualities opposed to its essence ; the latter vainly 
claims to pierce the designs of God. Organisation, 
the internal finality, is not cognisable in its cause. 
Finality, to us, can be nothing but ideal : it is our way 
of looking upon a certain class of phenomena. 

Is such a doctrine a purely negative result ? By no 

Some knowledge of nature is implied if we simply 
know that, in certain of its products, nature cannot be 
known by us. This principle is instructive, either in its 
restrictive or its positive bearing. It is regulative, not 
constitutive. In this capacity it serves science. Though 
it does not make the production of things more 
intelligible, all the same, it supplies anticipations by 
which we are enabled to discover the particular laws of 
nature. It sets up beacon-lights throughout infinity. 


So far as metaphysics is concerned, only such a con- 
ception of finality enables one to escape from the 
traditional antinomy of mechanism and teleology. On 
the ground of being in itself, wherein both systems are 
placed, neither the first is able to explain what it calls 
the illusion of finality, nor the second to prove that the 
transcendent explanation of it is necessary. On the 
other hand, the principle of final causes becomes unas- 
sailable when there is only one point of view upon 

And it opens up to our conception, if not to our 
knowledge, a perspective upon the absolute itself. 
Indeed, how do we come to posit the idea of an end 
as the cause of a phenomenon ? The impossibility of 
deducing the particular from the universal comes from 
the fact that understanding and intuition are separate 
in us ; our concepts are void, our intuitions powerless 
to connect themselves into laws. Then how can we 
affirm the existence of particular laws ? The problem 
is solved as follows. We can conceive that the difficulty 
in our way would be non-existent to a mind in which 
understanding were one with sensibility : to an intuitive 
understanding. Such a mind, instead of proceeding 
from the parts to the whole, as does our discursive 
understanding, and, consequently, seeing a contingent 
result in the whole, would proceed from the whole to 
the parts, and, in a flash, would see the latter in their 
necessary connection. To this mind, mechanism and 
finality would coincide. Now, once the idea of such 
an intelligence is conceived of, our understanding, in 
order to approach it in its own way, substitutes for the 
whole the idea of the whole, and posits this idea before 
its intuitions as the cause of the special relations that 
unite them. To the employment of the notion of an 

KANT 299 

end is thus linked on the conception of an intuitive 
understanding, as a possible foundation, in the absolute, 
of the sum total of the harmonies of nature. 

This deduction from teleological judgment deter- 
mines the use we ought to make of it. 

As regards the explanation of the phenomena of 
nature, we have the right, as far as possible, to assume 
the mechanical point of view, but we cannot do this on 
all occasions with like success. In the fact of life we 
are brought in opposition against an invincible barrier. 
We cannot picture to ourselves living bodies as capable 
of coming from inorganic matter. Doubtless, it is not 
inconceivable that from one common, originally organ- 
ised, matter, all living bodies might have issued by 
purely mechanical changes. In this way, the explana- 
tion of things would be the province of mechanism ; 
their origin, that of teleology. Indeed, the comparison 
of organic forms enables us to conjecture the relation- 
ship of all that lives, and encourages us to hope, however 
feebly, that it will be possible to refer them to one 
common origin. Then one could picture to oneself 
the womb of the earth as giving birth, first to creatures 
ill-suited to the conditions of their existence, and then 
to these same creatures as becoming more perfect, gener- 
ation after generation, until finally the creatress, in a 
state of congealed ossification, so to speak, limited her 
productions to a certain number of clearly defined and 
henceforth immutable species. This is a brilliant hypo- 
thesis of reason, but apart from the fact that so far 
experience does not seem to warrant it, instead of 
excluding, it would imply as a condition of its con- 
sistency the primordial life of the universal womb. 

As regards the general conception of the world, we 
have the right to complete by thought the unification 


to which teleological concepts tend, provided we place 
this ultimate end outside the sphere of sensible pheno- 
mena. And as this end can be only a being that has 
within itself the object of its activity, and consequently, 
is capable of positing ends and using nature as a means, 
man alone, not as a part of nature, but as intelligence 
and will, can be the end of the universe. We must 
not, like Rousseau, expect nature to satisfy our longings, 
to give us happiness ; that is out of her province, and 
she will play us false. But she will not belie the 
expectations of the man who, through her, endeavours 
to realise moral good. 

Finally, in the matter of our conception of God as 
the principle of finality, it has not been without purpose 
that men, at all times, have been influenced by the 
argument of final causes. This argument well expresses 
man's impression when he sees the order of nature : 
the aspiration towards something that goes beyond 
nature. We must always speak of this argument with 
respect, for it is the most persuasive, popular, and potent 
one of all. To be really solid and sound, however, the 
argument must be understood in its true meaning. Not 
as an architect is God revealed to us by the world, but 
rather as the condition of an agreement between nature 
and morality. In trying to discover the attributes 
needed to play this part, we shape for ourselves a moral 
theology which leads us on to a moral religion. 


Criticism is not the abolition of metaphysics, it is 
the introduction to metaphysics as a science. In realising 
the plan it here marks out, the method to be followed is 
the one inaugurated by the famous Wolf. We know that 

KANT 301 

transcendental logic does not break through the frame- 
work of general logic : it fills it in. We shall find meta- 
physics changing its meaning without changing its form. 
Human reason is legislative in two ways : by its 
understanding, in the domain of nature ; and by its 
will, in the domain of freedom. Hence the idea of a 
double metaphysics : of nature and of morals. There 
are no others. 

Kant deals first with the metaphysics of the science 
of nature. 

Corporeal matter, being alone lasting, can alone give 
rise to metaphysics. The latter seeks amongst the 
sensible data or properties of matter, for some object 
to which the synthetic laws of understanding are 
applicable, and this it finds in motion. Once this 
single result has been obtained from experience, meta- 
physics pursues its course, proceeding a priori. 

Determined solely by the notion of quantity, motion 
is nothing but dimension in time and space : it does not 
yet imply cause of production or of modification. In 
this connection it gives rise to phoronomics, which we 
now call kinematics. 

Determined, besides, by the notion of quality, it 
envelops an intensive dimension or force, as the cause 
of its existence and of our sensible affections. The 
theory of force is dynamics : the essential element in 
this portion of Kantian metaphysics. We admit as 
many simple forces as it is necessary to posit, in order 
to distinguish movements in a straight line, conse- 
quently we admit a force of repulsion and one of 
attraction. From the first, there results divisibility 
ad infinitum ; from the second, a limitation of the first. 
These two forces are solidary : solidity, which the 


Newtonians found themselves compelled to add on to 
attraction, unless it be an occult quality, implies a 
repulsive force. Matter results from the equilibrium 
of the two. 

Determined by the notion of relation, matter 
assumes properties which are investigated by mechanics, 
properly so called. Here, Kant establishes the law of 
the persistence of material substance, the law of inertia 
and that of action and reaction. 

Finally, regarding modality, we have to find out 
the rules followed by the mind when distinguishing 
possible, real, or necessary motion : this is phenomenology. 
Rectilinear motion is only possible, it appertains to 
phoronomics ; curvilinear motion is real, and appertains 
to dynamics ; motion conceived of as communicated by 
a mover to something movable is of necessity deter- 
mined as regards existence and speed ; it appertains 
to mechanics. 

From these metaphysical principles Kant en- 
deavoured to pass on to physics itself. Physics 
would evidently be constituted as a science, if only 
we could determine a priori the forces that produce 
sensation. Now, we see from the Critique that these 
forces, being bound to the life of the mind, must, after 
all, be of the same nature as the mind. They can be 
nothing else than the action exerted upon our empirical 
I by our spontaneity, i.e. our understanding. And 
it is because this action is transcendental that, in our 
endeavours to picture to ourselves the cause of our 
sensations, we imagine things outside of ourselves in 
space. Henceforth, the principle of the deduction of 
material species is in our hands : it is none other than 
the principle of the functions of the subject itself. 
It is in this way that Kant, by the light of the cate- 

KANT 303 

gories, undertakes the deduction of the different kinds 
of forces, of first matter or ether, of bases or specific 
matters. In all probability, he would have reached a 
rational deduction of the system of the world itself, 
such as Newton had constituted it. 

The second and last part of metaphysics is the 
metaphysics of morals. 

In the moral as in the physical order of things, it is 
the task of method to bring the given empirical condi- 
tions under the laws of reason, and thence deduce the 
complete system of fundamental laws. Moral legisla- 
tion has a double object in view : action and its mobile. 
Harmony of action with the law is legality , that of the 
mobile is morality. This distinction results in the 
division of the metaphysics of morals into the theory of 
right and the theory of virtue. 

Right consists of the whole of those conditions that 
are universally required in order that the free-will of 
each individual may be reconciled with that of the rest. 
External free-will commands respect, because it is the 
form of moral freedom, the latter being realised only 
by action and action implying a connection with some- 
thing external. Consequently the science of right is 
distinct from, though dependent on, morals. 

There are two essential principles that control the 
development of the theory of right : 1st, right is alto- 
gether based on the suprasensible nature of man so far 
as it is manifested in time, i.e. on personal dignity ; 
2nd, legal restraint is legitimate, so far as it is neces- 
sary for suppressing the obstacles that one will may 
arbitrarily set up against the development of the rest. 
The consequences of these principles are as follows : 

So far as private right is concerned, there belongs of 
necessity to each man such a portion of freedom as is 


compatible with the freedom of the rest of mankind. 
But here we can deal only with freedom regarded in its 
external existence. This external expression of freedom 
is what is called possession. 

There are as many kinds of rights as there are of 

The first has reference to things, and gives rise to 
real right. This right is not a relation between the 
owner and the thing, it is rather one between persons. 
How can its realisation be legitimate ? On the one 
hand, possession in common is the primitive right ; on 
the other, the given fact is individual property. Here 
we should have an insoluble antinomy, if possession in 
common were regarded as a fact that has existed histori- 
cally. It is not a fact, however, it is the command of 
reason. Consequently, the actual fact does not go against 
a previous realisation of justice. Till further orders, 
it is the only effective realisation of the principle that 
attributes things to persons. None the less should it 
be sanctioned by a contract between wills for it to 
become juridical ; all appropriation, in the state of 
nature, is only provisional. 

The second kind of possession refers to the actions 
of persons, and creates personal right. This is realised 
by contract, the value of which lies in the stability and 
simultaneity of suprasensible wills. 

The third kind of possession refers to persons 
themselves and creates real personal right. Its domain 
is the family. How can a person become a thing ? 
Here we should have an intolerable contradiction, if 
the owner of the person did not restore that person's 
dignity, by also giving himself, re-establishing by an 
act of freedom the moral order which is threatened by 
nature. Thus, marriage is the only legitimate relation- 

KANT 305 

ship between the sexes, for it alone safeguards the 
dignity of the woman. 

As regards public or civil right^ Kant lays it down 
as a principle that, since the natural state of mankind 
is war, it is necessary to constitute a civil society in 
order to make possible a regime of right. The laws 
that create such a regime are divided into -political right^ 
the right of nations and cosmopolitical right. 

Political right rests exclusively on the idea of 
justice. Sovereignty originally belongs to the people ; 
the State can only be the result of a contract, by which 
men give up their natural freedom, to recover it intact 
under a legal regime. But this contract is not an 
historical fact, it is an idea of reason : this is the 
point of view that both citizens and legislator must 
adopt, in the performance of their respective tasks. 
Consequently power must be obeyed without inquiring 
into its origin. However vicious a social form may 
be, it is not a falling away from a primordial state of 
justice : it is the degree of reality that the idea of right 
has been able to reach in the world of time. To amend 
it by reform is legitimate, but not to overthrow it by 

If such is its principle, the State has, for its mission, 
to guarantee the natural rights of man. It will trouble 
itself about morals only in so far as they interest public 
order. It will respect religious beliefs, but will resist 
political influence on the part of the Churches. It has 
the right to abolish all privileges which are only facts 
devoid of rational foundation. 

The realisation of the idea of the State requires the 
division of power into legislative, executive and judicial 
power. The most important of these is the legislative, 
which ought to be the full complete expression of the 


collective will. Government is more or less despotic 
in proportion as it departs from the representative 
system. The republic, an ideal, rational form, is a 
government that is representative in its three powers. 
In practice, Kant, as became a loyal subject of Frederick 
II., recognises an autocratic regime, wherein power, 
thanks to the generosity of the prince, is in conformity 
with the philosophical principles of right. 

Ever relying on the idea of justice, Kant regards 
penal right as based not on utility but on reward ; he 
defends the death penalty against the sentimentality of 

The right of nations extends to States with certain 
modifications the relations which public right sets up 
between individuals. Their original condition is war, 
not a regime of right. In order that juridical relations 
may be established between them, they must form and 
maintain, in accordance with an original contract, an 
alliance or federation, by which they undertake not to 
intervene in internal discords, and also to unite for 
mutual protection against external attacks. 

Finally, cosmopolitical right insures for each man 
the power to enter into communication with all. 
Nations should allow foreigners access to their terri- 
tories. Colonisation is a right ; all the same, it should 
not violate any acquired right : injustice is not per- 
mitted, even with the object of extending the domain 
of justice. 

Right comes indefinitely near to morals, without 
being able to attain to it. It requires that it be 
possible for the rule of our external actions to be 
set up as a universal law : morals puts forward the 
same demand as concerns the maxim itself, the internal 
principle of our actions. Thus, the duties of virtue 

KANT 307 

differ from those of right, both in their object, for 
they determine the intention, not the act, whereas the 
duties of right determine the act and not the intention ; 
this is expressed by saying that the latter are strict 
and the former accommodating ; and in their motive, 
for the subject imposes them upon himself, whereas 
duties of right are imposed by external compulsion. 

What are the ends that are, at the same time, 
duties ? There can only be two : one's own perfection, 
and the happiness of others. I ought to aim after my 
own perfection, not happiness : whereas, I ought to aim 
after the happiness, not the perfection of others. As a 
matter of fact I can neither make myself happy, nor 
can I work out the will of others ; whereas the deter- 
mination of my will does concern me, as also the 
condition of the rest of mankind. 

The detailed list of duties will comprise nothing 
referring to family or State. Kant sees in these com- 
munities only juridical relationships, so he has already 
said all he wished about them, in the theory of right. 
Morals will be essentially individual and social. 

We have duties only towards ourselves and other 
men, not towards God or the animal world. For we 
can be under obligation only towards persons who are 
objects of experience to us : and one or the other of 
these two conditions falls through, in the case of beings 
superior or inferior to ourselves. 

Respect for human dignity, in oneself and in others, 
is the one preeminent duty. This duty admits neither 
of conditions nor of temperament : it is absolute and 
immutable. Love of one's neighbour, and benevolent 
feelings in general, can become duties only in so far 
as we are dealing with active benevolence, not with the 
sympathy of complaisance or pathological love. 


From these principles proceed such maxims as the 
following : Allow no one with impunity to trample 
your right under foot. Never incur a debt, without 
giving security. Lying, whether to others, or more 
especially to oneself, is moral suicide. Meanness is 
unworthy of man ; he who crawls like a worm cannot 
complain if he is trampled upon. The violation of the 
duty of love is only a sin, that of the duties of respect 
is a vice ; for in the latter case man is insulted, in the 
former he is not. Moral gymnastics is not mortifica- 
tion, it is the will practising to overcome one's inclina- 
tions so as not to be hindered by them, and joyfully 
exulting in its regained freedom. 

Naturally following on the metaphysics of morals, 
comes religion, not as implied, but as demanded by 
morality. Religion consists in looking upon moral laws 
as though they were divine commandments. It cannot 
increase our knowledge either of God or of nature ; it 
ought not to aim at this. Its sole object is to extend 
the ascendency of the moral law over the will. 

Thus understood, it is in conformity with and 
sanctioned by reason. But the positive religions add 
on to the moral postulates and the law, traditional and 
statutory elements : it is important for us to find out 
how far this addition can be justified by reason. 

If we examine the Christian religion : an excellent 
form of religion, we find four essential ideas in it : that 
of original sin, that of Christ, that of the Church, and 
that of worship. What value have these ideas ? 

In the dogma of original sin lies concealed a phil- 
osophic truth. There are two characters in each of us : 
the empirical and the intelligible. The vices of the 
one, whilst attesting an innate tendency towards evil, 
indicate a radical failing in the other. This failing 

KANT 309 

consists in reversing the order which ought to regulate 
the relations between sensibility and reason ; in placing 
the latter at the service of the former. Morality, to 
the one who has been guilty of this failing, cannot from 
that time be anything else than conversion, a new birth, 
as it is called in Christian theology. In this sense, dogma 
is justified. 

The idea of Christ, too, is accepted by criticism, if 
by Christ we mean the ideal of the human person. 
This ideal descends from heaven to earth, not historic- 
ally, of course, but in the sense that, whilst belonging 
to the intelligible, it is manifested in the sensible world. 
This ideal redeems us, for whereas punishment affected 
the guilty man, it is the man who is converted by the 
conception of the ideal, the new man, who suffers and 
struggles in order to free the former man from evil. 
The good man takes upon himself the sins of the 
wicked, and stands in his place before the judge. 

The Church, also, is recognised by reason, so far as 
it is an association whose members mutually fortify 
themselves in the practice of duty, both by example 
and by the declaration of a common moral conviction. 
In itself, it is one, like rational faith, but human weak- 
ness demands that there be added to this faith, in 
order to make it sensible, various historical dogmas 
that claim a divine origin. Hence, a multiplicity of 
churches, and antagonism between heretics and ortho- 
dox. The history of the Church consists entirely of 
the struggle between rational and positive faith ; and 
the goal to which it is advancing is the effacement of 
the latter by the former. 

Finally, worship itself is a rational matter, provided 
it be assigned a place in moral intention and in the 
realisation of that intention. All that man thinks he can 


add on to virtue in order to honour God is but false 
worship and vain observance. The consequence of the 
illusory value attributed to this false worship is the 
subordination of the laity to the Church, and all the 
evils to which this subordination gives rise, such as 
hypocrisy and fanaticism. The positive faith the Church 
enjoins has, for its true object, to make itself super- 
fluous. This faith has in the past been necessary as a 
vehicle ; it remains useful until mankind comes of age. 
Once this time arrives, however, the leading strings 
of tradition become mere fetters. The very ecclesiastic 
who, as a minister of religion, is bound down to symbols, 
as a scholar has the right to examine dogmas : to decree 
the unchangeableness of statutory faith would be an 
outrage on human nature. 


It is Kant's constant preoccupation to unite concrete 
reality to practice. His principles, obtained by meta- 
physical analysis from the given itself, ought rationally 
to reconstitute and govern the given. In the material 
order of things, he sought the transition from meta- 
physics to physics ; so also in the moral order he again 
descends from idea to action. 

In this connection, the history of mankind is his 
principal theme. He purposes deducing its main phases, 
not describing them. Here, too, he makes a distinc- 
tion between the natural and the moral history of man ; 
the latter having its beginning in the former. 

On the subject of natural history, Kant deals with 
the question of races. Is there a distinction amongst 
the human races, of such a kind that one of them 

KANT 311 

should have the right to claim for itself alone the 
dignity of manhood and reduce the rest to a state of 
slavery ? The question is answered by a consideration 
of origins. Fecundation is possible between human 
beings of all races ; consequently they have one identical 
origin and form only one species. Races are stable 
varieties ; unalterable by intermixture and transplanta- 
tion. They have become differentiated by adapting 
themselves to climatic conditions. As there are four 
climates, so there are four races : the white, the yellow, 
the black and the red. In the formation of these races, 
external causes have played an indispensable role, but 
these alone could not have brought about stable changes ; 
they merely developed the internal dispositions of the 
species. The real cause of the existence of races, is 
man's capacity for adapting himself to external con- 

In answer to the attacks of Forster, who would 
explain life by none but geological causes, Kant, from the 
year 1788 onwards, affirmed the necessity of a special, 
immaterial principle as alone conforming to the require- 
ments of criticism. To attribute to matter a power of 
organisation which observation could not find in it, 
is to reject the guiding clue of experience. Doubtless 
Forster's explanation is neither absurd nor impossible, 
but it goes beyond our means of knowing. The only 
finality we can grasp is in ourselves, in our conscious 
activity ; nothing authorises us to admit that an uncon- 
scious thing has the power of acting with a view to an 
end. We do not know what causes life, but we explain 
it by finality : this is the point of view taken by 

Whereas the natural history of man goes back to 
his origin, moral history considers his end. The philo- 


sophy of history finds its principle in the idea of this 
end, as natural philosophy does in the idea of attraction. 
Now, the development of reason, the essence of man, 
cannot tend to anything else than the establishment of 
a regime of freedom, i.e. to the realisation of justice. 
Consequently the historian ought to find in facts the 
various phases of the realisation of justice. 

History begins when man becomes a moral being, 
i.e. when he acts by will instead of by instinct. His 
primitive state was one of innocence ; his abode, paradise. 
He formed one with nature, wherein his will was buried. 
The awakening of his will showed itself by a desire 
for rule, an act of pride, rebellion against the nature 
to which he was united. Original sin is freedom's 
first step. From that time, a new life begins for 
man. In order to dominate nature, he must work. 
From work there arise discord, society, property, civil 
inequality : civilisation has succeeded a state of nature. 
What does this new condition stand for ? Had human 
activity no other end than individual happiness, then 
Rousseau would be quite right in longing for a return 
to the paradise of innocence. But what man wills is 
to be free, and effective freedom can be found only in 
the disinterested agreement of wills, on the ground of 
reason. Now, civilisation, the conflict of wills, is the 
necessary antecedent of their reconciliation. The reign 
of justice, the source of moral harmony, is the third 
phase of universal history. 

In the realisation of this progress of freedom, the 
will is not left to itself. It is aided by nature ; con- 
sequently, progress is constant and has the character of 
a natural law. A law beneficent and necessary, for 
were man to believe that his works perish wholly with 
himself how could he keep alive an earnest desire to 

KANT 313 

work for the good of mankind ? Nature stirs up man 
to quit nature ; she stimulates his freedom. She is an 
artist, a providence, capable of bringing forth good out 
of evil. She makes men selfish and violent, and violence 
engenders war ; but war calls a judicial regime into 
existence. She separates men through differences in 
constitution, language and religion ; but these differ- 
ences render universal domination impossible. Whilst 
evil succumbs, sooner or later, to the contradiction 
within itself; good, which reason substitutes therefor, 
when once established, continues and increases, because 
it is in harmony with itself. For logic is the one 
supreme force. At first, man wills union, and believes 
himself wise ; but nature knows better what is suitable 
for him, she wills a state of war. 

The first object of this collaboration between nature 
and will, is the establishment of the rational State, a 
combination of freedom and legality. The second 
object is the establishment of an Amphictyonic council 
of nations, ensuring the maintenance of peace. Without 
such an institution, mankind cannot advance to its goal. 
War is a return to a state of nature. In the ideal of 
reason is implied the idea of eternal peace. If this 
object is unreal isable, then Rousseau is right in advocat- 
ing a return to a savage state. Better barbarism than 
culture without morality. 

But is not this a purely theoretical conception ? 
Will real humanity accept such views ? Has not Hobbes 
shown that the real man is influenced only by interests, 
not by ideas ? Such a doctrine must be utterly rejected ; 
the belief must not gain ground that what is good 
in theory can ever be impossible or evil in practice. 
What, indeed, is not practical is that unlimited power 
Hobbes confers on sovereigns, and the rebellion he 


admits of in subjects. Interests, certainly, in the State, 
should have a place of their own, but does it follow 
that principles should be excluded ? Can one not be 
both as wise as the serpent and as harmless as the 
dove ? To the man who guards against both idealism 
and empiricism, the real and the ideal, instead of ex- 
cluding, include each other, and politics ceases to be 
incompatible with morals. There is a practical means 
of bringing the former into harmony with the latter : 
publicity. Whosoever thinks he can be useful to his 
country ought to seek publicity. Now, only what is 
in conformity with justice can bear publicity. Here 
as elsewhere, universality is the point of contact 
between the real and the rational, the form and token 
of truth. 

According to this theory, what is the present phase 
of the history of the human species ? It is the phase 
of enlightenment {Aufkl&rung), and its characteristic is 
the emancipation of the intelligence. Man, reflecting 
upon himself, finds that there is a contradiction between 
his reasonable nature and his position as a minor : ' he 
makes an effort to liberate his reason. Sapere aude is 
his motto. 

The progress of enlightenment cannot be realised by 
overthrowing political institutions, by revolution, which 
has no other result than the substitution of new for old 
prejudices. Personal reflection alone can truly enlighten 
a man. Consequently freedom to think and make 
known his thoughts is the condition of the progress of 

How can this freedom be reconciled with the rights 
of the State ? Here, a distinction must be made between 
man as a citizen of a limited community, and man as 
a citizen of the whole world. In his dealings with the 

KANT 315 

members of his community, man is bound to submit to 
the statutes by which it is governed ; but as a citizen 
of the world, he is free. As such a person, indeed, he 
speaks from the summit of reason, for the generality 
of reasonable beings, whereas as a citizen of a State, 
he limits his action to some particular place and time. 
Only by identifying itself with the universal does the 
will attain to freedom. Therefore each citizen will 
unresistingly pay taxes, though retaining the right to 
dispute such payment. The teacher, as an official, will 
respect such symbols as are recognised in his own 
country ; but as a scholar, he will have the right to 
criticise all doctrines. In accordance with these prin- 
ciples, the rights both of legislators and of citizens are 
clearly defined. 

And so, fully maintaining the harmony of nature 
and of freedom in the moral history of man, Kant 
guards against asserting that progress is a mere develop- 
ment of natural powers. To his mind, the Leibnitzian 
theory of Herder is radically erroneous. In nature 
dwells the means ; but the end, which is the spring of 
progress, can come only from moral reason, superior to 
nature. This is why the moral ideal can never be 
expressed by the individual as such ; it cannot be 
represented except in the whole of mankind. True 
history is, of necessity, universal. Certainly, the indi- 
vidual is a reality, but in the whole, there is something 
that goes beyond it, and only by union with the whole 
can it attain to freedom. 

Not content with expounding his general views as 
to the ends of human activity, Kant, in some things, 
deals with practice proper. We here refer to his ideas 
on education and university instruction. 


It is impossible for education, in its present state, 
to satisfy him. It neglects the will, drills and over- 
burdens the mind instead of moulding it for reflection. 
Here a radical reform is necessary. The pedagogic 
theories of Rousseau, the practical attempts of Basedow 
come just at the right time to support his criticism. 
He is passionately in favour of these innovators, and 
demands the organization of elementary schools as the 
indispensable condition of reform. But he remains 
himself, even on this ground, subordinating all authori- 
tative direction to moral ends. 

The body, he tells us, ought to be hardened and 
exercised, subjected to such discipline as will make it 
the powerful and obedient auxiliary of the mind. Let 
the child grow up in perfect freedom, but at the same 
time teach him to moderate his movements : one can- 
not accustom oneself too early to live according to rule. 

As regards the intellect, a sane education awakens 
and guides the mental faculties instead of loading the 
memory with facts. There are two exercises of the 
faculties : the one, which is free, is play ; the other, 
which is imposed from without, is work. The latter 
is obligatory in itself, and, in instruction, it could not 
be replaced by the former. The faculty of intuition 
should be formed before the understanding. Thus, all 
instruction will at first be intuitive, representative, tech- 
nical. A beginning may be made with geography. So 
far as it has the cultivation of the understanding for its 
object, instruction will be Socratic and catechetical. It 
will go to the root of things, and make the pupil really 
master of his knowledge. A robust intellect is the 
condition of a will that is free. 

Paedagogics has the formation of the moral per- 
sonality as its end. Here education is needed, for 

KANT 317 

virtue is not innate. This education comprises moral 
instruction and its corresponding practice. 

Moral instruction is catechetical. Aiming at demon- 
strating obligatory laws, it proceeds by principles, not 
examples : if examples come in, that is only in order 
to prove the principles to be really applicable. Kant 
left in writing a fragment of moral catechism, wherein 
the pupil, prompted by questions, discovers for himself 
moral conceptions of life. 

Practice, or moral ascetics, cannot create morality, 
which must come from ourselves ; it does, however, 
produce in man the disposition that favours morality. 
It aims at a hardening process, for effeminacy or indol- 
ence is opposed to virtue. Instead of destroying the 
will, it strengthens it. It makes us masters of ourselves, 
contented and happy. Moral, education tends to 
develop the inner aversion to evil, self-esteem and 
dignity, the domination of reason over the senses. 
It does not reward, but it punishes. It never humiliates, 
lest it make the child despise himself, except when he 
has been guilty of that one fault which effectively degrades 
mankind, to wit : falsehood. In all things it puts for- 
ward the moral motive, the law of duty itself, certain 
that this motive, when set forth in all its purity, will 
be more powerful than any material stimulus, any 
assurance of benefit or harm. 

With paedagogics we may compare the question of 
university instruction. On this point, too, the Critique 
throws fresh light. A University consists of four 
Faculties : Theology, Law, Medicine, the so-called 
superior Faculties, and Philosophy, the so-called inferior 
Faculty. Between the first three and the fourth, con- 
flict naturally arises. The object of the latter, indeed, 


does not differ from those of the former, but the one 
studies from a universal and theoretical point of view 
what the others study from a special and immediately 
practical one. This gives rise to jealousy and rivalry. 
Each of the two sides, claiming the whole realm of 
knowledge, repels the other as a usurper. The title of 
superior, borne by the first three Faculties, is nothing 
less than the superiority that tradition attributes to the 
positive over the rational. Is this hierarchy justified ? 

The conflict between theologians and philosophers 
is based upon the use to be made of the holy Scrip- 
tures. The Critique does not deny the legitimacy and 
utility of the sensible vehicle of religious truth ; but it 
claims for reason the right to distinguish, in the Scrip- 
tures, between the moral and eternal substratum, and 
the sensible outer form, made up of narratives and 
contingent circumstances. To understand the Scrip- 
tures is to interpret them in a moral sense. Theology 
presupposes this mode of interpretation, and so cannot 
condemn it. How, indeed, does it distinguish true 
from false revelation, except by the rational idea of 
God. How can it maintain the divine character of 
consecrated texts, in detail, except by making frequent 
use of an allegorical, moral interpretation ? 

The conflict between philosophers and jurisconsults 
is based on respect for law : the Critique shows that 
legality has a good foundation, consequently it condemns 
the revolutionary spirit. But, in addition, it claims the 
right to examine existing laws. And who can refuse it 
this right? Jurisconsults, in order to attain to their 
practical ends, need to know whether mankind is going 
backwards or forwards, or remaining stationary. Now, 
this is a question that cannot be solved empirically : it 
concerns reason. And reason answers it by postulating 

KANT 319 

indefinite progress in the name of the moral law. But 
what if the commandment is only an idea incapable of 
realisation ! Experience, under the guidance of reason, 
removes the doubt. Beneath our very eyes, we can see 
where reason and history coincide. There is one fact 
which is at the same time an idea. This fact is the 
French Revolution. Whatever comes of this enter- 
prise, writes Kant in 1798, whether it succeeds or fails, 
it stirs up a sympathy that is akin to enthusiasm in all 
who witness it by reason of the object it has in view : 
now, a purely moral ideal is alone capable of affecting 
the soul of man in this way. The Revolution is the 
effort of man to create a rational State, it is the 
eternal entering into time. Such a phenomenon, once 
witnessed, can never be forgotten. 

The problem for philosophers and doctors to 
solve, is whether the art of healing depends on 
experience alone, or whether reason has any share in it. 
Now, the Critique demonstrates that reason may be 
will, and that will bears some relation to phenomena. 
Reason, then, must also possess a healing virtue. And, 
indeed, man can do a great deal in modifying his 
physical condition by the sole exercise of his will. 
Here, Kant relates his personal experience : by moral 
force, he is able to keep himself free from hypochondria, 
and even to master spasmodic states. Once the disease 
has entered, the will may be unequal to the task before 
it, but at all events it can do much to prevent it, and 
keep the body in a state of health. The will is the 
first condition of health. Far from reason ever being 
the servant of experience, it is the latter that, under all 
circumstances, borrows from the former its truth and 



The Kantian philosophy had difficulty in making a 
way for itself in the field of thought already occupied 
by the Leibnitzo-Wolfian, the English, French and 
popular philosophies, without counting the increasingly 
flourishing positive sciences. Kant did not deceive 
himself as to the strange novelty of his work, which 
met with its first favourable reception at lena, thence 
spreading by degrees all over Germany and finally 
throughout the world. Not only was metaphysical 
speculation renewed, as it were, thereby : most of 
the departments of intellectual activity felt its in- 

In Germany, the history of Kantianism forms an 
important element in the general history of ideas and 

Amongst its first opponents may be cited : Selle and 
Weishaupt, followers of Locke ; Feder, Garve and 
Tiedemann, electics ; Platner, Mendelssohn, Nicolai 
and Meiners, representatives of popular philosophy ; 
Ernst Schulze, the skeptic ; Jacobi, the philosopher of 
belief, and along with him, Hamann ; Herder, who 
reconciled nature with history. The main reproach 
these philosophers bring against Kant is that the 
affection or action of things on sensibility, implied by 
his system, is made impossible by the abolition of all 
casual connection between " things-in-themselves " and 
the feeling subject. Consequently, the system was 
alleged to be fundamentally contradictory. 

Among Kant's immediate disciples may be mentioned 
Johannes Scultz, the first commentator on the Critique 
of Pure Reason ; Karl-Leonhard Reinhold ; Krug ; 
Fries, who attempted to give criticism a psychological 

KANT 321 

basis ; Salomon Maimon, who deduced from con- 
sciousness both the matter and the form of our re- 
presentations and so abolished the " thing-in-itself " ; 
Beck, and Bardili. 

Whether in the way of development or by combining 
with foreign elements, Kantianism gave birth to a 
number of important systems. The philosophies of 
Fichte, Schelling and Hegel are so many stages, as it 
were, in a connected line of thought dealing with the 
problems he raises. The subjective idealism of Fichte 
deduces the theoretical from the practical I, regarded 
as originally unconscious, and so makes of none effect 
the concept of the " thing-in-itself." Schelling objects 
to call I this first principle of Fichte, for, in reality, 
it is neither subject nor object : to his mind, the 
principle is absolute identity, no less superior to the 
I than to the not-I, an identity that is first realised 
as nature and afterwards as spirit : his system is ob- 
jective idealism. Hegel establishes, defines and 
methodically develops the principle of this new 
idealism. The absolute cannot be absolute identity, 
otherwise it would be immovable : it must of necessity 
be spirit. Its movement is the methodical effort it 
makes to remove the ever-recurring contradictions 
developed by reflection deep in its own nature. The 
philosopher's dialectic gives itself up to the objective 
movement of concept and thus brings forth in suc- 
cession : logic, the philosophy of nature and the philo- 
sophy of spirit. Idealism has become absolute. 

Apart from this somewhat organic development, 
several German systems sprang from a fusion of Kant- 
ianism with other doctrines. 

Schleiermacher, placing Spinoza, Plato and Christianity 
alongside of Kant, compares being and thought, and 


regards space, time and causality as forms both of 
things and of knowledge. God becomes the unity of 
the universe. Supreme good, the unity of the real and 
the ideal is, in morals, substituted for the purely formal 
principle of Kant. 

Herbart draws upon Kant, the Eleatics, Plato and 
Leibnitz. Like Kant, he sees in philosophy the 
criticism of experience. According to him, however, 
the " thing-in-itself " is not inaccessible. It is obtained 
in its true form, if we eliminate from the data of 
experience all the self-contradictory and consequently 
subjective elements found therein. It consists of a 
plurality of simple beings with no real relation to one 
another : it is we ourselves who introduce relations and 
a process of becoming. 

Like Kant, Schopenhauer limits space, time and 
causality, to phenomena ; but instead of considering 
the independent reality of our representation as in- 
capable of being known, he places it in will, as given by 
internal perception. 

All the same, the difficulties inherent in these 
divers systems, more particularly the foolish claim 
set up by absolute idealism to build up in detail the 
laws of nature, very quickly brought these developments 
of Kantianism into disfavour. It was considered that 
Kant's system of thought had been perverted by his 
successors, and that the line of reflection must be 
picked up just where Kant had dropped it. Such was 
the idea of an important school of philosophers, called 
the Neo-Kantian, especially after a famous lecture by 
Zeller on the theory of knowledge, published in 1862. 
They proposed either to defend Kant's own principles, 
or to develop them without considering the great 
metaphysical systems that have sprung therefrom in a 

KANT 323 

manner strictly suited to the spirit of our times. The 
principal members of this school were : Lange, Cohen, 
Liebmann, Bonna Meyer, Paulsen, Krause, Stadler, 
Riehl, Windelband, Schultze. Most of them, along with 
Lange, insisted especially on the distinction between 
knowledge and belief, corresponding to that between 
phenomena and " things-in-themselves," so far as this 
distinction guaranteed the possibility of science, whilst 
at the same time limiting it. Philosophy ought to be 
a theory of knowledge, not a conception of the world. 
Moral things may be a matter of faith, not of science. 
With few exceptions, including Paulsen, these philo- 
sophers put in the background, or even neglected 
the moral and religious part of Kant's work, and 
emphasised the critical and antimetaphysical part. 

Apart from philosophy, Kantianism in Germany 
has long since left its mark on the majority of in- 
tellectual disciplines. 

Following on Kant, Schiller entered into philosophic 
speculations on esthetics, endeavouring to define the 
connection of beauty with nature and morality. 

In theology, Kant initiated a moral rationalism that 
long held sway. Even of recent years, Ristchl, the 
theologian, has returned to Kant, protesting against 
the metaphysical fancy which claims to know the 

In jurisprudence, the Kantian theories of natural 
right are found as leading ideas in the works of 
Hufeland, Schmalz, Gros, Feuerbach, Rehberg and 

In science, Kantianism has exercised a varied in- 
fluence according to the way in which it has been 
understood. Radically idealistic in interpretation 
though, truth to tell, this interpretation was repudiated 


by Kant there came into being the famous philosophy 
of nature, which, bringing matter entirely within the 
compass of unconscious thought, boldly deduces the 
phases of its development from the laws of the for- 
mation of consciousness itself. On the other hand, 
the Kantian theory of experience, as the sole origin of 
knowledge, is accepted by many modern scholars in 
quest of a rational justification of their own methods. 

In mathematics, the Kantian point of view is char- 
acterised by the admission of synthetical a 'priori 
principles, or extralogical rational principles, and in 
particular by the negation of the metageometrical 
space of the Leibnitzians, as an object of possible 

In the psycho-physiology of the senses, the negation 
of Johannes Muller, who maintains, in opposition to 
empiricism, the primitive character of the representation 
of space, is based on transcendental esthetics. 

Finally, Kantianism exercises considerable influence 
over the political life of Germany. It represents the 
idea that reason, even in politics, is the true norm, and 
commands man to act in accordance with the universal 
idea of duty and humanity : a highly philosophical 
doctrine, which has certainly not altogether given way 
to that of historic right and an exclusively national ideal. 

In other countries besides Germany, the influence 
of Kant's philosophy is still great, though more tardy 
in making itself felt, and less profound in the im- 
pression it has made. 

In 1773, Kant began to be appreciated in Stras- 
bourg. In 1796, the translation of his works into French 
was begun. In 1799, Degerando sets forth his system. 
Mme. de Stae"! speaks enthusiastically of the man she 
looks upon as an apostle of sentimental spiritualism. 

KANT 325 

In 1818, Victor Cousin lectures on Kant's morals; 
in 1820 he expounds on the Critique of Pure Reason. 
In his own theory of reason, he is indebted to Kant 
for several of his ideas. After being thus utilised in 
doctrines based on other principles, such as electicism, 
positivism, and independent morals, Kantianism was 
studied and developed for its own sake, especially by 
Renouvier, Janet, Lachelier, and Pillon. Renouvier, 
Pillon, and Dauriac advocate, under the name of 
criticisme, a doctrine which, in contradistinction to 
German Neo- Kantianism, emphasises the excellence 
of Kantian morals. They directly subordinate theor- 
etical to practical reason, looking upon the will 
as the first principle of all certainty ; and not only 
that, but, doing away with the noumenon, they set 
up natural laws as ultimate reality, and, following on 
phenomena, they prepare a place for the initiative of 
freedom. Under Kant's inspiration, also, M. Secretan, 
of Lausanne, limits the rights of science, and places 
above it belief in freedom. In divers forms and 
degrees, Kantianism even now-a-days is to be found in 
most of the doctrines whose aim it is to reconcile science 
with morals, without injuring either. 

In England, Kant's influence was mainly felt by 
Hamilton and the agnostics. Combining Kant's 
doctrine with that of Reid, Hamilton maintained that 
the representation of the absolute was impossible for a 
mind limited to human knowledge. Spencer's agno- 
sticism, also, though dependent on positivism, owes 
much to the Kantian antinomies. In the realm of 
psychology the revolutionist school claims to be the 
reconciler of Kantian apriorism with Locke's empiricism. 
At the present time, Kant is scrupulously studied for 
his own sake. In the translation of the Critique of 


Pure Reason which Max Miiller published in 1 8 8 i , he 
declares the work to be an Aryan monument as precious 
as the Vedas, and says that throughout all time it may 
be criticized but never ignored. 

In Italy, the Critique of Pure Reason was translated 
in 1821-1822, and Jose del Perojo translated it into 
Spanish in 1883. 

Looking at the matter from a general point of view, 
what was the historical role of Kant ? What relation 
has his philosophy with present-day speculation ? 

Kant's main purpose was analogous to those of 
Socrates and Descartes. Socrates undertook to show 
that practice, even regarded as the end of human 
activity, cannot exclude science, because in reality it 
implies this latter. Descartes grants that a commence- 
ment be made with universal doubt : this doubt does 
not abolish certainty, but rather creates a foundation 
for it. Kant, in turn, declares that experience is the 
starting point of all our knowledge. Are we to conclude 
that reason is a mere word ? By no means, for 
experience is based on reason. And in the very 
development of the doctrine, analogy follows its course. 
Deduced from practice, the science of Socrates is 
limited to morals and the objects connected therewith. 
Cartesian certainty at first extends only to thought, the 
condition of doubt ; it restores the objects that doubt 
had overthrown, only in so far as they are capable of 
being connected with thought. Kantian criticism, like- 
wise, allows to persist only that in a priori notions 
which is required for experience ; it makes the possi- 
bility of this latter the norm of the entire use of pure 

Like Socrates and Descartes, Kant contends that his 

KANT 327 

method is constructive rather than destructive. Science, 
limited as regards " things-in-themselves," is at all events 
the abode of certainty. Idealism melts away before 
empirical realism. Nor is this all : criticism is to give 
even better results. The very deduction that establishes 
science allows morals to stand by its side, without risk 
of offending it. True, morals also must put up with 
limitation. It must be based on an exclusively formal 
principle, the simple notion of duty. But here again, 
criticism restrains only in order to secure. Morality 
may be absolute and remain practical, if it has no other 
object than the determinations of the will that is free. 
The insoluble antinomy of mysticism and eudemonism 
vanishes in the system of rational autonomy. 

Indeed, throughout Kant's philosophy, it is reason 
that creates as well as destroys, that supplies principles 
to replace those it has abolished. In Descartes, it had 
already discovered within itself, in its faculty of intuition, 
that principle of certainty which it found neither in the 
senses nor even in demonstrations. Kant shows us 
reason making an inventory of its content, and finding, 
in its very constitution, all the principles necessary for 
science and morals. Naturally, it does not suffice unto 
itself, the absolute goes beyond it. Its science, con- 
sequently, is relative ; its morals, in application, limited 
to endless progress. None the less does reason offer 
man all the resources he needs to realise the ideal of 
mankind, for it is freedom and, at the same time, law. 

Such being the essential elements of Kantianism, this 
philosophy stands at the term of the rationalistic 
development which began with Descartes. Reason, 
according to Kant, drives to the utmost limits both its 
renunciation of the comprehension of absolute being 
and its efforts to provide, by the principles it finds 


within itself, for the intuition in which it is lacking. 
One more step in either direction, and rationalism will 
lose itself either in skepticism or idealism. Kant, whilst 
shutting himself up in the world of time, claimed that 
he found in the heart of reason, which forms part 
thereof, a means of converting this world into a symbol 
of eternal being. 

Such is the historical signification of his work. 
Regarded theoretically, it is of supreme interest, even 
in our days. 

The human mind, influenced by the positive sciences 
and by philosophy alike, asks itself more than ever 
what is our relation to the reality of things, and whether 
or not it is possible to know that reality. Now, tran- 
scendental idealism has an answer to give to this 
question. Beyond phenomena, according to Kantianism, 
we can yet grasp the laws of thought by which 
phenomena are conditioned, and constitute philosophy 
as a theory of knowledge ; but as for forming an 
ontological theory of the universe, as the ancients did, 
we must give up all ambition in this direction : a plain 
solution, and one of grave consequence, finding much 
support in present-day science. 

On the other hand, the progress of the positive 
sciences, in extent and in certainty, makes us wonder , 
if whatever interests man cannot at least be dealt 
with according to the methods of these sciences, and if 
morals itself cannot be assimilated thereto. Kant 
answers this question with his stern dualism, limiting 
science in order to give it a basis, and establishing morals 
in the domain opened up by this very limitation. Now, 
neither the sovereignty of science in the practical order 
of things, nor the theoretical impossibility of freedom, 
are, even in these days, sufficiently clearly demonstrated 

KANT 329 

for it to be possible to relegate to the past the Kantian 

As regards the philosophy of science, Kantianism 
deals just with those problems that increasingly occupy 
the modern mind. How can experience alone afford 
certainty, how can the knowledge of a law, in the exact 
meaning of the word, be purely experimental in its 
origin ? Aristotle taught that the general, so far as it 
is known by experience alone, necessarily includes excep- 
tions, and that only intellectual knowledge can have 
universal value. And this has been the classic doctrine 
up to the present. Descartes, however, had already 
declared that there is a true science of phenomena, that 
what is transitory in its nature may be reduced to 
immutable essence ; and science, in its onward march, 
has been increasingly unconscious of Aristotle's objec- 
tion. And yet, what right have we to reject a doctrine 
which seemed to be evidence itself ? How, and in what 
sense, can a fact be a law ? Kant accepted this question 
as modern science states it ; it is the object of his 
doctrine of forms and categories to answer it. The 
solution is a profound one ; it cannot be avoided by any 
who persistently determine, without fearing contradic- 
tion, to unite experience with certainty. 

Kant's system of morals, too, is far from having 
become foreign to us. We are at present, as regards 
action, in a position similar to that in which science 
places us as regards being. We accept only facts, and 
yet we cannot renounce certainty, law, belief in duty. 
We are determined to reject every motive of action 
adopted from the idea of a suprasensible world, and yet 
we claim to maintain a system of absolute morals, a 
doctrine of obligation. Are we not, then, almost 
prepared to appreciate a philosophy which actually 


brings duty out of the very heart of experience, and 
holds aloof from mysticism and utilitarianism alike ? 

And if, in social, religious and political questions, 
we are troubled by the conflict between history and 
reason, between what is and what ought to be, between 
form and idea, between fact and right, between the 
national ideal and the human one, do we not thereby 
find ourselves somewhat in the same position as Kant 
when he was investigating the relations between theory 
and practice and reconciling the necessity of nature 
with the sovereignty of reason in his doctrine of moral 
progress ? 

Not in vain, then, was it that Kant endeavoured, 
both in the sphere of action and in that of knowledge, to 
adopt that point of view of the universal, at once 
real and ideal, which is also the point of view of reason : 
his doctrine thereby receives a lofty, positive character, 
such as could not be met with either in the pure 
generalisations of experience or the dreams of imagina- 
tion. It is not the mirror of a single epoch, nor even 
the expression of a nation's thought : it belongs to 
the whole of mankind. 


Acroamatic, instruction, 77, 80, 8 1 

Adam, 217-221 

Adam, Charles, 241-244 

Aesculapius, 75 

Alexander, 75-78, 120, 151, 152 

Alexander of Aphrodisias, 157 

Alexandria, 157 

Amaury of Chartres, 1 60 

Amphictyonic council, 313 

Amyntas II., 75 

Anaxagoras, n, 84 

Andronicus, 79, 156 

Antipater, 152 

Antisthenes, 40 

Apellicon, 79 

Apodeictic, 98 

Apollo, 69 

Arabs, 158 

Aristides, 43 

Ariston, 152 

Aristophanes, 14, 19 

Aristotle, 6, 175, 203, 204, 205, 241, 
252, 280, 329; biography, 74-79; 
writings, 79-83 ; ensemble of his work, 
84, 85 ; classification of sciences, 
85-87 ; method and point of view, 
87-89; historian, 89-91; logic, 92- 
103; metaphysics, 103-112; general 
physics, 112-116; mathematics, 116, 
117; cosmology, 117-120; astro- 
nomy, 120-122 ; meteorology, 122 ; 
mineralogy, 122, 123 ; general bio- 
logy, 123-125 ; botany, 125 ; animal 
anatomy and physiology, 125-130; 
zoBlogy, 130-132; psychology, 132- 
135; morals, 135-140; economics, 
140, 141 ; politics, 142-146 ; rhetoric, 
146-148 ; esthetics, 148, 149 ; poetics, 
149, 150; grammar, 151 ; speeches 
and poems, 151; letters, 152; lan- 
guage, 153-156 ; influence, 156-162; 
Aristotle's system compared with 
Kantian idealism and with evolution- 
ism, 162-164; the essential features 

of Aristotelianism retained in modern 
science, 164-166 ; the three principles 
of Aristotelian finality, 166-168 

Aristoxenus, 156 

Asclepiads, 75 

Aseity, 182 

Atarnea, 76, 152 

Athenians, 69 

Athens, 75-78 

Aufkl'drungsphilosophie, 256, 314 

Aulus Gellius, 77 

Aurora, 229 

Averroes, 159 

Baader, 231 

Babylon, 120 

Bacon, 35, 70, 88, 102, 161, 244, 245 

Baillet, 241, 242, 243, 246, 247, 248,251 

Barbarians, 141 

Bardili, 321 

Basedow, 316 

Batanaea, 157 

Baumgarten, 273, 294 

Beccaria, 306 

Beck, 321 

Berkeley, 234 

Bible, 173, 226 

Boehme, Philosophus Teutonicus, 169-170. 
His first book, Aurora, 171 ; Pro- 
found influence of the Bible, 173 ; 
Meditation on the phenomena of 
nature, 174; his life-aim, the enter- 
ing into the Kingdom of God, 175- 
1 76 ; the nature of evil, 1 77 ; his 
task : to enquire into the genesis of 
things, 178 ; threefold division of his 
system, 178 ; methods of ordinary 
philosophy useless, 179, 180; man 
must adopt the standpoint of God, 
181 ; problem of aseity, 182; exami- 
nation of Eckhart's doctrine, 184 ; 
revelation requires opposition, 185 ; 
expose of Boehme's teaching on the 
birth of God, 186-202; comparison 




of his philosophy with that of the 
ancients, 202-206 ; his theology 
neither monism nor dualism ; per 
crucem ad lucem : the human and 
divine law, 206-208 ; opposition to 
pantheism and to theism ; solution 
of problem of creation, definition 
of creation, 208-215 ; origin of sin 
and hell, 215-217 ; man's three parts, 
soul, mind, and body, correspond to 
the principles of fire, light, and 
essence or reality, 217-218 ; spiritual 
interpretation of the Fall of Man, 
218-222 ; reconciliation of good and 
evil ; realisation of man's salva- 
tion by Christ, election by grace ; 
faith, the sign of election and the 
beginning of regeneration ; contrast 
between faith and works, prayer and 
sacraments, 222-226 ; life of the re- 
generate Christian, 226-228; Aurora: 
the spiritual interpretation of Chris- 
tianity, 229-231 ; spirit, i.e. infinite 
freedom, alone is true being ; evil is 
not a lesser good but rather a living 
force that tends to destroy good, 231, 
232 ; characteristics of German philo- 
sophy, 232, 233 

Boethus, 157 

Boetius, 158 

bonk metis, 254 

Bral, Michel, quoted, vii 

Buhle, 75 

Burke, 294 

Cagliostro, 268 

Ca ili pus, 121 

Callisthenes, 77, 120 

Cartesianism, 5, 97, 326 

Chalcis, 75-78 

Chaldaeans, 120 

Christ, 159, 171, 188, 217, 222, 225, 

308, 309 
Christian, 224, 225, 226, 235, 270, 

308, 309 
Christianity, 72, 160, 169, 175, 177, 

201, 205, 229, 264, 321 
Church, 305, 308, 309, 310 
Cicero, 91, 154 
Cilicia, 157 
Clerselier, 243 
Cogito, 234, 235, 237 
Cohen, 323 

Collegium Fredericanum, 257, 258 
Copernicus, 284 
Cordova, 159 
Corneille, 5, 242 
Cousin, Victor, 325 
Criticisme, 325 

Critique of Pure Reason, 261, 262, 302, 

3 X 7> 3 l8 3 J 9 325 326 
Crito, 40 
Critolaiis, 156 

Damascus, 157 

Dauriac, 325 

David of Dinant, 160 

Davis, Prof. W. M., quoted, vi 

Decearchus, 156 

de Coulanges, Fustel, I, vi 

de Cusa, Nicolas, 172 

Degerando, 324 

d'Eichthal, Gustave, 10 

del Perojo, Jose, 326 

Demetrius, 152 

Democritus, 84, 116, 119, 123, 152 

Demosthenes, 78 

Denys of Halicarnassus, 74 

Descartes, 5, 6, 161, 167, 174, 265, 
326, 327, 329 ; The Cogito, the living 
germ from which have sprung all 
great modern systems of philosophy ; 
problem of transition from thought 
to existence, 234-236 ; in thought 
alone lies human dignity and the 
principle of certainty, 236 ; Cartesian- 
ism was the soul of contemporary 
philosophy and science, affirmed Hux- 
ley, 237 ; Descartes' style, a perfect 
model of prose, 238-240; relation 
between morals and science, 241-244 ; 
everything in nature is brought about 
mathematically ; life itself is a mech- 
anism and is subject to our control, 
245, 246 ; purpose and aim of the 
Discours de la Methode, the Lettres, the 
Principes, and the Traite des Passions, 
248-252 ; no limit to the conquests 
of science over nature ; the sovereignty 
of reason ; Cartesian morals closely 
united with, though not derived from, 
the science of natural things ; the 
full realisation of reason is the goal 
of life ; the bona mens is the supreme 
aim, 253, 254 

de Stagl, Madame, 324 

Dialectic, 100 

Diogenes Laertius, 74, 75, 79, 152 

Discours de la Methode, 236, 239, 241, 
242, 247, 249, 250, 254 

Dynamics, 301 

Eckhart, 160, 170, 172, 184 

Egyptians, 120, 160 

Eleatics, 113, 322 

eX^7%o^res, 15 

Elizabeth, Princess, 241 251, 253, 254 

Empedocles, 113 



Encyclopedism, 259 

Epicureanism, 157 

Epicurus, 241 

Eristic, 101 

Eucharist, 159 

Euclid, 40 

Eudemus, 152, 156 

Eudoxus, 121 

Exoteric instruction, 77, 80, 8 1 

Fall, 230 

Faye, 271 

Feder, 320 

Feuerbach, 323 

Fichte, 72, 169, 232, 255, 262, 321 

Finsterniss, 191 

Forster, 311 

Fouillee, 9, II, 14, 50, 54, 57, 58 

Franck, 10, 50, 172, 173 

Frederick II., 256, 261, 265, 306 

French Revolution, 236, 256, 263, 


Fries, 320 

Garve, 320 

Gazette <f Anvert,, 243 

Gennadius, 161 

George of Trebizond, 161 

God, no, in, 112, 116, 118, 159, 171, 
173, 176-193, 195, 198-231, 246, 
249, 251, 254, 259, 272, 286, 288, 
292, 293, 297, 300, 307, 308, 310, 
318, 322 

GSrlitz, 170 

Goethe, 262 ; quoted, ix 

Gorgias, 22 

Greeks, 141 

Gros, 323 

Grote, i, 9, n 

Hamann, 169, 262, 320 

Hamilton, 325 

Harvard University, vii 

Hegel, i, 31, 72, 162, 169, 170, 232, 

233. 3 ZI 
Helmholtz, 271 
Herbart, 322 
Herder, 268, 315, 320 
Hermias, 76, 151, 152 
Herpyllis, 76, 78 
Herz, Marcus, 267, 270 
Hhtoria animalium, 77, 130 
Hobbes, 313 
Homer, 35 
Hufeland, 323 
Hume, 235, 260, 262, 275, 276, 277, 

278, 288 
Hutcheson, 260 
Huxley, 236 

Huyghens, 235 
Hypomnematic writings, 81 

lena, 320 
Isocrates, 76 

Jacob!, 169, 320 
Janet, 10, 325 
Jesus, 222, 224 
Jews, 158, 159 
John the Baptist, 159 
Jupiter, 112 

Kabbah, 193 

Kant, 162, 163, 169, 170, 231, 232, 234, 
235 ; the influence of Kantianism, 
255; biography, 256-264; his poli- 
tics, religion, morals, 264 ; chrono- 
logical list of works, 265 - 270 ; 
theory of actual history of the forma- 
tion of the world, 271 ; relations 
between possibility and existence, 
philosophy and mathematics, 272, 

273 ; how far can one become ac- 
quainted with supra-sensible existences ? 

274 ; nature of space and time, 275 ; 
principle of causality, 276-278 ; ex- 
planation of the conditions of ex- 
perience, 278-288 ; what is morality 
and on what does it rest ? Kant's 
categorical imperative, 289-291 ; his 
postulates, 292., 293 ; the notions of 
taste and finality, 294-300 ; meta- 
physics of the science of nature, 301, 
302 ; the metaphysics of morals, the 
various kinds of rights and possessions, 
303-306 ; duties, 307 ; maxims, 308 ; 
the four essential ideas of the Chris- 
tian religion, 308-310; applications 
of the metaphysical doctrine to the 
natural and the moral history of man ; 
Aufktirung, the present phase of 
human history, 310-314; freedom 
to express thought, the condition of 
the progress of enlightenment ; re- 
conciliation of freedom with the 
rights of the State; taxation, 315; 
reform needed in methods of educating 
will, intellect, and body ; the goal of 
education is the formation of virtue, 
316, 317; university instruction, the 
conflict between philosophers and 
(i) theologians, (2) lawyers, (3) doc- 
tors, 318, 319; influence of Kantian 
philosophy, systems born of it ; various 
developments in esthetics, theology, 
jurisprudence, science, mathematics, 
sense psycho-physiology, and German 
politics, 320-324; appreciation in 



France, England, Italy, and Spain, 
325, 326 ; the historical role of 
Kant's philosophy ; experience, based 
on reason, the starting point of all 
knowledge ; reason creates as well as 
destroys, it is both freedom and 
law, 326-328 ; world-wide scope and 
import of Kant's doctrines, 329, 


KdBapffis, 149 
Knorr, 264 
Knutzen, 258, 259 

KUl/JLTj, 142 

K8nigsberg, 257, 258, 261, 264 

Krause, 323 

Krug, 320 

Kuno, Fischer, 234, 255, 267 

Kuntzschmann, Catherina, 170 

Lachelier, 325 
La Mettrie, 234 
Lamian war, 78 
Lampsacus, 156 
Lange, 323 
Laplace, 259, 265 

Leibnitz, 6, 99, 162, 169,231,232,234, 
235, 258, 260, 261, 265, 266, 275, 

3i5 3" 
Leibnitzians, 324 
Leibnitzo-Wolfian, 271, 288, 320 
Lesbos, 156 
Lettres, 249 
L6v6que, 9 
Liebmann, 323 
Lilienthal, 258 
Lisbon, 266 

Locke, 92, 234, 235, 260, 320, 325 
Lucifer, 215, 216, 217, 218, 221, 222 
Luther, 161, 172, 176, 177, 178 
Lycaeum, 77 

Machaon, 75 
Macedonia, 75, 76 
Maieutics, 38] 
Maimon, Salomon, 321 
Malebranche, 234, 235 
Martin, Saint, 231 
Mechanics, 301 
Meiners, 320 
Mendelssohn, 266, 320 
Mentor, 152 
Mersenne, 247, 251 
Messena, 156 
Meyer, Bonna, 323 
Milky Way, 122 
Moliere, 5 
Moses, 216 

Moses Maimonides, 159 
Miiller, Johannes, 324 

Miiller, Max, 326 
Mytilene, 76 

Neleus, 79 

Neo-Kantianism, 322, 325 

Neo-Platonism, 205 

Neo-Platonist, 157, 206 

Newton, 235, 247, 258, 260, 265, 271, 

^73> *7 8 > 303 

Newtonianism, 258, 272, 274, 286, 301 
Nicolai, 320 
Nicolas, 157 

Nicomachean Ethics, 71, 79, 155 
Nicomachus, 75, 79 
Nisard, Dsir6, 238 
vovs, 96, 97, 132, 133, 134, 138, 139, 

157, 160, 175 

Olympic games, 91 
Orestes, 41 
Organon, 158 

Paphlagonia, 157 

Paracelsus, 172, 173 

Pascal, 6, 8, 17, 18, 175, 236 

Pauline origin, 172 

Paulsen, 323 

Peripatetic school, 77, 79, 82, 156, 157, 


Phenomenology, 302 
Philip, 76, 152 
Philopon, 157 
Philoxenes, 152 
Phoronomics, 301 
$&ris, 112, 157, 167 
Physiognomonica, 129 
Pietism, 256, 259, 270 
Pietist, 257, 258 
Piety, Socrates' definition of, 62 
Pillon, 325 
Pirithous, 41 
Plainer, 320 
Plato, 11-16, 27, 30-34, 40, 70, 71, 75, 

78, 84, 89, 103, 104, 116, 123, 140, 

143, H4, 146, 148, IS 1 . 152. !57 

158, 160, 175, 321, 322 
Plenum, 115, 273 
Plotinus, 157 
Plutarch, 79 

7r6Xts, 142 
Polycrates, 13 
Pomponatius, 161 
Porphyry, 120, 157, 158 
Postulates, Kant's, 292 
Principes, 242, 243, 248 
Protagoras, 22, 68, 89 
Protestantism, 177, 256 
Pseudo-Ammonius, 75 
Pseudo-Hesychius, 75 



Pylades, 41 
Pythagoreans, 206 
Pythian games, 91 
Pythias, 76, 78 

Quintessence, 118 
Quito, 266 

Rauch, 264 
Redemption, 230 
Regulae, 241, 242, 250, 254 
Rehberg, 323 
Reid, 235, 325 
Reinhold, 320 
Renaissance, 161, 238 
Renan, I 
Renouvier, 325 
Reuter, Anna Regina, 257 
Rhetoric, 101 
Rhodes, 79, 156 
Richter, 262 
Riehl, 255, 323 
Riga, 261 
Ristchl, 323 

Roman Catholic Church, 225 
Rome, 79, 156 
Rosenkranz, 267 

Rousseau, 259, 260, 273, 300, 312, 313, 

Satan, 221 

Scaliger, 161 

Schelling, 72, 169,231, 232, 255, 286,321 

Schiller, 262, 323 

Schleiermacher, 12, 13, 20, 30, 321 

Schmalz, 323 

Schoolmen, 70, 71, 171 

Schopenhauer, 267, 322 

Schultze, 323 

Schulz, 257 

Schulze, Ernst, 320 

Schwenckfeld, 172, 173 

Scolion, 152 

Scotland, 257 

Scriptures, 318 

Selle, 320 

Selymbrians, 152 

Sensor mm commune^ 132 

Shaftesbury, 260 

Sidon, 157 

Simmias, 40 

Simplicius, 120, 152, 157 

Skepsis, 79 

Socrates, 245, 255, 316, 326; modern 
writers' accounts of, 9-12 ; testimony 
of Xenophon, Plato and Aristotle, 13- 
14 ; judgment of physics and sophistic, 
16-26; "Know thyself," 26-29; 
science and morals, 30-34 ; method : 

maieutics and irony ; definition and 
induction, self- possession and love ; 
refutation, 35-46 ; teleology and moral 
theology ; virtue and the science of 
good ; <ro(pta the virtue par excellence, 
49-65 ; "Virtue is one and can be 
taught," fj.d6r]ffit and fj.e\frri, 66-67 5 
" moral science ": the central fact of 
his teaching ; science does not attain to 
things divine ; belief in an Apollonian 
mission ; philosopher and man of 
action alike, 68 - 70 5 " The only 
science is that of the general " ; the 
Nicomachean Ethics ; influence on 
modern philosophy, 71-73 

Socratics, 70 

ffcxpla., ix 

Sophists, 21, 22, 23, 25, 29, 51-55, 61, 
66, 245 

Sorbonne, 160 

Spencer, 325 

Spinoza, 231, 234, 235, 321 

Stadler, 323 

Stageira, 75 

State, 305, 306, 307, 313, 315, 319 

Stoics, 157, 252, 253 

Strabo, 79 

Strasbourg, 324 

Strato, 156 

Sucht, 1 86 

Suidas, 75 

Sweden, 241, 244 

Swedenborg, 267, 274 

Sylla, 79 

Syracuse, 75 

Tarentum, 156 

Tauler, 170, 173 

Thales, 89, 122 

Themistius, 157 

Theodoric of Freiburg, 160 

Theodorus, 146 

Theodota, 65 

Theophrastus, 79, 156 

Theosophist, 169, 184, 231 

Theosophy, 172, 173, 182 

Theseus, 41 

Thomas, Saint, 241 

Thomists, 170 

Thrasymachus, 146 

Tiedemann, 320 

rl tffrl, 10 

Tisias, 146 

Traite des Passions, 248, 251, 252 

Trinity, 189, 230 

Ulysses, 35 
Ungrund, 183 
University of France, 160 



Vacuum, 115 

Vanini, 161 

Vedas, 326 

Victor Hugo, quoted, vi 

Virgin, the Eternal, 174, 175, 189, 219, 


Voltaire, 3 

Von Baader, Franz, 169 

Von Nettesheim, Agrippa, 172 

Walther, Dr., 170 
Weigel, Valentin, 172, 173 
Weishaupt, 320 

Wille, 1 86 

Windelband, 255, 323 
Wolf, 258, 272, 300 
Wundt, 255 

Xanthippe, 65 
Xenocrates, 76 
Xenophon, 12, 13, 33, 40 

Zachariae, 323 

Zeller, 9, II, 20, 22, 30, 36, 54, 80, 83, 

Zeno, 241 


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