Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

phantly rescued one disease from the black list marked incurable. We believe these men are themselves sufficiently repaid by the inward consciousness of having been permanently useful to their fellow-men, and of having added to the sum of human knowledge. But for the sake of others, and especially for the sake of those still hesitating as to the profession which they will embrace, it is extremely desirable that some tangible evidence should be given that the nation appreciates the sacrifices daily and hourly made by those who devote their energies and their talents to the promotion of its physical well-being.

Art. VIII.- Aristotle. By GEORGE GROTE, F.R.S., &c.

Edited by ALEXANDER Bain, LL.D., Professor of Logic in the University of Aberdeen, and J. CROOM ROBERTSON, M.A., Professor of Philosophy of Mind and Logic in

University College, London. In two volumes. 1872. The great historian of Greece having finished his narrative

of the rise and fall of the Athenian Republic, and having traced the vicissitudes of the Hellenic states down to the point where a free Hellas ceased to exist, immediately set out to conquer a new world. Turning, in the year 1856, from political history to the widely-different field of philosophy, he promised the world to follow out in a separate work that great movement of Greek speculative thought which extended over the greater part of the fourth century before Christ. In nine years of labour he completed his account of Plato and the immediate followers of Socrates. And then, when he was more than seventy years old, he set himself with undiminished ardour to the gigantic task of giving an exhaustive account of the philosophy of Aristotle.

Grote could conceive of nothing on a small scale. Looking back as we do now, we can see that it would have been more fortunate had he contented himself with an attempt to deal with a limited province of the Aristotelian philosophy. It must be a matter of regret to us that Grote did not propose to himself, first at all events, that part of the task of an Aristotelian expositor for which he had pre-eminent qualifications, namely, the setting forth and illustration of Aristotle's political and ethical systems, and of his views on rhetoric and poetry. There can be no doubt that Grote would have been able to throw a flood of light on these, perhaps the most permanently interesting parts of the thought of Aristotle. He who had

5 the world the Historge time alles

lived for so many years in the Hellenic life of the past; who had felt so long and deep an interest in all the constitutional questions of Greece, not as mere antiquarian questions of a dead past, but as having a living and perpetual significance for the present day; who had identified himself with one side or the other in the debates of the Athenian Agora; who had made to himself a personal question of the reputation of the Sophists and espoused the defence of their character ; who had always manifested the strongest interest in all moral problems and theories, and who in treating of Socrates had preferred to regard him almost exclusively from the ethical side, according to his picture in Xenophon as a practical philosopher; he to whom Greek art was dear, and for whom the Greek drama, in all its connexion with the national life and development, was full of meaning-would beyond doubt have been able to have given us a work in connexion with the political, moral, and æsthetical treatises of Aristotle, which would have been a boon to the world, and at the same time a fitting and natural supplement to the History of Greece. The loss of this we must deplore, but at the same time all honour must be given to the vastness of conception which has occasioned this loss, and to the courage and indefatigable energy with which, in the evening of life, Grote essayed a tour de force of such magnitude as almost to be an impossibility. Great writers are seldom the best judges of their own powers, and in all probability Grote was not conscious to himself of a peculiar capacity for elucidating the Politics’and Ethics' of Aristotle. He had undertaken to write an account of the golden period of philosophy in Greece, and it may never have suggested itself to him to attempt anything smaller than a systematic review of the whole. With a noble rashness he threw himself in his seventyfirst year upon the task of mastering and analysing the entire works of Aristotle, which in the Oxford edition of the original Greek fill eleven octavo volumes, and on the various questions connected with which more books have been written than on the whole political history of Greece taken together. The six years of life now remaining to Grote were ali too few for the accomplishment of his task. What he was able to achieve the two large volumes now before us show. The work is a mere torso, and yet is a monument of splendid industry,* which may

dation to write it may nevert than a

* It is reported of an eminent Scotch political economist that, having once expressed a wish that some one would leave him a fortune, and being asked, 'And what would you do then ?' he answered, 'Why, give up making these dommed laborious compilations, to be sure !'

well serve as an example and stimulus to the youth of this country.

Grote's fragment on Aristotle has been very well edited by his friends and literary executors, Professors Bain and Croom Robertson. Without additions of their own they have given these posthumous papers to the world in clear and readable form ; they have carefully verified the numerous references, and have added a useful index of the matters treated of. From what is thus presented it is not quite possible to say what would have been the exact form of the work had it reached completion. Much that these volumes contain might have ultimately served only as materials to be worked up by the author into another shape. The finished parts consist of a Life of Aristotle ; a chapter on the Aristotelian Canon ; a complete analysis and account of the Organon' or logic of Aristotle; and an essay (Chapter XI.) on the metaphysical point of view of Aristotle as contrasted with that of former philosophers. This chapter appears to have been intended as part of an introduction to the “ Physics' and · Metaphysics' of Aristotle, but the author's MS. breaks off with the promise to continue the same subject in a succeeding chapter. Even up to this point Grote's work is not complete, for we are told that his numbering of the chapters indicates a lacuna of two chapters, which would have come in before his account of the • Organon.' These would probably have been a continuation of his essay on the Aristotelian Canon, and would have contained Grote's views as to the genuineness of the works which are commonly ascribed to Aristotle, drawn from an internal examination of the writings themselves. After Chapter XI., the editors very properly eke out this beginning by adding a reprint from Professor Bain's work on · The Senses and the • Intellect,' and his . Manual of Mental and Moral Science, of the valuable papers which Grote had contributed to those works, on the Psychology of Aristotle, on the Doctrine of Universals, and on Aristotle's Doctrine of First Principles. They also add the careful paraphrase which Grote had made (whether intended merely for his own use, or to be a substantive part of his projected great work) of six books of the • Metaphysics' and two of the treatise On the Heaven,' and

le And probne in bocates and we are Irene, to

This (probably ironical) conception of a summum bonum was the very antipodes of the ideas of Grote, who, with ample wealth at his disposal, worked throughout a long life as if his bread had depended on it, and with whom the appetite for labour seems to have grown with what it fed upon, so that it happened to him to have reserved, as if for a bonne bouche, his most · laborious compilation of all to the last.

hading this Games hand ed. Maced

two short but highly interesting papers on “Esik= "* me on the Stoics.

Grote's first chapter contains the best biograpar o that has yet been written. The information which bei den gleaned from antiquity by former writers on this salyas course, here reproduced, but Grote makes a not indossibani addition to this by a more clear and detailed explanatare te had yet been given, of Aristotle's position at thes writing this Grote was on familiar ground, and he traces a sure and easy hand the circumstances in which she • Stagirite,' as a supposed Macedonising' philosopka, Fs placed. On other questions, where sufficient data were u ing, Grote refrains from conjecture, and is content, where nothing is to be said, to say nothing. He does not attecat here to contribute anything on the question of the order is which the extant works of Aristotle were composed, nor does he say how far any progress may be traced, by the evidace these works, in their author's mind. This subtle and discal inquiry might possibly have fallen within the province of one of Grote's projected, but unwritten chapters ; here he deals with Aristotle's life entirely from external sources. There is another question to which he adverts, and on which he might, if so disposed, have called Aristotle himself in evidence,-sod that is the question, how far Aristotle exhibited un-Greek characteristics. This point was mooted in a letter written in 1795 by Wilhelm von Humboldt to F. A. Wolf. The letter, alluded to, but not quoted by Grote, is an interesting one. Humboldt writes :

The De Poeticâ of Aristotle is a highly remarkable prodaction, and, looking at the ideas it contains, the question has much exercised my reflection, how far a Greek of the period could have written this work. It is really a curious mixture of different individualities united. and this one work was enough to convince me that it would be an important inquiry to try to draw out the characteristic peculiarities of Aristotle, and to show how such a character could arise in Greece, and

* Grote always delighted in writing · Epikurus,'' Sokrates,' "Sikyon,' and the like. This was perhaps necessary thirty years ago, as a protest in favour of the hard sound of the Latin c as representing the Greek K. But it is no longer so, now that the leading scholars of this country have recognised the uniformly hard sound of c in all Latin words. Perhaps the rule should be that when we transliterate a Greek word directly into English, retaining the Greek termination, we should use k as the proper representative of K, as, for instance, in the word · Kosmos.' If we take a Greek word through the Latin and with a Latinised termination, we should retain the Latin c, as, for instance, 'Epicurus.'

how at the particular time it was necessitated to arise, and how it influenced Greece. You may wonder, and perhaps rightly, that I find the Stagirite almost un-Greek. But so it is. Ever since I have been acquainted with him, two things have struck me: first, his peculiar individuality; his purely philosophical character seems to me not Greek, it appears to me on the one hand to be deeper than the Greek character and more directed to essential naked truth; on the other hand, to be less beautiful, and to show less fancy, feeling, and spiritual freedom of treatment (to which indeed his rigid systematising is oecasionally opposed). Secondly, on certain occasions he is so thoroughly Greek and Athenian, he clings so closely to Greek customs and taste, that I for one am astonished. I find proofs for both these assertions in the De Poeticâ, or, rather, I believe that I find them there.' Grote, though referring to these suggestive observations, does not follow them into the question whether the writings of Aristotle betray an un-Greek spirit. He merely asserts the claims of Aristotle to be considered in point of family and descent thoroughly Hellenic. The question, however, still remains whether a Greek family settled for generations, as that of Aristotle had been, in Thrace on the Macedonian frontier, might not acquire certain un-Greek characteristics and modes of thought, and whether, as a fact, such do not reflect themselves in some of the writings of Aristotle.

The life of Aristotle was not wholly uneventful, and even in the meagre traces that have come down to us it is not uninteresting. His father Nicomachus was a citizen of Stageira, and a distinguished physician of the heroic race of the Asclepiads. It is recorded that in this family manual training in dissection was imparted traditionally from father to son, from the earliest years. This training may very probably have had an important influence on the mind of Aristotle by giving it a bias towards physiological research. Of the character of his youth the ancients had two different stories : one that he was wild and extravagant, entered military service, then returned to his father's profession, again threw it up and took to rhetoric and philosophy, and finally at the age of thirty migrated to Athens, and there entered himself in the school of Plato. The other account ignores a period of early vacillations, and represents him as having come to Athens and enlisted as the pupil of Plato when only seventeen years old. Grote thinks that the evidence for the two different accounts is about balanced, and that all we can be certain about is that Aristotle became resident at Athens in or before the year 362 B.C., where he studied in the school of Plato till Plato's death in 347. We may infer from the works of Aristotle himself how deeply imbued he was during this period with the teaching of his master,

Flintraces that has not whalings of Ar

itionally froly manuaif the Aseira

« ForrigeFortsett »