Aristotle -- By: D. McGregor Means
BSac 19:134 (April 1877) p. 228
It is natural that he who first discovers any art whatsoever, beyond the ordinary perceptions of the senses, is admired by men, not only because he has discovered something useful, but as wise and different from the rest of mankind.”1 This remark of Aristotle’s is peculiarly appropriate to himself. All men seem to be possessed with a desire to trace an art or an idea to its originator. Countless pages have been written to prove that this or that man first invented printing. Immense labor has been expended by the learned in their attempts to discover the discoverer of gunpowder. Fierce contests have raged over the question to whom the glory of applying steam as a motive power was clue. Between the followers of Newton and those of Leibnitz a most envenomed controversy arose as to which was first in the application of fluxions. In more recent times we have seen the magnificent honors heaped upon Morse, because he first reduced electricity to the service of man. All early nations must have their eponymous heroes; when they cannot find them they invent them. The early writings of the Hebrews give us the names of the inventors of the arts; the modern Arabs even point out the tomb of the first of the human race. This desire may be explained in the words of Aristotle him-
BSac 19:134 (April 1877) p. 229
self, as a desire to know things in their causes; we do not feel that we thoroughly know a subject until we learn what others have known about it, and our satisfaction is never complete until we go back to the very earliest sources. Of course, we can never say that any man has not received the idea that has made him famous from some forerunner; yet, in the case of Aristotle, we may affirm with a tolerable degree of certainty, that to him belongs the glory of the first systematic treatment of the reasoning faculty. Before him all men had reasoned; some few had observed that they reasoned; he first clearly showed how they reasoned, and how all men must reason. The great principles that he was the first,2 so far as we know, to discern and clearly lay down, have been the guides of all following ages; the canons that he established remained until within the present century, with little change, the rules to which all valid reasoning must conform. Isidore St. Hilaire has remarked: “It is the destiny and glory of the anatomist of Stagira, to have had before him simply precursors, and after him only disciples.” In a similar way the great Cuvier has expressed the most unbounded admiration, not only of the genius but of the results achieved by Aristotle in his physical investigations.
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