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Reconstruction in Philosophy

Reconstruction in Philosophy

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Published by: brotherimam on Jul 02, 2009
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admiration and govern conduct. Between this grossly

material centre and the immaterial, spiritual and eternal

heavens lie a definite series of regions of moon, planets,

sun, etc., each of which gains in rank, value, rationality

and true being as it is farther from earth and nearer

the heavens. Each of these regions is composed of its

own appropriate stuff of earth, water, air, fire in its

own dominant degree, until we reach the heavenly firma-

ment which transcends all these principles, being con-

stituted, as was just said, of that immaterial, inalterable

energy called ether.

Within this tight and pent in universe, changes take

place of course. But they are only of a small number

of fixed kinds ; and they operate only within fixed limits.

Each kind of stuff has its own appropriate motion. It

is the nature of earthly things to be heavy, since they

are gross, and hence to move downward. Fire and

superior things are light and hence move upward to

their proper place ; air rises only to the plane of the

planets, where it then takes its back and forth motion

which naturally belongs to it, as is evident in the winds

and in respiration. Ether being the highest of all

physical things has a purely circular movement. The

daily return of the fixed stars is the closest possible

approximation to eternity, and to the self-involved revo-

lution of mind upon its own ideal axis of reason. Upon

the earth in virtue of its earthly nature—or rather its

THE SCIENTIFIC FACTOR

57

lack of virtue—is a scene of mere change. Mere flux,

aimless and meaningless, starts at no definite point and

arrives at nothing, amounts to nothing. Mere changes

of quantity, all purely mechanical changes, are of this

kind. They are like the shiftings of the sands by the

sea. They may be sensed, but they cannot be "

noted "

or understood ; they lack fixed limits which govern them.

They are contemptible. They are casual, the sport of

accident.

Only changes which lead to some defined or fixed out-

come of form are of any account and can have any

account—any logos or reason—made of them. The

growth of plants and animals illustrates the highest

kind of change which is possible in the sublunary or

mundane sphere. They go from one definite fixed form

to another. Oaks generate only oaks, oysters only

oysters, man only man. The material factor of

mechanical production enters in, but enters in as acci-

dent to prevent the full consummation of the type of the

species, and to bring about the meaningless variations

which diversify various oaks or oysters from one an-

other; or in extreme cases to produce freaks, sports,

monsters, three-handed or four-toed men. Aside from

accidental and undesirable variations, each individual

has a fixed career to pursue, a fixed path in which to

travel. Terms which sound modern, words like poten-

tiality and development abound in Aristotelian thought,

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