Sophists — Aufklärung — Disbelief Simon of Tournay Amalrich of Bena David of Dinant — Italian philosophers Geneva Socinians Bacon Hobbes the Deists Locke Descartes Spinoza — Hume Gibbon — Germany Reimarus etc. — Klopstock Lavater — Lessing Hamann Herder Jacobi — Goethe Schiller Jean Paul — Caryle — France — Kant and his successors — Necessary end of such movements — Cosmological argument — Locke Clarke Leibnitz — Aristotle — Dependency — Potentiality and actuality — A beginning — Aristotle and design — Mr. Darwin's mistake — Empedocles and the survival of the fittest.
Gifford Lecture the Seventh.
ONE can hardly leave Plato without saying a word about the Sophists: it is his handling of some of the most conspicuous Sophists indeed that constitutes the special charm of several of his very best dialogues. Amongst the individual Sophists there are of course many characteristic differences; still when looked at from a certain historical distance they so to speak appear to run into each other as though but units in a single movement. One general spirit we assume to unite them all one common atmosphere to breathe around them. In brief they all step forward as the apostles of the new; and this distinction they all arrogate in one and the same way by pointing the finger at the old. Suppose the old to be a clothed figure then one Sophist has the credit of stripping off its gown another its tunic a third its braccae and so on. So it is that the whole movement is shut up in a single word now-a-days the word Aufklärung. In the Greek Sophists we have before us the Greek Aufklärung. Aufklärung is Klärung Auf a clearing up. It means that as it were day had dawned that light had come that people at last had got their eyes opened to the absurdity of the lies they had hitherto believed in. It was as though they had suddenly turned round upon themselves and found strangely all at once everything in the clearness of a new revelation. They were all wrong it seemed: they had been dreadfully stupid. Hitherto they had lived only and never thought; but now they both saw and thought. This was not true and that was not true. There was absurdity there and there was absurdity here. And it was only they were right—only they the Sophists themselves. They saw how it was with all things and they could speak of all things. They saw just so well indeed and had so much power in the seeing that on the whole they could speak of all things pretty well as they pleased. That is very briefly but not unjustly to name the Sophists as we see them in Plato. If we but take up into our minds the general characteristics of this movement then the movement on the part of these Sophists—if we but take it up into our minds and name it Aufklärung we shall have some idea of what an Aufklärung means. It was not the Sophists however that suggested the word. This the suggestion was due not to an ancient but to a modern movement—a movement that was on the whole more peculiarly French but still a movement in which England Germany Holland and all the other nations of Europe more or less participated. It was preceded here in Europe I mean by a want. This want was the product of suffering on the one hand and of the ordinary human curiosity or the desire of gain on the other. Political tyranny and religious corruption had become on the part of the arbitrators whether of the State or the Church we may not too incorrectly say universal. Men grew scandalized indignant; yearned for delivery from the wrong; and revolted against both—both Church and State. Meantime too discoveries in the pursuit of curiosity or gain had been going on. There were discoveries by sea and there were inventions in the arts. America was discovered and gunpowder—gunpowder and printing were invented. Greek fugitives had fled into Italy; Protestantism arose. There was but one general result; there was but one desire awakened—the desire to know. And it was the desire to know conjoined with the political and ecclesiastical wrong that gave rise to the modern Aufklärung. What concerns religion is undoubtedly the most notable phase of the Aufklärung but it is not the only one. The Aufklärung was a movement of the whole of humanity and extended into humanity's veriest roots political social educational and all other. So far as books are concerned perhaps it is the religious element that shows most. There are not wanting many heretical opinions during the whole history of the Church some of which were as extreme in their quality as even those of a Hume or a Voltaire himself. As early as about 1200 there was Simon of Tournay with his book de Tribus Impostoribus and somewhat later the followers of Amalrich of Bena and David of Dinant. Considerably later than these still there were the Italian Philosophers of the Transition Period and the Socinians of Geneva who with their questions harrowed the very soul of Calvin. Bacon Hobbes and the English Deists may or may not be reckoned to the movement of the Aufklärung; in strict accuracy perhaps they were better named its forerunners; among whom even John Locke is sometimes included and if John Locke then surely also René Descartes. For myself it always appears to me that the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus of Spinoza published perhaps about 1660 may be very fairly accounted the beginning itself of the Aufklärung. That work is very much the quarry from which Voltaire drew—very much a source of direction and supply also to the Critics of Germany. In Great Britain we may instance as undoubted members of the Aufklärung such men as David Hume and Edward Gibbon but only at the head of a cryptic mass. In Germany the movement as in writers like Nicolai Mendelssohn Baumgarten Semler Reimarus and even scores of others was much milder than elsewhere if also considerably thinner. In Germany too there was speedily a reaction against it as exemplified in the pious spirit which reigns in the works of its Klopstocks and Lavaters. But what writers put an end to the movement if not generally at least in their own country were Lessing Herder Hamann and Jacobi—four men distinguished (of course variously among themselves) almost by an inspiration we may say not less religious than it was philosophical and not less philosophical than it was religious. There is not one of the four but excellently exemplifies this. Lessing is not an enormous genius—he knows himself that he is not a poet but only a critic. For all that however to get the German spirit that is peculiar even yet he is perhaps just the very best German writer whom it is possible to choose. As the truth for him was ever the middle between two extremes so he himself stands there a figure in the middle for ever. Clearness fairness equity constitute his quality. Living in the time of the Aufklärung he too would have Aufklärung; but the Aufklärung he would have should not be for his eyes only he would have it for his soul as well. It was his heart that would have light—feeling—not mere perception. He was not a man that trusted like so many other literary men of the day to himself and his own inspiration. He was a thoroughly educated man trained in mathematics as well as in philology; and he had read deeply. Even of archaeology even of Church history he surprises by his knowledge. Christianity is to him for all his enlightenment the religion of our maturer humanity; and he vindicates for reason and by reason the very strictest dogmas of the Creed. To him the unity of God and the immortality of the soul are truths demonstrable. Yet he prefers the religion of the heart to the religion of the head. He defends the tradition of the Church; and yet he opposes the Christian of feeling to the dogmatist of belief even as he opposes the spirit to the letter. He clings to the rule of faith—the regula fidei; but he would as little sacrifice reason to faith as he would sacrifice faith to reason. Still his place in theology is only as he says that of him who sweeps the dust from the steps of the temple; and his religion proper is rightly to be named perhaps only the religion of humanity.
This that I have said of Lessing will dispense me from any similar details as regards the other three. Hamann with whom I have no great sympathy is a very peculiar personality and has left behind him certain pithily farfetched and peculiar sayings quite currently quoted while both Herder and Jacobi are eminently noble men as well as great writers. The specialty that I would attribute to all four of them is that they correct and complete the Aufklärung by placing side by side with the half on which alone it will look the failing half on which it has turned its back and have in this way done good work towards the reconstitution and re-establishment of the central catholic and essential truth. Nor has it proved otherwise with German literature in general and its coryphei in particular. The example of Lessing and the others has proved determinative also for such men as Goethe and Schiller and Jean Paul. Neither on their part is there any mockery or disregard of religion as religion. On the contrary it is approached with sincere feelings by all of them who know it to be and never doubt of its being an essential element in the very construction of man. It is this that is meant when we hear of Thomas Carlyle being directed at one time of his life to German literature as likely to supply him with what he wanted at once in a philosophical and a religious reference. It is this also that he actually did find there. Nothing else than this made Goethe to Carlyle a prophet. Speculating on this relation between two men in many respects so unlike each other I had in my own mind referred the source of it to that part of Wilhelm Meister's Travels where one of the Heads of an educational institute conducting Wilhelm from hall to hall prelects equably on the various religions. To read this was a new experience to Carlyle. As his early letters tell us the perusal of Gibbon had won him over to the side of heresy; and any further progression in the same direction could only exhibit to him Christianity—in Hume Voltaire and the Encyclopedists say—as an object not of derision merely but even of the fiercest hatred and the most virulent abuse. This then as on the part of these Germans was a novel experience to Carlyle—the dispassionate open-eyed significant wisdom of such tolerant and temperate discourse even in respect of the Christian religion; and it was as with the light and the joy of a new revelation that he returned at least to all the feeling and the reverence and the awe that had been his in his boyhood under the eye of his father. And so it was that the first aim of Carlyle as in the Sartor Resartus was the re-establishment in every earnest educated but doubting soul of the vital reality of true religion. In that work to such souls wandering in the dark the light of Carlyle suddenly strook through the black of night as with the coming of a celestial messenger. “It is the night of the world” they heard “and still long till it be day: we wander amid the glimmer of smoking ruins and the sun and the stars of heaven are as blotted out for a season; and two immeasurable phantoms Hypocrisy and Atheism with the ghoul Sensuality stalk abroad over the earth and call it theirs: well at ease are the sleepers for whom existence is a shallow dream. But what of the awestruck wakeful?” And thenceforward after this book of Carlyle's it was in the power of any one who at least would awake to lay himself down in the very heart of that awful “Natural Super-naturalism” to see to wonder and to worship; while those mysterious “organic filaments” span themselves anew not in vain for him. That was the first mood of Carlyle; and it was his highest. He never returned to it. His Hero-Worship contains perhaps what feels nearest to it; and it is significant that Carlyle himself made a common volume of the two works. But history and biography occupy him thenceforth; and in these unfortunately so much of the early Gibbonian influence to call it so crops out that Carlyle on the whole despite his natural traditional and philosophical piety passes through life for a doubter merely and is claimed and beset by the very men whose vein of shallow but exultant Aufklärung is precisely the object of his sincerest reprobation and uttermost disgust. There is a good deal to confirm as much as this in his Address as Rector here of this University especially in his reference to “ten pages which he would rather have written than all the books that have appeared since he came into the world.” These ten pages contain what I have referred to in connection with Goethe's Wilhelm Meister; and I was well content to hear from Carlyle's lips on that occasion that I had not speculated badly as to the source of his veneration for a man who if a prophet to him might prove on a closer inspection perhaps for all his dispassionate words on religion somewhat of the earth earthy to us.
All this will pretty well have made plain to us what the Aufklärung is. Men as I have said instead of simply living blindly straight on suddenly opened their eyes and turned round to look. What they saw was only the old and it was not all good—as how could it be? They revolted against it; they would not believe a word they had been told; they would see for themselves. Now naturally what they saw for themselves what alone they could see for themselves lay without. What was within was what they had been told and they would not have it. The result was that the concrete man was separated into abstract sides; abstract by this that they were each apart and not together as they should be in a vital one. What a man saw and felt experience was to be the only truth. All was to be learned and won from the examination of the objects of the external senses. And so while the outer flourished the inner perished. The inner was only superstition prejudice unenlightened prejudice and had to be thrown away. But the very best of humanity could not escape from being included in the cast. Religion apart no one for example can read the French writings of the period without disgust at the flippant manner in which the best principles of morality are held up for derision and a sneer—even the principles of the family say which are the very foundation of the State and of our social community within it.
Now it was to this movement certainly to the untrue and shallow extreme of it that the German writers named put an end. And so it is that the philosophical successors of Kant all to a man speak of the Aufklärung as a thing of the past as a thing that had been examined seen into and shelved—shelved as already effete antiquated out of date and done with. This however can only be said on the level of true philosophy. It cannot be said at all generally for the mass; the mass at present rather can largely be seen contentedly at feed on the husks and stubble of the Aufklärung gabbling and cackling sufficiently.
But in regard to Greece when we consider that the principle of the Sophists was subjectivity pure and simple that is that truth as truth is only whatever one feels or perceives or thinks and only in his own regard for the very moment that he so feels or so perceives or so thinks—when we consider this and that the result was only opposition to whatever had been established in law or morality or religion or social life we must see that the Greek Sophists very fairly represented what is called an Aufklärung.
It is not unimportant withal for us to note that this movement despite these three greatest and best men and philosophers—Socrates Plato and Aristotle who in absolute correction and refutation of it followed it—that this movement despite all destroyed Greece. Noting this there may here I am inclined to say be a lesson for us. What if all this enlightenment all this liberation from prejudice all this stripping bare of everything in heaven and earth should despite our telegraphs and telephones end in the compulsory retreat of the whole of us—men and women of us after war upon war and internecine strife and confusion limitless—into our original woods again! If we will but consider of it with all that we are taught now to believe of this universe such a consummation cannot be held to be any longer a matter of mere dream. The subject however is inexhaustible; illustrations there are to hand endlessly—in the east and the west and the north and the south and without one exception of a single human interest.
I must return to our theme—the proofs for the Being of a God. In view of what was currently held in regard to Socrates and the argument from design I had passed over the claim to priority made by some for the cosmological argument stating that it had been usually assigned to Aristotle. It is in place now to turn to that argument seeing that in our historical survey it is Aristotle that we have reached. And here I only fear that what presses on us must enforce undue brevity.
A form of the cosmological argument occurs in Locke to this effect: “If we know there is some real being and that nonentity cannot produce any real being it is evident demonstration that from eternity there has been something since what was not from eternity had a beginning and what had a beginning must be produced by something else.” That is pretty well the argument of Dr. Samuel Clarke too. Something is therefore something has always been and so on. The proper angle of the cosmological argument however is dependence. What we see around us arc evident effects; the whole world is but a single scene of change; phenomena follow phenomena. Accordingly a German writer says: “The teleological view takes not like the cosmological its point of departure from the vanity (Eitelkeit) but from the grandeur (Herrlichketi) of the world.” But that is too much. Dependence is not exactly vanity; and what is called vanity (Eitelkeit) in the one argument is really identically the same thing as is called grandeur (Herrlichkeit) in the other argument. The grandeur is not vain though it is dependent. The gardens pictures and statuary with which a rich man surrounds himself are dependent but they are not vain; they are a beauty. The phenomena of the world are dependent—dependent on noumena and a noumenon and that on the whole constitutes the cosmological argument. This argument is often called Leibnitz' argument; but if we call Socrates the originator and founder of the teleological argument it is Aristotle who is named as the originator and founder of the cosmological argument. And with him this argument turns on motion. Whatever is in motion has had a mover; but we cannot go back from motion to motion and from mover to mover endlessly; there must be a final stop at last where motion and mover are one; where what is is a self-mover which self-mover evidently also by mere position is infinite and eternal. Motion mover that is causa sui cause of itself that is God. The aim of philosophy says Aristotle is to know the truth; but to know the truth of anything we must know its cause. Then truth in the cause must be eminently what is found in its effects as fire being cause of warmth in everything that is near and nearer to it must itself have most warmth. The first cause being from nothing else and always equal to what it is must in its being be the cause of the being of everything else. And that there is a first cause as ultimate principle is evident from this that there can be no infinite series of causes whether in a straight line or in natural kind.
“God” says Leibnitz “is the first cause of things; for all finite things as all that we see and know are contingent and have in themselves nothing that makes their existence necessary inasmuch as plainly time space and matter each continuously identical with itself and indifferent to all else might assume quite other movements and forms and another order. We must therefore look for the cause of the existence of this world which is a collection of things merely contingent only in such substance as has the cause of its existence in its own self and is therefore eternal and necessary.” The angle of this reasoning whether in the one form or the other is as I have said dependence. The contingency of all things which come within our ken in this universe is assumed as of such character that alone and by itself it implies a necessary first cause. What is contingent is as contingent not something self-supported self-subsistent but presupposes something else that is such or that is in its own self necessary. But now the world is contingent for the world is an aggregate of things all of which are contingent in themselves. Therefore the world presupposes and implies an absolutely necessary being as its substantiating ground or cause.
Not only is this being an absolutely necessary being but according to Aristotle and still cosmologically reasoning he is an absolutely actual being. And of this reasoning the angle is that what is potential only presupposes a preceding actuality; for to be potential only is to be such as may quite as well not be as be. In Aristotelian terms the πρω̑τον κινου̑ν what first gives movement to this world must in itself also be absolute functioning actuality absolute ϵ̓νέργϵια; for were it only potential only δύναμις there were no reason so far as it was only that that it should become actual. What is potential what is potential only there is no reason in such quality for any step further. There is then an actual God. To Aristotle in fact there is no beginning. And for that matter I know not to what style of thinker there can be a beginning—in the sense that is of an absolute beginning of an absolute first. No theist can assign a first to Deity; and no atheist can assign a first to the system of things in time. But where there is no beginning there can only be eternity; and that really seems the thought of Aristotle. What is is not as it were a straight line to Aristotle a virtue a power that goes ever out and out and on and on. Rather what is is to him a virtue that returns into itself a power that returns into itself—so to speak an eternally circling circle. That is eternity; such circle that ever is and never was not and never will not be. Eternity is the self-determining organism that operates acts moves out of itself into itself; life that feeds itself lives into itself; thought that ever thinks thinks itself into itself.
I omit much here on the cosmological argument to proceed to what is plainer. Aristotle it is to be said is not to be supposed as only limited to the one argument the cosmological. On the contrary it may be almost held that let it be as it may with Socrates and Plato Aristotle has made the teleological argument expressly and at full his own. In point of fact design is the central thought of Aristotle in his whole philosophy everywhere. As adaptation of means to ends it is perhaps seen at its liveliest in the little work of the Parts of Animals. The general teaching here is the same as we saw in Plato—that the element of necessity physical necessity concerns alone the external conditions the materials; while it is the final cause that alone gives meaning to them—alone makes a reality of them—a doctrine—(that the mechanism everywhere existent in the world is at the same time everywhere existent in the world only as the realizing means of final causes)—a doctrine which after long struggles was the final conviction of Leibnitz. Perhaps for a distinct clear comprehensive statement in both references that is at the same time brief and succinct there is no more remarkable chapter in the whole of Aristotle than the eighth of the second book of the Physics. All indeed is so emphatically plain in that chapter that one can hardly believe in the possibility of any mistake in its regard. It seems however from the very first note almost on the very first page of the Origin of Species that Mr. Darwin has allowed himself to be misled into a literal inversion of Aristotle's relative meaning. In this note Mr. Darwin speaks thus: “Aristotle in his Physicae Auscultationes (lib. 2 cap. 8 s. 2) after remarking that rain does not fall in order to make the corn grow any more than it falls to spoil the farmer's corn when threshed out of doors applies the same argument to organization; and adds (as translated by Mr. Clair Grece who first pointed out the passage to me) ‘So what hinders the different parts [of the body] from having this merely accidental relation in nature? as the teeth for example grow by necessity the front ones sharp adapted for dividing and the grinders flat and serviceable for masticating the food; since they were not made for the sake of this but it was the result of accident. And in like manner as to the other parts in which there appears to exist an adaptation to an end. Wheresoever therefore all things together (that is all the parts of one whole) happened like as if they were made for the sake of something these were preserved having been appropriately constituted by an internal spontaneity; and whatsoever things were not thus constituted perished and still perish.’ We here see” says Mr. Darwin on this “the principle of natural selection shadowed forth but how little Aristotle fully comprehended the principle is shown by his remarks on the formation of the teeth.” This note of Mr. Darwin's is not without value in a reference to his own views. At present however I have not to do with that but only with what interpretation is given to certain declarations of Aristotle in regard to design. And in this reference it will suffice to point out the literal inversion of meaning of which I speak. As is well known Aristotle is not always easy to translate nor is his meaning always a clear one. I have no hesitation however in saying that in both references the particular chapter in question may be quite fairly regarded as an exception. It is at once easy to translate and clear in its meaning. I cannot afford time to it as a whole now; but I will translate as much of it as is indispensable for our purpose at present. The first words concern the two elements now familiar to us which both Plato and Aristotle describe as accompanying each other and as necessary to each other.
“We have first to tell” says Aristotle here “how nature exhibits causality on design and then to speak of the necessary material.” In the first reference for example he asks “What hinders nature from acting without design but just as Jove rains—not namely that the corn may grow but from necessity (the condensed vapour namely falling back in rain on the earth and the corn growing as only concurrently receiving the rain)? In the same way if rain spoils corn on the threshing-floor it does not rain precisely for this end that it may spoil the corn: that is only a coexistent incident.” Aristotle has thus put the two cases and he will now bring the truth home by asking how it is that in regard to living organization we cannot accept necessity but must demand design. That is really the single import of the whole of Mr. Darwin's quotation as a little further translation will at once show. “What then” Aristotle continues “prevents it from being just so with the parts in nature? What prevents the teeth for example from being just necessarily constituted so that the front ones would be sharp for cutting and the back ones broad for grinding the food; which would be not to be from design but just to so happen?” What I translate by this last clause “which would be not to be from design but just to so happen” appears in Mr. Darwin's translation “since they were not made for the sake of this but it was the result of accident.” That is a categorical assertion as on Aristotle's part of the very opposite of what Aristotle has it in mind to say. The Greek however (ϵ̓πϵὶ οὐ τούτου ϵ̔́νϵκα γϵνϵ́σθαι ἀλλὰ συμπϵσϵι̑ν) involves no such categorical assertion of an independent fact but is only an explanatory clause to apply what precedes. So far the whole mind of Aristotle is: Why should we not say that the relative position of the two kinds of teeth incisors and grinders is not an affair of necessity; so that it would not take place from design but only so happen? Even in putting this question the opinion of Empedocles suggests itself and Aristotle continues illustratively to ask Why should it not be as Empedocles held it to be? Why should it not he that in the becoming of things all such things as though originating spontaneously were still found fittingly constituted and so to speak undesignedly designful—why should it not be that these should be preserved while those that were not so should have perished and should go on perishing as is said by Empedocles of his βουγϵνη̑ ἀνδρόπρωρα his cattle with the faces of men? Now to this question Aristotle's direct answer is It is impossible that anything such should be—ἀδύνατον δϵ̀ του̑τον ϵ̓́χϵιν τὸν τρόπον. And why is it impossible that anything such should be? Why is it ἀδύνατον that του̑τον τρόπον ϵ̓́χϵιν? “Because these and all the things of nature originate as they do originate either invariably or all but invariably but of the things of accident and chance not one.” That answer is decisive; but the bulk of this single chapter has still to come with expression upon expression that is confirmatory merely. Referring immediately here for example to certain natural processes his emphatic deduction is ϵ̓́στιν ἄρα τὸ ϵ̔́νϵκά του ϵ̓ν τοι̑ς φύσϵι γινομϵ́νοις καὶ οὐ̑σιν (there is therefore design in the things that happen and are in nature) “Moreover” he says “in what things there is something as an end for that end is realized as well what precedes as what follows; as is the action so is the nature and as is the nature so is the action in each case if nothing obstruct; and as the action is for the sake of the end so also for the same sake is the nature.” Aristotle brings in now illustrations from the intentional works of mankind with the inference that if such works are ϵ̔́νϵκά του are from design it is evident that so also are the works of nature; for both kinds of works are similarly situated as concerns consequents and antecedents in a mutual regard. As illustrations from nature we have now in animals the swallow with its nest and the spider with its web; and in plants (for even in plants Aristotle sees such adaptations) the covering of the fruit by the leaves and the course downwards not upwards of the roots for food. Consequently says Aristotle “it is manifest that there is such a cause in the processes and facts of nature; and since nature has two principles one that is as matter and another that is as form the latter the end and the former for the sake of the end this the end must be the determining cause.” It may be Aristotle continues that nature does not always effect its end; but neither do we always effect our ends. The grammarian does not always spell correctly; nor the doctor always succeed in his potions. And if ever there were those man-faced cattle it was from some failure of the principle as may happen now from some failure of the seed. That then nature is a cause and a cause acting on design—“that” says Aristotle and it is his last word “is manifest—φανϵρόν” In short from its first word to its last this chapter of Aristotle's has not and never for a moment has any aim any object any intention but to demonstrate design in nature and in the works of nature. The next chapter indeed only continues the same theme but with more special attention to the necessity of material conditions in which design may realize itself. How Mr. Darwin should have ever fancied that Aristotle first established necessity as the principle of nature in its action and then applied that same principle to organization it is impossible to conceive. Aristotle does ask Why should we not think of necessity in the arrangement of the teeth? but it is only that he may bring home to our minds the palpable absurdity of the very question. He directly says in the de Partibus (iii. 1) “Man has teeth admirably constructed for the use that in their respect is common to all animals the mastication of the food namely: the front ones sharp to cut and the back ones blunt to grind.” We saw too exactly the same reference on the part of Socrates. Indeed it is difficult to think of any more striking instance of design on the part of nature or of one in which there could possibly appear less room for the action of mere material necessity. Why if material necessity were alone to act we might have our molars to the front and how would it then be with our comfort at our meals or in speech or in our mere looks? To find Aristotle suggesting the possibility of a material cause for the arrangement of the teeth is to find Pythagoras arguing against numbers Plato against ideas or Newton against gravitation. But assuming that though Aristotle had in the translated passage “shadowed forth the principle of natural selection” yet he had also shown as Mr. Darwin adds “by his remarks on the formation of the teeth” “how little he fully comprehended the principle”—assuming this I say we may resolve the statement as on Mr. Darwin's part into a compliment to Aristotle on the one hand and into a reproach on the other. The compliment is that Aristotle was wise enough to see that what was called design was still due to physical necessity. And the reproach again is against this that Aristotle should have applied the necessity just so quite unmodified to the formation of the teeth. Now it must be admitted that if the compliment had been correct the reproach would have been correct also. Mr. Darwin smiles to himself in superiority over Aristotle because he (Aristotle) had missed his own (Mr. Darwin's own) little invention whereby even on physical necessity the order of the teeth designful as it may appear is and must be precisely as we see it. Justice to that extent must be done Mr. Darwin even here. In Mr. Darwin's scheme there is really supposed a provision for the purpose. Mr. Darwin would have laughed at you had you objected to him “Then in your way of it the molar tooth might be where the incisors are!” Mr. Darwin would have felt armed against that!
But then the absurdity of imputing at all to Aristotle the suggestion that organization was due or might be due to physical necessity no peculiarity of Mr. Grece's translation not even the questionable clause particularized will excuse or condone that. Mr. Darwin tells us himself he had Dr. Ogle's translation of the de Partibus in which a note gives the correct version of the entire passage rendered by Mr. Grece. That note occurs on the very second page of Dr. Ogle's book and must have been seen by Mr. Darwin. Nay that very book the de Partibus and as admirably translated by Dr. Ogle—that very book just one argument from end to end for design Mr. Darwin has read with so much consequent admiration of Aristotle that he lauds him in excelsis and sets him above the two supreme gods he had previously worshipped—Linnaeus and Cuvier! “Linnaeus and Cuvier have been my two gods” he says “but they were mere schoolboys to old Aristotle.”
I will conclude now by pointing out how it has been the lot of Empedocles as early as 444 years before Christ to anticipate all every and any theory that is built on the survival of the fittest. What Empedocles says is in substance this: Nature brought forth and gave existence to every possible animal form; but all such as were incoherently and inconsistently constructed perished—and the same process continues. That surely is to give directest precisest and palpablest expression to this Only the fittest survive! Aristotle slyly remarks here Then I suppose it was the same with plants: if there were calves of the cow with the countenances of men there were doubtless also scions of the vine with the face of the olive!
From the book: