By Maurice Johnson,2014-12-07 18:25
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     Book II


     THE investigation of the truth is in one way hard, in another

    easy. An indication of this is found in the fact that no one is able

    to attain the truth adequately, while, on the other hand, we do not

    collectively fail, but every one says something true about the

    nature of things, and while individually we contribute little or

    nothing to the truth, by the union of all a considerable amount is

    amassed. Therefore, since the truth seems to be like the proverbial

    door, which no one can fail to hit, in this respect it must be easy,

    but the fact that we can have a whole truth and not the particular

part we aim at shows the difficulty of it.

     Perhaps, too, as difficulties are of two kinds, the cause of the

    present difficulty is not in the facts but in us. For as the eyes of

    bats are to the blaze of day, so is the reason in our soul to the

things which are by nature most evident of all.

     It is just that we should be grateful, not only to those with

    whose views we may agree, but also to those who have expressed more

    superficial views; for these also contributed something, by developing

    before us the powers of thought. It is true that if there had been

    no Timotheus we should have been without much of our lyric poetry; but

    if there had been no Phrynis there would have been no Timotheus. The

    same holds good of those who have expressed views about the truth; for

    from some thinkers we have inherited certain opinions, while the

    others have been responsible for the appearance of the former.

     It is right also that philosophy should be called knowledge of the

    truth. For the end of theoretical knowledge is truth, while that of

    practical knowledge is action (for even if they consider how things

    are, practical men do not study the eternal, but what is relative

    and in the present). Now we do not know a truth without its cause; and

    a thing has a quality in a higher degree than other things if in

    virtue of it the similar quality belongs to the other things as well

    (e.g. fire is the hottest of things; for it is the cause of the heat

    of all other things); so that that causes derivative truths to be true

    is most true. Hence the principles of eternal things must be always

    most true (for they are not merely sometimes true, nor is there any

    cause of their being, but they themselves are the cause of the being

    of other things), so that as each thing is in respect of being, so

is it in respect of truth.


     But evidently there is a first principle, and the causes of things

    are neither an infinite series nor infinitely various in kind. For

    neither can one thing proceed from another, as from matter, ad

    infinitum (e.g. flesh from earth, earth from air, air from fire, and

    so on without stopping), nor can the sources of movement form an

    endless series (man for instance being acted on by air, air by the

    sun, the sun by Strife, and so on without limit). Similarly the

    final causes cannot go on ad infinitum,-walking being for the sake

    of health, this for the sake of happiness, happiness for the sake of

    something else, and so one thing always for the sake of another. And

the case of the essence is similar. For in the case of

    intermediates, which have a last term and a term prior to them, the

    prior must be the cause of the later terms. For if we had to say which

    of the three is the cause, we should say the first; surely not the

    last, for the final term is the cause of none; nor even the

    intermediate, for it is the cause only of one. (It makes no difference

    whether there is one intermediate or more, nor whether they are

    infinite or finite in number.) But of series which are infinite in

    this way, and of the infinite in general, all the parts down to that

    now present are alike intermediates; so that if there is no first

there is no cause at all.

     Nor can there be an infinite process downwards, with a beginning

    in the upward direction, so that water should proceed from fire, earth

    from water, and so always some other kind should be produced. For

    one thing comes from another in two ways-not in the sense in which

    'from' means 'after' (as we say 'from the Isthmian games come the

    Olympian'), but either (i) as the man comes from the boy, by the boy's

    changing, or (ii) as air comes from water. By 'as the man comes from

    the boy' we mean 'as that which has come to be from that which is

    coming to be' or 'as that which is finished from that which is being

    achieved' (for as becoming is between being and not being, so that

    which is becoming is always between that which is and that which is

    not; for the learner is a man of science in the making, and this is

    what is meant when we say that from a learner a man of science is

    being made); on the other hand, coming from another thing as water

    comes from air implies the destruction of the other thing. This is why

    changes of the former kind are not reversible, and the boy does not

    come from the man (for it is not that which comes to be something that

    comes to be as a result of coming to be, but that which exists after

    the coming to be; for it is thus that the day, too, comes from the

    morning-in the sense that it comes after the morning; which is the

    reason why the morning cannot come from the day); but changes of the

    other kind are reversible. But in both cases it is impossible that the

    number of terms should be infinite. For terms of the former kind,

    being intermediates, must have an end, and terms of the latter kind

    change back into one another, for the destruction of either is the

generation of the other.

     At the same time it is impossible that the first cause, being

    eternal, should be destroyed; for since the process of becoming is not

    infinite in the upward direction, that which is the first thing by

    whose destruction something came to be must be non-eternal.

     Further, the final cause is an end, and that sort of end which

    is not for the sake of something else, but for whose sake everything

    else is; so that if there is to be a last term of this sort, the

    process will not be infinite; but if there is no such term, there will

    be no final cause, but those who maintain the infinite series

    eliminate the Good without knowing it (yet no one would try to do

    anything if he were not going to come to a limit); nor would there

    be reason in the world; the reasonable man, at least, always acts

    for a purpose, and this is a limit; for the end is a limit.

     But the essence, also, cannot be reduced to another definition

    which is fuller in expression. For the original definition is always

    more of a definition, and not the later one; and in a series in

    which the first term has not the required character, the next has

    not it either. Further, those who speak thus destroy science; for it

    is not possible to have this till one comes to the unanalysable terms.

    And knowledge becomes impossible; for how can one apprehend things

    that are infinite in this way? For this is not like the case of the

    line, to whose divisibility there is no stop, but which we cannot

    think if we do not make a stop (for which reason one who is tracing

    the infinitely divisible line cannot be counting the possibilities

    of section), but the whole line also must be apprehended by

    something in us that does not move from part to part.-Again, nothing

    infinite can exist; and if it could, at least the notion of infinity

is not infinite.

     But if the kinds of causes had been infinite in number, then

    also knowledge would have been impossible; for we think we know,

    only when we have ascertained the causes, that but that which is

    infinite by addition cannot be gone through in a finite time.


     The effect which lectures produce on a hearer depends on his

    habits; for we demand the language we are accustomed to, and that

    which is different from this seems not in keeping but somewhat

    unintelligible and foreign because of its unwontedness. For it is

    the customary that is intelligible. The force of habit is shown by the

    laws, in which the legendary and childish elements prevail over our

    knowledge about them, owing to habit. Thus some people do not listen

    to a speaker unless he speaks mathematically, others unless he gives

    instances, while others expect him to cite a poet as witness. And some

    want to have everything done accurately, while others are annoyed by

    accuracy, either because they cannot follow the connexion of thought

    or because they regard it as pettifoggery. For accuracy has

    something of this character, so that as in trade so in argument some

    people think it mean. Hence one must be already trained to know how to

    take each sort of argument, since it is absurd to seek at the same

    time knowledge and the way of attaining knowledge; and it is not

easy to get even one of the two.

     The minute accuracy of mathematics is not to be demanded in all

    cases, but only in the case of things which have no matter. Hence

    method is not that of natural science; for presumably the whole of

    nature has matter. Hence we must inquire first what nature is: for

    thus we shall also see what natural science treats of (and whether

    it belongs to one science or to more to investigate the causes and the

principles of things).

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