ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

II. -- Metaphysics and Theodicy.

39. Concept of Metaphysics. -- Speculative philosophy aims at attaining to a knowledge of everything that is, by a contemplation of things in their successive and ascending degrees of abstractness: the physical, the mathematical, and the metaphysical.

While the special sciences cover each only a portion of reality, metaphysics treats of everything that is; and the intelligible aspect under which it grasps all things is the widest possible, namely, that of being. It is the science of being considered as such (epistêmê ton ontos on). It is the chief of all the sciences in virtue of its generality, and also because it furnishes all the other sciences with their principles.

From the way in which he raises the problems of Metaphysics it is easy to recognize from what parent stock the genius of Aristotle springs. Is reality, he asks himself corporeal or incorporeal? Can the permanent be reconciled with the changeable, the one with the manifold? The Greek mind stands revealed with the utmost clearness in such formulae as these. Aristotle crushes the systems of his predecessors with unanswerable objections: the universal flux of Heraclitus, the immobilism of Parmenides, the number theory of Pythagoras, the separated Ideas of Plato. Scepticism also suffers at his hands a refutation so thorough that it well deserves to be regarded as a masterpiece (Metaph., iv., 1). But we must also add, -- to the great honour of the Stagirite, -- that he knew how to separate truth from falsehood in the doctrines of his predecessors. His fresh and penetrating grasp of reality enabled him to complete the theories of some of them by those of others: In real being there is something stable (Parmenides), and something changing (Heraclitus); and Plato's "Real" is now seen to dwell in an immanent manner in the individual objects of sense.

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