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All these, however, are mere questions of detail. It is on a subject of the profoundest philosophical importance that Aristotle differs most consciously, most radically, and most fatally from his predecessors. They were evolutionists, and he was a stationarist. They were mechanicists, and he was a teleologist. They were uniformitarians, and he was a dualist. It is true that, as we mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, Mr. Edwin Wallace makes him recognise the genesis of things by evolution and development, but the meaning of this phrase requires to be cleared up. In one sense it is, of course, almost an identical proposition. The genesis of things must be by genesis of some kind or other. The great question is, what things have been evolved, and how have they been evolved? Modern science tells us, that not only have all particular aggregates of matter and motion now existing come into being within a finite period of time, but also that the specific types under which we arrange those aggregates have equally been generated; and that their characteristics, whether structural or functional, can only be understood by tracing out their origin and history. And it further teaches us that the properties of every aggregate result from the properties of its ultimate elements, which, within the limits of our experience, remain absolutely unchanged. Now, Aristotle taught very nearly the contrary of all this. He believed that the cosmos, as we now know it, had existed, and would continue to exist, unchanged through all eternity. The sun, moon, planets, and stars, together with the orbs containing them, are composed of an absolutely ungenerable, incorruptible substance. The earth, a cold, heavy, solid sphere, though liable to superficial changes, has always occupied its present position in the centre of the universe.317 The specific forms of animal lifeexcept a few which are produced spontaneouslyhave, in like manner, been preserved unaltered through an infinite series of generations. Man shares the common lot. There is no continuous progress of civilisation. Every invention and discovery has been made and lost an infinite number of times. Our philosopher could not, of course, deny that individual living things come into existence and gradually grow to maturity; but he insists that their formation is teleologically determined by the parental type which they are striving to realise. He asks whether we should study a thing by examining how it grows, or by examining its completed form: and Mr. Wallace quotes the question without quoting the answer.203 Aristotle tells us that the genetic method was followed by his predecessors, but that the other method is his. And he goes on to censure Empedocles for saying that many things in the animal body are due simply to mechanical causation; for example, the segmented structure of the backbone, which that philosopher attributes to continued doubling and twistingthe very same explanation, we believe, that would be given of it by a modern evolutionist.204 Finally, Aristotle assumes the only sort of transformation which we deny, and which Democritus equally deniedthat is to say, the transformation of the ultimate elements into one another by the oscillation of an indeterminate matter between opposite qualities."That's clever. How did you manage it?"
The noble spirit of Marcus Aurelius was, indeed, proof against such temptations: and he had far more to dread than to hope from the unlightened voice of public opinion; but to him also, standing between two eternities, Nature presented herself chiefly under the aspect of an overwhelming and absorbing Power. Pleasure is not so much dangerous as worthless, weak, and evanescent. Selfishness, pride, anger, and discontent will soon be swept into abysmal gulfs of oblivion by the roaring cataract of change. Universal history is one long monotonous procession of phantasms passing over the scene into death and utter night. In one short life we may see all that ever was, or is, or is to be; the same pageant has already been and shall be repeated an infinite number of times. Nothing endures but the process of unending renovation: we must die that the world may be ever young. Death itself only reunites us with the absolute All whence we come, in which we move, and whither we return.103 But the imperial47 sage makes no attempt to explain why we should ever have separated ourselves from it in thought; or why one life should be better worth living than another in the universal vanity of things.
The eye fails to detect variations in size, even by comparison, long before we reach the necessary precision in common fitting. Even by comparison with figured scales or measuring with rules, the difference between a proper and a spoiled fit is not discernible by sight.
but sober second thoughts said no. It would be rather illogical of me
All about the town of pink plaster, in the dust of the roads and fields, are an endless number of dead templestemples of every size and of every period; and all deserted, all empty; even those that are uninjured look like ruins.