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II. The Definition.
III. The Rejection of Metaphysics.
IV. Relation of Metaphysics to Other Sciences.
V. Relation of Metaphysics to Theology.
VI. The Method of Metaphysics.
VII. History of Metaphysics.
(1) Hindu philosophy.
(2) Greek philosophy.
(3) Early Christian philosophy.
(4) Medieval philosophy.
(5) Modern philosophy.
VIII. Doctrine of Being.
I. THE NAME
The word metaphysics is formed from the Greek meta ta phusika , a title which, about the year A.D. 70, was related by Andronicus of Rhodes to that collection of Aristotelean treatises which since then goes by the name of the "Metaphysics". Aristotle himself had referred to that portion of philosophy as "the theological science " ( theologikê ), because it culminated in the consideration of the nature of God, and as "first philosophy " ( prôtê philosophia ), both because it considered the first causes of things, and because, in his estimation, it is first in importance. The editor, however, overlooked both these titles, and, because he believed that that part of the Aristotelean corpus came naturally after the physical treatises, he entitled it "after the physics ". This is the historical origin of the term. However, once the name was given, the commentators sought to find intrinsic reasons for its appropriateness. For instance, it was understood to mean "the science of the world beyond nature ", that is, the science of the immaterial. Again, it was understood to refer to the chronological or pedagogical order among our philosophical studies, so that the "metaphysical sciences would mean, those which we study after having mastered the sciences which deal with the physical world" (St. Thomas, "In Lib, Boeth. de Trin.", V, 1). In the widespread, though erroneous, use of the term in current popular literature, there is a remnant of the notion that metaphysical means ultraphysical: thus, "metaphysical healing" means healing by means of remedies which are not physical.
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The term metaphysics , as used by one school of philosophers, is narrowed down to mean the science of mental phenomena and of the laws of mind, In this sense, it is employed, for instance, by Hamilton ("Lectures on Metaph.", Lect. VII) as synonynous with psychology. Hamilton holds that empirical psychology, or the phenomenology of mind, treats of the facts of consciousness, rational psychology, or the nomology of mind, treats of the laws of mental phenomena, and metaphysics, or inferential psychology, treats of the results derived from the study of the facts and laws of mind. This use of the term metaphysics is unfortunate because it rests on Descartes's false assumption that the method in metaphysics is subjective, in other words, that all the conclusions of metaphysics are based on the study of subjective, or mental, phenemona.
Taking a wider view of the scope and method of metaphysics, the followers of Aristotle and many who do not acknowledge Aristotle as a leader in philosophy define the science in terms of all reality, both objective and subjective. Here five forms of definition are offered which ultimately mean one and the same thing:(1) Metaphysics is the science of being as being.
This is Aristotle's definition ( peri tou ontos ê on ) -- Met., VI, 1026 a, 31). In this definition metaphysics is placed in the genus "science". As a science, it has, in common with other sciences, this characteristic that it seeks a knowledge of things in their causes. What is peculiar to metaphysics is the difference "of being as being". In this phrase are combined at once the material object and the formal object of metaphysics. The material object is being, the whole world of reality, whether subjective or objective, possible or actual, abstract or concrete, immaterial or material, infinite or finite. Everything that exists comes within the scope of metaphysical inquiry. Other sciences are restricted to one or several departments of being: physics has its limited field of inquiry, mathematics is concerned only with those things which have quantity. Metaphysics knows no such restrictions. Its domain is all reality. For instance, the human soul and God, because they have neither colour nor weight, thermic nor electric properties, do not fall within the scope of the physicist's investigation; because they are devoid of quantity, they do not come within the field of inquiry of the mathematician. But, since they are beings, they do come within the domain of metaphysical investigation. The material object of metaphysics is, therefore, all being. As Aristotle says (Met., IV, 1004 a, 34): "It is the function of the philosopher to be able to investigate all things." Its formal object is also "being", or "beingness." The formal object of any science is that particular phase, quality, or aspect of things which interests that science in a specific way. Man, for instance, is the material object of psychology, ethics, sociology, anthropology, philology, and various other sciences. The formal object, however, of each of these is different. The formal object of psychology is mental phenomena and the subject of them; the formal object of ethics is man's relation to his ultimate destiny; that of sociology is man's relation to his fellow-men in institutions, laws customs, etc.; that of anthropology is the origin of man, distinction of races, etc.; that of philology is man's use of articulate speech. The formal object of the physical group generally is the so-called physical properties of bodies, such as light, sound, heat, molecular constitution, in general, etc. The formal object of the mathematical group is quantity ; what interests the mathematician is not the colour, heat, etc., of an object, but its size or bulk. Similarly the metaphysician is interested in a specific way neither in the physical nor the mathematical qualities of things, but in their entity or beingness. If, then, physics is the science of being as affected by physical properties, and mathematics is the science of being as possessing quantity, metaphysics is the science of being as being. Since the material object of metaphysics is all being, the metaphysician is interested in everything that is or can be. Since the formal object of his study is, again, being, the point of view of metaphysics is different from that of the other sciences. The metaphysician studies all reality; still, the resulting science is not a summing up of the departmental sciences which deal with portions of reality, because his point of view is different from that of the student of the departmental sciences.
The first science ", says Aristotle (Met., VI, 1026 a, 16), "deals with things which are both separate (from matter) and unmovable". In this connection the scholastics (cf. St. Thom., ibid .), distinguished two kinds of immaterial:
- immaterial quoad esse or immaterial beings, such as God and the human soul, which exist without matter;
- immaterial quoad conceptum , or concepts, such as substance, cause, quality, into the comprehension of which matter does not enter.
All science, according to the scholastics deals with the abstract. The knowledge of the concrete individual objects of our experience, with their ever changing qualities and the particular individuating characteristics which make them to be individual (for instance, the knowledge of this tree, of that flower, of this particular animal or person ) may be very useful knowledge, but it is not scientific. Scientific knowledge begins, when we abstract from what makes the thing to be individual, when we know it in the general principles that constitute it. The first degree of abstraction is found in the physical sciences which abstract merely from the particularizing, individuating characteristics, and consider the general laws or principles, of motion, light, heat, substantial change, etc. The mathematical sciences ascend higher in the scale of abstraction. They leave out of consideration not only the individuating qualities but also the physical qualities of things, and consider only quantity and its laws. The metaphysical sciences reach the highest point of abstraction. They prescind, or abstract, not only from those qualities physics and mathematics abstract from, but also leave out of consideration the determination of quantity. They consider only Being and its highest determinations, such as substance, cause, quality, action etc. "There is a science ", says Aristotle (Met. IV 1003 a, 21) "which investigates being as being, and the attributes which belong to this in virtue of its own nature " ( ta toutô huparchonta kath hauto ). The objection therefore, that metaphysics is an abstract science would, in the estimation of the scholastics, militate not only against metaphysics but against all the other sciences as well. The peculiarity of metaphysics is not that it is abstract, but that it carries the process of abstraction farther than do the other sciences. This, however, does not make it to be unreal. On the contrary, what is left out of consideration in metaphysics namely individuating qualities, physical movement and specific quantity, derive whatever reality they have as conceptions from the coneept, Being, which is the object of metaphysics. Metaphysics, in fact, is the most real of all the sciences precisely because by abstracting from everything eise, it has centred, so to speak, its thought on Being, which is the source and root of reality everywhere else in the other sciences.Metaphysics is the science of the most universal conceptions.
This would follow from the consideration offered in the preceding paragraph because, by a well known law of logic, the less the comprehension the greater the extension of a term or concept. The science which deals with the most abstract conceptions must, therefore, be the science of the most universal conceptions. Among our ideas the most universal are Being, and the determinations of it which are called transcendental, namely unity, truth, goodness, and beauty, each of which is coextensive with being itself, according to the formulas, "Every being is one", "Every being is true ", etc. Next in universality come the highest determinations of Being in the supreme genera, substance and accident, or, if Being be analyzed in the order of metaphysical constitution, essence and existence, potency and actuality. Very high up in the scale of extension will be cause and effect. All these are included within the range of metaphysical inquiry, and are dealt with in every scholastic manual of metaphysics. "Being in its highest determinations" is, then, another way of describing the object of metaphysics. Where, however, shall we draw the line? What determinations are not highest? For instance, are space and time determinations of Being, which are general enough to be considered in metaphysics? The answer to these questions is to be decided according to the dictates of practical convenience. Many of the problems sometimes included in general metaphysics may conveniently be treated in special parts, such as cosmology and psychology.(5) Metaphysics is the science of the first principles.
This definition also is given by Aristotle (Met. IV, 1003 a, 26). Every science is an inquiry into the causes and principles of things; this science inquires into the first principles and highest causes, not only in the order of existence, but also in the order of thought. It belongs, then, to metaphysics
- to inquire into the nature of cause and principle in general and to determine the meaning of the different kinds of causality, formal, material, efficient, and final:
- to investigate the first principles in the order of knowledge, and establish the validity, for instance, of the principles of identity and contradiction.
III. THE REJECTION OF METAPHYSICS
The Rejection of Metaphysics, by many schools of philosophy in modern times, is one of the most remarkable developments of post-Cartesian philosophy. A difference in the point of view leads to a very great divergence in the estimate based on metaphysical studies. On the one side we have the verdict that metaphysics is nothing but "transcendental moonshine", on the other, the opinion that it is "organized common sense ", or "an unusually obstinate effort to think accurately". Materialism, naturally, objects to the claim of metaphysics to be a science of the immaterial. If nothing exists except matter, a science of the immaterial has no justification. Materialists, however, forget that the assertion, "Nothing exists except matter", is either a summing up of the individual experience of the materialist himself, meaning that he as never experienced anything except matter and manifestations of matter, and then the assertion is merely of biographical interest; or it is an affirmation regarding possible human experience, a declaration of the impossibility of immaterial existence, and in that sense it is a statement which in itself has a metaphysical import. Materialism is, in fact, a metaphysical theory of reality and is a contribution to the science which it professes to reject. Philosophical agnosticism, which is derived ultimately from Kant's doctrine of the unknowableness of noumenal reality ( Ding an sich ), rejects metaphysics on the ground that while the immaterial does, indeed, exist, it is unknown and must remain unknowable to the speculative reason. Kant maintained that all metaphysical reasoning, since it attempts by means of the speculative reason to go beyond experience, is doomed to failure, because the a priori forms which the understanding imposes on the empirical data of knowledge modify the quality of that knowledge by making it to be transcendental, but do not extend it beyond the realm of actual sense experience. The followers of Kant stigmatize as intellectual formalism the view that the speculative reason does actually attain ultra-empirical knowledge. This is the contention of the modernists and other Catholic writers who are more or less influenced by Kant. These decry rational metaphysics and offer as a substitute a metaphysics based on sentiment, vital activity, or some other non-rational foundation.
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The answer to this line of thought is a denial of its fundamental tenet, the doctrine, namely, that the rational faculty cannot attain a knowledge of the essential or noumenal natures of things. Gratuitous assertion is often best refuted by categorical denial. The rejection of metaphysics by the materialist and the Kantian agnostic does not meet the full approval of the idealist. Instead of banishing metaphysics from the republic of the sciences, the idealist, having deprived it of its scientific character, elevates it to the rank of æsthetic preeminence side by side with poetry. He considers that it furnishes a point of view from which to contemplate the beauty, harmony, and value of those things which science merely explains. He holds that it is not the province of metaphysics to assign reasons or causes, but to furnish motives for action and enhance the value of reality. For him, its uplifting and regenerating function is entirely independent of its alleged ability to explain: he considers metaphysics to be, not an ontology, or science of reality, but a teleology, or application of the principle of purpose. That this is a function of metaphysics no one will deny. It is only one function, however, and unless the doctrine of final causes has its foundation in a doctrine of formal and efficient causes, teleological metaphysics is a castle in the air. Finally, the positivist, and the scientist whom the positivist has influenced, reject metaphysics because all our knowledge is confined to facts and the relations among facts. To attempt to go beyond facts and the succession or concomitance of facts is to essay the impossible. Causes, essences, and so forth, are terms which clothe in fictitious garb our ignorance of the real scientific explanation. The whole gist of positivism is contained in Hume's verdict that "it is impossible to go beyond experience". This psychological dictum is accepted by the philosophical positivist, as the death sentence of metaphysics. With the scientist, however, other considerations weigh more than the psychological argument. The scientist points to the present condition of metaphysics; he calls attention to the fact that, while the physical sciences have advanced by leaps and bounds, metaphysics is still grappling with the most fundamental problems and has not even settled the questions on which its very existence depends. The condition of metaphysics is, indeed, such as to invite the contempt and provoke the disdain of the scientist ; the fault, however, may lie not so much in the claims of metaphysics as in the vagaries of the metaphysicians.
IV. RELATION OF METAPHYSICS TO OTHER SCIENCES
The consideration of the relation in which metaphysics stands, or ought to stand, to the other sciences should result in a refutation of the positivist contention that metaphysics is useless. In the first place, metaphysics is the natural co-ordinating science which crowns the unifying efforts of the other sciences. It accomplishes in the highest plane of knowledge that process of unification towards which the human mind tends irresistibly. Without it, the explanations and co-ordinations attained in the lower sciences would be, perhaps, satisfactory within the limits of those sciences, but would fail to meet the requirements of that unifying instinct which the mind tends to apply to knowledge in general. So long as the mind of the knower is one, it is impossible not to attempt to bring under the most general conceptions and principles the conclusions of the various sciences. That is the task of metaphysics. Whenever we look around among the contents of the mind and try to discover order and hierarchical arrangement among them, we are attempting a system of metaphysics. In the next place, the process of explanation which belongs to each of the lower sciences, if pursued far enough, brings us face to face with the demand for a metaphysical explanation. Thus, the chemical problem of atomic or proto-atomic constitution of bodies leads inevitably to the question, "What is matter?" The biological problem of the nature and origin of life brings us to the point where it is imperative to answer the query, "What is life?" The questions: "What is substance ? What is a cause? What is quantity ?" are additional examples of problems to which physics, mathematics, etc., finally lead. Indeed, the world of science is completely surrounded by the metaphysical world, and every path of investigation brings us to a highroad of inquiry which sooner or later crosses the border and leads us into metaphysics. When therefore, the scientist rejects metaphysics, he suppresses a natural and ineradicable tendency of the individual mind towards unification and, at the same time, he tries to put up in every highway and byway of his own science a barrier against further progress in the direction of rational explanation. Besides, the cultivation of the metaphysical habit of mind is productive of excellent results in the sphere of general culture. The faculty of appreciating principles as well as facts is a quality which cannot be absent from the mind without detriment to that symmetry of development wherein true culture consists. The scientist who objects to metaphysics, rightly condemns the metaphysician who disdains to consider facts. He himself, unless he cultivate the metaphysical powers of his mind, is in danger of reaching the point where he is incapable of appreciating principles. Both the empirical talent for ascertaining facts and the metaphysical grasp of principles and laws are necessary for the rounding out of man's mental powers, and there is no reason why they should not both be cultivated.
V. RELATION OF METAPHYSICS TO THEOLOGY
The nature of metaphysics determines its essential and intimate relation to theology. Theology, it need hardly he said, derives its conclusions from premises which are revealed, and in so far as it does this it rises above all schools of philosophy or metaphysics. At the same time, it is a human science, and, as such, it must formulate its premises in exact terminology and must employ processes of human reasoning in attaining its conclusions. For this, it depends on metaphysics. Sometimes, indeed, as when it deals with the supernatural mysteries of faith, theology acknowledges that metaphysical conceptions are inadequate and metaphysical formulae incompetent to express the truths discussed. Nevertheless, if theology had no metaphysical formularies to rely upon, it could neither express its premises nor deduce its conclusion in a scientific manner. Again, theology relies on metaphysics to prove certain truths, called the preambula , which are not revealed but are nevertheless presupposed before revelation can be considered reasonable or possible. These truths are not the foundation on which we rest our supernatural faith. If they should fail, faith would not suffer, though theology should then be rebuilt on another foundation. Furthermore, metaphysics, as Aristotle pointed out, culminates in the discussion of the existence and nature of God. God is the object of theology. It is only natural, therefore, that metaphysics and theology should have many points of contact, and that the latter should rely on the former. Finally, since all truth is one, both in the source from which it is derived, and in the subject, the human mind, which it adorns, there must be a kinship between two sciences which, like theology and metaphysics, treat of the most important conceptions of the human mind. The difference in the manner of treatment, theology relying on revelation, and metaphysics on reason alone, does not affect the unity of purpose and the final harmony of the conclusions of the two sciences.
But, while theology thus derives assistance from metaphysics, there can be no doubt that metaphysics has derived advantages from its close association with theology. Pre-Christian philosophy failed to arrive at precise metaphysical determinations of the notions of substance and person. This defect was corrected in part by Origen, Clement, and Athanasius, and in part by their successors, the scholastics, the impulse in both cases being given to philosophical definition by the requirements of theological speculation concerning the Blessed Trinity. Pre-Christian philosophy failed to give a coherent, satisfactory account of the origin of the world: Plato's myths and Aristotle's doctrine of the eternity of matter could not long continue to satisfy the Christian mind. It was, once more, the Alexandrian School of Christian metaphysics that, by elaborating the Biblical conception of creation ex nihilo , gave an explanation of the origin of the universe which is satisfactory to the metaphysician as well as to the theologian. Finally, the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation, as discussed by the scholastics, gave occasion for a more definite and detailed determination of the metaphysical conception of accident in general and of quantity in particular.
VI. THE METHOD OF METAPHYSICS
Among the objections most frequently urged against metaphysics, especially against scholastic metaphysics, is the unscientific character of its method. The metaphysician, we are told, pursues the a priori path of knowledge ; he neglects or even condemns the use of the a posteriori empirical method which is employed with so much profit in the investigation of nature ; he spins as Bacon says, the threads of his metaphysical fabric from the contents of his own mind, as the spider spins her web from the substance of her body, instead of gathering from every source in the world around him the materials for his study, and then working them up into metaphysical principles, as the bee gathers nectar from the flowers and elaborates it into honey. In order to clear up the misunderstanding which underlies this objection, it is necessary to remark that there are three kinds of method:
- the a priori , which, assuming certain self-evident postulates, maxims, and definitions to be true, proceeds deductively to draw conclusions implicated in those assumptions;
- The subjective a posteriori method, which, from an examination of the phenomena of consciousness builds up empirically, that is, inductively, conclusions based on those phenomena;
- the objective a posteriori method, which builds on the facts of experience in general in the same way as the subjective method builds on the facts of introspection.
VII. HISTORY OF METAPHYSICS
The history of metaphysics naturally falls into the same divisions as the history of philosophy in general. In a brief outline of the course which metaphysical speculation has followed, it will be possible to consider only the principal stages, namely (1) Hindu philosophy, (2) Greek philosophy, (3) Early Christian philosophy, (4) Medieval philosophy, (5) Modern philosophy.Philosophy
Of all the peoples of antiquity, the Hindus were the most successful in rising immediately from the mythological explanation of the universe to an explanation in terms of metaphysics. Apparently without passing through the intermediary stage of scientific explanation, they reached at once the heights of the metaphysical point of view. From polytheism or monotheism they proceeded very early to pantheism, and from that to a monistic metaphysical conception of reality. Their starting-point was the realization that man is born into a state of bondage and that his chief business in life is to deliver himself from that condition by means of knowledge. The knowledge, they taught, which avails most in the struggle for freedom is this: the world of sense phenomena is an illusion ( mâya ), all real things are identical in the one supreme substance, the soul is part of this real substance, and will ultimately return to the Whole. The real substance is, as Max Müller remarks, spoken of as a neuter, and in this doctrine "is contained in nuce a whole system of philosophy " ("Six Systems of Indian Philosophy ", London, 1899, p. 60). The first, and most important of all truths, then, is that reality is one, and each of us is identical with the All: "That art thou" is the highest expression of self-knowledge, and the gate to all salutary truth. Thus, the Hindus, actuated by an ethical, or ascetic, motive, attained a metaphysical formula to which they reduced all reality.(2) Greek Philosophy
The first Greek philosophers were students of nature. They were actuated not by an ethical motive, but by a kind of scientific curiosity to know the origins of things. There was no metaphysician among the Ionians (see IONIAN SCHOOL OF PHlLOSOPHY). Out of the problem of origins, however, the metaphysical problem was developed by the Eleatics and Heraclitus. These philosophers considered that the explanations of the Ionians -- that the world originated from water or air -- were too naïve, relied too much on the verdict of the senses. Consequently, they began to contrast the real truth which the mind ( nous ) sees, and the illusory truth ( doxa ) which appears to the senses. The Eleatics, on the one hand, asserted that the permanent element, which they called Being, alone exists, and that change, motion, and multiplicity are illusions. Heraclitus, on the other hand, reached the conclusion that what mind reveals is change, which alone is real, while permanency is only apparent, is, in fact, an illusion of the senses. Thus, these thinkers thrust into the foreground the problem of change and permanency. They themselves, were not, however, wholly free from the limitations which confined the earlier Ionians to a physical view of the problems of philosophy. They formulated metaphysical principles of reality, but both in the language which they used and in the mode of thought which they adopted, they seemed to be unable to rise above the consideration of matter and material principles. Nevertheless, they did immense service to metaphysics by bringing out clearly the problem of change.
Socrates was primarily an ethical teacher. Still, in laying the foundation of ethics he formulated a theory of knowledge which had immediate application to the problem of metaphysics. He taught that the contrast and apparently irreconcilable contradiction between the verdict of the mind and the deliverance of the senses disappear if we determine the scientific conditions of true knowledge. He held that these conditions are summed up in the processes of induction and definition. His conclusion, therefore, is, that out of the data of the senses, which are contingent and particular, we may form concepts, which are the elements of true scientific knowledge. He himself applied the doctrine to ethics.
Plato, the pupil of Socrates, carried the Socratic teaching into the region of metaphysics. If knowledge through concepts is the only true knowledge, it follows, says PIato, that the concept represents the only reality, and all the reality, in the object of our knowledge. The sum of the reality of a thing, is therefore the Idea. Corresponding to the internal, or psychological, world of our concepts is not only the world of our sense experience (the shadow-world of phenomena), but also the world of Ideas, of which our world of concepts is only a reflection, and the world of sense phenomena, a shadow merely. That which makes anything to be what it is, the essence, as we should call it, is the Idea of that thing existing in the world above us. In the "thing" itself, the phenomenon presented by the senses, there is a participation of the Idea, limited, disfigured and debased by union with a negative principle of limitation called matter. The metaphysical constituents of reality are, therefore, the Ideas as positive factors and this negative principle. From the Ideas comes all that is positive, permanent, intelligible, eternal in the world. From the negative principle come imperfection, negation, change, and liability to dissolution. Thus, profiting by the epistemological doctrines of Socrates, without losing sight of the antagonistic teachings of the Eleatics and of Heraclitus, Plato evolved his theory of Ideas as a metaphysical solution of the problem of change, which had a baffled his predecessors.
Aristotle also was a follower of Socrates. He was influenced, too, by the theory of Ideas advocated by his master, Plato. For, although he rejected that theory, he did so after a study of it which enabled him to view the problem of change in the light of metaphysical principles. Like Plato, he accepted the Socratic doctrine that the only true knowledge is knowledge of concepts. Like Plato, too, he inferred from this that the concept must represent the reality of a thing. But unlike Plato, he made at this point an important distinction. The reality, he taught, which the concept represents is in the thing which it constitutes, not as an Idea, but as an essence. He considers that the Platonic world of Ideas is a meaningless duplication of things: the world of essences is in, not above, nor beyond, the world of phenomena: there is, consequently, no contradiction between sense experience and intellectual knowledge : the metaphysical principles of things are known by abstraction from those individuating qualities, which are presented in sense knowledge ; the knowledge of them is ultimately empirical, and not to be explained by an intuition which we are alleged to have enjoyed in a previous existence. In the essence of material things Aristotle further distinguished a twofold principle, namely the Form, which is the source of perfection, determinateness, activity and of all positive qualities, and the Matter, which is the source of imperfection, indetermination, passivity and of all the limitations and privations of a thing. Coming now to the borderland of metaphysics and physics, Aristotle defined the nature of causality, and distinguished four supreme kinds of cause, Material, Formal, Efficient and Final (see CAUSE). In addition to these contributions to the solution of the problem of change, which had, by historical evolution, become the central problem of metaphysics, Aristotle contributed to metaphysics a discussion of the nature of Being in general, and drew up a scheme of classification of things which is known as his system of Categories. He is least satisfactory in his treatment of the problem of the existence and nature of God, a question in which, as he himself admits, all metaphysical speculation culminates.
After the time of Aristotle, philosophy among the Greeks became centered in problems of human destiny and human conduct. The Stoics and the Epicureans, who were the chief representatives of this tendency, devoted attention to questions of metaphysics, only in so far as they considered that such questions may influence human happiness. As a result of this subordination of metaphysics to ethics, the pantheistic materialism of the Stoics and the materialistic monism of the Epicureans fall far short of the perfection which the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle attained. Contemporaneously with the Stoic and Epicurean schools, a new school of Platonism, generally called Neo-Platonism, interested itself very much in problems of asceticism and mysticism, and, in connection with these problems, gave a new turn to the drift of metaphysical speculation. The Neo-Platonists, influenced by the monotheism of the Orientals, and, later by that of the Christians, took up the task of explaining how the manifold, diversified, imperfect world originated from the One, Unchangeable, and Perfect Being. They exaggerated the Platonic doctrine of matter to the point of maintaining that all evil, moral as well as physical, originates from a material source. At the same time, they ascribed to the spiritualized Ideas which they called daimones (spirits) all actuality, intelligence, and force in the whole universe. These intelligences were derived, they said, from the One by a process of emanation, which is akin to the "streaming forth" of light from the illuminating body. This system of metaphysics teaches, therefore, that the One, and intelligences derived from the One, are the only positive principles, while matter is the only negative principle of things. This is the system which was most widely accepted in pagan circles during the first centuries of the Christian era.(3) Early Christian Philosophy
The first heretics among the Christian thinkers were influenced in their philosophy by Neo-Platonism. For the most part, they adopted the Gnostic view (see GNOSTICISM ) that in the last appeal, the test of Christian truth is not the official teaching of the Church or the exoteric doctrine of the gospels, but a secret gnosis, a body of doctrine imparted by Christ to the chosen few. This body of doctrine was in reality a modified Neo-Platonism. Its most salient point was the theory that evil is not a creation of
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