Scepsis Scientifica - Chap. XXII.

Chap. XXII.

            But again (5.) The Aristotelian philosophy is in some things impious, and inconsistent with divinity. That the resurrection is impossible: that God understands not all things: that the world was from eternity: that there's no substantial form, but moves some orb: that the first mover moves by an eternal, immutable necessity: that, if the world and motion were not from eternity, than God was idle: were all the assertions of Aristotle, and such as theology pronounceth impieties. Which yet we need not strange at from one, of whom a father saith, nec deum coluit nec curavit: especially, if it be as Philoponus affirms, that he philosophized by command from the Oracle. But besides those I have mentioned, I might present to view a larger catalogue of Aristotle's impious opinions; of which take a few:

            He makes one God the first mover, but 56 others, movers of the orbs. He calls God an animal: and affirms, that he knows not particulars. He denies that God made anything, or can do anything but move the heavens. He affirms, that 'tis not God but nature, chance, and fortune that rule the world. That he is tied to the first orb; and preserves not the world, but only moves the heavens; and yet elsewhere, that the world and heavens have infinite power to move themselves. He affirms, the soul cannot be separated from the body, because 'tis its form. That prayers are to no purpose, because God understands not particulars. That God hears no prayers, nor loves any man. That the soul perisheth with the body: and that there is neither state, nor place of happiness after this life is ended. All which dogmata, how contrary they are to the fundamental principles of reason and religion, is easily determined and perhaps, never did any worse drop from the pens of the most vile contemners of the deity. So that the great and most learned Origen, was not unjust in prxferring Epicurus before the adored Stagyrite. And possibly there have been few men in the world have deserved less of religion, and those that profess it. How it is come about then, that the assertor of such impieties, should be such an oracle among divines and Christians; is I confess to me, matter of some astonish-ment. And how Epicurus became so in-famous, when Aristotle who spake as ill, and did worse, hath been so sacred, may well be wondred at.

            Again (6.) The Peripatetic philosophy is repugnant to itself; as also it was contrary to the more ancient wisdom. And Therefore the learned Patritius saith of Aristotle, ob eam rem multos e patribus habuit opfiugnatores, celebratorem neminem. And within the same period of sense affirms, Ipse sibi ipsi non constat; immo saepissime, immo semper secum pugnat. Of the Aristotelian contradictions, Gassendus hath presented us with a catalogue: we'll instance in a few of them. In one place He saith, the planets' scintillation is not seen, because of their propinquity; but that of the rising and setting sun is, because of its distance: and yet in another place he makes the sun nearer us, than they are. He saith, that the elements are not eternal, and seeks to prove it; and yet he makes the world so, and the elements its parts. In his meteors he saith, no dew is produced in the wind; and yet afterwards admits it under the south, and none under the north. In one place he defines a vapour humid and cold; and in another humid and hot. He saith, the faculty of speaking is a sense; And yet before he allowed but five. In one place, that nature doth all things best; and in another, that it makes more evil than good. And somewhere he contradicts himself within a line; saying, that an immoveable mover hath no principle of motion. 'Twould be tedious to mention more; and the quality of a digression will not allow it.

            Thus we have, as briefly as the subject would bear, animadverted on the so much admired philosophy of Aristotle. The nobler spirits of the age, are disengaged from those detected vanities: and the now adorers of that philosophy are few, but such as know no other: or if any of them look beyond the leaves of their master, yet they try other principles by a jury of his, and scan Descartes by genus and species. From the former sort I may hope, they'll pardon this attempt; since nothing but the authors weakness kindred his obliging them. And for the latter, I value not their censure.

            We may conclude upon the whole then, that the stamp of authority can make leather as current as gold; and that there's nothing so contemptible, but antiquity can render it august, and excellent. But, because the fooleries of some affected novelists have discredited new discoveries, and rendered the very mention suspected of vanity at least; and in points divine, of heresy: it will be necessary to add, that I intend not the former discourse, in favour of any new-broached conceit in divinity: for I own no opinion there, which cannot plead the prescription of above sixteen hundred. There's nothing I have more sadly resented, than the crazy whimsies with which our age abounds, and therefore am not likely to patron them. In theology, I put as great a difference between our new lights, and ancient truths, as between the sun, and an unconcocted evanid meteor. Though I confess, that in philosophy I'm a seeker; yet cannot believe that a skeptic in philosophy must be one in divinity. Gospel-light began in its zenith; and, as some say the sun, was created in its meridian strength and lustre. But the beginnings of philosophy were in a crepusculous obscurity; and it's not yet scarce past the dawn. Divine truths were most pure in their source; and time could not perfect what eternity began: our divinity, like the grand-father of humanity, was born in the fulness of time, and in the strength of its manly vigour: but philosophy and arts commenced embryos, and are by times gradual accomplishments. And therefore, what I cannot find in the leaves of former inquisitors: I seek in the modern attempts of nearer authors. I cannot receive Aristotle's ΠΙΣΤΟΤΑΤΟΙ ΡΑΛΑΙΟΙ [Greek:PISTOTATOI PALAIOI], in so extensive an interpretation, as some would enlarge it to and that discouraging maxim, nil dictum quod non dictum prius, hath little room in my estimation. Nor can I tie up my belief to the letter of Solomon: except Copernicus be in the right, there hath been something new under the sun; I'm sure, later times have seen novelties in the heavens above it. I do not think, that all science is tautology: the last ages have shown us, what antiquity never saw; no not in a dream.

 

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