Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/759

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
737
SCHOLASTIC PRELUDE TO MODERN SCIENCE.

much weakened. At the beginning of the twelfth century a great school of law was founded by Pepo and Irnerius at Bologna, and for two centuries produced an illustrious line of jurists, to which students flocked from all parts of Europe.

But the most remarkable and original product of the middle ages was the Scholastic Philosophy; and, as the Baconian philosophy was the reaction against it, it is necessary to give a brief outline of it.

Socrates was the first to perceive that all systematic reasoning in science and philosophy must be based upon general concepts, ideas, or definitions of terms. The dialogues of Plato are full of discussions on the meanings of terms—the Good, the Beautiful, the Holy, the Just, and numerous others. If any action was said to be holy or just, it was first of all necessary to define the holy, or the just. Thus the Platonic dialogues are full of inductive reasonings as to fundamental concepts. Now, when a certain moral concept is formed in the mind, it does not by any means follow that it should be realized in any actual person, nor that it should be seen in any action. It is quite possible to form a mental concept of the holy or the just, without there being any holy or just person, or any one doing a holy or just action.

From this it followed that general concepts might have an actual and real existence without being embodied in any concrete form. Plato argued by analogy from the moral to the physical world. He held that all nature was framed in accordance with certain ideas, or notions existing in the Divine mind, which were quite independent of any particulars. Thus, there was an idea or notion of a man, horse, etc., before there was any actual man or horse—though he was rather staggered at the notion of there being eternal ideas of mud, hair, dirt, etc. Thus, besides the world of spiritual existences, Plato held that there is also a distinct world of invisible, self-existent, eternal, and unchangeable ideas. These, with some variations, were the doctrines which were called realism in the middle ages. Aristotle, the disciple of Plato, combated these doctrines in several of his works. He maintained that these universals, as they were called, could not be separated from their particulars: he denied that universals could have a separate reality from the particulars. Hence the universals were mere names for certain particulars. This, somewhat modified, was termed nominalism in the middle ages. t

The Greeks were the first to discover that there is an innate power of discerning truth in the human mind; and that there is a science of truth, which can be reduced to a systematic form. This science is termed logic. Zeno, of Elea, was the first to employ this science, to prove the fallacy of the arguments of his opponents. It was much used by Socrates and Plato in their discussions and dialogues; but Aristotle was the first to reduce it to a systematic form. He first showed that all error can be exposed and all truth set forth in a systematic form.