when we survey the art that produced them, whether in painting or sculpture, and do not rather love the sight of the actual works of Nature when we are able to discover their causes."
Dr, Ferdinand Hoefer, writing on Aristotle in the "Nouvelle Biographic Universelle," says, "It is the part of men of genius to show equal superiority in every field," and many of Aristotle's eulogists write as if to abate one jot of this thesis would be treason to their idol. They outdo the zealous friend of Miles Standish in
and are frequently carried into absurdities. To quote one other instance from Hoefer, "We find among others this remarkable (!) statement, that animate bodies are composed of air and water. As a fact, chemists have shown that all organic bodies are reduced by analysis to the elements of air and water (oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen)." Now Aristotle's notion of elements was that there were four, having respectively the characters of air, water, earth, and fire, or hot moisture, cold moisture, cold dryness, and hot dryness; and he conceived that animal substances combined the qualities of the first two. A glance at the percentage compositions of air, water, and an animal body puts Hoefer's coincidence in a still worse light. A favorite defense of Aristotle is to suggest that the erroneous passages have been interpolated—so sublimely confident are his disciples that Aristotle can not be wrong, and that what is wrong can not be Aristotle. Then, too, we are bidden to consider the state of science in his day. But, unless Aristotle made a decided advance on the state of science in his day, why call him a great naturalist? Just how much better he observed and experimented than the writers on natural science who immediately preceded him, it is impossible to say, since their books, to which he often refers, are lost. Certainly, he failed to record any adequate understanding and appreciation of these processes, and the world has had to learn them from later thinkers. His most ardent admirer will not claim to find in his writings an exposition of inductive reasoning to be compared with his exposition of the deductive process. His mind seems to have had such a pre-eminent command and comprehension of deductive reasoning—it was so perfectly adapted to run in deductive grooves, as it were—that it was incapable of more than the most imperfect use or conception of induction. Without a good command of the tools of science—observation, experiment, and induction—his scientific work could not be important.
But the reputation of Aristotle can well afford to dispense with these contested ascriptions. Sufficient remains unimpeachable to vindicate his title to a gigantic intellect, and let no one suppose that they who deny him equal eminence in widely unlike fields can be outdone in their honor of his real genius.