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ftep of the enquiry, pofterity will rejoice over mental liberty, no less precious than perfonal liberty. The defpotifm of Ariftotle with respect to the faculty of reason, was no lefs complete, than that of the Bishop of Rome with respect to religion; and it is now a proper fubject of curiosity, to enquire into the nature and extent of that defpotifm. One cannot peruse the following fheets, without fympathetic pain for the weaknefs of man with refpect to his nobleft faculty; but that pain will redouble his fatisfaction, in now being left free to the dictates of reafon and common fenfe.
In my reveries, I have more than once compared Ariftotle's logic to a bubble made of foap-water for amufing children; a beautiful figure with fplendid colours; fair on the outside, empty within. It has for more than two thousand years been the hard fate of Aristotle's followers, Ixion like, to embrace a cloud for a goddess.—But this is more than fufficient for a preface: and I had almost forgot, that I am detaining my readers from better entertainment, in listening to Dr Reid,
Riftotle had very uncommon advantages: born in an age when the philofophical spirit in Greece had long flourished, and was in its greatest vigour; brought up in the court of Macedon, where his father was the King's physician; twenty years a favourite scholar of Plato, and tutor to Alexander the Great; who both honoured him with his friendship, and fupplied him with every thing neceffary for the profecution of his enquiries.
Thefe advantages he improved by inde fatigable study, and immenfe reading. He was the firft, we know, fays Strabo,
who compofed a library. And in this the Egyptian and Pergamenian kings, copied his example. As to his genius, it would be difrefpectful to mankind, not to allow an uncommon fhare to a man who governed the opinions of the most enlightened part of the fpecies near two thousand years.
If his talents had been laid out folely for the discovery of truth and the good of mankind, his laurels would have remained for ever fresh: but he seems to have had a greater paffion for fame than for truth, and to have wanted rather to be admired as the prince of philosophers than to be useful: so that it is dubious, whether there be in his character, most of the philofopher or of the fophift. The opinion of Lord Bacon is not without probability, That his ambition was as boundlefs as that of his royal pupil; the one afpiring at univerfal monarchy over the bodies and fortunes of men, the other over their opinions. If this was the case, it cannot be faid, that the philofopher purfued his aim with less industry, less ability, or lefs fuccess than the hero.
His writings carry too evident marks
of that philofophical pride, vanity, and envy, which have often fullied the character of the learned. He determines boldly things above all human knowledge; and enters upon the most difficult questions, as his pupil entered on a battle, with full affurance of fuccefs. He delivers his decifions oracularly, and without any fear of mistake. Rather than confefs his ignorance, he hides it under hard words and ambiguous expreffions, of which his interpreters can make what they please. There is even reafon to fufpect, that he wrote often with affected obfcurity, either that the air of mystery might procure greater veneration, or that his books might be understood only by the adepts who had been initiated in his philosophy.
His conduct towards the writers that went before him has been much cenfured. After the manner of the Ottoman princes, fays Lord Verulam, he thought his throne could not be fecure unless he killed all his brethren. Ludovicus Vives charges him with detracting from all philofophers, that he might derive that glory to himself, of which he robbed them. He rarely quotes an author but with a view to cenfure, and
is not very fair in reprefenting the opinions which he cenfures.
The faults we have mentioned are fuch as might be expected in a man, who had the daring ambition to be tranfmitted to all future ages, as the prince of philofophers, as one who had carried every branch of human knowledge to its utmost limit; and who was not very fcrupulous about the means he took to obtain his end.
We ought, however, to do him the justice to obferve, that although the pride and vanity of the fophift appear too much in his writings in abstract philofophy; yet in natural history the fidelity of his narrations seems to be equal to his industry; and he always distinguishes between what he knew and what he had by report. And even in abstract philofophy, it would be unfair to impute to Ariftotle all the faults, all the obfcurities, and all the contradictions, that are to be found in his writings. The greatest part, and perhaps the best part, of his writings is lost. There is reafon to doubt whether fome of thofe we afcribe to him be really his; and whether what are his be not much vitiated and interpolated