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      A snarling curse came from Balmayne's lips.

      Hetty's antagonist had vanished also. He had gone clean out of sight before Hetty realised that she was free. Then she called loudly for help. A policeman came from somewhere, and Hetty was pouring out her tale.


      "Kill him," she said in a hoarse whisper that thrilled Hetty. "That is a sure and easy way out of the peril. We can prove that he left the house, nobody can prove that he ever returned. I have my jewels back; there is nothing that we can be traced by. And the secret dies with him."

      We have not far to seek for the cause of this fatal condemnation. Neo-Platonism is nothing if not a system, and as a system it is false, and not only false but out of relation to every accepted belief. In combining the dialectic of Plato with the metaphysics of Aristotle and the physics of Stoicism, Plotinus has contrived to rob each of whatever plausibility it once possessed. The Platonic doctrine of Ideas was an attempt to express something very real and important, the distinction between laws and facts in Nature, between general principles and particular observations in science, between ethical standards and everyday practice in life. The eternal Nous of Aristotle represented the upward struggle of Nature through mechanical, chemical, and vital337 movements to self-conscious thought. The world-soul of Stoicism represented a return to monism, a protest against the unphilosophical antithesis between God and the world, spirit and matter, necessity and free-will. Plotinus attempts to rationalise the Ideas by shutting them up in the Aristotelian Nous, with the effect of severing them still more hopelessly from the real world, and, at the same time, making their subjective origin still more flagrantly apparent than before. And along with the Stoic conception of a world-soul, he preserves all those superstitious fancies about secret spiritual sympathies and affinities connecting the different parts of Nature with one another which the conception of a transcendent Nous, as originally understood by Aristotle, had at least the merit of excluding. Finally, by a tremendous wrench of abstraction, the unity of existence is torn away from existence itself, and the most relative of all conceptions is put out of relation to the thought which, in the very same breath, it is declared to condition, and to the things which it is declared to create.


      Cigarette smoke. Smoke of a pungent acrid kind that might have been smoked in the house, but never beyond the kitchens. And it was fresh, too, for a trailing wreath of it hung heavy on the air. Without a doubt somebody was in the morning room.To understand Descartes aright, we must provisionally disregard the account given in his work on Method of the process by which he arrived at a new theory of the world; for, in truth, there was nothing new about it except the pro388portion in which fragments taken from older systems were selected and recombined. As we have already noticed, there is no such thing as spinning philosophies out of ones own head; and, in the case of Descartes, even the belief that he was so doing came to him from Plato; for, along with Aristotles dogmatic errors, his sound teaching with regard to the derivation of knowledge had fallen into oblivion. The initial doubt of the Discourse on Method and the Meditations is also Platonic; only it is manifested under an individual and subjective, instead of a universal and objective form. But to find the real starting-point of Descartes enquiries we must look for it in his mathematical studies. A geometrician naturally conceives the visible world under the aspect of figured extension; and if he thinks the figures away, nothing will remain but extension as the ultimate material out of which all determinate bodies are shaped. Such was the result reached by Plato in his Timaeus. He identified matter with space, viewing this as the receptacle for his eternal and self-existent Ideas, or rather the plastic medium on which their images are impressed. The simplest spatial elements are triangles; accordingly it is with these that he constructs his solid bodies. The theory of triangular elements was probably suggested by Atomism; it is, in fact, a compromise between the purely mathematical and the materialistic methods. Like all Platos fancies, this theory of matter was attacked with such convincing arguments by Aristotle that, so long as his physics remained in the ascendent, it did not find a single supporter; although, as we saw in the last chapter, Plotinus very nearly worked his way back to it from the Peripatetic definition. Even now, at the moment of Aristotles fall, it might have failed to attract attention, had not the conditions under which it first arose been almost exactly repeated. Geometrical demonstration had again become the type of all reasoning; there was again a sceptical spirit abroad, forcing men to fall back on the most elementary and universal con389ceptions; an atomistic materialism again threatened to claim at least the whole field of physical enquiry for its own. That Descartes followed the Timaeus in identifying matter with extension cannot be doubted; especially when we see that he adopts Platos analysis of body into elementary triangles; but the theory agreed so well with his intellectual predispositions that he may easily have imagined it to be a necessary deduction from his own priori ideas. Moreover, after the first two steps, he parts company with Plato, and gives himself up, so far as his rejection of a vacuum will permit, to the mechanical physics of Democritus. Much praise has recently been bestowed on his attempt to interpret all physical phenomena in terms of matter and motion, and to deduce them from the unaided operation of natural causes; but this is no more than had been done by the early Greek thinkers, from whom, we may observe, his hypothesis of an initial vortex was also derived. His cosmogony is better than theirs, only in so far as it is adapted to scientific discoveries in astronomy and physiology not made by Descartes himself; for where his conjectures go beyond these they are entirely at fault.


      "I have a plan already arranged. It requires a great sacrifice, but you will have to make it. Give me those diamonds."