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Francis Garden - 1878 - Table of contents

Diccionario filosófico
Complete edition

Diccionario de Filosofía
Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.


A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden

Vocabulary of Philosophy, Psychological, Ethical, Metaphysical
William Fleming

Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers

Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset

History of Philosophy Summaries

Historia de la Filosofía
Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises...

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González

Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos

A brief history of Greek Philosophy
B. C. Burt


A Short History of Philosophy





Science. Formed from the participle present of the verb scio. This word would of itself denote simply knowledge of any kind and of anything. It has long, however, been used as the equivalent of the Greek ἐπιστήμη. That was distinguished alike from δόξα, opinion, and ἐμπειρία, experience, also from τέχνη, art. That there is a distinction between these things is vaguely felt, I suppose, by us all.


Nobody would give the name of science to his acquaintance with his friend, or with a narrative, still less would he confer the title on the common arts of which everyone is to some extent a master. Yet though all feel the distinction to some extent, comparatively few, I suspect, will be found ready with a definition of science, or secure against misapplication of the word. The procurement of such a definition is the professed aim of Plato's Theœtetus, but after putting several to the test, and showing the inadequacy of each, the dialogue ends without an answer to the inquiry.

 Aristotle defines science to be the knowledge of a thing by its necessary cause. This of course implies that it is knowledge by demonstration, and demonstration he calls the scientific syllogism. Bacon so far coincides that he pronounces the knowledge of things by their causes to be the aim and intention of science, though he would not have laid the like stress with Aristotle on the abstract necessity of such causes, and therefore on the need of demonstration. It is plain, however, that in laying down the knowledge of a thing by its cause as the constituent of science, we have only stated the unit of that, and that a larger view must be gained before we learn what we ought to mean in dignifying a branch of knowledge with the title. Sir W. Hamilton supplies us with the following definition: "A science is a complement of cognitions having, in point of form, the character of logical perfection, in point of matter, the character of real truth." Mr. Chretien views each science truly such, as knowledge evolved from a fundamental idea.(1)

All these views are true and harmonious. When they are fully entertained, they will lead to a rejection of the limited use of the words science and scientific, now so prevalent, which denotes by them only physical research, and it may be suspected often applies the title to branches of such research merely because of their matter, and without asking if they have attained the form and logical perfection without which they have not yet become science.

Still I have said that Plato's efforts, and Aristotle's definition, tend rather to presenting us with the unit of science than with the ordered   and  methodized group of cognitions which constitutes in any subject-matter what we call a science. Hamilton's definition, and those we gain from Coleridge and Chretien, supply us with an adequate view of the latter. The Greek termination λογία, turned by us into logy, indicates that the matter denoted by the prefix to which it is subjoined claims when known to be a science.(2) This claim may be just, or it may be, to say the least, premature. Phrenology doubtless is not without its truths, but none but its devotees will admit its title to be ranked among the sciences. Theology seems a term which is utterly misapplied, if, according to the etymological analogy, we take it to mean a science of God. That knowledge of Him wherein "standeth our eternal life," can be no more science than is our acquaintance with an earthly relation or friend. And a science of Him in any full or complete sense must be impossible to mortals, impossible for ever, one must think, to creatures. Some great principles, no doubt, result in reflecting minds from knowledge of Him which take the scientific form, nor, so long as this holds only its proper place, is its importance to be denied, or its study neglected.


(1) See too COLERIDGE on Method.

(2) Not necessarily, however, for λογία may mean nothing more than discourse on such and such a subject. Still I think it has in compound words with us the force assigned to it in the text. The tendency to name in this way every branch of human inquiry, no matter however subordinate to some other already well defined is, I think, to be deprecated. Some of our German brethren carry it very far. The prevalent doctrines of an age respecting Redemption has been called among them the Soteriology of that age, the views held respecting the end of the world its Eschatology. To an English mind this seems more pedantic than useful, although many of us seem following the example.
        With regard to the allusions in the text to Plato, it must be remembered that the negative conclusions of the Theœtetus by no means measure his views of science. Elsewhere we have his positive standards, but the consideration of them is foreign to the purpose of the present article.



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