By Robert L. Armstrong
Publication by means of Armstrong, Robert L.
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The philosophers' interest in this particular issue was not merely a matter of intellectual curiosity nor merely a desire to explore all aspects of an issue; these men, of whom Henry More and Ralph Cudworth, the Cambridge Platonists, are outstanding examples, were interested in certain consequences they thought inevitable if all rational men share universal notions, such as, for example, cause and effect, whole and part, like and unlike, equality and inequality, and so forth. That there are such notions was popularly believed during the third quarter of the seventeenth century.
This summary of Aristotelian metaphysics is rather general, but to have some reminder of the traditional theory before us is necessary if we are to understand what happened to metaphysics from the time of Bacon on into the eighteenth century. The potentiality-actuality principle served to integrate the three aspects of the Aristotelian metaphysics. By abandoning it Bacon separated theology from epistemology and ontology, for the theory of pure form as divine is plausible only in connection with the concept of form mixed with matter in a state of potentiality.
Xvii. -67credulous of the powers of Matter; nay, I may say, too too impious and impudent in exploding the belief of Immaterial Beings, in condemning the Rules and Maxims of Virtue and Morality. [P. xix] Notice that the "metaphysicians" are supposed to be concerned with immaterial things, while the "Atomical Philosophers " are supposed to be concerned with material or physical things. What we have here is the Cartesian dualism of mind and matter, with the inquiry into mind or immaterial things being called "metaphysics," while the inquiry into matter or physical things is called "Atomical" or "mechanical" philosophy.