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Eliot continued his Oxford studies in the Trinity term (22 May to 10 July) 1915. In July, he submitted a brief report to Dean Briggs: “In the last term, I continued attendance at lectures by Mr. Joachim and Professor Smith, completed the reading of the text [Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics] with Mr. Joachim, and brought Mr. Joachim weekly papers on the philosophy of Aristotle” ( L1118). The lecture courses by Joachim and Smith, on Aristotle and on logic, respectively, were continuations from the previous two terms. Of the six to eight weekly papers on Aristotle written for Joachim, four have survived, the first of which is [Thought and Reality in Aristotle’s Metaphysics]. 1

As the philosophy of Aristotle is a compromise between different, and (I think) inconsistent tendencies, between empiricism and Platonic idealism, between scientific abstractness and absolutism, the delimitation of the subject matter of metaphysics is attended by a certain risk. The line of demarcation from physics, on the one hand, and from logic on the other, is very difficult to determine; not only because they appear continuous, but because certain implications of the metaphysics seem to reduce these two sciences to the level of working fiction.

The rejection of mathematics is a more obvious delimitation of the subject, and is I think quite justified, though I do not feel confidence in the formulation– περὶ ἀκίνητα μὲν οὐ χωριστὰ δ᾿ ἴσως, ἀλλ᾿ ὡσ ἐν ὕλη. 2 For I do not understand in what way metaphysics can be said to deal with “separable” subjects, if mathematics does not, unless it be assumed that mathematics is limited to quantity and measurement. I suppose, however, Aristotle to mean that number has to be applied to some particular class of events or some particular class of objects in order to be “true,” and that there is no relation between number in general and reality in general; whereas the categories, for instance, condition every possible experience. Number, in other words, and geometry, are merely descriptive; they tell nothing of the nature of the world which they describe. Number may be the order, but is not the structure, of the world. Physics, in Aristotle’s use, deals with some matters which we should consider part of pure mathematics– [such] as infinity or the continuum–and some matters which we should deal with in either metaphysics or physics, [such] as time. τὰ γὰρ φυσικὰ χωρίζουσιν, ἧττον ὄντα χωριστᾲ τῶν μαθηατικῶν. 3 The difference is in degree: both mathematics and physics are adjectival, but the concept of motion is less separable from the concept of body than is number. Now the concept of body–or the more general concept of “thing”–cannot be put to the test by any several science; and the only way to analyse it is to analyse our own meaning. From the side of physics, then, the task of philosophy is to analyse and arrange these simple concepts. It would be, indeed, as much the business of philosophy to explain the concepts of motion, time, change, space and show their relation to substance; and there is a suggestion of this in the categories; but the chief labour of the metaphysician has to do with the concept of substance.

From the side of logic, also, we are reminded that first philosophy concerns itself with the interpretation of words: the analysis of concepts–the meaning of predication. Much of the logic falls outside of metaphysics, in that it is concerned with truth as an instrument, with the process in itself, indifferent to its ultimate relation to reality; but the logic is much more than a manual of scientific method: it is concerned also with this relation of truth and reality; the nature of definition and the theory of judgment are of the greatest importance for Prima Philosophia. These are indeed metaphysical questions: the logician is occupied with the formal connection of ideas, the metaphysician with the ultimate meanings of words and their connections: the doctrine of the categories is as much the property of the metaphysician as of the logician. It is very difficult, however, to draw a line anywhere between the logic and the metaphysics, as the naturalists...

Published By:   Johns Hopkins University Press