may add, it must have been already acquired by the individual himself, who seeks to interpret it, or even to understand its interpretation when it is presented by others. For, only one who by participation in the common life of the State has had his moral nature developed, is capable of rising to the knowledge of ethical principles or even of making anything of them when they are set before him by others. The value of scientific ethics is, therefore, that it brings into clear consciousness the ideas which underlie the unreasoned ethics of the ordinary good man and good citizen; and he who would recognise the truth of ethical science or gain any profit from i it, must already possess in himself the data on which it is based. It is true that for such an one ethical science may have great value; for the reflexion which discovers the universal principles involved in the special rules and customs of life will enable him to criticise and correct the very experience from which he starts. The statesman, above all—who has not merely to find his way amid the difficulties of private life, but to meet the larger demands of legislation and administration, and even, it may be, to make modifications in the constitution of the community which he governs—must know the grounds upon which the State in general, and his particular form of State, are based. He must havç analysed the moral nature of man, and examined
304 ARISTOTLE'S VIEW OF REASON
the particular excellences that need to be called forth, and the particular vices which need to be repressed, by a good education. But even in his case Aristotle insists on the necessity of that immediate sense or intuition of moral truth, which can only be developed by habit. Moral science, therefore, must not only be based upon the immediate judgments of the individual who is imbued with the ethical spirit of a civic society, but it depends for the proper application of its general principles upon the peculiar tact and power of handling ethical interests which is due to that spirit.
Now no one can fail to recognise that, in his account of the development of the moral consciousness through habit and in his rejection of the Socratic doctrine that ' virtue is knowledge,' Aristotle is expressing an important aspect of the truth—if at least we limit knowledge to the reflective form of science. It is easy to show that the science of ethics presupposes the existence of morality, and cannot be the cause of that existence. If all the spiritual possessions of man, and, in particular, the institutions and customs of the society of which he is a member, be produced the activity of the reason that is within him, yet they are certainly not due to a reason tha't is conscious of what it is doing, or aware of its own processes. So far, therefore, even the profoundest believer in the rational nature of man would admit
IN ITS PRACTICAL USE , 305
that the unconscious comes before the conscious, or, what is the same thing, that the particular application of moral principles is prior to their. distinct recognition as general principles. To say otherwise would be like saying that no one could trace effects to causes without having recognised and defined the idea of causality.
But, in the second place, Aristotle means more than. this. He means that in the determination of particular objects by the ordinary consciousness there is a synthesis of reason with an irrational element— with an element of real contingency of which we can only say that it exists, and that we cannot explain it by any rational principle. Hence, strictly speaking, we cannot know the particular; we can only grasp it in the immediate intuition of sense; or, to put it in a more directly Aristotelian way, our knowledge of objects becomes actual, and not merely potential, only when the consciousness of the universal is brought into relation with the perceptions of sense.1 There is, therefore, an element in our consciousness which cannot be universalised, or made intelligible, in the way of science. This fact, however, does not embarrass us in the sphere of pure science; for, in Aristotle's view of it, science has only to do with general principles and what can be deduced from them. In the practical life, however, it becomes
Was this article helpful?