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LIBRARY OF THE LELAND STANFORD JR, UNIVERSITY.
MAR 8 1901
The Metaphysics of Aristotle (if we except Kant's Critique, and certain portions of the works of the Scholastics) embody, perhaps, the only formal Treatise on the Science yet in the possession of mankind. They, therefore, must be considered as one of the most precious remnants of antiquity; but their intrinsic worth can only be appreciated by those who have read them through with care. And this the student will discover, when, after climbing up the rugged mountainside of abstract speculation, he finds himself standing on one of its summits, beholding far and wide the vales of thought spread before him in expanded glory. In evidence of this, he may at the outset be reminded that the subjects treated of are those which have exercised the highest faculties of the human reason; and that he will there find an able Review of the Greek Philosophy; a Refutation, most complete and elaborate, of Scepticism ; a Demonstration, à priori and à posteriori, of God's existence; an Examinaticu into the relation of Metaphysics to the other Sciences; an Overthrow of the Ideal Hypothesis of Plato, as well as of the Theory of Pythagoras; an Elucidation of the nature of the Infinite; and an Investigation into Truth, in relation to man's faculties for the attainment of it.
The present Translation was written before I had an opportunity of consulting the labours of my nuly predecessor in the same field, Thomas Taylor. Though by no means intending to disclaim the obligations subsequently incurred by his translation being placed in my hands, and most sincerely inclined to award Mr. Taylor considerable merit, I cannot help qualifying it with some censure ; but hope I shall not be deemed ungenerous towards one whose indefatigable exertions contributed so much in his day to the extension of Greek literature.
The great imperfection of Taylor's Version consists in obscurity-consequent, principally, upon little or no care being taken, by a proper arrangement of the text, to notify transitions to new subjects of inquiry. This is a grave omission in the Metaphysics, above all other of Aristotle's works, because the several clauses of this Treatise, it is by many thought with good reason, have been somewhat arbitrarily grouped together. But, independent of this, I cannot but impute to Taylor the want of sufficient accuracy in the verbal niceties of his author, evinced by his too frequent suppression of the force of the smaller particles; a defect probably arising from having allowed his attention to wander too much from the Greek original to the Latin Version. Now, in a translator— whose province it is not to slur over any words contained in his text—such an absence of precision must be acknowledged as at least injudicious; but it becomes a very serious error, fraught with hurtful consequences, to the student of such an author as Aristotle, who seldom uses a word devoid of emphasis, and who seems designedly to have sacrificed all exuberance to the stern demands of scientific brevity. A style so terse and idiomatic, and at the same time so perfect a model of the inherent capabilities of the Greek language, will, therefore, be deprived of much cf its peculiar excellence, if its entire power, as an engine of abstract thought, be not preserved unimpaired under the new forms in which the translator arrays it. Now in the pages of Taylor we search in vain for a realization of the
philosophic spirit, and the bold, argumentative, decisive. almost abrupt tone, which pervade the original.
Practically speaking, then, Taylor is almost useless to the student who, with a desire to construe the original with proper accuracy, is at the same time anxious to acquire a knowledge of the several doctrines established, and the mode of arriving at them. These imperfections I have attempted to remedy in the present Translation, by a close scrutiny of the Greek, and the assignment to each word of its proper force; by adopting the scholastic renderings of the technical words (in opposition to Taylor, who often discards them for others not 80 good); by a scrupulous attention to secure for each paragraph an intelligible opening; and, lastly, by Notes and Marginal References. In the Marginal References I have endeavoured to string together the various links of Aristotle's argument, so as to form one unbroken chain; and thus sought to unravel for the student the perplexities in which he is likely to become entangled. As to the Notes, I trust I may not be accused of presumption in laying claim to some small originality in them. I can, at any rate, disown being indebted for them to Taylor, whose labours in this department are quite unavailable for any useful purpose. Keeping in view, however, the great length to which the text itself runs, the notes have not been needlessly multiplied, and I have only introduced them where some doctrine or allusion absolutely required elucidation.
I may add, that in the execution of my task, I have followed the text of Bekker; occasionally deviating in favour of Didot, more particularly in the matter of punctuation ; and have derived much assistance from the works of Thomas Aquinas, Brandis, Tennemann, Archbishop Whately, the Rev. F. D. Maurice, and others mentioned more at large at the end of the Analysis. But I might have despaired at ever overcoming the obstacles lying across my path, were it not for the access which I enjoyed to the many scarce exegetical works bearing on Aristotle found in the magnificent library of Trinity College, Dublin.
In conclusion, I have to tender my thanks to William S. Bohn, Esq., for his unwearied vigilance in watching the progress of this work through the press, and for the many improvements suggested by him from time to time; the adoption of which has enhanced the value of the Translation to the Classical as well as English reader.
JOHN H. M'MAHON
55, UPPER GLOUCESTER STREET, DCBLIN,
June 1, 1857.