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The following Essay is intended by the author to be preliminary to a few others in which he hopes to give an account of the several systems of Ancient Philosophy which converged in those of Plato and Aristotle,—to pursue some of the more important branches of speculation in the course which they took after leaving the hands of the latter,—and to examine the success which has attended their cultivation up to the present time. Before this task could be attempted with any advantage, it was necessary to enter upon some points relative to the history of philosophical literature, and, from the nature of these, no mode of discussing them appeared preferable to interweaving them in a critical biography of the founder of the Peripatetic School. The present treatise, however, although the first of a series; is complete in itself, and it is the intention of the writer to preserve a similar independence to each of the others.
If the acquaintance we possessed with the private life of individuals were at all proportioned to the influence exerted by them on the destinies of mankind, the biography of Aristotle would fill a library; for without attempting here to discuss the merits of his philosophy as compared with that of others, it may safely be asserted that no man has ever yet lived who exerted so much influence upon the world. Absorbing into his capacious mind the whole existing philosophy of his age, he reproduced it, digested and transmuted, in a form of which the main outlines are recognised at the present day, and of which the language has penetrated into the inmost recesses of our daily life. Translated in the fifth century of the Christian era into the Syriac language by the Nestorians who fled to Persia, and from Syriac into Arabic four hundred years later, his writings furnished the Mohammedan conquerors of the East with a germ of science which, but for the effect of their religious and political institutions, might have shot up into as tall a tree as it did produce in the West; while his logical works, in the Latin translation which Boethius, “ the last of the Romans,", bequeathed as a legacy to posterity, formed the basis of that extraordinary phenomenon, the Philosophy of the Schoolmen. An empire like this, extending over nearly twenty centuries of time, sometimes more sometimes less despotically, but always with great force, recognised in Bagdad and in Cordova, in Egypt and in