NPNF2-08. Basil: Letters and Select Works
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Chapter III.

The systematic discussion of syllables is derived from heathen philosophy.

5.  They have, however, been led into this error by their close study of heathen writers, who have respectively applied the terms “of whom” and “through whom” to things which are by nature distinct.  These writers suppose that by the term “of whom” or “of which” the matter is indicated, while the term “through whom” or “through which”719719    The ambiguity of gender in ἐξ οὗ and δι᾽ οὗ can only be expressed by giving the alternatives in English. represents the instrument, or, generally speaking, subordinate agency.720720    There are four causes or varieties of cause:
   1.  The essence or quiddity (Form):  τὸ τί ἦν εἶναι.

   2.  The necessitating conditions (Matter):  τὸ τίνων ὄντων ἀνάγκη τοῦτ᾽ εἶναι.

   3.  The proximate mover or stimulator of change (Efficient):  ἡ τί πρῶτον ἐκίνησε.

   4.  That for the sake of which (Final Cause or End):  τὸ τίνος ἕνεκα.  Grote’s Aristotle, I. 354.

   The four Aristotelian causes are thus:  1. Formal.  2. Material.  3. Efficient.  4. Final.  cf. Arist. Analyt. Post. II. xi., Metaph. I. iii., and Phys. II. iii.  The six causes of Basil may be referred to the four of Aristotle as follows:


   1.  τὸ τί ἦν εἶναι

   2.  τὸ ἐξ οὗ γίνεταί τι

   3.  ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς μεταβολῆς ἡ πρώτη

   4.  τὸ οὗ ἕνεκα


   1.  καθ᾽ ὅi.e., the form or idea according to which a thing is made.

   2.  ἐξ οὗi.e., the matter out of which it is made.

   3.  ὑφ᾽ οὗi.e., the agent, using means.

   δι᾽ οὗi.e. the means.

   4.  δι᾽ ὅi.e., the end.

   εν ᾧ, or sine quâ non, applying to all.
  Or rather—for there seems no reason why we should not take up their whole argument, and briefly expose at once its incompatibility with the truth and its inconsistency with their own teaching—the students of vain philosophy, while expounding the manifold nature of cause and distinguishing its peculiar significations, define some causes as principal,721721    προκαταρκτικήcf. Plut. 2, 1056. B.D. προκαταρκτικὴ αἰτία ἡ εἱμαρμένη. some as cooperative or con-causal, while others are of the character of “sine qua non,” or indispensable.722722    cf. Clem. Alex. Strom. viii. 9.  “Of causes some are principal, some preservative, some coöperative, some indispensable; e.g. of education the principal cause is the father; the preservative, the schoolmaster; the coöperative, the disposition of the pupil; the indispensable, time.”

For every one of these they have a distinct and peculiar use of terms, so that the maker is indicated in a different way from the instrument.  For the maker they think the proper expression is “by whom,” maintaining that the bench is produced “by” the carpenter; and for the instrument “through which,” in that it is produced “through” or by means of adze and gimlet and the rest.  Similarly they appropriate “of which” to the material, in that the thing made is “of” wood, while “according to which” shews the design, or pattern put before the craftsman.  For he either first makes a mental sketch, and so brings his fancy to bear upon what he is about, or else he looks at a pattern previously put before him, and arranges his work accordingly.  The phrase “on account of which” they wish to be confined to the end or purpose, the bench, as they say, being produced for, or on account of, the use of man.  “In which” is supposed to indicate time and place.  When was it produced?  In this time.  And where?  In this place.  And though place and time contribute nothing to what is being produced, yet without these the production of anything is impossible, for efficient agents must have both place and time.  It is these careful distinctions, derived from unpractical philosophy and vain delusion,723723    ἐκ τῆς ματαιότητος καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης.
   cf. ματαιότης ματαιοτήτων, “vanity of vanities,” Ecc. i. 2, lxx.  In Arist. Eth. i. 2, a desire is said to be κενὴ καὶ ματαία, which goes into infinity,—everything being desired for the sake of something else,—i.e., κενη, void, like a desire for the moon, and ματαία, unpractical, like a desire for the empire of China.  In the text ματαιότης seems to mean heathen philosophy, a vain delusion as distinguished from Christian philosophy.
which our opponents have first studied and admired, and then transferred to the simple and unsophisticated doctrine of the Spirit, to the belittling of God the Word, and the setting at naught of the Divine Spirit.  Even the phrase set apart by non-Christian writers for the case of lifeless instruments724724    ἄψυχα ὄργανα.  A slave, according to Aristotle, Eth. Nich. viii. 7, 6, is ἔμψυχον ὄργανον. or of manual service of the meanest kind, I mean the expression “through or by means of which,” they do not shrink from transferring to the Lord of all, and Christians feel no shame in applying to the Creator of the universe language belonging to a hammer or a saw.

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