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Nicomachus, Arithmetic. Lesson 01.

The ancients, who under the leadership of Pythagoras first made science systematic, defined philosophy as the love of wisdom. Indeed the name itself means this, and before Pythagoras all who had knowledge were called “wise” indiscriminately- a carpenter, for example, a cobbler, a helmsman, and in a word anyone who was versed in any art or handicraft1. Pythagoras, however, restricting the title so as to apply to the knowledge and comprehension of reality, and calling the knowledge of the truth in this the only wisdom, naturally designated the desire and pursuit of this knowledge philosophy, as being desire for wisdom.

He is more worthy of credence than those who have given other definitions, since he makes clear the sense of the term and the thing defined. This “wisdom” he defined as the knowledge, or science, of the truth in real things, conceiving “science” to be a steadfast and firm apprehension of the underlying substance, and “real things” to be those which continue uniformly and the same in the universe and never depart even briefly from their existence; these real things would be things immaterial, by sharing in the substance of which everything else that exists under the same name and is so called is said to be “this particular thing,” and exists.

For bodily, material things are, to be sure, forever involved in continuous flow and change – in imitation of the nature and peculiar quality of that eternal matter and substance which has been from the beginning, and which was all changeable and variable throughout. The bodiless things, however, of which we conceive in connection with or together with matter, such as qualities, quantities, configurations, largeness, smallness, equality, relations, actualities, dispositions, places, times, all those things, in a word, whereby the qualities found in each body are comprehended – all these are of themselves immovable and unchangeable, but accidentally they share in and partake of the affections of the body to which they belong. Now it is with such things that ‘wisdom’ is particularly concerned, but accidentally also with things that share in them, that is, bodies.

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Notes

  1. See Sirach 38:25-39[]
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