Various names have been assigned to this science. It would appear that it was originally called Wisdom; till Pythagoras, impressed with the conviction that the mind of man could but scantly measure its length and breadth and height and depth, termed it, modestly enough, Philosophy or the love of Wisdom, and those who dedicated themselves to such investigations, Philosophers or lovers of Wisdom. Nevertheless, it must not be supposed that these titles of Wisdom and Philosophy were exclusively reserved for Metaphysics; since they were occasionally applied to other branches of study. Whosoever in their generation had a reputation among their fellows for superior knowledge, let the particular line of knowledge pursued by them have been what it might, were frequently designated by common consent Wise men and Philosophers. Somewhat similar to this is the use of these words in our own day. We hear and read of mental philosophy, of moral philosophy, of the philosophy of history, of natural philosophy. Nay more, the words philosophy, philosopher, like those of science and scientific men, are, not too modestly, restricted by modern physicists to a study of natural phenomena and to those who, like themselves, have made these phenomena their exclusive study.
Aristotle graces Metaphysics with manifold appellatives of honour. He calls it wisdom, the philosophy, the first philosophy, the first science, the Divine science, the science of sciences, the Queen of sciences. The series of treatises which he has written on this subject received, subsequently to his time, in their collected form the name of Metaphysics (meta ta phusika); though the phrase occurs more than once in his own writings. It seems hardly necessary to remind the reader that the Greek preposition cannot be understood to express (as some have understood it) an elevation above the things of nature. Its only admissible rendering in the present instance is, after; and consequently the phrase should be translated, after physics. Let it not, however, be thence imagined that this same after denotes the rank or position of metaphysics in the family of sciences, as though the first science were subordinate to physics; for such an interpretation would contradict the invariable teaching of the Philosopher. It merely means that the former comes after the latter in order of analysis and, more particularly, in the curriculum of studies. We naturally begin with objects which are pervious to, and thence go on to those which are beyond and above, sensile perception. He would be ill prepared for the contemplation of ontological truth and for an investigation of the abstract and difficult questions which it involves, whose mind has not been previously disciplined by a course in physics, and especially in mathematics. Such is the interpretation given of this phrase by the Angelic Doctor. 'The science,' he remarks, 'which treats of all these subjects' (i.e. of God, Angels, Substance, Quality, Faculty, Act, &c.) 'is Theology, i.e. the Divine science, so called, because in it God is the primary Object of cognition. It has also received the name of Metaphysics, i.e. beyond physics, because to us, who naturally arrive at the knowledge of things immaterial by means of things sensible, it offers itself by rights as an object of study after physics. It is also called the First Philosophy; because other sciences receive their first principles from it, and are, therefore, secondary to it.
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