Paul Strathern

Aristotle: Philosophy in an Hour

“Each of these little books is witty and dramatic and creates a sense of time, place, and character….I cannot think of a better way to introduce oneself and one's friends to Western civilization.”—Katherine A. Powers, Boston Globe. “Well-written, clear and informed, they have a breezy wit about them….I find them hard to stop reading.”—Richard Bernstein, New York Times. “Witty, illuminating, and blessedly concise.”—Jim Holt, Wall Street Journal. These brief and enlightening explorations of our greatest thinkers bring their ideas to life in entertaining and accessible fashion. Philosophical thought is deciphered and made comprehensive and interesting to almost everyone. Far from being a novelty, each book is a highly refined appraisal of the philosopher and his work, authoritative and clearly presented.
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    Medionhar citeretfor 2 år siden
    For centuries many of Aristotle’s contributions to philosophy were considered sacrosanct. His truths were ‘eternal truths’ which could never be denied. But the advent of modern philosophy led to the gradual discarding of Aristotelian thought. Surely his most important contribution, logic, would last forever. Then came Nietzsche, and even this was called into question:

    We cannot both affirm and deny the same thing. This is a subjective empirical law – nothing to do with logical ‘necessity’, only of our inability to do it.

    In Aristotle’s view the law of contradiction is the most certain basic principle of them all. It is the ultimate and most fundamental principle upon which all demonstrative proof rests. The principles of every axiom depend upon it. Yet if this is really the case we should perhaps examine more thoroughly what presuppositions are already involved here. Either it says something about actuality, about being, as if we already knew it from another source; that is, as if opposite attributes could not be ascribed to it. Or it means: opposite attributes should not be ascribed to it. In which case, logic would not be an imperative to know the truth, as formerly supposed, but merely an imperative to organise a world that we could look upon as the true one.

    Thus it remains an open question – Do the axioms of logic precisely match reality? Or are they simply a means and method for us to create a concept of ‘reality’ that suits us? As already indicated, to agree with the first question we would have to possess a previous knowledge of being (i.e., one prior to our use of, and in no way involved with, logic). And this is certainly not the case. The proposition (the one that forms the law of contradiction) thus involves no criteria of truth. It is simply an imperative saying what should count as true.

    – Nietzsche, Will to Power, Sec 516
    Medionhar citeretfor 2 år siden
    Despite the demise of Aristotelian thought, Aristotle himself has continued to play a part in modern philosophy. The contemporary American philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn, a profound admirer of Aristotle, found himself puzzled that such a supreme genius could also be guilty of making a number of simple errors. For instance, despite some earlier philosophers realising that the earth orbited the sun, Aristotle remained convinced that the earth was the center of the universe – an error which severely restricted astronomical knowledge for more than fifteen hundred years. Scientific thought was likewise hindered by Aristotle’s belief that the world was made up of four primary elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Kuhn’s study of Aristotle’s errors led him to formulate his notion of paradigms, which revolutionised our thinking about the philosophy of science and had applications far beyond this field.

    According to Kuhn, Aristotle was led into error because of the way he and his contemporaries viewed the world: the paradigm of their thought. The ancient Greeks saw the world as consisting essentially of qualities – shape, purpose, and so forth. Viewing the world in this way, they were bound to arrive at a number of wrongheaded conclusions, such as those which marred even Aristotle’s thought.

    The inevitable conclusion to be drawn from Kuhn’s notion of paradigms is that there can be no such thing as a ‘true’ way of viewing the world, either scientifically or philosophically. The conclusions we reach simply depend upon the paradigms we adopt: the way we decide to think about the world. In other words, there is no such thing as ultimate truth.
    Medionhar citeretfor 2 år siden
    It is obvious that there are causes, and many of them. These are discovered when we begin asking: ‘Why did this happen?’ This leads us back to several basic questions. When faced with unchangeable things, we are left asking: ‘What is it?’ For example, in mathematics it all comes down to the definition of a straight line or number or some such. Or in other cases we might be led to ask: ‘What brought about this change?’ As for instance in: ‘Why did these people go to war?’ The answer here could be: ‘Because of border raids.’ Or it could be because what the thing itself is for: in other words, they fought for dominion. In another category, where things come to be, their cause will be matter.

    Evidently these are the causes. There are several different types of causes, and anyone who wishes to understand nature should know how to uncover them. In fact, there are four different types: matter, form, whatever brings about the change, and whatever the thing is for.

    – Physics, 198a 14–24

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