Lecture on -Aristotle: On the Knowledgeable- part one


+++ ARISTOTLE: On the Knowledgeable +++

If I had to single out any event as evidence of extraterrestrial life of some civilization in a distant galaxy beyond the milky way that took great concerne for the slow progress of the human race and imagination it would well be the life of Aristotle. “For goodness sake those human beeings they dont seem to be getting on with that at all. Aristotle, why dont you go down and get things going.”

The sheer intellectual power of this man, expressing itself in Biology and Natural Science and Ethics and Politics and Metaphysics and Logic is without parallel in the history of scholarly thought. There is almost no academic subject, commonly thought that has not been stamped by his influence. Sometimes it steeped so durably that we had to spend a lot of time to get rid of that stamp and get on with things and perhaps progress beyond the point where arestotelian thought left the subject. No single lecture or even several lectures that I am going to devote to Aristotle can do justice to breath and deepth of his accomplishment.

He is the son of a physician, naturalistically inclined, interested in biology. He becomes a student in platos academy and he stays there for merly nearly twenty years. Thats not because he is slow learner. He stays within the platonic circle. There are evidences that his earliest writtings where in the dialoge form. These are no longer with us. In fact, such accounts we can but together of what he did write of the fields he was responsible for indicate that we only got the finnest fraction of the total works that came from that vital imagination. One answer to the question “What is the arestotelian position on x y or z is …, well do you mean in terms of what survived in his works or what may have been his position in works we may probably will never find. Find again.”

At the beginning of his metaphysics. Which is a formidable and significant work in so many ways its obviously one of the great works in the history of thought. One thing about that is particulary important that it is the first treatises that constitutes a critical history of philosophical thought on major subjects. The metaphysics is the work in which aristotle sets down a teaching of a wide range of pre-socratic philosophers as well the socratic-teachings themselves. He tries to, I think by enlarge, does give a fair hearing. He obviousley has its own prgramm and agenda and that is going to color-round his judgement of things. But this treatises is the earliest one we have by any philosopher in which there is a systematic presentation of the ideas dominant in the several schools of pre-socratic and generally hellenic philosophical thought. And the metaphysics is going to examine the assets and liabilities of these schools and try to build upon the assets and avoid the liability or defects. So it is important as an historical document tells us perhaps more than any other document just what the teachings of competing schools where.

But the work opens up on a new note. “All man by nature desire to know. An example of this is the delight we take in our senses. For even a part of there usefullness they are loved for there own sake. And non more than the sense of sight.”

All man by nature desire to know. He already exams that there is an inexplicable impulse within us to develop a knowledge of the world, to develop a knowledge period, a knowledge of things. And than he goes on with the quiet straight forward that is characteristically for him. The quiet straight forward matter of fact common sense position is “All man by nature desire to know. An example of this delight…” So here we are not going to have a philosophy that depreciates the evidence of sense. He is to much the biologist, to much the natural scientist, to much the man with two feeds on the ground to be dismissive of the information gleaned by the senses.

Not only that, but famously aristotle will argue that “nature produces nothing without a good reason for it”. That Change is not the operative principle in the universe and that things are to be understood in terms of the purposes they serve. Nature certainly would not have fit out, the animal kingdom with sensory organs for the sole purpose of the deceiving the entire animal kingdom. And indeed, if that had been the design of nature, the senses as organs of deception, creatures would not able to get from one side of the street to the other.

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