Lecture on -Aristotle: On the Knowledgeable- part three


Now that capacity to traffic in universal proposition to deal with cognitive items that are universal and necessary, abstract. Thats what epistemonica to do. Its a special feature of rationality. And its the sort of thing that fits us out uniquely for among other things the rule of law. Because after all what is the rule of law, except the ability some universal precept to an individual instance do you say. And its in virtue of this rationality that we become fit for a mode of political and social and civic life. Otherwise unavailable within the kingdom of life.

Now given that we have this faculties and powers. How is aristotle going to understand and approach the problem of knowledge. For aristotle, to know something is essential to know the cause of something. “Happy is the man who know the causes of things” as the acient maxim. A full understanding to posses what in the greek is called episteme. To have that kind of systematic scientific understanding of things is to know the causes by which things like that are brought about. Aristotle get back very very briefly without even mentioning it, to the Mino Problem.

And you could see the difference between Aristotle and Socrates or Platos approach to these. Aristotle says look: “When we say that someone knows that a right angle triangle has 180 degrees. This can be known in one of two ways. Smith may know that a triangle has 180 degrees because he has a messuring instrument and he messures the angels and he sees that the triangle has 180 degrees. Jones knows that this triangles has 180 degrees because Jones knows that by definition triangles are three sided figures circumscribing 180 degrees. So what Jones knows. Jones know to be universally true of all things that are triangles and Smith knows only in the particular case of this triangle. Now what is the difference between Jones and Smiths knowledge. Smith has the knowledge of a fact based on an experience. Jones has a genuine form of episteme with respect to triangles.

Jones realy knows what a triangle in and of itself is. Smith just happens to know something about that triangle. So on Aristotle account “Developed knowledege is a knowledge of the regulative princibles and laws that govern the affairs of things. Its not simply a factual knowledge this or that”.

But of course to say that knowledge requires a understanding of the causes of things is to raise a question of about well just what is a cause. The greek word is used indifferently acros cases. The greek word is AITIA. But as Aristotle is quick to point out in the metaphysics and elsewhere and in the physics. And in his logical writings. “Cause is not a unifical term, there actual has rather different senses”.

Now, this is something that can be easily confused. Let me take as an example some statue of busk. Something that all tourist will know about. Everybody goes to Rome and its not long after they land in the airport that they tell the taxi driver take me to the Piazza Navona where all americans will congregate and how very very expensive cups of coffee and take a look at Berninins Fountains of the Rivers. This is sort of s shrine. You have not been there unless you sad there, pays those prizes and looked at that rather rhetorical, large ver very muscular congruous of figures. Now suppose what you trying to establish, suppose you came from mars or somewhere and you poped out in the B.N, right in front of the rivers and you raise the question: Whats the cause of that?

You ask knowing person to account for that. Well understand that a lot of answers entirely cracked can be given to that question. One answer might be this. “Look, to have anything like this you’ve got to have some kind of material that will retain shape. You can’t get something like this if the universe consisted only of air. Or if the universe consisted only of fluids.” If what you mean by cause, is that which in absence of which something could not be. Than surely one of the causes of the fountain of the rivers is the material of which it is made. Absence that kind of of matter, you cant have that kind of thing. And thats what Aristotle means the material cause of something.

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