Lecture on -Aristotle: On the Knowledgeable- part five


In any case, on Aristotle’s account you dont understand anything fully. You dont have a Epistemic with respect to something. Unless you are able to comprehend the four causal modalities. And McLuhans tetrahedron is a tool to do exactly this. To understand what a thing is, is centrally to know what a thing is for. The number of things we can know, is based on the number of questions we can ask. Of which there are the following:

– Does a thing exists?
– If it exists, to what degree does it exists
– In what relation does it stands to other things
– And what is it for.

This is the central part of the aristotelian programm wether its going to be in the domain of Knowledge or in the domain of ethics, or politics. In the domain of politics the question is: Whats the polis for? In the domain of ethics, its going to be “what kind of beeing am I, and in the light of that, how do the actions of mine either realize what is potential within me or stultify what is potential within me.” These potentialities are in a manner of speaking “What am I here for? And how do I live my life in such a way as to honor that central fact of my being?

Now, the developed knowledge that we have leads us to an understanding that the things of the universe, including the living things of the universe do intentiat a design feature, a plan, they fit in. Nature does not do things without a purpose. So, when you find a reliably accruing phenomenon. The ultimate question you are asking at the epistemic level the ultimate question you are asking after you satisfied yourself that “well, it is made of stone, marble or got wood …” The ultimate question is “How does this fit into things? What is it for? What purpose does it serve? What is its functions?” The explanations are to be functionalist explanations. But functionalist in a rather enlarged sense. By bringing metaphysical insights into the physical realm, the transformation’s catalyst, in and of itself culture waves the fabric of its destiny by the process of cultural evolution.

You do know if the outset, that nothing with patterns and design is going to come about accidental. Aristotle said “If the art of shipbuilding where in the wood, we would have ships by nature.” Let me repeat that, its a statement in the physics “If the art of shipbuilding where in the wood, if there would just something about wood, such as it you left it around long enough, a great boat would develop with three tiers of oas man or letter sails…and all that. No, says Aristotle, that is’nt. You dont get ships like this, the art of shipbuilding is not something that is intrinsic to wood.

You need to wood to make ships but wood just constitutes the material cause of a ship. You need also a workman to know where to put the loas in the lap. But this is also of efficient causation. The art of shipbuilding is in the shipdesigner. And the art of shipbuilding is in the shipdesigner in the sense of the shipdesigner knowing what ships are for. What function do they going to serve. And it would be useless to think that knowledge ends with some consideration of material composition. This is an almost off hand replay to Demokrites, its not enough to say that the ultimate constituency of reality are atomic particles. Thats simply an account of the materiality of the universe. But that surely is a very very paired down form of knowledge and certainly nothing that raises to the level of Epistemy. But in practical terms does not need to. You don’t need to run a perfect business. Running a business is good enough. And then successfully maybe the next step.

Surely developed knowledge embraces not only the material, efficient and formal causes, “but that for the sake of which these causes where recruited in the first instance” That for the sake of which. There is something else in Aristotles Philosopy of Explanation or Philosphy of Science, that is worth noting. Because Aristotle on this count is sometimes missunderstood.

Aristotle does argue that a fairly scientific explanation is one that is capable of producing a universal principle of which the thing to be explained is an instance. Something that is always what it is, that is always the case. (Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist)
You understand an event, when you can show to be an example of some universal principle of which it is an instance. But when Aristotles writting on Biological subject, as opposed to purely physical types of events, when he is writing on biological and particularly of psychological and social phenomenon, he always puts in a qualifier, its almost like a placemark in his treaties, the expression in greek is “os happy otole” Which I think is best rendered as “For the most part, or by enlarge, or in generell”

So I wouldn’t want you to come away with the view that aristotle model of explanation requires of an explanation that it always be correct to end place after the decimal, covered by an unswerving, determined physical law if there is any noisyness of the phenomenon you are on the wrong track, Aristotle teaches and teaches centrally to expect precision only to the extend that the subject adhand admids of it. And to seek no more precision that what the subject adhand will admid of. We do not ask for probable reasoning from a mathematician. Nor do we ask for certainty for a shoecarpenter. So when it comes to those phenomena, those complex social and politcial and moral events and undertakings and disspositions and characteristics overwhelmed by the complexities of daily life.

By the ambiguities inherent in the case. What we look for are general presepts, which are right by enlarge in general and for the most part “os happy otole“. The last word can’t be written in this area, as it is written in mathematics. This I should say, read in a certain light, is a rather liberating conception, in relation to the teachings of the academy. If we take the teachings of the academy as aiming ultimatly toward a kind of “mathematicalness necessity” aiming toward “a degree of precision and purity” representet by something like the Pythagorean theorem.

Well, for goodness sake, progress in the social and biological and psychological and political domains would be impossible. We just know, I mean, we know at a common sense level that you never going to have a a2 plus b2 equals c2 when it comes to phenomena of this sort. And whats Aristotle is insisting is, look those very phenomena by there very nature, they never going to admid of that. That is no reason to give up. What you look for is what is the case generally for the most part, by enlarge … Nature does nothing without a purpose. So there will be pattern and design and reliability in all of things that realy are consequential in the natural realm and we are part of that realm. And when you can solve that realm because of the very nature of things.

Expect no more precision in your explanation than what the phenomena themselves would allow. But there will be enough to precision and reliability for explanation to rais to the level of a systematic understanding. Whats required there is an exercise of the senses, and exercise of reason, the recognition that the data of experience must be incorporated into intelligible wholes. Those intelligible wholes are in the form of causal accounts. And a causal account is incomplete until it reaches the very point and purpose of the phenomenon itself. What is the point of something.

In the ancient greek, the point is the logos. If we had a law dispute between us, the point of that dispute would be called the logos of that dispute. And when the greek is translated in the grand grand good book “In the beginning was the word.” Well, the greek word is logos. And that might have been translated “In the beginning was the point of it all”. The plan that would be realized, do you say, the intelligent design that the balance of human life and human history would instantiate. In the beginning was the point, and aristotle is very helpful in getting us to the point. Thanks. <end>

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