Publication Year: 2003
Published by: State University of New York Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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ABBREVIATIONS AND METHOD OF CITATION
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This book introduces a philosopher who is in a class by himself, even within the small circle of great thinkers. In late antiquity he was called “divine Aristotle” (by Proclus). For the Middle Ages, from al-Farabi to Thomas Aquinas by way of Albertus Magnus, he was quite simply “the Philosopher.” Even Leibniz said that Aristotle’s utterances about the basic concepts of natural philosophy were “for the...
PART I. “THE PHILOSOPHER”?
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1. THE MAN AND HIS WORK
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Pantes anthrôpoi tou eidenai oregontai physei: “all humans strive for knowledge by nature.” The opening sentence of one of the most famous books in Western civilization, Aristotle’s Metaphysics, explicitly speaks about man and knowledge and implicitly about its author as well. As far as the anthropological claim—a natural craving for knowledge—applies, Aristotle is not only an exceptional thinker, but...
2. RESEARCHER, SCHOLAR, AND PHILOSOPHER
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Aristotle deals with practically all the research subjects available in his time, adding domains such as topics, including the Sophistical Refutations (= Top. IX). According to his own testimony, he was the first to explore this field (Top. IX 34, 183b16 ff.), and he took it to very high standards straightaway. Aristotle developed a formal logic, a logic of discourse, and a theory of scientific proof, as well as theories...
PART II. KNOWLEDGE AND SCIENCE
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Science and philosophy tend to push to the forefront of knowledge to such an extent that anything else—if it may call itself “knowledge” at all—loses status. Aristotle is strongly opposed to this tendency. He grants a fixed place in the world of knowledge to rhetoric and even poetry. Within the sciences he introduces ranks but recognizes more than one criterion, and therefore more than one order of...
3. THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE
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In the traditional arrangement, Aristotle’s oeuvre begins with six treatises called collectively Organon, that is, “instrument” or “tool.” According to the traditional view, this is an organic whole, a systematic textbook of logic and theory of science, consisting of deductive logic, a doctrine of induction, dialectic logic, and a doctrine of fallacies or paralogisms. According to this view, the textbook does not...
4. FORMS OF RATIONALITY
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Even within an impressive tradition, Aristotle’s logic occupies a special rank. In an age when the rest of his oeuvre has succumbed to criticism, the logic is still praised unconditionally by Kant (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, preface to the second edition) and Hegel (Logik, Werke 6, 269). And even after the reorientation of logic by Boole, de Morgan, and Frege, it remains valid for syllogistics, the doctrine of inferences...
5. PROOFS AND PRINCIPLES
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While philosophy has its origin with the Ionian natural philosophers, theory of science as an independent discipline didn’t begin until two centuries later. With the Posterior Analytics it established itself at such a high level of perfection that for centuries its history coincided largely with the history of the interpretation of that text. However, this was not a creation ex nihilo. Aristotle grapples with the major...
6. FOUR METHODICAL MAXIMS
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As mentioned above, Aristotle’s methodological views can be found not only in the Organon, but also in excurses or remarks scattered throughout his treatises. A passage in the Ethics (VII 1, 1145b2–7) is concise, but it is also meant to apply to other topics. In general, three things matter here: (1) establishing the phenomena (tithenai ta phainomena), (2) working through (diaporêsai) the difficulties, and (3) proving...
PART III. PHYSICS AND METAPHYSICS
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7. NATURAL PHILOSOPHY
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The early modern age dealt severely with Aristotle as a natural scientist. Beginning with Bacon, who denied him with what he credits Anaxagoras, Democritus, Parmenides, and Empedocles, namely, any “trace of the knowledge of nature” (Novum Organum I, aphor. 63), the many-voiced criticism came close to the reproach that Aristotle had obstructed scientific progress for almost two millennia. However, this...
8. BIOLOGY AND PSYCHOLOGY
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Although discussion has become more wide-ranging recently (see, for example, the magazine Biology and Philosophy, 1986 ff.), biology is not among the main interests of present-day philosophers; for Aristotle, however, it represents an important sector of empirical as well as theoretical natural science. Leaving botany to Theophrastus, he devoted the most extensive part of his writings to zoology (including...
9. FIRST PHILOSOPHY, OR METAPHYSICS
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The discipline Aristotle places at the top of the hierarchy of forms of knowledge was to be considered the “queen of sciences” for many centuries, but it was to be treated with “the greatest contempt” (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, preface of the first edn.) in Kant’s times and again, later, by Nietzsche and, in a different way, by the Vienna Circle. This discipline is metaphysics. It is often expected to provide...
10. COSMOLOGY AND THEOLOGY
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The original, Homeric image the Greeks had of the gods was anthropomorphic; it was refined by philosophical influence in two ways. The natural philosophers Thales (c. 600 B.C.E.), Anaximander, and Anaximenes (sixth century B.C.E.) discarded the Homeric myths altogether, developing a cosmology instead. Xenophanes (c. 500 B.C.E.), on the other hand, undertook a sublimation of the image...
11. ONTOLOGY AND LANGUAGE
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By setting himself the task of investigating being qua being (on hê on: Metaph. IV 1 and VI 1, 1026a23–33 and passim), Aristotle created a new philosophical discipline: a general science of being. It was not given the name ontology until early modern school metaphysics, when R. Göckel (Goclenius) called it by that name in his Lexicon philosophicum (1613/1964, art. “Abstractio”). By the on, that which is...
PART IV. ETHICS AND POLITICS
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12. PRACTICAL PHILOSOPHY
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We expect to find a world alien to us in Aristotle’s ethics and political philosophy, because we assume that the subject matter treated in it—morals, right, and politics—has changed radically since antiquity. We also expect outdated theoretical premises such as a teleology of nature, theories about the cosmos, and other “metaphysical” elements. In reality, it is here, in the sphere of practical philosophy, that...
13. THEORY OF ACTION
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Because of its normative guiding concept—eudaimonia, happiness—Aristotle’s ethics is considered as belonging to eudaemonism, which has been discredited since Kant, but recently attempts have been made to rehabilitate Aristotle against Kant. These are stated in part in the name of the power of judgment, in part in the name of the habits of a community, partly from anti-Enlightenment skepticism and...
14. THE GOOD LIFE
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Aristotle uses several expressions for the conceptual field of the good. He calls agathon something that is good for someone. In the singular and with the definitive article—tagathon, the good—and even more so the superlative—ariston, the best—it comes close to the morally good. It amounts to the moral good if understood as obligations that are valid without reservations, not only toward others...
15. POLITICAL ANTHROPOLOGY
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With all respect for other cultures’ ideas about law and the state, the creation of a true theory, the combination of fundamental philosophical reflections, empirical inquiry and normative evaluation, goes back to the Greeks. While in Homer the legal system is still considered as sacral, the tragedies touching upon this subject by Aeschylus (e.g., the Oresteia), Sophocles (Antigone), and Euripides...
16. POLITICAL JUSTICE
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Although Aristotle defines humans by their gift of language and reason, he does not concede them elementary legal and political equality on the grounds of this gift. On the contrary, he justifies the inequalities of his times, that is, the absence of equal rights for slaves, barbarians, and women. At least part of the presented arguments is ideological in character...
PART V. THE RECEPTION
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The history of Aristotle’s influence is almost unique. For two millennia, up to the threshold between the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, philosophy and the sciences were shaped partly by the reception and development, and partly by the critique of Aristotle’s thought. Many of the philosopher’s concepts—some directly, but the majority via Latin translation—have become a definite component...
17. ANTIQUITY AND THE MIDDLE AGES
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Aristotle was esteemed by his immediate contemporaries in particular for his contributions to logics and ethics, but hardly at all for his learned as well as astute research into nature. After his death, his influence increased, emanating from the school of Athens, which stood its ground with varying success until the third century C.E. Under its first head, Theophrastus (372–287 B.C.E.), it attracted an unusually...
18. THE MODERN AGE AND THE PRESENT
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At the end of the Middle Ages, Aristotle’s potential for innovation appeared to be exhausted. Be it the rise of mathematical and experimental natural sciences, the Reformation, the philosophy of subjectivity (Descartes) and political contract theories since Hobbes, British empiricism, or Kant’s transcendental philosophy—the great innovations were no longer essentially influenced by Aristotle. It is a fact that...
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INDEX OF PERSONAL NAMES
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Page Count: 252
Illustrations: 7 b/w photographs, 1 table
Publication Year: 2003