Aristotle was a victim of his own success. He so thoroughly convinced the West that nature was intelligible and could give rise to science that we stopped even questioning whether it could, and simply took the Aristotelian view for granted. This hides the magnitude of what Aristotle did, and the great number of presuppositions and corollaries that are attached to the notion that there can be natural science. Aristotle had to do nothing less than both refute and synthesize all the insights of all his predecessors in order to establish this.

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4 Comments

  1. John Farrell said,

    October 29, 2009 at 6:59 am

    Okay, the success part I get (and appreciate). Not sure you made clear the victim part.

  2. Edward said,

    October 29, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Now we think we don’t need him in order to rationally justify empirical science. We’ve thrown out his metaphysics because we feel that it is just so obvious that nature is intelligible that we need not defend this claim philosophically. Actually, we don’t even need philosophy anymore now, physics will do. Essentially, we have removed the foundation of the building we inhabit.

  3. October 29, 2009 at 8:56 am

    Aristotle’s idea of things having essences (a word he didn’t use, but close enough) or of acting for an end, or of change of place involving some intention are examples of things that fell victim. The necessity of these things arises primarily when we are struggling to answer the question “How is natural science possible?” or “How is nature intelligible?” or “how can I have an unchangeable knowledge of what is changeable in itself?”

    Anotehr reason, though less true, is that many thought Kant and the Positivists were right, which landed us back in the notion of natural science that Parmenides had: it can be extensive and rigorous, but it did not tell us anything about the world, but about features of the world which exist because we are present in the world. The scientist- on this alternative Parmenidean/ Kantian view- does not speak of features of things, but of features that depend on us in order to exist, even when he looks at an eclipse.

  4. desiderius said,

    October 29, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    “…and synthesize all the insights of all his *predecessors* in order to establish this.”

    …his flagrant patricide notwithstanding.


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