Talk:Aristotelian physics

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(random heading)[edit]

This article desperately needs references to the Condemnations of 1210-1277, without which it seems like pretty shoddy work. ghh 15:20, 11 September 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by George H. Harvey (talkcontribs)

(for readability. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 11:13, 5 February 2010 (UTC))

Article not finished. ÅñôñÿMôús Dîššíd3nt 11:54, 26 March 2007 (UTC)

This article shows only a superficial understanding of Aristotle's physics and no appreciation of its importance to the history of science; it sorely needs improvement. Most significantly, it fails to distinguish between Aristotle's cosmology and his principles of nature (physics). JKeck (talk) 20:42, 20 October 2008 (UTC)

The article starts off stupidly: "The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) developed many theories on the nature of physics", as if physics in the modern sense were some sort of self-existing entity, some Truth, lying just beyond the next hill waiting to be discovered. With great justification, the article continues that Aristotle's theories "are completely different from what are now understood as the laws of physics." But almost immediately stumbles into great ignorance when says they include "a variety of principles, most of which modern science has now disproved, and which provide no significant roots to any area of modern physics." In other words, the article forgets that Aristotle's physics is completely different from modern mechanics and fails to evaluate Aristotle's principles based on his distinct aims (aims that are foundational for modern science). Instead the article evaluates it with a modern bias, as if modern physics were all there is to know about nature. The one part of the article whose reference is to an actual Aristotelian philosopher (Helen S. Lang--misspelled as "Land") doesn't show any evidence of actually having read that text beyond gleaning a single group of facts (and can't even bother to get the author's name right!). Many of the articles cited re: principles are non-peer-reviewed web presentations by physicists who show no evidence of ever having studied Aristotle's physics in any depth (that is, beyond superficially comparing some of his ideas to what we today call physics--this is not extraordinary for us physicists). This article needs a LOT of work. I don't see how it presently qualifies as A-Class. If I were grading this as a class assignment, I'd probably give it a "D." JKeck (talk) 21:24, 20 October 2008 (UTC)

I fully support the above opinion. Many of Aristotle's physical insights are perhaps very unusual for modern main-stream physics, but still involve a valuable line of thought. These old deep thinkers often recognized some important aspects of truths, even from a very modern and advanced perspective, and it would be a big mistake to vulgarize their insights with a naive statement that they show "no significant roots to any area of modern physics". This would be a very unscientific approach. We were already surprised for many times in physics and science by reincarnation of some very old ideas and remarkable emergence of some supposingly "obsolate" perspectives. So, the article do is in a bad need of improvements. ArepoEn (talk) 10:38, 12 February 2009 (UTC)

Main ideas[edit]

Aristotle's ideas about physics need to be clearly stated, but his prose is hard to read, and it's hard to motivate yourself to do it, because it's all crap. So nobody reads it anymore. I only read a little bit.

Having said that, these idiotic ideas dominated academic discourse for two thousand years, and suppressed foundational scientific ideas for a long long time. It's impossible to convey this tragedy properly by being too charitable to this type of academic fraud.Likebox (talk) 18:42, 18 March 2009 (UTC)

Likebox, you apparently subscribe to the Whig theory of scientific development. Late 20th-century scholarship in history and philosophy of science has shown that such a naive point of view is wrong. The article's statement that "All of Aristotle's principles are now known to be completely wrong" is itself completely wrong. If you haven't noticed, the ether theory has returned, for example. Also, the article doesn't seem to understand how the vacuum (or void) that Aristotle discusses is not the vacuum one creates with a vacuum pump (he makes this very clear in the Physics). Similarly the article betrays no understanding that the atoms of the ancients aren't the atoms of modern science. There's so much question-begging and ignorance on display in this article that the label "academic fraud" would be more appropriately applied to the article than to Aristotle and his disciples. JKeck (talk) 18:29, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

I just undid the Likebox's removal of the proper context for this article from the disambiguation. Among the many stupidities in this article, it is interesting that the article talks about Aristotle's invocation of "unspecified forces" to explain gravity as if that unspecificity were somehow rectified by the moderns (Newton, et al.)! As you may recall, Newton famously refrained from hypothesizing/speculating about the cause of gravity; "gravity" is only a name. It is only with Einstein that we get anything like any explanation for gravity. JKeck (talk) 18:40, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

"Unspecified" does not mean "mysterious". It means vague. Aristotle claimed that fire experiences levity, and water and earth experience gravity. Then the Earth goes to the center and makes the "Earth", the water goes around it, and the air above, and fire above that, then the celestial quintessence. This idea is just completely wrong, in any context.
I think that you are complaining that the notion of "all pervading ether" promoted by Aristotle is somehow similar to the modern notion of a dynamical vacuum. That's not true. The idea that Aristotle promotes is that as a medium becomes more tenuous, motion becomes faster, increasing without limit to infinite speed when a vacuum is achieved. This idea is central to his physics, and it's completely wrong. Motion does not increase without limit as a medium is made less dense.
Then a true vacuum is impossible, because things fill it up with infinite speed. This idea was shown to be false by vacuum pumps, since as a vacuum is achieved nothing like infinite speed occurs.
His renounciation of "atomism" is not a renounciation of the notion of philosophical atomism, it's a renounciation of the idea that matter is made of little hard balls that are always moving and bounce off each other. While this is not exactly the modern notion of atoms, it's close enough to explain most of the properties of matter at room temperature, and this is the idea pushed by Democritus. The reason he renounces this is because the little hard balls would have to be surrounded by vacuum, which he says would be impossible.
None of Aristotle's ideas are correct, as is well known, and none of them are correct in any approximation, unlike Archimedes laws of statics or Democritus' conception of atoms. This is well known, and the only arguments are whether the philosophical mumbo jumbo is any better than the physics.Likebox (talk) 23:57, 23 March 2009 (UTC)
About the rest of your comments: You claim that Aristotle's "void" is not a region without stuff in it, but a philosophical idea. You also claim that Aristotle's renounciation of atoms is not a renounciation of the little-hard bouncing-balls idea, but of something else more vague.
You may be on to something, because vagueness is Aristotle's middle name. But your interpretation that void is different than the one created by a vacuum pump is unsupportable. There weren't any vacuum pumps in Aristotle's time, and his followers did not accept that vacuum pumps were possible because of what he wrote.
Your reading of "void", and I am not sure exactly what it is, isn't how contemporaries read it, nor mideval scholars, nor the "Whig" people, nor me. Actually, I don't know anyone who interprets Aristotle's notion of void to mean anything other than "a region without matter".Likebox (talk) 00:37, 24 March 2009 (UTC)

Dear Likebox, the community members working on this article have already come to a consensus that the article evaluates Aristotle's physical theories not on their own terms, but on the basis of modern science, which is why the disambiguation text was updated. Since this is the case, I'm going to restore the disambiguation text based on this consensus. We can argue about the merit of the article itself separately. JKeck (talk) 18:41, 24 March 2009 (UTC)

The "community" in this case seems to consist of two people, myself and you. I want to understand your position: do you think this article is not evaluating Aristotle's ideas on their own terms? What's the missing subtlety? His ideas about physics are not that hard to understand.Likebox (talk) 19:48, 24 March 2009 (UTC)

You and I are the only people in this present window of time engaged in this discussion, but there have been others (e.g., ArepoEn, as well as the fellow who downgraded the article's quality scale rating). The reason that you think Aristotle's Physics is simple because the mathematical formulae in it are simple and you think physics is only about mathematical formulae. As a witness against this view, I call Newton himself: as you will recall, the full title of his Principia is Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. In other words, it is only the mathematical part of the study known in its entirety as natural philosophy, otherwise known as physics (look up the etymology of the word, please). Physics in the modern sense is a hybrid science, something like opera is a hybrid art combining drama and music. Physics combines mathematics and physical speculation, e.g., to understand Newton's arguments regarding gravity, you have to have a notion of weight in things around you and in yourself.

Aristotle's thought is rather subtle. For example, can you explain how Aristotle's natural philosophy is applicable to any sort of motion, whereas Newton's and Descartes's presume non-living motion? (Hint: the key is in Physics I.1.) How is Aristotle's notion of nature radically different from that of the moderns? Can you explain the difference between Aristotle's notion of place and that of space? Can you explain why the conclusions of Zeno's paradoxes are false without resorting to the calculus notion of the limit (which would make the argument circular)? I'll post here soon about the difference between vacuum and void. What's important is not what "contemporaries ..., mideval [sic] scholars, ... 'Whig' people" say about Aristotle, but what Aristotle himself clearly says. JKeck (talk) 01:10, 25 March 2009 (UTC)

Here is a talk given at MIT that explains more about the need for "physical speculation" (i.e., natural philosophical concepts or ideas) in thinking about the natural world. JKeck (talk) 10:29, 25 March 2009 (UTC)

You are wrong about my position: not only mathematics, but also non-mathematical idea and speculations are OK. Aristotle's physics is crap on their own terms. His ideas are logically incoherent ramblings which are phrased so stupidly and pretentiously that it's not only hard to read, but when you finally do figure out what he's talking about, it's all rubbish.
I can't "explain" any of these things, because they are nonsense questions. They are pretentious series of words designed to make the person who utters them look smart and the person who challenges them look stupid. But I'll give you my best guess:
  1. I'll guess that Aristotle's notion of "nature" is probably different from the moderns because he has notions of teleology everywhere. Everything "wants" to be somewhere.
  2. I'll guess that Aristotle's notion of "place" is more like the notion of "class" in the 19th century social science. It's where things are "supposed" to be. His idiotic idea that every social heirarchy is due to natural law is really godawful and offensive. It's different from "space" in that space is about geometry, and he was completely ignorant about geometry.
  3. Zeno's paradox is so not a problem, that I can't even understand why anyone was bothered about it in the first place. Since I don't see the paradox, I can't see how to resolve it.
I am not an expert.Likebox (talk) 19:25, 25 March 2009 (UTC)

What I find amazing, Likebox, is that you can, on the one hand, so insouciantly proclaim your ignorance of Aristotle's thought and even your incomprehension of the problems he was dealing with, and on the other "authoritatively" declare the entire subject to be complete rubbish ("crap"). Forgive me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that this attitude is completely foreign to any sort of serious scholarly endeavor, of which I would include Wikipedia (at least in aspiration), not to mention its foreignness to any attempt at honest human dealings. How can you say something is worthless before giving it a fair hearing? This attitude is the very picture of close-mindedness and—dare I say it?—bigotry. Rather reminiscent of the non-hearings of Guantanamo-Bay detainees, I might add.

If you ever see your way clear of such narrow-mindedness and want to open up to considering some "dangerous forin'" ideas, I recommend the talk linked above. JKeck (talk) 13:17, 26 March 2009 (UTC)

You really don't get it. I read Aristotle. I made up my mind. It's garbage. Total complete garbage. Nothing salvagable. The guy is a douchebag. I'm not going to waste my time with it anymore.
I did not read physics, but I did read Galileo's Two New Sciences and Dialogue, which pretty much lets you know what the main ideas are without having to slog through all the pretentious pompous drivel.
Since you think the characterization is "oversimplified", I would appreciate it if you could tell me where my preconceptions about it are wrong, and what subtleties I am missing. Or perhaps they are just too subtle for a simple mind like mine. In that case, I would have to lump you in with the frauds too. I ain't found no forin' ideas so subtile that they can't be picked up by jus' bout anybody with a hankerin.Likebox (talk) 15:30, 26 March 2009 (UTC)

Galileo doesn't understand Aristotle. Your reliance on him is like trusting a klansman's word about minorities. JKeck (talk) 18:41, 26 March 2009 (UTC)

I understand that I may have picked up unfortunate biases--- please help me set my mind straight. What am I misunderstanding? It would help get this article NPOV, because I am coming from a straight up Galilean viewpoint.Likebox (talk) 20:43, 26 March 2009 (UTC)

Modern Aristotelianism[edit]

The last section was getting long and repetative, so I wanted to discuss something related in a separate section. That's the MIT lecture mentioned above, which has some Aristotelian concepts souped up and modernized.

A lot of that article is devoted to discussion of a notion of emergence of epiphenomenon in biology, but phrased in a different less mathematical way than usual. Emergent properties are those which are not really reducible to the primary atomic properties, but are sort of superposed on top of them like the meanings of words are superposed on top of the letters that compose the words.

This is not a great example of Aristotelianism, because the philosophy of emergent properties certainly did not begin with Aristotle. A good example of Aristotelianism is found in this sentence from the appendix:

What would it mean for distance not to be infinitely divisible, but to be made up of a finite number of discrete indivisibles? Can a finite number of points make up a distance? Either they are separated by distances or they are not. If so, there are distances between them along which we may take more points, and so on to infinity—and hence distance is infinitely divisible after all. And if the points are not separated by any distances between them, then they coincide in a single point, which has no length or distance.
Hence distance is infinitely divisible, whether it be physical or mathematical.

This sentence, which I think is a near direct lift from Aristotle, attempts to come to a conclusion, that distance is infinitely divisible, by a typical Aristotelian argument from lack of imagination.

"I can't see how it could be otherwise, so it must be this way”

Unfortunately, as the Greeks were well aware, the list of the ways that things can be is very infinite, and searching through this space requires a ton of imagination. Without mathematical precision, the search is hopeless.

This Aristotelian argument assumes, without thinking, that the notion of "distance" is somehow fundamental, measured by real numbers, by numbers with decimals, and that the notion of "distance between two points" is always meaningful. In geometry, there is a way of defining what it means for points to be linked to other points in such a way that distance is never mentioned, giving rise to a topological space. It is also possible to define approximate notions of distance on finite-looking spaces which look like the ordinary notions at normal separations, but break down when the separations would be very small. After your imagination is expanded by these examples, then you just don't make this argument.Likebox (talk) 21:26, 26 March 2009 (UTC)

I agree with your starting a new section. I'm glad you read the talk, and it's good to hear your thoughts on a couple of points in the paper. With whom do you say the idea of emergent properties began? I don't claim to have an answer myself. (I don't think Aristotle would claim to have originated such a notion, but simply to have expanded the conception of what people spontaneously believe.) Perhaps an answer depends on your definition of emergence. But what I do know is that while emergent properties are certainly not reducible to atomic properties, they are not in any Aristotelian sense of emergence "superposed on top of them like the meanings of words are superposed on top of the letters that compose the words." This why Augros says:
This means that in the case of a human being, who is composed entirely out of parts with irrational natures, and yet behaves rationally and puts his parts to rational purposes, we must admit the presence of a new nature, a rational nature. This nature is not something alongside the particles themselves, like another particle, or a vitalistic force floating about in between the particles and telling them what to do—it is simply the single, new, shared nature of the particles themselves, while they exist in that human form. This general understanding explains both why human beings have motives for action which their components in isolation do not, and also why we do nothing without using our atoms.
Of course, you've jumped over most of the points of the talk. But what particular jumps out at me about your last paragraph is that it doesn't actually answer the arguments Augros and Aristotle make and the situation (reality) they outline. One reason for this may a disregarded for a major point of the talk: that general concepts and common experience come before the specific concepts and specialized experience we get from the sciences. There is an order of knowing: if you cannot know what's right around you, then you cannot know a scientific instrument or a high-level theory. Neglecting this important fact, you immediately jump to your specialized arguments and concepts that seem to me to qualify as a "pretentious series of words designed to make the person who utters them look smart and the person who challenges them look stupid." What's missing in the ideas you sketch so vaguely is any description of how they might actually be conceptually prior to our common-sense notions of space. —Preceding unsigned comment added by JKeck (talkcontribs) 20:33, 27 March 2009 (UTC)
I would guess that a proper notion of "emergence" is contained in the writing of any any materialistic philosopher, since a materialist philosophy needs emergent properties in order to reproduce obvious parts of our experiences, like thoughts and feelings, from atoms bouncing around.
I read the talk, but the only part that I recognise as 100% Aristotle is the appendix. The reason I didn't answer the argument about "points inbetween points" is because the answer is so obvious to a modern person: The argument depends on at least these tacit assumptions:
  1. points of space are irreducible entities, you can talk about them
  2. Two points have a notion of "distance" between them, which can be smaller or larger
  3. between any two points is another point which is necessarily distinct from both.
One can violate any of these assumptions, but it is easiest to violate the third. Here's a stupid model than I made up by thinking 1 minute: It keeps assumption 1, there are points, and assumption 2, the notion of distance. But it will violate assumption 3.
  1. Imagine generating a list of points scattered around inside an interval, with distances to other points. For every pair of points, there is a real number distance to every other point, and the world is one dimensional. That just means that the distance obeys the equality d(x,y)+/- d(y,z) = +/- d(x,z) with the appropriate choice of signs, depending on whether y is to the "left" or to the "right" of z. The concept of "to the left" and "to the right" still make sense, I hope this is 100% clear.
  2. whenever a generated point is within a distance 1 unit of another point, the two points are merged.
It is concievable that this idiotic model of space is correct. In this conception, Aristotle's assumptions fail, and his conclusions fail. The arguments he makes are always like this: he creates a false choice between a small number of options that are nowhere near exhaustive. Then he uses childish syllogisms to eliminate the obviously wrong options, leaving him with the one that he wants.
The one idea that he settles on is always the one that the powerful people in his society agree is correct. The fact that we now see how stupid these ideas are is a testimony to the progress of science.Likebox (talk) 17:15, 28 March 2009 (UTC)

Thank you for your explanation. It's clear from your argument that what you mean by point and coincidence (or "merged") is completely different from what the terms actually mean (and what an ordinary person means by them). In fact you've redefined them to the point that they no longer prove anything with respect to reality.

If you like, you can also prove that 1=2. All you have to do is redefine counting in some kind of non-obvious way. Here, let me prove that I am the President of the United States. All I have to do is redefine "President of the U.S." to mean "six feet tall." I am six feet tall, ergo, I am President of the U.S. Great fun, but how meaningful?

If you actually take the meanings of the terms as Aristotle defines them, you will see that his conclusion is nearly self-evident (i.e., evident once the definitions of the terms are known). For example, points are dimensionless, i.e., not further divisible. Thus, what you call tacit assumption #3 is not an assumption at all, but a necessary conclusion of talking about indivisibles.

Again, you're completely ignoring the necessity of taking our basic conceptions of the world as true (axiomatic, if you will). In doing so, you have forfeited the right to talk about the truth of reality in any meaningful sense. To go against these basic conceptions with more sophisticated conceptions is the branches attacking the trunk of their tree: self-undermining. If our minds can't grasp reality in a basic sense, then your mind has no right to make the assertion about reality that we cannot grasp it. At best you can talk about "consistency," albeit the consistency of some self-defined never-never land without a clear relation to the world we actually live in. Aristotle is not talking about some possible world, but the world we humans actually inhabit. You're welcome to live in never-never land, but please leave us of the reality-based community alone. JKeck (talk) 20:16, 30 March 2009 (UTC)

What I was trying to say, perhaps not very well, is that the notion of "reality" is subtle, and the way things actually are is a subset of the possible ways things could be. The ways things could be is defined by mathematics, because that's the only way we have of making precise intuitive notions like "point", "distance", "between", etc.
The example I gave is pretty stupid, but it tries to make it clear that the intuitive notion of space time point is not in itself obvious or clear outside of a mathematical system. The properties which intuition ascribes to these things are not necessarily true, and to reason about them requires care to ensure that one is not introducing biases.
The hidden biases are deep, and they skew physical reasoning. Reasoning that goes "this is how it seems intuitively, therefore this is how it must be" is to be rejected. The only right way to reason is to say "This is how it seems intuitively, so this is the first assumption, accepted provisionally for lack of better evidence". This is exactly the opposite of how Aristotelianism works. It is how modern science works.
The issue of whether space is continuous is contested, and the current scientific thinking is that it isn't completely continuous. But that's not because Aristotle's assumption 3 fails, but because assumption 1 fails--- the notion of a space time point is probably ill defined.
The reason that people believe this is entirely philosophical, but the philosophy is not Aristotelian, but positivistic. In order to give meaning to the notion of "space time point", you should give a way of defining what it means to have a space time point. The way this is done in physics is to try to measure the position of an object at a certain location, and see if this can be done arbitrarily accurately, in principle.
In principle, to locate an object at position x, to accuracy a, in our real world, you need to use a photon (or some other particle) with wavelength less than a. This means that the energy of the photon is bigger than hc/a, by the uncertainty principle and special relativity. But if a is smaller than the Planck length, the mass of the energy hc/a, M=h/ac makes a black hole whose radius is bigger than a! So instead of measuring the position of the particle to accuracy a, you just made a black hole which destroyed the particle and the photon.
Modern physicists conclude from this, sensibly, that the notion of space and time are not reliable at the Planck length. The notion of space-time point is not fundamental. In fact, there are several proposals to replace this notion, which were only formulated in recent years. The most instructive, in my opinion, is the matrix theory proposal, that the objects are black holes, and their position should be described by N by N matrices which have the property that location only makes sense in regimes where the matrices all commute. This is an unbelievably sophisticated idea, in which all of Aristotle's assumptions about points break down. The intuitive notion of space and time are only reproduced when objects are far apart from each other.
To arrive at this idea, and to have a degree of confidence that it has some correctness when applied to objects in our universe, required many levels of reasoning, each of which showed that a previous common-sense prejudice breaks down. This process was slow and painstaking, and required a form of careful reasoning which questions biases as best as possible. The value of a result in science is measured by the degree to which it changes biases and introduces new processes and ways of thinking. In the Aristotelian way, the prejudices are codified into laws "It must be this way", which leaves no room for questioning, and reinforces authority. This is the road to darkness.Likebox (talk) 17:41, 31 March 2009 (UTC)
Just to be clear--- although the MIT article has some overlaps with Aristotle, it's much more interesting and much better written than Aristotle, and makes some thoughtful points. I just was trying to point out that there is a fundamental danger of thought processes which reinforce common sense prejudices, with insufficient consideration of the range of possibilities. They tend to shut out scientific thought if they become dominant.Likebox (talk) 00:14, 1 April 2009 (UTC)

Positivism is a bankrupt philosophy—at least it was honest enough to admit its failure. But its failure should have been obvious from the start: you can't disprove the need for philosophy without recourse to philosophy. Plus, measurement will never redefine geometrical propositions. The indivisibility of a geometrical point is no more empirically determined than the number of sides of a triangle. There's no such thing as a theory-free scientific investigation.

You're assuming that smaller means that more fundamental. In a sense it's true: obviously macroscopic things are made of microscopic parts. But in terms of our knowledge, it's false: we know about the microscopic world through the macroscopic world we live in. There's no way to get around it: your knowledge of everything is by means of the macroscopic world and the assumptions you cannot help but form in your encounter with it.

The basic point you're missing is that you cannot talk about your sophisticated notions without having first defined the more primitive notions. You can't say that something isn't a point (or an indivisible) without first having a well-defined notion of a point. You can't say something is discontinuous without first knowing what continuous is. A very rough analogy: you can't do quantum mechanics without first having a notion of classical mechanics, if only for the very mundane reason that your measuring apparatus is going to indicate things to you via classical mechanics. Non-Euclidean geometries are another rough analogue: you can claim that they redefine "straight", but first you have to have the Euclidean notion of "straight" as a basis for comparison.

Perhaps a more apropos example: our notions of position and velocity are emergent from the quantum realm in which these aren't well defined quantities. Yet, when we discuss the quantities in the quantum realm, we have to do so in terms of the well-defined macroscopic quantities, that is, in terms of an uncertainty in them (delta x, delta v). Notice also that our measurements of even these uncertainties depend on the quantities being reasonably precise for individual measurements. Our knowledge always proceeds from the more familiar to the less familiar. The more familiar concepts are the basis of our understanding the less familiar, even if we understand them by contrast. And the less familiar things cannot be any more certain (in the philosophical sense) than the more familiar, just as a house can be no more stable than the bedrock it rests on.

I see you've added another paragraph while I've been writing. One thing you need to keep in mind is that all that survives of Aristotle are his lecture notes. They are incredibly sparse. The article, which I'm glad you got something out of, is part of a long tradition of explicating Aristotle. The problem we have in understanding Aristotle in our world is that our cultural milieu is so completely different from his. In many ways we live in a hall of mirrors (ala Boorstin): completely surrounded by our own creations in our our image, and little exposed to the natural world from which we were born. It's difficult to get away from ourselves (to the extent this is possible) and to experience the world as it is in itself.

I share your concern: certainly we need to avoid senselessly eliminating possibilities for theories. But on the other hand, we need to have a solid conception of what we already know before we can move beyond. The great thing about the Aristotelian tradition of natural philosophy is that it is demonstrative (like geometry), in contrast to the hypothetical-deductive model of modern science, which suffers from the problems of induction and theory-ladeness, among others. We need be confident in the reality of the world immediately around us before we can talk about the reality of things farther away. We need to have our feet firmly planted on the ground before we can reach to the stars, so to speak. JKeck (talk) 01:02, 1 April 2009 (UTC)

Yes--- this is the main point of the MIT lecture, and it is a good and interesting point worth remembering. It reminds me of Bohr's writing about the primacy of classical experience, and Mach too (although you don't like positivism, they emphasized the primacy of immediate experience, and the need to define everything in relation to that, or starting from that). But when I read Aristotle, I don't see him making any of these interesting points.
The stuff I read in Aristotle is really just nonsense: he keeps repeating unimaginative (even for the time) common-sense notions, at the same time as others were challenging these notions with new scientific and non-scientific insights. I don't think that the modern "explication" (which really makes better points than Aristotle, in my view) should be substituted for what the guy actually said, which is a lot less informative.Likebox (talk) 02:18, 1 April 2009 (UTC)

I agree that we don't want to be putting words in Aristotle's mouth. (That's actually been the problem with so many commentaries throughout the centuries.) What you need to keep in mind is that there's a difference between what Aristotle said and what you understand him to say. Unless you're like the fundamentalist who, only knowing the King James Bible, said, "If English is good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for me," then at the very least, you need to acknowledge that he was writing in classical greek, an altogether different language and one that is much more economical in its use of words in many ways, and difficult to translate into a modern language like English. Michael Augros, the presenter of that talk, does his own translations of Aristotle and the last thing he would do is try to put something in Aristotle's mouth that the man didn't actually say.

Btw, I'd like to know what you mean by "at the same time." One thing you may not realize is the Museum at the Library of Alexandria was staffed largely by Aristotelian Platonists (for centuries after his death, Aristotle's philosophy wasn't recognized as fully distinct from Plato's). Aristotle's thought provided a grounding for much of the scientific development for many centuries. The empirical tradition owes a lot to Aristotle, whose conception of the world made investigation of it meaningful (in contrast to say, the conceptions of Plato, Parmenides and Herclitus, in which the sensible world is basically an illusion, or incapable of any lasting understanding). You'll note that William Harvey was an Aristotelian. Prominent analytic philosopher of physics Nancy Cartwright now calls herself a neo-Aristotelian. Those are just two examples off the top of my head. JKeck (talk) 14:54, 2 April 2009 (UTC)

By same time, I mean Democritus. Also Aristarchus, and Archimedes, the last two came a little later. The reason I am singling out Aristotle and not Plato is because Aristotle made false and unsupported claims about the natural world, which suppressed real, hard, scientific work that was done by others around him. He also is clearly writing for an elite audience, in a way the Euclid and Archimedes were not. That makes his prose turgid and full of the stench of snobbery.
You don't need to look hard to find admirers of Aristotle. I think that Newton was also an admirer of Aristotle, in some sense. I think it's almost always a class issue. "Low class" people, like Galileo, can't stomach aristotle. "High class" people, like Newton, like it. But this article I think discusses the content of his physics in a fair way.Likebox (talk) 15:29, 2 April 2009 (UTC)

Btw, the point in Augros's talk about general knowledge being more certain is simply an elaboration of the principle Aristotle describes in Physics Book I, chapter 1. Unlike Plato, Aristotle had the virtue of actually taking the sensible world as a serious object of investigation. I'd like to know where you get the idea that Euclid and Archimedes weren't writing for an elite audience (elite because you can't understand him???). Literacy wasn't exactly common in those days, and books were even less common, so any sort of writing was for the elite. You're rather skilled to read through an English translation to know that the original Greek prose was "turgid and full of the stench of snobbery." Funny how the haters of snobs often tend to be the most snobbish. The article is entirely unfair because it mistakes the point of Aristotle's physics. In fact the article, at its more obvious points of ignorance, tends toward self-parody. JKeck (talk) 23:12, 5 April 2009 (UTC)

You can tell that Euclid was not writing for an elite from the famous quote: "There is no royal road to geometry". Mathematical literacy, then as now, was never confined to an elite.
You can tell that Archimedes was not writing for an elite from several historical anecdotes: when Archimedes formulated the law of the lever, he demonstrated the principle by moving a ship single-handedly which was too heavy for several shipmen, using a system of pullees. This is very hands-on work. This is not an ivory-tower intellectual.
Likewise, when making bouyancy calculations in "On Floating Bodies", Archimedes analyzes a paraboloid of revolution in water, and calculates how far it can be tipped before it will turn over. This calculation was very laborious, and makes no sense as pure theoretical mathematics, because it is much less elegant than the other results in the same treatise. The only way it makes sense is as applied mathematics--- this calculation showed how far a model of a boat could tilt before capsizing. The answer would have been a terrific guide for shipbuilders, as an way to estimate tolerances. The fact that this practical problem survives in his mathematical works is telling.
There are other day-to-day practical inventions in Archimedes work which are very famous: the Archimedian screw, the war machines, etc. Some of the machines might be apochryphal, but on the whole, Archimedes life's work is full of them. On balance, it seems he got his ideas by interacting with engineers, not philosophers. His writing remains clear and lucid, like Galileo's, and grounded in sensible day to day concerns.
I believe that there is a tendency to underestimate the degree of literacy in the ancient world, assuming that it was as low as it was in the late middle ages. Before the church took over "the word", there was public access to books in libraries. It is not obvious to me that literacy was not very broadly shared. After the printing press, literacy is broadly distributed again. Perhaps the middle ages were the only time that writing was confined to an elite. A teacher of mine noted a passage in the bible: in Judges, or Kings, one of the characters runs across a young shephard boy and asks him to jot down a message. The boy does this, and is sent off. The important thing is that the boy's literacy is taken for granted. Historians know better than me, I'm sure.
The reason Aristotle's writing is snobby is not only because of the detailed word choice, it's because it is full of nit-picking pseudo-distinctions whose only purpose it to obscure obvious fallacies. When he talks about the motion of objects, it is clear that he has not sat down and done a single detailed observation of this motion. When he formulates the system of the world, it is not science that he is doing, but the codification of prejudice. It's not that I don't understand what he's saying. I do. I just think he's an idiot.
This article's only point is to tell you in straightforward language what the practical content of Aristotle's physics is: what were the predictions about observations. The philosophical content of Aristotle's work is harder to isolate in an objective way: different people will come to different conclusions. I think I understand that too. It will help for you to be more specific about what the article is misunderstanding.Likebox (talk) 22:29, 7 April 2009 (UTC)

I don't understand how that Euclid quotation is "non-elitist." It sounds like he's saying there's no short-cut to geometrical knowledge. In fact the Wikipedia article on Royal Road supports this interpretation: "Euclid is said to have replied to King Ptolemy's request for an easier way of learning mathematics that 'there is no royal road to geometry'." But perhaps you know better?

As to Archimedes, it's well known that he did the practical work under duress: in his heart he desired to be a pure (i.e., impractical) mathematician. Such was the general attitude in ancient Greece; it was only the (Western) medieval monks who brought dignity to manual labor (ora et labora was the Benedictine motto, for example). Or perhaps you can find an ancient quotation praising work? Btw people always talk about Athens as a great democracy, but fail to acknowledge that the vast majority of the population was slaves, who didn't vote and had no part in government.

As far as the value of Aristotle's philosophy is concerned, it's like you never read the Augros talk. You're like a racial bigot who sees someone of a different race do something good and then immediately forgets about it because it doesn't fit into his worldview. JKeck (talk) 05:52, 10 April 2009 (UTC)

The Euclid quotation says that geometrical knowledge does not come any easier to the political elite than it does to anybody else. It's a very democratic statement.
The quote that says that Archimedes did practical work under duress is due to a Roman historian writing approximately two centuries later (I can't remember his name--- but the quote is something like "Archimedes viewed the practical inventions to be of lesser worth than the pure philosophical investigations"). This single quote by a non-technical commentator has been used many times to support the thesis that Archimedes viewed his practical work as less significant. While there might be a grain of truth to this, because practical inventions usually have a shorter shelf life than theoretical physics, I think that this quote is not supported by the balance of the historical evidence. Archimedes did too many practical things to seriously believe that they are of lesser worth. Also, "The method of mechanical theorems" shows us that he discovered the mathematical formulas that he considered most significant by practical methods derived from thinking about physics. So I don't buy this quote. It's not just because of my own personal worldview. There are others who have criticized this quote before, I am just parroting them.
I don't understand why bigotry always comes up. I am not bigoted against Aristotle, I just don't like it. But when I write text in the Encyclopedia, I try to keep my personal view out of it, only putting accurate neutral stuff. That doesn't mean that it ends up neutral, I am aware that unconscious biases can infect writing. Please tell me what particular bit of information in the article is not supported by the historical record, or the writing of Aristotle.Likebox (talk) 13:27, 10 April 2009 (UTC)

Aristotle->Newton != Newton->Einstein[edit]

The transition from Aristotle to Newton involved replacing bullshit with science. The transition from Newton->Einstein involved replacing an approximate representation with a better representation. Newton's laws are a limit of Einstein's laws. Aristotle's laws are not a limit of Newton's laws.

Aristotle's laws are bunk. Newton's (and Einstein's) are science. Any attempt to deemphasize this difference should be resisted.Likebox (talk) 22:11, 4 April 2009 (UTC)

You can have the most accurate mathematical equations to describe the world that you want, but if you don't have the proper words to go with them, your understanding won't have advanced a step. Your fatal mistake is thinking that the point of Aristotle's Physics is some sort of mathematical description of motion. (One would think that simply the dearth of mathematics would be a tip-off, if not the fact that none of his main conclusions are mathematical, but rather philosophical.) No, Aristotle is not after anything so shallow. Rather, he is trying to discover how we can meaningfully talk about the natural, changing world. For example, in Book I, he is trying to navigate between Parmenides and Heraclitus: how can we have lasting, unchanging knowledge of an ever-changing world? (That you cannot even recognize the problem is a sign of a deeper problem. Forgetting the foundations of one's discipline is in the end self-defeating.) In Book II, he is trying to discover what nature is. This has to be done philosophically: the modern natural sciences investigate a subject (nature) that they can't by their own methods define. What is amazing is how insouciantly scientists then claim to have comprehensive knowledge of nature, when they cannot even write a definition of it that bears scrutiny. JKeck (talk) 23:42, 5 April 2009 (UTC)
I don't think that Aristotle was trying to give a mathematical description, because, then as now, mathematical knowledge is looked upon by many elite thinkers as "shallow", compared to the pompous meaningless bullshit of philosophy. In the scientific tradition, true knowledge is characterized by detailed, precise, predictions about the behavior of a system. Bullshit is characterized by a sequence of words with no practical, effective, positivistic, way to tell if they are right or wrong.
The argument here is over what it means to really understand something. your contention is that, following Aristotle, this happens when you can string together a bunch of words that convince a great many people that you understand it. I believe, following the modern mathematical tradition, that you understand something when you can write a computer program that reproduces its behavior in a wide range of circumstances. This is, indeed, a difference between Aristotelian philosophy and Archimedes/Galileo etc. It is hard to write about this difference without acknowledging the nearly universally agreed upon fact that the Galilean tradition has been infinitely more effective at describing the natural world.
I agree that there is room left to think about what it is exactly that we are describing when we describe the natural world. Whether sensory experiences are irreducible or not, etc. But I think that that discussion in the twentieth century has been strongly influenced by logical positivism. The sad fact that you can make fun of logical positivism today without shame is a sad commentary on the state of philosophy.Likebox (talk) 22:44, 7 April 2009 (UTC)

But these bloviations of mine (sorry, I got carried away) are irrelevant. I don't know where this article goes astray. Perhaps a sentence saying "Aristotle's aims are not scientific, but philosophical, and his natural philosophy is not necessarily meant to be a precise description of natural phenomenon" would do the trick. I think you can source that to somebody like the MIT lecturer.Likebox (talk) 17:26, 8 April 2009 (UTC)

I would much appreciate it if you would refrain from referring to Aristotle as BS. It is an injustice to a great thinker and also an injustice to you, as I think you have enough depth to appreciate his points, if you only devote the time to understanding (though you seem determined to convince me otherwise!). Regarding positivism: how can one reject philosophy without first doing philosophy? To reject philosophy is itself a philosophical claim: how can one even treat of philosophy (to reject it) experimentally? One cannot: positivism is a self-defeating exercise. If you think otherwise, I ask that you show me how to accomplish this thing I claim is impossible. (Btw, you should look up the etymology of "science"--I think you would find it informative.) One way or another, you're going to do philosophy: either covertly or overtly. If you don't acknowledge what you're doing and do it self-consciously so that you look at your own philosophy critically, then you are going to carry along all sorts of unexamined assumptions and prejudices that will sooner or later carry you into error.

I certainly agree that the modern scientific tradition describes the universe in much greater detail--please don't think that I reject this great good (I would hardly have bothered to get a PhD in physics if I rejected modern science!). What I'm saying is that one needs to ground these results in a larger philosophical framework. To do otherwise is something like building a tower without a foundation. Without that grounding in the more certain truths of natural philosophy (truths that any experiment presupposes), the edifice will be quite limited in the heights it can actually reach. To extend the metaphor, the builders might think they are building up, when the ground has shifted so that they are actually building sideways or even downward. JKeck (talk) 05:40, 10 April 2009 (UTC)

Look, Not all of Aristotle is BS. The stuff about efficient/final causes is interesting, and goes a long way to clarifying the distinctions that you want to make. Maybe one could say "Aristotle was more interested in the final cause, the teleology, of natural phenomena, then in the efficient cause, which is the focus of Atomism and modern science."
But we must make clear that Aristotle's speculations regarding the final causes of natural phenomena was ultimately incorrect. This will make it clear that this type of speculation is dangerous, especially if a thinker becomes very prominent. Whether natural phenomena respect final causes at all is a contentious issue. My personal bias is that they do, but only in the case of biology.
Just so that you don't think I'm biased: Scientists can sometimes be full of shit too. Newton's explanation for the discrepancy between his speed of sound calculation and the measured speed of sound is pure BS. Einstein's attempted explanation of superconductivity is BS. Galileo has a few BS moments too, but they're not very memorable. Everybody is fallible. Aristotle's mistakes, though, had the unfortunate property of being in line with the ingrained bias of aristocrats and clergy through the ages, so they dominated discourse and shut out competing ideas. Unlike these ideas, the MIT lecture does not seek to shut out science or relegate it to an inferior role. Mostly it wants a new emphasis on final causes, and that's totally reasonable.Likebox (talk) 14:50, 10 April 2009 (UTC)
This is out of the main line of discussion, but you are making a bit of a straw man out of positivism. Positivists don't reject philosophy, they simply note that not all philosophical questions have an answer. If you ask "What is the political affiliation of the 2S electrons in Lithium?" That's not a question that has an answer in any real sense. The positivists simply try to classify questions into "objectively answerable" and "objectively meaningless", by doing two things: first, by being precise about language, so that the meaning of the question can be defined in a way that is more or less independent of who's asking. Second, by checking whether the answer to the question can be verified by observations or measurements.
This is a very common-sense approach to philosophy, but it has the effect of relegating many questions like "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin" into the ash-heap. Many of these questions were considered very deep before positivism: like "can we have free will in a deterministic universe?", "Does a particle have an instantaneous position and velocity?", etc. These types of questions do not necessarily need an answer, if the answer to the question cannot be given an objective meaning through observation.
There are some weak attacks on positivism that go along the lines "positivists say that every statement needs to be objectively verifiable, but this statement itself is not objectively verifiable, so positivism is nonsense." That's attacking a straw man. The actual position of positivists is more like: "Positivists say that every statement needs to be verifiable, except the statement that every statement needs to be verifiable, which they take as an axiom". Your statement "positivists say philosophy is meaningless, but that in itself is philosophy" falls into that category.
A stronger attack on positivism comes from Wittgenstein (I think) and others, who claim that an objective language is unachievable. The meanings of words drift with time, they depend on the speaker and the listener, and they are full of nuanced subtlety, so that ultimately an objective description of ideas is an unattainable ideal. This type of postmodern objection to positivism is more substantive, and it has convinced most philosophers that positivism is dead.
I personally think that this argument is substantive, but incorrect. I think most physicists agree, because positivism is sort of the default philosophy in physics. The reason the argument is not conclusive is because we have examples of purely objective languages for computers: languages like C and LISP. They are defined by formal grammars, with unambiguous rules of parsing them and extracting all their meaning. There is no dispute about what a piece of C code is supposed to do. The notion of computation can then be used to give objective meaning to all the modern and ancient physics literature. Newton's laws give an algorithm for computing planetary positions (as do Ptolmey's).
Unfortunately, it is not clear if the language of computation is rich enough to describe things like the internal experience of consciousness, or any possible final causes which might operate in economics, politics, or biology. Some of these concepts might be necessary, so if a positivism can't talk about them, then you can say positivism is dead. So the question is really: to what extent the notion of computation be extended to encompass ideas about final cause?
I believe that, with approriate modifications, it can encompasses all these ideas in a subtle and rich way, which is much more precise than any of the old schemes. I don't think philosophers care enough about computers to seriously ask this question anymore.Likebox (talk) 15:18, 10 April 2009 (UTC)

Even an axiom doesn't justify itself. Name a modern philosopher of science who is a positivist. JKeck (talk) 22:45, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

It's not my fault they're stupid.Likebox (talk) 17:02, 15 April 2009 (UTC)


When things fall: "The speed of this motion was thought to be proportional to the mass of the object." Where does Aristotle state this? Hexmaster (talk) 15:13, 19 May 2009 (UTC)

Ah, found it: "a little bit of earth, let loose in mid-air moves and will not stay still, and more there is of it the faster it moves" (On the Heavens, book 2). Very well. :-) Hexmaster (talk) 15:15, 19 May 2009 (UTC)
Wait. That says that the speed monotonically increases with mass, but doesn't imply that it's necessarily proportional... in fact, Aristotle would be CORRECT in saying that heavier objects fall faster to a certain extent (because of air resistance, they have higher acceleration and higher terminal velocity). (talk) 17:20, 16 June 2010 (UTC)

About this addition:[edit]

Somebody added this to the lead:

Aristotle's principles were difficult to disprove merely through casual everyday observation, but later development of the scientific method challenged his views with experiments, careful measurement, and more advanced technology such as the telescope and vacuum pump.

This seems completely inaccurate. The principles of Aristotelian physics were easy to disprove through casual everyday observation. That heavy and light objects fall at the same rate was probably discovered hundreds of times throughout history. That the earth revolves was also probably guessed at by hundreds of people. But the power structure of European society at the time prevented such discoveries from spreading.

Aristotle's work is shoddy and fraudulent, not approximate and pretty good.Likebox (talk) 20:38, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

Missing things[edit]

Not allAristotelian physics is rejected in the article:

  1. natural places: rejected by Alberuni, al-Khazini
  2. gravity/levity: rejected by Alberuni
  3. rectilinear motion: rejected by Alhazen, Avicenna, Buridan, Galileo, Newton
  4. velocity density relation: rejected by Galileo
  5. vacuum is impossible: not rejected, should be some air pumper, maybe Robert Boyle
  6. all pervading ether: not rejected, should be maybe Robert Boyle + John Dalton + Rutherford and others,
  7. infinite universe: (skip that one), we don't know
  8. continuum theory: not rejected, should be maybe Robert Boyle + chemists + John Dalton + Rutherford and others,
  9. quintessence: not rejected, ????
  10. incorruptible and eternal cosmos: rejected by Galileo
  11. circular motion: not rejected, should be Johannes Kepler and Newton

Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 22:52, 4 February 2010 (UTC)

This is the problem with the too-charitable interpretation of Aristotle's arguments. It is important to understand that Everything he wrote about physics is total bunk.
The "vacuum is impossible" idea is rejected, because it isn't related to the modern idea that you can't cool down something to absolute zero. The idea that Aristotle was pushing is that everyplace had to have something in it, or else other stuff would instantly rush in to fill the void. This predicts that as a vaccum pump is pumping, things in the inside will start to move faster and faster, and the pressure on the container will go to infinity as vacuum is achieved. Wrong. The pressure goes to a finite limit, objects do not go faster and faster, and in fact, nothing spectacular happens.
The modern notion of an "ether", like the Higgs field, has nothing to do with the Aristotelian idea that the ether is a continuum theory. Modern continuum theory is derived from atomic theory, and has domains where it is known to fail because things are really atomic underneath. Continuum theory does not allow raindrops to slide down windows, for example.
The problem with giving authors that discredit individual points is that this hogwash is not authoritative enough to ever have been accepted. The rejection happened sort-of all at once, not peicemeal. People just said one day (at different times) "wait a minute, this guy is full of shit!"Likebox (talk) 00:37, 5 February 2010 (UTC)
We know, we know, I made the notes in the context of the evolution of science. Other articles reflect the generally accepted idea that the emergence of modern science (or somewhat anachronistically "the scientific revolution") is marked by the counterproofs against the Aristotelian dogmata. Therefore if we have 11 dogmata that one by one are debunked, then we have a measure of how far the modern science have emerged. But the counterproofs against 5 of them are missing from the text, so the article is IMO lacking.
And: each of the dogmata is obviously stepwise debunked, first by someone arguing against them, then by a lot of objections emerging, then by experiments demonstrating against them, finally by the science community rejecting them. The "revolution" was very-very slow, streched over at least 800 years, more like a slow evolutionary process. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 10:39, 5 February 2010 (UTC)
And: in order to account for your revolutionary approach: yes, correct that too. But in order for a revolution to occur, there must be tensions builtup in order to motivate all the science society to throw a full paradigm away. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 10:44, 5 February 2010 (UTC)
Got it. Ok, sorry for the reaction, I got used to arguing with neo-Aristotelians.
Air pumps I'm pretty sure you got right with Robert Boyle. Ether was probably Boyle too.
Quintessence was shown false by some spectroscopist in the late 19th century. Stars have the same spectra as the Earth. Also the discovery of Helium went the other way. But by then nobody believed in quintessence.
The rest I'm ok with the ones you credit.Likebox (talk) 13:45, 5 February 2010 (UTC)
"I got used to arguing with neo-Aristotelians."
― Wow! That was unexpected... but maybe I should suspect. In these days of intense information flow, anything should be possible. ;^#) Anyways, I'm going to ponder an extra section concentrating on chemistry. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 19:40, 5 February 2010 (UTC)

Confused premise of article?[edit]

I take it as a worrying sign that this article could not even correctly state in its header (see my recent edit) what it was about. Physics is not the focus of Physics (Aristotle), which is not surprising because Aristotle's physika means something that has little to do with physics. I have no objection to an article which ferrets out those Aristotelian answers to questions we now answer with physics and uses reliable sources to talk about how they have been compared, generally of course to Aristotle's disadvantage. But Likebox's proclamations about "bullshit" here indicate that s/he is not likely to appreciate the reason Aristotle continues to be read and studied by philosophers: he has much more (useful) to say about philosophical puzzles that don't reduce to answers given in science textbooks than about mechanics, etc.: his treatises' theorization of biological phenomena is generally more important than what they have to say about physical phenomena, and works like Physics and On the Soul are still read widely (as opposed to say History of Animals, which is of more antiquarian interest) because many of the problems Aristotle discussed, e.g. Life#Hylomorphism and philosophy of mind, are still regarded as current philosophical problems, discussions to which a good understanding of Aristotle still has something to contribute. This is all verifiable.

In sum, Aristotelian and Medieval theories of acceleration, etc., are of antiquarian interest, and they have almost nothing to do with the reasons why philosophers study Physics (Aristotle). This article, then, is of mainly antiquarian interest (obsolete scientific theories). It needs to exercise greater care in specifying and clarifying exactly how narrow and antiquarian its focus is. What is not acceptable is if Aristotle's philosophical thought gets lumped in with his obsolete scientific theories. This flies in the face of what the scholarly discipline of philosophy holds. Now, I can understand if some scientists (or enthusiasts of science who edit Wikipedia) simply do not get the alien discipline of philosophy. But that doesn't mean we're allowed to blank philosophy of mind and replace it with "This is a bullshit way of pretending to answer questions that only neuroscience will ever answer!" or to pretend that theories of abiogenesis have deprived earlier attempts to grapple with the nature of living matter (including Aristotle's) of their value.

I am going to rest content with fixing the header and lead sentence so that they are not in flagrant error. But I hope those editors who are actually working on the content of the article will be mindful of the need to make sure it doesn't lapse into an immature denunciation of ideas that (A) have nothing to do with physics and often nothing to do with modern experimental science of any kind, (B) are widely granted contemporary relevance and interest by reliable sources in the discipline that gets to decide what is real philosophy vs. junk philosophy (namely, philosophy), just as physics gets to decide what is real physics vs. junk physics. (Of course there will always be disagreements in both disciplines.)

The slight concern I have here (please don't mistake it for an accusation) is that there is a tendency to make a WP:POVFORK version of the article that should exist on Aristotle's philosophy of nature. This would be exactly as inappropriate as making a POV-fork version of a scientific topic, devoted to explaining how unsatisfactory scientific publications and theories are from the point of view of philosophy. The title Aristotelian physics is unfortunate and misleading, since this article discusses only a very narrow slice of what an expert in "Aristotelian physics" would consider that topic to mean.

The unfortunate problem that makes fixing this so difficult is that, though there are clear examples on either side, it is in practice extremely difficult to draw a bright line between "science" and "philosophy" in this area (much of the most respected work about the nature of modern science actually emphasizes similar problems). While grappling with that problem, let's make a good faith effort not to have the physics textbook's verdict confused with the modern philosopher's verdict on many questions that properly belong much more to the latter to adjudicate than the former. Wareh (talk) 19:14, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

Yeah yeah. There is physics, and then there is this bullshit which Aristotle was pushing, which displaced real physics in his time and for thousands of years later. The fact that modern philosophers are still enamored of this crap does not mean we don't treat it fairly--- I described Aristotle's physics as it was.Likebox (talk) 13:17, 27 February 2010 (UTC)
Dear Wareh, thank you: you are right that Aristotelian physics is not so much about what we today call physics (the mathematical-empirical examination of the inanimate world), but more a study of what we tend to call nature: the living world, that is necessarily more teleological than the inanimate world. Likebox, on queue, puts his blissful ignorance and bigotry on display--as dependable as Old Faithful: somehow name-calling is supposed to be an adequate substitute for reasoned argumentation--or even giving a fair reading to the works he is supposedly criticizing. Furthermore he overlooks the fact that Aristotle died in 322 BC--a pretty airtight alibi against doing anything good or bad in the world for a thousand years. This article, an antiquated piece of positivist propaganda, would be laughable were it not for the fact that widespread ignorance of the necessarily philosophical underpinnings of science (such as the demarcation problem) gives it a plausibility it does not deserve. JKeck (talk) 01:31, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

Hatnote headache: Can we just rename this article?[edit]

I am more or less in sympathy with Machine Elf's recent restatement of the hatnote, especially the first sentence, which refreshingly states what this article is about, "terrestrial and celestial mechanics (dynamics)" in Aristotle's works. My residual dissatisfaction comes from the fact that the article title "Aristotelian physics" is still plastered on at the top. As long as this is there, the reader is misled into believing that "Aristotelian physics" (as used in reliable sources) generally refers to certain doctrines on dynamics, rather than to that wide field of study that includes biology, philosophy of mind, etc. Given this confusion, the remainder of the hatnote cannot satisfy, because it wrongly suggests that the other topics are merely alternate or secondary uses of "Aristotelian physics."

So can we remove the need for both clarifications by moving the article to Aristotelian mechanics or Aristotelian dynamics? The lead could then simply explain, when it says that dynamics corresponds to a branch of the modern field of physics, e.g.: "(In Aristotelian philosophy, on the other hand, "physics" is a broader term for the philosophy of nature, with much emphasis on the nature of biological organisms. This is the subject matter of Aristotle's treatise Physics and several others.)"

Would other editors support a move, and if so, to which of my suggested titles, or to which other title? Wareh (talk) 15:45, 15 July 2010 (UTC)

Good move. JKeck (talk) 18:59, 22 July 2010 (UTC)

Not so good[edit]

Links to the old name Aristotelian physics

In contrast to Aristotelian Physics, the pseudo-Aristotelian Mechanics was about machines:

In the Physica, Aristotle had established the general principles of motion and change that govern all natural bodies; in his more specific natural works – such as De caelo, De generatione et corruptione, and the various works De animalibus – Aristotle applied these principles to natural changes of all kinds occurring in animate and inanimate bodies: generation, growth, the fall of heavy bodies, and the motions of the stars. But inevitably, within the context of natural philosophy, there also arose questions concerning unnatural or forced motions, such as the motion of projectiles and in general the changes effected by men through the various arts. Partly this was because Aristotle used forced motions and in general the changes produced by art as analogies in order to discover the less obvious causes of natural motions; and partly it was because natural and forced motions are often inextricably combined in daily experience.
In contrast to natural philosophy, the ancient art or science of mechanics was notable for working against or at least outside of nature to effect motion for the use and benefit of mankind. This, at least, was the view taken in the pseudo-Aristotelian Mechanica ("Questions of Mechanics" or "Mechanical Problems") (fourth century BC), the earliest-known theoretical treatment of machines and the earliest attempt to reduce their operations to a single principle. In its introduction, the Mechanica suggested that machines of all sorts work against or outside of nature in order to effect changes that are of benefit to men. A machine that moves a large weight with a small power, for example, produces an effect for human benefit, and this effect is not natural, for it violates the Aristotelian physical assumption that a moving power must be greater than the weight it moves. Mechanics and physics thus seem to be in conflict.[1]

  1. ^ Laird, Roy; Roux, Sophie (2006). "Mechanics and Natural Philosophy Before The Scientific Revolution" (PDF). pp. 6–7. Retrieved 22 July 2010.  |chapter= ignored (help)

People have been linking to this article for Aristotelian Physics, any specifics on the natural sciences it lacks should be added. Redirecting its 127 links to Corpus Aristotelicum#Physics (the study of nature) isn't right. Only 3 articles link here now.

I'm wasn't unsympathetic to a rename but I couldn't think of a better one... I think this article stands its best chance for improvement under its former name. Sorry I didn't chime in sooner about the rename/hatenote... Perhaps I could I interest you in the more excruciating aches and pains this article has to offer? LOL

I'd be happy to add the list you redirected to. I didn't review the article for completeness. I just corrected what was already there and added a little more. I know its missing anima, at least... I do have a better and more concise list of concepts that could be paraphrased to replace the "bold points". Then they could be refractored into the article structure, maybe using refs/notes back to the concepts to qualify ambiguous science terms... Or, that's what I'd like to work on anyway. I have some good sources for the proper role of Mathematics/Astronomy, to "save the appearances", as well as some quotes from Metereology. Also, I found a cool source from Thomas Kuhn; about a physicist explaining why he had always misinterpreted Aristotle and how that changed for him.—Machine Elf 1735 (talk) 19:24, 22 July 2010 (UTC)

Redirect to § Corpus Aristotelicum#Physics (the study of nature)
The list of Aristotle's works on Aristotelian physics (i.e. nature) from Corpus Aristotelicum

I think there's some confusion here[edit]

From the above and the edit summary ("moved Aristotelian mechanics to History of Science (Aristotelian physics): pseudo Aristotelian mechanics is about machines"), I think there's some confusion which we should be able to resolve here.

  1. The title "Aristotelian mechanics" was chosen with no reference to the pseudo-Aristotelian treatise. Rather, it was chosen based on the fact that the subject of the article is (according to Machine Elf's own edits), mechanics (and more specifically dynamics).
  2. While this title seemed correct on its own merits, the words "Aristotelian" and "mechanics" are also associated with each other in connection with the pseudo-Aristotelian treatise, thus necessitating a note at the top for disambiguation purposes. That note was the opposite of a statement of the subject of this article! Apparently Machine Elf is unfamiliar with disambiguation on Wikipedia; the note at the top of Fozzy instructing readers to look at a different article for the Muppet is likewise precisely because the subject of Fozzy is not a Muppet.
  3. The title "History of Science (Aristotelian physics) is a bit of a mess and not in accordance with any normal titling practice. I want to suggest Aristotelian mechanics, though of course we should work on consensus here first if necessary: the mechanics to be found in the works of Aristotle, seems straightforward.
  4. The phrase "Aristotelian physics," in reliable sources about Aristotle, refers to the theory of living organisms, the theories of mind, sensation, etc., and so much else that has nothing to do with physics, that it is inappropriate to this article, whether in parentheses or not. This is the driving force behind my move, and one thing I strongly believe needs to be solved one way or another.
  5. "Aristotelian mechanics (history of science)" would be a correct article if there were really two common usages of "Aristotelian mechanics." It is unobjectionable, but unnecessary, in my view, since the article Mechanics (Aristotle) is not entitled "Aristotelian mechanics," so that the hatnote is sufficient.

I hope Machine Elf can be satisfied, from these points, that the article title Aristotelian mechanics may be the best available -- if in fact (s)he agrees that this article is about the mechanics on offer in various works of Aristotle. And I also hope M.E. will clearly understand that I am in 10000% agreement that the subject of Mechanics (Aristotle) has nothing to do with this article, which is why we need a note pointing out to the reader that if they want Aristotle on machines -- an entirely different subject with the word "mechanics" in it in a different sense -- they should look elsewhere.

Finally, I had the problem of where to redirect Aristotelian physics. Since what this phrase refers to, in reliable sources about Aristotle, are the various treatises on "the study of nature," I couldn't find anything better to link to than the listing of those treatises in a section of Corpus Aristotelicum. In other words, this is because "Aristotelian physics" refers, first and foremost, to the contents of Aristotle's Physics, De Anima, On Generation and Corruption, etc. (The inclusion of Mechanica in that list is utterly accidental.) Wareh (talk) 19:55, 22 July 2010 (UTC)

I realize I didn't address the issue of "broken links" to Aristotelian physics. Normally I'm very conscientious about fixing these. It's trickier here, because many of the links to Aristotelian physics presumably intend to refer to the subject matter Aristotelian scholars call "physics," which does not resemble this article's contents. There is no article in Wikipedia on Aristotelian physics, as there is for Aristotelian ethics, only the articles on the individual "physical" (i.e. biological, etc.) works.
Now, even though M.E. made the mechanics/dynamics edit to the hatnote, which made me assume M.E. saw the subject of this article the same way I did, I now read e.g. "I know its missing anima, at least," which implies M.E. wants this article to be about all departments of "Aristotelian physics" (i.e. all the contents of what is listed under "physics" at Corpus Aristotelicum). That would be great in my view, but the present article is not a starting point for a treatment of that subject. This article cannot become one about "Aristotelian physics" by mere addition. It began with a purpose of demolishing Aristotelian mechanics based on modern physics, in dependence on a misleading misuse of the term "Aristotelian physics" to mean what it doesn't mean ("alternative explanations to your physics textbook," vs. "the theories of Aristotle's biological & physical writings").

The first steps, I believe, if we really want an article on that, is:

  1. Make a new Aristotelian physics with sections for all the works in that list;
  2. Recognize that this article was never intended to cover all that biology, psychology, etc., but is about areas of modern physics (etymologically distinct but completely different definition): math-based dynamics, etc.
  3. So keep the name of this article Aristotelian mechanics or Scientific critique of Aristotle's dynamics or whatever.
This article has problems, but I'm bending over backwards here to find some place for its content. The point, which needs to be addressed before all others, is that "Aristotelian physics" is not its subject matter. In "Aristotelian physics," theories of perception, growth, etc., have as much or more place than the content here.
My sincere apologies for being a bit repetitive and long-winded here. I would just really like to avoid unnecessary and messy misunderstandings. Wareh (talk) 20:04, 22 July 2010 (UTC)
I didn't say that's why you choose it. I said that's what it refers to. My own edit to the cursed hatnote was: "terrestrial and celestial mechanics (dynamics)", because I was trying to accommodate you. Neither "Terrestrial Mechanics" nor "Celestial Mechanics" imply machines or any unnatural manipulation of nature. Because of the pseudo work however, that's what the obscure term "Aristotelian mechanics" turns up in a search.
"Apparently Machine Elf is unfamiliar with disambiguation on Wikipedia" No, but I'm unfamiliar with renaming a longstanding article to fix it's hatnote. Frankly, no one does much searching for either "Aristotelian mechanics" or the pseudo work. Add more biology to the article, don't wish it away into the corn field.
I believe I've it perfectly clear that I think "Aristotelian mechanics" is a very poor choice. You don't seem to understand change of all kinds, including all motion in the heavens and below the moon, is the subject of his Physics, including all qualitative change (maybe that's what you mean by "theories of mind") and all growth, diminution, coming to be and passing away of both living non–living substance on earth. As the passage I quoted indicates: "Mechanics and physics thus seem to be in conflict". This article is about his physics. Please help improve it.
I've put a great deal of effort into the anachronism of "physics" in the modern sense versus "Aristotelian physics". You seem to be insisting that "Aristotelian physics" must no longer be the title of article. Is that what you strongly believe?
Mechanics (Aristotle) is the article stub on the obscure pseudo Aristotelian work.
‘M.E. wants this article to be about all departments of "Aristotelian physics"’ CORRECT
‘(i.e. all the contents of what is listed under "physics" at Corpus Aristotelicum)’ Wikipedia is not a reliable source ^_^~ But sure, why not? That would be great. I've include the list ["Corpus Aristotelicum#Physics (the study of nature)"] in this articles see also section which previously only had De caelo.
If I could reverse the name of this article back to "Aristotelian physics" I would. But I can't, so I've now renamed it "Aristotelian physics (history of science)".
‘It began with a purpose of demolishing Aristotelian mechanics based on modern physics...’ You're preaching to the choir (a cappella, without harping on "mechanics" would be preferred). Had you made short work of this longstanding article sooner, I wouldn't have invested my time and effort into addressing the issues by attempting to improve this, the Wikipedia article on Aristotelian physics.
I disagree with every step of your plan. As I've made clear.
Ha! you are hardly "bending over backwards" hatnote dude. And it's Mr. Elf, by the way. But you call me 1735.—Machine Elf 1735 (talk) 22:47, 22 July 2010 (UTC)
First of all, you can reverse the move I did: see WP:RM. In fact, I wish the objection had come before my move (I did wait some days), so that we could be having a more focused discussion on the actual issues. The current title (thanks for undoing the inverted form) will do as a placeholder pending a better discussion.
We do need a better discussion. Prime proof of this: You are still saying, "Neither 'Terrestrial Mechanics' nor 'Celestial Mechanics' imply machines," when the total irrelevance of machines and Mechanics (Aristotle) to this article is something I agree about, something you have misunderstood, and something which is fully explained above. Until you understand this point, at least, I'm sure we are pointlessly misunderstanding each other, even if we also have serious substantive disagreements.
It was another misunderstanding if you thought the purpose of your edit stating the subject of this article was mechanics & dynamics was to please me. I am not the author of the hatnote as a whole, and my only motivation was to point out that the article does not contain even a basic treatment of any of the core of what a consensus of reliable sources thinks "Aristotelian physics" means.
I can see why you'd think this article could become an article on Aristotelian physics (in the broader correct sense that includes psychology, biology, etc.), but I'd like you to understand better some of the difficulties. My point in a nutshell is this: Any 1% competent article on the actual subject of "Aristotelian physics," even if only four sentences long, would mention concepts such as "organism," "soul," etc. The fact that this article was quite long without mentioning them is, therefore, proof that it intended a subject quite different from Aristotelian physics. The subject was, rather, a narrow (and relatively marginal) sliver of Aristotle's physical writings, which, because they happen to overlap with physics (a confusing case of the same word meaning two different things), someone thought should be compared in an essay on Wikipedia.
The bottom line is that anyone reading this article will be sorely misinformed about what "Aristotelian physics" means. Here are some encyclopedia articles, written by experts, on major topics in Aristotelian writings on nature (Greek physis), i.e. "physics" in the Aristotelian sense: [1] [2] [3]. What is your explanation for why this article completely excluded those topics, for why the lead of the article does not even allow for them? Really, for this reason, modern writers would do well to avoid "Aristotelian physics": the title Istvan Bodnar chooses, "Aristotle's Natural Philosophy," is more comprehensible, and would avoid this confusion. (For the record, then, I would like Aristotelian physics to redirect to a full article at Aristotelian philosophy of nature, with a note explaining "Aristotelian physics redirects here. For the intersection between Aristotle's work and the topics of modern physics, see Whatever this article should be named.") What, then, to call an article that only cares about the intersection between Aristotle and physics in the modern sense? This is a worthy subject, and, despite your skepticism, I will bend over backwards to keep it in the encyclopedia. (On the other hand, if this really becomes an article about all Aristotle's philosophy of nature, I think I will have an excellent case for simply deleting most of the unduly focused stuff whose only excuse for being here is that it has to do with modern physics topics!) I just want it labeled correctly. Note that I have never intervened to remove or question the actual content of this article: I am an inclusionist. Go back to the previous part of this talk page: if not Aristotelian mechanics, then what? Will anything without the word physics please you?
Finally, I want to mention that, yes, we can find "academic" sources, e.g. written by modern physicists, that will throw around "Aristotelian physics" as if it's a good title for this discussion. But that's horribly misleading to anyone who knows what the title of Physics (Aristotle) actually means, and it completely disagrees with the terminology used by experts on Aristotle, who trump physicists in getting to decide what "Aristotelian physics" means. If necessary, I will prove my assertion that experts on Aristotle understand "physics" more as I suggest than as this article frames it, but I'm hoping that won't be necessary (of course, Wikipedia is not my source, but the Bekker corpus does lump together the physical & biological texts in a way that is not controversial).
So can we assume good faith better, here, avoid misunderstandings, and try to come up with a solution that does not use a well-established domain of Aristotelian studies (ta physika) as the title for something only very partially related to it? Stuffing psychology and biology into this article that never wanted them can't be the best solution. Wareh (talk) 01:17, 23 July 2010 (UTC)
I'm using a non–standard discussion format here for my own ease of reply. My apologies if that inconveniences anyone.
re: “It was another misunderstanding if you thought the purpose of your edit stating the subject of this article was mechanics & dynamics was to please me. I am not the author of the hatnote as a whole, and my only motivation was to point out that the article does not contain even a basic treatment of any of the core of what a consensus of reliable sources thinks "Aristotelian physics" means.
I've never said you were the original author of the hatnote or that I've done anything to "please" you. I said "I was trying to accommodate you". I'm not willing to spend any more of my time discussing your "motivation" except to state that what you meant does not change the title's meaning. (Also, see my response to questions of WP:AGF below).
  1. (cur | prev) 14:45, 20 July 2010 Wareh (talk | contribs) (68 bytes) (more appropriate redirect) (undo)
  2. (cur | prev) 14:44, 20 July 2010 Wareh (talk | contribs) (36 bytes) (moved Aristotelian physics to Aristotelian mechanics over redirect: In accepted WP:RS usage, "Aristotelian physics" does not refer to the subject of this article -- use existing redirect)
In general, your polemic language misrepresents the article with specious claims to a comprehensive knowledge of WP:RS in regard to both "Aristotelian mechanics" and "Aristotelian physics". I've already said I'm fine with expanding the article and I've never claimed the article was complete. Thank you for pointing out "History of Science (Aristotelian physics)" wasn't properly formatted (so to speak) and for noticing I had already fixed that so–called "atrocity". Your hyperbole and polemics doesn't personally bother me in terms of WP:CIV/WP:AGF, but it makes it difficult to briefly express disagreement with you (and not appear to be your combative counterpart); it also makes it difficult to briefly express agreement with what you say. The history of this article compounds those difficulties. I doubt any its editors have intentionally mislead the reader.
re: “I can see why you'd think this article could become an article on Aristotelian physics (in the broader correct sense that includes psychology, biology, etc.), but I'd like you to understand better some of the difficulties. My point in a nutshell is this: Any 1% competent article on the actual subject of "Aristotelian physics," even if only four sentences long, would mention concepts such as "organism," "soul," etc. The fact that this article was quite long without mentioning them is, therefore, proof that it intended a subject quite different from Aristotelian physics. The subject was, rather, a narrow (and relatively marginal) sliver of Aristotle's physical writings, which, because they happen to overlap with physics (a confusing case of the same word meaning two different things), someone thought should be compared in an essay on Wikipedia.
You are just flat wrong about "proof" of intent. Besides which, you'll find I removed a short treatment of the human body because it needs to be addressed with greater care from a better source. It spoke only of a unique ratio of elements in a human's body—but that should be proximate substance to the anima, whose unique ratio (voodoo alert) via proximately efficient cause, sperm, makes Socrates Jr. I just didn't feel like fleshing it out at the time. Mea culpa. The article does mention the metaphysical movers and even has an oblique reference to the word "soul", but clearly, his hylomorphic treatment of a viable "organism" vs. meat needs to be hashed out, (without adopting the "synonymous" body/body organic/inorganic confusion). In short, the article just needs to be expanded to dote on all the pedantic scholastic details, their lack of relevance to contemporary philosophy, and give the proper historical disproofs by Galileo; but it can still retain a more parsimonious summary for the scientifically minded. I don't know where the "1% competent" thing is from, but thanks for sharing your opinion. That "narrow (and relatively marginal) sliver" is actually the basis for 99% of Aristotle's natural philosophy, give or take some voodoo proximity. Ya learn something new every day.
re: “The bottom line is that anyone reading this article will be sorely misinformed about what "Aristotelian physics" means. Here are some encyclopedia articles, written by experts, on major topics in Aristotelian writings on nature (Greek physis), i.e. "physics" in the Aristotelian sense: [4] [5] [6]. What is your explanation for why this article completely excluded those topics, for why the lead of the article does not even allow for them? Really, for this reason, modern writers would do well to avoid "Aristotelian physics": the title Istvan Bodnar chooses, "Aristotle's Natural Philosophy," is more comprehensible, and would avoid this confusion. (For the record, then, I would like Aristotelian physics to redirect to a full article at Aristotelian philosophy of nature, with a note explaining "Aristotelian physics redirects here. For the intersection between Aristotle's work and the topics of modern physics, see Whatever this article should be named.") What, then, to call an article that only cares about the intersection between Aristotle and physics in the modern sense? This is a worthy subject, and, despite your skepticism, I will bend over backwards to keep it in the encyclopedia. (On the other hand, if this really becomes an article about all Aristotle's philosophy of nature, I think I will have an excellent case for simply deleting most of the unduly focused stuff whose only excuse for being here is that it has to do with modern physics topics!) I just want it labeled correctly. Note that I have never intervened to remove or question the actual content of this article: I am an inclusionist. Go back to the previous part of this talk page: if not Aristotelian mechanics, then what? Will anything without the word physics please you?
As per your request, my explanation is that you're seriously overstating... everything. LOL, you are the one having a freaking cow over the word "physics".
re: “Finally, I want to mention that, yes, we can find "academic" sources, e.g. written by modern physicists, that will throw around "Aristotelian physics" as if it's a good title for this discussion. But that's horribly misleading to anyone who knows what the title of Physics (Aristotle) actually means, and it completely disagrees with the terminology used by experts on Aristotle, who trump physicists in getting to decide what "Aristotelian physics" means. If necessary, I will prove my assertion that experts on Aristotle understand "physics" more as I suggest than as this article frames it, but I'm hoping that won't be necessary (of course, Wikipedia is not my source, but the Bekker corpus does lump together the physical & biological texts in a way that is not controversial).
You're a long way from representing experts and judging by this article's history, it would seem WP leaves those who think they "trump physicists" to fend for themselves. Like I said, I don't have a problem with expanding the article and I'm not going to respond to these repeated bloviations.
re: “So can we assume good faith better, here, avoid misunderstandings, and try to come up with a solution that does not use a well-established domain of Aristotelian studies (ta physika) as the title for something only very partially related to it? Stuffing psychology and biology into this article that never wanted them can't be the best solution. Wareh (talk) 01:17, 23 July 2010 (UTC)
Ya buddy, why don't you WP:AGF? Or, are you accusing me of something? If so, show me the diff.—Machine Elf 1735 (talk) 15:45, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
I knew I was missing some of it...
re: “First of all, you can reverse the move I did: see WP:RM. In fact, I wish the objection had come before my move (I did wait some days), so that we could be having a more focused discussion on the actual issues. The current title (thanks for undoing the inverted form) will do as a placeholder pending a better discussion.
Thanks for the info: WP:RM.
re: “We do need a better discussion. Prime proof of this: You are still saying, "Neither 'Terrestrial Mechanics' nor 'Celestial Mechanics' imply machines," when the total irrelevance of machines and Mechanics (Aristotle) to this article is something I agree about, something you have misunderstood, and something which is fully explained above. Until you understand this point, at least, I'm sure we are pointlessly misunderstanding each other, even if we also have serious substantive disagreements.
"Still" saying? I corrected your misquote. Stop trying to represent what I say. This is just twisted and I'm done with it.—Machine Elf 1735 (talk) 16:17, 25 July 2010 (UTC)

Sorting it out[edit]

Look, I feel we've both engaged each other counter-productively, and I share your frustration that it seems difficult to discuss this without unduly long comments that run the risk of seeming more combative than intended. Perhaps the blame is all mine; all I can really say in my defense is that I do not often find myself in this situation. I have taken some care in the following questions to be direct, friendly, and easily answerable. So I hope you can help by answering once more.
Are we are actually in agreement that the article as named should eventually deal with all the subject matter of the genuine Aristotelian treatises listed in this section? Could you state simply whether you agree with this, or, if not, could you specify which genuine works in that listing you would exclude from treatment in this article?
As a follow-up, only if we do agree on that point (and I inferred that we do, based on "But sure, why not? That would be great," above), is the question of whether the article is yet recognizable as announcing that scope, and whether it is moving towards more correctly announcing its scope. In short, the present lead ("his natural sciences including terrestrial and celestial mechanics (dynamics)") seems very opaquely, at best, to indicate anything about the biology, philosophy of mind, various body/soul problems raised in the Parva Naturalia, etc. My entire concern up till now (however poorly expresed or misunderstood) has been that the article commits the crime of basic misinformation by not clearly announcing this range of topics as the meaning of "Aristotelian physics." (If you agree and will soon remove the misinformation, just say so - I can only applaud you if you solve this problem. If you agree and don't intend to address this, that's when I'd like to attempt a consensus-worthy restatement of the article's scope in the lead. But I'm kind of scared away from trying by myself after so much unproductive argument.)
Finally (because so much of the problem, and something I can consider myself innocent of, is that the phrase "Aristotelian physics" is so confusing to so many kinds of readers), do you (or does anyone else here - it would be nice to have more discussants) believe this article would less confusingly be titled Aristotelian philosophy of nature, Aristotelian natural philosophy, or some similar variant? Wareh (talk) 17:54, 26 July 2010 (UTC)
Excellent, a brand–new day.—Machine Elf 1735 (talk) 19:07, 27 July 2010 (UTC)
I think we do very much agree that physics was the study of nature in the broadest possible sense (and that's a huge subject). I think referring to a list of Aristotle's works classified under the subject does have value if we bear in mind that generally one must refer to portions of various works because they don't represent a clean hierarchy of subjects (defined by whatever scheme—ancient, medieval, modern or contemporary) and that a treatment by subject will, of necessity, cut across the works of Aristotle, both as written and as received.
Barring the works marked as disputed or spurious, yes we should draw on that list but we should not treat it as exhaustive. (We'll need some metaphysics, "analytics" and categories, for example, without getting lost therein). It's equally misleading to over–compensate with too much emphasis on medical, biological, taxonomical and (what we call) psychological aspects.
Even today's physics, or for a finer point, QM, should give rise to all that in unexplained ways. Who was it that said a full description of the principles on which a cell operates would be far more complicated than a full description of the principles governing the universe as a whole? Perhaps it could be said that Aristotle believed his conceptual approach captures what is most profound, and that it's applicable self–similarly at every scope, and that it's the business of mere mathematics to "save the appearances". (Ironically, a backhanded compliment for those better at math, which was at best a leap of faith).
The study of the nature of things is only one step removed from the study of what it is to be existing. Eternal and unchanging Nature is best exemplified by uniform circular motion, (the branch of mathematics called astronomy teases out our daily view of that which is the subject of sub–science of theology) but the self–similarly enduring phenomena of the natural world, (the ♪circle of life♪), though less perfect, are apprehended by the physics (the study of changes that are almost as perfect as that which exemplifies the sheer eternal apprehending of apprehension).
So, with no Platonic epistemological cop–out, Physics is the study of Nature, i.e. the study of how Nature's elements operate in general. Today we're not even close to a fully reductionist description of biology and it's easy to show Aristotle in a bad light on account of this hubris. I've been concerned to treat the simpler, more abstract examples which demonstrate he wasn't irrational, incompetent or anti–empirical. On the other hand, his approach, the over–generalization of his concepts and his stop–gap measures were tragically flawed.
Students of some sciences don't have the spare time to wade through Aristotle, (and some modern minds will balk in literal pain), so popular treatments of ancient science like the one in Carl Sagan's book Cosmos, (and countless websites), replace ignorance with a few half–truths and much misplaced praise and ridicule. (Russell, with his scathing wit, should be excused for having been forced to disprove some of Aristotle's logic at so late a date—enough to make an enemy for life of anyone).
Regardless of the reason this article was marked with high importance for the history of science, I agree that it is highly important. I think including a parsimonious treatment that doesn't dally too long with the color of eyeball jelly, will be within the pain tolerance of an over–burdened science student's attention span. But that's only part of what the article needs to tackle (using WP:RS secondary sources, of course).
I think it should include some material about Galileo's experiments and it certainly should go into greater detail about the various works, in addition. Perhaps with the reader from a classics background and then maybe a philosophy background in mind. (And whoever the ostensible general reader might be of course).
In terms of primary sources, I think (one translation or another of) these works will command particular attention in our efforts: Physica, De Anima, De Generatione et Corruptione, De Caelo and (because it contains such clearly expressed implementations) Meteorologica. This would be not only for the sake of explaining (the causes of) how the elements of Nature (double entendre) operate in general, (omni–hylomorphically), but because astronomy was so critical in undermining the foundations of all "Aristotelianism".
Whatever slow and humble contribution to the article I'm eventually able to make would be around Aristotle's own works. I'm very weak when it comes to later Hellenic piddy–patters, or Islamic and medieval Aristotelianism. It creates a moving target that's somewhat challenging but very important in terms of the history of science. (Things tend to get mixed up with Neoplatonism, and identifying Plato's original influence on his student, as well as the cultural influences, is something I personally find more interesting at this time). So, hopefully, some more contributors will join in soon and help get the ball rolling.—Machine Elf 1735 (talk) 19:07, 27 July 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps trying to sum up a subject like this in a terse and pithy one–liner for the hatnote created some of the confusion and part of that maybe was in trying to reflect the more developed aspects of the article's current state, rather than the full scope of Physics expounded as one would in writing the article's lead. I'll remove "his natural sciences including terrestrial and celestial mechanics (dynamics)" as soon as I post this. In my last edit to the lead, I left it in because the subject was a bit touchy at the time. The text we have now for the lead is a product of ongoing consensus in so far it's not authored entirely by a single person... if the opposite of "consensus–worthy" would be "peculiar", lets keep at it until we iron out the wrinkles and please feel free to WP:BRD... So far, I think that will leave us with:
Aristotelian Physics his [the] natural sciences[,] described in the works of the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC). In the Physics, Aristotle established his general principles of change that govern all natural bodies; both living and inanimate, celestial and terrestrial—including all motion, change in respect to place, and qualitative change of any kind: birth, growth or passing away. To Aristotle, physics is a broad term that includes all nature sciences, such as biology, and constitutes the subject matter of many of his works."
How about replacing "biology" with "philosophy of mind, body, sense experience, memory and biology"? "Psychology" itself needs explanation and the word "soul" is extremely misleading. I think we should use "anima" and treat it as another instance of technical jargon whose "short" explanation is going to be one of the longer ones on the list (and we'll need multi–leveled hylomorphism as well). In terms of the lead, can "mind", perhaps, be considered temporarily viable as a double–duty reference (inclusive of less fancy electrochemical activity characterizing living things)? Obviously, this is all still quite minimal... What mind/body problems in Parva Naturalia do you have in mind?—Machine Elf 1735 (talk) 19:07, 27 July 2010 (UTC)
I think using a variant of "Natural philosophy" as a circumlocution for "physics" would further the obfuscation and that it's really not so very strange after all. The list of works will clarify nothing for readers. In a way, Aristotelian physics is much less important to the history of philosophy qua science, than it is to the history of physics qua physics. You won't find many contemporary philosophers getting too worked up over Aristotle. I've been told he still has some currency in Ethics only. I think including some of the history from the Natural philosophy article would be good, to explain how science became distinct and further specialized. Also, a general explanation of "natural" as opposed to "artifice", (rather than meaning rustic or something like "hippy–granola").—Machine Elf 1735 (talk) 19:07, 27 July 2010 (UTC)

(1) I don't disagree that an article on Aristotle's philosophy of nature would have to look beyond one traditional division of the corpus and into the Metaphysics, etc. (2) "How about replacing 'biology' with 'philosophy of mind, body, sense experience, memory and biology'?" Yes, I think something like that would be helpful. (3) You speak of working on the treatment of Aristotle's ideas as expressed in his works on these subjects, rather than the spin-offs into Medieval writers, etc. Yes, this what will most improve an article on Aristotle's philosophy of nature, change, soul, etc. In fact, the material on the reception of "Aristotelian physics" is as partial and inadequate as the expository Aristotle part. As long as it persists in its present form, it will be distorted to fit the "history of science" mold rather than really dealing with the reception of this branch of Aristotle's philosophy. (4) I still feel that the article's underdevelopment of the whole subject (as we seem to agree in defining it) in its current state gives a very misleading impression. Thanks for the help with the lead, but the article's treatment of the actual subject consists only of "Main principles," which certainly suggest a scope of the subject at odds with what you and I seem to agree it should be

My apologies if I seem to be simply standing on the sidelines kicking dirt at the article. My concerns about the skewed emphasis as I state them here in (3) & (4) mean that I'd still say the quickest way to do damage-control on this article would be to retitle it in accordance with what it actually discusses -- though our messy disagreement about this, coupled with your intention to reform the article according to the actual meaning of its title, has persuaded me to give up that idea. In short, my imagination is just not strong & hopeful enough right now to conceive this article giving a reader a good overview, which is why I'm in deliberative mode rather than constructive mode (though unfortunately I simply don't have the available time to give the help this page deserves in any case). I'm looking at the article and seeing a wish to treat a subject different from "Aristotelian physics." But an instinct to correct rather to abandon or to reshelve somewhere temporarily convenient (my attempted solution, which blew up on me) is certainly nobler. Dealing with the inflated expectations of armchair critics is one of the costs of such an approach, though, so...

To try to be more positive, I do not necessarily think the "See also" list needs to be there. My advice, in support of what you seem to envision, is to

  1. Consider whether "Main principles" ought to be renamed "Principles of Aristotelian dynamics" vel sim. (By the way, I never had occasion to speak of "dynamics" until this discussion, so it's not my pet word. I'm just applying the closest word to hand here.) I still don't see how such a physical-not-biological-sciences version of Aristotle's theory of change and motion can be adequate as "Main principles" for the whole subject.
  2. Introduce, as early as possible, section headings for the "departments" of Aristotelian physics as you understand it, with liberal use of Template:Expand section to make the article structure correctly resemble the structure of the subject it claims to treat.

Please don't misconstrue this as a demand; beggars can't be choosers, I know that. But you seem to have a lot of energy and to recognize in principle that the article should have all those sections. Wareh (talk) 19:37, 27 July 2010 (UTC)

Constructive criticism is a productive contribution too. If we commit to its longevity at least, it's probably the only way to precipitate improvement. I know I wouldn't spend time on it if its fate seemed uncertain (notability being no problem).
The article structure was top of my list. "Vacuum is impossible" as a main principle, yep, that's pretty cringe–inducing. Aristotle gets a lot of ridicule for that one, although I just came across a treatment on WP that suggested his argument against it was the first statement of the law of inertia. (As I recall, Newton said something similar). But, as Sagan said, Democritus "invented" the word Atom and slavery made the Greeks too decadent for science. No doubt Alexander would have had nukes if that racist Aristotle hadn't of ruined science like he did :)
I had done a search and "Aristotelian dynamics" actually comes into use in terms of Islamic or medieval science. Anachronistically, maybe kinematics (κινεῖν: to move) would get the point across too but "Ancient concepts" can't be mistaken for terminology. Like I said, I have a more concise (more complete too, I should have added) list of conceptual jargon. I just need to paraphrase it and refactor the current exposition into structure.
Scientists have their saints and sinners, that's for sure (but most don't like to be misinformed). Not much I can do for the Islamic or medieval science section except copy from a (cleaned up) article at some point.—Machine Elf 1735 (talk) 02:12, 28 July 2010 (UTC)
Thanks, with this reply I'm the most encouraged I've ever been that the article structure will come to express the breadth of the subject. (Sorting out the "legacy" sections is certainly desirable but much less urgent.) Wareh (talk) 13:37, 28 July 2010 (UTC)


As noted above, if this page should be moved back to "Aristotelian physics" (and a normal user can't do it) you can request admin attention at WP:RM. I assume some of the recent cleanup is related to Jagged 85 (Aristotelian physics is listed at Cleanup4). If so, please see WP:Jagged 85 cleanup and use at least one edit summary with a link to that page. That's important for other editors who may wonder why all the changes were made in a year or two. Johnuniq (talk) 01:29, 27 July 2010 (UTC)

Possibly just one edit from a few days ago marked "not in source". Actually, the material on Islamic science and medieval Aristotelianism was not reviewed. We might need some help with that, (I'm not familiar enough with the material myself), but I'll take a look at WP:Jagged 85 cleanup and link to it in an edit summary. Thx—Machine Elf 1735 (talk) 19:33, 27 July 2010 (UTC)

Aristotle's Aether in Modern Physics[edit]

I read this article by Christopher Decaen some time ago and it goes some distance to vindicating Aristotle's notion of aether. You might consider including some of its ideas in the interest of completeness and neutrality. JKeck (talk) 01:01, 22 September 2010 (UTC)

Wow, what a great article. I'd definitely like to include it here; also as a link, at least, at luminiferous aether. Thanks.—Machine Elf 1735 (talk) 23:16, 22 September 2010 (UTC)

Great, glad you liked it. Got the link from here, where there are other papers of a similar attitude toward Aristotle and modern science. JKeck (talk) 21:14, 25 September 2010 (UTC)


Unless I'm mistaken, in the part about motion, "consistent" should be replaced by "inconsistent". Aristotle states that a fluid exerts friction on an object, thus slowing it down, so that's contradictory with the fact that the medium "permits" the motion. And indeed it is the opposite : when you throw a ball, the depression is in front of the ball, not in the back. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Edouardh (talkcontribs) 14:30, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

Adherence rather than friction, no? For Aristotle, the engulfing medium is what accounts for the notion of place (not "space"), so it's not surprising that motion in terms of place depends on the medium. It's not entirely dissimilar to his account of heaviness and buoyancy but, whether or not it's what he really meant, it could be taken as a crude account of gliding, or even a propagating wave… so it's not contradictory. (Yes, he's suggesting that the density in front is communicated to the rarity in back; there's no need to try and "make it work", as if by suction).—Machine Elf 1735 18:53, 21 October 2011 (UTC)

POV and pseudoscience[edit]

Regarding the 4 Feb edit with summary: "established general principles of change that govern all natural bodies" is not generally believed + some of what he claimed is now held to be pseudoscience, like falling bodies - which is not mentioned clearly here

I agree with the edit earlier today that "pseudoscience" is a misnomer. Further, "general principles of change" is much too broad for "claims… like falling bodies", charitably understood. It accounts for any category of change (including that of quantity) vis-à-vis substance. What's not mentioned here is the marginalization of terminal velocity, but clearly "pseudoscience" has never been a term with which Aristotelian physics is to be tarred. In fact, a naïve account of scientific revolution considers it popper science, (er… proper, rather). In any case, it predates these debates by millenia, so perhaps rehearsing them here won't be necessary, however underrepresented one believes their point of view has been.—Machine Elf 1735 08:40, 24 February 2012 (UTC)

On Aristotelian motion[edit]

Additional information will be helpful on Aristotelian motion even though I have added some more information. Comparing Aristotle's view with other contemporaries like Galileo will also make this section of the article better. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Thywob (talkcontribs) 17:13, 31 May 2013 (UTC)

Your addition to motion seems beneficial. I think you should consider breaking the four types of motion into bullet points or something a little easier to read than a paragraph format. Also, have you checked to see if the article mentions violent motion? Stev6675 (talk) 06:17, 5 June 2013 (UTC)

I changed the words "as early as Galileo" in the final sentence of this section, but it was immediately reverted (and I don't know why). I notice that Thywob describes Galileo as one of Aristotle's "contemporaries" and I wonder if there is perhaps a mistaken idea of how many centuries separated Aristotle and Galileo? Thomas Peardew (talk) 10:11, 18 May 2014 (UTC)


The phases of Mercury are mentioned in the article as part of Galileo's attack on Aristotle. A nearly full set of phases of Mercury was first seen by Zupi in 1639, not by Galileo. Mercury's phases might have been suspected before then. This suspicion is hardly actual disproof of Aristotle or anyone else. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:42, 30 September 2014 (UTC)

Harriot noted that the moon's surface was irregular. This was against Aristotle's theory and four months before Galileo's similar observations of the moon. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:55, 30 September 2014 (UTC)

Natural Motion and Inertia[edit]

Currently (10/2015), in the section "Natural Motion," the article claims that: 'Contrary to what is commonly believed, Aristotle taught that, if unopposed, an object set in motion will continue in that motion because there is no reason why it should stop.[23] He may consequently be considered the originator of the law of inertia or "Newton's first law of motion".' The citation is to Aristotle's Physics, book IV, section 8, on the existence of a void. The section cited is NOT what Aristotle is proposing as true, but rather what he sees as an incorrect consequence to a mistaken idea about voids. The gist is that "if there was a void, then there would be no impediment to motion, and that's wrong so therefore obviously there is no void." As it stands, the article is stating incorrectly that Aristotle conceived of as true and taught something akin to inertia. It is interesting that he proposes something very similar to inertia as incorrect, and perhaps that is worth mentioning, but we should not say that Aristotle thought that an object set in motion will continue in motion. Samhelyar (talk) 21:14, 7 October 2015 (UTC)

I changed it. If anyone wants to read the relevant section, I expect that they will agree. If not, I guess I'll see them on the playground. Or here.Samhelyar (talk) 18:19, 9 October 2015 (UTC)
I wrote the remarks you deleted.
1) In saying that I am wrong you are presumably supporting the common view that Aristotle said things naturally slow down. Could you suppy a quotation from Aristotle where he says this? Unless you do I cannot accept your criticism.
2) I see Aristotle's thinking as similar to Newtons (or vice versa - Newton is known to have studied Aristotle) Newtons law of inertia says a body continues in its motion UNLESS acted on by a force. So if we see a body slowing down we see that as due to a force; we do not say the law of inertia is disproved. Aristotle says if a body moved in a void it would continue in its motion But we see it slowing down hence it is not moving in a void - there is an impediment to the motion. Do you know differently?
3) There is a statement by DesCartes predating Newton with similar wording to Aristotle:
'If it is at rest we do not believe that it will ever begin to move, unless impelled by some other cause. Moreover, there is no more reason for to think that once moved it will ever, of its own accord and if it is not hindered by anything else, cease that motion'. (The first sentence here follows a statement in The Heavens, book 13) [DesCartes: Principia 1644]JFB80 (talk) 03:56, 10 October 2015 (UTC)
I think the issue is the claim that Aristotle taught the law of inertia as a property of moving bodies.
1) Descartes or Newton or Galileo necessarily abstract the motion of bodies from the complexities of nature in seeking mechanical properties. For Aristotle, that abstraction from nature seems to be fundamentally invalid, and the quest for mechanical properties seems outside the scope of his inquiry. Aristotle is an excellent observational scientist (his animal studies, for example, are impressive and obviously based on careful observation), but he is not a mechanic. He doesn't spend his inquiry in isolating or mathematizng such properties. His definition of motion is the actualization of potentials as potential - for bodies it's the movement of movables as movables.
2) Newton surely studied Aristotle. As did the entirety of Enlightenment philosophers and scientists from Bacon onward who spent so much time explicitly disagreeing with his methods of thinking and the consequent results. In his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo makes exactly the contested disagreement against Aristotle's phsyics while discussing the horizontal and vertical motions of a stone falling from the mast of a moving ship. I doubt that anyone is arguing that objects slowing down disproves inertia. That would be a strange claim, indeed. The argument is whether, against the general opinion (including against the explicit opinion of Galileo on this subject), Aristotle originated and taught as true the law of inertia. It seems that he instead, able thinker that he was, perceived it as an incorrect consequence to an illogical viewpoint. Aristotle attributed the motion of a rock thrown to the medium of the air as being responsible for its continued motion. The impressed force from the thrower is not maintained in the rock, because it is not the natural motion (which is to fall) of the rock and can not be transferred to the rock. This seems other than inertia.
3) Yes, Descartes describes inertia and even centripetal force in The World, published in 1664 (though written before 1633). In the same work he asserts that philosophers believed otherwise about motion (re:inertia). He refers directly to Aristotle's definition of motion (actuality of a potential as potential) when he brings up the philosopher's beliefs about motion. Descartes, too, seems to claim explicitly that Aristotle's view of motion is not reconcilable with the law of inertia. The mechanical advances of enlightenment natural philosophy are largely thanks to a rejection of Aristotelian science of general definitions (Bacon calls it deduction) in favor of a Euclidean system of definitions leading to propositions (Bacon calls it induction). It is the focusing on the particular as isolated from the whole that most clearly separates them from Aristotle and that allows them to determine the laws of inertia and mechanics in general. Aristotle approaches motion from the most general terms possible, in the same way that he approaches the rest of his physics. That is why Aristotle's definition of motion is applicable to projectiles, to learning, to aging, and to anything else that changes.
Aristotle is obviously a giant of Western thought, and rightfully so in my opinion. I think it is very interesting that he offhandedly as the consequence of an absurdity so closely describes inertia. I do not think that that is to say Aristotle believes or teaches the law of inertia as true. I think that we should be very careful in saying that something is, 'in opposition to general opinion,' a truth of Aristotle's teaching. Moreso when that general opinion is expressed by Galileo or Descartes, also rightful giants of Western thought, who are likely better students of Aristotle than you or I.Samhelyar (talk) 05:40, 22 October 2015 (UTC)
Thank you for your detailed remarks but again they are just your opinion unsupported by actual references and quotations. I asked where did Aristotle state the commonly held view that the natural motion of moving bodies is to slow down? You say that Galileo explicitly said that Aristotle did not state the law of inertia. But where and when? I gave actual quotations JFB80 (talk) 18:44, 25 October 2015 (UTC)

In Europe, Aristotle's theory was first convincingly discredited by Galileo's studies...[edit]

This is a bit weird; not least because "astronomy" isn't nominally part of A's physics, at least as described by the article's "concepts" section William M. Connolley (talk) 20:08, 19 December 2015 (UTC)