Talk:Metaphysics (Aristotle)

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Work needed on the overview[edit]

Quite a bit is needed on the overview. It should come before the summary, for a start, and a lot of it needs replacing or rewriting. I am taking a look at this over the next week. edward (buckner) 12:27, 1 December 2007 (UTC)

Many thanks, Edward, for investing work in this article. Some of the ideas expressed in this overview seem to me less reliable and full of uncontroversial explanatory power than others. Forgive me for focusing on my reservations, to be more concise. (1) I'd rather see what Bertrand Russell says in a section at the end assembling judgments of the work's significance. Even if it has some truth at a very general level, it's too patently Russellian an explanation. Also, "a synthesis between the naturalism of common sense and empirical science" is very opaque as a gloss on it; which of the synthesized elements in this formulation is supposed to be Platonism? (2) I also doubt that a summary and genealogy of Platonism is in place here & would rather see the reader pointed to the articles on those subjects more summarily. Platonism as a hybrid between Heraclitus and Parmenides? Again, I'm aware one could produce citations for such views (it's the sort of sweeping Hegelian evolutionism that Eduard Zeller has bequeathed us), but are they reliable and useful enough to introduce the readers of this article to Aristotelian metaphysics? Also, the statement dating Heraclitus is false, and putting Parmenides in a context of Athenian imperialism is misleading. In sum, however, I don't think its explanatory power for me (or anyone else) is the real issue; even if I loved it personally, it just doesn't look like the product of bland unanimity that belongs here. Its original collocation of historical material, comparisons, etc., even seem to rise to the level of an original synthesis at least, which is a Wikipedia no-no. By calling it too original, I mean to do some honor to the fact that it has a certain persuasive and readable eloquence to it, the clear product of one author's view rather than the typical Wikipedia jumble. (That's the issue, though: too persuasive, too defined a perspective.) With more citations of scholars who hold these kind of views, I think it would go very well in an article on the Development of Aristotle's philosophy, which is a major topic worthy of treatment. If we had this kind of text there & told the reader, Jaeger says this, Rose says this, Chroust says this, Bernays says this, that would be great. In any case, an article that started by pointing out that there are many interpretations and lively ongoing arguments about the genesis of Aristotle's ideas would remove the OR worries; it's as neutral explanation of Aristotle's Metaphysics (implying, "the consensus of scholars has decided that the essential background for this book is: Russell's bon mot & an understanding of how Plato fused Heraclitus and Parmenides") that it's so strikingly partial. Wareh 03:45, 2 December 2007 (UTC)
HI - thanks for these useful thoughts. On the Russell, I recently re-read HOWP and was impressed by his often idiosyncratic way of summarising difficult views in a sweeping but witty statement. Some of these are clearly silly, but after thinking about his view on Plato and common sense, I thought it was just about right for an introduction to the Metaphysics.
On the fusion of Heraclitus and Parmenides, it seems obviously right to me. It is also persuasively argued for by Hugh Lawson-Tancred in the introduction to his (to my mind) very good translation of M. But as you say it needs more balance, or at least support from other scholars. Actually I don't think this is particularly controversial, is it?
The conjunction "A synthesis between the naturalism of common sense and empirical science" is a mistake. It was meant to have contrasted naturalism of common sense/empirical science" on the one side and some expression representing Platonic Formism on the other. I was stuck for a phrase representing what Plato stands for. Still stuck, indeed.
You are right about the dates on Heraclitus and Parmenides. I was relying on Lawson-Tancred, who says "in the middle of the fifth century BC, as the Athenian empire threatened to swallow up the whole of the Greek world, the course of philosophical speculation was dramatically and permanently changed by three men, Heraclitus of Ephesus, Parmenides of Elea, and Socrates of Athens." You could read this as meaning that Heraclitus and Parmenides had retrospective influence, but it would need to be made clearer. I'll have a go.
On whether this approach is right for an article on the Metaphysics, as opposed to evolution of Aristotle's philosophy, good question. If it is true that the central idea of the metaphysics is the what-it-was-to-be a thing, i.e. substance/essence, what a thing really is, then one needs to explain how Aristotle came to this view. I'll read around the subject some more, and meanwhile feel free to edit. edward (buckner) 09:07, 2 December 2007 (UTC)
I've made some changes that were obviously needed. I'm not sure it addresses the deeper problem you raise. But I stick to one point: the overview section has to explain to an unenlightened reader what Aristotle's metaphysics is really really about. It has to put this across in a few paragraphs. Not easy. edward (buckner) 09:31, 2 December 2007 (UTC)

The metaphors of knowledge[edit]

The first line of the article per 25.04.2011 suggests that Aristotle's Metaphysics is identical with the arborescent structuring of knowledge. I find this a very reductive perspective. The Tree of knowledge is a fairly old metaphor, but isn't this as much a result of hierarchisation with no real scientific or philosophical basis; thus a perspective caused by the glasses through which one is looking? I would argue that the arborescent perspective on knowledge, pertaining to the predominantly anglo-american analytical philosophy, in dialectic opposition to continental philosophy that seem to nurse the rhizomatic (radical) metaphor, may be a valid metaphor for physics, but not metaphysics. In the spirit of the ancient philosophers it would be more accurate to speak of metaphysics as the heart of wisdom, than the first branch of knowledge. Alternatively, seeing metaphysics as the underground rhizomatic structuring. Or is Aristotle specifically using the tree metaphor also in regard of metaphysics? --Xact (talk) 12:10, 25 April 2011 (UTC)

Books I-VI: Alpha to Epsilon[edit]

I corrected a couple of common misconceptions in the section on Book VI (Epsilon) of the Metaphysics.

(1) First Philosophy (one of Aristotle’s names for what we call metaphysics) studies all of reality, not just immaterial or immovable substances. The difference is that it seeks the ultimate causes (or, from a different point of view, the first causes) of reality, whether material or not. What Aristotle calls physics (which we would probably call natural philosophy) does not qualify as First Philosophy, because it studies only a limited part of reality (the part that is mobile); moreover it only seeks the “proximate” or “secondary” causes of that portion of reality.

(2) It is common to confuse per accidens with “accident;” however, these are very different notions. “Accident” refers to realities that do not have an independent existence; rather, they depend on something else. For example, the red color of a Red Delicious apple is an accident: the redness can’t exist apart from the apple that sustains it. (In tongue and cheek, colors don’t pile up in fruit baskets, but colored apples do.)

When Aristotle refers being as per accidens (κατὰ συμβεβηκός) or per se (καθ᾽ αὑτό), he referring to the verb to be (εἰμί) in its capacity to form propositions joining a subject to a predicate. Being—or better put, the word “is” (ἐστί)—is used per accidens if the predicate has no necessary connection to the subject: in English we would render the idea by using the phrase “to happen to be.” For example, if I say “The musician is building the house,” there is no causal nexus (link or connection) between the fact that the man is a musician and that he is building the house. I might just as well say, “The man building the house happens to be a musician.” That is idea that Aristotle is trying to get across with being per accidens.

If, however, there is a causal nexus, however faint, then the verb to be takes on what Aristotle calls a per se meaning. If I say, “The builder is building the house,” then it is evident that the builder is building thanks to the skills (τέχνη) he has acquired as a builder. A causal nexus is necessary for there to be true science, according to Aristotle’s doctrine.

[The above added on 20 May 2013‎ by user:AthanasiusOfAlex - Peter Damian (talk) 08:11, 19 April 2015 (UTC)]

Form of Socrates[edit]

Previous: the article is no doubt eloquent. The subject is difficult. It is easy to miss some fine points. It can always be polished.

Current: for now one fine point. "The form of Socrates." Socrates has no form. The word refers to an individual, but forms are always universal. The form is mankind. Socrates is an instance of man. He is made individual by the matter, which is individual per se, but also may have different accidents inhering in it. These accidents are forms also, but are not substances. It may seem like an insignificant point to us, but not to a hylomorph. Witness. Adelard of Bath. Hypothesizes a form, Socratitude, with one instance, Socrates. The species and genus are not forms, but are intepretations of the individual conceived differently by different faculties or by different levels of abstraction. The real subject, the individual, is "indifferent" in species and genus. Indifferentism is branded as an error.

For possible future work: The difference in the Theory of Matter and Form between Platonism/Neoplatonism and Aristotelianism. What is said is generally true, but who but a hylomorph can understand it? Most people are not hylomorphs, or if they are, don't know it. The very word is abominable to some Protestants. But, we don't care about that (I don't. I'm Protestant.) Remember the Cave Allegory in Republic? In Platonism, the instances of the forms are not per se real. They are the shadows of the real objects located in another world. One real object can have many shadows. In Aristotelianism, the instances are real. They are apparently generated and corrupted in the same matter. Aristotle's contribution, which apparently he takes credit for, is the explanation of the change, which now is termed the Theory of Act and Potency. As to whether Platonism can be called rationalism, I think you would have to say further what you meant by rationalism. It means so many things to so many people. Ciao.