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Aristotle on the Meaning of Man

A Philosophical Response to Idealism, Positivism, and Gnosticism

Peter Jackson

Why was (and is) Aristotle «right» and why are we «wrong»? In other words, why are Aristotle’s philosophical reflections on man and the world full, real, and convincing and why is so much of our modern philosophy partial and false? This work offers a detailed assessment of Aristotle’s thought in response to these questions.

Using «man» as a case study, this work shows how Aristotle philosophically treats «him» as a physical, biological, social, political, ethical, creative, poeticising, and philosophising object in the world. It then continues by laying out his consequent conclusions regarding the necessary capacities of natural objects in the world.

Regarding the modern philosophical approach to «man», this work shows that it flows from several directions into narcissism, nihilism, and a desire to control and manipulate the world and other people. In short, this work considers these approaches and seeks to show that Aristotle’s philosophy is «right», true, and commendable and that our modern philosophy is (often) «wrong», vacuous, and distasteful.

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This work has the objective not only of giving a detailed account of Aristotle’s philosophical representation of the world but also of defending it vis-à-vis other accounts, including our own. I hope, at the very least, to prove to the reader that Aristotle’s account of the world stands up as a possible alternative to our own and, at the most, to prove that Aristotle’s vision possesses a sanity, depth, and attachment to nature which we have lost through our desire to idealise, standardise, and manipulate the world. In this work, Aristotle on the Meaning of Man (AMM), I have considered how Aristotle represents “man” as a particular natural object in the world; i.e. as a chemical, physical, substantive, biological, political, ethical, and individual object. A subsequent work titled Aristotle on the Meaning of Everything (AME) will continue by providing a detailed survey of Aristotle’s account of ourselves and of the world, and will also explain in more detail through three essays the nature and consequences of the three great philosophical “errors” of reductionism discussed in this work, i.e. of idealism (reduction of world to ideas), positivism (reduction of world to science), and gnosticism (reduction of world to myth), which Aristotle and I seek to refute. I note in respect to these philosophical “errors” that the immense success of reductionism in helping man manipulate the world and act within it rather complicates our situation in the sense that it shows us that there is value in both the...

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