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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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Chapter 1.7: Aristotle’s “Philosophical Man” Finds His “Goods”


← 124 | 125 →CHAPTER 1.7

Aristotle’s “Philosophical Man” Finds His “Goods”

Having considered Aristotle’s “man” and Aristotle’s “ethical man” and his “working man” let us return to consider Aristotle’s “philosophical man” and the question of Chapter 1.1 in respect to whether he is allowed to be or required to be “divine, but useless”. We can restart this task by considering the opening paragraph of Aristotle’s Metaphysics which reads as follows:

All men (πάντες ἄνθρωποι) by nature (φύσει) desire (ὀρέγονται) to know (τοῦ εἰδέναι). An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense of sight. For not only with a view to action, but even when we are not going to do anything, we prefer seeing (one might say) to everything else. The reason is that this, most of all the senses, makes us know (ποιεῖ γνωρίζειν ἡμᾶς) and brings to light many differences between things (πολλὰς δηλοῖ διαφοράς; Met. A 980a 1–7)

from which we see that Aristotle asserts that “all men” are thinking and perceptive actors in the world who can by their nature potentially “know” and who do naturally “desire” to do so. We also find that Aristotle elsewhere (a) argues that men can be made “well in soul” (N.E. II 1105b 17–18) through the exercise and direction of their reasoning faculties through philosophy in a way analogous to how men can be made well in body through healthy physical exercise1...

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