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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 1.8: Aristotle’s “Philosophical Man” Sees the World in a Grain of Sand


← 140 | 141 →CHAPTER 1.8

Aristotle’s “Philosophical Man” Sees the World in a Grain of Sand

So, then, do we finally say that Aristotle’s philosopher and his philosophy are “divine, but useless” or are they actually mundane, real, and useful? My impression (which I will develop in this chapter and the next two) is that they are both in the senses (i) that philosophy is both mundane, real, and useful and also and simultaneously “divine, but useless” and (ii) that Aristotle’s philosophical objective is precisely to bring the “divine, but useless” into our everyday human existence on the basis (a) that we should naturally arrive at an appreciation of the “divine” and of the “useless” when we properly contemplate reality (I suggest that this is a variant of Socratic ignorance) and (b) that we do actually complete our own human nature through this realisation.1 Now, I suggest that not only does Aristotle draw this conclusion ← 141 | 142 →but that he even explains how he arrives at such a position through his rejection of the philosophy of the physiologoi on the basis that “…we say Anaxagoras, Thales, and men like them have philosophic [i.e. as a sophos] but not practical wisdom [i.e. as a phronimos], when we see them ignorant of what is to their own advantage” (N.E. VI 1141b 3–6)2 and also through his parallel rejection of the philosophy of Socrates and of Plato on the basis that:

Socrates…was busying himself about...

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