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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 2.2: Aristotle’s “Philosophical Man” Finds Himself


← 242 | 243 →CHAPTER 2.2

Aristotle’s “Philosophical Man” Finds Himself

I hope to have shown above (a) that Aristotle provides us – and sets out to provide us – with a full philosophical interpretation of reality and (b) that Aristotle’s account of the world is by no means anti-scientific or, even, detrimental to the practice of science. I also suggest that it is clear that Aristotle does have a clear and full understanding of the importance of working from a scientific subject-matter (i.e. and of not applying a priori principles to it) and of the need to work from the empirical data of the world (and hence Aristotle’s critical commitment to epagogē) and from experimentation in studying it.

We therefore find (i) that Aristotle argues that we must work from empirical data on the basis that:

Lack of experience diminishes our power of taking a comprehensive view of the admitted facts (Αἴτιον δὲ τοῦ ἐπ’ ἔλαττον δύνασθαι τὰ ὁμολογούμενα συνορᾶν ἡ ἀπειρία). Hence those who dwell in intimate association with nature and its phenomena (Διὸ ὅσοι ἐνῳκήκασι μᾶλλον ἐν τοῖς φυσικοῖς) grow more and more able to formulate, as the foundations of their theories (μᾶλλον δύνανται ὑποτίθεσθαι τοιαύτας ἀρχὰς), principles such as to admit of a wide and coherent development (αἳ ἐπὶ πολὺ δύνανται συνείρειν): while those whom devotion to abstract discussions (οἱ δ’ ἐκ τῶν πολλῶν λόγων) has rendered unobservant of the facts (ἀθεώρητοι τῶν ὑπαρχόντων ὄντες) are too ready to dogmatise on the basis of a few observations (πρὸς ὀλίγα βλέψαντες, ἀποφαίνονται ῥᾷον). The rival treatments of the subject now before us will serve to illustrate how great is the difference (διαφέρουσιν) between a “scientific” (φυσικῶς) and a “dialectical” (λογικῶς) method of inquiry (σκοποῦντες; GC I 316a 5...

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