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History of Philosophy II

Plato and Aristotle


Michal Zvarík

The coursebook presents Plato and Aristotle as the two most significant and groundbreaking thinkers of European thought from the era of classical Greek philosophy. The author provides prefatory orientation in the labyrinth of their complex thought and sketches their metaphysics, problems of knowledge and ethics. He departs from the fact that both thinkers are similar in striving to overcome problems of their period by localizing the human being into a hierarchical order of beings, which obliges in questions of the possibility of knowledge as well as of the right conduct.
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4. Metaphysics and the Structure of the Cosmos


Already in Categories Aristotle emphasises that the subject, a specific, individual object is a substance in the truest sense of the word. It is exactly metaphysics that is devoted to the examination of basic principles, which constitute the subject. We have mentioned that he never used the term “metaphysics” instead he spoke about the “first philosophy” (proté filosofia), sometimes he also called it theology or wisdom (sophia). Already in these terms, we can see that metaphysics plays a central role and in comparison to the other areas of philosophy, it carries a certain preference. It is a science that knows “everything” because it is the highest and most abstract doctrine, which examines being as being (on hé on). Aristotle further describes the nature of metaphysics in the sixth book of Metaphysics. Each science deals with certain subjects and thus a being and its cor ← 85 | 86 → responding causes. The doctor, for example, deals with the human body and examines the causes of healthy and unhealthy conditions of the body; mathematics is devoted to numbers and the relationship between them and the subject of physics is a moving and variable body and the causes of its movements. Metaphysics goes further not only “beyond” physics, but also beyond other disciplines. None of the above-mentioned theories deal with being as such, but only with certain types of being, or more precisely, a certain segment of reality, while the other aspects are disregarded. For example, mathematics is interested in being, as it is countable,...

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