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The Nicomachean Ethics
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Aristotle > Some random quotes I've been reading about Aristotle

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message 1: by Lia (last edited Jul 10, 2018 02:15PM) (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
Hello Aristotle, my old friend,
I'm ready to be tormented by you again~

Pfff, this dialectic beast:

Aristotle’s text, I shall argue, contains the germs for the development of two different types of dialectic, which I call “disputational” and “aporetic” respectively: the former, and more important in my view, consists of a rule-bound and asymmetric debate between two interlocutors, a questioner and an answerer; the latter consists of an open-ended examination of different views and does not necessarily involve more than one thinker

is the bane of my existence.

Source: The Art of Dialectic Between Dialogue and Rhetoric: The Aristotelian Tradition

message 2: by Lia (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
I’ve decided to turn this folder into a scattered field of random and unconnected topics — I can’t decide what Aristotle is trying to say and I don’t know how to organize my reactions.

If my random rapid-fire of “new threads” is vandalizing your GR wall, let me know, I’ll tweak my profile settings.

message 3: by Lia (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
LOL, Martin Luther on Aristotle (1520):

The universities need a sound and thorough reformation . . . . In my view, Aristotle's writings on Physics, Metaphysics, On the Soul, and Ethics, hitherto regarded as the most important, should be set aside along with all others that boast they treat of natural objects, for in fact they have nothing to teach about things natural or spiritual.... It pains me to the heart that this damnable, arrogant, pagan rascal has seduced and fooled so many of the best Christians with his misleading writings. God has made him a plague to us on account of our sins.

So Aristotle is the Pandora (or Eve) of Lutheranism, take that!

message 4: by Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (last edited Jul 11, 2018 10:40AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 50 comments The only university I ever attended was the University of Hard Knocks, so any knowledge I have of things of this sort has been picked up in small doses here and there. (I did read The Nicomachean Ethics along with the Classics group though.) Anyway, Luther's comment reminds me of Scholasticism, and it was really only recently that I was reading something mostly unrelated to it that I finally got a good grasp of it. It was an interesting book--Baroque Times in Old Mexico: Seventeenth-Century Persons, Places, and Practices--which covered a time that the author addressed specifically because it was usually a time that other historians passed over.

Anyway, Mexico, under the Spanish, was heavily influenced by the ideas that ruled (tyrannized) Spain at the time, one of which was that everything that was ever worth learning had been revealed already to the church fathers and it didn't matter what the Enlightenment thought or did or experimented with, because all of that was just a trick of our senses and the only truth is revealed truth. (William Blake was big on this as well--he hated Locke and Bacon and Newton, though he wasn't a scholastic--he was more of a mystic, in that he thought his visions were revealing the true truth to him)

So if the only truth is that which has been written down hundreds of years before by the accepted receptacles, then the only way to get smart was to read those texts--and the smartest guys in the room were those who had the largest amount of those texts committed to memory. What was especially fascinating to me, and which came through very clearly with this author, was how scholasticism was one of the biggest contributors to the Baroque style. Great theatrical debates were common, with a focus on tripping up the adversary linguistically, rather than on any kind of evidence, and the focus was on the tiny detail that the other fellow missed. Thus, according to the author Leonard:

"The effect was a tendency to shift from content to form, from ideas to details, to give new sanctions to dogmas, to avoid issues, and to substitute subtlety of language for subtlety of thought; it served to repress rather than liberate the human spirit, and to divert by spectacles, by overstatement, and by excessive ornamentation. Such, in essence, was the spirit of the so-called 'Baroque Age' as manifested in the Hispanic world."

Oof--that ain't got much to do with Aristotle, does it? I had always wondered at the source of 'baroque' ideas and design, and Leonard gave me a thumbnail description so well articulated that as soon as I so much as sniff out any discussion about baroque ideas or scholasticism, I want to tell everyone what I learned.

It's interesting that such a stinging rebuke of Aristotle comes from Luther--not surprising, but interesting in the fact that it was the schism between Protestants and Catholics that so heavily contributed to the Enlightenment in the first place.

I hope you don't mind me going on and on--just a couple random thoughts, though they don't really tie into your subject very well.

message 5: by Lia (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
HardKnocks-University is my (personally) top-ranked University. Please go on and on, don’t let anyone stop you!

I started this "group" because I didn't know how to use Goodreads quotes, I literally only made this group to find an easy way to "dump" my thoughts -- and quotes, and texts that I intend to think about, revisit, argue against, contextualize, etc etc.

I think it’s amazing that people find these random fragments worthy conversation starters, and are able to connect them with stuff they’ve read or experienced. I'm not always able to respond (because I’m not as widely-read as you and Ian are … YET), but I appreciate the insights. (Plus, more context is always better. What I can’t contextualize, I forget.)

Your response is extremely perceptive -- I was reading about Heidegger's interpretation of Aristotle, the author (Ted Sadler) seems to be arguing against the grain by saying Heidegger was against Aristotle from the start, there was no “turn”, his early and late works are all about overthrowing Aristotle. You see, Heidegger switched from Catholicism to Lutheranism around the same time he started writing about Aristotle; and Luther can't stand Aristotle! (See quote) Ergo -- Heidegger was against Aristotle’s “objective” framework for biology (including humans) from the start. (Obviously there’s more to it than that.)

I don't know much about scholasticism (but have read — and memorized — a lot of William Blake, and can totally see Blake satirizing or shouting at scholastics as well.) I think it’s fairly standard interpretation that Luther was actually raving and raging against scholasticism when he said Aristotle, and what you said about the Spanish exploitation of Mexico makes a lot of sense (I have read about how they twisted theology any way they can to justify atrocities for profits.)

But (Sadler argues) Heidegger wanted to go back further than that. It’s not that he wanted to rediscover Aristotle before he got distorted (or do I mean syncretized?) by centuries of scholastic accommodations. Heidegger wanted to over-throw Aristotle himself. The problem isn’t even mis-interpretation by Aquinas onwards. This is less relevant to Nicomachean Ethics (though NE seems to assume the same underlying principles) and more about Aristotle’s works on Metaphysics and Soul. Aristotle conflated humans with things and non-self-aware creatures, and defined our nature as just another kind of object made up of substances in the world. THAT was "the fall” for Heidegger, not Aquinas. And Sadler argues Heidegger believed that’s Luther’s idea. Luther wasn’t just mad at scholasticism, and Aristotle wasn’t merely guilty by association — Sadler thinks Heidegger thought Luther literally hated Aristotle, and Heidegger's project was to expose what (he thought) Luther hated about Aristotelian doctrines. (At least that’s what I THINK Sadler wrote. I understand very little Aristotle, and even less Heidegger. I’m probably making half of this stuff up.)

Thanks for chatting. I can’t believe there are nerds cool kids out there who would want to talk to me about this, and without being bribed with pizza and free beer!

Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 50 comments I know so little about Heidegger, I can only follow where you lead with that.

So do we have any notion, then, of why Luther was so pissed at Aristotelian teaching? Taking the quote about out of context, I assumed that Luther would have refuted Aristotle because it did not jive with Christian doctrine--that he would have been a proponent of scholasticism rather than opposed. (Thus my riff on Scholasticism and Baroque and...Mexico. Boy, I got really far afield, didn't I?)

message 7: by Lia (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
Hmm, good question, I don't know. I have no concept of Christian theology / history, I just skim whenever I get to passages about Lutheran/Pauline theology, and early Christians struggles with the Greeks, and their different experience of time. Thinking about how to answer you makes me see that I can't understand this stuff if I don't take the theology stuff seriously.

(But maybe Ian knows :p)

message 8: by Ian (last edited Jul 11, 2018 08:03PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 103 comments I draw a near blank on some essential areas of Christian thought, but I do know a bit about how some theologians handled pre-existing philosophies -- including, apparently, incorporating ideas with no conception of where they really came from, like followers of St. Augustine who missed his debt to Plato (others pointed it out for them).

There are several Aristotles involved here.

The Aristotle reconstructed by modern scholarship has a great many variations, but they don't closely resemble the version of the Later Scholastics, for whom his essential agreement with Catholic doctrine was almost a given.

And for whom divergence from "their" Aristotle on almost any point could raise suspicions of heresy. This was a source of trouble for Galileo, among others: challenge Aristotle on the nature and behavior of matter, and in their eyes you were getting too close to their Aristotelianized doctrine of the nature of the Eucharist. (Not a subject I know enough about to explain to others -- the curious will have to find someone else, or locate some appropriate resources.)

This systematized, and to a degree fossilized, Aristotle was, by and large, the Aristotle rejected by the Reformers, although some of them went deeper, and opposed his whole rational enterprise. It was also the version attacked, on other grounds, by the Humanists, some of whom were busy rediscovering Plato, among other things.

(Their Plato turned out to be quite different from the Plato of the Latin Middle Ages, during which he was known for an atypical dialogue, the "Timaeus," understood, through a late-antique commentary, as a monotheistic cosmogony. Another long, long story.)

And the image held by the Early Scholastics, the ones who had to wrestle Aristotle into that theologically acceptable form was different, and perhaps much less unified, too. (I know a little Thomas Aquinas, but less about his immediate predecessors, beyond a couple of names, and nothing about his first followers.) For some of them, Aristotle was new and exciting, and for some frightening, but for none of them was he the pre-packaged product of their labors that he had become by the Renaissance.

I have no idea which of these Aristotles (and there are others) Heidegger was talking about.

By the way, historians of science have been taking a long look at the Aristotle of the Schoolmen, and some of them think that they had managed to interpret, for example, Aristotle on motion in ways that anticipated the early scientific revolution -- always insisting, of course, that theirs was the true Aristotle, now saved from misinterpretations by the commentators who had never looked beyond their noses.

That was a characterization later applied to Aristotle directly. When Charles Darwin finally got around to reading Aristotle on biological subjects, he was startled by how accurate so much of it was -- apparently that was not the impression left by a nineteenth-century education.

message 9: by Lia (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
Thanks Ian.

Based on what you said, it seems obvious that Luther was yelling at the bastardized version of Aristotle. More and more evidences are coming out (from his horrible private notebooks) that Heidegger went through a long and intense ... infatuation? Obsession? Engagement? With the Lutheran stuff. I don’t know what to think, but it seems credible that his interests in Luther was entangled with his academic publications. Would a close-reader like Heidegger misread Luther or read him out of context? Did he actually think Luther had these objections against the original Aristotle? (Heidegger read Aristotle in Greek, I don’t know if Luther did.)

I hope this rabbit hole isn’t going to be too deep, I’m digging in!

(Also, in case if my private emails and tweets and pm and notebooks get published, I deny everything I said about having a crush on D____, those were jokes, k?)

message 10: by Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (last edited Jul 12, 2018 08:34AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 50 comments Just judging from the quote above, and the language he uses, it's hard to believe that Luther would have been happy no matter what version of Aristotle he was reading. I may never know what 'misleading writings' Luther was referencing--it would be interesting to know though.

Looks like I'm going to have to keep an eye out for some Heidegger now.

message 11: by Lia (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
If you are specifically interested in the intellectual conflicts of Greek/ Christian/ Catholic/ Reform, I HIGHLY recommend Randall Collins's monstrous doorstop The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change.

It even comes with "flowcharts" of intellectuals, all the way from the presocratics to modern "clusters." Also includes Islamic and Eastern (as in Asia, like China, India, Japan...) intellectual history (or do I mean "war?").

Some sections from this book sort of relevant to Luther:

Cusanus’s great work, On Learned Ignorance (1440), was the precipitate of these contacts. Here he defends the reality of universal Forms, freeing Platonism from its connection to the Aristotelean cosmology of nested spheres. Developing the mathematical notion of infinity, Cusanus arrives at the coincidence of opposites: all geometrical shapes merge when enlarged to an infinite scale; applied to cosmology, this means that the universe is a sphere whose periphery is nowhere and its center, accordingly, is everywhere. The universe is no longer hierarchical but decentered. In part this is a philosophical expression of the mystical vision, but also of the implications of nominalism; all ultimates are paradoxical, and man at best can only become aware of his own limits, which is his own transcendent nothingness. Cusanus was the only outstandingly creative philosopher during several generations. The scholastics were stalled in their factionalism; the mystics had largely abandoned abstract discourse; the Humanists were engrossed in reviving the classic texts of antiquity. Cusanus was the individual in whom these opposing negations intersected; in him the coincidence of opposites flared up briefly into a vivid and idiosyncratic vision.

The bases of intellectual life continued to decentralize still further. Universities, once centered in France and England, now proliferated, especially in Germany. The most sustained network of successful Humanists were the religious politicians who constituted the intellectual core of the Reformation. Martin Luther was a biblical professor at Wittenberg, a newly founded university on the eastern frontier of Germany; his colleague and collaborator Philipp Melancthon was a protégé of Reuchlin. Humanist skill with classic texts was turned to the politically explosive issues of biblical scholarship and to throwing off medieval accretions of scholastic theology and canon law. Colet, Erasmus, Agrippa, Vives, and Paracelsus are linked in another network, based in typical Humanist careers: partly courtiers under political patronage, partly university professors of theology, Greek, and even Kabbalism.15 But the Reformation was radically decentralizing and these networks, marginally philosophical at best, lead no further in abstract philosophy.

In the chaos of lay-oriented positions at the end of the 1500s, two characteristic styles are represented by Bruno and Montaigne. Like the occultists and Protestant sect leaders before him, Bruno was a feverish entrepreneur in an unsettled religious and intellectual situation. He abandoned the Dominican…




The shifting power of the church was bound to change intellectual life. This was the material base on which most intellectual networks had centered, and these networks would necessarily respond to the closing of some opportunities and the opening of others. The intellectual revolutions were not simply a matter of breaking down the alliance of church and state which had imposed authoritarian control over the limits of thought. In the narrow sense, the liberalization of thinking had less effect on creativity than one might suppose. Many episodes of creativity had gone on within the authoritarian church, and when liberalization came, the most extreme freethinkers were not generally the most innovative, in either philosophy or science. Often their products were narrow and banal, while greater subtlety in constructing philosophy came from the conservatives defending religion, or in cautious halfway houses. Freedom of thought is a wonderful thing; but it is realistic to recognize that it is not the main engine of creativity.

Nor can we attribute the major changes to Protestantism. For one thing the timing is wrong. Luther nailed up his theses on the Wittenberg church door in 1517; by 1560 the major Protestant sects and the lines of the national churches had been established. But the thought of the 1500s still moved largely in well-worn paths: Humanists, Aristoteleans, scholastics, Cabalists, mystics. The big reorganization of philosophy did not come until the mid-1600s. Of course there were Protestant thinkers; but they were mainly concerned with theological issues and biblical texts. Erasmus, Luther, Melancthon, Calvin, Schwenckfeld, and Franck do not constitute a revolution in philosophy. The Reformation increased the particularistic emphasis in thought, not the abstract level where philosophical and scientific creativity takes place.

The Protestant-centered line of argument rests on two false premises: that religious control is inherently antithetical to intellectual innovation, and that Protestantism is more liberal or less authoritarian than Catholicism. The second was certainly not true at any time before 1700.

message 12: by Lia (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
Some relevant quotes about the historical turn against Aristotle:

The picture of Aristotelians believing everything written in the corpus to be true without further inspection is inaccurate. Numerous medieval and Renaissance scholars pointed out errors in his thought or in matters of fact. These failures included the occasional lack of correspondence to experiential evidence as well as to religious doctrine. The purpose of expounding on his writings was twofold: to explain Aristotle’s thought and to search for answers about the natural or spiritual world. Increasingly, however, over the course of the sixteenth century, scholars presented themselves as searching for accurate interpretations of Aristotle, regardless of their veracity. Institutions adopted such approaches to Aristotle. The 1607 statutes of the University of Padua demanded that professors explain the assigned texts, which were often Aristotle’s, without broader amplifcation. Oxford had already done so twenty years earlier. The Paduan philosopher Cesare Cremonini stated this meant that he was obliged to explain Aristotle’s intent regardless of its conformity to truth or faith.

In the seventeenth century, Aristotle was no longer an emblem for piety. To the contrary, a number of thinkers described him and his thought as impious and even atheistic. For many, Aristotle’s philosophy became a symbol of incorrect thinking about God and religious doctrine in general

Source: Subverting Aristotle

message 13: by Lia (last edited Jul 22, 2018 10:04AM) (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
This is from Aristotle himself,

It is because of wondering that men began to philosophize and do so now. First they wondered at the difficulties close at hand; then, advancing little by little, they discussed difficulties also about greater matters, for example, about the changing attributes of the Moon and the Sun, and about the generation of the universe. Now a man who is perplexed and wonders considers himself ignorant . . . so if indeed [he] philosophized in order to avoid ignorance, it is evident that [he] pursued science in order to understand and not in order to use it for something else. This is confirmed by what happened; for it was when almost all of the necessities of life were supplied, both for comfort and activity, that such thinking began to be sought.
Source: Metaphysics , 2.982b13–25

Interesting that there’s a movement from particular, practical, daily, everyday concerns, towards theoretical.

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