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message 1: by Nemo (last edited Oct 31, 2014 11:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) I'm planning to read Aristotle's Metaphysics in the coming months. Are there enough people interested to start a group read?

If you know of any good commentaries or resources, your input would be much appreciated.

Tentative Schedule

Book I and II (Alpha and little alpha)
Nov. 11 - Nov.17

Book III and IV (Beta and Gamma)
Nov.18 - Nov.24.

Book V and VI (Delta and Epsilon)
Nov. 25 - Dec. 1.

Book VII and VIII (Zeta and Eta)
Dec. 2 - Dec.8

Book IX and X (Theta and Iota)
Dec.9 - Dec.15

Book XI and XII (Kappa and Lambda)
Dec. 16 - Dec.22

Book XIII and XIV (Mu and Nu)
Dec. 23 - Dec.29


message 2: by Nemo (last edited Nov 13, 2014 09:35AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) For starters, here are some online resources

Translations

1. Translation by Hugh Tredennick at Perseus (from the Loeb Classical Library).
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/t...

2. Translation by W.D.Ross at Adelaide (downloadable for Kindle and epub)
https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/a/aris...

3. Translation by John M'Mahon at Librivox (audiobook)

https://librivox.org/metaphysics-by-a...

Member Recommendations

1. Aristotle A Very Short Introduction
2. Aristotle The Desire to Understand


message 3: by Carina (new)

Carina (neslom) | 3 comments I might be interested. I have a few lecture notes on some parts from the Metaphysics.

On youtube Gregory B. Sadler has some really nice videos. He's a philosophy teacher. I'm sure he has made a video concerning this book too.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 12 comments Hi Nemo, what time frame were you looking at?


message 6: by Feliks (last edited Oct 31, 2014 12:43PM) (new) - added it

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 101 comments I actually do not know how to do a 'group read'. It always sounds so cumbersome. My reading schedule is irregular; happens in fitful bits'n'pieces during a given week.

Only when I've read a book to the end and digested it, do I feel comfortable deciphering it with others. Even then--frequently, group discussion will focus on aspects of a book which seem very cut-and-dried to me; and many times the points-I-wish-to-ponder aren't of any compelling interest to anyone else. So what I do is simply read a book and reflect on it privately.

If a group is chatting about a title and a question comes up towards which I can direct an answer, I do so. But I don't usually have any questions myself. For example, if I'm reading the Laws of Thermodynamics--when I come to the formulas and equations--obviously I am not going to grasp them, so I skip over them to the next part of the verbiage. After putting the book down, not knowing those equations doesn't nag at me. I absorbed what I could absorb and left the rest behind. Does that sound strange?


Nemo (nemoslibrary) Traveller,

There are 14 "books" in Metaphysics. My plan is to read two books per week (which amounts to about 70 pages in the Penguin edition of Metaphysics), starting on Nov. 11 and finishing by Dec. 31.


message 8: by Nemo (last edited Oct 31, 2014 06:07PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Feliks wrote: "I actually do not know how to do a 'group read'. It always sounds so cumbersome.."

Your reading habit doesn't sound strange at all. I also do most of my reading in private, but group read can be stimulating and rewarding when you can test your ideas against others', and gain new perspectives and insights.

I saw that you asked a very interesting question about the book, which I hope we'll address in due time.


message 9: by Feliks (last edited Oct 31, 2014 06:46PM) (new) - added it

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 101 comments Say, thanks. I'd forgotten all about that. Can't even believe it came from me, at first glance.

Nemo, where'd we leave our own discussion about creativity? I remember haggling with you about something.

Glad to see you now 'have the bit between your teeth' with philosophical reading material. There'll be no stopping you!


message 10: by Logan (last edited Nov 05, 2014 07:25PM) (new)

Logan I am studying the Greek text of the Metaphysics independently as an undergraduate and likely will be for a full term, so this group will be of some use to me, and I hope I to it. I will be reading much more slowly than you are, however, and so I may create a thread after this group read is over, if there are any interested in discussing the book with me so long.


message 11: by Nemo (last edited Nov 05, 2014 08:18PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Logan, this thread will remain open after the group read is finished. So you're welcome to discuss the book as long as you like, and I'll contribute as well. Your knowledge of the Greek text would be a great help to the group.


message 12: by Ni (new)

Ni | 1 comments I would be interested. I don't know that I'll be able to keep up with your pace given current circumstances, but I could certainly try. I think a group reading is a great way to enhance understanding. Everybody brings a different perspective. Also, there is less of chance of misunderstanding if others are present to point out your errors.

Are you planning on reading just the book or some supplementary text alongside?

Nick


message 13: by Nemo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Nick, the schedule is flexible and can be extended if necessary. That's not an issue. I'm more concerned that there may not be enough active participants to keep the discussions rolling.

I don't plan to read any supplementary text this time around, but if you find any good and relevant supplementary materials, feel free to bring them up.


message 14: by Feliks (new) - added it

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 101 comments I found this very helpful is segregating out what parts of the Metaphysics I was especially keen on:
Aristotle: A Very Short Introduction


message 15: by Dr. A (last edited Nov 07, 2014 09:51AM) (new)

Dr. A (bestphilosophybooks) | 18 comments Hi Nemo, I'm happy to join in the reading group! I'm a former philosophy prof and have taught this work before. My Greek is rusty, but I can probably help with any troublesome or interesting terms that come up, and Logan as well. As for resources, I think the relevant chapters in Jonathan Lear's *Aristotle: The Desire to Understand* is a great introduction (maybe read before you get started to give you a leg up). A's *Metaphysics* is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting and difficult works, at least in Ancient Greek Phil.
Thanks Feliks and Nemo for the links to resources above...


message 16: by Dr. A (last edited Nov 07, 2014 09:49AM) (new)

Dr. A (bestphilosophybooks) | 18 comments P.S. I can set up a private/members only forum on my BestPhilosophyBooks website, if this would be a good way to engage... Let me know.


message 17: by Dr. A (new)

Dr. A (bestphilosophybooks) | 18 comments Logan wrote: "I am studying the Greek text of the Metaphysics independently as an undergraduate and likely will be for a full term, so this group will be of some use to me, and I hope I to it. I will be reading ..."

That's awesome!


message 18: by Nemo (last edited Nov 07, 2014 02:08PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Dr. A wrote: "Hi Nemo, I'm happy to join in the reading group! I'm a former philosophy prof and have taught this work before ..."

Hi Dr. A,

I'm excited to have a philosophy prof joining the discussion. When you taught this work, were there any prerequisite readings?

P.S., I like the look and feel of your website.


message 19: by Dr. A (last edited Nov 07, 2014 02:28PM) (new)

Dr. A (bestphilosophybooks) | 18 comments Thanks Nemo! I'm glad you like the website - a work of love, in progress...
On prerequisites, I'd say read the chapter 6 sections 3-6 in the Lear and then jump into the *Metaphysics*. But having some familiarity with the Presocratics and Aristotle's *Physics* will also be of great help. But I'm happy to fill what we need to know about these, as we encounter interpretive tasks.
I'm happy to join you (it's one of my favorite-ests texts!), and thank you for organizing this group.
Best, DrA

P.S. Shall I spread the word about this reading group - might be able to find a couple other interested parties...


message 20: by Dr. A (new)

Dr. A (bestphilosophybooks) | 18 comments This first lecture is a good introduction to the Presocratics: A romp through the history of philosophy from the Pre-Socratics to the present day


message 21: by Nemo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) I'm interested in the Pre-Socratic philosophers, but my knowledge of them is almost non-existent. My understanding is that only fragments of their works survived, and therefore it is difficult to have a complete and accurate evaluation of their philosophy.


message 22: by Randal (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments Sign me up! I am recently back from a pre-Socratic pilgrimage to Velia, home of Parmenides and Zeno (Elea in Magna Graecia). You all will remember these guys from Plato's dialogue (Parmenides) where Parmenides bests the young Socrates in argument, the only time that ever happened in Plato's writings.

I think Aristotle in the Metaphysics got his criticism of Plato's Theory of Ideas right. My review of this is here.

Love Dr. A's blog. Will enjoy going through her reviews.


message 23: by Dr. A (new)

Dr. A (bestphilosophybooks) | 18 comments HI Randal, I'll check out your link above and look forward to reading with you. You're so lucky to be making a trek around Parmenides' former landscape. :-) Cheers, DrA


message 24: by Nemo (last edited Nov 09, 2014 11:36AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Hi Dr. A,

Could you (or someone else) recommend the most complete and state-of-the-art scholarly compilation of the writings of the pre-socratic philosophers? I'd like to read translations of the original text, not commentaries or introductions or reviews.


message 25: by Dr. A (last edited Nov 09, 2014 12:31PM) (new)


message 26: by Randal (last edited Nov 09, 2014 12:38PM) (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments Nemo wrote: "Could you (or someone else) recommend the most complete and state-of-the-art scholarly compilation of the writings of the pre-socratic philosophers? I'd like to read translations of the original text, not commentaries or introductions or reviews."

Kathleen Freeman's English translation of Diels would seem to suit your specifications. I don't own it. Looking forward to do so.

I like Burnet's Early Greek Philosophy, which has translations and commentary. For individual pre-Socratics, I like Nestor-Luis Cordero's translation of and commentary on Parmenides's Poem, By Being, It Is. There are several English translations of Heraclitus. I have Robinson's, but many think that Mouraviev's work is the ultimate: 20 volumes, not cheap. Good luck with that. Democritus is very important. Unfortunately we don't have much from him. It is all in H. Diels and W. Kranz, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, 6th edition, Berlin: Weidmann, 1951. See Freeman's translation. Most of what we have for Zeno is in Plato's Parmenides and Aristotle's Physics.

Doesn't meet your specification, but Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers (Loeb Library, two volumes) is my favorite source: "Unreliable", amusing, has most of the fragments reported elsewhere anyway. A real kick.

Randal


message 27: by Nemo (last edited Nov 09, 2014 03:00PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Thank you, Dr. A and Randal. Lives of the Eminent Philosophers are a surprise find, I think I'll enjoy them. :)

Others have recommended the following:

W.K.C. Guthrie's A History of Greek Philosophy

Daniel W. Graham's The Texts of Early Greek Philosophy, which "contains new fragments and testimonies not included in the authoritative but now outdated Fragmente der Vorsokratiker".


message 28: by Randal (last edited Nov 09, 2014 03:40PM) (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments Nemo wrote: "Thank you, Dr. A and Randal. Lives of the Eminent Philosophers are a surprise find, I think I'll enjoy them. :)

Others have recommended the following:

W.K.C. Guthrie's [book:A History of Greek Ph..."


Nemo,

Graham looks good. And it is new. Guthrie is a standard series. Can't comment. Haven't read any. A Goodreads friend has given the first volume five stars. Diogenes Laertius is chocked full of stuff and is great fun. Lots of people have been arguing about the reliability of his reports for nearly two thousand years. The stories are still amusing. Have fun.

Another book on Pythagoras and Parmenides would be To Think Like God by Arnold Hermann. This comes in both a scholarly and a popular edition (with photos) and diagrams. Hermann is a Parmenidean and Neo-Platonist and an "independent scholar." His wife publishes the book at Parmenides Press, which also publishes other books, especially on Parmenides. I got a loaner copy of the pop edition from the Seattle Public Library and it was definitely worth a look. I own the scholarly edition. It is good, but from the point of view of a believer. It has an English translation of Parmenides Poem, the little we have of it. Cordero has the Greek as well.

I will look up Graham. Thanks for posting that.

Cheers,

Randal


message 29: by Nemo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Randal,

I too care about the reliability of Laertius' accounts of the ancient philosophers, for I have the impression that the lives of the ancient philosophers are more consistent with their worldviews than the modern philosophers, for whom philosophy is just another intellectual discipline.


message 30: by Nemo (last edited Nov 18, 2014 05:44PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Book I and II

There is one thing I often wonder about when reading Aristotle.

It is his usual practice, when writing about a subject, to first summarize the theories of the pre-socratic and other philosophers and evaluate the merits and faults of each. This is a very commendable practice. However, it seems to me that he presents the other philosophers as more irrational and absurd than they really are, perhaps taking their words out of context or not actually understand them himself.

It would be better if one could study the pre-socratic philosophers independently and form their own opinions before receiving Aristotle's. But, we have only the fragments available, whereas Aristotle probably had access to all the original writings.


message 31: by Nemo (last edited Nov 13, 2014 05:55PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Artists Can Teach?

According to Aristotle, if anyone (e.g. literary critic) has knowledge of what is the cause of good art, then he would be able to teach others to create good art. (Feliks, this is relevant to our previous discussion about creativity. )
[981b]“We view them as being wiser not in virtue of being able to act, but of having the theory for themselves and knowing the causes. And in general it is a sign of the man who knows and of the man who does not know, that the former can teach, and therefore we think art more truly knowledge than experience is; for artists can teach, and men of mere experience cannot."
Where does the saying "Those who can do, those who can't teach" come from?


message 32: by Dr. A (new)

Dr. A (bestphilosophybooks) | 18 comments Hi Nemo! This does seem to contradict the commonly held belief that "Those who can do, those who can't teach"! I don't know where that saying comes from, but it sounds like it's meant as a criticism of teachers - that they teach because they don't succeed at doing? But it also seems wrong (as a teacher, I have to point this out!). Anyhows, back to Aristotle...
I was thinking of it this way: have you ever tried to teach someone something that you regularly do? It gets you to think about what you've been doing at a higher level, doesn't it? Often, it is by teaching a text that I feel like I really really get to understanding it. But take practice based knowledge, which is Aristotle's model here: how to tie your shoe. You can do it, but try explaining it to someone who hasn't done it, and you see what he means. Or take making cooking (getting closer to a creative work), you can list ingredients and how to put them together, but somehow there is something more. Painting? There is technique, but then there is the art of it, a talent honed through practice. I think A has here in mind the very practical arts, how to make and do things that have use value. (A critique here is that he too narrowly focuses on works of techne). The teacher has to have knowledge of the universals not just the particular; not only how to make a chair from this wood here, but how chairs are made generally. A classifies that type of knowledge, of universals as opposed to particulars, as being of higher order. And he believes that this is the type of knowledge that one must posses in order to be able to teach (well). This is the kind of knowledge that is (in my opinion) produced in the act of teaching itself, and is not pre-existing, but A might not agree on that point. :-) Think of something that you have taught in the past; what was your process?


message 33: by Dr. A (new)

Dr. A (bestphilosophybooks) | 18 comments Nemo wrote: "There is one thing I often wonder about when reading Aristotle.

It is his usual practice, when writing about a subject, to first summarize the theories of the pre-socratic and other philosophers ..."


Actually, it was A who himself invented and established this as a way of doing philosophy. It is a method that Heidegger again popularizes in the 20th Century: You ask a question, go through all the answers (popular or accepted) and show how they lead to absurdity (a logical term, inconsistency) and are unintelligible. You thereby clear the ground for developing your own answer to a given question, often by solving the problems/inconsistencies presented by your predecessor's answers.
It is thanks to this approach that we know as much as we know about the presocratics, since the bulk of the fragments that we have come from A quoting them in his texts. And this presents a very difficult interpretive task because A is not always objective or even fair where he presents the presocratics. And yet we are forced to see then through his perspective - it is very difficult to get back behind A to an interpretation of the Presocratics from their own historical vantage point. And remember that there are two generations between A and the Presocs: that's 80-100 years. Imagine only having knowledge of the 1920's as seen through the eyes of the 2010's, with no/v few surviving original documents or materials!


message 34: by Nemo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Dr. A wrote: "A classifies that type of knowledge, of universals as opposed to particulars, as being of higher order. And he believes that this is the type of knowledge that one must posses in order to be able to teach (well)"

Aristotle is paraphrasing Plato's idea there, which he rejects in his other (and I presume earlier) works, e.g., The Nicomachean Ethics. As an armchair Platonist, I'm glad he finally came to his senses. :)

Aristotle's focus on techne is understandable, for he is attempting to understand the cause of existence, and one sees concrete examples of things coming into existence in techne. In Book I, he criticizes Plato for not adequately addressing the problem of causation, but he hasn't done any better himself, imo. What's the difference between a) having a knowledge of the universal but not being able to act and effect the particular, and b)having an abstract Idea of something and not being able to instantiate it or bring it into existence?


message 35: by Nemo (last edited Nov 12, 2014 05:41PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Dr. A wrote: "It is a method that Heidegger again popularizes in the 20th Century: You ask a question, go through all the answers (popular or accepted) and show how they lead to absurdity (a logical term, inconsistency) and are unintelligible."

I haven't read any 20th century philosophers, so please bear with me if I ask any stupid questions. :)

Logical inconsistency means that the ideas of a philosopher are self-contradictory, is that right? In Aristotle's case, oftentimes he is just saying that other ideas contradict his own system, e.g., they don't fall neatly into his Categories. That's not logical inconsistency. That's disagreement.


message 36: by Randal (last edited Nov 12, 2014 08:18PM) (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments Nemo wrote: "
I haven't read any 20th century philosophers . . . Logical inconsistency means that the ideas of a philosopher are self-contradictory, is that right? In Aristotle's case, oftentimes he is just saying that other ideas contradict his own system, e.g., they don't fall neatly into his Categories. ..."


I take it that it was Parmenides that proposed the basic laws of classical bivalent logic: 1) Identity, 2) Excluded Middle, and 3) Non-contradiction. Aristotle is often given credit for this, but Aristotle also questioned bivalence specifically in his discussion of the famous problem of future contingents in De Interpretatione [19a30]. I have wondered about this at length here. I think he questioned bi-valence for future events. A famous early twentieth century Polish logician, Lukasiewicz, agreed (See his great book Aristotle's Syllogistic.) Many other contemporary logicians also follow the Dutch intuitionists in abandoning the law of the excluded middle, including Michael Dummett and Hartry Field.

But, back to your question, my favorite contemporary logician, Graham Priest, specifically argues against the Law of Non-contradiction (LNC) for very specific cases at the limits of language, iteration, and being (See my posts here and here.) Not that this applies in all cases. It applies in very few, but it is only universally true if you start assuming the LNC to begin with. Others (including me) like Reverend Gotama's (aka the Buddha's) four-valued logic: true, false, neither, or both.

But, back to Aristotle. I see that we have started with The Metaphysics ([980a24]). Great. Your quote looks like as good as any for the source of "those who can do, those who can't teach," except, as Dr. A points out, Aristotle seems to have meant it in exactly the opposite sense: ". . . .it is a sign of the man who knows, that he can teach, and we think art more truly knowledge than experience is; for artists can teach, and men of mere experience cannot." [981b6] Your quote may be an example of a joker making fun of the greats.

Cheers,

Randal


message 37: by Randal (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments Nemo wrote: "Aristotle is paraphrasing Plato's idea there, which he rejects in his other (and I presume earlier) works, e.g., The Nicomachean Ethics. As an armchair Platonist, I'm glad he finally came to his senses. :)..."

As we will discuss, Aristotle is very critical in the Metaphysics of Plato's Theory of Ideas, the theory that universals "exist" in a world of their own. I agree with Aristotle (and the twentieth century intuitionists) here. Of which more later.

Randal


message 38: by Nemo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Randal wrote: "our quote may be an example of a joker making fun of the greats."

That's what joker is for! :)

I don't see any qualitative difference between bivalent and four-valued logic. They are both limited sets, one with two mutually exclusive members and the other 4.


message 39: by Nemo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Just to clarify, my question about 981b is this:

Assuming that one has knowledge of the cause, it does not follow that he can act and bring the effect into existence. How then can he teach others to do so? The most he can do is to pass on his abstract knowledge to others who can't act either.

It seems there are three kinds of people, those who have abstract knowledge but cannot act, those who can act, not from knowledge but habit (imitation and repetition), and those who can act from knowledge of the cause and generate effect.


message 40: by Randal (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments Nemo wrote: "It seems there are three kinds of people, those who have abstract knowledge but cannot act, those who can act, not from knowledge but habit (imitation and repetition), and those who can act from knowledge of the cause and generate effect...."

It seems to me that Aristotle is saying here not that there are different kinds of people, but that there are different exemplars of the various ways of being or levels of knowledge. After the passage you quoted he goes on to say "we do not consider any of the senses to be Wisdom." Dr. A says, "The teacher has to have knowledge of the universals not just the particular; not only how to make a chair from this wood here, but how chairs are made generally." But he doesn't reference universals and particulars here, does he? Aristotle says "we consider that the master craftsmen in every profession are more estimable and know more and are wiser than the artisans, because they know the reasons of the things which are done . . . artisans perform theirs through habit. Thus the master craftsmen are superior in wisdom, not because they can do things, but because they possess a theory and know the causes." This is arguing in favor of theory, but not necessarily Plato's Theory of Ideas (universals in a world of their own). Later on, he attacks this.


message 41: by Nemo (last edited Nov 12, 2014 10:40PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Randal wrote: "But he doesn't reference universals and particulars here, does he? "

Aristotle references universals and particulars in 981a, immediately before the passage in question. He is arguing in favour of the knowledge of universal over particular here. Where he disagrees with Plato is whether universals can exist independently of particulars.


message 42: by Randal (last edited Nov 13, 2014 05:36AM) (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments Nemo wrote: "Randal wrote: "But he doesn't reference universals and particulars here, does he? "

Aristotle references universals and particulars in 981a, immediately before the passage in question. He is argu..."


Gad! "The reason of this is that experience is knowledge of particulars, but art of universals . . . "[981a15] I stand, humbly, corrected!


message 43: by Erick (last edited Nov 13, 2014 10:10PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erick (panoramicromantic) | 32 comments Nemo wrote: "In Aristotle's case, oftentimes he is just saying that other ideas contradict his own system, e.g., they don't fall neatly into his Categories. That's not logical inconsistency. That's disagreement. "

I agree. He actually did not convince me that Plato was wrong; albeit, he may have pointed out areas in Plato's philosophy that could be better clarified, and possibly even modified. I still remain more of a Platonist.
I am very curious as to what Aristotle's view of time was. I want to know specifically how it fit into his philosophy. I'd love to see this elaborated by someone who has read more of him than I have thus far. He posits contraries numerous times as a sort of gauge between his philosophy and that of others. He admits the contraries of existence/non-existence, as well as, health/sickness, existing within time, but never at the same time. It would seem to indicate that his view of time is absolute and is itself eternal. This begs the question whether his unmoved mover was himself time bound.


message 44: by Nemo (last edited Nov 13, 2014 10:54PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Erick wrote: "I am very curious as to what Aristotle's view of time was. I want to know specifically how it fit into his philosophy. I'd love to see this elaborated by someone who has read more of him than I have thus far. "

He writes about time in Book IV of the Physics, but I haven't read it yet ( I was highly skeptical that good "Physics" could come from a guy who believed the Sun circled around the Earth.) Perhaps others could chime in here.

FWIW, here is my impromptu metaphysical reasoning:

If time is eternal, then nothing could be time-bound, in the sense that time does not enforce a limit on anything, being itself limitless. Therefore, the unmoved mover would be co-eternal with time; OTOH, if time is associated with change, then it is not eternal. The unmoved mover would then have to be outside of time and this world, for otherwise, he must be moved within time, which is an absurdity,


message 45: by Randal (last edited Nov 13, 2014 11:20PM) (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments Erick wrote: "I am very curious as to what Aristotle's view of time was. I want to know specifically how it fit into his philosophy...."

As Nemo says, Aristotle treats of time in Physics IV. He says there, [220b23] "So it is with the time and the movement, for we measure the movement by the time and vice versa. It is reasonable that this should happen; for the movement goes with the distance and the time with the movement, because they are quanta and continuous and divisible." (Hardie and Gaye translation in the Oxford Complete Works.)

In an interesting article in Philosophy East and West, Volume 62, Number 2 (April 2012) Rein Raud compares (p 153) Aristotle's conception of continuous time to Dogen's "essential moment." He says there about Aristotle's conception, "Time thus has, by definition, measurements and is analogous to a line in space, as opposed to the now (to nyn), which relates to time as a point relates to a line -- it is in/on it, but not a part of it." He calls Aristotle's conception of time "the basic received Western view of time."

I have long hoped to write about this comparison, including Zeno in the mix.


Erick (panoramicromantic) | 32 comments Randal wrote: "I have long hoped to write about this comparison, including Zeno in the mix."

I'd be interested in such a comparison. I think much of his philosophy hinges on his conception of time being correct.


message 47: by Erick (last edited Nov 14, 2014 12:54PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erick (panoramicromantic) | 32 comments Nemo wrote: "If time is eternal, then nothing could be time-bound, in the sense that time does not enforce a limit on anything, being itself limitless. Therefore, the unmoved mover would be co-eternal with time..."

It would only be limitless linearly in Aristotle's conception of time I think. The unmoved mover would also be limited to linear time. Even if one argues that the line has no end, it is still a line and the mover does not transcend it; as you said, he is co-eternal with it. This does present a kind of dualism that also begs the question as to whether this presents limit as well. Unless, we are to assume an absolute identification between eternal time and the mover and make Aristotle a kind of Zurvanite.

Nemo wrote: "...OTOH, if time is associated with change, then it is not eternal. The unmoved mover would then have to be outside of time and this world, for otherwise, he must be moved within time, which is an absurdity, "

Once again, I would have to have more detail as to what Aristotle thought of time, but from his reasoning in the Metaphysics, it seems to be primary for him; because his refutations of other systems often hinge on the notion that contraries cannot exist at the same moment, while still existing within time itself. He makes the point that forms will change within time; and he uses this as a pretext for refuting the Platonist and Pythagorean notion of ideal forms. To have time itself be based on a previous ideal form would hurt his case it seems to me. An unmoved mover existing outside time and change would have little to do with his identity as a mover as such. To define time without recourse to movement and change seems rather unlikely.


message 48: by Nemo (last edited Nov 14, 2014 05:05PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Erick wrote: "It would only be limitless linearly in Aristotle's conception of time I think. The unmoved mover would also be limited to linear time."

If time is linear like a line in space, then it has parts and is divisible, and cannot be eternal.

"He makes the point that forms will change within time; and he uses this as a pretext for refuting the Platonist and Pythagorean notion of ideal forms."

I think Platonists would agree that contraries cannot exist in the same subject at the same time. Forms don't change with time, being outside of time; what changes is matter that participates in the Forms. To use an analogy, one can shape a large block of wax into different figures of men, but we don't say that the forms of men change with the wax. Whatever notion of time Aristotle adopts, he won't be able to touch Plato one bit. :)

An unmoved mover existing outside time and change would have little to do with his identity as a mover as such.

But it has everything to do with his identify as *unmoved* mover. How does Aristotle keep his prime mover unmoved without recourse to an unchanging realm?

To define time without recourse to movement and change seems rather unlikely.

That's what Plotinus did. I have also long hoped to write a post about his treatise on time once I've digested it.

If all things we perceive in this world of movement and change have their roots in unchangeable substances, it would follow that time itself can be defined as such.


message 49: by Dr. A (last edited Nov 14, 2014 07:22PM) (new)

Dr. A (bestphilosophybooks) | 18 comments Hi Fellow A'sM Readers, here is my update for the week:

1) First of all, it strikes me just how difficult it is to approach this first book of A'sM. This text is largely compiled from student of Aristotle's notes of his teachings. It doesn't read very linearly, and loops back around and repeats arguments, sometimes saying slightly different things.
2) My approach to reading the text (this time around) will be, first, to try to make sense of the overall argument A is putting forth, and why (his context and motivation). Second, I plan to take a specific quote and try to unpack it.

General Remarks, Book1: Aristotle's starting point is that all men desire to understand, to know. This is an important claim that seems foundational to the philosophical attitude - ergo, as rational animals, our desires are oriented towards understanding. Perception (sense perception) leads to knowledge of particulars, of the what, but universal k of the causes (the why things are as they are) is acquired through experience and memory.

From here, he makes a distinction (borrowed from Socrates/Plato) between knowledge of the particulars and universal knowledge, and he "translates" the latter into knowledge of causes or the origins of things. In doing so, he is simply rehashing what he has already established elsewhere - e.g., the Physics, the NE Ethics, etc. Now, in the Physics, he lays out the famous doctrine of the four causes: material, formal, efficient, and final cause. Now here, he is arguing that those who came before him discovered the material cause, and had some inkling of the other causes, but only vaguely perceived that there were different causes and what they were:

Inclosing this book, A writes:
"It is evident, then, even from what we have said before, that all men seem to seek the causes named in the Physics, and that we cannot name any beyond these; but they seek these vaguely; and though in a sense they have all been described before, in a sense they have not been described at all." ( Book1.10 )
His claim is that others before him have reached for these causes, but only hit upon a couple; he is also preliminarily claiming that the four he names is a complete set - no other causes.

(Interestingly, he seems to divide them off into the materialists/idealists (like Pythagoreans and Platonists); into those who believe in the One (e.g.Parmenides) and those who believe in the Many (e.g.Empedocles), a crucial debate in Presoc times; and into those who believe in non-existence or the void, and those who profess only Being exists.)

In doing so, Aristotle is reading his theory of the four causes back into his predecessors, a common philosophical trick. Needless to say, he finds them deficient. (You are right Neal that here he isn't performing reductio ad absurdum, I was mis-remembering these passages.) This is an argument (if memory serves me right) that is made, perhaps more clearly and with more linearity, in the Physics. In any case, the outcome of this discussion here seems to be different from that elsewhere. He seems to be after the moving cause, and the final cause, setting up to give an account of these.

In short, he seeks to establish the grounds for the science of first causes leading ultimately to the cause or original of everything, the highest end and origin, the original TOE (Theory of Everything):
"Judged by all the tests we have mentioned, then, the name in question falls to the same science; this must be a science that investigates the first principles and causes; for the good, i.e. the end, is one of the causes. " (BookI.2)

2) Okay, now for my favorite quote:
"And Empedocles, though he uses the causes to a greater extent than this, neither does so sufficiently nor attains consistency in their use. At least, in many cases he makes love segregate things, and strife aggregate them. For whenever the universe is dissolved into its elements by strife, fire is aggregated into one, and so is each of the other elements; but whenever again under the influence of love they come together into one, the parts must again be segregated out of each element."

Empedocles is one of the most interesting Presocs. He was said to be a God who jumped into a volcano to his death, and immortality. Anyhow, in this passage Aristotle is crystal clear on a point that a lot of texts get wrong. In Empedocles' system, the four elements - fire, air, water, earth - are in a constant state of flux. Through the power of Love/Friendship like things are brought together with like things, leading to the dissolution of the phenomenal world (which is composed of mixed beings) and a return to the unity/segegation of the four elements. And it is through Strife that things intermix and unlike and unlike are brought together, the phenomenal world of experience. From our human persoective, Love is a dangerous/destructive force, adn strife feels like harmony to us in the word to which we are so accustomed, a product of strife's reign. Most commentators, infected by European romanticism, get this backwards.

I.m also fascinated by this account of differnece/change, where speaking of the atomist Democritus, A recites the argument:
"These differences, they say, are three-shape and order and position. For they say the real is differentiated only by 'rhythm and 'inter-contact' and 'turning'; and of these rhythm is shape, inter-contact is order, and turning is position; for A differs from N in shape, AN from NA in order, M from W in position. The question of movement-whence or how it is to belong to things-these thinkers, like the others, lazily neglected. " (BookI.4)

So, this passage explain how the Atomist Democritus accounts for differences in the phenomenal world by positing differences of rhythm, order, and position. For the atoms are all the same, so Democritus has to account for why what we experience is difference; and for where movement comes from. But more on this later.

Early days yet, let see what develops in Book2 and onwards....


message 50: by Dr. A (last edited Nov 14, 2014 07:57PM) (new)

Dr. A (bestphilosophybooks) | 18 comments Book II. Overall, A establishes that the study of first origins/causes is the study of what is eternal (i.e., what is unchanging) truth:
""It is right also that philosophy should be called knowledge of the truth (k of first causes). For the end of theoretical knowledge is truth,..." (II.1) He also makes an argument for the necessity of assuming finitude in causes and in knowledge, arguing that if not so, then neither knowledge nor truth would be possible.

Interestingly, A is here balancing two extremes - eternal truth (which he wants to assert, that knowledge is of unchanging principles) and infinity (which he wants to deny). So philosophy is perched between knowledge of things eternal and limited. II.3 is a transition to the next part.

2) The argument in part two (II.2) is crazy! Anyone care to try and lay it out?


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