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Monday, April 17, 2017

Aristotle and universals


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Jastrow


Aristotle (384-322 BC) is an influential philosopher best known for systematically analyzing many topics including: physics, biology, zoology, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, metaphysics, music, rhetoric, linguistics and politics. Mathematician Bertrand Russell says,


"Aristotle, as a philosopher, is in many ways very different from all his predecessors. He is the first to write like a professor: his treatises are systematic, his discussions are divided into heads, he is a professional teacher, not an inspired prophet. His work is critical, careful, pedestrian, without any trace of Bacchic enthusiasm." (A History of Western Philosophy, 1945)


Galileo Galilei also describes Aristotle's research style,


"I do believe for certain, that he [Aristotle] first procured, by the help of the senses, such experiments and observations as he could, to assure him as much as was possible of the conclusion, and that he afterwards sought out the means how to demonstrate it; for this is the usual course in demonstrative sciences." (Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, 1661)


This post is a collection of my favorite quotes from Aristotle.


Particulars and universals


"Knowledge of the fact differs from knowledge of the reason for the fact." (Posterior Analytics)


"Universal is known according to reason, but that which is particular according to sense." (Physics)


"Now the most universal causes are furthest from sense and particular causes are nearest to sense..." (Posterior Analytics)


"...we must follow this method and advance from what is more obscure by nature, but clearer to us, towards what is more clear and more knowable by nature. Now what is to us plain and obvious at first is rather confused masses..." (Physics)


"It is, however necessary always to investigate the supreme cause of everything... further still it is necessary to investigate the genera of genera; and particulars of the particulars." (Physics)




"But the greatest thing by far is to have command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances." (Poetics)


"Poetry demands a man with a special gift for it, or else one with a touch of madess in him." (Poetics)


"It is simplicity that makes the uneducated more effective than the educated when address particular audiences." (Rhetoric)




"Nature flies from the infinite, for the infinite is unending or imperfect, and nature ever seeks an end." (Generation of Animals)


"Since... nature is a principle of motion and mutation... it is necessary that we should not be ignorant of what motion is..." (Physics)




"It is not easy to determine the nature of music, or why anyone should have knowledge of it." (Politics)


"The chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness, which the mathematical sciences demonstrate in a special degree." (Metaphysics)