• Fooloso4
    5.7k
    I decided to start a new discussion rather than continue in the thread on the hard problem.

    In that thread @Paine said:

    I think Aristotle is framing eternity as a limit that we cannot approach without seeing our condition as unable to think about it past a certain point.

    The Metaphysics begins where we begin with man:

    All men naturally desire knowledge. (980a)

    ... it is through experience that men acquire science and art ... (981a)

    Aristotle begins by marking a limit or end. We begin by being confronted with an important but troubling question - how much of what Aristotle will say is something known?

    ... experience is knowledge of particulars, but art of universals ...

    Nevertheless we consider that knowledge and proficiency belong to art rather than to experience we assume that artists are wiser than men of mere experience (which implies that in all cases wisdom depends rather upon knowledge);and this is because the former know the cause, whereas the latter do not. (981a)

    In general the sign of knowledge or ignorance is the ability to teach, and for this reason we hold that art rather than experience is scientific knowledge; for the artists can teach, but the others cannot. (981b)

    Thus it is clear that Wisdom is knowledge of certain principles and causes. (982a)

    But rather than introducing these principles and causes Aristotle takes an unexpected turn:

    Since we are investigating this kind of knowledge, we must consider what these causes and principles are whose knowledge is Wisdom. Perhaps it will be clearer if we take the opinions which we hold about the wise man. (982a)

    Why the detour into our opinions of the wise man? Two questions arise: Is Aristotle wise? Can he teach us these principles and causes? He will identify four causes, but this is not sufficient for making us wise regarding knowledge.

    To be continued.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    Isn't there always a presumed link between virtue and ethical behaviour throughout the Platonic-Aristotelian corpus?

    The same man [cannot] have practical wisdom and be incontinent; for it has been shown that a man is at the same time practically wise, and good in respect of character. Further, a man has practical wisdom not by knowing only but by being able to act; but the incontinent man is unable to act - there is, however, nothing to prevent a clever man from being incontinent; this is why it is sometimes actually thought that some people have practical wisdom but are incontinent, viz. because cleverness and practical wisdom differ in the way we have described in our first discussions, and are near together in respect of their reasoning, but differ in respect of their purpose - nor yet is the incontinent man like the man who knows and is contemplating a truth, but like the man who is asleep or drunk.Nichomachean Ethics

    Put another way, practical wisdom is manifested in virtuous action, not simply in verbal description. The old saw, 'actions speak louder than words'. (Incidentally, I am presuming the reference to 'incontinence' is actually to celibacy or lack thereof.)
  • L'éléphant
    1.4k
    Why the detour into the opinions of the wise man?Fooloso4
    You got it incorrectly. It's not "the opinion of the wise man". It is "the opinions which we hold about the wise man". Big difference. That's why you got lost there for a second.

    Is Aristotle wise? Can he teach us these principles and causes? He will identify four causes, but this is not sufficient for making us wise regarding knowledge.Fooloso4
    Yes, Aristotle was wise, and yes he could teach us the principles and causes. The four causes are supposed to be the complete explanation of everything there is. He was a teacher after all -- educated in almost everything in the academy.
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    You got it incorrectly. It's not "the opinion of the wise man".L'éléphant

    Thanks for pointing that out. I corrected it. Not the wise man's opinions but opinions about the wise man.

    That's why you got lost there for a second.L'éléphant

    Not lost. Jut a typo. The question about whether Aristotle is wise is related to the question of our opinions about the wise man. I will have a bit more to say about this.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.6k

    So, is this a thread about Aristotle's metaphysics, addressing what he actually wrote, or is this just a thread about our opinions of Aristotle, as a supposed wise man. You can see how we could discuss the latter without any knowledge about what he actually wrote. But what's the point of blind character assassination?
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    … the reason for our present discussion is that it is generally assumed that what is called Wisdom is concerned with the primary causes and principles … (981b)

    What is generally assumed is not necessarily what is true. Aristotle’s method is to begin with opinions. At this point he neither affirms or denies this opinion. The question of whether this is what wisdom is remains open. Although he will focus on the primary causes and principles, we should be open to the possibility that the underlying reason for his discussion is not simply to disclose causes and principles but to address the assumption of what wisdom is.

    If Aristotle is wise, then, according to what is generally assumed, not only does he know the primary causes and principles, he can teach them. Given his discussion of causes and principles he certainly does give the impression of being wise. But does his discussion teach us to be wise?

    Starting where Aristotle does, with man, do we know what it is to be a man? What is the final cause, the telos of man? The question asks us not simply to give an opinion or account of it, but to know it by having achieved it, by the completion of our telos. Aristotle begins by saying that all men by nature desire to know. Is the satisfaction of that desire our telos?

    The question of the telos of man is the question of self-knowledge. Socrates said his human wisdom is knowledge of ignorance. This is not expressed as an opinion but as something he knows. Is Aristotle’s wisdom, like that of Socrates, human or is it divine?

    If it is through experience that men acquire science and art, then can there be knowledge of what does not come from experience? Our knowledge and experience is limited. We are somewhere between the beginning and the end. Without knowledge of the beginning Aristotle cannot know that the world is or is not eternal. If it comes to be then like all that comes to be it too will perish. He does not know what always was or always will be. Not knowing this he does not know how it was or will be.

    So why does Aristotle make so many theological claims? I think the answer has something to do with the difference between opinion and knowledge, what can be taught and learned, and the competition between theology and philosophy. Aristotle was able to give his listeners and readers opinions that they could hold as true, but he could not give them knowledge of such things. As if to be told is to know.

    Based on what is generally assumed about wisdom, Aristotle appears to be wise.

    We consider first, then, that the wise man knows all things, so far as it is possible, without having knowledge of every one of them individually … (982a)

    What does “so far as it is possible” mean? How far is it possible to know all things? Without the possibility of knowledge of beginnings and ends the wise man’s knowledge falls short of knowledge of all things. But the theologian claims to have and teach knowledge of all things.

    The paragraph ends:

    … for the wise man should give orders, not receive them; nor should he obey others, but the less wise should obey him. (982a)

    There is then an important political dimension to the Metaphysics. The battle between the philosopher and the theologian is a continuation of the ancient quarrel between poetry and philosophy. Aristotle’s strategy in this quarrel is the same as Plato’s. Just as Plato presents a philosophical poetry, Aristotle presents a philosophical theology. It is better for these opinions to be generally assumed rather than some others. It is better to hold these opinions then succumb to misologic and nihilism. Better to give the appearance of knowledge than reveal our absence of knowledge.

    The wisdom that Aristotle teaches through arguments that confound us is human rather than divine wisdom, knowledge of our ignorance. But it is not always wise to reveal our ignorance.

    None of this is meant to suggest that attempting to understand the Metaphysics is a waste of time. Aristotle does teach those who attempt to work through his arguments how to think, but if there is a failure to learn it is our failure not his. In addition, the limits of our knowledge does not preclude knowledge of how to inquire into those things that lie between the beginning and end.
  • L'éléphant
    1.4k
    If it is through experience that men acquire science and art, then can there be knowledge of what does not come from experience?Fooloso4
    He said,
    Nevertheless we consider that knowledge and proficiency belong to art rather than to experience
    He did not consider knowledge to belong to experience (the particulars). Knowledge, as he attributed to art has the form of a universal, conceptual, or non-concrete occurrence. Similar to Platonic forms.

    Edit: lol. I misread the quote. My mistake.
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    In both the Physics and Metaphysics Aristotle introduces accidental causes. What are the implications of Aristotle’s accidental cause?

    One implication is that teleology is not determinism. All that happens in the world does not come to be as the result of a determinate end. The teleology of the acorn is to become the oak tree, but not every acorn becomes an oak. To ask why is to examine accidental causes.

    More generally, the implication is that the cosmos cannot be understood simply as teleological. The world is not as it is because it acts to fulfill some end. Because there are accidental causes, the world is indeterminate and does not yield a final account.

    Aristotle is in agreement with Plato’s Timaeus in making the distinction between two kinds of cause, one intelligible and one unintelligible.
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    A picture emerges of a world that can be poetically described in Empedocles’s words
    as a world of Love and Strife. In Aristotle’s more prosaic but no less inventive terms, a world in the constant movement he calls in his neologism ‘entelechia’. It is the never ending activity or work of an ousia to persist or continue to be what it is or is to be. The constant active struggle of the telos of a living being against its dissolution.
  • NotAristotle
    252
    I think a wise person will seek wisdom. They will strive to know wisdom and to learn it. A mathematician strives to know math and excels in math. So, a wise person strives to know wisdom and excels in what is wise. And they seek wisdom because they love wisdom and enjoy wise actions.

    "Nobody would call one just who does not enjoy acting justly." (NE, I, 1099a, 15-20).

    This is in what being a philosopher consists.
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    Incidentally, I am presuming the reference to 'incontinence' is actually to celibacy or lack thereof.Wayfarer

    The incontinent man (the akratēs) is one who desires correctly but does not act correctly. For example, the alcoholic who wishes to be sober but, overcome by his bad habits, is unable to act thusly. Nowadays we think of akrasia as relating to psychology, but for Aristotle it was central to ethics.

    Some of the other proximate categories are helpful in situating the idea. The depraved man (akolastos) desires incorrectly and acts in accord with his desires. Then comes the akratēs, described above. Then comes the continent man (enkratēs), who desires correctly and acts correctly, but only with difficulty or effort. Then comes the temperate man (sophron), who desires correctly and acts correctly (primarily in relation to pleasures), and without difficulty or effort. At the further extremes, even apart from considerations of pleasure, stand the bad man (kakos) and the man of practical wisdom (phronimos). The commonality between the akratēs and the enkratēs is that they are both divided internally, at odds with themselves. Contrariwise, the akolastos and the sophron are both internally unified, acting as they see fit without internal contradiction.
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    I think a wise person will seek wisdom. They will strive to know wisdom and to learn it.NotAristotle

    The way this is stated it seems as though wisdom is something like an object to be found.
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    At the further extremes, even apart from considerations of pleasure, stand the bad man (kakos) and the man of practical wisdom (phronimos).Leontiskos

    Why do you call phronesis an extreme?
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    Why the detour into our opinions of the wise man?Fooloso4

    Because he is inquiring into wisdom, and rather than artificially stipulate a definition of wisdom, he looks at what we already mean by it, and who we call 'wise'. In the subsequent section he assesses these widespread opinions about the wise man.
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    Why the detour into our opinions of the wise man?
    — Fooloso4

    Because he is inquiring into wisdom, and rather than artificially stipulate a definition of wisdom, he looks at what we already mean by it, and who we call 'wise'. In the subsequent section he assesses these widespread opinions about the wise man.
    Leontiskos

    If Aristotle is wise then why artificially stipulate a definition of wisdom?

    If knowledge differs from opinion then why not start by telling us what the wise man knows rather than with our opinions of the wise man?
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    If Aristotle is wise then why artificially stipulate a definition of wisdom?Fooloso4

    I just explained to you why he doesn't do that. You seem to wish he had.
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    I just explained to you why he doesn't do that. You seem to wish he had.Leontiskos

    I wish to inquire what he may be up to. I take it that if he doesn't he has good reason why he doesn't. I don't think that not wanting to artificially stipulate a definition of wisdom gets at what is at issue. In my opinion the reader must play an active role. The reader does so by asking questions and looking to see how the text might address these questions.

    If he is inquiring into wisdom does that mean he does not know what it is to be wise? If he is not wise can he determine whether others are? If others are not wise what it the value in discussing the opinions we hold about the wise man?

    If Aristotle is wise then why doesn't he impart his wisdom to others? He does say that:

    In general the sign of knowledge or ignorance is the ability to teach
    (981b)

    What role might examining the opinions of others play in teaching others? Does he teach them to be wise?

    Perhaps he does have something to teach us about being wise. Perhaps what that is is not simply a matter of what is generally assumed, that is, that what is called Wisdom is concerned with the primary causes and principles … (981b)
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    If he is inquiring into wisdom does that mean he does not know what it is to be wise? If he is not wise can he determine whether others are? If others are not wise what it the value in discussing the opinions we hold about the wise man?Fooloso4

    Your line of approach reminds me of the Meno:

    I know what you want to say, Meno. Do you realize what a debater's argument you are bringing up, that a man cannot search either for what he knows or for what he does not know? He cannot search for what he knows—since he knows it, there is no need to search—nor for what he does not know, for he does not know what to look for. — Meno, 80e, (tr. Grube)
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    Your line of approach reminds me of the Meno:Leontiskos

    There are several things at issue here. The opinions we hold about the wise man (982a) refers, on the one hand, to those who desire to be wise and on the other, more generally to common opinion. Those who seek wisdom should know the opinions of the many about the wise man in order to avoid the fate of Socrates.

    At the end of this paragraph he says:

    ... the wise man should give orders, not receive them; nor should he obey others, but the less wise should obey him.
    ((982a)

    There is a political dimension that the philosopher must deal with. This for his own sake, for the sake of philosophy, and for the sake of the polis.

    Another aspect of the problem can be stated as follows: what is our opinion about the extent to which Aristotle or anyone else is wise and can teach us to be wise.

    In this extremely compact section Aristotle also says:

    We consider first, then, that the wise man knows all things, so far as it is possible, without having knowledge of every one of them individually … (982a)

    What does “so far as it is possible” mean? What are the limits of human knowledge?

    [Added: More to follow]
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    Something has always bothered me ever since I first read Metaphysics. The term translated as principle.

    In his recent translation of Metaphysics, Joe Sachs says the Greek term arche, is

    A ruling beginning ...

    and that it most often refers to a being rather than a proposition or rule.

    He translates it as 'source'.

    In more contemporary terms Aristotle's inquiry into the arche or source of things is ontological rather than epistemological.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    Might I ask what bothers you about it?
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k


    It seemed wrong that what is first and primary should be some proposition or rule. What is first is being and beings not something someone, even someone regarded as wise, says about being.
  • 013zen
    153
    I have thoughts on Aristotle's metaphysics, but I don't believe that I fully understand the issue that you're trying to articulate in the OP.

    Would you be willing to try and clarify it a bit?

    I am not well acquainted with the entirety of the text, by any means...but, I am familiar with the first few bits as it relates to another interest. This might be a good opportunity to dig into it a bit more.
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k


    He begins by noting the desire to know. This raises several questions regarding wisdom and the possible limits of what is and can be known.
  • 013zen
    153
    Well, he begins by saying a few things:

    1. Humans have an innate desire to know
    2. This knowledge takes different forms
    3. Regardless of the form, knowledge begins from the senses

    According to Aristotle, philosophy begins when we look at the world around us with a sense of wonder. This sense of wonder he characterized as a desire to know ‘why’ things happen as they do, and not simply ‘how’ things happen. The latter of these two forms of knowledge is, according to Aristotle, primarily concerned with utility, and is given to us through the senses. We see how things occur, and over time, through the use of our memory, we can say how they will likely occur in the future. With this knowledge, we can predict and manipulate future events by recreating past conditions. Knowledge of ‘why’ things occur is ancillary in some sense, contributing little in terms of utility. Therefore, this form of knowledge, which Aristotle called ‘wisdom’ was only sought once humans had afforded themselves comfort and security from the harshness of nature. Knowing ‘why’ a seed grows into a tree isn’t required to know that it will, and you only need the latter to grow an orchard.

    This kind of knowledge, Aristotle calls “connected experience”, which is when we call many experiences under a single theory, and form a judgment regarding a class of objects, as opposed to an individual object, and attempts to explain why they occur by appealing to causes and principles.

    He then notes the differing thoughts philosophers (or wise men) have held regarding the first cause and principles of reality.

    He notes that the “first philosophers” thought that these principles were only matter; that is, there was an original matter that changes and modifies itself through time and eventually became all we see today. They thought the universe was eternal, and had within it all the matter already, with no more being created or destroyed.

    He then notes that despite various opinions of this sort, none agree on exactly how many “original causes” there are. Some thought there was “one”, others that there must be “two” primary types of matter that became everything we see now...others thought “four” and folks like Democratus that thought the primary matter was “atoms” of differing shapes and sizes that connect together to form macroscopic objects thought there was countess primary atoms.

    Aristotle then criticizes each of these and offers his own take on the number and nature of the original causes or principles that lead to macroscopic reality.

    -----

    This raises several questions regarding wisdom and the possible limits of what is and can be known.Fooloso4

    But, you're right given the historical evidence. We know that Aristotle was wrong, and an idea more akin to Democratus' was more right...there is serious concern regarding the method Aristotle employs to reach "metaphysical knowledge". He uses reason to try and challenge other ideas, and furnish his own account, and it lead us in the wrong direction for generations until folks like Descartes, Bacon, Newton began challenging Aristotle's ideas and considering the atomic mechanical principle of his predecessors.
  • Paine
    2.1k
    We know that Aristotle was wrong, and an idea more akin to Democratus' was more right...there is serious concern regarding the method Aristotle employs to reach "metaphysical knowledge".013zen

    The sense of what is "metaphysical" knowledge is not presented as the anti-thesis to "material" causes. The beginning of the discussion is how the inquiry into the way of knowledge is distinguished from using theoria to learn specific natures and their causes:

    Lectures, however, produce their effects in accord with people’s habits, since we expect them to be spoken in the manner we are accustomed to, and anything |995a1| beyond this appears not to have the same strength but to be something quite unknown and quite strange. For it is the customary that is familiar. Indeed, the extraordinary power of what we are accustomed to is clearly shown by our customs, where mythical and childish stories about things have greater power than our knowledge about them, because of |995a5| our habits. Now some people do not accept what someone says if it is not stated mathematically, others if it is not based on paradigm cases, while others expect to have a poet adduced as a witness. Again, some want everything expressed exactly, whereas others are annoyed by what is exact, either because they cannot string all the bits together or because they regard it as nitpicking. For exactness does have something |995a10| of this quality, and so just as in business transactions so also in arguments it seems to have something unfree or ungenerous about it. That is why we should already have been well educated in what way to accept each argument, since it is absurd to look for scientific knowledge and for the way [of inquiry] characteristic of scientific knowledge at the same time—and it is not easy to get hold of either. Accordingly, we should not demand the argumentative exactness of mathematics in all cases |995a15| but only in the case of things that include no matter. That is why the way of inquiry is not the one characteristic of natural science, since presumably every nature includes matter. That is why we must first investigate what a nature is, since that way it will also be clear what natural science is concerned with, and whether it belongs to one science or to more than one to get a theoretical grasp on causes and starting-points. |995a20| — Aristotle, Metaphysics, 995, translated by CDC Reeve, emphasis mine
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    This raises several questions regarding wisdom and the possible limits of what is and can be known.
    — Fooloso4

    But, you're right given the historical evidence.
    013zen

    Speculation about first things is not knowledge. The reason is simple. We have no experience of the beginning or origins. Knowledge begins with the senses, aided by memory in some animals, and by art and reasoning in the case of human beings. Knowledge and art result from experience. (981a)

    Democratus' was more right013zen

    Democritus gave a more plausible account of material causes but Aristotle's inquiry extends to the good of each thing and the whole of nature. (982b) A full account should not only address the good of each thing and the whole, but it should be good, that is, beneficial to human beings. Even if the account fails to satisfy the former it can aim to satisfy the latter.

    Aristotle points out that knowledge of such things is not productive, and concludes:

    All kinds of knowledge, then, are more necessary than this one, but none is better.
    (983a)

    Between these statements he questions whether such knowledge is appropriate for human beings. It is divine knowledge, both in the sense that it is knowledge of the divine as cause and knowledge that a god alone or most of all would have. Above the entryway to the temple of Apollo are inscribed the words "know thyself". One way in which this was understood is that man should know his place. He is not a god and does not possess knowledge of the gods in the double sense of knowing the gods and knowing what the gods know. Knowledge of the source and cause of the whole is not something that human beings possess. We do not even know if the divine is a cause or if the divine knows the cause.This should be kept in mind when Aristotle turns to theology.
  • Gnomon
    3.6k
    I decided to start a new discussion rather than continue in the thread on the hard problem. . . .
    "Thus it is clear that Wisdom is knowledge of certain principles and causes."
    Fooloso4
    I'm not an Aristotle expert, but I do refer to his ideas on Metaphysics whenever discussions about philosophical "hard problems" --- as contrasted with scientific empirical problems --- come up. Perhaps Ari is saying that in order to divine*1 First Principles, penetrating wisdom (insight) is more important than mere superficial observation.

    For example, I just began reading Steven Strogatz' 2003 book Sync, How Order Emerges From Chaos. His first example is fireflies (lightning bugs) in Asia that gather in the thousands, and begin to spookily blink in rhythm : all on, all off. The mere observation was that this orchestrated behavior is not normal for "glow-worms". So some mathematical principle was sought to explain this "spontaneous order" without a conductor, and without faster-than-light communication.

    That it should be explainable by a general "principle" was implicit, because other cases of order out of chaos have been observed, as in the steady rhythm of the heartbeat, with thousands of cells contracting simultaneously. Actually, a mathematical theory of order-out-of-chaos*2 was constructed by merging the observations & insights of many scientists over several years ; not by instant revelation. In fact, the search continues after many decades of effort*3.

    The author doesn't mention Metaphysics, but he does attribute the progress toward a Principle of Order to the collective wisdom of many observers. Presumably, each instance of emergent Order from normal Disorder is caused by some "trigger". And that Causal Principle should be describable in mathematical symbols. But understanding the metaphysical meaning of those abstract numbers & symbols will require some philosophical wisdom. :smile:


    *1. To divine : gain knowledge by nonlinear insight or intuition, as if by revelation, instead of by logical linear reasoning

    *2. Order out of Chaos : Chaos is random -- no rules -- but Order is regulated by logical/mathematical rules. But what triggers the change? Don't ask me; I just started the book.

    *3. Complexity Systems Science : The Santa Fe Institute was established in 1984 to study some of the "hard problems" that emerged from Quantum Physics.
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k


    Interesting comment on one sense of divine, but he is talking about divine beings.
  • 013zen
    153
    Speculation about first things is not knowledge. The reason is simple. We have no experience of the beginning or origins. Knowledge begins with the senses, aided by memory in some animals, and by art and reasoning in the case of human beings. Knowledge and art result from experience. (981a)Fooloso4

    Speculation about first things is not knowledge.Fooloso4

    Knowledge does begin with the senses, but it does not end there. As Aristotle says:

    "Such and so many are the notions, then, which we have about Wisdom and the wise. Now of these characteristics that of knowing all things must belong to him who has in the highest degree universal knowledge; for he knows in a sense all the instances that fall under the universal. And these things, the most universal, are on the whole the hardest for men to know; for they are farthest from the senses. And the most exact of the sciences are those which deal most with first principles; for those which involve fewer principles are more exact than those which involve additional principles, e.g. arithmetic than geometry. But the science which investigates causes is also instructive, in a higher degree, for the people who instruct us are those who tell the causes of each thing. And understanding and knowledge pursued for their own sake are found most in the knowledge of that which is most knowable (for he who chooses to know for the sake of knowing will choose most readily that which is most truly knowledge, and such is the knowledge of that which is most knowable); and the first principles and the causes are most knowable; for by reason of these, and from these, all other things come to be known, and not these by means of the things subordinate to them. And the science which knows to what end each thing must be done is the most authoritative of the sciences, and more authoritative than any ancillary science; and this end is the good of that thing, and in general the supreme good in the whole of nature. 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."

    Wisdom is the knowledge of universals, which are the furthest from the senses and therefore hardest to know.

    But, knowledge of first principles and causes, Aristotle says are most knowable.

    Democritus gave a more plausible account of material causes but Aristotle's inquiry extends to the good of each thing and the whole of nature. (982b) A full account should not only address the good of each thing and the whole, but it should be good, that is, beneficial to human beings. Even if the account fails to satisfy the former it can aim to satisfy the latter.Fooloso4

    I also quoted that passage because, you're right, Aristotle does classify the "good" as something tangible, accounting for reality to some degree. But, one should wonder if a metaphysical account of reality ought to include any account of the "good" in our times. Obviously, it's still relevant and insightful to work in ethics.

    All kinds of knowledge, then, are more necessary than this one, but none is better.
    (983a)

    Between these statements he questions whether such knowledge is appropriate for human beings. It is divine knowledge, both in the sense that it is knowledge of the divine as cause and knowledge that a god alone or most of all would have. Above the entryway to the temple of Apollo are inscribed the words "know thyself". One way in which this was understood is that man should know his place. He is not a god and does not possess knowledge of the gods in the double sense of knowing the gods and knowing what the gods know. Knowledge of the source and cause of the whole is not something that human beings possess. We do not even know if the divine is a cause or if the divine knows the cause.This should be kept in mind when Aristotle turns to theology.
    Fooloso4

    Yea, this is a good point, and one that I didn't notice before. It's weird then because immediately after saying this, he goes into what wisemen have speculated the first causes are. So, does he believe that knowledge of such things is or isn't suitable for the human mind to comprehend?
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    Between these statements he questions whether such knowledge is appropriate for human beings. It is divine knowledge, both in the sense that it is knowledge of the divine as cause and knowledge that a god alone or most of all would have. Above the entryway to the temple of Apollo are inscribed the words "know thyself". One way in which this was understood is that man should know his place. He is not a god and does not possess knowledge of the gods in the double sense of knowing the gods and knowing what the gods know.Fooloso4

    The book I'm currently reading points to the origin of metaphysics, with Parmenides 'prose-poem', saying that after the introductory section, written in first person, the substance of the remainder is indeed given to Parmenides by the Goddess:

    Since the rest of the poem is presented as the speech of the Goddess, this grasp of the whole is received as a gift, a revelation from the divine. The very first full-fledged metaphysician in the western tradition, then, experiences his understanding of being in religious terms, as an encounter with divinity. It is no surprise, therefore, that, according to the Goddess, the road Parmenides takes “is outside the tread of men” (B 1.27). Thus the Goddess draws a sharp distinction between “the untrembling heart of well-rounded truth” on the one hand, and “the opinions of mortals” on the other. The implication is that truth, as distinct from mere human seeming, is divine. We may be reminded of Heraclitus’ dictum, “Human character does not have insights, divine has”. — Eric D. Perl, Thinking Being, p13

    But 'divine inspiration' is also central in Plato. In the Phaedrus, Plato discusses the soul’s journey and the role of divine madness in achieving true insight and wisdom. This divine madness is considered a form of inspiration from the gods, enabling the soul to recollect the Forms and the ultimate truths of existence. In the Symposium, Plato also emphasizes the role of the divine in the pursuit of wisdom through Diotima’s ladder of love, which ultimately leads to the contemplation of the Form of Beauty, a divine and eternal truth.

    Later Neoplatonists like Plotinus and Proclus build upon Plato’s ideas, emphasizing the One or the Good as a transcendent source of all reality. Their interpretations, deeply rooted in Plato’s works, highlight the divine and mystical dimensions of his philosophy. These were to have considerable influence on the formation of Christian theology (and are nowadays deprecated on that account, I would contend). Whereas much contemporary philosophy, with its naturalistic and generally materialistic tendencies, tends to reinterpret ancient texts to fit modern frameworks.
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