Aristotle's First Principles (Clarendon Paperbacks)
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Exploring Aristotle's philosophical method and the merits of his conclusions, Irwin here shows how Aristotle defended dialectic against the objection that it cannot justify a metaphysical realist's claims. He focuses particularly on Aristotle's metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and ethics, stressing the connections between doctrines that are often discussed separately.
that it is useful for gymnastic exercise; for if we have a methodical procedure of inquiry, we will more easily be able to undertake the subject proposed to us. (2) It is useful for encounters; for if we have catalogued the beliefs of the many, we will meet them, not from other people's, but from their own views, and redirect whatever remarks of theirs appear to us to be incorrect. (3) It is useful for the philosophical sciences, because if we fully examine the puzzles on each side CHAPTER 2 §
19 37 (diaporêsai), we will more easily see what is true or false. And it is also useful for 〈ﬁnding〉 the ﬁrst principles of each science. For we cannot say anything about them from the proper ﬁrst principles of the science in question, since the ﬁrst principles are prior to everything else. Hence it is necessary to discuss them through the common beliefs on each subject. And this is proper to dialectic alone, or to it more than to anything else; for since it examines, it has a road towards the
unqualiﬁed becoming as ‘matter’.28 Clearly matter has a strong claim to be substance, since it is a subject; and it seems to undermine the claim of the ‘ordinary’ substance to be a ﬁrst substance, since a ﬁrst substance cannot be said of a subject, and the ordinary substance seems to be said of its matter.29 Once Aristotle admits this much, he may seem to be committed to further surprising claims about ﬁrst substance. Bronze is the matter and subject of the statue; but bronze is itself composed
principle that is rationally compelling in itself; this is the non-inferentially justiﬁed ﬁrst principle that Aristotle demands as the basis of scientiﬁc knowledge.26 72. The Status of First Principles Aristotle sees that he demands this of ﬁrst principles, since he requires them to be known through themselves: The true and primary things are those that have their credence (pistis) not through other things, but through themselves. For in the case of principles of a science, a further reason must
principles is a bad solution to the difﬁculties raised by his own view on demonstration. We will be justiﬁably pleased, then, if the conception of ﬁrst philosophy as a science does not rely on the doctrine of nous to explain how this science grasps the ﬁrst principles. But even if we completely accepted the doctrine of nous, we could not invoke it to understand ﬁrst philosophy. For any science that relies on intuition of ﬁrst principles is not the science of those principles, and does not argue