The Division of the Sciences in Aristotle's 'Posterior Analytics'

Posted by Edward Willatt on Monday, June 27, 2016 Under: Architectonics

Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics is a difficult read.  It is well known that the surviving corpus of his works comprises rough drafts or lecture notes. These are known as his esoteric works while the finished, polished, crafted and accessible exoteric works are lost.  Yet there is a sense of clarity and purpose in the attempts made in this rough and disjointed prose to found, to ground and to establish.  There is a determination to mark out clearly how a science or discipline is formed and can take on the world, can meet rigorously the manifoldness of its subject matter.  It is a way of arming those working in a science, of marking out the ground where they will meet nature in its diversity and potential for flourishing thought and practice. 

Aristotle begins by establishing the principles upon which any science or disciplines will be founded.  We depend on what is primitive or prior rather than what is derived and demonstrated from something else.  For Aristotle the primitive is identical with appropriate principles for the work we are doing.  Why does Aristotle believe we must begin by establishing what is primitive in each science?  Aristotle appeals here to the absurdity of an infinite regress as he does when formulating his famous Four Causes.  We require a stopping point to avoid an absurd situation where the principles on which our work depends themselves depend on even more primitive or prior principles.  This brings us to the conclusion that principles are non-demonstrable.  Aristotle considers the view that first principles can be given a circular and reciprocal demonstration. Yet he finds this unsatisfying.  Primitive first principles must firmly establish a science.  If they are demonstrated via a circularity this gives us only the claim that ‘this is the case if this is the case’.  Aristotle argues that we could easily prove everything in this way.  What we need is a firm foundation in particular principles appropriate to a particular science.  This reveals the role and nature of deduction in Aristotle’s thought.  It must have substance.  Circularity is judged empty because it give us no confidence that we have a solid ground.  For Aristotle it is the ‘immediate and non-demonstrable’ that will provide a stopping point in any possible infinite regress and avoid an empty logical formulation by giving us ‘non-demonstrable immediates’.

What is most striking here is a
 conviction concerning the concrete force of logic and deductive logic in particular.  In contrast to David Hume, for whom his famous ‘fork’ separated the substance of sensory experience from the emptiness of deductive logic, we find the concrete impregnated and structured by deductive logic.  Those working in a science must stand upon logical foundations whether they are in the midst of the change that is the subject of physics or contemplating the changeless substances that metaphysics.  Yet these are not rigid conceptual schemes brought in to enclose the concrete.  There must be something concrete in the very notion of logic for Aristotle.  The threat of regress and emptiness is very concrete in his thought, rather than being a matter of empty speculation as a Humean scepticism might claim.  He was a practicing scientist, in zoology and botany in particular, although his works in the later field have been lost to us.  The solidity of logic mattered here not simply in its inductive side, normally associated with empirical endeavour, but as deduction.  There is a feel for the concrete in his most abstract work and equally a feel for the abstract when he is at his most concrete, literally immersed in the natural world. These two poles do not maintain their artificial separation in his work, it is too sophisticated in its architectonic scope and scale.  It relates the most concrete studies to the most abstract.  The Posterior Analytics challenges us to consider the nature of deduction, to relate it to a wider architectonic in Aristotle's work where the abstract becomes inextricably involved in the concrete.

In : Architectonics 



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The Division of the Sciences in Aristotle's 'Posterior Analytics'

Posted by Edward Willatt on Monday, June 27, 2016 Under: Architectonics

Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics is a difficult read.  It is well known that the surviving corpus of his works comprises rough drafts or lecture notes. These are known as his esoteric works while the finished, polished, crafted and accessible exoteric works are lost.  Yet there is a sense of clarity and purpose in the attempts made in this rough and disjointed prose to found, to ground and to establish.  There is a determination to mark out clearly how a science or discipline is formed and can take on the world, can meet rigorously the manifoldness of its subject matter.  It is a way of arming those working in a science, of marking out the ground where they will meet nature in its diversity and potential for flourishing thought and practice. 

Aristotle begins by establishing the principles upon which any science or disciplines will be founded.  We depend on what is primitive or prior rather than what is derived and demonstrated from something else.  For Aristotle the primitive is identical with appropriate principles for the work we are doing.  Why does Aristotle believe we must begin by establishing what is primitive in each science?  Aristotle appeals here to the absurdity of an infinite regress as he does when formulating his famous Four Causes.  We require a stopping point to avoid an absurd situation where the principles on which our work depends themselves depend on even more primitive or prior principles.  This brings us to the conclusion that principles are non-demonstrable.  Aristotle considers the view that first principles can be given a circular and reciprocal demonstration. Yet he finds this unsatisfying.  Primitive first principles must firmly establish a science.  If they are demonstrated via a circularity this gives us only the claim that ‘this is the case if this is the case’.  Aristotle argues that we could easily prove everything in this way.  What we need is a firm foundation in particular principles appropriate to a particular science.  This reveals the role and nature of deduction in Aristotle’s thought.  It must have substance.  Circularity is judged empty because it give us no confidence that we have a solid ground.  For Aristotle it is the ‘immediate and non-demonstrable’ that will provide a stopping point in any possible infinite regress and avoid an empty logical formulation by giving us ‘non-demonstrable immediates’.

What is most striking here is a
 conviction concerning the concrete force of logic and deductive logic in particular.  In contrast to David Hume, for whom his famous ‘fork’ separated the substance of sensory experience from the emptiness of deductive logic, we find the concrete impregnated and structured by deductive logic.  Those working in a science must stand upon logical foundations whether they are in the midst of the change that is the subject of physics or contemplating the changeless substances that metaphysics.  Yet these are not rigid conceptual schemes brought in to enclose the concrete.  There must be something concrete in the very notion of logic for Aristotle.  The threat of regress and emptiness is very concrete in his thought, rather than being a matter of empty speculation as a Humean scepticism might claim.  He was a practicing scientist, in zoology and botany in particular, although his works in the later field have been lost to us.  The solidity of logic mattered here not simply in its inductive side, normally associated with empirical endeavour, but as deduction.  There is a feel for the concrete in his most abstract work and equally a feel for the abstract when he is at his most concrete, literally immersed in the natural world. These two poles do not maintain their artificial separation in his work, it is too sophisticated in its architectonic scope and scale.  It relates the most concrete studies to the most abstract.  The Posterior Analytics challenges us to consider the nature of deduction, to relate it to a wider architectonic in Aristotle's work where the abstract becomes inextricably involved in the concrete.

In : Architectonics 



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