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ARISTOTLE NOTES

by
John S Moore

 


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83 Acting is a profession, so is prostitution, most professions debase the personality in one way or another. Aristotle’s  point that the gentleman should pursue moderation and not become too expert in things. 

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Throughout much of the history of our civilisation the neoplatonic philosophy has held up an ideal of enlightenment related to that of the classical world.

This in treating enlightenment in terms of detachment. Conserving throughout society an aristocratic conception of wisdom.

This is not at all n conflict with Aristotelianism, which is also aristocratic in spirit but concerned with certain detailed scientific work. These two outlooks, the neoplatonic and the Aristotelian, can work in harmony.

Neo-Platonism, allegorical, esoteric interpretations of dogma.

 
263 Aristotelianism the basis of science for an already flourishing civilisation. It is for a culture in  its vigour, not one decadent or barbarous (confused). Groundwork for the efflorescence of the arts and sciences.
 

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215 What was not fully developed in Plato and what he helped to develop, a community of truth seekers. See why truth is such a delight. It is firm ground. Somewhere from which hostile opinion cannot drive you. Where there was no community of truth seekers this could seem impossible.

Aristotle developed.

Where opinion was not in fierce enough competition. The sophists not being mutually hostile enough.

With slavery and domination being so firmly and deeply established.. Community of truth seekers which became developed in Aristotle’s plan for science. Birth of true science in the Lyceum. Struggle for intellectual power.

 
241 In Plato argument is too unrestrained, this great mental energy, the philosopher’s will to power, has no check on  it. Find the checks and you have the beginnings of scientific enterprise, as with Aristotle’s.
  

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197 Aristotle says that someone who desires to persuade and does not apply al the rules of rhetoric is as much at fault as a doctor who desires to cure and does not use all his medical knowledge.

There is an acceptable role for rhetoric used on those who are willing it be applied on them

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97 Aristotle on geocentricism. It seems to be a natural corollary of his whole approach to knowledge, even perhaps necessary, given the stage knowledge had reached. Houston Stewart Chamberlain quotes a passage front the De Caelo in which Aristotle says the object of science is to make theory fit observation, not the other way round. We should not think of reality according to our theory, but tailor our theory to fit reality.

Consider scholasticism. I think the mediaeval method of debate was in many ways extremely good.

People today tend to go along with the criticisms of scholasticism made by Bacon and Descartes, without realising that in some respects they are reverting to something definitely worse. Certainly the scholastics accepted authority to a great extent but what alternative was there? And how do people do any differently today? And they had hard and fierce debate.

 
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8 TS Eliot’s thesis on the perfection of the 13th century. (In The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry) In architecture, for example a certain perfection achieved. Perfection of Aquinas reflecting that of Aristotle. The match between thought and feeling. The Divine Comedy. Thought that is adequate to feeling, rather than dissociated. Is not this a tremendous illusion? Eliot ignores the heretical principle, the protestant spirit, that was probably always active. His lack of sympathy for Milton, even for much of Shakespeare. Aquinas’ synthesis is objectionable because it is coercive, It works for a brief moment. 

For him to find scholastic philosophy satisfying it must satisfy some desire that he has. A much more normal reaction is to want to move on.

There is this implicit Aristotelianism, a desire for a philosophy that is completely satisfying, that is not something one reacts emotionally to, but something in whose framework one feels. I think that is what he is getting at. Only a scholasticism can be comprehensive enough for that. There has been nothing like this since Aquinas, and perhaps there is a good reason for that.

36 Eliot on Dante and Aquinas. The quality of perfection attributed to Aristotle’s thought How much can one imagine some other philosophy being put to such a use, a scholastic use, say by a later civilisation? Could one imagine the same being done to Kant?

 
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107 Some people are now saying that Wittgenstein has freed the philosophy of mind from Descartes' errors and thereby led us back to Aristotle. But to adopt Aristotle without going through all the argument would surely be a most retrograde step.

220 Aristotle &  scholasticism. It is pointed out that there is a relation between Aristotle's idea of substance and that of Wittgenstein's Tractatus. I had noticed this. His idea of substance is actually quite clear, neat and attractive. It is when it is applied to the soul, as in the De Anima, that I feel it begins to become tendentious. When a logical clarification begins to grow teeth.

Aristotle is fascinating. With Aquinas it is hard to tell which is Aquinas and which is Aristotle. Aquinas proofs of God seem quite admirable, he has done a good job of harmonizing Aristotle's doctrine and reconciling it with Christianity. But consider this type of philosophy generally. Scholasticism ‘as if’ philosophy. Intriguing intellectual exercises. Intellectual aerobics. Various things wrong with it. One it is simply too vast in its complexity. It cannot demand complete conviction, as there are so many interesting alternatives at every point.

Aristotle's view is interesting because it is an alternative to existing views, as is the Tractatus. But is it true? That is a vast question and so much would need to be adequately understood before it could be answered.

There are hints of a return to Aristotle and Aquinas which could actually be quite reprehensible. An evasion of strict intellectual conscience. Feeling that certain problems having been dissolved (by Wittgenstein) we can move on to other interests almost as if Aristotle and Aquinas presuppose Wittgenstein's solutions, which they certainly do not.

But Aristotle certainly is historically fascinating and his programme for a science raises questions. As with all complex philosophy how is it to be held in the mind and put to use? To what use could we put philosophy today, how are we to memorize and apply it?

Anti-Platonism of modern commentators. Platonism is escaped by a substance theory which places reality other than in concepts. This seems more hard headed. But at what level are we still to be open to scepticism? Aristotle seems very anti-sceptical. It is not that he confronts scepticism and refutes it; as a programme for a possible science sceptical questions i.e. epistemological questions are disregarded.

Types of explanation anti mystical.

Making ordinary ways of speaking systematic.

When I speak of the difficulty of keeping Aristotle in the memory I mean the difficulty of remembering such taut argument, which is a pleasure to go through in itself, but what is its abiding value and to what use might it be put? As society progresses there is always a vast amount which is forgotten. A vast amount of wisdom, fascinating in its own terms but which has simply become alien. How can one revive it? 

223 Aristotle, criticizing Plato, sublimating the egoistic tyrannical urge.

The surrender of independence justified as giving, as unselfishness, compensated by huge rewards, financial and prestigious. The selfish view tries to accommodate society to the selfish tastes and needs. To accord with beliefs and philosophies. Not to swallow distaste, learn to put up with what one hates. The well adjusted person.

A whole society run on power, on accepting ugliness because of the rewards it brings. Not enough power, not enough selfishness, Modern values into which a sort of Christian ideology can fit.

231 Thinking of European civilisation and its superiority, in what can we say this consists? What is the truest manifestation of power of a civilisation?  Its philosophical systems. Is this Europe's current superiority to Africa? Philosophical systems are the basic programmes for life and development. All else flows from this. Understand these and we can understand much of why civilisation is as it is. Power, the basic criticism derives from this, as in the Middle ages from Aristotle, whose doctrine of substance provides the foundation of thought. A different conception of reality from Plato's, a way of avoiding Plato's obsession with the idea as the intelligible realm.

Considering the differences between Aristotle and Plato it is as if the Wittgenstein of the Tractatus was essentially Aristotelian and forsook this for the Platonism of the Investigations.

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98 Plato’s Laws as starting point for Aristotle, as well as the first intellectual justification for religious persecution. Aristotle’s idea that man is to reach his fulfilment, satisfy his energies, within society. How strange this sounds to our ears! And how certain aspects of Plato seem preferable. Within society there is too much against us. Too much power that is hostile to our needs and desires. Social power is terrifying. The whole idea of communism is hateful from the start. The important thing in society is to be protected against others.

102 Aristotle as Plato’s best commentator/critic. Making the connection, The city state. Application to other forms of community, other than the city state. The political origins of so much of Plato, even his understanding of the virtues of contemplation.

Which is why Aristotle can reject so much of him so easily. The need for contemplation of forms. The unsastisfactoriness of life in society.

The community of a university. The seeking satisfaction within that. The flaws, vices and frustrations to which that is subject.

On the news today, item about recent graduates, 'the world of work’. Talking about how they must leave behind the freedom of their student years. The schadenfreude in this.

Flaws, vices and frustrations which lead to the search for a new ideal. And an ideal which is to be held in the mind. The platonic solution to the weakness of society, not entirely a retreat but a holding of idea in memory. The preservation of doctrine. Use of a doctrine.

Aristotle can dispense with this because he sees exactly where it comes from

Giving up our freedom. Becoming a slave, After which what?

The solutions and ideals formed by young people who do not want to give up their freedom.

Origin of Plato and Aristotle’s philosophy in the flaws of the city state. In the frustration of the will that is experienced. But there is something different here from the lust for tyranny. Almost as sort of socialism. Man as political animal.

The economic needs that come before the desire to dominate comes to the foreground.

Origin of the whole religious history of the west.

This contemplative internality. In the very rejection of current society, current reality there is this need to insist upon a pure doctrine, upon a reality outside. And above that which is given, the doxa.

Aristotle, beginning from much the same standpoint, tries to avoid this move.

This is the very origin of this sort of religious truth, which comes to be most tyrannically conceived.

So Aristotle aims to correct the principles of the city state, avoiding its evils. Massive commonsense, but little revolutionary power. Like Plato offers something of great historical fertility.

Power against democracy.

Everything Plato wants we many say he wants because he wants to impose his power upon others. In one sense that is too simple. As Aristotle understood, there has to be community.

122& Is it misunderstanding to see Hobbes as advocating some staggeringly original form of individualism (Sabine- A History of Political Theory) As if he makes a startling departure from Aristotle's idea of man as a political animal. How some people interpret Aristotle's idea of man as political animal, as if there is no problem with obligation, no need to justify it. This I would say is a misunderstanding of Aristotle… Misunderstandings of Aristotle. Idea of contributing to society. This sort of social philosophy which acquires the force of a moral command.  See how this philosophy generates material wealth but aesthetic squalor. Suppression of individuality in adopting a work ethic. Accepting institutions and institutional values. Receiving so many rewards from the system.

126 Aristotle, criticizing Plato, sublimating the egoistic tyrannical urge.

The surrender of independence justified as giving, as unselfishness, compensated by huge rewards, financial and prestigious. The selfish view tries to accommodate society to the selfish tastes and needs. To accord with beliefs and philosophies. Not to swallow distaste, learn to put up with what one hates. The well adjusted person.

A whole society run on power, on accepting ugliness because of the rewards it brings. Not enough power, not enough selfishness, Modern values into which a sort of Christian ideology can fit.

251 Is Lange (History of Materialism) right to be so contemptuous of Aristotle? What remains of Democritus seems very thin, beyond one very fruitful hypothesis.

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201 I have never been happy with Aristotle's idea of an entelechy. Or substance for  that matter. Heraclitean flux seems far truer to me, supplemented by Plato's forms to explain how language is possible. The whole concept strikes me as somewhat coercive. Arbitrary divisions, or at least highly contentious ones, are set up as though they were absolute. This too is Christian. Aquinas. I think there is a definite dishonesty, not with the proofs of God's existence, but when it comes to justifying the terms used to describe the attributes of  God.

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122 Scruton's idea that the substance attribute distinction is 'scarcely comprehensible' apart from Aristotle's subject predicate logic. So much philosophy alleged to be rooted in error.

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222 Thales to Proclus. Synthesis of Plato and Aristotle. Aristotle. Through thought we penetrate to things. Proclus. The hierarchy of thought is the same as the hierarchy of things.

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52 The extraordinary encyclopaedic achievement of Aristotle. Remarkable fact that Athens in the last days of its greatness left a body of work by one man, out of character with the rest of its achievement, that laid the foundations for  the very different achievements of new and different civilisations, the Arabic and the Western, over a thousand years later.

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67 Think what Sorel says about Aristotle's consumer ideology. The good to be aimed at had become  friendship between cultivated gentlemen.

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7 Aristotle’s entelechy. The soul as the organisation of the body. That, too, is strange, as strange as the notion of an indwelling soul, it is a very materialistic conception. Why should such and such organisation of matter result in the creation of something of another kind? But Gilbert Ryle tries to deal with that. 

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82 Aristotle provided a programme for a future science, he as it were assumed that all  problems are solvable, gave us a  logic within the context of which all problems may be solved. Then ethical problems came to the fore. Zeno, Diogenes, Epicurus

Virgil is perhaps to poetry what Aristotle is to philosophy. Here there are no really grand problems tackled, the deepest problems are regarded as solved. Dante too is not problematic. Aristotelianism the vogue of his day, Everything shown as solved.

Going on correspondences, the political achievement of Empire might have had a momentum that carried into other spheres. Instead of tackling problems it shows them answered. This is distinct from showing their answers. Dante, too, is not problematic. Aristotelianism was the vogue of his day. Everything shown as solved… From the unproblematic one may begin to build. However, one will eventually come to forget the nature of the problems solved, posed as they were in an alien idiom. Aristotle must be understood as post Plato, Virgil as post Hellenistic. …Mediaeval civilisation starting on a principle of solvedness, original self confidence. This early solvedness is anti-individualistic. As the problem recedes, and when the conceptual map of civilisation has been built, the ‘solvedness’ comes to manifest as oppression. The language is there, elemental problems re-present themselves.

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Difference between Plato and Aristotle. Plato ultimately the more liberating for the mind, despite the rigidity of some of his particular views. The formal aspect of his philosophy can be abstracted from the particular, this because of its transcendental nature. Aristotle as a philosopher has reached the essentially logical stage, but his categories (forms) have an immanence and a particularity about them. Actuality and potentiality The idea of there being one true end for each particular thing. It makes for a possible science, but it excludes alternative ways of looking at things. It narrows down one’s vision far more than Plato whose forms are completely non specific, i.e. we can think of them as existing quite apart from all particular specific content. This does provide a far wider range of ‘what is’.

It is undeniable that there is a resemblance between Hegel and Aristotle. Both can, in a sense be very depressing and boring. Dr.s Dryasdust. Both are more concerned with establishing an orthodox systematisation of ideas than with liberating instinct. Plato’s procrusteanism springs from the projection of his own whims and particular opinions downwards from the forms. He was still liberated by these ideas though others would only be by the transcendental ones, since whims and opinions differ from person to person. Aristotle established a scheme which allows for liberation but only in one path, so to speak. Plato would lead us to a common rational ground on which we could reach agreement. Aristotle’s method is completely different. He looks at the types of explanation and comes up with the four causes. This is all we need to understand, he tells us, follow the system and all our thirst for understating and religious experience may be satisfied. ‘The Pedant’ they called him at the renaissance, unfairly it is certain, for his ideas do lend themselves to cultural embodiment and thus embodied can be quite fascinating. But to study him in isolation can be death to the spirit. We know there are other ways in which we can reach meaning and understanding, we are not faced with the mediaeval task of building a civilisation.

The importance of being able to know that one is right. Aristotle tends to make experience collective and discourage individual speculation. This because he claims to have effected a synthesis which makes any further radical speculation irrelevant. He reduces the philosophical quest to a set of concepts, like symbols, which we are given to manipulate at tour leisure. He gives us a set of logical tools and how can we object to that? Unless we want to be able to think differently, to resolve questions rationally as and when they arise in our own separate minds. Aristotle shows us a possibility, he does not really show us why it should or must be so.

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83 What was Aristotle’s essential contribution to philosophy? Say that he was not really so much of a metaphysician as a provider of concepts, concepts with which we are to handle our experience including explaining it. Hermeticisim provides a different set of concepts, it does not set philosophical problems, but this does not render it any less worthy of respect. As an alternative conceptual system to Aristotle it was very fruitful, but it is not the kind of thing that can be argued against, unless it is misunderstood. It is not so pedantic as Aristotelianism, nor so dogmatic.

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165 What Nietzsche has ultimately to be about is giving us a conceptual framework within which to live act and create. An Aristotelian task. 


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Maimonides, making sacred scripture compatible with Aristotle, interesting to see how this is done and how natural it can seem. Ways of reading in the light of what is taken for the truth.
 

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Maimonides on God having no attributes. Distinction between negative and positive attributes. Aristotelian significance of the idea of positive attributes.

In expressing anything positive, any from of happiness, it is vital to express something of the negative state of mind that has been overcome for the communication will be like meaningless.

Think of Locke here. Like other people Locke presumably wanted to promote his own interests. With Maimonides I am getting quite a feel for the joy of scholasticism. For applied Aristotle. Mediaeval philosophy, the college, the cloister.

Idea of the brothel.

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