Metaphysics of Aristotle

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Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 09:48 am
What is the point of reading Aristotle's Metaphysics? Pleasure? Can I approach it as a study guide or should I simply brute into it and see how it goes?

Thanks.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 09:51 am
@semperlux1,
semperlux1;149947 wrote:
What is the point of reading Aristotle's Metaphysics? Pleasure? Can I approach it as a study guide or should I simply brute into it and see how it goes?

Thanks.


To learn what Aristotle wrote on a particular topic, and to discuss it, and decide whether you think it is true. I would think. But I would not do it "cold". You would, I think, need some guidance about what it was he was talking about, and why.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 10:29 am
@semperlux1,
The first book of the Metaphysics not only provides a commentary on previous philosophers (perhaps not unslanted) and introduces the important contribution Aristotle makes to the analysis of cause. The remainder gives a historically important account of being as such and defines what metaphysics (or first philosophy) is.
The importance of the text to subsequent philosophical thinking cannot be disputed.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 04:34 pm
@jgweed,
semperlux1;149947 wrote:
What is the point of reading Aristotle's Metaphysics? Pleasure? Can I approach it as a study guide or should I simply brute into it and see how it goes?


Aristotle's Metaphysics is essentially the placement of this collection compared to what had followed. For example, a previous work of his entitled Categories went extensively into the examination of natural things. In this particular area (natural things) and subsequent sub-topics such as generation, Metaphysics covers the subjects in a more precise and ontological way. So when you get to Metaphysics, Book Zeta, section 7-9, you get into earlier examinations in Categories. You really need the substantial foundations in Categories to get the arguments in Metaphysics (at least in some areas).

As I have understood it though, the major point in reading Metaphysics is that it rounds off the areas in which Aristotle primarily covered. He covered topics such as ethics, logic, and physika (natural philosophy) before he set about his metaphysical examinations. Within the metaphysical examinations, he covered everything from first philosophy (like wisdom or the things that the wise person knows first), theology (the study of god, especially in Metaphysics Book Lambda), as well as the science of being qua being (being as in so far as being). Within this subsection is what Aristotle really gets deep to within the context of MetaphysicsMetaphysics Metaphysics.

1. Not all copies of Aristotle's Metaphysics are created equal. Some copies are translated better than others while others are more complicated than they should be. I'm sure you have seen some Ancient Greek philosophy books which give you the Greek translation without the English phonetically derived word. This in my opinion is utter BS because if I did understand the word, I would be reading it in ancient Greek to begin with. Hypokeimenon is a difficult word as it is let alone identifying it as a jumble of Greek letters. To that end, here are two extremely good translations. The first is Metaphysics by David Bostock. Bostock is fantastic in translation, and if you read Categories and Metaphysics by this author, you will retain the fundamental meanings of the words he translates. That being said, translations are rarely interchangeable and difficult to adapt, so if you do plan on reading various books by Aristotle, get books by the same author. Another book is Metaphysics by Richard Hope. Also very good, but if I had a choice, I would go Bostock.

In fact, if you want to get a taste of David Bostock's quality, head on over to this thread;

http://www.philosophyforum.com/philosophy-forums/philosophers/ancient-philosophers/aristotle/1238-aristotle-s-metaphysics-zeta-discussion.html

I had intended to make it a long term textual analysis thread and I would post the remaining pages as we got farther along, but it just died out. Darn that ADOFD (attention deficit on forum's disorder).

2. Unless you are taking a class on Aristotle's Metaphysics, you will need a companion book. You can get a Cambridge companion guide. But the guide is just as difficult to get as the book itself. Not to mention, you then run into the same problem that you get with applying different translations together. Seriously, it can become a mess. To that end, you need to find specific and strategic articles that will help you out with the book. Here are a few I used in my senior thesis (mostly around Zeta) but there are a few that are applied to other books in Metaphysics. If you need articles on other books, let me know and I'll investigate.

[BLACK BOLD] = my comments
[Blue Italics] = Article name
[regular type] = Author

Good guide for Book Beta: The Origin of Aristotles Metaphysical Aporiai by Edward Halper.
Good guide for Book Zeta: Aristotle: Essence and Accident by Alan Code
Good guide for Aristotle and Substance : Aristotle on Matter by Kit Fine
Good guide for understanding the meaning of "being" for Aristotle (and a good guide for Zeta): The Verb "to be" and the Concept of Being by Charles Kahn
Good guide for finite definitions for Aristotle: Aristotle on Definition by J.M. Le Blond
Good guide for the context of sub-physica: Aristotle on the Difference between Mathematics and Physics and First Philosophy by D.K.W. Modrak
Excellent article on the context of metaphysics: Metaphysics by Jonathan Barnes
Good guide for alternate views of standard translation: Aristotle's Metaphysics Reconsidered by Mary Louise Gill
Another good basic guide to the fundamental metaphysics: Aristotle's Discovery of Metaphysics by T.H. Irwin.
Essential explanation of the principle of Non-Contradiction: Aristotles investigation of a basic Logical Principle- Which science investigates the principle of non-contradiction by Alan Code
Great contextual article on Book Alpha/Alpha Lesser: Aristotle's Review of the Presocratics: Is Aristotle Finally a Historian of Philosophy by Catherine Collobert
Great guide to Zeta and Eta (especially context for Zeta 7-9): The Relationship Between Books Zeta and Eta of Aristotle's Metaphysics by Daniel Devereux
Fantastic guide to Book Alpha: The Structure and Subject of Metaphysics Alpha by Helen Lang.
Another good guide for Aristotle and Substance:Substance in Aristotle's Metaphysics by R. Frede
Guide for Aristotle's logic: Aristotle's Epistemology by C.C.W. Taylor
Great guide for Book lambda and Zeta: Theology and Ontology in Aristotle's Metaphysics by G. Patzig
Essential guide to the end of Zeta-beginning of Eta and hylomorphism: Hylomorphism in Aristotle by Charlotte Witt.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 05:06 pm
@semperlux1,
I don't think it is possible to form an accurate idea of what 'metaphysics' means without understanding the way the subject was defined in Aristotle to begin with. It is a term used rather indiscriminately to refer to anything vaguely spiritual nowadays, whereas, from what little I have read thus far, it is defined with a fair amount of precision and detail in the Aristotlean tradition (and subsequent critiques and commentaries).

(Although I must say, never having studied the subject formally, the scope of the reading seems daunting. I am going to start with the Christopher Shields/Routledge edition of Aristotle.)
 
semperlux1
 
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 05:28 pm
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon, that was exactly what I was looking for. Smile
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 06:29 pm
@semperlux1,
semperlux1;150080 wrote:
VideCorSpoon, that was exactly what I was looking for.


Absolutely no problem at all. I am very excited for you since you are just getting into the text. I remember when I first was exposed to the text, I did not have nearly as much interest as I do now since the context was so foreign to me. But one of the best things to do as far as I am concerned is just skipping ahead to the parts I wanted to learn about. The books are relatively isolated from one another with the exception of a few books. Of course, it is a little better to read from the beginning, but you can start anywhere you want really. Universities do this all the time since its impossible to get through the entire book in the course of a few months. My university had the subject split into three successive courses. Also, in an interesting and hilarious tidbit of academia-nut, the content of Book Zeta is still being fiercely debated even today. And when I mean fierce, I mean fierce. Some say that the inclusion of Zeta 7-9 for instance does not belong in Zeta to begin with! Some say that Zeta and Eta should be one book. Some say because modern scholarship is much more advanced than when the book was first reformed during the scholastic period, common sense and wide acknowledged dictates that the book be reformed to include modern interpretation. So don't be too shocked when in the next 10-20 years, you see a new version of the book being published potentially with one chapter missing. LOL!
 
jgweed
 
Reply Sat 10 Apr, 2010 08:38 am
@semperlux1,
It is not unimportant to remember that the Metaphysics (like other texts from Aristotle) are more like lecture notes, put together either by Aristotle himself or, as seems more likely with the Metaphysics, but hisstudents or successors; hence its duplication of discussions and somewhat fragmentary nature.

No doubt Aristotle himself in his lectures(or his students) would have expanded his discussion and used the notes more as an aide-memoir; thus the nature of the text requires extremely careful and close reading because some treatments of subjects are very dense and philosophically laconic.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Sat 10 Apr, 2010 09:55 am
@jgweed,
jgweed;150214 wrote:
It is not unimportant to remember that the Metaphysics (like other texts from Aristotle) are more like lecture notes, put together either by Aristotle himself or, as seems more likely with the Metaphysics, but hisstudents or successors; hence its duplication of discussions and somewhat fragmentary nature.

No doubt Aristotle himself in his lectures(or his students) would have expanded his discussion and used the notes more as an aide-memoir; thus the nature of the text requires extremely careful and close reading because some treatments of subjects are very dense and philosophically laconic.


That is the most excellent point. A greater portion that we have taken to be Aristotle's work is above all the notes of his students. There are some pretty neat accounts of the track record Aristotle's works have taken. When you consider that even in its most "complete" form when at some time the notes on his lectures were combined, the work itself underwent so many changing of hands, from the Greeks to the Romans to the Indians and the Arabs to the rediscovery and on and on to the scholastic's, etc etc to the hippie Harvard professors attempting to do this and that this very day.

Its funny because when you look at the more probable authentic sources of genuine Aristotle like Art of Rhetoric, Metaphysics looks like it could be more or less the same guy. But all of this is in the end the result of a large degree of translation after translation, change after change of hand, alteration of context after context, etc. One need only look at the somewhat wide degree of difference between the translation of Bostock and Hope on the same text in relatively the same time period to see that over the course of 2+ millennia, the book could have changed so drastically from the more original compendium we would not have known it back then (drastic statement I know, but just for the sake of argument)..

And in my own opinion, Rhetoric which at least seems to me as a more primary document, could be considered the more accurate illumination of Aristotle. But Rhetoric as far as we have been taught is a complete removal from what he originally thought about epideictic discourse. Aristotle had to take part in the literary genre that flourished in the fourth century BCE in order to stay relevant and popular. Keep in mind that at the time, Aristotle wasn't the biggest fish in the pond, rather it was Isocrates who was favored by the Athenian elite, who also held his Macedonian origins against him (which in turn contributed to his leaving Athens for 12 years).
 
semperlux1
 
Reply Sat 10 Apr, 2010 11:40 am
@semperlux1,
It would seem to me that of additional importance is to contemplate one's desire or motivation to read Aristotle's Metaphysics. For me, the motivation is borne of a misunderstanding of the study of metaphysics and irresponsible use of the term in conversation. After reading your posts and information on other websites, I feel humbled and frankly, embarrassed that I ever spoke about metaphysics. The subject is misunderstood and often used to express a sundry of phenomena that some borders on the absurd. Through reflection I concluded that I did not deserve to even talk about metaphysics until I understood exactly what it means to me. I don't know what it means to everyone else but it seems that it would be a good foundation to understand ontology, epistemology and phenomenology. I am fascinated by the nature of reality and the concept of an illusive and subjectively described universe. Again, thank you all for posting your discussions, I have a lot of reading and learning to do.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Sat 10 Apr, 2010 05:56 pm
@semperlux1,
Metaphysics is superficially odd, I will say that. There are so many takes on the same issues that it's hard to really place a finite conclusion anywhere. Indeed, metaphysics itself is such a diverse framework that you could study two different aspects of some given thing and really not know they are interrelated.

Check this out. This is a flowchart which depicts the branches groups, subgroups, etc. of metaphysics (can't even tell i did it in paint, can you? CAN YOU???;

http://i43.tinypic.com/33b3kn9.jpg

Honestly, I think for anyone wanting to get into metaphysics, it is usually a lot easier to start from a larger general idea of where everything is and then work into the more finite details. So know the general framework first. I think once you do this, you may be able to extrapolate the various different meanings of such a broad term.

But don't lose hope in your study of metaphysics, it is a very rewarding study. And it is even more rewarding for the few people who read it and correctly understand it. If anything, metaphysics is a study of the constant trial and error (and subsequent study of inquiries) that make metaphysics the complex system it is today. You definitely need it for the modern philosophers (Descartes through Berkeley, etc.) and it is essential for ancient philosophy (from Heraclitus to Plotinus, etc.). And who wouldn't like to learn more about how someone could conceive of a universe composed of water, fire, void, atoms, forms, etc.
 
john1565
 
Reply Sat 24 Feb, 2018 09:51 am
@VideCorSpoon,
Wow! It's great and useful image. Downloaded!!
 
 

 
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