Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Aristotle on the history of philosophy

New in the Logic Museum: the commentary on the first boook of Aristotle's Metaphysics. It includes a comprehensive set of links to Ross's (English) text of the same book here. Aquinas' commentary is always clear and is still a good introduction to Aristotle, whose writing is terse and obscure. Once Google has the text indexed, you will also be able to search it using the Museum's Latin site searcher.

By coincidence, there was a Horizon programme on British television last night: What Happened Before the Big Bang? I was struck by the resemble to Aristotle, in many ways. They say "They are the biggest questions that science can possibly ask: where did everything in our universe come from? How did it all begin?" Aristotle says "For it is owing to their wonder that men both now begin and at first began to philosophize; they wondered originally at the obvious difficulties, then advanced little by little and stated difficulties about the greater matters, e.g. about the phenomena of the moon and those of the sun and of the stars, and about the genesis of the universe. " The scientists in the program presented a bewildering variety of theories about what may have happened before the Big Bang. Aristotle refers to a bewildering variety of theories proposed by different pre-Socratic philosophers about the origin and fundamental causes of the universe. The scientists were divided between material accounts of the universe, and purely mathematical-theoretical ones. The pre-Socratics included those who thought matter was the fundamental principle of being, as well as those (the Pythagoreans) who thought that number explained everything. Many of the modern scientific ideas were pretty strange (the scientists interviewed included Roger Penrose, author of the idiotic The Emperors New Mind). Practically all the ancient Greek ideas were equally daft. Thales thought the world was made of water. Hesiod thought the basic principles were love and strife.

So nothing has changed. In particular, no one seems to have an answer, which is depressing, but then still we have that sense of wonder, which is good. More on Book I later.

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