Desire For Knowledge
Thesis: All men by nature desire to know.
B and A, are clearly meant as universal propositions,
although B does not cite a universal quantifier explicitly. If all
animals were capable of memory C 1 would be also a universal proposition
(otherwise it could be universal only with regard to sensation). These
introductory propositions have factual character at least insofar
as they refer to real living beings and are supported by empirical indicators.
However, the phrase "by nature" suggests that they should be taken as
normative statements as well. C 2 and C 3 are by all likelihood
particular propositions. The meaning of C 2 is presumably "(some
non-human) animals have little (i.e.= some) share in experience".
Why do we need to deal with the desire to know? Because in that way we can learn how far it can bring us and what it can do of us (assuming we want to know who and what we are not only factually but also potentially).
II Justification of the Thesis
1. (a) Delight in the senses: Aristotle points to "the delight we take in our senses" as a factual support for A. The assumption is that we do not desire what we do not like.
(b) Intrinsic vs. instrumental: "We like them (the senses) for themselves", because we like them as they are, intrinsically, regardless of their usefulness (instrumental value). If the sense knowledge were only a means for a further end, our innate desire would not be a desire for knowledge but for something else and that would contradict the thesis.
(c) The sense of sight: Aristotle privileges the sense of sight for two reasons: because of its informative value and also because of the distinctness of information provided by it. Typical for ancient Greek "optical culture" - veneration of the form, order and proportions.
(d) Adverbial phrase "by nature" in A and B has a twofold meaning; (1) it denotes something innate, inherent, as opposed to something bestowed or imposed from outside "by force" or "by craft"; in this sense it obviously goes against the expression "by art", divine or human (ancient Greek opposition of physis and techne); (2) it means "by innermost essence" entailing the idea of an internal potential behind the biological development; in this sense, "by nature" presupposes the ultimate stage of perfection as the measure for all phases and instances of one species. This is in keeping with the idea that species have immanent essence and form which is to be realized if a particular thing is to be a full-fledged member of that class. Consequently, Aristotle excludes those who do not desire to know either purposely or through some defect, for they simply fall short of their essential nature.
2. The faculty of sensation: The capacity or the process of receiving sense impressions through direct stimulation of the bodily organs.
3. By appearances: Animals rely on what they perceive; appearances denote sensations or even "sense data".
4. Bees and similar animals (ants, wasps). These insects are apparently "intelligent". Why they then cannot be taught as dogs or elephants? Aristotle thinks that bees have the capacity of memory, but do not hear. The sense of hearing is a precondition for learning, because teaching, for Aristotle, must be conducted orally (conservative theory of learning).
5. Universal (experiental) judgment: judgment based on experiental knowledge covering many similar individual cases; experience is meant in the cognitive sense, that is to say, as a kind of knowledge about particular instances, not as something that has happened or is happening to us.
The Scale of Knowledge (Rank Ordering)
1. Sensation - not defined explicitly; includes sensing (the act), the senses (faculties) and sense-perceptions (the products of our use of the senses). The senses are the most "authoritative" means of recognizing particular things, but this knowledge is "easy" to attain.
2. Memory - not defined explicitly; results from sense perception and denotes a natural ability to collect, store and recollect previous sensations. Basically it is a spontaneously produced "image", which is regarded as a copy of that which it is an image of (Aristotle designates acquired, rationally controlled mnemonics with another expression - anamnesis).
3. Experience - results from memory, "for many memories of the same thing produce finally the capacity for a single experience"; so it is a "general knowledge" derived from many memories of the same thing (one particular instance remembered on many occasions).
4. Art - (the Greek techne includes both craft and art); it is the capability to make universal judgments that cover all cases of a certain type; thus, it is a "universal knowledge" that includes also the reason why something is so.
5. Science - defined in the Nicomachean Ethics (VI 3); the demonstrative and teachable knowledge deduced from the starting principles.
6. Wisdom - the knowledge of "the first causes and the principles of things"; in fact, it is a combination of an intuitive insight into these principles as well as the demonstrative (scientific, universal) knowledge derived from these principles (Nicomachean Ethics, VI 7).
Principle of Gradation: "more knowledge"/"more wisdom"; every next stage provides more information and deeper insights than the previous one that serves as its starting point. The first three levels answer the question whether something is so or not, whereas the second three give reasons why it is so. The question "Why it is so?" aims at an explanation.
Terminological Note: Aristotle's notions
of memory and experience should not be confused with our common usage
of these words which is very often exactly a reversal of its Aristotelian
counterparts. We say "one recalls in his/her memories what he/she has
experienced in the past", thus making experience precedes memory at least
temporally. In accord with this Webster defines memory as "the power,
act or process of recalling to mind facts previously experienced". On
the other hand, we understand experience loosely as "everything that has
happened in one's life we recall" (Webster), equating practically experience
with the "total of our memories". Defining memory and experience from
these disparate usages becomes either circular or not distinctive enough.
However, we can define memory more scrupulously without any specific recourse
to experience if we say that "memory is a mental function consisting in
reproducing previous mental states and sensations".
The first line is explained by the definition of art and the accompanying example:
1) Art arises from experience as a justified generalization
about similar things.
Experience connects the individual occurence of one thing with some
previous cases (x1 is a, x2 is b, x3 is c). Based upon symptoms and examination
art includes one particular case into its class (x is A; all A is B, x
is B). The second line should be understood as pointing to what at best
can be achieved in case that we lack not only craft but experience as
1) Lack of experience: we can find the appropriate
treatment only by chance (luck)
The reason for this deviation from the rank ordering (a very common phenomenon)
is the fact that every productive activity first and foremost has bearing
on particulars, and an actual treatment requires precisely the cognition
of particulars (experience) and only secondarily the cognition
of universals (art). The knowledge of particulars is provided by
experience, not by art.
No, it only complements it. Since we first and foremost deal with individuals, in treating an illness it does not suffice to have a universal knowledge in order to be able to heal; what is required is ability to recognize the particular as such; in that situation experience has better chances than rational account, because theoretical knowledge without experience cannot identify individuals. (Someone who has a theory but lacks experience will recognize the universal but not the particular falling under it.) Of course, the ideal would be to be able to subsume the particular case under respective universal rule. That is what makes a good judgement in arts.
Artists/artisans are not necessarily better in practice of those who have only experience; however, they always have the advantage of knowing not only that something is so, but also why it is so. They know the reason and the cause. The difference between the knowledge of facts and the knowledge of causes.
2. The physician does not heal a man, except in an incidental way, but Callias or Socrates…who happens to be a man.
The fact that each individual under treatment is a man remains in the performing of the healing art co-incidental. A physician does not heal general human nature, but a particular man. One's humanness is being affected only co-incidentally as belonging and determining that particular person.
This does not mean, of course, that any of the treated individuals is
incidentally a man. Being a man is, of course, an essential determination
for any member of human species. Thus Socrates is not incidentally a man,
but essentially; humanness is a property he must have in order to be what
he is, although, a particular human is Socrates incidentally, since he
may have been another person as well. On the other hand, to be Socrates
he must be a human (assuming that we do not give that name to animals
or plants). However, Socrates is ill only incidentally, as a particular
human being. It is perfectly possible that he is not ill. Illness is obviously
an accidental property for any individual human being. Being human allows
that possibility but does not imply it necessarily.
V Arts and Sciences
All levels of knowledge are measured as to the degree of wisdom they include or entail (i.e. whether they inform us only that something is so and so or give us the reason why it is so and the cause):
Theoretical kinds of knowledge or contemplative sciences - today's liberal arts - are pursued for the sake of pure knowledge, not because of any practical utility. In that sense they are freed from external purposes although they may prove useful in life. The sciences that aim neither at pleasure nor at meeting basic needs arose in the places where people had leisure. The importance of free time and free mind for philosophy: those who have to work until exhaustion for mere subsistence or do not go beyond everyday concerns simply cannot indulge themselves in philosophizing.
Productive sciences or poetical sciences - today's crafts
and arts sensu stricto. Their knowledge relies on universalized
experience and a good judgment. But they are pursued for the sake of their
products (something external), which may belong to the necessities of
life (crafts) or to the realm of delectation and pleasures (arts).
Note: Here Aristotle alternates the broad concept of art (techne), which also encompasses the sciences ("mathematical sciences"), with the broad concept of science (episteme), which includes the arts ("productive sciences"). But in the next paragraph (which may be a later addition) he refers readers to the Ethics where the difference between the two is clearly established (EN 1139b 14-1141b 8).
VI Wisdom (Sophia)
What kind of knowledge is wisdom? "Wisdom is knowledge of certain sorts of principles and causes." To find out what sorts of principles and causes wisdom is science of Aristotle expounds main features of those who are considered to be wise. This recourse to the common beliefs about the sage should help us understand the nature of his/her wisdom.
1. The wise person knows everything (universal knowledge).
Transition from Wisdom to Philosophy:
The Incommensurability of the Diagonal:
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