Aristotle

SCIABRRC at acfcluster.nyu.edu SCIABRRC at acfcluster.nyu.edu
Wed Feb 22 12:38:25 MST 1995


Unfortunately, I'm out of town till next week, so I am unable to devote as much
time to a thorough answer to the criticisms of Aristotle as I'd like.

Just a few notes here.  I do not believe that Aristotle's ontological view of
logic is at odds with dialectics.  In fact, laws of logic and dialectics are
NEVER at odds simply because they are talking about different things.  When
Aristotle said that something cannot be A and non-A it is ALWAYS in a specific
context:  at the same time and in the same respect.  A and non-A, when taken at
different times and in different respects, can in fact be very different.
Aristotle did not view being as a static category; it encompassed "becoming" as
sure as anything that Hegel explored later.  A is A, and all that it can and
will become.  Such is the nature of potentiality as rooted in actuality.  I
think that what Aristotle promotes is a hard-headed realism in contrast to
idealism.  He is concerned with the real concrete and the conditions within
which the concrete exists and develops.  Meikle in his book, ESSENTIALISM IN
THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX develops many of these themes quite nicely.

Also, take this interesting quote from Aristotle:


	When any one of the parts or structures, be it which it may, is under
discussion, it must not be supposed that it is its material composition to
which attention is being directed or which is the object of the discussion, but
the relation of such part to the total form.  Similarly, the true object of
architecture is not bricks, mortar, or timber, but the house; and so the
principal object of natural philosophy is not the material elements, but their
composition, and the totality of the form, independently of which they have no
existence.  A house does not exist for the sake of bricks and stones, but these
materials for the sake of the house, and the same is the case with the
materials of other bodies.

	Abstract for a moment that Aristotle is talking strictly of houses.  He
is in fact, defending the analytical integrity of the whole, warning us to
never abstract the part from the whole, since the parts are always constituents
of the whole.  In modern terminology, one might say that the parts are
internally related to the whole, and gain their very meaning from the whole
which they jointly constitute.  There is a reciprocal organic connection here
that Aristotle recognizes in his methodology.  And it is this organic
connection which is essential to dialectic methods of analysis.  (See
especially Ollman's essay on abstraction in DIALECTICAL INVESTIGATIONS).

	I should also state that while it is true that Aristotle did not
develop the kind of revolutionary dialectic of Marx, we should not be
ahistorical to presume that he could have.  Aristotle was as much the creature
of history as any of the rest of us, but he pointed the way toward a
non-atomistic, non-reductionistic organic mode of analysis.

					- Chris

Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra
Visiting Scholar, Dept. of Politics, NYU




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