Aristotle and dialectics

Charles Andrews chandrews at igc2.igc.apc.org
Wed Feb 22 22:45:46 MST 1995


Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra on Aristotle:
>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.<

    This is typical metaphysical (non-dialectical) thinking.
Plato loaded a similar statement with even more restrictions:
"Clearly one and the same thing cannot act or be affected in
opposite ways at the same time in the same part of it and in
relation to the same object" (The Republic, 436b, translated by
Desmond Lee).
    Of course the same attribute can belong and not belong to
something. Everything is made up of contradictions, which are
unities of opposites in struggle. Didn't Zeno state his
paradoxes before Aristotle? The arrow is both moving and
not-moving--at the same time and in the same respect.
    The attempt to deny contradiction by adding qualifiers, by
mentally slicing and dicing a thing into aspects kept apart from
each other, is a metaphysical, anti-dialectical maneuver. Things
have distinguishable parts and aspects, but the metaphysician
uses this limited truth to deny the unity and struggle of
opposites.

    Aristotle certainly laid out many concepts, each with an
arena of validity. Sciabarra quotes him on matter and form of a
house, for example. In the very quote, however, Aristotle
displays his ultimate tilt to idealism and against materialism:
"...the principal object of natural philosophy is not the
material elements, but their composition, and the totality of
the form..." As if matter and form were not inseparable (go
build a house with chocolate pudding).

Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra on Aristotle:
>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...<

    Revolution and revolutionary dialectics did not begin with
Marx, and anti-revolutionary metaphysics and idealism existed in
Aristotle's time. Class struggle had begun. Since a previous
post said that Lenin praised Aristotle for his contribution to
dialectics, a counter-quote is in order: "Aristotle in his
Metaphysics continually .... _combats_ Heraclitus and
Heraclitean ideas." (Lenin, "On the Question of Dialectics,"
first paragraph, Collected Works, p. 359.)


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