Being all deep and stuff: Aristotle’s Physics, Book I

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Friday, May 28, 2010

Aristotle presents a new conception of metaphysics that has heretofore not been seen. He begins by asserting a methodology for discovering the nature of being in which things are analyzed first at the universal level and then at a more specific particular level. Aristotle then argues that people should use this method in tandem with their senses to discover what is knowable to us, and then rationally advance the argument to discover what is knowable in nature. In this way, Aristotle is the first to usher in a more methodological empirical approach, which is further improved by the way he leads the discussion of arguments. Aristotle presents the prevailing view for a phenomenon, demonstrates its inconsistencies, and then moves on to present his own. To begin the discussion, Aristotle explores how things come to be. Counter to the intuition, things come to be from contraries in a disjunctive format: either things are contraries or they come to be from contraries. However, because of the nature of contraries they cannot actually be the substance of anything that is. Aristotle then argues that accepting these conclusions as true must lead some to believe that there is a third thing as subject. To develop this topic, Aristotle explores the ideas of the pre-Socratics. These discussions illustrate a key argument for Aristotle: the predicate, not the subject itself is changing. In this way, Aristotle is making a more sophisticated argument because he seems to be containing the problem discussed by Parmenides. Specifically, the subject is not changing; therefore, subjects can know and be known.

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