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Aristotle by A. E. Taylor


by A. E. Taylor

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This book is a good general introduction to the thoughts of Aristotle. It discusses the categories that he divided his philosophy into and gives an overview of each one. The similarities and differences between the thought of Aristotle and Plato are mentioned, and how the thinking of the former diverged from that of the latter with time.
The book does a good job of pointing out the strengths of Aristotles work, such as how his system of logic and ability to collect facts have influenced subsequent philosophers. Also noteworthy is quite how many things he was wrong about, things that Plato and other predecessors of Aristotle did not so seriously misunderstand. For example, Aristotle refused to believe that the earth moved, he thought that the heart not the brain was the organ of thought, that different types of matter did not gain their physical properties from different geometric arrangement of "corpuscles" or atoms (as Plato and the Pythagoreans believed, in line with modern chemistry), and that there could not be empty space between matter - only a qualitative rarefaction. He also favoured the Empedoclean elements of earth, water, air and fire, which were even considered out of date in the time of Aristotle by the rest of the Academy. One of the more profound observations of Aristotle, which is to this day a source of wonder for biochemists and biologists, is that there is no clear demarcation between what is living and what is not living. Living things exist from the immobile non-thinking barely sensitive and minute creature, to the large, mobile, conscious and thinking man, with millions of gradations of plant of animal between.
What comes across as curious is how wrong he could be about so many things which were correctly taught by his predecessors, while on the other hand he also wrote and taught well about an incomparable number of things across a large number of disciplines. He was of sorts the first scientist, who rigourously and actively collected facts and sought explanations of them. In this sense he was a good scientist, but he was also a bad scientist because most of his explanations were wrong, despite more correct explanations being around. Aristotle also comes across as disliking maths, which partly explains why he disagreed with Plato and the Pythagoreans about certain things.
The treatment of Aristotle in this book may be biased, as Taylor is primarily a Platonist, and I may have read it as a Platonist, but I don't think that the book goes as far as to be unfair to Aristotle. The distinctions between matter and form, his logic, his categories, his ethics, and his methods, have all had positive and substantial influence on later philosophy, even if they have had a negative effect on certain areas too (notably the hesitance to accept heliocentrism). ( )
  P_S_Patrick | Apr 10, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
A. E. Taylorprimary authorall editionscalculated
Heston, CharltonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486202801, Paperback)

In this brilliantly written popular account, the foremost Platonist examines Aristotle's theories, historical background, influence, and present-day application. Dr. Taylor covers the Greek philosopher's thoughts on classification of the sciences; scientific method; formal logic; induction; theory of knowledge; the four causes; motion and its eternity; God; terrestrial bodies; and much more.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:49 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Aristotle, known as "the Philosopher" by later thinkers, created a huge body of work that was virtually synonymous with philosophy for over 2000 years. His most well-known doctrines include the notions that morally virtuous people seek moderation in all things (the "mean" between extremes); that the soul is the essence or the characteristic activity of the living body; that happiness is found not in mere pleasure, but in fully developing the powers of the soul in pursuit of excellence throughout a lifetime; and that in the good life we engage in the right activities for their own sake. Aristotle organized and classified an immense amount of knowledge, much of it scientific theories developed with only the crudest observational tools. All knowledge is organized into the theoretical disciplines (physics, "first philosophy" [metaphysics], and math); practical disciplines (ethics and politics); and productive disciplines (engineering, medicine, etc.).… (more)

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