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The Main Concepts of Aristotle’s Metaphysics

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Aristotle, also known as “The Philosopher”, is one of the top philosophers, who brought new ideas into philosophy. Contrary to Plato’s beliefs, one idea that he brought in is how there are multiple types of sciences, not just one. However, he also believes that the greatest science of them all is philosophy. In Aristotle’s Metaphysics he shows the readers a different side of philosophy that wasn’t shown before. He shows his different perspective when it comes to showing the reader how we take delight in our natural curiosity by showing us the distinctions between perceptual knowledge, experiential knowledge, and knowledge as art in both its practical and theoretical forms.

In Aristotle’s essays he shows how perceptual knowledge provides us with the natural desire to know. In other words, it provides us with the natural human curiosity through the use of the senses. For example, if you hear screaming we have a natural desire and instinct to want to look and see what’s going on (“curiosity killed the cat”).That’s why Aristotle argues that “all human beings by nature desire to know.” This means that all of us take delight in our natural curiosity because of its prospect of giving knowledge to someone whose acquisition is effortless. The clue that Aristotle offers us is our senses. They are an indication and a sign to help show us how we take pleasure in knowing about this knowledge. The sense that we take pleasure in the most for this knowledge is sight. This type of knowledge, that’s based off of sight, is called perceptual knowledge. Perceptual knowledge yields an awareness or knowledge of simplicity and individuality in the present. The sense of sight is the most useful and loved by all. According to Aristotle, we prefer sight above the other senses because sight makes us effortlessly aware or provides knowledge of the many differences and variety amongst what’s happening in the present. No other sense can provide us with the knowledge of differences to the degree that sight can.

Aristotle goes on to teach us more about the experiential knowledge and how it provides us with perceptual knowledge, memory, and hearing. Aristotle gives an example on memory and how it provides us knowledge of the past and how hearing provides us with knowledge of awareness. Both provide us with the knowledge of experience. This knowledge will help you understand and learn the meaning of what’s right and what’s wrong. Aristotle then states, “Now from memory experience is produced in human men…” Experiential knowledge comes from numerous memories of past events, yielding insights into a set of our memories. Yielding of insight is also known as a “rule of thumb” which is a type of knowledge obtained by experience. Experiential knowledge is a type of knowledge that does not need any type of formal education. In other words, experiential knowledge is awareness or knowledge of past events to be made useful for the present through memory and hearing. Being able to have memory and hearing makes experiential knowledge to be sequential knowledge because it also continuous with the natural desire to know (perceptual knowledge). Experiential knowledge can never provide the knowledge of the links between between a set of actions because the links are the causes in the sequence of actions which do not manifest themselves in the actions.

Even though art and experience seem to be similar, once the art is being attained, it ceases to be related to experience. Knowledge based on art helps differentiate the essential conditions to understand something from the accidental features that came along with experience. Knowledge based on art provides; a universal or general rule about similar things, a knowledge that is teachable, and knowledge of causes. These three topics (elements) make it possible for knowledge based on art to be casual, not sequential, in knowledge. Knowledge based on art is mostly in people who have had some sort of formal education and it doesn’t matter if they have had any experience. Which made art possible to be able to learn things such as learning a language. Once the knowledge based on art is achieved it no longer relates to experience. This means that it is no longer continuous with the natural desire to know. However, according to Aristotle “With a view to action experience seems in no respect inferior to art…” He also states two things; knowledge based on art does not by itself, yield on awareness of the particular or individual and knowledge based on are does not have a monopoly on producing successful outcomes. In addition, Aristotle believes that those whose knowledge is based on art are wiser than those whose knowledge is based on experience. The proof that Aristotle uses is that we desire to know by nature because such knowledge satisfies our curiosity and needs. The only way that we can fully understand art is by knowing its its disclosure of knowledge as knowledge of causes. Just like learning a language, the necessary conditions for understanding something is not differentiating from the accidental features which come along in the experience the absence of which would make no difference. But a person whose knowledge is solemnly based on experience would not know that. Aristotle has given much attention to the distinction between art and experience in order to trickle out the art that element that overrides the successfulness of knowledge based on experience.

Aristotle then starts to make a differentiation between two kinds of knowledge based on art. A knowledge based on art that is oriented to yielding a useful result is a practical art while a knowledge based on yielding nothing of use is theoretical art. As Aristotle states, some arts (practical) were created to deal with the necessities of life, to satisfy human needs, to be useful to various parts of humanity, and if not, all of humanity. Others (theoretical), however, were created for their own sake, with no usefulness in mind. Aristotle believes that theoretical art only emerges when the necessities of have been satisfied because those who engage in theoretical art are wiser or have knowledge to a greater degree than those who engage in practical art. This is due to theoretical art emerging when it comes to light as not doing us or not serving us any purpose, unlike practical art. Even though theoretical art is not good for mankind, Aristotle claims that knowledge that’s based around theoretical art is more choice worthy than knowledge based on practical art. This is due to theoretical art being the most trustworthy for its own sake regardless of whether delight, success, or practical benefit ensues from it or not. Aristotle calls this type of knowledge “wisdom”. In contrast to practical art, wisdom is knowledge for its own sake of first principles and causes, which sets the importance and priority of other forms of knowledge or sciences to one another.

Wisdom is a theoretical art that yields knowledge of causes for its own sake. In the second part of Aristotle’s metaphysics he mentions 6 features that pertain to wisdom. He states, that wisdom is a theoretical art or knowledge of cause for its own sake that is: comprehensive and synthetic, complex, precise, teachable, intrinsically beneficial, and authoritative. Comprehensive and synthetic and complex features reveal that wisdom is not perceptual knowledge because perceptual knowledge is simple and individual, not comprehensive and complex. The precise and teachable feature reveals that wisdom is not experiential knowledge because experiential knowledge provides a “rule of thumb”, an approximation that cannot be taught, unlike a casual rule and a precision that can be taught. The intrinsically beneficial and authoritative features reveal that wisdom is not a practical art because practical art provides a knowledge of cause that is dependent on extrinsic needs and purposes and governed by other more fundamental knowledge.

In contrast to practical art, wisdom is knowledge for its own sake of first principles and causes, which sets the principles of importance and priority of other forms of knowledge or sciences to one another. Humans need or the necessities of life prompt or motivate human beings to a calculation about the means for satisfying those needs or overcoming those necessities. But what motivates or prompts us to wisdom, which is labeled as “philosophy,” is, wonder. In other words, wisdom or philosophy begins in wonder. Wonder motivates one’s inquiry into things that puzzle her for the sake of wisdom.

Aristotle’s wonder is complex to understand and in order to obtain that knowledge we have to look back to the beginning concerning the natural desire to know. If one naturally desires to know that means one lacks knowledge, is ignorant, and seeks knowledge. If one wonders, that means one is puzzled or perplexed, is ignorant, and seeks knowledge. The difference between both the naturally desire to know and wisdom is that the natural desire to know is natural and entails ignorance in the face of not knowing something. It entails an awareness of one’s own ignorance. It is our natural curiosity that seeks plain and simple knowledge about the person or state of affairs of which we do not have knowledge.

However, wonder is not natural because it is prompted by ignorance of cause. It entails ignorance in the face of perplexity or puzzlement even in the face of knowing something. It entails an awareness of one’s own ignorance. It is the intellectual pursuit to recognize that which is truly opaque in that which is the plainest thing. Finally wonder is the theoretical curiosity of those who constantly seek knowledge, appropriate for the divine of the causes and truth of things and states of affairs plain and manifest us. So if wonder is the impetus for philosophy or wisdom then the possibility of philosophy cannot arise before there are arts. 

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