Aristotle’s Ethics as First Philosophy

Journal of the History of Philosophy 47 (4):pp. 620-621 (2009)
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Aristotle’s writings contain more direct statements about priorities and rankings among the various sciences, degrees of accuracy within them, routes to knowledge from first principles, “first philosophy” and its characteristics, and the relation between sciences and practical concerns than almost any other philosopher we know.Yet taken together, Aristotle’s statements on these matters belie the apparent systematicity of his philosophical temperament. Almost every devotee of Aristotle is compelled to choose certain texts as authoritative and relegate others to some specific topic-context in which they have limited validity. An only slightly shaky consensus among Aristotle’s readers has emerged through this process over time: on that consensus, Aristotelian first philosophy equals what later came to be called metaphysics, and is characterized by its remoteness from particular human discourses and desires, and from the types of knowledge we connect most directly with perception. First principles are also divorced from perception and are known through an incompletely explained intuitive process, but remain indemonstrable. Theoretical wisdom or contemplation soars above the domain of the human struggle, providing a stabilizing but distanced and abstract mode of considering the highest and most divine matters of which we are capable of thinking



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Eve Browning
University of Texas at San Antonio

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