Peu d’ouvrages publiés par des universitaires sur un sujet apparemment universitaire auront fait autant de bruit que celui de Sylvain Gouguenheim, intitulé Aristote au Mont Saint-Michel. Les racines grecques de l’Europe. Si le point de départ de cet intérêt extraordinaire a peut-être été la recension parue dans le journal Le Monde,..
We have no means of telling whether the ancient Greeks connected the onset of malaria with mosquito bites. Other peoples had done so, even before Manson's discoveries. But all we know of popular Greek ideas and beliefs comes down to us filtered through 'scientific' texts. In these texts (where imagination is tempered by rationality) fever is explained as a result of the body's mismanagement of the humours. The conceptual framework of Greek medical thought thus excludes a priori any relationship between (...) fever and the mosquito. (shrink)
In an evolutionist theory like that of Darwin, animal pleasure has a properly vital function in directing animals toward pleasant behaviors which also happen to be advantageous. The best example of this is probably sexual pleasure which contributes to the survival of species. Aristotelian fixism does not need such an analysis since Nature has provided living beings with an innate tendency to reproduce and pleasure cannot have an adaptative function, because adaptation is given to animals once and for all and (...) cannot improve. The idea that pleasure induces an animal to adopt some useful behavior by trials and errors is unacceptable to Aristotle. Animals, on the other hand, being deprived of the perception of the good and the beautiful because they do not partake in reason, do not get pleasure from things in the world but in a coincidental way : the odor of the hare is pleasant to the dog because it is associated, in the dog’s perception, to the fact that dogs do eat hares. Far from being pleasant by itself, the odor of the hare is not attractive at all for a fed up dog. It remains for pleasure to be the sign of the good functioning of the organism, that is an hymn to the perfection of Nature. (shrink)
I would like to start with a historical question or, more precisely, a question pertaining to the history of science itself. It is a widely accepted idea that Aristotelism has been an obstacle to the emergence of modern physical science, and this was for at least two reasons. The first one is the cognitive role Aristotle is supposed to have attributed to perception. Instead of considering perception as an origin of error, Aristotle thinks that our senses provide us with a (...) reliable image of the external world. The perceptive knowledge is a kind of knowledge in its own right, and the theoretical knowledge is, in fact, the continuation of the perceptive knowledge in some way. The second reason is the presumed inability of the Aristotelian philosophers to apply mathematics to the physical world. This was a formidable obstacle because modern physics came to be but as a mathematical physics. Aristotelianism had therefore to be, so to speak, superseded by the Platonic movement that originated in Florence around Ficino in order to give modern physics the conditions of its appearance. Galileo had to say that “Nature is written with mathematical letters” and Descartes that “our senses do not teach us what things are, but to what extent they are useful or harmful to us”. Alexandre Koyré is right to consider Galilean physics to be basically Platonic. The theoretical justification Aristotle offers for the impossibility of a convergence between mathematics and physics seems to be based on some fundamental features of his philosophy, i.e. he rejects the Platonic conception of a unique science, encompassing all things, and replaces it with the doctrine of the incommunicability of genera, whose corollary is that there is but one science for each genus. (shrink)
The -consensus of interpreters that gives books VII and VIII of the Politics a logical and chronological priority to books IV-VI and that claims that book VII advocates for an aristocratic regime must be abandoned. In fact, these last two books deal with questions which the legislator must know, but which fall short of any constitutional consideration. An image found in Book VII is illuminating: this book deals with the best conditions for life in the city and Aristotle compares it (...) to the material that the craftsman best arranges before giving his product its form. Prior for us, these considerations are therefore posterior by nature to the constitutional analyzes of books IV-VI. In light of the Aristotelian doctrine of two different kinds of priority, we can say that the manuscripts, which place books VII and VIII at the end of the Politics, adopt an Aristotelian order. (shrink)