22
May

Self Directed Study in Philosophy | Aristotle's Works | Sadler's Advice



this is the second video in a new series that I'm creating for people who are independent learners those who want to engage in self-directed study of philosophy but have some worries or concerns or questions about where to begin and who to begin with and how to do it this video focuses directly on Aristotle and touches a little bit on the Aristotelian tradition that continues all the way to the present but focuses mostly on how you can do productive study of Aristotle's texts Aristotle is a very important thinker in the history of philosophy there's very good reasons for this which we'll talk about in just a bit and on a personal note I'll mention that although I'm not a strict Aristotelian and I find many of his insights and approaches and sometimes even doctrines or systematic ways of viewing things to be extraordinarily helpful not just in terms of philosophy as a theoretical enterprise but as a practical enterprise as well I've been studying Aristotle and teaching him for more than two decades when it comes to the studying the teaching I've been teaching him for two decades my very first class that I taught included a good bit of his nickim Achaean ethics and a little bit of his politics so he's somebody who I know and appreciate quite a lot and I'm hoping that I can get that across to you and help you as an independent learner as somebody engaged in self-directed study to be able to make some progress in studying this great thinkers texts and ideas it's a legitimate and worthwhile I think it's certainly one that you ought to ask yourself why should I study Aristotle in the first place this is a question you can ask of anybody who you're gonna devote time and thought and energy to so in Aristotle's case there's going to be a lot of good answers to this but let's let's deepen the question you've only got so much time you've only got so much energy you've only got so much capacity to store things in your mind and to learn new things why should you focus on this philosopher from you know ancient Athens years and years two millennia ago why should you focus on him instead of focusing on somebody more contemporary well it's not to say that you can't focus on anybody who is more contemporary but you really don't want to pass up Aristotle he's somebody who's absolutely important to learn and to engage with any philosophy program that you would attend if it's worth anything we'll have you studying some of Aristotle's texts and engaging his thought to some degree one reason why you want to study Aristotle in the first place is that he is providing a philosophical approach of a lot of explanatory power and major significance it's worth remembering that he was Plato's best student and when he of course didn't get to become the Skull arc the leader of the Platonic school after going back off and doing some other things he returned to Athens to found his own school the Lyceum which became the Peripatetic school you see it referred to that way and this has been viewed not only as one of the very important philosophical schools of the ancient world but it played a major role in medieval philosophy it continued on through modern philosophy and there are neo Aristotelian in the present so by studying Aristotle you're prepping yourself for you know understanding a lot more than just Aristotle himself he also as somebody who's early in the the you know beginnings of philosophy as a discipline in fact he's one of the people who separates out all these different sub disciplines as areas of study in a systematic way he sets some central problems and issues and even vocabulary in ancient Greek of course translated into all sorts of other languages so he sets those things for us and it's worthwhile studying his his texts and his thoughts so that you can familiarize yourself with those and and then when you encounter them and other thinkers you know what you're running into he's also exercised an incredible amount of influence on other philosophers down to the present time there isn't a period of history within the the West where he didn't have some influence you could say well what about the Middle Ages before they rediscovered Aristotle they still had some Aristotle they had the categories and on interpretation and they knew about Aristotle's doctrines from people like Seneca and Cicero and so you know and boëthius so there was some discussion of him even when they didn't have all of the texts in hand but in the Islamic world in the Byzantine world they had Aristotle throughout all of that time and you know you could say well what about the modern period where we rejected Aristotle didn't Galileo say that you know we could get rid of all this silly Aristotelian physics well true and there were a lot of people who rejected you know the Scholastic's and Aristotle but when you're rejecting something that is being influenced by it right it's it's your your enemy it's your rival and Aristotle like many other philosophical figures and movements has had his rises and falls right now this is a time in the 21st century where there's a very strong neo Aristotelian movement going that's been strong for for quite some time never Aristotle never really went out of favor in some circles anyway but you know the point is his influence extends throughout the entire history of philosophy so he's worth studying for that reason as well another important reason to study Aristotle is it really has to do more with your own development what you're going to encounter in reading through his text is a systematic treatment of areas or objects of knowledge he treats things in what he views as a scientific or disciplinary way and so whether you agree with him or disagree with him it's well worth knowing what he has to say and where he draws the divisions between the different disciplines it's also incredibly good exercise for your own mind just like with reading Plato's dialogues or reading later philosophers by trying to puzzle out what Aristotle is saying and correlate the things that he says in one part to another part you are exercising your mind whether you agree with Aristotle or disagree with them you will get some benefit from studying him in this respect so those are all good reasons for studying this great Greek thinker when you're going to engage in self-directed study there's a set of very practical questions that you're going to ask about the texts which text you ought to have which translations which additions and how you ought to be studying them so let's start by talking about additions and translations first so there's good news and there's bad news the good news is there's lots and lots and lots of different translations of aristotelian works out there some of them have been translated into English dozens of times by different people some perhaps little more obscure texts less than that and you can pick and choose between them there is no one single absolutely best translation as a matter of fact if you don't have Greek I suggest that you you know if you want to study a particular text you consult different translations you know you can compare and contrast how they how the translators choose to to articulate what it is that he's saying at different points some good translations will have notes you know that that will say well this is the Greek term and here's what it means they may have a glossary in the back and and that's up to you to look around to find those sorts of things the other bit of good news is that quite a few of these translations are actually available online because many of the older translations are public domain texts early in the the you know beginnings of the internet there were quite a few people who thought let's put Aristotle's texts online for people as a resource and so you can find MIT and the Perseus project and all sorts of other really great websites doing that so all you got to do is put it into Google you know Aristotle nikka McKay and ethics and you'll find it online it may not be the most current translation but current isn't always necessarily the best there is no one-size-fits-all answer about translations really depends on you the reader so I would encourage you to check out different ones and you don't have to buy them necessarily go online take a look at them go to used bookstores you can pick up copies very cheap especially in university towns go to your local library they're bound to have some text by Aristotle that you can check out and read now you know do you need to have a big book that includes all of Aristotle's stuff I don't think that you you necessarily do there are a few anthologies that include all or many of his texts certainly the ones that you'd want to read the most and I'll mention just three of them and I'll put links to them below one is the complete works of Aristotle put out by Oxford University Press in two volumes two big thick volumes that's if you really really want to have everything that we have by Aristotle as a matter of fact I should mention we don't actually have all of Aristotle's texts many of them were lost in antiquity as often the case for ancient literature but we have a lot and so you know if you want to buy that you certainly could it's not going to hurt you to do that the translations are by different people then there's the basic works of Aristotle that's a big thick volume as well that's by the modern library classics and then Hackett who I think some of you may have you know seen before I always recommend Hackett translations in part because they're very cheap very affordable they have an introductory readings now the flaw with that one is that it doesn't include entire works it includes selections from works but if you want to you know sort of introductory I want to get to know Aristotle a bit that that's quite good Aristotle's works you're also gonna find anthologized in so many other philosophy textbooks anthologies guidebooks whatever it is that you're looking at you'll find you know the entire knick of McKay ethics in book after book after book or the entire politics or perhaps even the entire metaphysics in some of them so it's not as if it's hard to get your hands on Aristotle eerie in the opposite situation then people were say in the Middle Ages the question is well which which Edition do you need to have and there's no you know one single right answer as a reader take a look at it and understand of course that Aristotle is going to be difficult and see if you're able to make sense of it if if you need a very modern translation a very up-to-date translation get that for yourself if you can deal with these somewhat you know Oxford II old-fashioned language of earlier translations by all means go with that and you'll be perfectly fine there is a big question however about where to start and so we're going to look at that next once you've supplied yourself with perhaps a beginner's library or an anthology of aristotelian text the next question that comes up is well where should I start which book should I read first what's the introductory book to Aristotle and unfortunately there's a little bit of bad news there is no introductory book to Aristotle there is a sort of prescribed traditional way of going at Aristotle's works but it's not really that helpful to do that and this prescribed way is to begin with what we call the organon which is the logical works and they usually begin first time readers with a book called the category so that's when I first started reading eros tall that's what I got and you know I've actually this little bit of a digression I shot a bunch of core concept videos and I'm putting together an online course with learners on the categories because so many people get prescribed this and they're like what in the hell is this I have no idea what he's talking about or what any of this is supposed to mean it's not really a beginner level book as a matter of fact there is no beginner level book in Aristotle there's no introduction to the system by Aristotle there is no you know prolegomena or anything like that instead what you get is straight out Aristotle doing his thing so the categories and then the other logical works which would include everything from you know on interpretation and the prior posterior analytics all the way down into sophistical refutations all the way down into the topics those are what a lot of people start with but I think that if you do that unless you really really like syllogisms and epistemology you're probably going to get a little bit turned off and probably quite confused another thing that some people sometimes do is try to start with the metaphysics bad idea not the work to start with you know there's you could do that but you're gonna be so lost in going into it I tend to think that really the best book to to begin with and and it's still not a to begin with is the nikah mccain ethics and that's what i start students on it's a little bit easier to sort of wrap your head around it it is still difficult and confusing in parts for reasons that we'll talk about but it's a nice dive into to Aristotle's method and the key ideas and and approaches that that he's going to make germane so you know there's a couple different ways you can go you could start with this traditional thing of do the organ on first you could also some people try to initiate people by having them read the de anima or on the soul that's kind of a tough work as well then there's there's the approach of beginning with the nick of mckay and ethics and going through what we call the ethical political works the nick of mccain ethics and the adamian ethics are two different books that actually overlap to some degree and discuss some of the same topics along with them is the politics which is you know explicitly said to follow from book ten of the nikah mckay and ethics you're ready to go into the politics now and there's a few other works that fit into that spectrum of ethical political works the rhetoric is also very important the poetics which unfortunately we only have book one of and then I would say certain parts of the topics particularly book three of the the topics some some other stuff in there as well you know here's the thing though when you're reading Aristotle really you could pick any book to start with and you're gonna have the same experience which is reading some of it and being like what is going on here I'm not understanding three-quarters of what I'm encountering I mean if you do think you're understanding three-quarters of what you're encountering and you're going at it cold you're mistaken so you're gonna have that experience and be like oh man I feel like I'm out of my depth here that's fine that's that's normal for reading Aristotle you're gonna read that and and you know you're gonna come back to it later on and you're gonna get more each time that you read you're gonna get more when you read across the corpus when you read one book and then read another book then read another book and start making connections with them and not just books from say the ethical political works and them illogical works or maybe the physical works you know the biology stuff you're gonna see connections between them and your reading is gonna get richer and richer so in some respects you know it's it's not that important where you begin but I would say you know if you had to pick just one book to start with I would say the nikah McKay and ethics but if you want to start with the categories go on ahead if you want to start with the metaphysics and be very confused go on ahead if you want to start with one of the physical works parts of animals or you know any you know on the heavens you can do that if you want to but you won't probably get as much out of it so you know you're you are gonna have to read and reread don't worry about getting everything out of any one single reading especially at the beginning you're gonna find it difficult another thing I do want to point out at the start is that when you read a text and then you read another related text the translations may not translate the Greek terms exactly the same way so that you know something that's being discussed in the nikah McKay and ethics may not have exactly the same wording as what's being discussed in the politics or in the topics or in on the soul and you have to do a bit of philosophical detective work sometimes this is where having a glossary that has the Greek terms could be quite useful for you so that you can figure out you know he's talking about the same thing at this point another thing to keep in mind as well I would say is don't assume and this goes for any philosophical reading that terms that you're encountering in English mean exactly the same thing as they do in our normal everyday speaking about things or correspond directly to dictionary definitions philosophical vocabulary is a bit different and so you need to be attuned to that so that you don't confuse yourself too much in that way the other thing that I do want to point out is about about his text is that the key ideas are not always going to get their full treatment they're not going to get every single thing discussing them just in this text so for example on the sole is not the only place where Aristotle discusses the soul and its parts and activities and you know things like perception and desire and thinking there's discussions of this in all sorts of other works as well and so the more that you're reading the more you're going to start seeing the connections and the more you're going to start seeing the same topics being discussed in different works and the more you'll be able to put them together into some sort of coherent picture so that's a lot of stuff to talk about in how to start but I think that could be useful for a self-directed learner especially if they're approaching Aristotle for the first time I do also have some useful advice for you that stems directly from the genre and approach and structure of Aristotelian text themselves and and this is based on you know reading and rereading and rereading and also from from teaching where I see students running into problems so there's a number of different things that that fall into this and hopefully these these tips will be helpful for you the first thing that I do want to say is that when you're reading Aristotle try not to bring too many you know assumptions and structures and demands from the outside to superimpose upon his works you really need to learn from Aristotle himself reading his works or you know somebody else who can guide you through that how the works are structured and how the different divisions or disciplinary areas are going to be distinguished from each other and and what they require so you know logical works are gonna read a little bit differently than the physical works are going to read a little bit differently than the ethical political works and and so on so Aristotle himself will give you clues about that and sometimes he'll actually give you outright doctrines he'll say for example that ethical topics are not the same thing as physical topics or that you know looking at the soul the physical philosopher or you like somebody doing medicine is going to look at things in a different light than will the dialectical philosopher the psychologist who's interested in in how the soul works and how the emotions function so that's one important thing another thing that's really closely connected with this is don't expect to get a completely systematic comprehensive discussion of most topics from Aristotle when he presents things in his philosophical tree which many people think are actually lecture notes and the verdict is kind of out that whether that's that's really the case or not he'll often tell you I'm going to give you the outlines of things you have to fill them in and so he'll give you examples he'll say this is connected to this but he doesn't flesh everything out all the time this is particularly the case in those ethical political works like the Nicomachean ethics the politics the rhetoric he says I'm giving you the structure you have to actually fill it up with content I'll give you a few examples to help you along the way but it's up to you the reader and so when you're reading that sort of thing you do want to try to think about how would I apply this how would this actually work out and when you run into something where there isn't necessarily an answer where it seems like he's just stopped here that's going to be the way it is it's under determined and so you can't expect the same sort of comprehensiveness from Aristotle as you might from a later philosopher another thing that's really important to keep in mind for many of Aristotle's works is that they are what he calls dialectical at least in parts so what does this mean this is something he talks about in the topic so if you want to understand Aristotelian dialectics then you want to read that work the topics but I'm going to give you a sort of a thumbnail sketch and you'll see this playing itself out in so many of his works particularly in the introductory material but also going from book to book to book that is chapter to chapter to chapter in in modern parlance right he'll begin by saying okay here's a topic what does what does everyone else have to say about this what are some of the problems what are some of the issues that they bring up and what do people think about this and he'll talk about what other philosophers before him had to say he'll talk about other people who are intellectuals in some way like playwrights or you know sometimes politicians or other people who are who are famous those are oftentimes the wise or the you know the illustrious or however you want to talk about them and then he'll also talk about what what most people or many people think about a particular topic as well and now why is he doing that well you know he doesn't think that you have to reinvent the wheel when you're doing philosophy as a matter of fact instead of just trying to like go off by yourself and clear your head and then think about something you know with your own original thoughts you're probably actually better off seeing what other intelligent people people who are able to function well had to say about it so those are what we call and Doakes up those get translated as like starting points or opinions and he generally begins by looking at those but that doesn't mean that he accepts all of them on you know face value instead he he looks at them critically critically means making judgments correct ace is actually a judge like a judge of a poetry contest right or a judge in a trial and he says this part over here this is good we're gonna keep that but it's got to be understood a little bit different way this other stuff we're gonna get rid of that and that's the way he begins his systematic works you're gonna see this in the nick of McCain ethics you're gonna see this in book one of the metaphysics you're gonna see this an on the soul there's usually going to be some dialectical discussion and then he tries to go further with that and make it more scientific not in the way of like scientific method the way you think about today that you got introduced to an elementary or middle school with hypotheses and all that sort of stuff but scientific in the sense of a systematic body of knowledge that is developed out of these these sorts of things so the dialectical approach is particularly important another thing that you want to be forewarned about you are gonna see a lot of what seem to be complete digressions on Aristotle's part where he says you know we're going to talk about this and then he veers off into a sub discussion and he sticks with that for quite a while for example in the nick of mccain ethics in book 1 he's talked about happiness and the function of human beings and you know those sorts of topics he veers off into an interesting discussion that bears upon the happiness of the dead and whether the fortunes of their descendants have anything to do with that which seems to be you know completely irrelevant doesn't it or in politics book one he's got all these sort of side conversations going on one about you know slavery one about you know the nature of wealth and how that works how much you need for a household all of these actually do fit in somewhere and here's the thing to keep in mind sooner or later Aristotle comes back to the main point if you read on further you're gonna see him saying alright let's return back to this topic why did he go off on these digressions well you know if you're looking at an issue or a phenomena or something that's complex particularly things that are you know have a metaphysical depth to them or our complex like human beings are and our social interactions you got to look at it from different sides so that is what he's doing is saying let's look at this phenomenon from this side now let's look at it from this side now let's look at it from this side and all of these sort of circlings around you could understand them sort of like spiraling in getting closer and closer to what it is that he wants us to to understand and to know so be forewarned that's gonna happen a lot he's gonna pick up the same issue the same question the same problem and look at it in different ways trying to get you the reader to understand it in its fullness another thing that you want to keep in mind Aristotle is well known for being one of the early contributors to the discipline of logic and as a matter of fact I mentioned the organ on if you read his logical works you're gonna see a lot of what we nowadays call logic and a lot of epistemology and sort of you know methods of inquiry in there he doesn't always follow that as a matter of fact in the ethical political works he rarely sets things up in terms of explicit arguments and syllogisms there are a lot of people who want to try to read that in that's usually a mistake as a matter of fact even great thinkers like Thomas Aquinas in their commentary on on Aristotle will often fall into this trap of thinking that a syllogism is always this three-part argument with a major premise minor premise conclusion the way that Aristotle uses Sulu geese most right or Sula geese Thayne which are the Greek words that we get syllogism from it's a little bit broader than that you know anger for example he says in nikka mckay and ethics book seven cyllage eise's that doesn't mean that anger actually like it's on a track board and sets out a three-part argument it's more complex than that and so you know I mentioned don't try to read too many things in from the outside and impose them on Aristotle that's what we call instead of exegesis pulling things out of the text ace of Jesus reading things into the text you also don't want to do that with this syllogistic approach to things except maybe in some of the works where it actually does show up there are some key ideas that you're going to see recurring running throughout Aristotle's work I'm not going to try to summarize all of them at this point but I'll put a few of them up there on your horizon so you're gonna see him talking about causes idea in in Greek those are the explanations for why something is the way it is why something exists why it's in the condition that it is and he distinguishes a number of different types of causes that are in his view not reducible to each other so that's one important thing he also talks about the categories the categories of being the things that can be predicated the things that can be said of something else and so that's something that you want to be attentive to as well another key idea is that of the mean or middle this is really important in his ethics but it shows up also in the rhetoric and in the the poetics to a little extent and also in the politics some discussions of that this is the mess oh that's something that's in between this is absolutely central to Aristotle's virtue ethics as he articulates it in his ethics the distinction between possibility and actuality also quite important the notion of there being ends hell you know a Telos to something a good or purpose to that that's one of the four causes but that also plays a major role and and you can have these complex and telly keys these systems where there there's this you know relation you know sort of a hierarchical set up where the the thing that's you know the the end is really a means to something else and this is very important for a wrister Tilian reasoning he's also very interested in the relationship between parts and wholes as well and you're gonna notice one other thing and this is something I'll end on you can really take to the bank with you as we say Aristotle will make lots of distinctions now that's something that philosophy is particularly good at where does he make distinctions does he make distinctions just for the sake of making them no very rarely does he do that so whenever you see him saying well this can be understood in this way or this way or this way there's something there that you shouldn't discount he makes distinctions when we get to a term that is ambiguous where it's got multiple meanings for example nikka mckay and ethics book five justice Aristotle says this is a term that people get all you know up in a disagreement about the again all bollixed up why because they don't realize they're not talking about exactly the same thing this is a term that means multiple things that are connected with each other but aren't exactly the same so he'll make distinctions and it's very important to respect the distinctions that he makes maybe we want to make additional distinctions beyond them you know for example his distinction between three different main types of friendship maybe he didn't go far enough with that right but we begin with what he's what he lays out for us and then we can go further with these distinctions as indeed many of the commentators do so that's some advice for you about format genre structure of Aristotle's works hopefully that will be helpful to you to keep in mind as you're reading his stuff given how incredibly influential Aristotle has been throughout the centuries and the fact that there are plenty of neo Aristotelian 's out there today I thought that it might be good to talk about you know tradition and commentaries and what this neo Aristotelian term means and whether you have to be concerned with that as you're beginning your studies of Aristotle and the simple answer is no you don't you can actually study Aristotle on his own without having to bring in secondary sources without having to look at commentaries or interpretations of his texts you don't have to bother with that necessarily although there's nothing to say that you can't also do that and I think it's good to know for you know if you're gonna continue to study Aristotle where other people who are interested in Aristotle are coming from so let's talk about first the ancient and medieval and even some of the early modern commentaries on Aristotle there is this long tradition of people who are either Aristotelian themselves they identify as Aristotelian x' and they use his his methodology and his key ideas or they're not Aristotelian but they're in some way considering his stuff people who do commentaries on his his works now a commentary is where you take a text and you say here's what the the says in the text and here's the things that I have to say in addition to that or here's where it seems confusing here's what I think Aristotle means and there's a long commentary tradition of Aristotelian x' commenting on Aristotle's texts going through them the the the ancient period all the way into the Middle Ages so I'll just mention a few people who would fit into that one would be you know say somebody like Alexander of Aphrodisias right we have quite a few of his texts where he's comment on Aristotle sometimes he is because he's got a vantage point that Aristotle didn't have he's engaging with other philosophical schools he's saying the Stoics say this but here's an Aristotelian response to that because Aristotle didn't didn't know the Stoics they didn't exist at his time you know we could fast forward a number of years to somebody like for example Thomas Aquinas or many of the other medievals Thomas wrote commentaries on quite a few of Aristotle's texts he also wrote commentaries on another commentator Boethius who himself did a commentary Buie theists at one point before he died unfortunately had the idea of translating all of Plato's texts and all of Aristotle's texts from Greek into Latin now unfortunately he died before he could do more than just a handful of Aristotle's tax categories and on interpretation but those are commentaries and so you know Thomas Aquinas knows these commentaries and he you know mentions them himself so there's this long tradition of engaging with other commentators again do you yourself have to engage with this in order to understand Aristotle no and as a matter of fact at the beginning stages I would say to stay out of that sort of thing altogether figure out you know at least the the rudiments of Aristotle's position before you start bringing in other voices because they might sway you a little bit too much we can also talk about more modern commentary and this comes in the form of you know books and academic articles or you know it could also be a bit more informal like the videos that you see taking classes handouts things like that these are all attempts to try to make sense out of what Aristotle is saying and they can be at a very very high academic level or they can be for beginners the one thing that I would say to watch out for is anybody who claims to have a system for totally understanding Aristotle the texts that we have don't comprise a system there's many places where as I mentioned Aristotle is rather underdetermined so anybody who claims to like have given you the the key to unlock all of Aristotle's stuff and categorize everything you should be suspicious of that because they're usually going to be wrong there's a lot of people who in the 20th century were quite enthusiastic about Aristotle and who provided interpretations of Aristotle but we look at and we're like yeah I don't really think that going back to Aristotle's text this is a faithful reinterpretation of Aristotle you always have to ask you know is there a back and forth between the text not that people who bring something else to it and are also quite brilliant might not have something very interesting to contribute but you know you always want to make sure that the thinker is front and center not so in Zoe's interpretation of the thinker so you know you you don't want to take on the sort of modern equivalents of Thomas Aquinas Thomas is taking Aristotle and reading him in a certain way you know in some respects very respectful but in other respects pasting and superimposing a lot of things on Aristotle reading things in there that aren't necessarily there and so you know it's quite all right to use modern you know articles or you know resources books commentaries on Aristotle just make sure that when you're doing that you're not substituting a secondary text for the primary texts of Aristotle himself and you're not making Aristotle say more than he's actually saying in his in his works now I mentioned that there are neo Aristotelian Zout there you might say well what's the difference between them and Aristotelians so neo Aristotelian z' is the word that we use for people who are using Aristotle there they're beginning from Aristotle no they're explicitly and deliberately saying we got to add this stuff in we have to reinterpret this I understand that this is not what Aristotle said but we're going to include something else so for example I was at a conference a few years back and there was a really great paper being put out about Aristotle and water ethics and it was it was saying this is a neo wrist Italian take Aristotle thought that the universe was eternal and that you know resources were more or less you know not necessarily renewable but inexhaustible and he didn't have the conception of the environment that we have but we do have this this conception of a essentially finite and and rouen abaut environment that we need to take care of so we're beginning from these starting points and then we're using Aristotle to talk about this sort of thing that's what it means to be a neo Aristotelian you know a lot of the the the revival of virtue ethics in the 20th century in the anglo-american world because it never actually went out of favor and in France and Germany and other places like that a lot of that is what we would call neo wrists Italian and some of it is not that closely connected with Aristotle's text and some of it is very closely connected with it there's also people out there who are neo Aristotelian in a much more substantive way you could think for example of Alistair McIntyre and his you know project of tradition constituted inquiry running from after virtue all the way you know through the the works you know whose justice which rationality all the way up to dependent rational animals and continuing on as well that's Aristotelian and that's there's many people who've been following him and using his work and expanding beyond it as well so we can talk about revolutionary aristotelianism all of that is part of this great great tradition of appropriating and reinterpreting Aristotle again do you need to read that in order to understand Aristotle do you need their for example to read Alistair McIntyre's after virtue you don't you don't need to read commentaries you don't need to read somebody's latest work about Aristotle you can go to the texts themselves but after you've been doing that for a while you might want to become part of that larger conversation and so you'll start looking around for that and you know there is no like recipe or list of what the best Aristotelian source texts are you know for for literature on him or about him but you'll sort of sort that out as you go along so that's all I really need to say about about that issue there are a few other problems and issues that we really do need to address in part because if we don't they're likely to become a stumbling block and and lead many people who would otherwise put the time in and the effort to understand Aristotle to you know discard that that process so what I have in mind are ways in which Aristotle's texts themselves and some of the assumptions and some of the outright declarations that he might make are you know they're surpassed they're outmoded they've been revealed as fundamentally problematic or or sometimes just completely wrong and so we could start by talking about his physics and his biology as well I mean Aristotle is doing good science for his time but you know science has passed him up I you know there are some people out there that are trying to do some things with Aristotelian physics or understandings of you know biology in terms of entelechy or you know discussions of Aristotelian ism and in mathematics but most of those are what we call non starters it's it's probably not worth trying to resuscitate an Aristotelian point of view at least in that respect and his logic has not been discarded as such I mean if you take a logic course and it's worth anything you will study some Aristotelian logic and that's fun and that's usable for some things but you know modern logic has indeed gone beyond there's a matter of fact the Stoics already went beyond the Aristotelian logic and contributed some some new things but it's still worth studying it's just Aristotle's logic doesn't cover everything that it would need to when we move on to matters of the ethical and political works we see that Aristotle's point of view is you know to a large extent conditioned by the culture of his time he says a lot of boneheaded things about women about people who are in a slave or subservient position about working people in general about everybody who's not a Greek the people that he calls barbarians and when you see these sorts of things you you have a couple different choices you could ask you could you know ask yourself what is he really getting at here or you could like say oh this is all this is awful you know these are not acceptable things to be saying let's throw the book away or you could say I wonder if in Aristotle's texts there are some resources for rethinking this or you could say if Aristotle were here today and he'd say went into a classroom where you know many of the classes I teach are more women than men and he heard them conversing would he really still say the same kind of things that he said you know going from the culture of his own time when he revised the things that he had to say and so I think that that that's quite important by the way I'll mention just one other thing many of the Aristotelian scholars of the 20th century who I cite in my own research and who I have derived a lot of of you know benefit from in reading are in fact women Julia Anna's Giselle Giselle Ostreicher you know we could go down the list of you know really important I think there's Amelie Rorty you know so clearly they don't think that you should just throw Aristotle away because he said stupid things about women that he would probably revise in the present so that that's something important to keep in mind and you can work out your own position on that if you want to there's one other thing as well that I think is worth bringing up if you get into Aristotelian scholarship you will sometimes see them discussing which text came before which other text it's a similar problem to what goes on with plato's tax it's what we call the genetic ordering right where did this text come into being in relation to others and there are some that we can be that you know this text had to come before this text because you know the earlier text is being mentioned in the later text we can be confident although maybe you know he went back and rewrote that when it comes down to it we really don't know many of these theories about the ordering of the Aristotelian text and when exactly they were written they're pretty speculative and they don't really have much important to say about how you ought to be reading Aristotle it was a very popular thing to do in German scholarship in the 19th and early 20th century to be engaging in this this sort of analysis but it didn't contribute an awful lot of illumination to understanding Aristotle in his own right so I don't think that you need to be particularly worried about it so what I've brought up in this this section are concerns that you might have in part because other people seem to be concerned about them and I'm saying to you if you're going to study Aristotle as somebody who wants to you know immerse themselves in the history of philosophy learn some important thinkers and texts along the way engage in this process of self-directed study don't let those things become obstacles to you don't let them become stumbling blocks or scandals you know I'm going to say the same thing just keep going back to the Aristotelian text that will be enough work for you already so I've got a few final thoughts for first of all if you are studying Aristotle on your own doing self-directed study that's really great I congratulate you I'll congratulate you more after you've read your way through some Aristotelians texts but I think it's a wonderful thing for you to be doing is such an important philosopher and it's going to be a good bit of work for you the second thing I'll say is I think you can tell by this point that Aristotle is somebody I'm quite passionate about I've been teaching him for 20 years and studying him for even longer I didn't appreciate him at the beginning as a matter of fact I didn't like him until I started studying him in Greek and then so many things opened up for me but a lot of other people read him or encounter him in my classes and they're like this is really wonderful great stuff and and I'm always happy to see people turned on by Aristotle the third thing that I'll say is like most philosophers you know you can get a long way by studying Aristotle but don't expect him to have an answer to everything that's that's asking too much of somebody who is you know removed from us by two millennia and a lot of culture and a number of different assumptions but it does provide us with a really powerful way of approaching things and and you're gonna find so much cool useful stuff in his text that's probably a great place to end this so if you've watched your way through this whole video I hope you get cracking on reading Aristotle's text just keep working at it and you will find it quite rewarding you

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17 Comments

  • gp365y says:

    I've just begun reading Edith Hall's new book on Aristotle. Amazing read so far. Has anyone else here looked at it?

  • Tim Keefe says:

    One other very important thing concerning reading Aristotle: his life and historical context.

    Particularly for works like the De Anima, Metaphysics, and Politics, superimposing modern, 21st century understanding of the topics he addresses can often lead to confusion.

    The De Anima is the Latin translation of the Greek "Peri Psyche," and "psyche" is not the Christian conception of "soul." Rather, it's a life force for the individual organism.

    In the Metaphysics, the "prime mover" or "unmoved mover" is not the Christian conception of God, even though the mover is itself is, according to Aristotle, immortal and unchanging.

    In the Politics, Aristotle has a good deal to say about democracy, but in a vastly different sense than what we'd call "democracy" today. And, Aristotle isn't a fan of democracy, for reasons he elucidates in the Politics.

    Bottom line . . . as with Plato and other philosophers in the history of philosophy, one must be careful not to take things out of the historical context, even though many of the topics they discuss are still relevant for us today.

  • Andre WN says:

    Hello, Prof. Sadler. Have you heard of Brazilian philosopher Olavo de Carvalho ? According to him, four of Aristotle's works reflect a chronology of human development — both on a collective and on an individual basis. The stages are: poetics, rhetoric, dielectics (topics) and logic (analitycs). Have you heard of such chronology or perioditization before ? Have you heard of someone else elaborating on that kind of theory ? Thank you.

  • Zakaria says:

    I've always been interested in Aristotle since he's called in the Islamic world "The first Master". this was quite helpful. Thanks, Mr.Sadler.

  • D. P. says:

    Plato and Aristotle lived in Middle Ages https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WB_Zr75-emE

  • Sunny says:

    Hi Greg, for an individual that is concerned with understanding human nature, broadly speaking, between philosophy and academic psychology, which field of study and practice reaches further? why would one chose the philosophy route particularly over the academic psychology or even applied psychology route?

  • André Gamito says:

    There should be an educational prize on YouTube. Thank you for the helpful videos. Any thoughts about the next self study guide? (If there is going to be one)

  • Leon says:

    Perfect timing, I just started the Nicomachean Ethics a couple days ago. Your core concepts videos (as usual) have been a great supplement.

  • Straight White Male says:

    Start with Aristotle and Plato.

  • gp365y says:

    Who do you like more Aristotle or the Stoics?

  • Exiting The Cave says:

    I've been using the Loeb editions, to try to study the Greek a little more closely, but where I get a little lost is not so much translations, but good commentary scholarship compilations (Cambridge, routledge, Blackwell, etc…) Which do you prefer?

  • Armand Babakhanian says:

    Do you recommend watching philosophy lectures about Aristotle and the specific text before beginning to read him?

  • Leandro Rodrigues says:

    Congrats! I watched the whole video, yours tips are helpful, mainly, for people who are starting in philosophy's world. Greetings from Brazil, São Paulo.

  • ecstasy the way says:

    i tried metaphysics first ….and u told my story …..🤪

  • Tahsin Aladağ says:

    Great video. I remember Heidegger saying something along the lines "If you want to understand my work, you have to study Aristotle for at least 10 years" which what made me go back to Aristotle. This video is incredibly helpful for that. Thank you!

  • jan coil says:

    It should not be that amazing. We have editors who do not read the books they review, politicians who do not read the laws they vote on, and alot of us who do not always
    practice what we preach to others.

  • Gregory B. Sadler says:

    Amazing to me that anyone would have a thumbs-down for a video that hasn't yet aired. I guess some people don't like Aristotle?

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