Monday, February 27, 2012

James Chastek's appraisal of Aristotle's natural science: Note on Aristotle’s Physics

How can metaphysics then be a science rather than tentative opinion?

But in turning to the Physics in search of such truths, all one finds is a series of conclusions that are either false or of no value, and by “of no value” I mean the term as Aristotle himself used it: “definitions which do not enable us to discover the derived properties, or which fail to facilitate even a conjecture about them, must obviously be… futile (De anima, I:1)” If the value of definitions is from the power they give us to derive new properties and facilitate conjecture, then we must admit the truth of any number of things that nullify the supposed truth of common experience. For example, it is more valuable to identify rest and motion (as happens in inertia) or magnitude and time (as happens in Relativity). Again, we should affirm that things with no parts can move (Like electrons. The premise is not inconsequential – it grounds Aristotle’s proof for the existence of God) and we should deny that anything in motion needs a subject of notion (a light wave is not some thing waving – like aether) and that, as a consequence to this, magnitude is not the foundation of physical things, that is, a sort of substrate that supports all activity.

I wouldn't be so quick to jettison Aristotelian physics in favor of the reasonings of contemporary physicists, but it deserves a longer and better defense than I can give at the moment.

No comments: