Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Companion to Aristotle

A Companion to Aristotle
Edited by Georgios Anagnostopoulos

A Companion to Aristotle is a good presentation of Aristotle’s life, methods, and ideas. The book of 650-pages is divided into five parts and has articles from 37 professors of philosophy from major universities.

According to the book’s editor Georgios Anagnostopoulos, a professor of philosophy at the University of California, the book's aim is to treat some central topics of Aristotle’s philosophy in as much depth as is possible within the space of a short chapter.

In the book’s first part titled “Aristotle’s Life and Works,” the focus is on Aristotle’s life and certain issues about the number, edition, and chronology of his works. Anagnostopoulos is the author of the two articles in this section. He says: “Aristotle was the last great individual philosopher of ancient times, one of the three thinkers – the others being Socrates and Plato.”

The second part, “The Tools of Inquiry,” has articles from five authors on the ideas on deductive logic and knowledge that Aristotle has proposed mainly in the Prior Analytics and Posterior Analytics. However, Aristotle has commented on such topics in passages from several works, and therefore this section of the book includes brief discussion of MetaphysicsCategoriesPhysicsde Anima, and other works.

The third part, “Theoretical Knowledge,” is subdivided into four parts — Part A is on Metaphysics, Part B is on Physics, Part C is on Psychology, Part D is on Biology. This is the longest, and in my view the most important section of the book. It has 16 chapters by different authors and it gives a lucid overview of Aristotle’s seminal contributions in philosophy and science. Here’s a quote from Aristotle’s Metaphysics—on his firmest principle, the principle of non-contradiction: “For the same thing to hold and not to hold of the same thing at the same time and in the same respect is impossible, given any further specifications added to guard against dialectical objections.”

The fourth part, “Practical Knowledge,” with 13 chapters is subdivided into two parts: Part A is on, and Part B is on Politics. The practical focus of Aristotelian ethics comes to light in the section on ethics. As Aristotle says in the very first sentence of the Nicomachean Ethics, “Every craft and every inquiry, and likewise every action and decision, seems to aim at some good. For which reason people have rightly concluded that the good is that at which all things aim.” Dr. Robert Mayhew, an expert in Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, has written a chapter, “Rulers and Ruled,” in the section on politics.

The final or the fifth part of the book carries the title, “Productive Knowledge.” It has two parts, each with two chapters—the first part is on Rhetoric, and the second is on Art.

On the whole, A Companion to Aristotle offers a careful analysis of the elements of Aristotelian thought. It brings to light the greatness or the vast scope of Aristotle’s works. In my view, the book’s presentation is sufficient to convince you that it is Aristotle’s ideas that stand between civilization and barbarism.

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