Thursday, October 25, 2007

Aristotle's Metaphysics

I wanted to start my reviews with something a little highbrow, so I've chosen Aristotle's Metaphysics, specifically Book Lambda, in the translation by Hippocrates G. Apostle. This is required reading for the Philosophy of Being class I'm taking at the moment, which is why I read it.

Book Lambda is a summery of Aristotle's Metaphysics, in which he explains the main points of his cosmology. He explains the relationship between matter and form, his theory of change, and the importance of the mover. From there, he posits the existence of an Unmoved Mover (a being a pure actuality, who exists eternally, and whose action is to contemplate himself) which causes the fixed stars to move, which in turn give movement to everything else.

There is some debate, of course, about whether there are 55 unmoved movers or 47, or maybe even just one.

While his explanation of cosmology does not hold up to modern physics (he assumes a geocentric universe) his logical arguments display the sort of tight, sound, well ordered reasoning that one expects from Aristotle. For better or for worst, Aristotle's understandings of being, essence, causality, et cetera, have been a major influence on Western philosophy.

Rating: 7 out of 10
I love Aristotle, but the text can be both frustratingly vague and dense as marble, often at the same time. This is, I think, a side effect of the text being a compilation of his student's notes. Aristotle himself did not write any of the texts that bear his name. Both his organized style, and the arguments he makes are, however, essential for understanding later philosophers.