Aristotle's Empiricism

Oxford University Press (2021)
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Abstract

Aristotle is famous for thinking that all our knowledge comes from perception. But it's not immediately clear what this view is meant to entail. It's not clear, for instance, what perception is supposed to contribute to the more advanced forms of knowledge that derive from it. Nor is it clear how we should understand the nature of its contribution—what it might mean to say that these more advanced forms of knowledge are "derived from" or "based on" what we perceive. Aristotle is often thought to have disappointingly little to say on these matters. I argue here that this thought is mistaken: a coherent and philosophically attractive view of perceptual knowledge can be found in the various texts in which Aristotle discusses perception's role in animal life, the cognitive resources on which it does and does not depend, and the relation it bears to practical and theoretical modes of understanding. This book offers a sustained examination of these discussions and their epistemological, psychological, and ethical implications. It defends an interpretation of Aristotle as a moderate sort of empiricist, who thinks that we can develop sophisticated forms of knowledge by broadly perceptual means—and that we therefore share an important part of our cognitive lives with nonrational animals—but also holds that our intellectual powers allow us to surpass these animals in certain ways and thereby develop distinctively human forms of understanding.

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Marc Gasser-Wingate
Boston University

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References found in this work

The Varieties of Reference.Gareth Evans - 1982 - Oxford: Oxford University Press. Edited by John Henry McDowell.
Aristotle's first principles.Terence Irwin - 1988 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Ethics with Aristotle.Sarah Broadie - 1991 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Additive Theories of Rationality: A Critique.Matthew Boyle - 2016 - European Journal of Philosophy 24 (3):527-555.

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