About John Lilburne







1749 Sat 11 Aug 2001

Today I have been reading Aristotle's Metaphysics. Of the 14 books, I have read five.

I have been struggling to understand the term "metaphysics". Aristotle's book seems to have been given that title because it came after his book called "Physics". According to Simon Blackburn's "Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy": "the term is now applied to any enquiry that raises questions about reality that lie beyond or behind those capable of being tackled by the methods of science." I don't feel comfortable with that approach.

One of my favourite books on philosophy is "Philosophy for Dummies" by Tom Morris. I looked in the index for "metaphysics" and it was not there. This tends to be his style - discussing philosophical issues in modern language, rather than the historical terms being used.

Aristotle's Metaphysics begins: "All men by nature desire to know." In about 330 BC he wrote: "mathematics has come to be identical with philosophy for modern thinkers" (992a34). Book 2 begins: "The investigation of the truth is in one way hard, in another easy. ... while individually we contribute little or nothing to the truth, by the union of all a considerable amount is amassed." There are indications of theology: "it is impossible that the first cause, being eternal, should be destroyed." (994b6). In Book 4 he seems to be dealing with relativism: "Regarding the nature of truth, we must maintain that not everything which appears is true" (1010b1). Book 5 has been difficult, reading almost like a glossary.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 11 August 2001.


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