By Terence Irwin
Exploring Aristotle's philosophical strategy and the benefits of his conclusions, Irwin the following indicates how Aristotle defended dialectic opposed to the objection that it can't justify a metaphysical realist's claims. He focuses fairly on Aristotle's metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of brain, and ethics, stressing the connections among doctrines which are usually mentioned separately.
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Extra resources for Aristotle's First Principles
In Book iv he argues that science requires subjects with essences; and in vii he argues that the initially confusing variety of candidates for substance reﬂects our appeals to each of these presuppositions of science. An inquiry into substance shows what subjects and essences must be like if they are to be objects of scientiﬁc knowledge—what sorts of basic subject we must recognize, and what their essential properties must be. I examine Aristotle's inquiry into substance in some detail (though not in enough detail to deal properly with all the controversies about it), because the details of his argument matter for our account of his method.
Aristotle recognizes that dialectical inquiry is to an important degree non-empirical; and while this contrast is especially clear if we accept his own over-simpliﬁed view of empirical inquiry, it remains even if our view of empirical inquiry is less naïve. But once we appreciate the character of dialectical inquiry, it becomes less easy to see how it can reach objective principles; the naïve realism that supports the objective status of empirical conclusions is not available for dialectic. Since the characteristic method of Aristotle's philosophical works is dialectical, doubts about dialectic imply doubts about his philosophical arguments.
I do not cover all of this work; and I do not consider all the arguments that have been given for ﬁnding doctrinal conﬂicts or different chronological layers in it. But I take seriously the possibility that at least some parts of it present a connected argument that is controlled by the conception of ﬁrst philosophy set out in Book iv. It must be admitted that Aristotle does not emphasize any continuity between his arguments about ﬁrst philosophy in Book iv and his arguments about substance in Books vii–ix.
Aristotle's First Principles by Terence Irwin