The Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy Newsletter

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With his clarification of the philosophical significance of the Pre- Socratic theories of elements Aristotle completes his discussion of the principles of perceptible bodies. He had embarked on this subject with the intent of explaining the first bodies and their role as principles of genesis and destruction. Jumping off from the theories of the Ionian philosophers who first proposed simple elemental bodies as principles of change, he probed behind these to discover even more fundamental principles, one of which was anticipated by another Ionian and by his teacher Plato. These ultimate principles will become for Aristotle the foundation of all explanations of material change in the natural world. In the end Aristotle’s exposition comes around full circle to those Ionians from which it began, to show them not so much as confused misadventurers in the quest for truth, but as successful explorers who, without realizing what they had really done, had caught a glimpse of the new world of imperceptible reality lying at the very foundations of the universe. By showing how even the errors of their incompatible and incorrect theories derived from the true structure of the natural world as he himself had come to understand it, Aristotle gained for his own theories the support of the wisest philosophers of the past and at the same time forged the first links with the phenomenal world that he proposed to explain.


David Hahm presented “Aristotle on the Principles of Perceptible Body” to the Society at its meeting with the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association in Chicago in 1993. This paper has not been published elsewhere.

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