Analysis Of Aristotelian Metaphysics And Its Relevance To Modern Scientific Views
Aristotle begins his account in Metaphysics by talking about how knowledge is obtained in various ways and forms. He believes that one has the most substantial claim to knowledge if one can give the best account of it. To facilitate this, he suggests the notion of “the first causes”. Concisely, the first causes seek to recognize the reason why. This gives us a background of his premise that to answer a question of why a thing is, we must know its four causes, namely: essential, formal, final and material. He writes, “everyone’s judgment in any discipline deserving the name of wisdom must describe the first causes”. This postulation relates to his notion of ‘being and essence’, which is one of the four causes previously stated. In Book IV, he persists on the idea that ‘being is unity’, where he writes, “being and unity are of the same and a single nature, since they imply each other, as principle and cause do,” which implies that he considers the idea of being as a single phenomenon that can exist independently in reality.
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In an Aristotelian sense, to explain what a “material reality” is, one needs to analyze his characterization of matter. Aristotle states that things that have natural comings to be are those who come to be from nature. They come to be from a thing called “matter”. According to him, matter can fall into two categories: Ordinary matter and prime matter (or perceptible and intelligible). While explaining his notion of an account, he states, “primary things are those that are spoken of in a way that does not consist in one thing’s being said of another. ” He also says, “substances evidently have a definition and essence of the primary type, i. e. , a definition and essence without qualification. ” alluding to his notion of a “substance” which shall be discussed later. His classification of ordinary matter only entails things like bronze or wood which possess prime matter and have the ability to move. Reality is something that exists independent of imagination. Thus, the idea of a perishable material reality must refer to Aristotle’s notion of ordinary matter.
Aristotle furthers his account by adding his proposition of what wisdom refers to, as well as introduces Plato’s theory of the forms, and his own criticism for that theory. One of his criticisms included his belief that a source of motion is needed to cause changes in the world. Aristotle perceived time and (thus) motion as circular. He states, “Motion cannot come to be or perish, nor can time. Motion is also continuous, then, in the same way that time is since time is either the same as motion is an attribute of it. But the only continuous motion is local motion — specifically, circular motion. ” This leads to him postulating the idea of a “Prime Mover”, the being possessing the “unmoved substance” who is the initiator of motion. Aristotle suggests that since time is circular, matter is in a cycle of being created and perishing, or, being and not being. He states that to be is to move towards an end goal of what is “good”. Aristotle defined substance in two ways. In terms of the form of a being (which he refers to as essence), it is something that the being is, in its own right. Whereas in terms of the form and material of a being, it is a compound of the being’s matter and form.
Aristotle used the continuity of time and motion can be used to illustrate the idea of infinite potentiality in relation to local motion or the Prime Mover. He says, “there is an everlasting, unmoved substance that separated from perceptible things… this substance cannot have any magnitude, but must be without parts and indivisible for it initiates motion for an infinite time, but nothing finite has infinite potentiality”. This shows that according to Aristotle, the only kind of matter that doesn’t definitively perish is the kind with infinite potentiality, i. e, the primary substance.
Summarizing the points mentioned above, one can conclude that Aristotle believes the essence of things and their material forms (or bodies) to be impermanent or perishable. Thus, when he states, all material realities are perishable, he is referring to the change of matter from a state of low potentiality to high potentiality. In relation to his four causes, he refers to this change as moving towards the “good”. Furthermore, while illustrating the superiority of philosophy above other sciences, he states, “the most superior science, that is superior to any subordinate science, is the one that knows the end for which a given thing should be done; this end is something’s good, and in general the end is what is best in every sort of nature. ” When an object moves towards its end, Aristotle argues that it loses its essence, as well as its material substance. Thus, he concludes that things are in an infinite cycle of creation and destruction under the Prime Mover. Thus, the premise of “material realities” does not involve the Prime Mover.
When compared with the modern scientific view of the world, a problem arises when you examine his ideas about the origin of being. Aristotle assumed time and motion to have persisted and to persist ad infinitum. However, if you look at the theory of general relativity, time exists as a dimensional plane that stretches infinitely. Plato’s account of the forms was criticized by Aristotle for being redundant and not being able to interact with the perceptible world. However, he described the forms to exist infinitely and independently which could be possible with a planar concept of time. Throughout Book XII of Metaphysics, he postulates the idea of a prime mover being the origin of motion. He argues that it is the essence of the Prime Mover to facilitate this. Even when looked at as a philosophical entity, a source of motion requires the ability to exert energy to function. One needs to realize that according to the first law of thermodynamics, the notion of an unmoved mover cannot exist as the Prime Mover needs to be provided with energy to function, as the world continues to be in a cyclical flow of time. As the Prime mover has no prior supply of such energy, it cannot exist. Therefore, time cannot persist in a circular motion. As such, the ground of being, if considered to be individualistic and particular to different substances, can only exist on a planar fabric of time. Being needs to be considered as a particularity since a vector flow of time would not allow for repetition.
Therefore, if the time plane exists infinitely, then the ground of being of certain things (such as AI) cannot be considered to end at one particular point because their unity cannot determined to end at a particular point that isn’t forceful termination. Deliberate termination needs to be accounted for because, under the Aristotelian premise, things will continue to move towards their end even when one doesn’t actively pursue to terminate it (because time is circular).
Therefore, it is only fair to deduce that the permanency of the ground of being varies according to the subject in question. In the case of humans, death is an unavoidable end which renders their ground of being as perishable. Whereas in the case of innovations such as artificial intelligence, it is impossible to determine their “good” and their end. Therefore, it would be incorrect to assume their ground of being as impermanent as it may very well be everlasting and imperishable.
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