The radical difference between Plato and Aristotle is that the former considers his personal and interior experience to come first, whereas the latter looks firstly at reality which is exterior to him (obviously this is less poetic!). It is fashionable to consider Plato to be a philosopher, even though he is more of a poet of the soul, and to denigrate Aristotle whom we find less amusing, and moreover whose musings are not as easily accessible. In particular, Aristotle is criticized for his theory on the spontaneous generation, his treatise on the heavens which today seems rather infantile, etc., as if this chap were a scientist… but Aristotle was first and foremost a philosopher, and was only interested in science “accidentally”, using the tools of his time!
This preference for Plato is linked to the poetry of his discourse, to the exaltation of intimacy and interiority (immanent and immediate experience), to his explanations which are often metaphorical… He has always exerted a great seduction, which is normal as he is a poet, whereas Aristotle is hardly poetic, and is sometimes lacking in humor! William of Ockam, in the 14th century, gave a new life to Plato; later Descartes brought him to the forefront, and practically permanently! Later still, some mystics like Simone Weil expressed their love of Plato and their aversion for Aristotle. It is too bad really, and this probably proceeds more from ignorance than discernment. In particular, Plato held women to be slightly more evolved than animals, and without a soul. It is Aristotle who was the first in Ancient Greece to speak of friendship – philia – between man and woman, returning dignity to women by elevating them to the rank of human beings, on an equal footing to men… I’m not certain Simone Weil knew that, and even less so for many unconditional contemporary admirers of Plato!
So one must read “Nicomacian Ethics… which is a simple book, much more so than the treatise on the soul or the treatise on metaphysics. Aristotle is the first to have given a real metaphysics to the Western world, i.e. a science beyond physics, what he called “first philosophy”, but what was later named meta-physics (beyond physics) for this treatise was found, after his death, on his bookshelves, just after his book on physics. Today one must speak of “first philosophy”... if you speak of metaphysics, you get penalty points… even if they are one and the same thing! Being that we have celebrated the death of metaphysics, this shouldn't come as that much of a surprise! :)
So, in two words if possible, what is Aristotle’s metaphysics? Precisely because he distinguishes himself from his master Plato (whom he followed for 15 years, in silence), who set thought before reality, Aristotle sets reality before the idea he makes of it, and he does this through what some call the judgement of existence”: THIS IS. One must note that in the fundamental assertion “This is”, the “this” is not “me”… !!! This is the radical difference with the notorious “I think, therefore I am” of Descartes, who sets the “I” before the “this”, or the internal experience before the perceived external reality, in other words sincerity before truth.
Consequently, Aristotle seeks foremost reality as it is other than himself and which is unmindful of the idea he makes of it to be what it is. He then looks at what intelligence is, where it comes from, what it is made of, according to what model and in view of what, five interrogations which can be associated to his five senses: what it is (sight); where it comes from (hearing); what it is made of (touch), according to which model (taste), and in view of what it is (smell). To answer your question more concretely, it is obvious that seeking what is true entails a constant back and forth between our sensible touch of reality and intelligence, in other words a perpetual round trip between the abstraction of reality through the senses, delivering the observation to intelligence, and reinjecting into reality what I understand of it, to verify the adequacy between my intelligence and reality. Thus, for Aristotle, truth is the adequacy between intelligence and reality. Well, it isn’t easy to speak of these “things” in a few lines… We’ll speak again, hopefully… and it is important to have fun around this neck of the woods, is it not? :))
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