Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Interpretations, in secondary sources (and in commentaries too) are not the only problem. If you are focusing on a primary source from Greek philosophy, how will you know the translation is reliable? That is, unless you read Classical Greek yourself.
Good point. That, in essence, is really the only way one can get 100% certainty, assuming you are able to translate in a perfectly objective and honest way.

Your question makes a lot of sense. The answer, in short form, is: The same way you approach anything known initially through others. For example, you can gather testimony about the interpreter of the primary source. Do his critics say he is honest or dishonest? Then you sample the primary source and check your own interpretation against his. Do they match? If not, why not? And so on in a spiral of questions and gradually accumulating knowledge. You may never reach certainty -- unless you make it your profession and devote full-time effort to the problem.

So, to summarize your response, you are saying that I can't reach full certainty through second hand information, or even reading the classical Greek itself, but that the only way I can is by making a livelihood out of it? To apply your example, I can't be sure that the I and F translation is 100% objective, but I can have a certain level of confidence that it is, based on other people's reviews of it?

What I still don't understand -- perhaps I missed it -- is why you in particular would want to invest so much time into such a project. If it is not connected to your central purpose in life, or is not a long-term, passionately held leisure activity, then is it really worth the investment of hundreds of hours of your time?

Reading and understanding Aristotle is a very, very important goal to me. I want to read his work, first hand, and see what "all the fuss is about". I am ready to invest as much time as necessary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Good point. That, in essence, is really the only way one can get 100% certainty, assuming you are able to translate in a perfectly objective and honest way.

This I do NOT agree with. Indeed, I will point out that if you go down this road, then certainty is not possible even to readers of Ancient Greek, because, for one thing, most of us rely on other people to tell us the rules of Greek grammar and the meaning of Greek vocabulary...and I, at least, don't usually inquire into the lifetimes of difficult thought that went into decoding the Ancient Greek language.

As I have already suggested, I think certainty is possible even to those who use secondary sources alone. You just have to remember what it is you have the epistemological right to be certain of (and what, on the other hand, is only probable or possible), and also remember Burgess's advice:

For example, you can gather testimony about the interpreter of the primary source. Do his critics say he is honest or dishonest? Then you sample the primary source and check your own interpretation against his. Do they match? If not, why not? And so on in a spiral of questions and gradually accumulating knowledge.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Good point. That, in essence, is really the only way one can get 100% certainty, [...]

Certainty is 100%. There is no such thing as certainty that is less than 100% validated. See "Certainty as Contextual," Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism, pp. 171-175.

So, to summarize your response, you are saying that I can't reach full certainty through second hand information, or even reading the classical Greek itself, but that the only way I can is by making a livelihood out of it? To apply your example, I can't be sure that the I and F translation is 100% objective, but I can have a certain level of confidence that it is, based on other people's reviews of it?
I am still unclear what it is you want to accomplish. Do you want to understand all of Aristotle's philosophy? Or is there some particular tenet of his philosophy that you want to understand?

Assuming you and I mean the same thing by "certainty," then I would say you could not attain certainty even about one tenet without investing thousands of hours. And if you want certainty on all of Aristotle's vast philosophy, you might not achieve it within a normal lifetime -- unless perhaps you are a philosophical genius.

No one, unless he is an expert having invested great amounts of time into validation, can achieve certainty in the tenets of a specialized science. History is a specialized science. History of philosophy is a branch of that science.

What you can do is achieve some confidence from relying partly on trustworthy secondary sources (which you have assessed somewhat yourself) and partly on some direct knowledge (for example, a first-year Greek course, combined with time invested in studying not only a particular text but the commentaries and debates dealing with it).

Reading and understanding Aristotle is a very, very important goal to me.

Is it more important to you than your central purpose in life? Or, are you considering making it your CPL?

I want to read his work, first hand, and see what "all the fuss is about".
I don't know what you mean by "what 'all the fuss is about'." Could you define that -- and tell me why you care about it enough to invest years of your life into it?

I am ready to invest as much time as necessary.

I still do not understand your motivation -- a motivation so strong that you are willing to invest possibly your whole life ("as much time as necessary") if you are pursuing certainty of a subject as large as a whole ancient philosophy in all its details. I simply do not understand how anyone could have such a powerful interest without it being his central purpose in life.

If I have not answered your questions, please ask again. I am still in the stage of gathering background -- for context. I look forward to further discussion of these issues.

Edited by softwareNerd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Certainty is 100%. There is no such thing as certainty that is less than 100% validated. See "Certainty as Contextual," Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism, pp. 171-175.

I stand corrected.

I am still unclear what it is you want to accomplish. Do you want to understand all of Aristotle's philosophy? Or is there some particular tenet of his philosophy that you want to understand?
I want to understand the parts of his philosophy that I feel have merit - his metaphysics, his epistemology, etc. I originally posted my question to ask of some advice as to which parts did in fact have merit to them.

Assuming you and I mean the same thing by "certainty," then I would say you could not attain certainty even about one tenet without investing thousands of hours. And if you want certainty on all of Aristotle's vast philosophy, you might not achieve it within a normal lifetime -- unless perhaps you are a philosophical genius.

I don't know about that....I don't think one needs to invest 1000's of hours to understand and be certain about the fact that A is A. At least I don't. Understandably, the process of induction does take a very long time to complete, years upon years - if that is what you are referring to.

No one, unless he is an expert having invested great amounts of time into validation, can achieve certainty in the tenets of a specialized science. History is a specialized science. History of philosophy is a branch of that science.
I agree.

What you can do is achieve some confidence from relying partly on trustworthy secondary sources (which you have assessed somewhat yourself) and partly on some direct knowledge (for example, a first-year Greek course, combined with time invested in studying not only a particular text but the commentaries and debates dealing with it). 

I agree.

Is it more important to you than your central purpose in life? Or, are you considering making it your CPL?
I have never considered my choice of reading a crucial aspect of my goals in life, or CPL. I honestly don't understand where you are coming from. I do not intend to read Aristotle to level that, let's say, a graduate student, or (from what I can gather) you would read it at. I simply want to understand the basic tenets of Aristotle's philosophy - the philosophy that inspired the Renaissance and Enlightenment.

I don't know what you mean by "what 'all the fuss is about'." Could you define that -- and tell me why you care about it enough to invest years of your life into it?

That was a joke. The "fuss" I was referring to was all of the references to Aristotle I have read in AR and LP's work; and additionally on this website. Wow, I didn't know I had made such a commitment. I want to understand his work, that is all I am saying. I never said I want to make a career out of it, or write a book.

I still do not understand your motivation -- a motivation so strong that you are willing  to invest possibly your whole life ("as much time as necessary") if you are pursuing certainty of a subject as large as a whole ancient philosophy in all its details. I simply do not understand how anyone could have such a powerful interest without it being his central purpose in life.
Again, I don't understand where you are getting this! I didn't know that reading and grasping Aristotelian ideas was such an endeavor - to the extent you are making it out to be! Please clarify my thinking, if it is!

If I have not answered your questions, please ask again. I am still in the stage of gathering background -- for context. I look forward to further discussion of these issues.

I appreciate your thoughts; and I do as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I want to understand the parts of his philosophy that I feel have merit - his metaphysics, his epistemology, etc. I originally posted my question to ask of some advice as to which parts did in fact have merit to them.

We are making progress! However, I sense that you have conflated two things that need to be separated: (1) What was Aristotle's philosophy in its main points? (2) Which of those points are both objective and accurate, and worth incorporating into your own philosophy. The answers to the two questions are radically different, and the approaches to them are different. You need to decide which you want to do.

I don't know about that....I don't think one needs to invest 1000's of hours to understand and be certain about the fact that A is A. At least I don't. Understandably, the process of induction does take a very long time to complete, years upon years - if that is what you are referring to.

Understanding A is A is a philosophical exercise. What you have been asking me about is an historical exercise: What did a certain philosopher say and mean in certain texts at certain times. You cannot philosophize your way into understanding what a particular person said in particular (foreign) words at a particular time in history. That takes vast training and study -- or trust in secondary sources. Philosophizing requires "only" looking around and thinking -- without specialized tools and methods.

I do not intend to read Aristotle to level that, let's say, a graduate student, or (from what I can gather) you would read it at. I simply want to understand the basic tenets of Aristotle's philosophy [...]

[bold added for emphasis.]

Now I understand: You want a summary of his philosophy. Great. That is easy to do, and you can reach results with enough confidence (not certainty) to justify the effort.

My suggestion now is:

Step 1, read a one-volume overview of Aristotle's philosophy (including his historical context). I suggest: G. E. R. Lloyd, The Growth & Structure of His Thought, Cambridge University Press. Very readable, focuses on his philosophy as a "biological" one. Aristotle loved life and life forms. The book covers his logic, metaphysics, epistemology, physics, psychology, ethics, politics, and esthetics. An alternative book is J. L. Ackrill, Aristotle the Philosopher. Ackrill takes a different approach but covers the same ground. Both authors cite sources, so you can go and read those in Irwin and Fineman, usually.

Step 2, read the sections that interest in the Irwin and Fineman book of selections.

That's it. It is really that simple. That should keep you busy all summer.

Again, I don't understand where you are getting this!

From your saying you wanted certainty and didn't want selections without knowing how they were selected -- and so forth -- all leading to a vast endeavour.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All readings of a philosopher who lived centuries ago require some element of interpretation, I dont think it even makes sense to talk about 'certainty' here. Noone living today could read Aristotle in the same way someone in Ancient Greek would have read him, no matter how many hours/years they devote to the task - the cultural and intellectual contexts are too different. But why do you even want certainty about Aristotle? You arent going to be studying him for a career, so I'd advise you to read him for what YOU can get out of him, not to understand him as a person. You dont need a deep understanding of his entire system in order to benefit from his work - if you can find ideas in his work which you can apply productively, then surely thats all you need.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I perhaps have been misleading, but I want to understand the "basic tenets of his philosophy"...that have merit and value to them.

You arent going to be studying him for a career, so I'd advise you to read him for what YOU can get out of him, not to understand him as a person. You dont need a deep understanding of his entire system in order to benefit from his work - if you can find ideas in his work which you can apply productively, then surely thats all you need.

(Emphasis added)

Burgess, Hal has what I am looking for right on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...