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Headword: Ἐπιστήμη
Adler number: epsilon,2627
Translated headword: science, understanding
Vetting Status: high
In the Analytics Aristotle says that one science is judged to be more accurate than another in two ways.[1] First, when one science demonstrates the principles of another one. For example, physiology is more accurate than medicine. In the same fashion, for the same reason, geometry also is more accurate than mechanics, and arithmetic is more accurate than harmonics. According to another account, one science is more accurate than another because its underlying subject is immaterial. So not only geometry but also arithmetic and theology are among the sciences which underlie those with material subjects. For this reason Aristotle also says in Metaphysics that the theoretical consideration of intelligible things is both easy and difficult.[2] It is easy because it deals with the present facts, that is to say the things that always are in the same way. Certainly the divine things are the most evident, insofar as they are not subject to change at all in substance, in potentiality and in activity. Now this is why it is easy. On the other hand, it is difficult on account of our weakness, for we are unable to reach towards their light because we have a body and affections. Such a thing is what bats undergo with regard to the sun as well.[3]
Science is a disposition of character in the acceptance without dissimulation of presentations.[4]
Aristotle calls "philosophical sciences" physics, logic, ethics and metaphysics. But the understanding of the thing itself [is] also science.[5]
Greek Original:
Ἐπιστήμη: ὅτι φησὶν ὁ Ἀριστοτέλης ἐν τῇ Ἀποδεικτικῇ, κατὰ δύο τρόπους κρίνεσθαι ἐπιστήμην ἐπιστήμης ἀκριβεστέραν. καθ' ἕνα μέν, ὅταν ἡ ἑτέρα τῆς ἑτέρας τὰς ἀρχὰς ἀποδεικνύῃ, οἷον φυσιολογία ἰατρικῆς ἀκριβεστέρα. ὡσαύτως καὶ ἡ γεωμετρία μηχανικῆς, διὰ τὴν αὐτὴν αἰτίαν ἀκριβεστέρα, καὶ ἀριθμητικὴ ἁρμονικῆς. καθ' ἕτερον δὲ λόγον ἀκριβεστέρα ἐστὶν ἐπιστήμη ἐπιστήμης, ὡς ἄϋλον ἔχουσα τὸ ὑποκείμενον: ὡς γεωμετρία ἀριθμητική τε καὶ θεολογία τῶν ὑποβαλλομένων τὰ ὑλικὰ ὑποκείμενα. διό φησι καὶ Ἀριστοτέλης ἐν τοῖς Μετὰ τὰ φυσικά, ὅτι ἡ τῶν νοητῶν θεωρία καὶ ῥᾴστη ἐστὶν καὶ χαλεπή: ῥᾴστη μὲν ὅτι περὶ ἑστώτων ἐστὶ πραγμάτων καὶ ἀεὶ ὡσαύτως ἐχόντων: φανότατα γὰρ τὰ θεῖα, ὡς ἀμετάβλητα καθάπαξ κατ' οὐσίαν, κατὰ δύναμιν, κατ' ἐνέργειαν. ῥᾴστη μὲν οὖν διὰ τοῦτο, χαλεπὴ δὲ διὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν ἀσθένειαν: οὐ γὰρ ἐξισχύομεν ἐνσώματοι καὶ ἐμπαθεῖς ὄντες εἰς τὸ ἐκείνων φῶς ἀτενίσαι, ὅπερ πάσχουσι καὶ αἱ νυκτερίδες πρὸς τὸν ἥλιον. ἐπιστήμη δέ ἐστιν ἕξις ἐν φαντασιῶν προσδέξει ἀνυποκρίτῳ. ἐπιστήμας δὲ κατὰ φιλοσοφίαν λέγει ὁ Ἀριστοτέλης τὴν φυσικήν, τὴν λογικήν, τὴν ἠθικήν, τὴν μετὰ τὰ φυσικά. ἐπιστήμη δὲ καὶ ἡ γνῶσις τοῦ πράγματος.
For this headword see already epsilon 2625, epsilon 2626. The present entry begins by drawing on John Philoponus, On Aristotle's de anima 23.17-34 Hayduck; then follows material from Diogenes Laertius (see note 4 below) and Alexander of Aphrodisias (see note 5 below).
[1] The Suda text actually reads 'in the Apodeiktike', i.e. the treatise where Aristotle is concerned with the demonstrative science. Cf. Aristotle, Posterior Analytics 87a31-37.
[2] See Aristotle, Metaphysics 993a30-b11. See further, next note.
[3] As noted already, these lines paraphrase the famous passage 993a30-b11 of Aristotle's Metaphysics. The interpretation offered by the Suda is questionable and, in some sense, misleading. First, Aristotle is speaking of the theoretical consideration or investigation (theoria) of the truth, not of intelligible things. Although the former can be identified with the latter (insofar as the intelligible objects -- forms, for instance -- are "more real" for Aristotle), the specific point here seems to be the truth without any special qualification or, as Alexander of Aphrodisias suggests, the "theoretical philosophy" as a whole (in Metaph. 139.5-6; 143.5). The consideration of the truth is in one way difficult and in another easy because, Aristotle says, no one is able to attain the truth adequately. On the other hand no one fails entirely but everyone says (or can say) something true about the nature or reality of things. Each individual contributes little or nothing to the truth, but the gathering of the single contributions can be highly significant. The truth is like a door, which no one can fail to hit (in this sense the investigation of the truth is easy). However, the fact that the truth can be attained in general but not in a particular or specific way shows the difficulty of it (Aristotle appears to have in mind the metaphor of the archer, as suggested by Alexander, In Metaph. 140.14-19). In sum, it is easy to attain the investigation of the truth if it is regarded as a whole; in this way the truth is a target which no one can fail to hit. The cause of difficulty is not in the facts themselves but in us (or, as the Suda says, perhaps following Alexander's commentary In Metaph. 142.4-5, the difficulty is due to our "weakness"). In other words, there are objective and subjective reasons for the difficulty in reaching the truth. The example of the bat is Aristotle's too: such as the eyes of bats are with respect to the light of day, so too is our intellect (nous) with regard to the things which are most evident by nature. The point here is what Aristotle means by "the most evident things"; the specification "by nature" (which is not in the Suda passage) is crucial here. The most evident by nature are the principles and elements distinguishing the things. According to Aristotle, the natural procedure is to start from what is more knowable and clear to us (the sensible things) and go to what is clear and more knowable by nature (the principles accounting for the sensible things; see Physics 184a16-21, Alexander, In Metaph. 142.18; and the note at delta 1214 for further references). The Suda calls the most evident things divine because they do not undergo any change.
[4] This definition is Herillus' (the Stoic philosopher); the word anypokritos, 'without dissimulation', does not appear in the version given by Diogenes Laertius 7.165, which is more reliable (see the note at tau 282).
[5] Alexander of Aphrodisias, Commentaries on Aristotle's Topica 28.25-26.
Keywords: definition; ethics; mathematics; medicine; philosophy; religion; science and technology; zoology
Translated by: Marcelo Boeri on 8 January 2000@10:53:48.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (added note and keywords; restorative and other cosmetics) on 24 December 2002@08:57:07.
Catharine Roth (added keyword) on 29 September 2005@11:27:18.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 18 November 2005@10:12:20.
David Whitehead (tweaking) on 19 October 2012@06:34:30.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 13 December 2014@01:03:50.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 1 February 2015@23:11:22.
Catharine Roth (tweaked translation) on 30 October 2017@19:42:50.


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