Combining Philosophers

Ideas for Aristotle, Owen Flanagan and Ram Neta

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19 ideas

11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 1. Knowledge
For Aristotle, knowledge is of causes, and is theoretical, practical or productive [Aristotle, by Code]
     Full Idea: Aristotle thinks that in general we have knowledge or understanding when we grasp causes, and he distinguishes three fundamental types of knowledge - theoretical, practical and productive.
     From: report of Aristotle (works [c.330 BCE]) by Alan D. Code - Aristotle
     A reaction: Productive knowledge we tend to label as 'knowing how'. The centrality of causes for knowledge would get Aristotle nowadays labelled as a 'naturalist'. It is hard to disagree with his three types, though they may overlap.
For Aristotle knowledge is explanatory, involving understanding, and principles or causes [Aristotle, by Witt]
     Full Idea: For Aristotle, knowledge is explanatory, for to know something is to understand it, and to understand something is to grasp its principles or causes.
     From: report of Aristotle (Posterior Analytics [c.327 BCE]) by Charlotte Witt - Substance and Essence in Aristotle 1.2
     A reaction: Thus the kind of 'knowledge' displayed in quiz shows would not count as knowledge at all, if it was mere recall of facts. To know is to be able to explain, which is to be able to teach. See Idea 11241.
'Episteme' means grasping causes, universal judgments, explanation, and teaching [Aristotle, by Witt]
     Full Idea: For Aristotle, a person who has 'episteme' grasps the cause of a given phenomenon, can make a universal judgment about it, can explain it, and can teach others about it.
     From: report of Aristotle (Posterior Analytics [c.327 BCE]) by Charlotte Witt - Substance and Essence in Aristotle 1.2
     A reaction: This I take to be the context in which we should understand what Aristotle means by an 'essence' - it is the source of all of the above, so it both makes a thing what it is, and explains why it shares features with other such things.
The reason why is the key to knowledge [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Study of the reason why has the most importance for knowledge.
     From: Aristotle (Posterior Analytics [c.327 BCE], 79a24)
     A reaction: I take the study of reasons for belief to be much more central to epistemology than finding ways to answer radical sceptics about the basic possibility of knowledge.
The ability to teach is a mark of true knowledge [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The ability to teach is a distinguishing mark between the knowledgeable and the ignorant man.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 0981b)
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 2. Understanding
Understanding is the aim of our nature [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Reason and understanding are our nature's end.
     From: Aristotle (Politics [c.332 BCE], 1334b16)
     A reaction: I take this to be purpose of philosophy, and we should distinguish understanding from the mere accumulation of knowledge.
Some understanding, of immediate items, is indemonstrable [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Not all understanding is demonstrative: rather, in the case of immediate items understanding is indemonstrable.
     From: Aristotle (Posterior Analytics [c.327 BCE], 72b19)
     A reaction: These are the foundations of Aristotle's epistemology, and I take it that they can be both empiricist and rationalist - sense experiences, and a priori intuitions.
We understand a thing when we know its explanation and its necessity [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: We understand something simpliciter when we think we know of the explanation because of which the object holds that it is its explanation, and also that it is not possible for it to be otherwise.
     From: Aristotle (Posterior Analytics [c.327 BCE], 71b10)
     A reaction: The second half sounds odd, since we ought to understand that something could have been otherwise, and knowing whether or not it could have been otherwise is part of the understanding. It sounds like Spinozan determinism.
Knowing is having knowledge; understanding is using knowledge [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Knowing and understanding is of two kinds, one having and the other using knowledge.
     From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1225b11)
     A reaction: This corresponds to potential and actual. We wouldn't say that understanding must be used, but we have some sort of distinction between knowledge as pure and theoretical, and understanding enabling good application.
We only understand something when we know its explanation [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: We only understand something when we know its explanation.
     From: Aristotle (Posterior Analytics [c.327 BCE], 71b30)
     A reaction: If we believe that the whole aim of philosophy is 'understanding' (Idea 543) - and if it isn't then I am not sure what the aim is, and alternative aims seem a lot less interesting - then we should care very much about explanations, as well as reasons.
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 4. Belief / a. Beliefs
There are reasons 'for which' a belief is held, reasons 'why' it is believed, and reasons 'to' believe it [Neta]
     Full Idea: We must distinguish between something's being a 'reason for which' a creature believes something, and its being a 'reason why' a creature believes something. ...We must also distinguish a 'reason for which' from a 'reason to' believe something.
     From: Ram Neta (The Basing Relation [2011], Intro)
     A reaction: He doesn't spell the distinctions out clearly. I take it that 'for which' is my personal justification, 'why' is the dodgy prejudices that cause my belief. and 'to' is some actual good reasons, of which I may be unaware.
The basing relation of a reason to a belief should both support and explain the belief [Neta]
     Full Idea: A reason has a 'basing relation' with a belief if it (i) rationally supports holding the belief, and (ii) explains why the belief is held.
     From: Ram Neta (The Basing Relation [2011], Intro)
     A reaction: Presumably a false reason would fit this account. Why not talk of 'grounding', or is that word now reserved for metaphysics? If I hypnotise you into a belief, would my hypnotic power be the basing reason? Fits (ii), but not (i).
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 4. Belief / c. Aim of beliefs
No one has mere belief about something if they think it HAS to be true [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: No one holds something as an opinion when he thinks that it is impossible for it to be otherwise - for then he thinks he understands it.
     From: Aristotle (Posterior Analytics [c.327 BCE], 89a07)
Opinion is praised for being in accordance with truth [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Opinion is praised for being in accordance with truth.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1112a07)
     A reaction: This presumably makes Aristotle a realist, and it seems to me that the concepts of 'opinion' or 'belief' are incomprehensible without the concept of truth.
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 6. Knowing How
It takes skill to know causes, not experience [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The skilled know the cause, whereas the experienced do not.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 0981a)
Experience knows particulars, but only skill knows universals [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Experience is the knowledge of particulars and skill that of universals.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 0981a)
Things are produced from skill if the form of them is in the mind [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Things are produced from skill if the form of them is in the mind.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 1032a33)
     A reaction: This resembles the legal notion of 'mens rea', the conscious intention to commit the deed.
11. Knowledge Aims / B. Certain Knowledge / 1. Certainty
Knowledge proceeds from principles, so it is hard to know if we know [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: It is difficult to know whether you know something or not. For it is difficult to know whether or not our knowledge of something proceeds from its principles - and this is what it is to know something.
     From: Aristotle (Posterior Analytics [c.327 BCE], 76a25)
11. Knowledge Aims / B. Certain Knowledge / 4. The Cogito
To perceive or think is to be conscious of our existence [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: To be conscious that we are perceiving or thinking is to be conscious of our existence (for we have seen that existence is sensation or thought).
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1170a32)
     A reaction: A lovely glimpse of Descartes' Cogito, which was made more explicit by Augustine. Is an animal (which presumably perceives) conscious of its existence?