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A Defense of Aristotle’s Theory of Motion

Warren S. Ross

Presented at: TOC 1992

Date: Nov 13, 1992

Besides Ayn Rand, Aristotle is the greatest thinker who ever lived. At barely 10 seconds past the dawn of man’s intellectual history, what he achieved is astounding: he defended reason and this world against both his mystical teacher Plato and the skeptical Sophists, he discovered for the first time that there were rules of thought and he identified many of them (logic), he identified the nature of science, and he became one of science’s foremost practitioners—recognized even as late as the 19th century (by Darwin and others) for his biological observations and integrations. For several centuries, however, Aristotle has been under attack. The philosophical attack is understandable because it stems from the modern revolt against reason. But there has been a scientific attack, too, which might seem paradoxical in light of Aristotle’s role in the origin and practice of science. Aristotle’s biological works are viewed by many as mere observational cataloguing with no integrative contribution. Aristotle’s physics is viewed as nothing more than armchair philosophizing filled with unwarranted generalizations and even out-right distortions about the physical world. The question I want to answer today is whether this latter characterization is true. Are Aristotle’s physical writings as worthless as they are held to be? 


Parts: 1

Handout: none


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