Aristotle & Metaphysics
Aristotle calls the science he is seeking 'first philosophy or theology'. The objective of this study is to answer the question of what does first philosophy or theology consist and what is its object. In addition, this study will ask in what ways that it differs from other sciences and in what sense is it first? In the final analysis this study will answer if Aristotle's 'first philosophy is an ontology or a study of beings or a theology or a study of first or highest beings?
Madison (2008) writes that metaphysics was a word that Aristotle did not actually use but that the word "does employ a cluster of phrases and words to designate the content of its fourteen books: wisdom, first philosophy, theology, the science of being qua being, the science of the highest causes and principles, and the science of truth." (p.5) The Central Book is stated by Madison (2008) "to present what could be called, though Aristotle himself does not use this phrase, the science of substance." (p.5) Madison writes that is Book I and E, first philosophy is defined "as the science of being qua being, and as such it ought to be understood as a universal ontology (metaphysica generalis) a study of being in the broadest sense, since being is the most universal of all things." (Madison, 2008, p.5)
II. Science of First Philosophy
In Books E. And K, Aristotle defined first philosophy as "theology, the study of one particular kind of being, separate, divine, nonsensible, immutable being." (Madison, 2008, p.6) Ontology is the universal study of all kinds of beings and is differentiated from theology, which is the study of one kind of being. From this view, Aristotle's Metaphysics is comprised of "mutually incompatible conceptions of first philosophy." (Madison, 2008, p.6) Marie-Dominique Phillipe writes that when an individual has "walked alongside a master for more than 40 years, although one continues to consider him as a master, one consider him also as a friend. A philosophical friendship gradually awakens between master and disciple, a friendship that is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and profound forms of friendship, even should this philosopher have lived at a period and in a milieu very different from our own. This is all the more true when the philosopher in question had a great sense of friendship and had treated the subject with such depth and intelligence." (Marie-Dominique Phillipe, 1983, p.1)
Aristotle proclaimed that the search for truth was one that is very fundamental. Marie-Dominique Phillipe stats that the evolution of the thought of Aristotle should be considered first as a disciple of Plato and then as Aristotle who thought independently of his master although Aristotle "remained Plato's disciple in the broad sense, despite having understood early on that his vocation as a philosopher searching for the truth above all else left him free form the opinion of other thinkers. The new science of first philosophy is such that "considers what is most peculiar to "that-which-is beyond any particular determination or nature. It seeks to know 'that-which-is in as much as it is, by looking only at the being of that-what-is. By this very fact, first philosophy is not a particular science, the science of any given reality; it is rather a science, which excludes nothing that is. It is such precisely because it seeks to know 'that-which-is in as much as it is and not in as much as it is any particular reality, any given existing being." (Marie-Dominique Phillipe, 1983, p.5)
III. Differentiating Science of First Philosophy and Theology
If a science of philosophy did exist then that science would not be the same as theology which "considers a singular, first and absolute being, whereas the science of that-which-is considers what is most common and universal." (Marie-Dominique Phillipe, 1983, p.6) The difficulty of this is substantial from the view of logic according to Marie-Dominique Phillipe who states that prior to the rejection of the discovery of Aristotle it is critical to reexamine the true position of Aristotle. Aristotle holds that it is not logic as such for...
It is afterwards, when we must specify the distinctive character and demands of this science, that logic can prove useful." (Marie-Dominique Phillipe, 1983, p.7)
IV. Transformation of First Philosophy Into Theology
According to Marie-Dominique Phillipe first philosophy is "capable of attaining to the proper principles of that-which-is considered as 'being' and since it can scientifically specify that the one is 'acolyte' of that-which-is, and that the incorruptible qualifies simple substances" one can subsume that the fist philosophy must necessarily be fulfilled from the view of the necessary Being, the separate and incorruptible Substance, the pure Act whose life is one of self-contemplation." (Marie-Dominique Phillipe, 1983, p.7) This separated substance is according to Marie-Dominique Phillipe none other than God. Philosophy is transformed in the first book into theology with Book ? Of the 'Metaphysics' and it is no longer 'that-which-is' but is thereby considered at the first Substance. (Marie-Dominique Phillipe, 1983, paraphrased)
V. Man's Contemplation Changes From Human to Divine
Because Aristotle gained new understanding about 'that-which-is' in the first philosophy, that-which-is, becomes transformed to a new science and that being the science of theology which holds that-which-is as a new substance and that new substance being the personage of God. Aristotle learned that the search for wisdom makes a requirement of first philosophy and that first philosophy as it grows in wisdom and understanding fulfills in theology. Theology provides the "true signification" to wisdom as well as signifying human life as human life is fulfilled "in contemplation that is not longer human but divine." (Marie-Dominique Phillipe, 1983, p.4) Therefore, the new science being elaborated demonstrates that man does and cannot attain fulfillment in man. Man is only able to find real happiness in his contemplation of the First Being to whatever extent that is possible for the human being.
VI. Aristotle Free From Traditional Religion
Aristotle was free in his first philosophy elaboration from the influence of traditional religion and it was not traditional religion that led Aristotle in his discovery of the necessity of the science of 'that-which-is' and neither was it traditional religion that led him to the discovery of the being-in-act actually is. Philosophy does not belong in the view of Aristotle to culture but is such that rises above and goes beyond culture and is never dependent upon culture.
VII. Conflicting Texts
The conflicts in the texts of Aristotle in his metaphysics is reported in the work of Jaeger to be based on the transitions in the life and philosophy of Aristotle under Aristotle's different masters. The first master being Plato, Aristotle's independent period of thinking identifying first philosophy with theology and the final stage in which Aristotle identified "first philosophy" as a "dialectical science that combines a theological study of the intelligible with Aristotle's hylomorphic doctrine of the nature of the sensible substance." (Wians, 1996, p.310) According to Wians the intellectual journey of Aristotle is reported in Jaeger's work to begin Plato's attempt to explain substance theory as one that "would generate the Forms from Ideal numbers" and thereby overcome the problems that had been discovered for the middle theory of Forms. Wains states that Aristotle restricted "first philosophy to a 'single department of reality' that makes no claims to universality. This special science of substance is apparently theology." (1996, p.310) Theology is held on the work of Owen to be such that theology becomes converted into general ontology "by means of a focal meaning analysis of being." (Wians, 1996, p.310)
Summary and Conclusion
First philosophy is the beginning point for man in the discovery of a higher and supreme being and first philosophy is necessary for man in developing an understanding and a grasp for what is known as theology. Theology such as was formulated by Aristotle was not influenced by traditional religions and neither was it under the influence of cultural preconceptions of misconceptions or other such influences that might serve to cloud the formulation of theology. Aristotle's thoughts on theology while being born within a specific culture was not bound in any manner whatsoever to this culture and is such that developed with the desire to know and with the seeking of Aristotle for the spirit of truth.
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