INSTITUTO DE FILOSOFIA "EZEQUIEL DE OLASO"
Unidad Ejecutora - UE
congresos y reuniones científicas
La función del examen crítico de las teorías previas en la constitución de la filosofía aristotélica
DI CAMILLO, SILVANA
Ciudad de Buenos Aires
Congreso; Forum for Advanced Studies Gaetano Massa, Renaissance, Ancient and Medieval Patterns; 2020
The role of the critical examination of previous theories in the constitution of Aristotelian philosophy The exposition and criticism of ancient doctrines has an important place in Aristotle's writings. He has an awareness of insertion into a very long current of thought. He is perhaps the one who argues the most the opinions of his predecessors, but this is proof that he believes that they have to be taken into account. Nevertheless, certain doubts have become common about the reliability of their predecessors? descriptions. Authors such as L. Robin (1948) and O. Gigon (1954) have argued that Aristotle is concerned with developing what in his predecessors is a presentiment of his own doctrine and that he considers his own philosophy as the coronation of the history of previous thought. But who has decidedly argued that Aristotle is part of a prebuilt system when doing the dialectical examination of the previous philosophy was H. Cherniss. In his two monumental works, one entitled Aristotle?s Criticism of Presocratic Philosophy (Baltimore, 1935) and the other Aristotle?s Criticism of Plato and the Academy (Baltimore, 1944), Cherniss attempted to demonstrate that Aristotle's testimonies about the previous doctrines cannot be taken for sure as foundations to build a history of the preceding philosophy. Very briefly, Cherniss argues that Aristotle does not attempt to establish historical truth but to demonstrate his own superiority over previous philosophers. Moreover, in his opinion, Aristotle deforms historical understanding through the introduction of concepts and terms of his own. Although the thesis that states that Aristotle starts from a prebuilt system when examining the previous philosophy, exemplarily supported by Cherniss, has received multiple criticisms, we believe that it is still in force and reappears again and again in the works that refer to Aristotle as a historian. In our opinion, the criticisms of manipulation and distortion of the points of view of its predecessors based on their theoretical interests hide the degree to which Aristotle's own positions emerge from, and they are the result of, a critical study of the preceding thought. The procedure attributed by Cherniss to Aristotle is more reminiscent of sophistry than Platonic dialectics, that is, it seems as if Aristotle is not as concerned about using the discussion with his predecessors in order to know the truth, as to prevail at any coast over them, also resorting to illegitimate procedures. We believe, on the contrary, that the examination of the predecessors, and in particular the doctrines of his teacher, is of fundamental importance in the very constitution of Aristotle's philosophy.From the consideration of the long doxographic passages at the beginning of Metaphysics, of Physics, of the treatise On the Soul, among others, a general observation can be made: Aristotle never exposes the systems of his predecessors for themselves. He interrogates them about precise questions, which are the questions he asks himself. If this is evident to the numerous occasional criticisms he addresses to his predecessors, it is also verified in the systematic reviews he makes of his opinions. Nowhere it can be found an exposition, nor a criticism, of the philosophy of the ancients as a whole, but his revisions are inserted within a defined discipline and within it there is an answer to a particular problem that he is investigating. If, as we suppose, Aristotle values the exposure and criticism of his predecessors, it is because he believes that he can get an advantage from these confrontations. What is that advantage? He explains it in different contexts and it is necessary to take into account his statements of principle: to gather all the valuable things his predecessors have been able to say about the object he studies and get rid of his mistakes is the objective that Aristotle sets out in his historical investigations. Precisely, to establish the aporia, whose solution constitutes the aim of the research, it is necessary to begin with a review of the opinions of its predecessors, which takes the form of a historical exposition although the critical examination to which they are submitted is consistent with the functions that the Topics assign to the dialectic. The difference is that here it is not about judging the coherence of the beliefs of a singular interlocutor, but of an exhaustive study of all the difficulties, that is, of all the conflicting opinions found in the history of philosophy. Aristotle insists that those who want to properly judge the truth take the role of judges rather than parties in a process, since the evidence of a certain doctrine is a difficulty for the opposite theory. He refers us to forensic practice, where the judge must listen to the arguments at issue, so he can judge impartially. When a value judgment is issued, he argues that it is necessary to examine the matter very well ?in order that we may not be thought to make unsubstantiated charges against authors no longer alive?. These statements confirm the need for selfless inquiry to find the solution to a problem. Contrary to what Cherniss thinks, it is clear that this ideal of impartiality exerts a considerable influence on the concept of dialectical inquiry. Thus, previous theories constitute an essential starting point in every philosophical inquiry. But Aristotle does not assume that those opinions that constitute his starting point are correct. These beliefs must be confronted with each other from where a conflict will surely result. Precisely, the state of aporia arises when a thesis and its opposite are justified with equally convincing arguments. What to do in that case? One could either ignore the conflict and pronounce oneself for one or the other, or deduce skeptical consequences and argue that there is no rational basis for accepting one of the conflicting positions more than the other. But Aristotle does not adopt any of these two alternatives. His answer to the problem is clear: in the face of conflict, it is necessary to explore (διαπορῆσαι) both sides of the question in order to show whether the theories carry unacceptable consequences or if they account for all the relevant data. Sometimes, it will not be enough to retain those aspects that the parties have in common, but it will be necessary to propose a new starting point that resolves the aporia. This new concept incorporates conflicting positions but free of all its errors and, while eliminating the conflict, it is considered sufficiently justified. The solution can now be formulated as a criterion by which the superiority of one theory over another can be judged. It is for this reason that Aristotle does not hesitate to use it to evaluate in which sense each of the antithetical positions presents true aspects that confirm the new point of view, as well as to what extent the new distinction solves the difficulties of the beginning.If our argument is accepted, it turns out that there is a double use in Aristotle of the opinions of his predecessors. In fact, on the one hand he bases on them to identify problems (aporiai) and incorporate the truth that they could contain; on the other hand, it returns on them, counting on new conceptual instruments, to judge their hits and misses. In this way, Aristotle carries out a historical-philosophical inquiry without incurring in mere repetition or arbitrariness. Because, in the first place, the new conception is not absolutely alien to the previous ones, but it integrates what the dialectical examination has withstood. But in addition, it not only offers a solution to the aporia, but also a historical explanation of what were the positions that gave rise to the difficulty and why they could not combat their mistakes and inconsistencies. We try to show, in this way, that the imposition of proper terms should not be read as distortion but as an exhibition of his particular solution to the problems not solved by the preceding philosophers.