Skip to main content

Concluding Remarks on Werner Jaeger and Aristotle's Metaphysics

(This is the fourth and final post in a series of studies on Werner Jaeger's work on Aristotle's philosophical development. Post 1Post 2. Post 3. It would be best to read parts 1, 2 and 3 prior to reading this post.)

            Werner Jaeger finishes his work by summarizing Aristotle’s philosophical anthropology, ethics, and his understanding of philosophy. Jaeger’s work has been revolutionary in the world of Aristotelian studies. As Jonathan Barnes notes, “The pioneer of ‘developmental studies’ was the German scholar Werner Jaeger. His book Aristotle—Fundamentals of his Development, which was first published in German in 1923, determined the course of Aristotelian scholarship for half a century.”[1] In this article Barnes draws out the very same observations as I have noted above, both concerning the basic principles from which Jaeger starts, as well as the major difficulties with Jaeger’s extreme theory.[2] Though one should not attempt to say anything on Aristotle without interacting with Jaeger, it is the opinion of this thinker that Jaeger’s work is far too extreme to be of much use in the development of Aristotle’s theory. His unsupported presuppositions push Jaeger into a circular argument which eats away at the trustworthiness of his theory. Probably the most important lessons that we can learn from Jaeger are: (1) that it is very difficult to present any dogmatic theory of the development of Aristotle. There are far too many suppositions that must be held and too many questionable deductions that must be drawn in order to arrive at any likely theory.

(2) Aristotle’s philosophy most likely developed over time, however it is impossible to prove, with any degree of likely hood, whether Aristotle moved away from Platonism or remained within Platonism. It is obvious that Aristotle disagreed with a number of Platonic claims, however, it is also obvious that he did not reject, in its entirety, Platonic philosophy. Rather, it seems that his is somewhat of a modified Platonism.

(3) We must be careful, when attempting to construct, from the Metaphysics, a general overview of Aristotle’s metaphysical thoughts, not to read the thoughts of later philosophers into Aristotle; and, it is possible to construct a general idea of Aristotle’s views concerning being, and this in spite of the fact that it is difficult to know when Aristotle wrote the Metaphysics. On this a comment of Jonathan Barnes is most helpful, “But there is a false antithesis in the air; for it is evident that development and system-building cannot be antithetical attributes, inasmuch as even the most rigid of systematic philosophers will have developed – he will not have been born with a silver system in his mouth. Thus the dynamic Aristotle and the systematic Aristotle should not be thought of as irreconcilable enemies.”[3] It seems, therefore, that we are more than warranted to attempt to understand Aristotle’s metaphysical thought, and to attempt to discover its general order – in other words, to attempt to give an outline of Aristotle’s systematic metaphysics.




[1]Jonathan Barnes, “Life and Work,” in The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle, ed. Jonathan Barnes (1995; repr., New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 16.

[2]Cf. Ibid., 16-18.

[3]Barnes, LW, 22.

Popular posts from this blog

How Kant’s Synthesis of Empiricism and Rationalism resulted in Agnosticism

Immanuel Kant, presented with the extreme empiricism of Hume and the extreme rationalism of Liebniz, which he discovered through the writings Wolff, sought to take a middle road between these two extreme philosophical positions. I would submit that Kant’s synthesis of these two views leads to an agnosticism about what Kant called “the thing-in-itself”, and ultimately to the philosophical positions known as Atheism, determinism, and nihilism.


Kant’s Sources
First of all, Kant was influenced by Hume’s empiricism and Newton’s physics. He saw that the physical sciences, in contrast to rationalistic metaphysics, were actually making advances. They were making discoveries, and building a system of knowledge that accurately described the world of our sense perceptions. Rationalistic metaphysics, on the other hand, was floundering amidst the combating systems that the philosophers were erecting. It did not provide new knowledge, and only led to unacceptable conclusions, such as the Absolute Mon…

LEISURE: THE BASIS OF CULTURE – A BOOK REVIEW

Leisure: The Basis of Culture & the Philosophical Act. Josef Pieper. Translated by Alexander Dru. 1963. Reprint, Ignatius Press, 2009. 143 pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-58617-256-5.
            This book is composed of two articles written by the German philosopher Josef Pieper. Though the two articles are intimately connected, they form two distinct works; as such, this book review will begin by giving a brief introduction to the works in question, followed by and exposition of each of the works individually. The two articles that are included in this book, Leisure: the Basis of Culture and The Philosophical Act, were both published in 1947, and, as such, were written during the cultural crisis in Germany that followed the Second World War. Not only did Pieper have the cultural crisis in mind when he wrote these articles, but he was also writing in light of the works of the most well-known German philosopher of the time – Martin Heidegger. As such, any reader who is familiar with Heidegg…

IDENTITY AND DIFFERENCE by Martin Heidegger

I don’t propose to attempt any sort of reply to Martin Heidegger in this article. The purpose of this article is to explain Martin Heidegger’s thoughts, as they are found in the book, Identity and Difference. Martin Heidegger is a difficult thinker to understand, and requires a lot of work to fully appreciate his arguments. My primary goal in this article is to introduce the reader to two very important articles written by Heidegger, and, I hope, to properly explain Heidegger’s views on Being and beings.
            This book is composed of two articles written by Martin Heidegger and translated with an introduction by Joan Stambaugh. The first article, The Principle of Identity, is “the unchanged text of a lecture given on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the University of Freiburg im Breisgau, for the faculty day on June 27, 1957.”[1] The second article The Onto-theo-logical Constitution of Metaphysics, is “the explication that concluded a seminar during the wint…