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Thread: The influence of Aristotle and the other "Noble Pagans."

  1. #1 The influence of Aristotle and the other "Noble Pagans." 
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    While studying the history of science off and on over the years, I've noticed a strong tendency--possibly a myth put forward by popular science biography writers doing shoddy research here and there--indicating that for a very long period of time Aristotle, Ptolemy, etc. held science and medicine in a very strong grip in the West, to the point where experiments disagreeing with their philosophies were almost automatically concluded to be flawed (I recall in particular reading that some of Nicolaus Steno's early anatomical discoveries were considered flawed for a time due to disagreements with ancients). Was this phenomenon as widespread as it was made out to be? Is it merely an exaggeration?

    If it was as widespread as biographies of scientists through Newton (for example) seem to suggest, I'm curious to know how this occurred. Not from the perspective of 'Wow, how could they be so stupid?!" mind you! You don't go from point A of "Hey, some Arabic scholars have some of Aristotle's work on hand and translating it" to point B of teaching his physics and theories on mathematics (never mind the altered version of his religious philosophies floating around) as the default system of nature without some sort of a transition period, and this is what interests me. When did this calcification of thought patterns occur? How? Why?

    Any thoughts?


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    Aristotle was not one of the "lost" philosophers in the west. Sulla took his writings to Rome in the first century BC and they have been known to the west ever since then.

    Aristotle's influence was not his empirical discoveries. His influence was his system of logic.
    Logic is useful, but along with the basics of logic Aristotle made the claim that all truth was to be discovered by logic and that experience (experimental knowledge) was inferior to logic. So inferior that if your logic was sound it had to be true even when direct observation of the real world contradicted it.


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    Agree with Dan. His primary influence was a formal system of logic. Perhaps to the West disadvantage for centuries he also largely framed the opinion that deductive reasoning was the only accepted form of reasoning. This arguably stalled development of inductive reasoning based on observations so important to science. The Western world should probably give the Arab Golden age thinking much more credit for than it typically does for breaking past the overly formal reasoning of Aristotle towards combination of deductive and inductive reasoning.
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    Complete agreement with the prior two posters. And if this had not been the case, then the absence the development of anything approaching the scientific method would have been very difficult to explain.
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    Agreed with the previous posts, sorry if I was unclear about the elements of his philosophy/science I was referring to. What I'm curious about is how his system of logic, cosmology, for example, his views on the nature of the heavens/celestial spheres and non-empirical science (his views on motion, for example), became so ingrained in Catholicism and western thought that questioning it ranged from a very difficult task (at the least) to an act of heresy. Surely this didn't happen all at once? There had to be some calcification process that lead to the adoption of Aristotle over other philosophers, and to such a strong degree.
    Last edited by Southern Geologist; February 22nd, 2014 at 09:50 PM.
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    EDIt: Sorry, double post.
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    To go into detail would require a lot of ink and historical treatment of the Doctors of The Church. Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Jerome, Saint Athanasius, Saint Basil the Great, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. John Chrysostom and St. Thomas Aquinas.

    The short answer is his position that logical argument outweighs physical evidence suited the Church a lot better than the Skeptics did.
    Aquinas and his arguments about the existence of God are perhaps the most accessable, possibly because he was in the 1200s. If you look at Aquinas you will see how thoroughly he relies on Aristotle's ideas of logic over evidence.

    There is a lot more to it than just that, but most of the rest is details more than anything.
    Last edited by dan hunter; February 23rd, 2014 at 11:02 AM. Reason: date correction
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    er.. provided a person devises a sound theory, it's not my concern what religion s/he is.

    Though yes, taxonomy and the hydrological cycle are small fry in general scientific terms, right? lol..
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarnamluvu View Post
    er.. provided a person devises a sound theory, it's not my concern what religion s/he is.

    Though yes, taxonomy and the hydrological cycle are small fry in general scientific terms, right? lol..
    What exactly is your purpose with this post?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paleoichneum View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by sarnamluvu View Post
    er.. provided a person devises a sound theory, it's not my concern what religion s/he is.

    Though yes, taxonomy and the hydrological cycle are small fry in general scientific terms, right? lol..
    What exactly is your purpose with this post?
    It's contradictory, but he doesn't care.
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