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Bruell, Christopher. Aristotle as Teacher: His Introduction to a Philosophic Science.

Bruell, Christopher. Aristotle as Teacher: His Introduction to a Philosophic Science. South Bend, Ind.: St. Augustine's Press, 2014. vii + 268 pp.--Today, the majority of intellectuals across the disciplines believe that philosophy and science are not the same. These same intellectuals may be hard pressed to state what philosophy is exactly, but they are sure it is not science. One of the benefits of an intensive study of Aristotle's Metaphysics is that it provides a check against this modernist presumption that philosophy and science must be separate. A careful reading of the Metaphysics reveals that "whatever other purposes it may serve, it is intended also to introduce its readers to science and the problem of science." This will be a presentation of science different from the vision of science defined in the wake of Bacon, Hobbes, and Mill, according to whom science is enumeration, description, and prediction. For Aristotle, science (episteme) means something more comprehensive because science grasps first principles and causes. Science is necessary and universal knowledge of causes in their relation to substance. Since philosophy is the discovery of the causes that make such universal and necessary knowledge possible, philosophy and science signify the same habit of mind.

To make evident Aristotle's achievement, Bruell provides a detailed commentary, virtually a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of the chapters of each book of the Metaphysics, including M and N. It is remarkable that he can accomplish this task in 268 pages. But he is able to do so because he never loses sight of his objective. His commentary, while comprehensive, is single-minded, never shifting focus away from determining what Aristotle means by science. His study also contributes to the literature on Aristotle in that it tries to determine Aristotle's meaning in a particular passage by evaluating along the way competing manuscript sources of Aristotle's text. Bruell often compares and contrasts different sources in order to show the reader why he prefers one translation or interpretation to another. He relies on sources such as Werner Jaeger and W. D. Ross, but he also mentions more historically distant sources too, such as Alexander of Aphrodisias and the commentary of Thomas Aquinas. Use of these references, however, would be easier for the reader if Bruell had supplied a bibliography. In addition, the reader would benefit from an index.

With deliberation and purpose, Bruell advances his commentary by reminding the reader that Aristotle's text develops as it does because the Stagirite is (1) a dialectical thinker, (2) an aporetic philosopher, and (3) a historian of science. That is to say, his strategy is to be in conversation, to overcome perplexities (aporiai), and to define his own philosophy as the culmination of the Greek quest for science. Appreciating these features of Aristotle's method helps the reader understand why the first two books of the Metaphysics develop as they do. Aristotle grounds his research in consideration of what his philosophical predecessors believed. For Aristotle, the laboratory of philosophy (or science) is its history. The first book of the Metaphysics indicates this, first in its assessment of Plato and second in its assessment of the Presocratic philosophers. By responding to them, Aristotle constructs the Metaphysics as a conversation on the nature of science, specifically on the role of causation in science. This is crucial because science is the exercise of our intelligence to reduce sense wonder to causal explanation. As the history of philosophy improves its understanding of causation, it correlatively better grasps the nature of science.

This dialogue with earlier philosophers bears fruit because it contextualizes the fifteen aporiai which Aristotle aims to resolve in the Metaphysics. Chief among these is whether science must be deferred to the existence of substances or essences in a nonphysical world. Plato answers in the affirmative. Aristotle rejects Plato's answer, a rejection that is destiny for his view of science. For Aristotle, science can derive from the world of sensible things because their essences are intrinsic, not extrinsic, to them. Science is about substances, first known by our senses but understood by our intelligence. Philosophy demonstrates how substances, in light of their causes, involve necessary and universal relationships. For this reason, metaphysics is science. More precisely, it is science that answers the problem of the one and the many. By the time Aristotle has reached book E, science comes into view as a genus, a grasp of substance as a kind of universal (a unity), a generic one subordinating multiple relationships. A substance may have many accidental relationships, but accidents cannot ground science. Only those relationships that are necessary and universal can be scientifically known.

Because metaphysics must study substance, metaphysics must study God as its supreme object. God is a substance too, except one existing without matter. Metaphysics in the highest sense is theology. So the Metaphysics is an exposition of science in the most comprehensive sense, from the being of the natural world, even of prime matter (substance in the sense of substratum), to the reality of God, an immaterial substance (perfect substance as pure act or form).

I recommend Bruell's book because it succeeds in its mission: to let Aristotle explain in his own words that metaphysics is a philosophic science.--Curtis L. Hancock, Rockhurst University
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Author:Hancock, Curtis L.
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2015
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