Four Central Questions

1 Leave a comment on Absatz 1 0 In the first chapter of the first book of Met., Aristotle introduces the notion of experience by pointing out that it is a result of perceptual activities, namely representations in memory:

2 Leave a comment on Absatz 2 0 „γίγνεται δ᾽ ἐκ τῆς μνήμης ἐμπειρία τοῖς ἀνθρώποις: […]“ (980b28, ed. Ross)

3 Leave a comment on Absatz 3 0 „Now from memory experience is produced in men; […]“ (transl. Ross)

4 Leave a comment on Absatz 4 0 But in the same passage it is stated as well that experience is a means for the acquisition of ’science and art‘:

5 Leave a comment on Absatz 5 0 „[…]καὶ δοκεῖ σχεδὸν ἐπιστήμῃ καὶ τέχνῃ ὅμοιον εἶναι καὶ ἐμπειρία, ἀποβαίνει δ᾽ ἐπιστήμη καὶ τέχνη διὰ τῆς ἐμπειρίας τοῖς ἀνθρώποις: […]“ (981a1ff, ed. Ross)

6 Leave a comment on Absatz 6 0 „And experience seems pretty much like science and art, but really science and art come to men through experience.“ (transl. Ross)

7 Leave a comment on Absatz 7 0 Taken together, both statements pose a challenge to any reader of Aristotle, because it is not easy to see how the result of perceptual, i. e. non-rational cognitive activities can at the same time contribute to the intended goal of rational cognitive activities, viz. knowledge (cf. Pavel Gregorić, Filip Grgić, Aristotle’s Notion of Experience, AfGPh 88 (2006), 3).

8 Leave a comment on Absatz 8 0 Gregorić and Grgić believes that this is a „largely unacknowledged difficulty with Aristotle’s notion of experience“ (ibid.). This assumption is wrong. Early modern commentators on the Metaphysics were well aware of this problem. Two factions in this debate can be discerned. The Thomist camp (Javellus, Cajetan, Fonseca) emphasises the rational side of experience and its indispensability for the acquisition of scientific knowledge: They argue for ‚rationalism‘ about experience. The Scotist camp (Antonius Andreas, Suárez) believes that experience is closer to perception in that it is no requirement for the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Scotists advance ’non-rationalism‘ about experience.

9 Leave a comment on Absatz 9 0 That Gregorić and Grgić are unaware of these debates, is, however, excusable. The analysis of the concept of experience within early modern metaphysics is historiographically in a ‚blind spot‘. Within the history of metaphysics, the primary concern is metaphysical knowledge. Metaphysical knowledge is undisputedly a priori, so experience simply does not enter into the picture. When reflecting on the history of early modern natural science and natural philosophy, there exists a widespread interest in problems related to experience. But such research focuses on the role of experience in the solution of concrete problems rather than on its theoretical aspects: the application of the concept of experience is more relevant than the concept itself (cf. e. g. Peter Dear, The Meanings of Experience, in: Katharine Park, Lorraine Daston (ed.), The Cambridge History of Science vol. 3: Early modern science, Cambridge 2006, 106ff, Charles B. Schmitt, Experience and Experiment: A Comparison of Zabarella’s View with Galileo’s in De Motu, in: Studies in the Renaissance, 16(1969), 89ff).

10 Leave a comment on Absatz 10 0 Moreover, strictly speaking there is no such thing as „the“ Aristotelian theory of experience (so Dear’s appeal to a „so called-Aristotelian worldview“ is somewhat misleading (loc. cit., 107)). Early modern Aristotelians disagreed on how to define experience, on the role it plays in the formation of concepts, the justification of propositions, and the acquisition of scientific knowledge (with an emphasis on mathematical knowledge). So four general questions can be distinguished:

  1. 11 Leave a comment on Absatz 11 0
  2. What, if any, are the characteristic differences between perception and experience?
  3. How do experience and the intellect cooperate in the formation of concepts and propositions?
  4. What is the role of experience in the acquisition of scientific knowledge in general?
  5. What is the role of experience in the acquisition of mathematical knowledge?
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