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Nussbaum, M. C. - Saving Aristotle's Appearances

Nussbaum, M. C. - Saving Aristotle's Appearances

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Published by: DAR on Feb 23, 2011
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8SavingAristotle'sappearances
AtthebeginningofBook
VII
ofthe
NicomacbeanEthics,
justbeforehisdiscussionof
akrasia,
Aristotlepausestomakesomeobservationsabouthisphilosophicalmethod:
Here,asinallothercases,wemustsetdowntheappearances
(phainomena)
and,firstworkingthroughthepuzzles
(diaporesafltas),
inthiswaygoontoshow,ifpossible,thetruthofallthebeliefswehold
(Iaendoxa)
abouttheseexperiences;and,ifthisisnotpossible,thetruthofthegreatestnumberandthemostauthoritative.Forifthedifficultiesareresolvedandthebeliefs
(endoxa)
areleftinplace,wewillhavedoneenoughshowing.(Il4SbIff.)
Aristotletellsusthathismethod,'hereasinallothercases'!istosetdownwhathecalls
phainomena,
andwhatweshalltranslateas'theappearances'.Properphilosophicalmethodiscommittedtoandlimitedbythese.
If
weworkthroughthedifficultieswithwhichthe
phainomena
confrontusandleavethegreatestnumberandthemostbasicintact,wewillhavegoneasfarasphilosophycan,orshould,go.Thistheoreticalremarkiscloselyfollowedbyanapplicationofthemethod.Aristotlefirstreportssomeofourmostcommonbeliefsandsayingsabout
akrasia,
concludinghissummarywiththewords,'These,then,arethethingswesay
(talegomena)'
(1
145bzo).NexthepresentstheSocraticviewthatnobodydoeswrongwillingly:wechoosethelessergoodonlyasaresultofignorance.Ofthistheoryhesaysbrusquely,'Thisstoryisobviouslyatvariancewiththe
phainomena'.
Hethensetshimselftofindinganaccountofakraticbehaviorthatwillremainfaithfultothe'appearances'inawaythattherejectedSocraticaccountdoesnot."Here,then,isanambitiousandexcitingphilosophicalview,onethatasksus,aswehaveseen,torevisemuchofwhatweordinarilysayandbelieve.WhatkindofreplyhasAristotlemadetothisviewwhenherejectsitbecauseitisatvariancewiththe
phainomena-
bywhich,fromthecontext,heseems
to
meanourordinarybeliefsandsayings?Whatsortofphilosophicalmethodisthisthatsothoroughlycommitsitselftoandcircumscribesitselfbytheordinary?IhaveindicatedbythetitleofthischapterthatIbelievethatAristotle's
phainomena
needsaving.Thisimpliesthattheyareintrouble,orunderattack.ThisIbelievetobetrue,ontwoquitedifferentlevels.First,onthelevelofthetextitself,the
pbainamena
areindangerofvanishingaltogether.Aristotle'sword
'phainomena'
receivessomanydifferenttranslationsthatareaderofthestandardEnglishofthepassagesthat
I
shalldiscusswouldhavenocluethattheyhadanythingincommon.Ross,inthepassagefrom
EN
VII,
uses'observedfacts
'.3
 
Theopinionsoffiniteandlimitedbeingsprovidenogoodevidenceatallforthetruth;farlessdotheyprovidetruthwithits'witnesses'and'paradigms'.Platoinheritedthistraditionanddevelopedit,aswehaveseen.
It
isPlatowho
SavingAristotle'sappearances
Z41
Elsewherewefind'dataofperception','admittedfacts','facts','observations'~almosteverything
but
theliteral'appearances',orthefrequentlyinterchangeable'whatwebelieve',or'whatwesay'.EvenG.E.
L.
Owen,whodidsomuchtosalvagethecloseconnectionofthe
phainomena
withlanguageandordinarybelief,didso,asweshallsee,onlybychargingAristotlewithseriousambiguityofusage."TounderstandAristotle'smethodwemust,then,salvageandbemorepreciseaboutthese
phainomena,
whichare,asAristotletellsusinthe
EudemianEthics,
boththe'witnesses'andthe'paradigms'thatwearetouseinphilosophicalinquiry
(1ZI
6bz6).
5
Secondisthedeeperproblemtowhichwehavealluded.Asaphilosophicalmethod,themethodthatannouncesappearance-savingasitsgoalwaswhenitwasintroduced,andstillis,indangerofabruptphilosophicaldismissal.Itcanstrikeusashopelesslyfiat,tedious,underambitious.Allphilosophydoes,apparently,istoleavethingswheretheyare;whenithasdonethatithas,Aristotletellsus,done'enoughshowing'.Enough,wemightask,forwhat?Forwhom?ForProtagoras,whofailedtofeeltheurgentforceofpracticalproblems?ForSophocles?ForPlato?Aristotlewaswellawareofsuchquestions.Infact,heseemstohavechosentheterm'appearances'deliberately,soastoconfrontthem.Byusingthistermforhisphilosophical'paradigms',heannouncesthatheistakingapositionaboutphilosophicalmethodandlimitsthatisveryunusualinhisphilosophicaltradition.'Appearances'standardlyoccurs,inpre-AristotelianGreekepistemology,asonearmofapolarity,ontheothersideofwhichis'thereal'or'thetrue'.Theappearances~bywhichPlatoandhispredecessorsusuallymeantheworldasperceived,demarcated,interpretedbyhumanbeingsandtheirbeliefs~aretakentobeinsufficient'witnesses'oftruth.Philosophybeginswhenweacknowledgethepossibilitythatthewaywepre-philosophicallyseetheworldmightberadicallyinerror.Thereisatruenatureouttherethat'lovestohideitself'(Heraclitus
BIZ
3)beneathourhumanwaysofspeakingandbelieving.Revealing,uncovering,gettingbehind,gettingbeyond-thesearesomeofearlyGreekphilosophy'sguidingimagesforthephilosophicalpursuitoftruth.TheGreekwordfortruthitselfmeans,etymologically'whatisrevealed','whatisbroughtoutfrom
concealment.t
Prrmenides,theboldestofthephilosopherswhomAristotlewillbechargingwithviolationofbasicappearances,tellsusunequivocallythattruthistobefoundonlyinaplace'farfromthebeatenpathofhumanbeings',afteryoudepartfrom'allthecities'.
7
Heputsthecontrastbetweenthetrueandtheappearancesthisway:
Youwilllearntheunshakeableheartofwell-roundedTruth.Youwill,ontheotherhand,alsolearntheopinionsofmortals.inwhichthereisnotrueconfidence.
 
*
Weshouldalsorememberthattheworld'smostvaluableactivitiesarethis,forPlato,partlybecausetheytranscendordinaryexperienceinthewaytheydo,achievingasuperiorstabilitybyattachingthemselvestoobjectsmorestablethantheobjectsweexperience
in
dailylife.
t
It
isimportantheretobearinrnmdthatanthropocentrismneednotimplyrelativism.Plato'sProtagoras,aswehaveargued,isnorelativist
(Ch,
4);andthesamemaywellhavebeentrueofthehistoricalfigure.Iansuggesting,then,thatAristotlepromisesareturnfromthesearchforexternaljustification
to
an
internality
thatisdeeplyrootedinGreektradition,ifatoddswithonespecifically
phiJosophicoi
tradition.
242
Aristotle:thefragility
of
thegoodhumanlife
mostexplicitlyopposes
phainomena,
andthecognitivestatesconcernedwiththem,totruthandgenuineunderstandingj''itisPlatowhoarguesthatthe
paradeigmata
thatwerequireforunderstandingofthemostimportantsubjectsarenottobefoundintheworldofhumanbeliefandperceptionatall.Plato,then,isAristotle'scentraltargetwhenhetellsusthatthe
phainomena
areourbestandonly
paradeigmata.
WerecallSocrates'attack,in
Republic
VI,
againstthephilosophicaladequacyofamethodthatremainswithinthehumanpointofview.'Nothingimperfectisameasureofanything,thoughsometimespeoplethinkthatitisenoughandthatthereisnoneedtosearchfurther.''Theydothis',saysGlaucon,'outoflaziness.''Laziness,however',Socratesreplies,'isaqualitythattheguardianofacityandoflawscandowithout.'Nothingimperfect,thatis,nolimitedbeing,
afortiori
nohumanbeingorhumanagreement,isevergoodmeasureofanything.Protagoras'santhropocentricdictumisarecipeforinadequacy.Theabilitytogooutsideofsharedhumanconceptionsandbeliefsishere,asinParmenides'poem,madeanecessaryconditionofaccesstotherealtruthaboutourlives.Theperfectgod's-eyestandpointistheonlyreliableonefromwhichtomakeadequateandreliablytruejudgments.(Andthisissobecausetheaspectsofourhumanitythatseparateusfromthisgod,aspectsthatpervademostofoureverydaybeliefsandconceptions,havebeenrejectedasdistortingandimpeding.)ThefactthatPlatoisatpainstoshowtheappealofhisargumentsforanordinaryinterlocutorsuchasGlaucon,givingthemadeeprootednessinpre-philosophicalbelief,doesnotchangethispicture.FortheassentofGlauconisinnowaycriterialoftheirtruth;itisonlyaluckyfactaboutGlaucon.Ifneitherhenoranyotherordinarypersonhadhadaninterestincontemplation,itwouldstillhavebeenthemostvaluableactivityintheworld.
*
NorwasPlato'sclaimconcernedwithethicsalone.Foranadjacentpassagecriticizesmathematiciansonthegroundsthattheypracticetheirsciencestartingfromhypotheses-fromsomething'laiddown'byhumanbeings.Theyneverattaintoapureandunhypotheticalpointentirelyoutsidethesedeephumanbeliefs,"astarting-pointthatiseternal,stable,andnotrelativeinanywaytotheconditionsandcontextsofhumanlifeandlanguage.Suchstarting-pointsareallegedtobetheonlyadequatebasisforanyscienceorunderstanding.WhenAristotledeclaresthathisaim,inscienceandmetaphysicsaswellasinethics,istosavetheappearancesandtheirtruth,heisnot,then,sayingsomethingcozyandacceptable.ViewedagainstthebackgroundofEleaticandPlatonicphilosophizing,theseremarkshave,instead,adefiantlook.AristotleispromisingtorehabilitatethediscreditedmeasureorstandardoftragicandProtagoreananthropocentrism.fHepromisestodohisphilosophicalworkinaplacefrom

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