Was Aristotle an empiricist

Was Aristotle an empiricist?


My familiarity with Aristotle is largely secondary, especially the medieval Jewish philosophers, who had to reckon with it as the predominant "scientific" opinion of the day [and even then my familiarity is imperfect]. My impression, however, is that any empirical tendencies that it may have had must have remained largely in embryonic form. At first glance, this position may be reflected in his view that celestial bodies only moved in perfect circles, although it was known that this was not the case even among later Greek thinkers.

And while it may not have been his intent, I get the impression that his acceptance as an authority has led to stagnation in research areas that he talked about to annoy his unfounded conclusions.

I think the following quote sums up Aristotle's influence on science. "I have already said this, but I want to emphasize it. Despite the fact that the details of Aristotle's logical theory no longer have any value to us, the fundamental value of His contributions must never be forgotten: he created a science of logic, in which there was nothing before. "http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/linguistics-and-philosophy/24-241-logic-i-fall-2005/readings/chp01.pdf Still, I'm not sure if we can give him a lot of credit as empiricists.

Jon Ericson ♦

Welcome to Philosophy.SE! I agree that Aristotle was certainly more of an obstacle than an aid to the empirical endeavor in the Middle Ages. He was also wrong about many things and should have known it through observation and experimentation. But when you read his work back to back with that of his teacher (i.e., Plato), you see a radical distancing from the idea that the truth lies entirely outside the observable world. I don't know if we can sack him that easily.


That is not really true. A huge problem for medieval philosophers, whether Jewish, Muslim or Catholic, was that Aristotle thought the world was eternal while each of the monotheisms insists that it was created by God in time. Since the restoration of Aristotelian natural philosophy in Western Europe (around 1200), Aristotle was under official religious suspicion of conveying views about the natural world that were contrary to belief. In the 1270s there are official rebukes of some of the teachings of Aristotelian natural philosophy such as the eternity of the universe.