The Aristotelian 'Problemata Physica': Philosophical and by Robert Mayhew

By Robert Mayhew

The Problemata physica is the 3rd longest paintings within the corpus Aristotelicum, yet one of the least studied. It includes 38 books, over 900 chapters, masking an enormous diversity of matters, together with medication and song, intercourse and salt water, fatigue and fruit, animals and astronomy, moderation and malodorous issues, wind and wine, bruises and barley, voice and advantage. Aristotelian Problemata Physica: Philosophical and clinical Investigations comprises 21 essays by way of students of historic Greek philosophy and technology. those essays make clear this mysterious paintings, offering insights into the character of philosophical and medical inquiry within the Lyceum in the course of Aristotle’s lifestyles and particularly within the years following his loss of life.

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In such cases we are as-it-were tricking nature, getting it to do the contrary of what it is disposed to do, as when “lesser things overcome greater things, and things that have a small power [ῥοπή] move great weights, and pretty much all of what we call mechanical problems” (847a21–24). For clarity we can distinguish two related types of problems. ” Second, there are problems that Aristotle (or whoever our author is) describes as involving θαῦμα like our θαῦμα at natural things, when the artisan has succeeded in solving his problem, but we spectators do not understand how his contrivance works, and so we also do not understand the final cause, why he is doing what he does.

Indeed, Democritus is our only source before Plato to say that the poets produce their successful works under the influence of a divine inspiration amounting to madness (texts collected at B17–18). The consequence is that it has been left to those who come after to explain the reasons or causes [αἰτίαι] for what the poets have done, and also for what is done in the necessary arts: in either case, the discovery of what works comes first, and the discovery of causes comes later. 16 (dk A151). Aelian is an admirer of Democritus, citing his explanations of animal phenomena seven times, and seems to have had a good source, whether direct or not.

26 Menn has the concept of an experience that spurs investigation, and he and Aristotle share some views about how this happens. Aristotle (or his school) discuss θαῦμα particularly in two texts, our apparently Democritizing proem to the Metaphysics and the proem to the Mechanics. 982b17–20), rather than to use their knowledge for something further. Both the Metaphysics and the Mechanics say that θαῦμα can arise both at natural things (the Metaphysics gives as examples the solstices or “turnings” [τροπαί] of the sun, and the παθήματα of the moon, presumably phases and eclipses) and at artificial things (the Metaphysics gives the example of automata, mechanical devices set up to act in an apparently purposive way when triggered by a small stimulus, and often described as θαύματα); the Metaphysics also gives a purely mathematical example, θαῦμα at the incommensurability of the side and the diagonal.

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