Episteme, demonstration, and explanation: A fresh look at Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics




Salmieri, Gregory
Bronstein, David
Charles, David
Lennox, James G.

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A symposium on Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics in Metascience invites the question of how the treatise relates to philosophy of science and epistemology, as these fields are generally understood. It is in the hope of shedding some light on this issue that I propose to discuss Aristotle’s conception of epistēmē, his name for the Posterior Analytics’ subject matter. The term is variously translated “science,” “knowledge,” and “understanding,” but none of these options is ideal, and the difficulty in finding a suitable translation attests to the distance between Aristotle’s thought and our own. Appreciating this somewhat alien concept will help us to better frame some interpretive questions about Aristotle’s project in the Posterior Analytics and some philosophical questions about how his positions relate to the issues of interest to contemporary epistemologists and philosophers of science, and about whether we can find in Aristotle the outlines of a viable theory. (Answering these questions, however, will have to wait for another occasion.)



It takes work for human beings to know reality and to form and achieve values within it. Understanding this work enables us to take greater control of our minds and our lives. Human beings—many of us, at least—aspire to be objective in our thinking and our decision-making. We aspire to conform our thinking to the facts, rather than allowing our opinions to be determined accidental features of our psychologies and environments. We aspire to achieve things that are genuinely valuable, rather than things that merely seem appealing to some person or group. In our professional lives we aspire to profit by providing our customers (or clients or employers) with goods or services that are genuinely valuable to them. In our civic lives, we seek to preserve or create the sort of government that protects and makes possible all of the activities described above. The Objectivity Program seeks to help us realize these aspirations by illuminating their philosophical foundations, and the ways in which different perspectives on these fundamental issues lead to different approaches to life, business, and governmental policy.

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Salmieri, G., Bronstein, D., Charles, D. et al. Episteme, demonstration, and explanation: A fresh look at Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics . Metascience 23, 1–35 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11016-013-9815-1