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Metaphysics Essay

3113 words - 13 pages

According to Aristotle, Heraclitus claims that “the same thing both is and is not,” and this would imply that contraries belong to the same subject simultaneously. Heraclitus denies our ability to establish truth, and questions the reliability of knowledge: for Aristotle; serious philosophical consideration must be given to such skepticism, because the logical conclusion of this position has undesirable effects on metaphysical discussion. First philosophy (or metaphysics) investigates the system of principles underlying the study of being (viz. beings as being), and the philosopher should be able to state the principle that permits the education of all things. According to Aristotle, the principle of demonstration must first be examined, so as to make sure that we have good reason to depend on its results and that it will meet the proper conditions for the telos of metaphysics.
Aristotle argues against metaphysical skepticism by explaining that any assertion presupposes a realm of truth, and the first principle allows us to know that there is such thing as truth inasmuch as everyone makes mistakes about things that they don’t know. Notably, Heraclitus is characteristic of the critical philosophical position of skepticism that asserts the improvable nature of all things. However, the first principle must be presupposed in order to investigate any subject (viz. the concept of being), and it is hard to believe that Heraclitus can assert anything without presupposing these grounds. As Aristotle explains, the first principle is about which it is impossible to make a mistake for it is evident and best known to everyone. Under those circumstances, the principle does not allow for true contradiction, inasmuch as “the same attribute cannot both belong and not belong to the same subject at the same time and in the same respect.” To clarify, the “thing” refers to an actual “thing,” and it does not belong to the same “thing” potentially but rather must belong actually to the same subject and, in effect, contraries cannot belong to the same subject simultaneously.
The ontological formulation of the principle of non-contradiction is intrinsically true, and applies to everything that is: for Aristotle; it is by nature the starting point for truth, and it is not true merely because many people accept it to be true (like other axioms), but rather true for no one can deny it. In any event, the act of showing someone that something is (or is not) reduces the argument to the basic source for any demonstration, that is, any proof is reduced to the ultimate position (i.e. the initial cause for demonstration). In essence, the principle cannot be demonstrated by virtue of deduction; if it could be deduced from another axiom, then it would not be the first principle. Moreover, if the principle could be demonstrated, then “all things” would be subject to demonstration, as Heraclitus seems to believe. However, to demand demonstration (in the strict sense) would beg...

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