Apr 24

Knowledge is not a product of hyper-intellectual imagination. Knowledge is that which distinguishes reality from illusion for the benefit of all. — Bhagavat Purana 1.1.2 describes this as the highest truth.[1]

“The human understanding is no dry light, but receives an infusion from the will and affections; whence proceed sciences which may be called “sciences as one would.” For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem to be occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless in short are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections color and infect the understanding.” — Francis Bacon, Novum Organon (1620)

The following essay presents in my humble opinion why Aristotle may not be considered a materialist. He described the appearing (apparent) world or phenomenal cosmos teleologically as intrinsically a kingdom of ends, rather than mechanistically as a chaos impelled to form a cosmos by forces under laws externally acting upon its matter or content.

A teacher writes the alphabet on a blackboard to teach it to first graders, but it does not mean that the teacher is at the level of the first graders. Aristotle taught the principles of material phenomena, but one may not thereby conclude that he was a materialist.

Modern science assumes the principle of uniformity of matter throughout the universe in the form of atoms or subatomic particles, as well as universal laws and forces. This is a convenient simplification for a finite, limited intellect, especially convenient for utilizing formal mathematical interpretations of material phenomena, but Carl Sagan sagely reminds us,

“Common sense works fine for the universe we’re used to, for time scales of decades, for a space between a tenth of a millimeter and a few thousand kilometers, and for speeds much less than the speed of light. Once we leave those domains of human experience, there’s no reason to expect the laws of nature to continue to obey our expectations, since our expectations are dependent on a limited set of experiences.” [2]

Einstein also admonished us,

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

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