Thoughts While Reading Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and Physics

These thoughts occurred on Twitter:
   Aristotle might be wrong, if he says that Plato and not Socrates made the forms separately existing causes (Metaphysics I.6). Aristophanes in the Clouds is already making fun of Socrates and the floating causes of rain.(Clouds, 250-344). This leads to a stunning recognition of the absence of the forms in the accusation and the Apology. It must have been the Daimon that led to the charge of bringing in new divinities, or what? Says Xenophon. Leo Strauss, in The City and Man, addresses the theory of the plural forms in relation to the plural gods (120-121). This implies that for us, following Abraham and Socrates, the theory of the imago Die, the image of God in man, and the human things as the gateway to metaphysics, ascending through the image, is as suitable as plural forms. We still do not know what to do with the impersonal or collective human knowledges and effects, such as Eros or Justice and Wisdom, which obviously are something.
   The attribution of the theory of the forms to Plato and not Socrates has become commonplace, but may well be mistaken, if Socrates were only reluctant to speak directly and publicly about the forms- for reasons obvious in his trial and death. In the Clouds, Aristophanes’ Socrates says, at the initiation of Strepsiades,
… And to associate in speech with the Clouds, our daimons… Let us shake off the rainy cloud/ From our immortal form, and let us give the earth to our far seeing eye…”they’re heavenly Clouds, great goddesses for idle men, who provide us with notions and dialectic and mind” (Clouds, 288-300, 315-317)”
The same may be true of “dialectic” too, that it is Socratic, contrary to Aristotle, the coping stone of Socratic philosophy. Aristophanes had written long before the trial, when Plato was about 20. Strauss writes of Glaucon and Adeimantus: surely they have heard of the ideas, even of the idea of the good, many times before” (Ibid., p. 121). The Socrates of the sixth and seventh books of the Republic may be the most clear presentation of Socrates. Aristotle did not know Socrates. And he likely wrote the Metaphysics after Plato was gone.
   Aristophanes is amazing for how much he knows about the theory of the ideas and the Socratic turn through the human things. You’ld think he hung out at Symposia. Wonder is he did not burn his comedies, as Plato did his Tragedies, to follow Socrates around. Good thing, though, eh?
   In the same way, we say that when things get better it comes from the fullness. We Call Him the Good One. If the universal were merely abstracted from particulars, there would be no measure of the particulars, by which we know, for example, that every city and every man falls short of perfect justice. The good is especially pertinent to the human things, whether the silently revolving galaxies have a good or not. Formal and final causes are especially apparent through the human things as the key to understanding all things. It is said to be the last thing seen in any inquiry, and the first principle of each thing- including the intelligibility of circumstance among human beings. Darwinian metaphysics does not say a word, in one sense, about what it is that evolves, the miraculous order of nature unfolding like shapes in the frost on a window, and we are fond of noting that thew wing in truth indicates that there is such a thing as sky. That the kinds of animals change simply sets the question of formal and final cause back a step. As Geometry is to objects So x is to living things, y to Self moving things, And z to the image of God in man. Life, self motion and man have a cause that is superior. “The genius of Shakespeare is not caused by Shakespeare,” as Leo Strauss writes. As objects have an eternal ground revealed in the eternal characteristic of the mathemata of number, shape and motion, and as nature has an articulation in part eternally true- as shown in logic- so, we say, do life, motion and reason have an eternal ground that is beyond a what, and beyond the attributes of living moving and reasoning things. For to know in what sense man is the image is what is difficult. If thought thinking itself is the highest way to describe this, (rather than the “Good One,” for example) an image might be the divine wedding in the scripture, if, in knowing, the whole through man- the one part out of the harmony of the whole– the whole can be said to know itself. For if God and the Creation are two different things, as we say, the whole cannot yet be one, yet if these belong together, it is already one, even in a sense different from that in which what will be Is.
 What is intelligible geometry to objects? What the articulation of things to the words? What the intelligible source of life? Of self motion? and of choosing not only our courses, but our ways?
I thought most people on Twitter were just now wondering that. Most Germans, at least.
   We have been attempting to translate I.5, after the sentence on Socrates and the opening paragraph. We noted the use of the word agape for delight or love, as well as the word (Phos), light, which seems to disappear from the text following the opening paragraph. By chance, the thought occurred, while speaking to a friend, that one difference between the “Metaphysics” of Aristotle and the thought found in the Republic is the presence of light.
   We will be musing too on the 4 causes in Aristotle as these appear in the dialogues, because his division of formal and final cause to include the dimension of time as well as space in the image is of course a great advance. Formal and final cause are to space as final and efficient causes are to time. Earth, air, water and fire are what we call solid, liquid gas, or the three states of matter, and energy. There is said, too, to be another condition, called “plasma,” though we do not find this about our world. We have these as the kinds of matter that appear on the periodic chart (Aristotle would have loved this discovery of Mendeleev and the modern study of the kinds of matter), into which materials as concrete are resolved, and even wood, though this is made by life. If energy and matter are inter-convertible- energy being released from the bonds of the elements even as fire is from the compounds- we have yet found a new kind of energy. But for our purposes, it may be sufficient to note that there are “kinds” of energy as well as kinds of matter, and these are never found without some modicum of form.
   The intelligibility of things is the great, or greater mystery. Take an artificial being, the classic table or chair. The chair is made of wood, but what is even the shape of the chair made of? Smash the chair, and one still has all the wood, but no longer any chair. Set this as a simple equation: shape or chair/ wood: x/ wood: The difference is the form, and this not made of wood.
   In the comparison of the the account of Socrates in the Phaedo contrasting material causes and purpose or final cause we have an account to compare to the four causes in the account of Aristotle. Form and matter go with space, while final and efficient go with time. Earth, water and air we call solid liquid and gas, three forms of all the elements in the periodic chart. These are contrasted with fire or “energy,” which moves the elements through the three conditions. But matter always has some form. Aristotle, too, calls subordinate forms “matter.” so that his meaning is slightly different from ours.
   Artificial things may be the easiest to see, as in these, we have a lame imitation of the unity of living beings. Volcanoes, sunsets and rivers are in a sense beings, and yet in another- compared to the smallest microbe- somehow less unities than they are stuff lying about as it falls. Even rocks seem more accidentally beings than a tree, where there is quite clear demarcation between what in the world is this tree and not this tree, or “subject” and “object,” as is said. So it is especially with the living things that beings come to be separate from the rest, and the eternal source of life a greater mystery than what life is, to which our science has not much of a clue, not to mention what self motion is. And we trust these guys to demarcate psychology and neurology?!

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