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An Approach to Aristotle's Physics: With Particular Attention to the Role of His Manner of Writing

by David Bolotin, Aristotle Physics

Buy the book: David Bolotin. An Approach to Aristotle's Physics: With Particular Attention to the Role of His Manner of Writing

Release Date: November, 1997

Edition: Paperback

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Buy the book: David Bolotin. An Approach to Aristotle's Physics: With Particular Attention to the Role of His Manner of Writing


First, Determine the Audience

It should have occurred to the reviewer from Connecticut that Bolotin may have aimed his book at a broad audience, not at academic Straussians. One might as well criticize The Closing of the American Mind for not being Thoughts on Machiavelli. One might as well criticize Aristotle for the superficiality of his criticisms of "Socrates's" proposals for the city-in-speech. Effective pedagogy requires that the first lesson be an easier lesson.

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Shallow...but it could have been much more

This work should serve as a wake-up call to all of those who believe themselves to be interpreting texts in the manner of the late Leo Strauss. It is not enough to ape the master; one must also attempt to achieve a comparable mastery of the material before one starts drawing conclusions. The two best examples of this felicitous marriage (in the field of ancient philosophy) are still Stanley Rosen and Seth Benardete.

David Bolotin's work discovers an Aristotle far more conventional than the one which is commented upon by the medieval scholastics and the later ancients. In an attempt to show us how Aristotle is subjugating his physics to harsh, political necessities and that the Physics is really an exoteric work Bolotin prefers to avoid the profound in search of the banal. Let me make this perfectly clear: I think Bolotin's guiding idea, that Aristotle wrote very carefully, is absolutely correct. Where I part company with him is in the fact that Bolotin appears to be deaf to the very radicalism of the Physics. In the span of 8 books Aristotle sets forth an bold vision of how the world of motion-and-rest functions, effectively overwriting all previous attempts to do this. The ultimate result is that Aristotle delimits the area in which the subject of physics will be discussed and how it will be discussed. He also gives us glimpses into his assumptions and the "little white-lies" he tells in order to render his account complete. Bolotin does not seem terribly concerned with this stunning achievement and prefers to point out that Aristotle was fearful of meeting the fate of Socrates. Aquinas knew better since the good saint wasn't worried about citing Aristotle as the authority for the view that the philosopher is the one who puts things in their correct order (Summa Contra Gentiles 1.1). I will point out, in passing, that the gods are frequently credited with this very activity. Philosophy, in the classic sense, is the best life because it is the one closest to the activity of the divinities. The profundity (and hubris) of this view is worth serious reflection but we don't get any of that in Bolotin's work. It is a shame since the work could have been so much more had the author decided to toss out his prejudices in favor of reading the work as it needs to be read. A quick glance at his bibliography lends further credence to the conclusion that this book was already written before it was committed to paper; that the author had concluded his investigations before they had even began. The favorable endorsements from such notable scholars as Thomas Pangle and William Charlton are embarassing, since it is unclear what these men saw in this superficial work.

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