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Aristotle : The Desire to Understand

by Jonathan Lear

Buy the book: Jonathan Lear. Aristotle : The Desire to Understand

Release Date: 11 February, 1988

Edition: Paperback


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Buy the book: Jonathan Lear. Aristotle : The Desire to Understand

A book with real insights into Aristotle

Jonathan Lear gives us a truthful and insightful look at Aristotle's thoughts. As opposed to many so-called commentators and experts on Aristotle's theories (including W.D.Ross and J.L.Ackrill) Lear attempts at explaining what Aristotle was saying, not an elaborate re-interpretation and argumentation. Questions and certain problems are not, however, ignored. And Lear's approach to Hume's problem of cause/effect when discussing Aristotle's four causes is to be much admired (as is his whole understanding of the causes.) Kant is as well not ignored when his ideas are relevent (or contradictory.) But Lear has a knack for explaining each philosopher in itself and this explaining as to what it was that Aristotle said (in contradistinction to Kant's ideas), but not in a judgmental sort of manner.

After looking at many (if not almost all) books on Aristotle's theories, I was suprised to find a book with clear,lucid, and straightforward ideas. This is most probably the best book on this subject.

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Excellent explication of Aristotle

As the author notes, there is a common tendency to describe 'old' philosophies such as Aristotles in an historical manner: to treat his ideas as tacitly dead and gone, with the value of the works deriving from either locating Aristotle's ideas in the context of the history of philosophy, or via some rather facile 'compare and contrast with modern views' approach.

Instead, Lear is "...primarily concerned with the truth about Aristotle, not the truth of Aristotle's views per se...". This frees him up to spend most of his ink on explicating and clarifying the views of Aristotle. Where contrasts do appear, they are intended to "...bring to light how different Aristotle's world is from the modern, not to show how Aristotle's beliefs fall short of what we now take to be the truth."

The organization is by concepts, so within one section there are often references to various books on Aristotle. This is much more helpful than simply attempting to narrate, or move in lockstep, with Aristotle's sequence of writings.

The references are generally sufficient, footnoted at the bottom of the pages. Occasionally, the original Greek words or phrases are also footnoted. (I would have preferred more of the latter, but that is a quibble.)

The author is neither pretentious nor superficial. His writing is that of a patient tutor who is willing to explain, but also not willing to oversimplify. In so doing, the book comes across as being ardently respectful of Aristotle, and it is an excellent companion to reading Aristotle's works.

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