There are two great sources from which Western philosophy derives: Plato and his student Aristotle. For Plato, philosophy-taking from Socrates-was the preparation or training for death and also, what takes the soul back to the world of ideas and allows a man to become divine (apotheosis). Those less idealistic thinkers and less given to metaphysics are more inclined towards the philosophy of Aristotle – who was not only a great philosopher but a proto-scientist. Aristotle was called in the Academy of Plato simply “the Mind”, due to his enormous intellectual capacity, and also “the reader”, since (like nobody before him) he was a formidable reader (Aristotle read for himself, as we read we, most of the Greeks, instead, used slaves to read them aloud). The thought of Aristotle would reach Europe at the end of the Middle Ages passing through the Arab culture, as the Greek teacher was translated much earlier to Arabic than to Latin, being an important influence on thinkers of the stature of Averroes and Avicenna, among others of the great sages of Islamic cultural splendor. St. Thomas Aquinas would then comment on the work of Aristotle and incorporate his philosophy into Christian theology. Some of the early scientists were obviously members of the Christian Church, such as Roger Bacon, one of the fathers of the scientific method, for whom the influence of Aristotle was central. Christian thinkers would refer to Aristotle simply as “the philosopher”.
We said that Aristotle is less metaphysical than Plato. However, this does not mean that Aristotle’s philosophy is not “metaphysical”, but that Aristotle separates and criticizes the theory of ideas of his teacher, arguing that it is not necessary to postulate multiple independent or transcendent realities since ideas or forms are not separated from sensible things. However, Aristotle is not really a materialist, since for him there is a necessary “eternal and immobile substance”, which he calls “God”. The god of Aristotle is not a god that intrudes into creation, nor is it a personal god: it is an absolute consciousness that thinks itself, it is an “immobile engine” that magnetizes the cosmos, which moves towards it. through love
The book where Aristotle exposes his philosophy or his metaphysics is the book that has been called Metaphysics, a book that has been so named only because it follows Physics and Aristotle says that his subject should be studied only after studying physics. Some commentators have said that the book could also be called “philosophy” because this is what is discussed here. Both Plato and Aristotle agree that philosophy is born, in men, of amazement or admiration (thaumazein). The wonder, the mystery, are at the origin of knowledge: philosophy is a friend of myths, because “the subject of myths is marvelous”. But unlike other types of knowledge, philosophy is distinguished by having no other reason than itself, is that “which is sought by itself, only by the desire to know” and not by their “results.” That is, it is distinguished from utilitarianism by its purity. Something that would be important to remember today, in the era of self-improvement and the scientific philosophy of universities. “The first philosophers philosophized to free themselves from ignorance … it is evident that they devoted themselves to science to know and not with a view to usefulness”, says our philosopher. Notably Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gita, around the same time that Aristotle was philosophizing in Greece, will teach Arjuna that the true dharma and the act of a wise man have no ulterior purpose but is the action that is done By herself.
This purity and this desire for knowledge without ulterior motives are what makes philosophy the highest of all sciences, that is, of all epistemologies or ways of knowing. It is the only science that deserves “to be called free,” says Aristotle, who compares it to the man who has no owner, which makes us think a bit about the myth of Plato’s cave. Philosophy consists “in the study of causes and principles”. The first Greek philosophers were devoted mainly to ponder what was the origin of things, the arché: Thales thought it was water; Heraclitus, fire; Anaximander, the unlimited or infinite (apeiron); Pythagoras, the number; Empedocles, the four elements and their opposition relation; Parmenides, the Self, etc. This was the milieu where Aristotle and Plato made the eternal questioning of origin more sophisticated.
Aristotle tells us that many of these philosophers do not really respond to the first cause or the final cause, but only to the material cause and/or the principle of movement. Trying to avoid a regress ad infinitum, Aristotle posits as the first cause an “immobile motor”, which is eternal, indivisible, immaterial, perfect and exists only in the contemplation of oneself. This immobile motor is God and is equated with the active intellect. The paradox of the immobile motor is resolved by saying that it moves by inspiring the desire in the stars to imitate its perfection. The universe of Aristotle has no beginning or end, and neither a primordial creative act, like the Christian fiat lux. Our philosopher tells us that God’s activity is contemplation and therefore, this is also the highest activity to which one can aspire.
Aristotle is eloquent and shows his love for his discipline when he tells us:
There is no more worthy science than this; because the most divine must be estimated more, and this one is in a double concept. Indeed, a science that is primarily the patrimony of God and that deals with divine things is divine among all sciences. Then only philosophy has this double character. God happens to be the cause and the principle of all things and God alone, or mainly at least, can possess a similar science. All other sciences have, it is true, more relation to our needs than philosophy, but none surpasses it.
Here, Aristotle anticipates the idea that will predominate in modernity that philosophy is useless and the philosopher loses his time What an enormous distance separates us from Plato and Aristotle! Certainly, philosophy can be considered useless from the perspective of a materialistic pragmatism and yet, as our philosopher tells us, there is nothing superior to it, there is nothing more important in life than wisdom. Wisdom is the divinity itself.