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Studia Neoaristotelica

Volume 14, Issue 1, 2017

Lukáš Novák
Pages 85-109
DOI: 10.5840/studneoar20171414

How (Not) to Be an Aristotelian With Respect to Contemporary Physics

Haec tractatio est responsio critica ad tractationem Ludovici Groarke, titulo “Orbitae ellipticae, possintne Aristotelice explicari?”, necnon ad commentationem Jacobi Franklin, cui titulus “De orbitis ellipticis ac Aristotelica revolutione scientifica”. Auctor imprimis ostendit (ultra censuram a J. Franklin factam procedens) explanationem “Aristotelicam” orbitarum ellipticarum a L. Groarke propositam non solum analysi Newtonianae repugnare, sed etiam in se esse incohaerentem. Porro auctor alia L. Groarke proposita impugnat: scil. nostri temporis physicam mathematicam esse essentialiter Platonicam, item Newtonianam orbitarum ellipticarum explicationem assymetriam prae se ferre inexplicabilem (cui sententiae J. Franklin quoque assentit). Auctor e contra arguit, textibus nonnulis S. Thomae Aquinatis innixus, physicam modernam, mathematica sui methodo non exclusa, realisticae epistemologiae Aristotelicae esse congruam, immo pure Aristotelice intelligi posse (ac debere). Auctor tamen reicit quod J. Franklin insinuat, scil. physicam modernam nunc Aristotelicae philosophiae naturalis explere munia. Physica mathematica enim, methodo sua constricta, quaestiones genuine philosophicas (nempe ad essentias rerum spectantes) movere non potest, ac proinde philosophiae naturalis vice fungi nequit. This discussion article is a critical reaction to L. Groarke’s paper “Can Aristotelianism Make Sense of Perihelion–Aphelion Orbits?” and J. Franklin’s comment “Elliptical Orbits and the Aristotelian Scientific Revolution”. In the first place, the author shows (going beyond Franklin’s criticism) that Groarke’s proposed “Aristotelian” explanation of elliptical planetary orbits is inconsistent both in itself and with the Newtonian analysis. Furthermore, he challenges Groarke’s claims that modern mathematical physics is inherently Platonic and that the Newtonian explication of elliptical orbits involves unexplained assymmetries (a claim endorsed by Franklin as well). With the help of several Aquinas’s texts the author argues that modern physics, including its maths-driven methodology, is not incompatible with Aristotelian realist epistemology but can (and should) be interpreted in a purely Aristotelian vein. On the other hand, the author rejects the view implied by Franklin that modern physics is an up-to-date replacement of Aristotelian philosophy of nature. Due to its methodological limits, mathematical physics is incapable of asking genuinely philosophical questions concerning the essence of bodies, and so it cannot be expected to do the job of natural philosophy.

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