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Studia Neoaristotelica

Volume 16, Issue 2, 2019

David Botting
Pages 153-227

Aristotle and Hume on the Idea of Natural Necessity

There is a tension in scholarship about Aristotle’s philosophy, especially his philosophy of science, between empiricist readings and rationalist readings. A prime site of conflict is Posterior Analytics II.19 where Aristotle, after having said that we know the first principles by induction suddenly says that we know them by nous. Those taking the rationalist side find in nous something like a faculty of “intuition” and are led to the conclusion that by “induction” Aristotle has some kind of idea of “intuitive induction”. Those taking the empiricist side resist this temptation but then struggle to explain how we can know first principles by induction and usually end by relegating induction to a mere subsidiary role; well-known problems of induction, with which Aristotle shows some familiarity, militate against taking anything we learn from induction to be a first principle or even certain. I am on the side of the empiricists, and would like to adopt as a methodological assumption that no concept of intuition occurs in any of Aristotle’s works. That is a far more ambitious project than I am attempting here, however. Here, I want to defend a non-intuitive, enumerative kind of induction against a raft of criticisms raised against it in the collection Shifting the Paradigm: Alternative Approaches to Induction (Biondi & Groarke 2014). I want to defend the position that Hume and Aristotle have basically the same conception of induction and of what it can and cannot do. What it cannot do, for both, is prove natural necessities. A paradigm shift is neither necessary nor desirable for a proper understanding of Aristotle’s philosophy of science. Aristotle is still the empiricist philosopher we all thought he was before reading Posterior Analytics II.19

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