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Studia Neoaristotelica

Volume 17, Issue 2, 2020

Paolo C. Biondi
Pages 239-282

A Rose by Any Other Name…
Reply to David Botting, “Aristotle and Hume on the Idea of Natural Necessity”

The question of how, according to Aristotle, the principles of science are acquired remains contested among scholars. An aspect of this broader topic concerns the role of induction, and whether it is able to provide us with knowledge of natural necessity without the assistance of intuition (nous). In a recent publication in this journal, David Botting argues in favour of the enumerative/empiricist interpretation of induction and criticizes the intuitive/rationalist interpretation of it, a version of which was defended in one of my publications. He thinks that Aristotle is like Hume: both understand the cognitive process of induction similarly; and, both are equally skeptical about acquiring knowledge of natural necessity through induction. My reply argues that reading Aristotle’s induction in Humean terms is problematic in several respects. I argue, in addition, that natural necessity can be known through induction if nous is involved. My explanation of how this is possible relies on thinking of the act of noēsis in terms of an act of recognition. Botting claims, furthermore, that Aristotle only differs from Hume in that the former does have a non-inductive and non-intuitive method by which natural necessity may become known, and which Botting calls “the constructive proof of necessity”. My reply examines this method, showing how certain steps in it rely on cognitive acts that are really acts of intuition merely expressed in Humean terms. Despite the criticisms, I end with suggestions for how Botting’s account might offer original paths of research to Aristotle scholars seeking to answer the question of the acquisition of principles of science, particularly in the early stages of this process.

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