Aristotle's "System"

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Preliminary analyses, prior to any science, into language, meaning, and knowledge.

(Categories, Prior Analytics, Posterior Analytics, Topics, Sophistical Refutations)


Theoretical                                   Practical                                       Productive

First Philosophy                     Political Science                             Artistic production

Mathematics                             Ethics                                             Rhetorical production



Biology (includes "Psychology")

Theoretical Sciences seek knowledge for its own sake of the principles and causes of being (stable continuity of things) and change/motion. All change/motion must have an unmoved mover, a start to the change that is itself unchanged. In many cases this mover can in turn be moved. Eventually, however, all motion can be traced back to a primary unmoved mover, which is not itself moved, but attracts motion "as does the object of desire." This unmoved mover lives in a state of pure activity, with no potentiality; its continuous activity is a pure insight into insight, a pure life of perfect and complete pleasure. In other words, change/motion is evoked by an unchanging presence; changeable things desire to achieve the state closest to unchanging presence they are capable of. Thus the stars move in circular locomotion (eternal and continuous), while animals "move" by generation w/in the same species, different matter coming to have the same form. (Metaphysics, Physics, On the Heavens, On the Generation of Animals, De Anima.)

Practical Sciences seek knowledge that will change fledgling boys into full and flourishing citizens. The key to flourishing citizens, beyond the luck of proper birth and continuing health, is to arrange the proper upbringing that allows the proper emotional response to changing circumstances. The proper response is a "mean between extremes," but this mean is nothing mediocre or easy (e.g., courage, the mean between rashness and cowardice). Consistent achievement of this proper response is the best criterion changeable humans have that they are directing their lives according to logos, measured and rational speech, cut to fit the cosmos and polis. Even philosophers, who devote their lives to (momentary but renewable) insight and thus are as close to the state of the unmoved mover as any human can be, need practical science to lead the family and navigate the city which support their work. (Politics, Nicomachean Ethics.)

Productive Sciences seek knowledge that will change external things, that will enable the creation of beautiful "objects" (plays and speeches). (Poetics, Rhetoric.)