Aristotelian Quotes

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New skin, a new land! And a land of liberty, if that is possible! I chose the geology of a land that was new to me, and that was young, virgin, and without drama, that of America. I traveled in America, but instead of romantically and directly rubbing the snakeskin of my body against the asperities of its terrain, I preferred to peel protected within the armor of the gleaming black crustacean of a Cadillac which I gave Gala as a present. Nevertheless all the men who admire and the women who are in love with my old skin will easily be able to find its remnants in shredded pieces of various sizes scattered to the winds along the roads from New York via Pittsburgh to California. I have peeled with every wind; pieces of my skin have remained caught here and there along my way, scattered through that "promised land" which is America; certain pieces of this skin have remained hanging in the spiny vegetation of the Arizona desert, along the trails where I galloped on horseback, where I got rid of all my former Aristotelian "planetary notions." Other pieces of my skin have remained spread out like tablecloths without food on the summits of the rocky masses by which one reaches the Salt Lake, in which the hard passion of the Mormons saluted in me the European phantom of Apollinaire. Still other pieces have remained suspended along the "antediluvian" bridge of San Francisco, where I saw in passing the ten thousand most beautiful virgins in America, completely naked, standing in line on each side of me as I passed, like two rows of organ-pipes of angelic flesh with cowrie-shell sea vulvas.

Salvador Dale­
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IT is worth remembering that the rise of what we call literary fiction happened at a time when the revealed, authenticated account of the beginning was losing its authority. Now that changes in things as they are change beginnings to make them fit, beginnings have lost their mythical rigidity. There are, it is true, modern attempts to restore this rigidity. But on the whole there is a correlation between subtlety and variety in our fictions and remoteness and doubtfulness about ends and origins. There is a necessary relation between the fictions by which we order our world and the increasing complexity of what we take to be the 'real' history of that world. I propose in this talk to ask some questions about an early and very interesting example of this relation. There was a long-established opinion that the beginning was as described in Genesis, and that the end is to be as obscurely predicted in Revelation. But what if this came to seem doubtful? Supposing reason proved capable of a quite different account of the matter, an account contradicting that of faith? On the argument of these talks so far as they have gone, you would expect two developments: there should be generated fictions of concord between the old and the new explanations; and there should be consequential changes in fictive accounts of the world. And of course I should not be troubling you with all this if I did not think that such developments occurred. The changes to which I refer came with a new wave of Greek influence on Christian philosophy. The provision of accommodations between Greek and Hebrew thought is an old story, and a story of concord-fictions-necessary, as Berdyaev says, because to the Greeks the world was a cosmos, but to the Hebrews a history. But this is too enormous a tract in the history of ideas for me to wander in. I shall make do with my single illustration, and speak of what happened in the thirteenth century when Christian philosophers grappled with the view of the Aristotelians that nothing can come of nothing-ex nihilo nihil fit-so that the world must be thought to be eternal. In the Bible the world is made out of nothing. For the Aristotelians, however, it is eternal, without beginning or end. To examine the Aristotelian arguments impartially one would need to behave as if the Bible might be wrong. And this was done. The thirteenth-century rediscovery of Aristotle led to the invention of double-truth. It takes a good deal of sophistication to do what certain philosophers then did, namely, to pursue with vigour rational enquiries the validity of which one is obliged to deny. And the eternity of the world was, of course, more than a question in a scholarly game. It called into question all that might seem ragged and implausible in the usual accounts of the temporal structure of the world, the relation of time to eternity (certainly untidy and discordant compared with the Neo-Platonic version) and of heaven to hell.

Frank Kermode
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For Aristotle the literary plot was analogous to the plot of the world in that both were eductions from the potency of matter. Sartre denies this for the world, and specifically denies, in the passage just referred to, that without potentiality there is no change. He reverts to the Megaric view of the matter, which Aristotle took such trouble to correct. But this is not our affair. The fact is that even if you believe in a Megaric world there is no such thing as a Megaric novel; not even Paterson. Change without potentiality in a novel is impossible, quite simply; though it is the hopeless aim of the cut-out writers, and the card-shuffle writers. A novel which really implemented this policy would properly be a chaos. No novel can avoid being in some sense what Aristotle calls 'a completed action.' This being so, all novels imitate a world of potentiality, even if this implies a philosophy disclaimed by their authors. They have a fixation on the eidetic imagery of beginning, middle, and end, potency and cause. Novels, then, have beginnings, ends, and potentiality, even if the world has not. In the same way it can be said that whereas there may be, in the world, no such thing as character, since a man is what he does and chooses freely what he does-and in so far as he claims that his acts are determined by psychological or other predisposition he is a fraud, le¢che, or salaud-in the novel there can be no just representation of this, for if the man were entirely free he might simply walk out of the story, and if he had no character we should not recognize him. This is true in spite of the claims of the doctrinaire nouveau roman school to have abolished character. And Sartre himself has a powerful commitment to it, though he could not accept the Aristotelian position that it is through character that plot is actualized. In short, novels have characters, even if the world has not. What about time? It is, effectively, a human creation, according to Sartre, and he likes novels because they concern themselves only with human time, a faring forward irreversibly into a virgin future from ecstasy to ecstasy, in his word, from kairos to kairos in mine. The future is a fluid medium in which I try to actualize my potency, though the end is unattainable; the present is simply the pour-soi., 'human consciousness in its flight out of the past into the future.' The past is bundled into the en-soi, and has no relevance. 'What I was is not the foundation of what I am, any more than what I am is the foundation of what I shall be.' Now this is not novel-time. The faring forward is all right, and fits the old desire to know what happens next; but the denial of all causal relation between disparate kairoi, which is after all basic to Sartre's treatment of time, makes form impossible, and it would never occur to us that a book written to such a recipe, a set of discontinuous epiphanies, should be called a novel. Perhaps we could not even read it thus: the making of a novel is partly the achievement of readers as well as writers, and readers would constantly attempt to supply the very connections that the writer's programme suppresses. In all these ways, then, the novel falsifies the philosophy.

Frank Kermode
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