Aristotle's Children

2004-11-24

Yesterday I finished reading Aristotle's Children by Richard Rubenstein. I've long wanted to write a history of Aristotle -- the influence of his ideas throughout history -- and Rubenstein's book provides some material toward such a history, focusing mainly on the period 1150 to 1350 CE. Rubenstein argues that the Judeo-Christian tradition has been challenged in the realm of natural philosophy by three successive systems of thought: Aristotelian philosophy, Newtonian physics, and Darwinian biology. He also maintains that one must not confuse Aristotle's open method with the hardened positions that some latter-day Aristotelians clung to -- a distinction that precious few modern scientists make, but that was clear to Galileo long ago (Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems):

Is it possible for you to doubt, that if Aristotle should see the new discoveries in the sky he would change his opinions and correct his books and embrace the most sensible doctrines, casting away from himself those people so weak-minded as to be induced to go on abjectly maintaining everything he ever said?


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