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Was Aristotle an advancement in Western science?

  1. Jun 13, 2015 #1
    Did Aristotle advance Western science? I know he was a geocentrist, but I'm looking at science before him, and there isn't much of anything there. The fact that he wrote down his ideas, in and of itself, seems to be an improvement in science. The fact that he was thinking, and talking, and wondering, and trying to figure out the cosmos in an academic way seems like a great improvement in the 4th century B.C. Ptolemy, on the other hand, dropped the ball. He should have taken Aristotle's work and improved on it. Ptolemy had a lot more to work with, but he failed to improve science.
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  3. Jun 13, 2015 #2


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    Until Aristotle's philosophical beliefs started to hold back science after the Renaisance.

  4. Jun 14, 2015 #3


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    That's not the fault of Aristotle at all. If people 10 centuries from now take Einstein as sacred and infallible, then that might hold back science too. That doesn't diminish from Einstein's genius or contributions to science.
  5. Jun 14, 2015 #4


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    Yeah, Aristotle was already dead, it was people following his beliefs.
  6. Jun 14, 2015 #5
    I think Pythagorous was just as interesting, but still not that relevent to present day science ( or politics).
  7. Jun 14, 2015 #6
    I don't even know if it was people following his beliefs, rather than using his name to bolster their own beliefs. From no less than Galileo himself:

    Emphasis mine (gah, I always forget the whole thing is italicized--I'll try bold). Sounds very modern to me. Whether Galileo was just saying this to bolster his arguments, I don't know. I just know that Galileo understood him quite well and, though he knew he was wrong, he did seem to respect him. As for respecting his followers, well, not so much...
  8. Jun 14, 2015 #7
    So then it seems that Galileo regarded Aristotle to a bit 'left wing', but not in the totalitarian sense.
  9. Jun 15, 2015 #8
    I think that quote is a case of Galileo pulling his punches in order not to be too offensive to whomever that was addressed to. Aristotle was held in high regard by many prominent clergymen of the time as well as wealthy patrons of academic institutions. Whenever Galileo addressed one of Aristotle's particular assertions in debate with Aristotelian philosophers, he would make it look as ridiculous as it was. Most notable is his purely logical ridiculing of Aristotle's notion that heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects. (That is: he took it apart on purely logical grounds without even resorting to a demonstration it wasn't the case.) I'm pretty sure any respect Galileo might seem to have had for Aristotle at any time was surface diplomacy.
  10. Jun 15, 2015 #9
    Yes, that could be the case. But then again, Galileo wasn't so great at diplomacy! I haven't read enough (or any) Aristotle to know if he would be likely to change his theories when presented with new physical evidence, or if he ever wrote any such thing. That would pretty much make all the difference between him being a scientific thinker (for his time at least) or just some guy who said a bunch of crazy stuff.
  11. Jun 15, 2015 #10
    When it came to debates with peers he (Galileo) certainly did not try to spare anyone's feelings. On the other hand, he was diplomatic with societal and church superiors. As mathematician he was taught how to cast horoscopes and he often did that for nobles who subscribed to a belief in astrology, for example. The introduction he wrote to "The Starry Messenger" made some disingenuous allusions to astrology for the sake of the noble to whom it was dedicated, and his letters to important demonstrate all the pro forma sucking up required by the customs of the times by anyone in his position relative to them.

    I once picked up a book of Aristotle and the chapter I delved into seemed to be a rebuttal to a viewpoint held by someone else. Certainly, therefore, he considered things open to debate, but his whole playing field was abstreuse and impenetrable. Here's a section from the wiki on Aristotle:

    "Like his teacher Plato, Aristotle's philosophy aims at the universal. Aristotle's ontology, however, finds the universal in particular things, which he calls the essence of things, while in Plato's ontology, the universal exists apart from particular things, and is related to them as their prototype or exemplar. For Aristotle, therefore, epistemology is based on the study of particular phenomena and rises to the knowledge of essences, while for Plato epistemology begins with knowledge of universal Forms (or ideas) and descends to knowledge of particular imitations of these. For Aristotle, "form" still refers to the unconditional basis of phenomena but is "instantiated" in a particular substance (see Universals and particulars, below)."

    So, when you're preoccupied with completely non-practical philosophical issues like whether things contain the essence of universal things or whether particular things merely imitate universal things, you never get any traction on practical mechanics and can reason out some pretty strange explanations of phenomena.
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