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Aristotle's answer to the question "what is knowledge?"

Thomas Kiefer, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


My dissertation challenges much of the last 1700 years of interpretation on important parts of Aristotle's philosophy. In this work I examine in depth each of the four viable answers Aristotle provides to the question “what is knowledge?” I begin with the answer that “knowledge is an ‘apodeictic hexis’” (EN VI.3.1139b31–32). An understanding of this statement requires a prior consideration of many aspects of Aristotle's ontology and psychology, as well as epistemology. This consideration provides not only an analysis of this answer, but also a philosophical foundation for the subsequent chapters. The second chapter examines Aristotle's claim that knowledge is a “hupolêpsis” (EN VI.6.1140b31–32). This answer is a brief way of indicating the place of knowledge in our psychology. Although there is not much direct, explicit evidence surviving which makes clear what “hupolêpsis” is, Aristotle's surviving uses of this notion are adequate for revealing its salient features. The third answer comes from Posterior Analytics I.2.71b9–16 , and is connected to the fourth, which comes from Nicomachean Ethics VII. I show that the logos knowledge has, or is with, is either an immediate, necessary and true statement or a proof (apodeixis). The former is anapodeictic knowledge, and the latter apodeictic knowledge. These two kinds of knowledge have both semantic and psychological aspects, and I examine both kinds in detail. The fourth chapter examines the question that logically follows, namely “given this account of knowledge, is knowledge possible?” In conclusion I provide a summary and address some of issues which follow from my work, providing a segue to a sequel. ^

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Recommended Citation

Kiefer, Thomas, "Aristotle's answer to the question "what is knowledge?"" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3116583.