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Aristotle and the Problem of Human Knowledge

In: The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition
Author: William Wians
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Abstract

I shall argue that, according to Aristotle, the knowledge we may attain is profoundly qualified by our status as human knowers. Throughout the corpus, Aristotle maintains a separation of knowledge at the broadest level into two kinds, human and divine. The separation is not complete—human knowers may enjoy temporarily what god or the gods enjoy on a continuous basis; but the division expresses a fact about humanity's place in the cosmos, one that imposes strict conditions on what we may know, with what degree of certainty, and in what areas. While passages bearing on human knowledge are familiar, looking at them collectively and in comparison with certain other well known Aristotelian doctrines may significantly affect how we understand the goals of his philosophy and why our hopes for reaching them must be limited.

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