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The Thinkers' Club Message Board › Looking for First Principles of Nature

Looking for First Principles of Nature

A former member
Post #: 18
In preparation for the Cleveland Heights meeting, let's look at the opening of Aristotle's "Physics":

When the objects of an inquiry, in any department, have principles,
conditions, or elements, it is through acquaintance with these that
knowledge, that is to say scientific knowledge, is attained. For we
do not think that we know a thing until we are acquainted with its
primary conditions or first principles, and have carried our analysis
as far as its simplest elements. Plainly therefore in the science
of Nature, as in other branches of study, our first task will be to
try to determine what relates to its principles.

So Aristotle wants to discover "first principles Nature". Does that seem weird to you? Perhaps you agree with one or more of these statements:

1. There's no point looking for "first principles of Nature". Even if we found them they'd have no bearing on how we live our lives.

2. Only heavyweight science geniuses, like particle physicists and cosmologists, are competent to figure out "first principles" stuff. I'll let Stephen Hawking worry about it.

3. You can't understand Nature with your rational mind. You've got to rely on something non-rational like your religious faith, or spiritual intuition, or a good acid trip.

4. I'm interested, but ever since Galileo and Newton we've know that Aristotle's ideas about Nature are flat-out wrong.

Myself, I've held all these beliefs at one time or another, so I can attest that they feel persuasive. And yet Aristotle wasn't daunted by these concerns, and part of the fun of reading his Physics is seeing how he approaches the challenge.
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