Notes on gasser Wingate

From [[ Gasser-Wingate - Aristotle on induction and first principles.pdf|Gasser-Wingate’s “Aristotle on induction and first principles” ]]:

Induction (ἐπαγωγή):

a form of cognitive development that begins with perception and progresses through a series of increasingly sophisticated states in which various universal concepts come to be formed in our souls

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  1. First principles are propositions, while in Aristotle knowledge of these ultimately takes the universal form of concepts
  2. It’s not sufficient to know and understand these fundamental propositions, they are to be studied as the necessary explanatorily primitive truths from which all of our scientific understanding is derived.


  1. two possible explanations:
    • Νοῦς as both the state of the mind and the faculty of reaching first principles
    • Aristotle is offering a highly elliptical explanation of our acquisition of first principles, and his explanation lacks important steps to be accomplished after the inductive process

footnote 10: The necessity of recognizing attributes a subject has as necessary qualities to make it such, as seen later on in Natural kinds.

Requiring to prove first principles would make scientific understanding impossible: an explanatory regress would take place; we must possess scientific understanding and get to it in an alternative, non-demonstrative, way.

The necessity of understanding not only how to reach first principles, but how to get to them as such, as necessary and explanatorily primitive.

The importance of first principles

  1. On the philosophical side: grasp of explanation is needed in their theoretical role: getting the meaning of the syllogism to Aristotle doesn’t actually mean to understand the essence of a statement, therefore not actually understanding its conclusion. Someone may recognize the conclusion as true, but wouldn’t now how it is so.
  2. A interpretive reason: we should trust first principles more than their conclusions since from them all the knowledge is derived. (??? unclear example in p.4 of the text). Grasp the key role of first principles: trusting them as explanatory of their conclusions.

How definitional first principles come to be known


  1. Aristotle’s aim is not to define and propose a method, a procedure which if followed, could naturally lead to first principles;
    his intention is instead to describe the kind of cognitive development necessary for us to acquire the state required.

    The possession of certain concepts manifests itself in a grasp of propositions involving those concepts

  2. Aristotle rejects innatism: first principles are a sort of alternative to some kind of innatism.

[3] So from perception there comes memory, as we say, and from repeated memories of the same thing [there comes] experience; for many memories constitute a single experience. And from experience, or rather from the whole universal which has come to rest in the soul, the one apart from the many, that which is one and the same in all these things, [comes] a principle of craft or understanding [i.e. νοῦς] — of craft if it concerns coming to-be, of understanding if it concerns what is.

Aristotle, 100a3-9

A strong link to Hume in Logic and Philosophy of Science I’s philosophy



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