Aristotle’s Empiricism: experience and mechanics in the 4th century BC by Jean De Groot [Book Review]

Ancient Philosophy 35 (1):220-230 (2015)
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According to a generally held impression, which has coalesced out of centuries of misinterpretation occasioned mostly by misguided charitable commentary, but often by outright hostility to his followers (and occasionally deliberate misrepresentation of his ideas), Aristotle is a teleological (as opposed to “mechanistic”) philosopher, responsible for a “qualitative” (as opposed to quantitative) approach to physics that is thereby inadequately mathematical, whose metaphysical speculations, as absorbing as they continue to be even for contemporary and otherwise ahistorical analytical metaphysicians, are essentially devoid of the virtues that determine the success of our modern sciences, which are in fact the result of overthrowing Aristotelian views. Jean De Groot’s monograph Aristotle’s Empiricism: experience and mechanics in the 4th century BC should completely wipe away that impression, as she offers an extremely attractive interpretation of Aristotle and his methods to replace it. This is a groundbreaking and exciting work, brimming with insights won from close and careful readings of both well-known and obscure passages of the Aristotle Corpus. It is an instant classic of Aristotle studies that should not only change the image of Aristotle’s role in the history of science but also set the agenda for much of the future research in every area of his theoretical sciences, including metaphysics, mathematics, and natural science. Thus although my primary goal in this review is to summarize its contents and try to give an idea of the richness, depth, and breadth of de Groot’s project, I will mention at the end what I think are the most important ways that the research should be developed and extended—the next areas of Aristotle studies that should incorporate these views and methods.

Author's Profile

Monte Johnson
University of California, San Diego


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