Aristotle's Platonic Response to the Problem of First Principles

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Aristotle is clear that first principles are not to be established by demonstration, but much less clear about how else we might come to understand them. A series of striking parallels between his Topics and Plato’s Parmenides and Sophist show that Aristotle was familiar with a distinct Platonic method developed for this very purpose. The method does not provide a demonstrative guarantee, but it does offer a synoptic view of the consequences for each of an exclusive and exhaustive set of candidate principles. I argue that Aristotle not only recognizes this method and its application to the problem of first principles in the Topics, but also employs a version of the method when discussing first principles in his Metaphysics. Furthermore, I show how, despite appearances to the contrary, this method complements what Aristotle has to say about first principles in the Analytics.
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