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Meta Physics


350 BC 


by Aristotle 

translated by W. D. Ross 

Book I 

ALL men by nature desire to know. An indication of this is the 

delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness 

they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense of 

sight. For not only with a view to action, but even when we are not 

going to do anything, we prefer seeing (one might say) to everything 

else. The reason is that this, most of all the senses, makes us know 

and brings to light many differences between things. 

By nature animals are born with the faculty of sensation, and from 

sensation memory is produced in some of them, though not in others. 

And therefore the former are more intelligent and apt at learning than 

those which cannot remember; those which are incapable of hearing 

sounds are intelligent though they cannot be taught, e.g. the bee, and 

any other race of animals that may be like it; and those which besides 

memory have this sense of hearing can be taught. 

The animals other than man live by appearances and memories, and 

have but little of connected experience; but the human race lives also 

by art and reasonings. Now from memory experience is produced in 

men; for the several memories of the same thing produce finally the 

capacity for a single experience. And experience seems pretty much 

like science and art, but really science and art come to men through 

experience; for 'experience made art', as Polus says, 'but 

inexperience luck.' Now art arises when from many notions gained by 

experience one universal judgement about a class of objects is 

produced. For to have a judgement that when Callias was ill of this 

disease this did him good, and similarly in the case of Socrates and 

in many individual cases, is a matter of experience; but to judge that 

it has done good to all persons of a certain constitution, marked 

off in one class, when they were ill of this disease, e.g. to 

phlegmatic or bilious people when burning with fevers-this is a matter 

of art. 

With a view to action experience seems in no respect inferior to 

art, and men of experience succeed even better than those who have 

theory without experience. (The reason is that experience is knowledge 

of individuals, art of universals, and actions and productions are all 

concerned with the individual; for the physician does not cure man, 

except in an incidental way, but Callias or Socrates or some other 

called by some such individual name, who happens to be a man. If, 

then, a man has the theory without the experience, and recognizes 

the universal but does not know the individual included in this, he 

will often fail to cure; for it is the individual that is to be 

cured.) But yet we think that knowledge and understanding belong to 

art rather than to experience, and we suppose artists to be wiser than 

men of experience (which implies that Wisdom depends in all cases 

rather on knowledge); and this because the former know the cause, 

but the latter do not. For men of experience know that the thing is 

so, but do not know why, while the others know the 'why' and the 

cause. Hence we think also that the masterworkers in each craft are 

more honourable and know in a truer sense and are wiser than the 

manual workers, because they know the causes of the things that are 

done (we think the manual workers are like certain lifeless things 

which act indeed, but act without knowing what they do, as fire 

burns,-but while the lifeless things perform each of their functions 

by a natural tendency, the labourers perform them through habit); thus 

we view them as being wiser not in virtue of being able to act, but of 

having the theory for themselves and knowing the causes. And in 

general it is a sign of the man who knows and of the man who does 

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