Tuesday, 15 May 2018

An Interpretation of Aristotle's Epistemology

Aristotle’s Epistemology

            Book Six of the Nicomachean Ethics deals with the intellectual virtues and what is essentially Aristotle’s working epistemology. Aristotle answers how it is a human being comes to understand things. He gives five instances in which humans understand but quickly reduces them to four. He writes, “Let us assume there are five ways in which the soul arrives at truth by affirmation or denial, namely; art, science, prudence, wisdom and intuition.”[1]

Each of these deserves some commentary in relation to education, leisure and the intellectual life. However, these translations can be problematic and misleading. Therefore, some Greek translations and certain Latin translations will be used. 
            The first is techne, which is translated as skill, art or craft and involves general know how.  The possession of technemeans one has certain skills for a certain type of production. This could be the production of a sculpture, the production of good health by a physician or the production of music by a musician. It can be thought of as applied science, which deals with production. However, Aristotle curiously says that it is less like knowledge and more like luck. Aristotle writes  “there is a sense in which art and luck operate in the same sphere.”[2]There can be four different ways that the soul arrives at truth, or understands something. In this sense, it is not counted as an intellectual virtue.  

The second way to arrive at truth is episteme, which is translated as science, or more accurately as scientific knowledge. However, it sometimes deals with the functioning of nature (physis) and the world of necessity. “The object of scientific knowledge is necessity.”[3]This is based on the empirical observations[4]and the classification of nature, which Aristotle popularized. Episteme deals with knowledge for its own sake and in regards to leisure, philosophy and science tend to form a continuum, since they are both part of the intellectual life of the mind. In the Posterior Analytics Aristotle technically defines epistemeas knowledge of a universal through its causes. In the MetaphysicsAristotle explains all forms of change and rest with his explanation of the four causes: the material, formal, efficient and final causes[5]of a bronze statue. However, episteme has no actual access to the first principle and in this sense is a detached and truncated form of knowing. 

The third is phronesis, which is translated as practical wisdom and sometimes as prudence (which can be misleading).Phronesis deals with particulars, things that could have been different and is the subject matter of ethics and politics. Aristotle writes, “Clearly then prudence is a virtue and not an art… Yet it is not merely a rational state, as is indicated by the fact that such as state can be forgotten, but prudence cannot.[6]
While one can think about making a good choice, phronesisis an engrained habit of character. That is why he distinguished it from a rational state and it is something deeper that can be easily forgotten. This is the nature of habits. Aristotle also thought that some people naturally had the practical wisdom to live well. While most people need to be educated and learn from experience to gain good habits for life. 

The fourth is Sophia which is generally translated as theoretical wisdom. It involves the skill of thinking in universals, such as the subject matter of mathematics of logic. It is also translated as simply, wisdom, and refers to one who is very wise and engages in acts of genius. It is famously, if not inaccurately said that Plato had written over the door of his Academy, “Let no one enter, who is ignorant of geometry.”[7]This meant that one needed to be familiar with universal truths and was wise before studying philosophy. However it needs to be noted that Plato used the term sophiaas wisdom to refer to both practical and theoretical wisdom. Therefore, the technical distinction between the two forms of wisdom comes in Aristotle. He uses sophiato specifically mean theoretical wisdom which is a synthesis of epistemeand nous. As Aristotle writes, 
The wise man must not only know all that follows from the first principles, but must also have a true understanding of those principles. Therefore, wisdom must be intuition and scientific knowledge: knowledge ‘complete with head’ (not truncated or having separation between first principles and their demonstrations) of the most precious truths.[8]

Finally, the English word philosophy is based on the combination of philia (loving friendship) and sophia (theoretical wisdom). Therefore, a philosopher was someone who was a lover of wisdom. A philosopher is someone who is free to pursue the theoretical life. 

            Finally, the fifth way of human understanding is νοῦς (nous)which is often translated as intellect and related to intuition. This topic can lead to some confusion, since at the time of Aristotle nous could refer to intelligence generally. Plato writes in the Philebus that, "all philosophers agree…whereby they really exalt themselves…that νοῦς is king of heaven and earth. Perhaps they are right."[9]The importance that Aristotle gives to νοῦς is seen in his definition of human nature as uniquely intelligent. "Therefore for man, too, the best and most pleasant life is the life of νοῦςsince the intellect is in the fullest sense the man. So this life will also be the happiest.”In the Phaedo, Socrates on his deathbed states that it was his discovery of the concept of νοῦς in the pre-Socratics, namely Anaxagoras, as the ordering principle of the universe, which had stimulated his life of philosophy.  While the concept ofnous can be the subject of debate, for the present purposes, his definition in the Ethicswill be used. He defines nousas that which grasps the fundamental principles of things in thought. It is the mind’s eye, which involves the intelligibility of things and is similar to the vision of the eye, which makes sight possible. 
Scientific first principles of nature cannot be known through episteme, which deals with the invariable nor through phronesisand techne since they deal with things demonstrable and variable. As Aristotle writes, 
Nor again are first principles the concern of wisdom, because the wise man possesses the ability to demonstrate some things. So if the state of the mind by means of which  we reach the truth , and are never led into error, with regard to things, both variable and invariable are episteme, phronesis, sophia and nous: and if it cannot be any one of the three of them, namely phronesis, episteme, and sophia; what remains is that state of mind that apprehends the first principles is nous.[10]

Therefore, nous is the capacity to think like a human and the unifying principle of the mind. Finally,nous has also been associated (controversially) with the idea of immortality in Aristotle. Nousis sometimes considered the portion of a human being that survives bodily death, when based on certain interpretations of Aristotle’s De Anima.

[1]Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, 1139b15.
[2]Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, 1140a20.
[3]Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics1139b25.
[4]Plato’s idea of the divided line has a hierarchy of knowledge and reality starting with singular pieces of empirical data, up to beliefs based on experience and repetition, into the grasping of reason and knowledge of the forms, and finally and ultimately the vision of the Good itself. 

[5]Aristotle, TheMetaphysics,1013a30.
[6]Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, 1140b30.
[7]Socrates says at the very least that: “geometry will draw the mind towards truth, and create the spirit of philosophy”.Republic527.
[8]Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, 1141 a16.
[9]Plato, Philebus,28 C.
[10]Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics,1141 a37.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017



Today I wanted to discuss a few non-traditional bodybuilding foods that may be helpful to add some variety and flavor to what should be a bland diet. :) 
I will also add some of my thoughts on them and the history of the idea behind such foods.

First off, I need to reiterate just how popular fitness has become as a industry- and so the market responded and now most supplements and bodybuilder foods can be bought at the most typical of stores-like Walmart. In fact I would go as far as to say that a bodybuilder in 2017 can find pretty much everything they need (including a pharmacy if that is part of your plan for TRT or whatever) at Walmart and to a lesser extent Costco. (The infamous and mysterious online poster "GH-15" had a hilarious post once about going into GNC and picking up the best looking supplements, pick them up and hug them and then put them back on the shelve and leave the store- head straight to Walmart and start buying frozen fish instead- and I wholeheartedly agree) 

Many sports nutritionists now tell people to buy supplements at Costco. Mainly due to cost. For example, my local grocery store sells a 2 lb Isolate for $35 ($17.50 per pound) but last week at Costco they had the same product in 5lb buckets for $42 ($8.40 per pound) and the regular price is only $49. So skip the supplement stores in the mall and shop either online or at big box stores to save money –big time.

1.     KOOL-AID water flavour drops (or any brand) 

WATER! The body is composed primarily of it and so having clean water flushing through the system is a must. If you want to build muscle or lose fat you need water. Kool Aid water flavour drops are what Mr O himself Phil Heath uses this in his water occasionally but always has it on hand. 

Now I am fan of clean and fresh water - pure and simple. But when you want to really drink lots of water- like gallons per day- having some flavour really helps. 

Back in the day people only could drink diet soda for something sweet, then things like Crystal light came out and sugar free powders. 

Many people use BCAA to flavour water today. But in light of all the recent BCAA bashing which is rather justified-  it might NOT be worth your money to drink BCAA for the flavour alone Lol. I do use BCAA when I workout (come at me bro :) but that is more for the aminos and not the flavour. If you want to flavor your water skip the $40 bucket of BCAA and use these concentrates Kool Aid drops for a fraction of the cost, like $2. 

If you want to skip the artificial sweetener stuff, then use a fresh lemon or fresh lime or fresh grapefruit juice to add some flavor and adjust the PH of the water.

2.     Barilla Protein Pasta
Barilla are a great pasta company and they have gluten free and traditional forms. But they also have come out with a protein pasta whichuses grains and egg whites to get like 17 g protein in a serving. Add just a little meat or tuna or even cottage cheese (13g or so) and you have a full blown bodybuilder meal- low fat, high starch, high protein. This is not new, MET_RX had a version of this stuff years ago but it was expensive in comparison. I bought Barilla protein pasta for $2 box on sale just this week at local grocery store.


1 cup pasta protein cooked, 
1 cup baby spinach leaves, 
1 cup low fat cottage cheese with 
1/2 cup tomato sauce on top! 

*hot sauce, parmesan cheese, and garlic powder are optional but recommended. 

3.     Dole Pineapple Juice – (the stuff from the Philippines in metal cans)
I am not a fan of carb powders since they are rather boring ways to get starches and sugars into us. I like flavor and nutrition, real pineapple juice is both delicious, and chock full of bromelain the enzyme used to digest fats and vitamins and even a small amount of fibre and protein. After a workout or first thing in the morning is a great time to drink it mixed with some vanilla Greek yogurt or some vanilla or fruit flavored whey isolate.

You can also buy it in little cans which I love, but the large cans are easier to find.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Guest Post: Health and Wholeness: From Plato to Quantum Physics

Health and Wholeness: From Plato to Quantum Physics

By Matthew Allen Newland, PhD (c)

The following is somewhat autobiographical, but describes my coming to realize the importance of “wholeness” in the concept of health. Growing up in a religious home, I always heard a lot about the soul, the state of which was a prime concern of my mother's. Granted, we talked about the resurrection of the dead, etc., but the soul dying, leaving the body behind, and going to heaven was the real belief, if one considers things as they were really imagined. The body was just a shell; what really mattered lay hidden inside, and caring for the body was secondary to that.
Though I am (and I realize the irony) intellectually aware of this mistake, I continue to grapple with old habits which have a real effect on my life. I am both a teacher and a student, and as a result spend most of my time either at the computer or in ach air. My work and studies preoccupy my mind, but my body is often neglected. Of course, one might ask why it matters; my work requires that my mind function well, not my body, right? (Even my role as a parent doesn't seem to hinge on anything but the most basic physical abilities; I drove my kids to the swimming pool, and am at this very moment writing this text on a bench by the poolside ... sitting again). I trim my nails, wash my hair, and eat when I'm hungry; why isn't this good enough?
Luckily Plato and my studies have set me straight. Plato makes the health of the body a prime point of focus in the Republic (the very book I am writing my doctoral thesis on). Specifically, Plato tells us (via Socrates) that
The man who makes the finest mixture of gymnastic with music and brings them to his soul in the most proper measure is the one of whom we would most correctly say that he is the most perfectly musical and well harmonized.

Plato recognizes the individual who exercises both her or his body and her or his mind as someone who is harmonized, well-cultured, and educated; a prime example of humanity, in other words. Plato was especially concerned with exercise and gymnastics, as they had great potential to add to the formation of good citizens. Through working and playing together, citizens could strengthen their friendships, learn to trust and rely on one another, and cultivate a spirit of teamwork that would aid them in all aspects of life. It is Plato’s understanding that the individual’s purpose is to serve society and play a particular, unique role (each according to her or his talents and capabilities), ensuring the fitness of the body to do that role. In that case, getting along with those others with whom I share citizenship, makes sense; as long as I live in society, this aspect of life needs to be cultivated. 
On the other hand, if my job is to teach, should going to the gym (or at least having a regular workout routine) really be that essential? My job is not physically demanding after all. My studies would not let the mater go; my look at Plato’s Republicand the tripartite soul sent me to look at more present-day understandings of the human mind and body: Paul MacLean's triune brain (his parallels with Plato’s parts of the tripartite soul are striking) and neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, who not only emphasizes the brain’s links with the body (for it is an organ of the body, after all), but reminds us that neural activity does not exist isolated on its own. To function, the mind depends on stimuli taken in from the nerves, from one's physical and socio-cultural environments and the body's actions on those environments. Damasio says: “I am saying that the body contributes more than life support and modulatory effects to the brain. It contributes a content that is part and parcel of the workings of a normal mind.” Indeed, soul and body were not the separate things I'd been led to believe growing up!
Aiming to supplement and contrast my investigation into the mind-body relationship with an alternative perspective, my studies in Asian philosophical viewpoints led me to a fascinating insight from Fritjof Capra in his 1975 book, The Tao of Physics. My old idea of the mind-body distinction, it would seem, owes something to Rene Descartes, whose thought had a major impact on the scientific worldview on which the West has built its understanding of the world. In its effort to understand reality, I learned, the West has taken it apart. It has analyzed the components, but forgotten to see them as parts of a larger, single whole:
As a consequence of the Cartesian division, most individuals are aware of themselves as isolated egos existing ‘inside’ their bodies. The mind has been separated from the body and given the futile task of controlling it, thus causing an apparent conflict between the conscious will and the involuntary instincts.

This Cartesian separation has put us at odds not only with our own bodies, but with the world in which we live as well. “This inner fragmentation of man,” he goes on, mirrors his view of the world ‘outside’ which is seen as a multitude of separate objects and events.” It has turned the world into a collection of objects, rendered the environment ripe for exploitation, and has separated us from our bodies as well. Capra sees this as a major flaw in the Western understanding, and so long as these distinctions remain it will always be incomplete (something I think the author of the Republic would certainly agree with)
Capra’s understanding that wholeness is an essential part of accurately understanding reality is reflected in the writings of other physicists, who are now working to unify our understanding of the world as a single whole. David Bohm also saw a divided, selfish world arising from the old Cartesian understanding, but also saw the potential for something new and better to follow from the acceptance of the quantum understanding of reality. While Western scientific successes allowed the Cartesian worldview to endure for several centuries,, human beings have “always been seeking wholeness – mental, physical, social, individual. From the twentieth century on, quantum physics has specifically sought a wholeness which unites the whole universe into a single event. Bohm, like the Greeks long before him, sees a clear connection between the concepts of wholeness and health: “To be healthy is to be whole.” Of late humankind (at least in the West) has been living in fragmentation, but this has sadly not allowed for a truly well-lived life.

Early on I mentioned that I continue to grapple with old habits, and now find myself in the interesting position of knowing intellectual what I am not yet regularly putting into practice physically (thus making me a living example of this aforementioned fragmentation). I know a physically active life is best, not only for my body, but for every aspect of my being. I realize that mind and body are really one; they are all connected, and are all aspects of a single, united being (that’s me). And having realized this, and understanding that every facet of my life would benefit from a more physically active lifestyle, I know the time has come to get started. 
Luckily for me, I went to school with the Fitness Philosopher. 
It’s time to give him a call.

Matthew Allen Newland, PhD Candidate 
Faculty of Philosophy 
Dominican University College

Bohm, D. Wholeness and the Implicate Order. New York, NY: Routledge Classics. 2002. Originally published in 1980.

Capra, F. The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism (Revised 2000 edition). Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, Inc. 2000. Originally published in 1975. 

Damasio, A. Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2005. Originally published 1994.

Plato. The Republic. A. Bloom, trans. New York, NY: HarperCollins Basic Books. 1991, translation originally published 1961.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Trump talk: The life of money making in Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics and Plato's Phadreus

Trump talk: The life of money making in Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics and Plato's Phadreus 

In classical Greece, the good city-state (such as Athens for a period of time) was based on the good lives of its citizens. This simply means that a state exists in order to make better lives possible for all, as an alternative to the earlier communities such as small family collectives and rural villages. (Aristotle in his wisdom, does not make the silly mistake of modern philosophers like Hobbes, who pretend there existed some 'state of nature' in which individuals popped up and existed with no built in connections prior to forming various social contracts). 
 I argue that the good lives of the citizens in a good state are based in leisure, as they are today. Leisure is based primarily on having relative wealth in a community to not just prevent one from having to engage full time in labour that degrades the mind, but also in having the character that chooses correctly- that is actually virtuous. Today most people no longer labour like they did in the past but manual labour and drudging work still exist. (No sitting in a heated office with a computer is not drudging work historically- think rather, those men who do the diamond mining in Africa as an example of hard labour today.)  So while an important part of Aristotle’s good state is wealth- and he even offers some ideas on how one creates it- it must be noted that the pursuit of wealth was just another means to the end of a good life and was not an end in itself. The miser was not celebrated in Aristotle. Aristotle would not agree with Trump that the good life is simply the wealthy life. There are countless examples of miserable wealthy people historically. 
So when Aristotle says that εὐδαιμονία (happiness) includes many things, it must primarily contain enough wealth to gain some σχολή (leisure). This leisure time can then be used for certain activities that contribute to an excellent life. (The Greeks had the term a-skole for having to attend to business and social obligations and this is the literal opposite of leisure.) A life without proper leisure cannot be called a happy one- but it does not negate a life dedicated to a great cause or great work in which one might work very hard. When properly educated, one knew that the best use of leisure was for friendships and the speculative life of philosophy. Aristotle writes in the Politics:  “but leisure seems in itself to contain pleasure, εὐδαιμονία and the blessed life.”[1] Εὐδαιμονία (happiness or the good life) results from having the leisure to engage in certain activities deemed good. The leisure to engage in them is necessarily dependent upon on a good social organization, including a proper education and at least some freedom from full time labour, meaning wealth. An issue of social justice was at the time only Greek noble males were really educated in the community, but today with many advances in human rights and equality, this is no longer the case in liberal democracies. 
But hold on a minute, you might be thinking, does this mean philosophers were just a bunch of rich people? Well yes and no. Yes because historically one could not be born into poverty and expect an education. No, because wealth in itself is not a necessary or sufficient component of wisdom. Socrates was poor and wise. In the Phaedo, Plato summarizes Socrates lifestyle as a poor one:
…I do not have the leisure to engage in public affairs to any extent, nor indeed to look after my own, but I live in great poverty because of my service to the god. Furthermore, the young men who follow me around of their own free will, those who have most leisure  the sons of the very rich, take pleasure in hearing people questioned; they themselves often imitate me and try to question others.[2]

Here Socrates denies he has leisure for public affairs or personal matters, and instead must participate in his ‘divine duty.’ The economic connection is made when Socrates says it is the sons of the very rich who have the most leisure, such as Plato himself, from a rich noble family. It shows that money is needed for leisure but can also be a burden as Aristotle emphasizes. Socrates emphasizes the same idea. Neither of them sees a point in the constant growth and chasing of excessive wealth. Too much wealth can create vicious amounts of competitiveness, greed and bring on the jealousy of others. It will be a distraction from political contributions, also from the arts, and from philosophy. 

Yet, Aristotle in his discussion of every detail offers three ways to gain wealth. The first and most natural is in the attainment of natural needs such as meat through hunting and fishing, or plants through agriculture and farming. Of course, a Greek citizen would have slaves and servants to labour for him. The second and intermediate way was through bartering these things on gained in farming or another natural way. This is the idea of the market and the exchange of certain goods for other goods, such as the exchange of wheat for olives. The third “unnatural” way was in the exchange of money, as a way of bartering goods and services. This distain for the exchange of money was part of the distain for commerce in general, which like labour was below the character of the good man. 
            It needs to be reiterated that most wealth in classical Athens was hereditary and the wealthy families would pass this money down in the generations. In fact, only those inheriting money would be fit for proper leisure, since if one was not born wealthy then one most likely did not have the necessary education for proper adult leisure. Like all of the other external factors to the good life, there was a limit to the amount of wealth needed, since wealth is only a tool. Aristotle writes, 
Although Solon in one of his poems said, ‘No bounds is set on riches for men’. But there is a limit, as in the other skills, for none of them have any tools which are unlimited in size or number, and wealth is a collection of tools for use in the administration of a household or a state.[3]

The common theme of Aristotle is not to become obsessed with any single component of the good life to the exclusion of others, and leisure was prevented by the constant pursuit of wealth.  
Aristotle’s main use of this type of life is as a type of contrast to better ways of life. The problem was not that one was being paid to do something, but that all of a sudden the action may become restricted by external factors. This may be the tension of having spectators, or being forced by certain outside agendas to rush and this will prevent the leisurely attitude. Certain issues like professionalism (just like classical labour) can hinder the timeless and leisurely quality of an activity. Therefore, even if leisure can include work, work may have external constraints such as time limits, which becomes an obstacle, making the work less leisurely and falling into labour.
Furthermore, when any activity becomes all-consuming it blocks other components of εὐδαιμονία. This may take the form of obligations to work, business, politics, indulgence, or even forms of education such as the theoretical sciences. Aristotle warns,
Even in the case of some of the sciences that are suitable for a free person, while it is not unfree to participate in them up to a point, to study them too assiduously or exactly is likely to result in the harm just mentioned.[4]

This notion of not allowing anything to be all consuming is a common theme for Aristotle. A prime example for him was found in the early athletic competitions, which gave natural gifts such as laurel wreaths as prizes, but this devolved eventually into monetary prizes. The monetary prizes which devalued the activity from a philosophical point of view. Being paid as a motivation to compete and win was equivalent to a Sophist taking money in the name of creating a clever argument. When money gets involved, both Plato and Aristotle think that a necessary degradation will occur since the action falls back into the world of labour and necessity, the animal world. 

[1] Aristotle, The Politics, 1337b33.
[2] Plato, Phaedo 59a.
[3] Aristotle, The Politics, 1256b30.
[4] Aristotle, The Politics, 1337b3.