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Aristotle's Organon the Instrument Or the Philosopher's Toolkit

Aristotle's Organon the Instrument Or the Philosopher's Toolkit

’s The Instrument or the Philosopher’s Toolkit

The foundation of the claim that Aristotle is the father of the Western Philosophical Tradition is based on the undeniable fact that he developed the first universal system of verifiable reasoning – Term or Formal .

The starting point for all philosophical enquiries is observation. This can be prone to error or ambiguity. To Aristotle, immediate observations are classed as Phaenomenon (pl. phaenomena) – appearances or things as they appear to be.

Logic is derived from the Greek word ‘logos’ which means a (narrative) account – a description of what happens sequentially.

In the Platonic Dialogue ‘Theaetetus’, has Socrates consider this as a candidate for establishing a verifiable fact only to discard in favour of the familiar concentration on the Forms as the only universal criteria.

Aristotle, on the other hand, develops a systematic set of steps to analyse and verify such apparent observations to establish a reasoned, self-checking explanation. Note the self-checking is internal – there is no requirement to measure against mystical criteria or standards which are external – no requirement for the Theory of the Forms.

Aristotle’s system is contained in 6 treatises. It is uncertain as in which order they were written but the six viewed together provide a full explanation of his system. They were gathered together by his Peripatetic followers in the after his death and arranged in their current sequence. They were given the unofficial name – the Organon – which means the Instrument – and, over time, have gained the nickname – the Philosophers Toolkit.

In summary the Organon consists of the following

1. The – introduces Aristotle’s 10-fold classification of that which exists: substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, situation, condition, active and passive.

2. On Interpretation – this is a detailed explanation of how language works – nouns, verbs, tenses, negatives and so on. Particular attention is paid to and how they are linked together in a construction called a :

a. All humans are mortal

b. All Greeks are humans

3. – this is the detailed study of what universal facts can be found by deductive logic from various forms of syllogism. Using the example above:

All humans are mortal

All Greeks are human


All Greeks are mortal

This is valid.

However, consider the following

All university students are literate people

Some literate people write poetry


All university students write poetry

This is clearly invalid

This gives an outline of how this system of self-checking works. Deductive Logic is a powerful method and requires further consideration.

4. – this develops aspects of logic and focuses in the for the linkage – causation. Aristotle posits a four level explanation of how things develop or change.

i. The Material Cause – of what substance an object consists

ii. The Formal Cause – what components make up an object or being and how they are linked/constructed

iii. The Effective Cause – what specific action or event results in an event or change

iv. The Final Cause – for what purpose the event or change took place

The Greek word meaning goal, purpose or end is ‘’. Aristotle’s Theory of Causation is known as Teleology, is problematic and has now been superseded in modern thought

5. – this consists of Aristotle’s explanation of how logic can be applied to the dialectic (familiar from the works of Socrates/Plato) to establish the verifiability and validity of abstract terms

6. On – this is a discussion of the various common pitfalls of incorrect reasoning or .

Aristotle’s Method of Enquiry based on Logic is apparent in all of his treatises –be they concerned with animals, astronomy, the reasons for ethical behaviour and the virtues, why Greek Tragedy produces profound emotional effects on the audience (the ), the elements which make up the earth or the political structures of city-states (the )

The generalised structure of how the various components fit together to create Aristotle’s system of Logic outlined in the Organon are shown in the attached flow chart.

These notes provide a brief summary to explain how Aristotle’s Method of Enquiry based on Logic works.

Logic is a complex topic and cannot be covered in a 2 hour session.

How it can be developed is a matter for group discussion.