Aristotle on the pointlessness of philosophy

‘But it is clear that this science is not productive also from the early history of philosophy. For it was because of wonder that men both now and originally began to philosophize. To begin with, they wondered at those puzzles that were to hand, such as about the affections of the moon and events connected with the sun and the stars and about the origins of the universe. And the man who is puzzled and amazed is thought to be ignorant (hence the lover of stories is, in a way, a lover of wisdom, since a story is composed of wonders). And so, if men indeed began to philosophize to escape ignorance, it is clear that they pursued science for the sake of knowledge and not for any utility. And events bear this out. For when more or less all the necessary sciences existed, and also those connected with leisure and lifestyle, this kind of understanding began to be sought after. So it is clear that we seek it for no other use but rather, as we say, as a free man is for himself and not for another, so is this science the only one of the sciences that is free. For it alone exists for its own sake.‘ (Metaphysics, Alpha 2)

For Aristotle, philosophy is seeking after wisdom, and wisdom is a matter of the most basic and fundamental principles. It’s a theoretical science rather than a practical science, and is the sort of knowledge that underlies all other knowledge, and the science that underlies the other sciences. And the reason we do philosophy is simply out of wonder and the desire to know.

I love the connection he makes between philosophy and freedom. The free man exists for his own sake and not for another’s, and philosophy does likewise. Its pointlessness is its freedom and its beauty, and in its freedom it ennobles man and even divinizes him.


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