Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Aristotle
Pages of Metaphysics

Previous | Next


Again, we do not regard any of the senses as Wisdom; yet surely
these give the most authoritative knowledge of particulars. But they
do not tell us the 'why' of anything-e.g. why fire is hot; they only
say that it is hot.
At first he who invented any art whatever that went beyond the
common perceptions of man was naturally admired by men, not only
because there was something useful in the inventions, but because he
was thought wise and superior to the rest. But as more arts were
invented, and some were directed to the necessities of life, others to
recreation, the inventors of the latter were naturally always regarded
as wiser than the inventors of the former, because their branches of
knowledge did not aim at utility. Hence when all such inventions
were already established, the sciences which do not aim at giving
pleasure or at the necessities of life were discovered, and first in
the places where men first began to have leisure. This is why the
mathematical arts were founded in Egypt; for there the priestly
caste was allowed to be at leisure.
We have said in the Ethics what the difference is between art
and science and the other kindred faculties; but the point of our
present discussion is this, that all men suppose what is called Wisdom
to deal with the first causes and the principles of things; so that,
as has been said before, the man of experience is thought to be
wiser than the possessors of any sense-perception whatever, the artist
wiser than the men of experience, the masterworker than the
mechanic, and the theoretical kinds of knowledge to be more of the
nature of Wisdom than the productive. Clearly then Wisdom is knowledge
about certain principles and causes.

Since we are seeking this knowledge, we must inquire of what
kind are the causes and the principles, the knowledge of which is
Wisdom. If one were to take the notions we have about the wise man,
this might perhaps make the answer more evident. We suppose first,
then, that the wise man knows all things, as far as possible, although
he has not knowledge of each of them in detail; secondly, that he
who can learn things that are difficult, and not easy for man to know,
is wise (sense-perception is common to all, and therefore easy and
no mark of Wisdom); again, that he who is more exact and more
capable of teaching the causes is wiser, in every branch of knowledge;
and that of the sciences, also, that which is desirable on its own
account and for the sake of knowing it is more of the nature of Wisdom
than that which is desirable on account of its results, and the
superior science is more of the nature of Wisdom than the ancillary;
for the wise man must not be ordered but must order, and he must not
obey another, but the less wise must obey him.
Such and so many are the notions, then, which we have about Wisdom
and the wise. Now of these characteristics that of knowing all
things must belong to him who has in the highest degree universal
knowledge; for he knows in a sense all the instances that fall under
the universal. And these things, the most universal, are on the
whole the hardest for men to know; for they are farthest from the
senses. And the most exact of the sciences are those which deal most
with first principles; for those which involve fewer principles are
more exact than those which involve additional principles, e.g.
arithmetic than geometry. But the science which investigates causes is
also instructive, in a higher degree, for the people who instruct us
are those who tell the causes of each thing. And understanding and
knowledge pursued for their own sake are found most in the knowledge
of that which is most knowable (for he who chooses to know for the
sake of knowing will choose most readily that which is most truly
knowledge, and such is the knowledge of that which is most
knowable); and the first principles and the causes are most
knowable; for by reason of these, and from these, all other things
come to be known, and not these by means of the things subordinate

Previous | Next
Site Search