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Circular Justification and Explanation in Aristotle

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Abstract Aristotle’s account of epistēmē is foundationalist. In contrast, the web of dialectical argumentation that constitutes justification for scientific principles is coherentist. Aristotle’s account of explanation is structurally parallel to the argument for a foundationalist account of justification. He accepts the first argument but his coherentist accounts of justification indicate that he would not accept the second. Where is the disanalogy? For Aristotle, the intelligibility of a demonstrative premise is the cause of the intelligibility of a demonstrated conclusion and causation is asymmetric. Within the Posterior Analytics itself, Aristotle does not account for this, but elsewhere he develops the resources for doing so: the cause is what acts on a substrate to actualize a potential in that substrate, resulting in the effect. On the other hand, it may well happen that two propositions entail each other, in which case one may as well justify the one on the basis of the other as vice versa.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, Marquette University Milwaukee, WI 53212 USA


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