Superphysics Superphysics
Part 1

Wisdom is knowledge of certain principles and causes

by Aristotle Icon
4 minutes  • 784 words
Table of contents

The Sight is the Most Important Sense to Aristotle

ALL men by nature desire to know.

An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses which are useful and loved for themselves.

The most important is the sense of sight. We prefer seeing over the other senses.

The reason is that this, most of all the senses, makes us know and brings to light many differences between things.

Animals are born with the faculty of sensation. This sensation produces memory in some animals, though not in others.

The animals with memory are more intelligent and apt at learning than those which cannot remember.

Those which are incapable of hearing sounds are intelligent, though they cannot be taught. Examples are the bee and other similar animals. The animals with memory and hearing can be taught.

The animals other than man live by appearances and memories, and have but little of connected experience; but the human race lives also by art and reasonings.


Experience is sourced from memory. The several memories of the same thing produce the capacity for a single experience.

Experience is pretty much like science and art. But really, science and art come to men through experience.

Polus says:

Experience made art, but inexperience made luck.

Art arises when one universal judgement about a class of objects is produced from many notions gained by experience.

It is by experience that a person can judge that when Callias was ill of this disease that this substance did him good.

But it is by art to judge that this substance has done good to all persons of a certain constitution when they were ill of this disease.

With a view to action, experience is not inferior to art. Men of experience succeed even better than those who have theory without experience.

This is because experience is the knowledge of individuals, whereas art is the knowledge of universals.

The physician does not cure man, except in an incidental way but Callias or Socrates or some other called by some such individual name, who happens to be a man.

If a man has the theory but no experience, he will often fail to cure. He recognizes the universal but does not know the individual who is to be cured.

But yet we think that knowledge and understanding belong to art rather than to experience. We suppose theorists to be wiser than men of experience.

The theorists know the cause, but the experienced people do not. The latter know that the thing is so, but do not know why. The former knows the ‘why’ and the cause.

Hence we think that the masterworkers in each craft are more honourable and wiser than the manual workers because they know the causes of the things that are done. We think the manual workers are like lifeless things which act without knowing what they do.

Thus, we view them as being wiser, not in virtue of being able to act, but for having the theory and knowing the causes.

In general, a teacher can teach if he knows. Thus we think that art is more truly knowledge than experience – because theorists can teach, but men of mere experience cannot.

We do not regard any of the senses as Wisdom. Yet our senses 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.

The first who invented any art that went beyond the common perceptions of man was naturally admired, not only because there was something useful in the inventions, but because he was thought wise and superior to the rest.

More arts were invented. Some were directed to the necessities of life, others to recreation. The inventors of the latter were naturally regarded as wiser than the inventors of the former because knowledge did not aim at utility.

Hence when all such inventions were already established. The sciences which do not aim at giving pleasure nor necessities were first established in the places where men first began to have leisure. This is why the mathematical arts were founded in Egypt where the priestly caste was allowed to be at leisure.

My work ’the Ethics’ shows what is the difference is between art and science .

Wisdom deals with the first causes and the principles of things:

  • The man of experience is thought to be wiser than the possessors of any sense-perception
  • The artist is wiser than the men of experience
  • The masterworker is wiser than the mechanic
  • The theoretical kinds of knowledge are wiser than the productive kinds

Clearly then, Wisdom is knowledge about certain principles and causes.

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