Episteme, demonstration, and explanation: A fresh look at Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics


A symposium on Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics in Metascience invites the question of how the treatise relates to philosophy of science and epistemology, as these fields are generally understood. It is in the hope of shedding some light on this issue that I propose to discuss Aristotle’s conception of epistēmē, his name for the Posterior Analytics’ subject matter. The term is variously translated “science,” “knowledge,” and “understanding,” but none of these options is ideal, and the difficulty in finding a suitable translation attests to the distance between Aristotle’s thought and our own. Appreciating this somewhat alien concept will help us to better frame some interpretive questions about Aristotle’s project in the Posterior Analytics and some philosophical questions about how his positions relate to the issues of interest to contemporary epistemologists and philosophers of science, and about whether we can find in Aristotle the outlines of a viable theory. (Answering these questions, however, will have to wait for another occasion.)