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2 People Views - Aristotle and Russell

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In this paper I examine the view from Aristotle and Russell that knowledge is the ultimate purpose and meaning of life. In his Protrepticus (2002), Aristotle claims that theoretical wisdom, which is, knowledge of the first principles "is by nature our purpose", and it "is the ultimate thing for the sake of which we have come to be (Section 17)." Similarly, Bertrand Russell claims that "the life of the instinctive man is shut up within the circle of his private interests (1997, p.157)." However, he argues that "if our life is to be great and free, we must escape this prison (1997, p.158)." In order to do so is through knowledge because "all acquisition of knowledge is an enlargement of the Self (1997, p.158)."

Both Aristotle and Russell's view of meaning of life heavily rely on the notion of knowledge and using such notion as an external and higher point of view. In this paper, I will show that their point of views have been unsuccessful to look at the meaning of life because their way to look at the meaning of life is heavily relying on the notion of God or the universe, and such way to look at the meaning of life is problematic. Instead, the way of looking at the meaning of life should be in the way that individual manages to give one to his or her life.

1. Aristotle believes that knowledge of the first principles "is the ultimate thing for the sake of which we have come to be (2002, Section 17)." For him, this kind of knowledge is "not only knows what follow from the first principles," but also can possess "truth about the first principles." For Aristotle, theoretical wisdom must be pursued for its own sake and can make us free. In other words, being knowledge of the first principles, theoretical wisdom is knowledge of God, since "God is thought to be among the causes of all things and to be a first principle (2007, Book 1, section 2)."

Similarly, Bertrand Russell says that "the life of the instinctive man is shut up within the circle of his private interests (1997, p.157)." However, Russell believes that "if our life is to be great and free, we must escape this prison (1997, p.158)."" The main way of doing so is through knowledge, because "all acquisition of knowledge is an enlargement of the Self (ibid)." Through knowledge our mind "becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good (ibid)."

2. Both Aristotle and Russell's idea rely on that the ultimate purpose and meaning of human life is the ideal explanation via the notion of knowledge. That means, only through knowledge can humans become really free. Nevertheless, such ideal is heavily based on religion background, as it becomes the fact that Aristotle identifies the liberation of humans with the knowledge of God, and Russell identifies such view with that union with the whole universe in which religion consists.

In fact, Aristotle's view of knowledge is based on the notion of God. While his idea of the knowledge of first principles is knowledge of God, the question "does God exist?" becomes a new question here. Aquinas, nevertheless, attempts to answer such concern by his proof of the existence of God, which consist to Aristotle's proof of the existence of the first immovable mover. In his proof, Aquinas argues:

It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another ... and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover (2008, Article 3).

Hence, Aquinas argues that it is required to have a first move to put in motion by no other. Such view is the way to understand the notion of God.

3. However, such proof to me is not adequate for relying on three assumptions. (a) It is not possible for a mover to be moved if no first mover. (b) Whatever is in motion, it is to put motion into another. And, (c) the first mover must be God.

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