Aristotle’s prote philosophia: Metaphysics, Ontology, Theology or Methodology?

Seweryn Blandzi

The term “first philosophy” became popular, because of Aristotelian Metaphysics, where it is associated particularly with the knowledge of the fi rst principles and causes. In relation to other kinds of knowledge, it would play a regulative role as archikotera and even archikotate ton epistemon.  In the sixth book (E) of Metaphysics, the aporetic question is raised, and it concerns the honor of being „the first” – whether it is to be attributed to the knowledge of some particular and specifi c kind of subject matter, because of its exceptional ontic status, or whether it is to be attributed to the most general ability that has universal value. In the first case, to ariston en te physei pase would be regarded as most noble for its gravity deserves, which would have to exceed everything in the nature. In the second, one could call it the „first” ability due to its range of application.   From the Book Epsilon it does not follow that the timiotaton genos (=to theion) should dethrone to on he on as the only legitimate subject of the fi rst philosophy. Th e major problem of the Epsilon is the primacy of philosophy understood as the very fi rst of the abilities (explaining the beings/things/facts distributively), and not due to its being some „supraphilosophy”, but rather due to the universality of its method, i.e., due to the fact that it can (albeit does not have to) deal with the most dignifi ed Being. Aristotle understood the priority of the (first) philosophy as the proper, first wisdom (sophia), as a special ability of dealing with any subject matter of knowledge. In Aristotle, the role of the unifying factor is played by the formal approach, identical in each case, providing exhaustive, ultimate explanations, namely, asking the same questions about the essential, fi nal, material and effi  cient causality. Pointing to the causes of anything is tantamount to its explanation and justifi cation, “an explanation in all the possible meaning in which something can be explained” (Th . Kuhn). Th us, philosophy is the fi rst one, because the principles and causes ontologically precede being, as logically, within the order of knowledge, the explanatory reasons are fi rst; the situation is exactly the same as in logic where explanans logically precedes explanandum.   In brief, being familiar with the cause-and-eff ect nexus (aitiology) is discovering of the truth, namely, the wisdom and knowledge, including the art of defi nition of essences of things (ousiology), because in the structure of being ousia is also that which is the first.


Keywords: Aristotle · first philosophy · wisdom · first principles and causes · ontology · metaphysics · theology · methodology

Seweryn Blandzi – editor-in-chief of the  “Archive”. Head of a Research Group for Ancient Philosophy and History of Ontology at IFiS PAN. Chairman of the Polish Society of Systematical  Philosophy, editor of the book series: “Hermeneutics of the problems of philosophy” and “Studies in Systematical Philosophy”. Research interests: history of philosophy (mainly ancient philosophy), history of metaphysics and its transformation into ontology, German philosophy and hermeneutics. He published (inter alia): Platonic Search for Ontology of Ideas. Platonic Project of First Philosophy (Warsaw 2002) (Warsaw 1992), Between Parmenides' aletejology, and Filon's ontotheology (Warsaw 2013).

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