Aristotle on Scientific Demonstration / Explanation

Marian Andrzej Wesoły

Recognizing the problem of scientific explanation in Aristotle began only in the second half of the twentieth century with the discussion of the so-called deductive-nomological model of explanation. Aristotle’s approach to explanation was interpreted mainly in connection with his theory of four “causes” (aitiai). We try to indicate a somewhat wider theoretical context of explanation in the light of Aristotle’s theory of demonstration (apodeixis) or epistemic syllogism. What has traditionally been labelled as Aristotle’s theory of demonstration would be more intelligible if conceived as his theory of explanation. For Aristotle scientific cognition consists in the causal explanation in a specific domain of knowledge. In his view demonstration, explanation and causation cannot be understood separately. His theory of the four causes (formal, material, efficient, final) was a search for answers to the why-question, i.e., a request for an explanation. For this reason investigating “causes” is constructing demonstration / explanation.


Keywords: Aristotle’s scientific cognition · demonstration / explanation · four causes: formal · material · efficient · final

Marian Andrzej Wesoły – Professor ordinarius in the Institute of Philosophy at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. His area of research is ancient philosophy both Greco-Roman and Byzantine. An author of over 200 scholarly and scientific publications in this field (in various languages) and a translator of numerous Greek philosophical texts. He has cooperated extensively with diverse international academic institutions and centers (predominantly in Italy, Greece and Germany). A co-founder and co-editor of the “Peitho. Examina Antiqua” journal (leading, peer-reviewed journal devoted to investigation of ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine thought).   »  

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