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Response to Nicomachean Ethics

In the beginning of Book I, Aristotle states that the very nature of inquiry and knowledge as an art is to aim at some good rather than something that leads to degradation. How to reach the good while having no knowledge to start with is a question that Aristotle also tries to answer. There are different kinds of knowledge according to Aristotle; one is knowledge for the sake of knowing and the other is for the sake of some art or craft—such as shipbuilding, horsemanship and generalship.

From the many examples that Aristotle gives about the many ways knowledge can be pursued, other than for the sake of knowledge itself, all comes down to that most of these activities are done for the sake of political integrity and the human good (“political” being a direct derivation from the Greek word polis). It can therefore be concluded that humans are political beings than seek knowledge for the sake of the collective human good rather than for the their own good, even if does not happen in a direct form. On the other hand, knowledge that is being sought for the sake of knowledge itself, is sought for the individual’s benefit rather than a political benefit.

The way knowledge comes into being by starting from nothing— is an idea that somewhat opposes Plato’s belief that knowledge is present in every person’s soul from the day he is born. It then depends on the person’s ability to recollect this knowledge and transform it from a potentiality into an actuality. Aristotle believes that beings start out from having no knowledge and this is why Aristotle questions the primary source of knowledge more than Plato does, since in Aristotle’s opinion, this source of knowledge is not just one but more than one. For Plato this “one” was the soul but Aristotle argues that it is not just the soul but also multiple other sources.

Knowledge in Aristotle beliefs, can come from nothing when the ability to sense the lack of something is present in a living being. That is, people for example may consider happiness that of what they lack. If humans were not to be able to realize that what they lack, they would not be capable of realizing what happiness is. Similar to knowledge, if a person where not to be able to realize that what he does not know, he would not be able to seek and acquire new knowledge. The ability to realize the lackness of something— is what allows people to strive towards knowledge.