The Aristotelian Revolution: The Autonomy of the Theoretic Life and the Dream of Universal Science

  • Alexander S. Rosenthal-Pubul


Aristotle departs in a revolutionary way from Platonism by distinguishing the theoretic life and the political life. The basis of this distinction lies in Aristotle’s rejection of the Socratic equation of virtue and knowledge. Aristotle distinguishes between the moral and intellectual virtues, and correspondingly between the practical sciences concerned with action, and the theoretical sciences concerned with the pure contemplation of truth. The content of the theoretic life will thus involve the theoretic sciences of natural philosophy, mathematics, and natural theology distinguished from each other according to their respective relations to the world of change and materiality. Aristotle will argue not only for the autonomy of the theoretic life but also its superiority. The highest science will be the ruler and not the servant of the others; and so. It will also be the most “leisured” in the sense of having its own nobility and excellence transcending all considerations of utility. Such a science will also be the most universal, being concerned with being as such rather that particular forms of being. Hence was born Aristotle’s metaphysics – the dream of a universal science which would provide the foundation for all the other sciences.


  1. Aquinas, St. Thomas. Sententia libri Metaphysicae. Book I. Lectio I. At University of Navarra, Spain. Accessed 4 May 2018.
  2. Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. 1926. (1999 reprint). Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. H. Rackham, 1999 Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  3. ———. 1933 (2003 reprint). Metaphysics. Trans. Hugh Tredennick. Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  4. ———. 1941. Basic Works of Aristotle. Trans. Richard McKeon. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  5. Seban, Jean-Loup. 2001. Philosophy. In The Westminster Handbook to Reformed Theology, ed. Donald K. McKim. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. Accessed 5 May 2018 via Scholar
  6. Wipple, John F. 2007. Metaphysical Themes in Thomas Aquinas. Washington, DC: CUA Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander S. Rosenthal-Pubul
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Advanced Governmental StudiesJohns Hopkins UniversityWashington, DCUSA

Personalised recommendations