the phainomena and the endoxa

Doubt ALL Assertions until adequate proof is provided; we should demand that every ASSERTION be proved, because an unproved ASSERTION is nothing more than an OPINION and we ALL know the ASSERTION made about OPINION…

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redman2
“…because of wonder, at first because they wondered about the strange things right in front of them, and then later, advancing little by little, because they came to find greater things puzzling…”

These two methods [These methods comprise his twin appeals to phainomena and the endoxic method.] reflect in different ways Aristotle’s deepest motivations for doing philosophy in the first place. “Human beings began to do philosophy,” he says, “even as they do now, because of wonder, at first because they wondered about the strange things right in front of them, and then later, advancing little by little, because they came to find greater things puzzling” (Met. 982b12). Human beings philosophize, according to Aristotle, because they find aspects of their experience puzzling. The sorts of puzzles we encounter in thinking about the universe and our place within it—aporiai, in Aristotle’s terminology—tax our understanding and induce us to philosophize.

According to Aristotle, it behooves us to begin philosophizing by laying out the phainomena, the appearances, or, more fully, the things appearing to be the case, and then also collecting the endoxa, the credible opinions handed down regarding matters we find puzzling. As a typical example, in a passage of his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle confronts a puzzle of human conduct, the fact that we are apparently sometimes akratic or weak-willed. When introducing this puzzle, Aristotle pauses to reflect upon a precept governing his approach to philosophy:

As in other cases, we must set out the appearances (phainomena) and run through all the puzzles regarding them.

In this way we must prove the credible opinions (endoxa) about these sorts of experiences—ideally, all the

credible opinions, but if not all, then most of them, those which are the most important. For if the objections are

answered and the credible opinions remain, we shall have an adequate proof. (EN vii 1, 1145b2–7)

 

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