34. The Bayesian Belief: 7. The Organon of Aristotle

[To continue:  We have been discussing whether Bayes’ 1763 essay was devised as a challenge to the work of David Hume.  It has been suggested that use of the word induction in the alternate title of Bayes’ work may point to Hume. Induction, however, can be traced much farther back to Newton, Bacon, and Aristotle.  In the last post (prior to the note regarding Phthalates and pregnancy delay [33]), we began with Aristotle and his focus on empirical information as critical in the acquisition of scientific knowledge. In this post, we further explore Aristotle’s philosophy and some of the modern translators of his work.]

Perhaps the most important part of Aristotle’s philosophy was contained in his treatises on logic.  Those writings, comprised of six separate essays or books, were collectively referred to as the Organon or the instrument.  Contained in the Organon was Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics.  It was in the Posterior Analytics that Aristotle focuses on induction and scientific knowledge.

A number of translations of Posterior Analytics are freely available including Poste (1850), Owen (1853), Bouchier (1901), and Mure (1928).

It is amazing to me that the works of these authors continue on in accessible digital format.  It does so because copyright is not held indefinitely and because someone took the time and effort to upload these authors’ texts.  The internet is primarily built on these small incremental cooperative steps.

It would also be interesting to know something about the lives of these authors.  Unfortunately, little information is available regarding Poste or Bouchier. Owen, on the other hand, is discussed in Volume 6 of the History of the Princes, the Lords Marcher, and the Ancient Nobility of Powys Fadog, and the Ancient Lords of Arwystli, Cedewen, and Meirionydd (Youde & Lloyd,1887).  Mure rates a Wikipedia entry (and Mure certainly did lead an interesting life).

I think I owe it to Poste, Owen, and Bouchier, and Mure to, at least, briefly review each of these authors’ life and works. It is my way of showing respect for their efforts.

Edward Poste (1823-1902), an early translator of Posterior Analytics, was a barrister and Fellow of Oriel College and a contributor to the 19th century Romantic Revival.  Poste translated a number of classics including Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics (1850), Plato’s Philebus (1860), Aristotle on Fallacies (1866), Gaius (1875), The Skies and Weather Forecasts of Aratus (1880), and Aristotle on the Constitution of Athens (1891).

34. Owen 1

Octavius Freire Owen (1816-1873) was member of the peerage and eighth son of Dr. Henry Butts Owen and Elizabeth Susanna Owens.  Owen was ordained to the ministry in 1841 and served as the rector of Burstow, Surrey and as Chaplain to the Duke of Portland.  In addition to his translation of Aristotle’s Organon, Owen also translated A Refutation Recently Discovered of Spinoza by Leibnitz [Leibniz] (1855), and edited Gay’s Fables (1854).  Owen’s wife, Emily, was also an author and best known for her books Heroines of History (1854) and Heroines of Domestic Life (1861).

34. Owen 2

Edmund Spenser Bouchier (1876-1930) was a classical tutor at Oxford and assistant master at Bristol Grammar School.  Apparently, he never married and died at a fairly young age (53).  Beyond his translation of Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, his key focus was on the provincial history of the Roman Empire.  His last work, A Short History of Antioch (1921), was reviewed favorably both academically and in the popular press.

34. Bouchier

Geoffrey Reginald Gilchrist Mure (1893–1979), following his service with the British army during World War I, was granted his MA from Oxford in 1919 and was a Fellow and Tutor, and eventually Warden, at Merton College.  He later served with the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force during World War II.  Mure translated Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics early in his academic career.  His area of speciality was the works of Hegel.

The works of Aristotle’s represent an important foundation of Western thought. In general, however, Aristotle’s writings were often difficult to translate and considerable discussion exists on how best to interpret and accurately transcribe Aristotle’s thoughts. If you take the time to compare each one of the above translations (even the first few pages), you will note that they are not identical.

Yet, it is important to understand the intent of Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics if you wish to understand the historical background that underlies modern science as well as the context of Bayes’ (1763) paper.  I will be spending the next few posts providing an interpretation of Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics.  I will also need to discuss its companion book, the Prior Analytics.

Do I really need to be this detailed?  No, not really.  But it does amuse me.

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