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Even though there is no strict chronology of Aristotle's writings, what is the best order to read him if one wants to become acquainted with overall philosophical project.

I read somewhere that Aristotle's system is built around four broad categories in this order: I Dialectics (which includes in this order: Categories, Interpretation, Prior Analytics, Posterior Analytics, Topics), II Theoretical Science (which includes in this order: Physics and Metaphysics), III Practical Science (which includes in order: Ethics and Politics); IV Poetical Philosophy (which includes in order: Poetics and Rhetoric).

This seems to be a logical sequence of Aristotle's thought even if he did not write in this order. Is this a legitimate way to begin with Aristotle or would someone suggest alternate order? I have read a fair bit of Plato/Socrates.

  • There is certainly no "best" order in the general case. Can you tell us a bit more, perhaps, about the context and motivations for the planned study? What else might you be reading or studying that has made you interested in getting a sense of Aristotle's "project"? Maybe you could also tell us a bit about where you found the order you propose? – Joseph Weissman Feb 23 '12 at 20:13
  • Joseph, I cannot remember where I found those categories. But I was looking over the things Aristotle had written and did a search and found it. The way it was presented on that web page seemed logical so I started it, but I have not gotten very far. – chris Feb 23 '12 at 22:09
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    My interest in Aristotle comes from a desire to know the classics but also because I study theology. I plan to read along with my reading of Aristotle F. Copleston's, "A History of Philosophy v.1. – chris Feb 23 '12 at 22:14
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I think it would be pretty difficult to try to plow through all of it in one single study without some preparation. That said, here are some general thoughts:

  • I would not worry about the order at all, at least initially. Pick a text that you like or that appeals to you and start there. Treat it like a track on an old record if you have to -- skip to another if it isn't your thing. Find something that's intrinsically interesting and valuable to you, and formulate a provisional plan of study only once you have a clear and distinct sense of what problems you would most enjoy studying.
  • It makes sense to consult not only experts here but also those who have published work on Aristotle -- secondary literature is undoubtedly a critical source for information on the general structure and system of a thinker. It may all seem like metacommentary, and to some degree that's true, but good critical introductions to a philosopher should not be underestimated, and at any rate can help place everything in a broader conceptual context that is difficult to articulate in other media. (In addition to what you're already using, I might suggest Johnathan Barnes' Aristotle entry in the "Very Short Introduction" series may be worth looking into.)
  • Good luck with your reading! Don't forget you can always ask more questions here as you start working through the material.

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