In Book One of his Metaphysics Aristotle gives a brief history lesson on the evolution of knowledge.
“Hence when all such inventions were already established, the sciences which do not aim at giving pleasure or at the necessities of life were discovered, and first in the places where men first began to have leisure. This is why the mathematical arts were founded in Egypt; for there the priestly caste was allowed to be at leisure.” (Metaphysics, Book I, p. 1553).
Here he describes a departure from the condition of the “practical,” a condition which he uses to qualify the rest of his intellectual virtues. Even to art Aristotle prescribes a practical pursuit: to bring “into being” or to give pleasure (Nicomachean Ethics p. 1800). In this short passage Aristotle mentions a sort of pointless knowledge, with no utility beyond that of knowing for the sake of knowing, and certain conditions for pursuing this sort of knowledge—leisure. Continue reading