The article is the revised version of an inaugural lecture given at the University of Lucerne on 8 November 2001. In part I, I give an interpretation of the first sentence of the Aristotelian Metaphysics: ‘All men desire by nature to know’. In part II, I show how, for Aristotle, this desire to know constitutes a continuum from knowledge given by sense perception to knowledge of the first principles. In part III, I compare this Aristotelian conception to Plato’s more ‘existentialist’ approach, which implies the turning of a ‘whole soul’ rather than a continuum. Preferring the latter conception, I conclude with some hints of what I plan to do in the next years and give a short overview of the history of universities in Europe and Switzerland, ending with the University of Lucerne.