Philo
Sophos
·org

Philosophical Connections

Compiled by Anthony Harrison-Barbet


ARISTOTLE

(c. 384 — 322 B.C.)

 

MODERATE EMPIRICISM

Described by Dante as "the master of them that know", Aristotle is rightly regarded as one of the finest speculative and analytic thinkers of all time. He was born at Stagira in Thrace and studied under Plato at the Academy in Athens, subsequently teaching there as Plato's colleague. After Plato's death in 347 he settled in Mysia, and there he married Pythias, niece of a local ruler, and later moved to Mitylene. In 343 he accepted an invitation from Philip II of Macedon to tutor his young son Alexander — the future Alexander the Great. On returning to Athens in 334 he established his own school, the Lyceum, in a sacred grove, where he walked around (hence the name 'Peripatetic') each morning discussing philosophy, while in the evening he lectured inside. After his wife's death he lived with Herpyllis, who bore him a son Nicomachus. Falsely accused of impiety by an anti-Macedonian faction he left Athens and settled in Chalcis in 323. His scientific and philosophical writings are encyclopaedic, covering the whole range of contemporary human studies, but those which survive are for the most part lecture notes rather than complete self-contained works.

[Sources: All page and line references are to the standard Bekker edition of Aristotle's works and now followed by most modern editions of individual texts.]

 

PHILOSOPHY OF LOGIC AND LANGUAGE/ METHODOLOGY

[1] In his Topics [Bk III] Aristotle developed his ideas about dialectic. This is essentially an activity which involves argument about various kinds of problems from premisses or starting-points (archai) based on people's opinions (endoxa) [a]. He said that this not only exercises the mind but also can help us to argue effectively; and further it can perhaps enable us to recognise truth and falsity and the first principles of the sciences, that is, fields of knowledge. Aristotle's studies led him further to investigate the formal structures underlying all reasoning, particularly the logic of propositions (a proposition consisting of a subject term and a predicate term, linked by the copula 'is') and the structure and rules of inference of the syllogism [see On Interpretation and Prior Analytics]. He was aware of the ambiguity of 'is' (estin), recognizing that it has both existential and a predicative uses [On Interpretation, ch. 11: 21a 24-33] [b]. He also distinguished between modal and non-modal propositions. The latter are those which just "say something that applies", while the former say something either possibly or necessarily (that is they cannot be other than true because they give the explanatory 'cause' [see secs 6 & 9] or 'essential nature'of something). [See Pr. An. I, 2, 25a 1-2; Post. An. I, 2.]. (Non-modal and probable propositions were later called assertoric; necessary propositions came to be termed apodictic.). Non-modal propositions as axioms are the premisses of demonstrative or 'scientific' syllogisms, while modal ones are the axioms of 'dialectical' syllogisms [Post. An. I, 2; Topics 100a, 26-30]. Aristotle suggested that the concepts of necessity, possibility, and contingency might be interdefinable by means of negation [c]. [See, for example, On Int., 12, 13, & 21; Pr.An. I, 3, 13, 25 & 29.]

[2] Aristotle had some important things to say about truth, language, and thought [see On Interpretation, 1-3; Metaphysics G 3]. Aristotle seems to have accepted some form of correspondence theory of truth. Sometimes he regarded the predicates 'true' and 'false' as applying properly not to sentences but to inner 'thoughts', which would suggest a thought-to-world 'copying' theory. Thus in On the Soul [ch. 6, 430b 27] he writes: "The thinking of undivided objects is among those things about which there is no falsity. Where there is both falsity and truth, there is already a combination of thoughts as forming a unity". This is because the actual words may vary from language to language or with different speakers. To be called true or false a thought must be expressed in a complete or composite sentence, that is, one which does not consist of just a verb or a noun on its own even though such words may be meaningful [cf. Categories, ch. 2]. But elsewhere it is clear that he considered true statements (expressions of thought) to be in some sense about objects in the real world and the proper carriers of 'truth' and 'falsity [see Categories, 14b and Metaphysics, 1051b3][a]. Language for Aristotle is used primarily for 'interpretation' (hermenetia) — and at the level of speech [b]. "Spoken sounds", he writes, "are symbols of affections in the soul, and written marks symbols of spoken sounds" [On Interpretation, 16a, 3-4 n he here follows the account given in On the Soul (above)]. In so far as both the 'affections of the soul' (that is, 'concepts') and the actual things these affections are likenesses of are the same for everybody, language thereby 'interprets' in the process of signifying the relationship of concepts to words and to things.

[3] Aristotle distinguished different kinds of sentences according to their functions in discourse [On Interpretation, chs 4, 6-9]. Declarative ('apophantic') sentences are used to make statements; other types to give commands, ask questions, make requests, and so on. And he seems to have believed that only declarative sentences can be true or false [a]. But not every declarative sentence (or thought) has to be true or false. Certainly if a given statement is true, then it cannot at the same time be false (the law of non-contradiction) [Posterior Analytics I, 2, 72a 10ff.]; compare also: either P or not-P (the law of the excluded middle) [Metaphysics G 7]. But he also seemed to suggest there are some statements, for example, statements about the future, which are neither true nor false and which are therefore in breach of the principle of bivalence [b]. If we fail to recognise this we can wrongly argue from a statement made now, say, that there will be a sea-battle tomorrow (which may well turn out to have been true) to the claim that the event will occur of necessity [see On Interpretation, ch. 9].

[4] [Categories 2] After examining different sorts of expressions Aristotle divided reality (things in the world and the words we use to talk about them) into four groups depending on the ways in which terms can be regarded as predicable (that is, asserted of) or as being 'in' things (inseparable from them). He then [Cat. 4] set out a list of ten ways in which something can be said of a subject. These categories or 'predicables' relate to different sorts of question one can ask [a]. Consider Socrates. We can say he is a man (and hence an animal, since all men are animals). The individual Socrates is a particular and 'separable' thing who is neither 'in' nor predicable of any other thing. He therefore belongs to the class primary substance. Man and animal are said to be secondary substances. 'Manness' is not 'in' Socrates, but it is in the real species that Socrates is a member of, just as the species itself is included in the genus animal. The other nine types of predicables are qualities which are both in other things, that is, substances, and can be asserted of them. They are: quantity (for example, 1.5 metres tall); quality (white); relation (double, larger than); place (in Athens); time (yesterday); position (seated); possession (wearing shoes); activity (is cutting); passivity (is being cut). For Aristotle such categories have being in derivative or analogical senses; only the category of substance has being in the primary sense [b][b].

[5] Definition (horismos) [Categories, ch. 1] What is definition? Before attempting to answer this question Aristotle draws attention to the possibility of ambiguity. He discusses two kinds: (i) synonymy — as when different entities share the same name (for example, 'animal' may refer to man, horse, dog, and so on); (ii) homonymy — when a word has different meanings (for example, 'plain'). He is particularly concerned with the word 'esti' ('is'), from 'einai ('to be'), and hence with 'being' — a central concept in his metaphysics. Given such possible ambiguities there are, he says [Posterior Analytics II, 13], difficulties with the view of definition as a process of analysis (or 'division') of a genus into subgenera by means of 'differentia' [a], for example, the definition of man (species) as an animal (genus) characterized by being two-footed (difference). He does, however, allow a role to definition by division in so far as (a) it ensures that we take the relevant characteristics in the right order, and (b) enables us to determine when our definition of the 'lowest species' (infima species) has been reached. (In his later writings [for example, Metaphysics, Ζ 12 and Η 6] he modifies and expands on this account. To avoid problems raised by Plato's treatment of 'participation' of genera and differentia [b] in the Forms he appeals to the concepts of potentiality and actuality [b]. He supposes the genus exists potentially in the species as its 'matter' on which the form of the lowest species is imposed. Hence, he believes, a unity of genus and differentia is achieved.) He starts his own account of definition [Posterior Analytics II, 9-10] by distinguishing between a nominal (or verbal) definition and a real (or 'essential') one. The former relates to a conventional usage in ordinary discourse — what is signified by a name and which may be an incomplete definition of a basic term in natural science, or a definition of some event or quality as contained in the conclusion of a syllogism (if we leave out the premisses). Real definitions, however, give us an explanation of why and what a thing is [c]. This leads on to methodology.

[6] To discover real definitions we must make use of demonstration. Aristotle says [Post. An. II, 1 and 2] that before undertaking a demonstration we need to set out the objects of the enquiry, that is, we have to know: what the name means; that the corresponding thing 'is'; that it has such and such properties; and why it has them. There are also a number of requirements the premisses (as archai) of a demonstration must meet. They must be true, primary, more 'intelligible', and prior to the conclusions we draw from them; and they must be causes (aitiai — 'explanatory factors') of the conclusions. He identifies four such factors: formal, material, efficient, and final [a] [see further in sec. 9 below]. Premisses, moreover, are of several kinds. (1) There are axioms, such as the principle of contradiction, in accordance with which our inferences are drawn; and (2) theses or 'posits': these vary from science to science. They include hypotheses and definitions. A hypothesis is an assumption that something is or is not, whereas if we know what something is, or why it occurs we have a (real) definition — which, in the case of a primary substance, will give us its material, formal, or final 'causes'. It is the aim of a given science to reach such definitions. This is done by constructing a scientific or 'cognitive' syllogism. Thus, suppose we wish to define thunder [see Post. An. II, 10]. We must first produce the nominal definition of the fundamental species by collecting common qualities which we suppose are coextensive with and essential to it. For thunder one such quality is noise in the clouds. (Here Plato's method of division is relevant.) Aristotle's procedure (the epagoge) here is roughly what later came to be called inductive — a move from particulars to the universal. However, his account is not fully worked out and is not always consistent [see Post. An. II, 23]. Secondly, we search for the reference of the middle term of the syllogism. 'Extinguishing of fire' is suitable here and constitutes the efficient cause. Finally the real definition — thunder is a noise in the clouds caused by the extinguishing of fire in them — can be established when the complete syllogism is constructed — a deductive procedure of universal to particular [b]. (This would not of course be regarded as the correct explanation by scientists today.)

 

THE 'SCIENCES'

[7] Aristotle distinguishes three kinds of 'science', that is, fields of human knowledge: (1) productive science, which involves the 'making' of things (for example, art, farming) — we might perhaps call it 'technology' (though not quite in the sense that we use the term today; techne in Greek means 'skill'); (2) practical science (ethics and politics); (3) theoretical science, whose goal is truth. He subdivided the theoretical sciences into natural philosophy, mathematics, and 'theology'. Natural philosophy is concerned with nature (phusis) n material objects which are subject to change and motion, and thus includes physics, chemistry and biology, as well as astronomy, which for Aristotle deals with unchanging and material objects. None of these sciences is to be understood precisely in the modern sense of the term. The objects of mathematics are inseparable from matter but are themselves immaterial and not subject to change [a]. As for metaphysics, this is concerned generally with objects which are 'transcendent', that is, in some sense distinct from matter, and unchanging. The supreme example of transcendent being or 'pure substance' for Aristotle is 'God' [b]. His 'special' metaphysics is therefore called theology. (This is of course not be understood in the standard, that is, Christian religious sense, though Aristotle's concept came to be adapted for this purpose by mediaeval philosophers.) While many of his discussions of metaphysical problems are found in his treatise called Metaphysics, many issues we would regard as metaphysical are considered implicitly or explicitly in other works. We have already seen that he examines substance and predication in the Categories; and his treatment of change and causation is to be found particularly in his Physics. (This will be summarized under Philosophy of Nature.) Indeed it would seem that the Metaphysics was so called by commentators on Aristotle simply because it dealt with certain philosophical problems arising out of previous discussions; 'metaphysics' comes from the Greek for 'after the physics' (ta meta ta physikon). In so far as it is concerned with being in general, metaphysics for Aristotle is the primary science; whereas the 'natural' or demonstrative sciences, which deal with facts and principles derived from their own appropriate fundamental axioms, are 'lesser' sciences — though he accorded them a more important role than did Plato. And he rejected Plato's notion that they could all be derived from a primary set of axioms or single principle, though he recognised that the various independent sciences were analogous in their formal procedures [c].

 

THEORETICAL SCIENCES

I. PHILOSOPHY OF NATURE/COSMOLOGY

[8] In his Physics [I, 1-13] Aristotle seeks to provide a proper explanation of Nature and to account for 'becoming' or change — which he regards as real and can be qualitative as well as positional or quantitative [see On Generation and Corruption, 325] [a]. He says [ch. 1] that the aim of empirical science is to discover the clear first 'explanatory' principles (archai) [b] underlying what we are already acquainted with. Now, there cannot be just one and unchanging principle, because principles have to be separate from what they are to explain; and science needs change and plurality as real phenomena. Monism, he argues [2 and 3] is untenable because (1) it uses terms such as 'being' or 'to be', 'unity' or 'one' ambiguously (they are homonyms); (2) it is grounded in invalid arguments or fallacious assumptions (for example, because everything which came into being did not have a beginning). Are there then many principles? Aristotle says [5] that if there are, they must consist in pairs of opposites so as to account for change Moreover [6], there cannot be just a plurality; there also has to be some underlying principle — which is itself changing. His conclusion is that there must be at least two but not more than three principles [c].

He now has to deal with the problem of change. How could something have arisen either from that which is or from that which is not?. To solve this he introduced [7-9] three 'principles' or factors which he supposed to be involved in any change:. material substratum (hyle); form (morphe ) [d] ; and 'privation' [e]. He discusses first what he calls change as alteration. Suppose we say of a man who acquires musical skills 'The unmusical becomes musical'. This seems to be a case of being coming from non-being. However, if we reformulate the assertion as 'A man becomes musical', we can see that a man as a persisting entity — a primary substance — who previously lacked (the 'form' of) musicality has now acquired it. In the case of substantial change, say, when a statue is created from a piece of stone or bronze, what persists is the matter (the stone or bronze), the statue being the primary substance which has come into being by virtue of the imposition of the form on the material substratum [d] — a form which it previously lacked (the 'privation') [e].

[9] These two notions are then [Physics II, 3, 7, 12] linked to the two central concepts Aristotle uses in his natural philosophy, namely, nature and 'explanatory item' or 'factor' (aition) — which we referred to earlier as 'cause'. By 'nature' (physis) he means that feature of a primary substance which gives it its special character and which governs its behaviour [a]. This nature is at once active and passive in that it both acts on itself and is acted on by itself. As for the aitia, these are factors which enable us to account for, make sense of things and events. Thus they have an explanatory role [see sec. 8]. Aristotle lists four. (1) The constituent cause (traditionally called the material cause). Bronze can be regarded as such a cause in so far as it accounts for various qualities a bronze statue may have, such as colour and heaviness. (2) The essential (or formal) cause. This explains in some sense why a thing is the kind of thing it is, and why it functions in a particular way as that thing. Thus we might refer to the formal cause of an eye as that which accounts for its shape and its capacity to receive images. (3) This is usually called the efficient cause — 'initiatory cause' might be a better term. The creator of the statue, the sculptor, is such a cause; s/he starts the process and can change it. (4) The final cause. This relates to the end or goal of a thing or process. Thus the sculptor has an idea of what he wants to achieve and aims at bringing into being. For Aristotle even inanimate natural things may be supposed to have a final cause in that he thinks of such things as undergoing a process of development in which their constituent parts have a 'function' [see sec. 11]. He tends to reduce the four aitia to just two. His references to material causes reflect the way he sees the natural world as governed by mechanical necessity. The final cause can be assimilated to the formal cause, the two together pointing to emergent or teleological processes in things [b], which are not necessitated by external causes but are internally self-determining [b]. The efficient cause seems to have a role to play in relation to both the material and formal-final 'dimensions' and thus in effect connects the two. Although the various 'lesser' sciences differ from each other both in their methods and in the objects they deal with, Aristotle employs his 'explanatory factors' in each; and he stresses that all four are required if explanation is to be 'adequate' and not just 'partial' [c][c]. This raises several interesting questions concerning the scope of the 'causes' when applied to natural things in general.

[10] (1) Determinism and freedom. Does Aristotle's explanatory model suggest that what occurs in nature is inevitable? Is he a determinist? His discussion is not conclusive. Firstly, he does not wish to be committed to fatalism [a], as his discussion of the sea-battle suggests [On Interpretation, ch. 9] n though he has not actually proved that such events are not necessary. Secondly, he admits that some events are fortuitous [see Metaphysics E2; Physics II, 4-6, 8-9] [b]. This wil1 be the case when they occur (a) as an accidental consequence of separate chains of causality, for, example, in the case of two people who happen to meet in town; or (b) as a result of a causal change within a thing which is not yet "contrary to nature" — as when an animal gives birth to a monster (we might nowadays attribute this to genetic mutation). If, in addition, the event could have been the willed end of an adult human agent (Aristotle's views as to the intellectual capacities of children were somewhat limited), this is described as a matter of luck. An example is your meeting someone by chance who owes you money and who happens to have just received some money from someone else. Thirdly, he suggests [Post. An. II, 11; Physics VIII, 4; On the Parts of Animals I, 1] that the behaviour or mixtures (by which he means homogeneous things like minerals, wood, and all organic, animate beings) cannot be completely accounted for solely in terms of their basic components, namely, the four 'elements'. Thus he is not some kind of 'reductionist' [c]. Moreover, human actions are intentional and purposive in a sense he makes use of in his ethics, and he argues that individuals have control over their own actions [Ethics III] [d]. [See further secs 18-21.]

[11] (2) [Physics II, 7-8.] What of final causation? Is not Aristotle committed also to the importation of purpose and purposiveness into the inorganic, material realm? Indeed he speaks of natural motion as "seeking an end" in so far as it exemplifies a change of potentiality towards actuality (unless interrupted by a chance natural event which is not relevant to the realization of that end). Likewise he denies that, say, the formation of rain in the clouds and its falling onto the crops is a matter of chance and lacking regularity. The process thus seems to be 'purposive', for some end. "Nature", he says, "does nothing in vain, nothing superfluous" [On the Heavens A4]. But this need not imply some deliberate intention or will in the stronger sense, say, of Nature itself or of 'God'. His point is that, although not designed or intended, natural events may still have a 'purpose' in the sense of function [a]. By 'function' of an item or event he means that it is to be understood in terms of the role it plays in the larger whole. For example, today we know that the 'job' of the heart is to pump blood around the body and thus sustain the life of the organism by distributing oxygen to and removing carbon dioxide from the cells. The organism itself might also be said to have a function in relation to the wider environment [see Ethics below]. Thus for Aristotle things and events can be accommodated within an explanatory framework which is both mechanical (material 'cause' — how the rain comes into being) and teleological (efficient → formal → final 'cause' — how it serves some 'end, namely, to make the corn grow). It would seem therefore that he admitted different 'levels' of explanation appropriate to different kinds of situations or objects [b].

[12] Cosmology /theology. Aristotle discusses motion, time and the void (or space) in his Physics III and IV. Motion, he says, occurs when, as the result of the removal of external constraints, natural bodies are enabled to exercise their innate power to bring about change [a]. Change — of position — in a body may also happen when another body impacting on it passes on the "power to move". (This decreases with distance.) Motion presupposes both time and place. Aristotle defines space as the 'inner limit' of the body which 'contains' it [b]. He thinks there are absolute places (for example, up and down) for the four elements to exist in. Time is that real feature of the created world of real movement (alteration of size, appearance, position) through which the mind can recognise that changes are occurring ; and it is eternal in so far as that which moves (the material realm) is eternal. But he wonders whether there could be time if there were no souls to do the measuring of movement [Phys. IV, 223a 21ff.] [c]. Actually existing spatio-temporal bodies, says Aristotle, cannot be infinite; they could be neither composite, nor simple, nor have a surface, nor occupy an absolute position. But he does admit the idea of theoretical infinite divisibility of both space and time. In On the Heavens he says all the things of the universe form a scale of being [d]. At the bottom is inorganic matter, then organic matter, namely, plants, animals, and man. Our earth is at the centre of the universe and is surrounded by several layers of the other three fundamental 'elements' — water, air and fire, all of which makes up the sublunary sphere (where things move in straight lines), but which themselves have no explanatory value. Around this sphere is the superlunary sphere of the stars, which is composed of a fifth 'element', aether [d]. The motion of the stars is circular. This outermost sphere gets its motion (and thus time) from the Prime (and unmoved ) Mover or 'God' — the eternally existing, necessary, self-knowing, living and transcendent Nous, "the thought that thinks" (noesis noeseos) [Metaphys. XII (Λ,), 1074b, 33-5], which is pure form and the first and final cause (and thereby the efficient cause) of change. Aristotle says there must be a first principle because there can be no infinite series of causes, and he regards the world as eternal and as necessary by virtue of the necessity of the Prime Mover [Metaphys. a ii; Phys. VIII, 5] [e]. He regarded Anaxagoras's notion of Mind as the possible ultimate cause as a step in the right direction but inadequate [e], because it was nothing more than a kind of deus ex machina dragged in to produce order "when he is at a loss to explain a necessary result. Otherwise he makes anything rather than Mind the cause of what happens" [Metaphys. I (A), 4: esp. 984b15]. Aristotle's argument for the existence of the Prime Mover or eternal substance from our experience of the circular motion of the heavens (which epitomizes eternal change and time — as against the perishability of all other substances) is a version of what Kant referred to as the 'cosmological argument' [see Metaphysics L, 6-8; Physics VIII, 6]. (The other spheres get their rotatory motion from incorporeal beings subordinate to God) [e]. Another approach to the question of the existence of a prime mover appeals to a 'gradation of truth/being' [f]. This is suggested by Aristotle's seventh 'negative' proof of the law of contradiction where he argues that if that which has more of any quality is nearer its norm, there should be some truth to which the 'more true' is nearer [Metaphysics G, 4: 1008b31 — 1009a5]. "[The cause] which imparts to other things a certain character itself has that character in the highest degree" [Met. a, I. This book was a later insertion into the Metaphysics — see Ross, p. 13]. As for the moral condition of the world, he argues that, while not intrinsic to the cosmos, evil is associated with individual things as a kind of by-product as they strive towards greater actuality and perfection [see Metaphysics Q, 9; also sec. 20] [g]. As he says, "the bad does not exist apart from bad things; for the bad is in its nature posterior to the potentiality" [1051, 18].

 

II. METAPHYSICS

[13] [Metaphysics Z 1-3.]. A thing may be said to 'be' in a variety of ways, but its primary sense is the 'what' — which indicates the substance (ousia) of the thing — rather than the 'that' it is. For Aristotle essence and existence, although distinct, are inseparable; whatever is 'real' exists [a]. However, it is prior in definition, time, and knowledge. Being qua being is in fact the central concern of his metaphysics [a]. He regards it as special because all other modes of being are dependent on it. So many thinkers in the past, he says [2] have proposed as substances either 'sensible' things (animals and their parts, the elements, for example) or non-sensible things (Plato's Forms, mathematical objects). How are we to decide? What we need to find is some 'mark' or test by which we can identify substantiality [30]; and he examines three possibilities.

(1) [Z 3] Substance cannot be simply a bare unqualified 'subject', that is, a material substratum or support for properties; for then it would be unknowable. So what is wanted is a way of pinning down the 'thisness' or individuality of a thing n that which makes it a "this so-and-so" (tode ti).

(2) Could it then be 'essence' (ti en einai — what it is to be something)? Now, being musical, say, or even having bones and flesh is not essential to one's being what one is. In fact the only things which have their own properties essentially are species; and they are things whose 'formula of their meaning' [1030c16] is given by a real definition. So when we refer to Socrates as being a man this is to talk of him as having an essential property by virtue of his belonging to the species man; whereas as an individual he may be supposed also to possess accidental properties (such as being pale). Thus it would seem that the species is a substance because of the essentiality criterion [b]. Aristotle takes the discussion further [7-9] by considering the possibility that form has substantiality (and interestingly he now uses the same term eidos for both 'species' and 'form' — previously morphe). He reintroduces [7] the distinction he had made in the Physics [I, 7] between immanent form and matter and argues that it is the form in the composite nature (phusis) of form and matter which constitutes its primary and unitary substantiality [c] — makes it what it is. This is the so-called doctrine of hylomorphism — but applicable only to corporeal beings [c].

(3) Aristotle also then [13] considers and rejects the view that substances are universals (including genera), both being interpreted by him as Platonic separable Forms or 'essences' [d][d]. The basis of his objection is that if this universal were to be a substance it would have to be the substance either of all individuals or of none — both of which options he disallows. He also points out that, while substance is not predicable of a subject, the universal always occurs as the predicate term and indicates a 'such' and not a 'this'. Aristotle suggests other arguments and later [14 and 15] sets out a number of criticisms of Plato's doctrine of the Forms and its absurd consequences. Separate Forms, for example, could not initiate motion in the sensible things to which they are prior (ante rem), and would contribute nothing to the being of such things or to our knowledge of them [e][e]. Separable Forms would also require there to be many Forms within, say, a man, each corresponding to one of his parts. These Forms would have to be substances, and the man would be different from his parts. Aristotle also criticizes the theory that attributes reality to numbers and identifies Forms with them [f]. And he refers to the 'Third Man' argument. His general conclusion is that there can be no separable Forms and that universals cannot be substances. Substantiality must therefore lie in immanent essence.

In Metaphysics Δ, 7 Aristotle introduces a distinction between existence or being in its own right and 'coincidental' existence [g]. Actual existents are individuals or accidents — though the latter cannot exist separate from individual beings. Thus Socrates and his paleness are both actual existents. However, things are said to 'be' coincidentally when they hold good of the same 'thing-that-is'. This may involve predicating an accident of an accident (as when we say that someone pale is artistic), or predicating an accident of a subject (for example, a man is artistic), or predicating a subject of an accident (someone artistic is a man). Similarly a complex such as 'Socrates is pale' is qua that complex a coincidental and not an actual existent.

[14] Aristotle's thesis in the Metaphysics can be summarized as follows. An individual, say, Socrates is a composite of matter and form. It is this 'essential' or 'species form' of 'humanness' which determines that Socrates belongs to the species (or kind) of human being, that is, makes him a man. Such 'species forms' are thus substances in some primary sense. Being a man is Socrates' essential property — the 'formula' given by the real definition, "the formula of its meaning" [1030a16]. And as Aristotle says, "There is an essence only of those things whose formula is a definition" [1030a5]. But there is now a problem. In the Categories he had argued that it is individual things, that is, things which in the Metaphysics are called composites of matter and form, that are primary substances, species such as man being substantial only in a secondary derived sense. He does point out [1030a18-20] that the notion of definition is ambiguous: in one sense it means substance and a 'this', whereas in another sense it means one or other of the predicates. Nevertheless it is questionable whether the Categories account can be reconciled with that presented in the Metaphysics. A solution may lie in his use [Metaphysics Θ 7; see also D 7 — 1017b] of the concepts of potentiality and actuality introduced in his Physics [see sec. 5 above]. [See Lear, ch. I.]. In Metaphysics Z 17 he argues that there must be some principle of unity — over and above form and matter — which keeps these two components together. Take the example of the bronze sphere [see H 6]. This is not a single definable unity; and this is because the matter of the bronze is only a potential existent. Before being made into a sphere, or a statue, the bronze had certain non-substantial properties, and it is these that now exist in actuality in the sphere. The bronze itself, however, is not actually present and does not therefore break up the unity of the form and matter of the sphere. Thus Aristotle can now claim that both the unitary composite and the 'species form' are substantial entities, the latter giving substantiality to the former. So we can say that for him an individual thing is a composite of matter, the physical stuff (as pure potentiality), and form, the individual's essence (as actuality) [a][a]. Individuals belonging to the same species possess the same form or essence, but this form is numerically different : it is not one (Platonic) Form instantiated in different individuals. Now, because the formal aspect is the same in all individuals belonging to a given species (for example, man), it must be the material aspect which makes the individuals (Socrates, Callicles) different. It is therefore the (potential) matter that is said to be the principle or factor of individuation [a]. At the same time, Aristotle says, it is the form which actualizes the material aspect and makes it into an individual thing. Thus his position seems to be that a primary substance (in the 'everyday' or 'scientific' sense of individual thing) is produced by virtue of the 'actualizing' role of the form (primary substance in the metaphysical sense) on the relative material potentiality (both of which compose the individual) [b][b]. The essential form thus exists in the thing (in rem) [c].

 

III. PSYCHOLOGY

[15] The term 'psychology' is not to be understood in its modern sense; for Aristotle it is the 'science' of the 'soul' (psuche). There has been much debate about the meaning of this word in his writings. In his early work (Eudemus) his account seems to have been similar to that proposed by Plato in the Timaeus, whereas in his mature On the Soul his view reflects both his empirical research in biology and the analyses of form and matter he had attempted to work out in the Metaphysics. However, there is now broad agreement among scholars that throughout his academic life Aristotle held to a view of the soul as in some sense substantial and unitary. So what does this mean in On the Soul? He devotes Book I firstly to a discussion of how the concept of the soul fits in to the wider context of the 'sciences' and then, secondly, to a critical examination of some of the theories which had been put forward by his predecessors — in particular the materialist accounts of some Presocratics and the so-called 'harmony' view [a] (which Plato himself had criticized in the Phaedo), largely on the grounds that they fail to account for the 'motivating' power of the soul, that is, its capacity to influence or bring about changes in physical things. Aristotle's own position is developed in Book II. He starts [II, 1] by defining the soul as "the first entelechy [or actuality] of a natural organic body". By this he means that, as the 'principle of life', it 'informs' and thereby actualizes the material body, making it a living thing (empsuchon soma — 'ensouled' body). It is thus both formal and final 'cause'. The soul is thus the 'essential' attribute of a living thing, the body providing its other attributes — the ensouled body constituting the unitary human substance [b]. He says [II, 2 and 3] there are three grades or 'parts' of soul [c] These seem to exist in a kind of hierarchy. The lowest is the nutritive soul, possessed by plants, which underlies reproduction and the taking in of nourishment [4]. Animals too have this soul but in addition they possess a sensitive soul, which makes possible. such functions as sense-perception, desire, and local movement — all of which contribute to the organism's survival and well-being [5]. The various senses and their objects are examined in II, 6-11, and perception is treated in II,12 and III. Man's soul is the highest of all. As well as assimilating the functions of the nutritive and sensitive souls, it is characterized by reason or intellect (nous), which gives to man his capacity for both theoretical and practical thinking. [III, 4 n6.] Aristotle distinguishes between an active nous (to poioun) and a passive intellect nous pathetikos. It would seem that he regarded the active intellect as an actuality, identical in all individuals to the extent that it is, arguably, a manifestation of divine intellect, and as at least conceptually separable from the passive intellect and the body [d][d]. As to the question of the soul's immortality, he may have held the view that reasoning and memory are essentially functions of the composite being (matter and form) and that therefore active reason cannot survive the body's death; or that if it does then at most it exists as a principle devoid of content. However, in his On the Generation of Animals he refers to the active intellect as having come in "from outside" [736b], while in On the Soul [405a] he also says it is immortal and eternal in itself, without memory, unaffected by its embodiment [e]. He also argues [De Anima III, 10] that the 'motivating' capacity of the soul, is to be attributed a faculty which is both rational and volitional (he calls it 'desiderative thought' or 'intellectual desire' [Ethics VI, 2 — 1139b4] ) — the two aspects constituting (preferential, or moral) choice [ibid., III, ch. 2] [f]. If we leave aside the active intellect — a concept which, it has to be admitted, sits uneasily with his overall position — we can say that Aristotle's account of the soul and 'ensouled bodies' as living things avoids both materialism and Platonic dualism. [His accounts of perception and concept formation through the agency of the intellect will be considered in the context of his theory of knowledge.]

 

IV. KNOWLEDGE

[16] Knowledge for Aristotle is, in a strict sense, of the universal and of what is 'necessary' or 'essential' [a]. He does, however, also talk of two kinds of knowledge (episteme) of being — potential (of the universal and 'indefinite') and actual (of 'definite' particulars) [Metaphysics, 1087a] [a]. Such particulars are either the individual things we are aware of through the senses or contingent facts which we have acquired or been taught and which are grounded in sense perception [a]. This raises two issues: (1) how knowledge in the strict sense is achieved from sense perception as the starting point; and (2) how Aristotle distinguishes between knowledge and belief (or opinion — doxa) [a].

(1) Sense perception [On the Soul II, 5-11; III, 1; On the Senses, 7]. Rejecting any appeal to recollection or 'innate' knowledge, Aristotle says knowledge, although requiring intellect, starts from sense-perception. To account for this he introduces the idea of a general faculty of 'common sense' [b][b]. This manifests itself through specialized faculties corresponding to the various sense organs. Thus the eye perceives colour, the hand feels heat. Several organs may be involved in instances of 'unspecialized' or common perceptions, as when, for example, size, shape, or movement are perceived by both sight and touch. Common sense is required for distinguishing between the objects of different senses and for simultaneous perceptions. Aristotle also refers to 'incidental' perceptions. We may see a white object (to see a colour is 'essential') but also see it as the son of Cleon (this is incidental not essential). Sense perception for Aristotle is not a purely passive process. He regards it as an actualizing of potentiality (this being the faculty possessed by the sense organ): the eye itself becomes white when it sees the white object, the hand becomes hot. This actualizing involves a 'reception of form' without the matter of the perceived object [c][c] ("much as wax takes the sign from the ring without the iron and gold" [On the Soul II, 12]. How then does sense perception lead to knowledge? When we perceive a particular object we are perceiving characteristics which it possesses in common with other things (universals in rebus n 'in things') [d]. Perceiving an object leaves an image in the soul through the operation of the faculty of imagination (phantasia) [see On the Soul III, 3]. And in knowing an object the mind thereby knows itself as the active knower [cf. Metaphysics Λ, 1072, 20ff] [d]. In memory we become aware of this image as relating to something past [see On Memory 1 and 2]. With repetition of memory images or impressions we acquire 'experience' through universal concepts of objects (post rem — 'after the thing'). It is the active intellect that is involved when the common characteristic is received or 'abstracted' from the perceived object. And he says that this characteristic (the form) is received in the soul in accordance with the mode of the receiving intellect [e] [cf. On the Soul III, 4 & 8]. It is from these universal concepts that we can move to the highest unanalysable universals or definitions, which are apprehended or intuited by nous. Herein lies genuine knowledge [see Posterior Analytics, II, 19] [e].

[17] (2) Knowledge and belief [Post. An., I, 33]. In a general or loose sense we do of course have knowledge (gnosis) of particular things. When we perceive a cloud, say, are we not certain that we are seeing something white? Do we not know that man is an animal? Aristotle argues that, strictly speaking, genuine knowledge [a] can be achieved only through application of the scientific method to sensory data [a][a] [see also sec. 16 above, and cf. sec. 1]. Perception must involve judgement [b][b], and this opens up the possibility of error, of contingency. Two people may judge that man is an animal, but while the one may regard this as an incidental attribute the other has identified animality as man's essence. The mental state of the former is that of opinion: only the latter can be said to truly know [c][c]. Even to say an object is seen to be white involves the fallible judgement that there is a real thing of some sort, not just a chimera or illusion. Perhaps there is little or no chance of error if we confine ourselves to the bare seeing of white as such: but Aristotle seems to suggest that this is a purely passive state that involves no judgement. Such limiting particularity cannot therefore provide us with knowledge in the strict sense.

 

PRACTICAL SCIENCES

I. ETHICS

NATURALISTIC TELEOLOGY

[18] Aristotle's moral philosophy, as set out in the Nicomachean Ethics, is teleological (directed towards an end). But he is critical [I, 6] of certain feature's of Plato's ethics. (1) He rejects the notion of a 'universal' Good and the view that it can be directly 'known' [a]. There cannot be one Form embracing both the absolutely and the relatively good [a]. (2) In any case, 'good' is used in a variety of ways [b] according as to whether it describes reasons or things, qualities or excellences of things, ends or a means to those ends. (3) The end which men seek is not a static knowledge of the Good; rather it is a good which is more aptly described as an activity. What then is Aristotle's own positive account?

[I, 7-12] Every deliberate action, he says, is directed towards the attaining of some end. This end is equated by Aristotle with the good. But. there are many different ends, corresponding to different activities; and some of these ends are but means to achieving more ultimate ends. For example, the doctor gives medicine to help his patient to sleep, and this is conducive to health. Aristotle argues that there is an end which we, as moral agents, seek only for its own sake. This is 'happiness' or 'well-being' (eudaimonia) and is the absolutely good [c]. Other ends, such as honour and pleasure may of course be desired for their own sake, but also because they are perceived as a means to achieving eudaimonia. What then is happiness? It is neither pleasure nor honour; nor is it virtue, because a virtuous person can be unhappy, though clearly virtue is desirable. Aristotle finds his answer in the concept of function or appropriate activity. Now just as it is the job of a knife to cut so it is man's function to be rational; and this may be exhibited in both the theoretical and practical spheres. The rational man will follow a certain way of life which may be characterized as an activity of his soul when following a rational principle or ground of the action. The job of a good man is to perform this function well, that is, when performed with the excellence or virtue proper to it. Life for the virtuous soul is intrinsically happy. Aristotle notes (a) that our happiness, in the last analysis, depends on our own performance of virtuous actions (whatever gifts we may possess from birth or upbringing); (b) that well-being should be judged in the context of one's life as a whole [d], taking account of the occasional misfortune most of us suffer.

[19] [II and IV] What exactly does he mean by 'virtue'? He distinguishes between moral virtues and intellectual virtues.

Moral virtues:. Moral virtue as such is to be identified neither with our feelings nor with the faculties we have for feeling, because they are not proper objects of praise or blame. Moreover, our faculties are acquired from nature whereas it is not nature that makes us good or bad. So he defines moral virtue (or excellence) as a disposition or state of the soul [a] "concerned with choice, lying in a mean relative to us, this being determined by reason and in the way in which the man of practical wisdom would determine it" [II, 6; 1107a]. This doctrine of the mean (to mesos)the 'middle term', belonging to all virtues — is central in Aristotle's ethics. At the end of Book II he applies it to particular virtues. Nous, for example, in the case of feelings inspired by danger courage is the mean state between rashness (excess) and cowardice (deficiency). It should be stressed that Aristotle is not talking here of an absolute mean (as 6 is the mean between 2 and 10) but a relative mean: the right measure of feeling or action is what is appropriate in the particular circumstances of time, motive, and so on [b]. Of special importance is Aristotle's account of justice as a moral virtue. He in fact makes a distinction between a universal sense of the term [V, 11] and a narrower, particular sense [V, 2]. In the universal sense justice (dike) is identified with virtue in general — in a social context. In the narrower particular sense, however, justice (isotes) is said to be a specific virtue. Particular justice in turn is divided into distributive justice [V, 2-3] and corrective justice [V, 4], both of which involve a proportionality but, respectively, geometrical and arithmetical. What Aristotle means by this can be shown by examples. Distributive justice is concerned with fairness. Suppose two people are quarrelling about, say, money. How the money should be shared depends on the individuals and what they own. A rich man should receive a smaller share, a poor man a larger. The proportions are therefore relative: if the amounts are too great or too small then there is injustice. Corrective justice, however, is independent of the circumstances. Sharing must be equal between loss and gain. Particular justice is thus a mean, geometrical or arithmetical, between extremes [c]..

[20] Intellectual virtues. What are these? According to Aristotle [VI] they are the qualities the soul requires to discover the rules or principles enabling it to act virtuously [a] when it collaborates (rather than being just in conformity) with them. He distinguishes five 'modes' by which the soul can attain to truth. (1) Science (episteme) is "a habit of mind with an aptitude for demonstration". Scientific knowledge is attained deductively from first premisses which are given to us through and are known to be certain [b][b]. (2) Art (techne) [c] This is the productive faculty [c]: "a rational faculty exercised in making (poeisis) something". (3) Prudence (phronesis) is the 'calculative' faculty [d]: "a rational faculty exercised for the attainment of truth in things that are humanly good or bad". Without prudence it is not possible to be good. (4) Intelligence or Speculative Wisdom (nous) is the activity by means of which we grasp the truth of first principles and truth in reasoning generally [e]. (5) Wisdom (sophia). This is obtained through the combination of Intelligence and Science and is "employed on the grandest subjects of contemplation" [f]. It is, says Aristotle, the kind of knowledge which comes closest to perfection. In this way we can approximate to the life of the eternal living God.

[21] There are several particular problems arising out of his ethics that Aristotle examines. The first (I, 4) concerns how we become virtuous. We are not born naturally good, and neither can we learn virtue as such. Rather we have the capacity to acquire the moral and intellectual virtues. Our choices and nature work together — they are 'corresponsible' or 'part-causes' (sunaitioi pos) for forming the dispositions which make up our character [1114b 20-25]. We gain knowledge, prudence, wisdom through study. But we become just by performing just actions. It might seem that there is some circularity here: how can we perform a just action if we are not already virtuous? However, Aristotle's view is that in so far as an action is right, that is, appropriate to the circumstances, performing it in the recognition that it is right, and with a good motive, we shall acquire and then strengthen the disposition within ourselves to act justly. Virtue as such cannot be taught directly but we can be told when we are young what is virtuous — and here we may rely on the experience of the wise or prudent (to phronimos) [a].

A second problem concerns weakness of will [III and VII]. Praise or blame is appropriate only in the case of voluntary actions, that is actions which presuppose choice — in the thinking and desiring of some end, and in the deliberation about the means to attain it. Aristotle says that involuntary actions are those which (a) are performed solely under external compulsion, or (b) result from the agent's ignorance of the particular circumstances (as opposed to his general ignorance of, say, the law). Thus we should not blame a ship's captain who has been forced by mutineers to do something dishonourable. As for the second ground for exoneration, an example is of a person who gives someone food without knowing it has been poisoned, unless his ignorance is due to his having been negligent or perhaps drunk. So why do people, given free choice, ever do bad actions? Aristotle's view is that the incontinent or weak-willed person does wrong either because his knowledge is 'latent', that is, not fully activated, or because he is overcome by passion [b]. Such people, he says, just happen to be like that; they lack practical wisdom. It would therefore be inconsistent to withhold blame in such a case if we did not also withhold praise from the morally strong person who can develop his knowledge and cultivate practical reason, and does not give into temptation.

Thirdly, the fact that the primary motivation of the individual as a moral agent is to seek his own 'well-being' might suggest that Aristotle's ethics is somewhat egoistic. He himself was aware of this. Others are of course acknowledged in his concept of justice and in his political philosophy [sec. 22]. And in the Nicomachean Ethics [esp. Books VIII, chs 3 & 5; IX, 4 and 8] the problem is addressed in his discussion of friendship. He distinguishes first between 'friendships of utility', 'friendships of pleasure', and 'friendships of goodness' [VIII, 3]. With respect to the last he argues [IX, 4] that the good man has a relation to himself , or rather, between his several 'elements' or 'parts' (the primary one being the intellectual — see sec. 15), and that this relation may be characterized by such marks of friendship as disinterestedness and sympathy. Now a friend is in a sense another self; and so the friendship between two people is seen to possess the same characteristics. He also argues, more convincingly [VIII, 5] that to love one's friends is to love one's own good; for the good man by the very act of becoming another's friend becomes that other's good. Encompassing the other's wellbeing is thereby an extension of one's interests. This is compatible with 'good' self-love (philautia) — though one can of course love oneself in the crude selfish sense [c].

 

II. POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

[22] Aristotle is very much concerned with the structure and order of human society. Like Plato, he regarded the city-state, the polis, as providing the context in which man might best flourish, fulfil his proper 'function', and achieve the 'good-life' and 'well-being' [a][a]. It is because of this that he says [Politics 1253a] man is a political ('social') animal (zoon politikon) [b]. But Aristotle's view of the state differed from Plato's in important respects. Firstly, he rejected Plato's 'communism' [c]. He placed much greater emphasis on the family, which he regarded as the fundamental biological unit, and he also had a more positive attitude towards private property, regarding possessions as desirable and conducive to the virtuous life — provided moderation is exercised in their use and 'goods' are not accumulated for their own sake. Secondly, while Plato tended to have a negative view of law, seeing it as the means whereby the philosopher-rulers might paternalistically control and direct the other two classes, Aristotle tended to encourage the fullest participation of citizens in the running of the polis. Citizenship, however, did not extend to women or slaves, both groups according to Aristotle being 'by nature' inferior and therefore subject to the rule of others, though he did insist that they be treated properly and allowed that a slave might in time gain his or her freedom.

So as to develop his own account of political science Aristotle commissioned a detailed investigation of no less than 158 constitutions. These fall into two main groups: (1) states which aim at the good of all; (2) those in which power is concentrated in the hands of a single person or group concerned with its own private welfare. To the first group belong monarchy, aristocracy and 'polity'; while corresponding to these there are in the second group tyranny (rule by one man), oligarchy (rule by the few), and democracy (rule by the people — the many). In general Aristotle argues that monarchy is the ideal form — though only in theory because there are no individuals who are superior to other citizens in wisdom and virtue. Even an aristocracy is not easy to establish. So he realistically settles for a 'polity'. This is in effect a constitution combining the best features of democracy and oligarchy and in which ideally his principle of justice might be applied [d]. Many citizens are involved in running the state's affairs, but they are normally only those who by reason of their wealth and property have the leisure needed for active participation in politics. The members of this middle class of 'equals' perform the various necessary judicial and administrative tasks.

 

PRODUCTIVE SCIENCES

AESTHETICS/PHILOSOPHY OF ART

[23] Aesthetic issues are discussed in Aristotle's Poetics. Art in general (techne) is called 'poetical' because it is concerned with producing or creating (poesis) something. Aristotle divides it into (a) tool-making (which completes the 'work' of Nature) and (b) fine art, the function of which is to imitate or represent Nature. By this he means the 'catching' and translating of the universal in things into dramatic poetry, sculpture, music, as the case may be [a]. He identifies three kinds of drama: epic, tragic, and comic. Tragedy is particularly important in that through it the playwright seeks to portray good actions and life in such a way so as to arouse and release the emotions of pity and fear in the spectators as well as himself. He refers to this by the medical term catharsis (purgation) [ Poetics 1449b, 28] [b]. However, there is some debate as to what his full explanation of this process was, as the relevant section of the book is lost. In his Politics he refers to it as an action comparable to that to that produced by 'orgiastic' music: listeners are firstly excited and then restored to tranquillity. They undergo "a kind of purgation and relief accompanied by pleasure" [Politics, 1340a, 1342a]. The action of the tragedy was supposed to act on the plot or characters and on the spectators in a similar fashion. (Commentators disagree as to whether Aristotle's view was that pity and fear were removed after the 'purging' or whether they remained — the suggestion being that Aristotle was concerned only with removing 'excessive' emotion.) He asserts further that the beauty of a tragic drama is judged by two criteria: order (the ordered arrangment of its incidents or actions, constitutes the plot), and 'definiteness' or 'limitation' (the work should be neither too large nor too small). Well-ordered plots also exhibit a unity; they have a beginning, a middle, and an end [Poetics, 1450b, 27-33] [c]. In the case of other types of art Aristotle also adds symmetry or proportionality as a third criterion [see Metaphysics 1078, 36].

 

CRITICAL SUMMARY

While there are obvious surface differences between Aristotle and his teacher Plato — we might say, for example, that much of Aristotle's surviving work is more 'condensed' and 'technical', and that he paid greater attention to 'ordinary' or everyday linguistic usage; or that he is perhaps less 'visionary' or idealistic than Plato — nevertheless both philosophers were concerned with similar issues:. appearance and reality, the concept of form (or the 'Forms'), change and permanence, mind ('soul') and body, virtue and justice, and what constitutes the 'good' life for man, to name but a few. Indeed throughout the mediaeval era, from Augustine to Ockham, most thinkers, in their own approach to these problems (and having regard to the demands of reason as well as faith), felt it necessary to integrate into their philosophies elements from both Plato and Aristotle — albeit with varying degrees of emphasis and selectivity. Many of them also tended to interpret Aristotle as having produced a 'grand system' — despite the evident inconsistencies in his thought. To some extent these can be explained on the assumption that his writings were collections of lectures put together in a somewhat arbitrary fashion by his successors. But it is still a matter of on-going debate as to whether there is any obvious development in his philosophy. Some commentators have argued in favour of a progressive move away from Plato; while others have suggested that after initial penetrating criticism of his teacher's doctrines he tended to take up a more sympathetic position. That his philosophy was not static, that there are differences of emphasis if not in hard content, is, however, incontrovertible. Moreover, even though Aristotle was a "super-genius" (as Ackrill calls him), his solutions to many of the central problems he addressed are still open to objections.

(1) Philosophy of logic and language. Aristotle assumes that to analyse the terms we use to describe the world is to reveal its actual structure. This assumption has been contested by some recent philosophers. His list of categories or predicates also seems to be arbitrary. Moreover he seems not to have thought through fully the distinctions that can be made between sentences, statements and propositions; and this probably underlies his treatment of the predicates 'true' and 'false' and of statements about the future. However, in his defence it might be said that such 'weaknesses' are hardly surprising given that he was working on these matters some 2500 years ago and in some respects limited by the Greek language of his day. Indeed it is to his greater credit that he was nevertheless able to produce philosophy of such prescience and analytical power. As for his contribution to formal logic, some critics have argued that his syllogistic logic is flawed, (a) because it lacks the scope and flexibility of, say, modern predicate calculus; and (b) it does not lead to new knowledge in the way Aristotle supposes in his account of scientific methodology. These are fair comments, but in reply it can be said that while syllogistic logic is indeed in some respects limited and incomplete this is in no way detracts from its power as a consistent and coherent axiomatic system. As to the second criticism, it should be said that if this point is valid it is not unique to Aristotle but a. feature of deductive logic in general.

(2) Metaphysics. The major features in Aristotle's metaphysics are undoubtedly his subtle analysis of the concept of substance and his hylomorphism. The major problem perhaps is the seemingly unresolved tension between his identification of primary substance firstly with the individual composite of form and matter and secondly with the 'essential form' which is 'actualizes' the individual from its material potentiality. Aristotelian scholars continue to debate this issue — and much turns on how exactly the relevant writings should be interpreted. Moreover, it remains an open question as to whether Aristotle regarded both prime matter and 'pure' form (in the case of the 'active intellect' and God) as having actual independent existence. The notions of 'essence' and individuation, and Aristotle's criteria for the identity of a particular thing are also all still live issues; his solutions can by no means be accepted as satisfactory.

(3) Methodology. Although through painstaking observation and classification Aristotle made an outstanding contribution to biology, he was not of course an experimental scientist in the modern sense, and understandably by today's standards his methodology is flawed. There is no recognition in his writings of the confirmation or falsification procedures required if knowledge of the workings of nature is to be obtained. For him knowledge is located in 'real definitions' which give the 'essences' of things — they purport to 'explain' what and why a thing is what it is. They should not be seen as general principles or laws testable against experience. However, his use of the four aitiai, ('causes' or 'explanatory factors') is undeniably original and fertile and marks an advance on Plato though the concept of the aitia sits uneasily between our contemporary usage of 'cause' and 'explanation', and his analysis should not be accepted uncritically. Nevertheless, he anticipates modern methods to the extent that his methodological framework allows for both inductive and deductive processes. It has been objected further that there is often an inconsistency between his teleological and mechanistic explanations. But it is possible to interpret 'purpose' and 'purposiveness' in biology in a purely functional sense without invoking conscious deliberation or intentional aims.

(4) Mind. Aristotle's hylomorphism leads to difficulties with his account of mind (or soul — psyche). On the question of the soul's survival after the body's death his writings are equivocal. Could there be a form existing independent of matter? What is the status of the 'active intellect'? (And indeed in what sense can God be understood as pure form?) Many mediaeval philosophers grappled with these issues — not least because of their commitment to Christian dogma. However, most modern commentators argue that Aristotle was concerned not so much with solving this problem (and the problem of what constitutes consciousness) as to develop "a coherent conceptual framework within which the phenomena of life can be most comprehensively, economically and adequately explained", as Lawson-Tancred puts it [Introduction to De Anima, p. 48]. He praises Aristotle for developing his 'entelechist' view which avoids Platonic dualism without collapsing into a reductive materialism. Much recent discussion centres on the alleged similarities between this theory and functionalism and various other 'holistic' accounts of the 'mind'. But these remain controversial; and Lawson-Tancred argues that Aristotle's account is sui generis.

(5) Ethics and political philosophy. Aristotle's doctrine of the mean, while prima facie eminently workable, sometimes seems contrived when applied to particular situations. Many philosophers would go further and reject his eudaimonistic and teleological ethics, either because they start from a different position (for example, a deontological, or a utilitarian one), or because they regard his moral philosophy as unduly intellectual and 'elitist'. It is arguable also that Aristotle's psychological analysis of weakness of will (akrasia), although more penetrating and extensive than Plato's, in the last analysis fails to provide an adequate explanation.

(6) Aesthetics. Aristotle's account seems to be more positive than Plato's. It can be objected, however, that his concentration on imitation of 'nature' as the aim and criterion of good art ignores such factors as form (that is, the structure of a work of art) and the role of the imagination in the creative process.

. Needless to say, all these criticisms and qualifications are contentious, and in any case can in no way detract from the greatness of Aristotle as a thinker. His philosophy was of central importance throughout the Middle Ages, particularly from the twelfth century onwards when Latin translations of apparently lost works became available in the West. His emphasis on detailed analysis of everyday discourse found more than an echo in mid-twentieth century Oxford. And much of his technical work is proving to be still fresh, relevant, and challenging to modern scholars — in relation to such issues as sense and reference, essences and natural kinds, necessity, causality and explanation, and the nature of the mind.

 

READING

Aristotle: Your reading should include the Categories, Prior and Posterior Analytics, On Interpretation, Physics, Metaphysics, On the Soul, Ethics, and Poetics. There are Penguin editions of many of these in English. The most comprehensive collection is that of J. Barnes, The Complete Works of Aristotle. Perhaps more convenient is A New Aristotle Reader, trans. & ed. J. L. Ackrill, or The Basic Works of Aristotle, trans. & ed. R. McKeon. See also the edition of De Anima by H. Lawson-Tancred, which contains an excellent introduction. There is also a :oeb edition in 23 volumes.

Studies:

Introductory

J. Barnes, Aristotle.

D. J. Allen, The Philosophy of Aristotle.

Advanced

D. Graham, Aristotle's Two Systems.

T. H. Irwin, Aristotle's First Principles.

J. Lear, Aristotle: The Desire to Understand.

W. D. Ross, Aristotle.

Collections of essays

J. Barnes (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle

J. Barnes, R. Sorabji, and M. Schofield (eds), Articles on Aristotle.

J. M. E. Moravcsik (ed.), Aristotle.

 

CONNECTIONS

Aristotle

 

Note: also the general rejection of Aristotelian metaphysics and epistemology by the sceptics Pyrrho and Sextus; by Francis Bacon (though he continued to utilize much of Aristotle's technical terminology and indeed acknowledged that there were some positive features in Aristotelianism); and by Hobbes.

 

Logic and language
[1a] Dialectic    Zeno

   Socrates

   Plato

[1a]

[1d]

[1a]

 

[1b] Formal logic: logic of propositions (subject-predicate); ambiguity of 'is'; syllogism (probable and necessary premisses)

   Plato

Abelard

Ockham

Leibniz

   Kant

Mill

Frege

Quine

[3d]

[2b]

[1a]

[1a]

[1a]

[1e]

[2a d]

[1c]

 

[1c] Modal logic

Abelard

Ockham

Quine

[2d]

[1c]

[1c]

 

[2a] Truth and falsity: propositions as expressions of 'thought'; whole sentences; correspondence theory

   Anselm

Abelard

Aquinas

Ockham

   Leibniz

Brentano

Frege

   Moore

   Russell

Heidegger

Austin

Strawson

Dummett

Putnam

[1g]

[2c]

[1f]

[1b 1d]

[4d]

[1c 2b]

[2g]

[1b]

[1e]

[1b]

[1d]

[1e]

[1b]

[1g]

 

[2b] Language used for interpretation at level of discourse Ricoeur [2b]

 

[3a] Functions of language; declarative (apophantic) statements to express truth and falsity

   Ockham

   Berkeley

   Frege

   Wittgenstein

   Austin

Ricoeur

[1b]

[1b]

[2k]

[2b]

[1e]

[7a]

 

[3b] Laws of non-contradiction and excluded middle; bivalence; propositions about the future

Abelard

Ockham

Nicholas of Cusa

Dummett

[2e]

[1d 4e]

[2a]

[1g]

 

[4a b; see also 7b 8d sec. 9 13b]

Categories of reality; substance as that which cannot be predicated of a logical subject; individuals 'in' species; analogical sense

Chrysippus

Avicenna

Averroes

Aquinas

Ockham

Descartes

Leibniz

   Kant

   Hegel

   Dilthey

Brentano

Husserl

   Whitehead

Heidegger

Strawson

[1a]

[1e]

[2b]

[1g]

[1b 3d]

[3a]

[2a]

[2c 3a]

[2a]

[1c]

[3a]

[1d 3c]

[4b]

[1a]

[2b]

 

[5a-c] Definition (and genus & species

Socrates

Plato

Hobbes

Leibniz

[1b]

[3b 7e]

[1c]

[1d]

 

The 'sciences' — explanation/ methodology/ Nature
[5b 14a b 16c] Potentiality — actuality

   Plato

Avicenna

Averroes

Albertus

Aquinas

   Hegel

Ricoeur

[3c]

[2a]

[2c]

[1k]

[1e 2e]

[1c]

[7b]

 

[6a sec. 9] Explanation: 'causal factors' (aitiai), 'nature' (phusis) of substance; all four factors required for complete explanation

   Thales

   Anaximenes

   Heraclitus

   Empedocles

   Democritus

   Plato

Epicurus

Posidonius

Aquinas

Ockham

Bacon (Francis)

Hobbes

Descartes

Leibniz

Heidegger

Ricoeur

[1a]

[1a b]

[1c]

[1c]

[1b]

[2a 5a d]

[2c]

[1g]

[2f]

[2c 3h]

[1a d 1d]

[4a]

[3d e]

[4a]

[5a]

[7b]

 

[6b 20b] Definition; induction and deduction

   Socrates

   Plato

   Duns Scotus

Bacon (Francis)

Hobbes

Descartes

   Mill

[1c]

[3b]

[5f]

[2e]

[2b]

[1c]

[1g]

 

[7c] Formal similarities in the (independent) sciences but no ultimate common single explanatory principle

   Plato

Descartes

   Comte

[4a]

[1d]

[2b]

 

[8a-e 9c 12a] Explanation of change (all types) matter, privation, and form; substance and change

   Heraclitus

   Parmenides

   Empedocles

   Plato

Plotinus

Aquinas

Bruno

Bacon (Francis)

Ortega y Gasset

   Wittgenstein

   Hempel

[1a]

[1a d]

[1b]

[2a 2a 5a d]

[1n]

[2d]

[1e]

[1d]

[2b]

[3c]

[2a c]

 

[sec. 10 9b] Determinism and freedom; necessity and contingency

   Democritus

Avicenna

Averroes

Aquinas

Ockham

[1e CSa]

[1d 3g]

[2c]

[4a]

[3g]

 

[10a] Rejection of fatalism    Ockham

Brentano

[4e]

[4b]

 

[10b] Some events occur by chance Brentano [4b]

 

[10c; see also 12d] Rejection of 'reductionism'

   Heraclitus

   Empedocles

   Democritus

   Plato

[1g 1i]

[1b]

[2c CSa]

[5c d f]

 

[10d 11a; cf. 9c] Purpose and function (teleology) — man and Nature; freedom of will; actions purposive, individuals have control over actions

Posidonius

Aquinas

Brentano

   Bradley

[1g]

[4a]

[4b]

[7a]

 

[11b] 'Levels'/ types of explanation; compatibility of? mechanism and teleology

Leibniz

   Schelling

[4a]

[1c]

 

[12b] Space, void

   Parmenides

   Zeno

   Democritus

Ockham

Bruno

[1b]

[2a]

[1d]

[3f]

[1g]

 

[12c e] Time eternal (from Prime Mover) and real — characterizing movement and change

   Parmenides

   Empedocles

   Zeno

   Democritus

   Plato

Plotinus

Grosseteste

Wm of Auvergne

Alexander of Hales

Bonaventura

Aquinas

Ockham

Heidegger

[1d]

[1a]

[2a]

[1e]

[5e]

[1k]

[1c]

[1e]

[1e]

[2c]

[3f]

[3f]

[3d]

 

[12d; also 10c] The four 'elements'

   Heraclitus

   Empedocles

   Plato

Plutarch

[1i]

[1b]

[5c d]

[1e]

 

[12d-f]

Self-knowing Prime Mover; cosmos necessarily eternal, (not provable), no creation 'in time' ex nihilo or 'emanation'; (i) first cause argument; (ii) cosmological argument; (iii) argument from gradation of truth; (existence of 'God'; cosmic 'incorporeal beings'; scale of being/ 'spheres')

   Anaxagoras

   Empedocles

   Socrates

   Plato

Plutarch

Plotinus

Augustine

Boethius

Avicenna

   Anselm

Averroes

Maimonides

Grosseteste

Wm of Auvergne

Alexander of Hales

Albert

Bonaventura

Aquinas

Duns Scotus

Ockham

   Nicholas of Cusa

Bacon (Francis)

Hegel

[1a 2a b]

[1a c]

[1a]

[3a 5a-d g]

[1b]

[1c e]

[3a]

[1e]

[1d 3a]

[1b c]

[2d-f]

[1b 2a c 2d f]

[1b]

[1e 1g]

[1e g]

[1b d 1e]

[1b 1c 2c]

[3a 3b e g 3f]

[3a 3e]

[4a c]

[2d]

[1b]

[3d]

 

[12g] Evil as a by-product    Plato

Maimonides

[13a]

[3a]

 

Metaphysics
[4b 7b 13a b] Being as object of metaphysics; God as pure substance; meaning of 'being'; substance as being in primary sense

Boethius

Avicenna

Averroes

Albert

Aquinas

Ockham

Bacon (Francis)

Descartes

Leibniz

   Hegel

   Whitehead

[1b d]

[1a 1e]

[2b]

[1a]

[1b c]

[3a]

[1a d 2d]

[3a]

[2a]

[3a]

[4a]

 

[12e 13a; cf 14a b] 'Essence' and 'existence': distinct but inseparable; the 'existence' of 'God'

Plato

Boethius

Avicenna

Averroes

Maimonides

Bacon (Roger)

Aquinas

Ockham

   Bradley

[1c 2a]

[1c e]

[1c d 3c]

[2a]

[2e]

[1a]

[1d e]

[3a]

[3a]

 

[13c 14a b; also 8d 12c] Matter and form: hylomorphism — of corporeal beings; individual being composed of actuality (form) and potentiality (eternal matter); form as 'essence' substantiality

   Plato

Boethius

Avicenna

Averroes

Wm of Auvergne

Alexander of Hales

Albert

Bacon (Roger)

Bonaventura

Aquinas

Ockham

Bruno

Bacon (Francis)

Leibniz

Hegel

Scheler

Ricoeur

[2c]

[1b]

[1f 3e]

[2f]

[1e]

[1e]

[1h]

[1c]

[4a 4a b]

[1e 2a c]

[3h 5a]

[1e]

[1d]

[2a e]

[3c]

[4c]

[7b]

 

[13c d e 14c; see also 16d e] Forms/ 'essences': 'in things not separate (qua substances, universals)

   Plato

Plotinus

Boethius

Avicenna

Albert

Bonaventura

Aquinas

Ockham

Leibniz

Whitehead

 

[1b c 2 a c 3a 6a]

[1f]

[1i]

[1b]

[1h 1i]

[2a]

[3b 6e]

[1e]

[2e]

[4c]

 

 

  Universals — see Knowledge

 

[13f 7a] Forms — not numbers; mathematical objects immaterial & unchangeable but inseparable from matter

Plato

Plotinus

[1d]

[1g n]

 

[13g] Actual and coincidental being Aquinas [1c]

 

[14a] Individual thing; individuation by matter

   Plato

Avicenna

Albert

Bonaventura

Aquinas

Leibniz

[2b]

[3e 4b]

[1j]

[4g]

[2b]

[2b]

 

The soul
[15a -d] Nature of soul — theories; 'parts'; animates body; rational soul; man as unitary substance

   Pythagoras

   Anaxagoras

   Empedocles

   Democritus

   Plato

Posidonius

Plotinus

Avicenna

Averroes

Wm of Auvergne

Albert

Aquinas

Ockham

Bacon (Francis)

Descartes

Leibniz

Scheler

Hampshire

Putnam

[2b]

[2c]

[3a]

[2c]

[9a c]

[3a]

[2a]

[4a 4b]

[3d]

[2a 2b]

[2a]

[5a d e 6a]

[2e 5a c]

[1a b]

[3d]

[2e]

[4c]

[2a]

[2a]

 

[15d e] Passive and active intellect (nous) — manifestation of divine intellect?; survival of active intellect after death?

   Plato

Plotinus

Avicenna

Averroes

Maimonides

Wm of Auvergne

Alexander of Hales

Albert

Bacon (Roger)

Aquinas

Duns Scotus

Ockham

Bruno

[9b sec. 10]

[2a]

[3e f 4c d]

[2h 3b e]

[2g 4c]

[2c 2d]

[2a]

[1f]

[2a]

[5b 5e 5f]

[4b c]

[5b]

[1j]

 

[15f; also 21a] Choice — reason and desire (volition); faculty

Aquinas

Bruno

Scheler

Ricoeur

[5c]

[1j]

[4c]

[5e]

 

Knowledge
[secs 16 & 17] General rejection of relativism    Protagoras [1b 2a]
  Rejection of Aristotle's claims to knowledge Pyrrho [1a]

 

[13e 16a-c 17a b] Sense perception and acquisition of knowledge; no innate knowledge; the 'common sense'; reception of form; actualizing of potentiality; perception involves judgement

   Empedocles

   Democritus

   Plato

Plotinus

Avicenna

Averroes

Maimonides

Grosseteste

Wm of Auvergne

Bacon (Roger)

Bonaventura

Aquinas

Duns Scotus

Ockham

   Bacon (Francis)

   Hobbes

Descartes

Kant

Brentano

Ortega y Gasset

[2a]

[2a]

[6b 7b e 8a]

[3a]

[5a 5b]

[3c]

[4a]

[1e 2a]

[3b c]

[2b]

[6a b]

[6c d-f 6f]

[5d]

[2a b 2b]

[2a]

[6b]

[2b]

[2d 4a]

[1a b 2c]

[2b]

 

[16a] Knowledge is of being, the universal and essential; knowledge of individuals

Avicenna

Averroes

Bonaventura

Aquinas

Ockham

[5a]

[3a]

[6e]

[6e]

[2b 2d]

 

[16a 17a c 18a 20b] Knowledge versus opinion; 'science' and method

   Plato

Aquinas

   Duns Scotus

Ockham

[6a b 7a-e]

[6b]

[5f]

[2a]

 

[16d e; cf. also 13d 14b c] Universal characteristics and imagination; universal concepts and knowledge; 'abstraction'; 'identity' of thought and object (as 'self-consciousness'); reception of form in 'mode' of recipient (intellect); universal → nous

   Plato

Plotinus

Boethius

Avicenna

Abelard

Averroes

Maimionides

Wm of Auvergne

Alexander of Hales

Albert

Bacon (Roger)

Bonaventura

Aquinas

Duns Scotus

Ockham

Nicholas of Cusa

Hobbes

Brentano

   Husserl

[1b 6a 7e]

[1f 3a]

[1i]

[1b 3f 4c 5a-c]

[2a]

[3c]

[4a b]

[3b c]

[3b]

[3b]

[2c]

[6d e]

[6c-e g]

[5c d]

[1e 2d 2e 3e]

[2g]

[1b]

[3c]

[7h]

 

Ethics
[18a b] Knowledge of the 'good'; no direct intuition or insight; 'good' used in variety of ways

   Protagoras

   Plato

Pyrrho

Aquinas

Mill

   Wittgenstein

[1b 3a]

[4b c 8b 11f]

[2a d]

[8a]

[3a]

[2b]

 

[18c d 22a] 'Well-being' (eudaimonia) and man's function/ activity (rationality); desired as end for its own sake; exhibited in practical and theoretical spheres

   Socrates

   Democritus

   Plato

   Pyrrho

   Epicurus

Philo

Aquinas

Ockham

Mill

   Brentano

   Bradley

Dewey

Ricoeur

Hare

Rawls

Putnam

[2c]

[3a]

[11d f g]

[2c]

[4a]

[4b]

[8a]

[6c d]

[3f]

[4a]

[7b c]

[1b 3d 3b-d 5a]

[8a]

[1f]

[1c]

[1i]

 

[19a 20a-f] Virtue nature and types: intellectual and moral; practical wisdom; reason as guide

   Protagoras

   Socrates

   Plato

Aquinas

Ockham

Dewey

Gadamer

Ricoeur

   Hare

   Habermas

[1a]

[2b]

[11b e 12a 14a]

[8b]

[6c]

[2a]

[1a]

[8c 10e]

[1g]

[4a]

 

[19b] Doctrine of the Mean; moderation and control; circumstances of actions

   Plato

   Epicurus

Cicero

Philo

Plutarch

Maimonides

Aquinas

Ricoeur

[11b]

[4b]

[2d]

[4d]

[3a]

[5a]

[8b]

[8g 9a]

 

[19c] Justice — universal and particular (distributive and 'corrective'); equality

   Protagoras

   Plato

Aquinas

Ricoeur

Rawls

Hampshire

[3a]

[11c 12a 14b]

[10b]

[8g h 9c 10e]

[1b e]

[2b d]

 

[21a; see also 19b] Virtue — acquisition and character formation: 'corresponsibility' of choices and nature; can not be taught directly

   Socrates

   Plato

Aquinas

Dewey

Ricoeur

[2b 2d]

[11a b g]

[8b]

[3a]

[5e 10g]

 

[21b] Weakness of will

   Plato

Aquinas

Davidson

Hare

[9d 13a]

[9a]

[2c]

[1e]

 

[21c] Friendship and self-love

   Butler

   Rousseau

Ricoeur

[1a]

[1b]

[8e f]

 

Political philosophy
[22a-d] The state — nature and function; polity and democracy; man as 'social' being

   Plato

Aquinas

   Spinoza

Shaftesbury

   Bentham

Comte

Dewey

Ricoeur

Rawls

[sec. 14]

[10a c]

[6e]

[1c]

[1g]

[2a d]

[5a]

[8g 10d]

[1d]

 

Aesthetics
[23a 20c] The productive faculty (Techne): art and imitation

   Plato

Aquinas

Gadamer

Heidegger

Ricoeur

[15a]

[11c]

[1c]

[7a]

[6b]

 

[23b] Catharsis and tragic action (drama)

   Plato

Hegel

Schopenhauer

Nietzsche

Gadamer

Heidegger

Ricoeur

[9e 15c]

[8b]

[3d]

[1a]

[1c]

[7a]

[6b 10b]

 

[23c] Beauty of tragic drama: order, definiteness, unity

   Plato

Aquinas

Ricoeur

[15b]

[11b]

[6b]