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We remain equal relative to each other if we do so share in the profits it is claimed , but become unequal if we do not. Again, because of the equality by nature of human beings, if there is no individual in a commonwealth so distinguished in virtue that it would be best to confer kingly authority upon him, then the government which best accords with the nature of the beings who compose a commonwealth would be one in which citizens took turns in ruling and being ruled.

This is clear from his favorable reference to the Antigone of Sophocles and his willingness to contemplate jury nullification in the Rhetoric. In such cases it is not nature that has changed, or the law of nature; nature remains the same, but we have failed to respond adequately to it, through a failure of sensitivity. No precept is purely natural; all precepts are framed with a view to an application to particular circumstances, and for this something arbitrary will be required. But the passage from the Rhetoric, I. The two aspects are related: the way in which a precept most commonly gets dispensed with is by being overruled; thus a precept of the highest authority about a sufficiently plain matter of equality or inequality, one would think, would lack exceptions.

For Instance then, as God himself cannot effect, that twice two should not be four; so neither can he, that what is intrinsically Evil should not be Evil. Some Things are no sooner mentioned than we discover Depravity in them. For as the Being and Essence of Things after they exist, depend not upon any other, so neither do the Properties which necessarily follow that Being and Essence.

Now such is the Evil of some Actions, compared with a Nature guided by right Reason. Therefore God suffers himself to be judged of according to this Rule. They can be found in the Primary Source Documents section of this website. Published by the Witherspoon Institute. Document Archive. Search this site:. As James Harrington wrote: But that we may observe a little farther how the Heathen politicians have written, not only out of nature, but as it were out of Scripture: as in the commonwealth of Israel God is said to have been king; so the commonwealth where the law is king, is said by Aristotle to be the kingdom of God.

In speaking this way, Aristotle supposes that if we wish to know what a human being is, we cannot identify transient or non-universal features of that kind; nor indeed can we identify even universal features which do not run explanatorily deep. Rather, as his preferred locution indicates, he is interested in what makes a human being human—and he assumes, first, that there is some feature F which all and only humans have in common and, second, that F explains the other features which we find across the range of humans.

Importantly, this second feature of Aristotelian essentialism differentiates his approach from the now more common modal approach, according to which: [ 8 ]. Aristotle rejects this approach for several reasons, including most notably that he thinks that certain non-essential features satisfy the definition. Thus, beyond the categorical and logical features everyone is such as to be either identical or not identical with the number nine , Aristotle recognizes a category of properties which he calls idia Cat.

Propria are non-essential properties which flow from the essence of a kind, such that they are necessary to that kind even without being essential. For instance, if we suppose that being rational is essential to human beings, then it will follow that every human being is capable of grammar. Being capable of grammar is not the same property as being rational, though it follows from it. Aristotle assumes his readers will appreciate that being rational asymmetrically explains being capable of grammar , even though, necessarily, something is rational if and only if it is also capable of grammar.

Thus, because it is explanatorily prior, being rational has a better claim to being the essence of human beings than does being capable of grammar. Aristotelian essentialism holds:. Accordingly, this is the feature to be captured in an essence-specifying account of human beings APo 75a42—b2; Met. Aristotle believes for a broad range of cases that kinds have essences discoverable by diligent research.

He in fact does not devote much energy to arguing for this contention; still less is he inclined to expend energy combating anti-realist challenges to essentialism, perhaps in part because he is impressed by the deep regularities he finds, or thinks he finds, underwriting his results in biological investigation. On the contrary, he denies essentialism in many cases where others are prepared to embrace it.

One finds this sort of denial prominently, though not exclusively, in his criticism of Plato. Indeed, it becomes a signature criticism of Plato and Platonists for Aristotle that many of their preferred examples of sameness and invariance in the world are actually cases of multivocity , or homonymy in his technical terminology.

In the opening of the Categories , Aristotle distinguishes between synonymy and homonymy later called univocity and multivocity. All these locutions have a quasi-technical status for him. The least complex is univocity:. In cases of univocity, we expect single, non-disjunctive definitions which capture and state the essence of the kinds in question.

Let us allow once more for purposes of illustration that the essence-specifying definition of human is rational animal. Then, since human means rational animal across the range of its applications, there is some single essence to all members of the kind. Very regularly, according to Aristotle, this sort of reflection leads to an interesting discovery, namely that we have been presuming a univocal account where in fact none is forthcoming. This, according to Aristotle, is where the Platonists go wrong: they presume univocity where the world delivers homonymy or multivocity.

In one especially important example, Aristotle parts company with Plato over the univocity of goodness:. Rather, goodness is different in different cases. Consider the following sentences:. Among the tests for non-univocity recommended in the Topics is a simple paraphrase test: if paraphrases yield distinct, non-interchangeable accounts, then the predicate is multivocal. So, for example, suitable paraphrases might be:. If that is correct, then Platonists are wrong to assume univocity in this case, since goodness exhibits complexity ignored by their assumption.

Importantly, just as Aristotle sees a positive as well as a negative role for dialectic in philosophy, so he envisages in addition to its destructive applications a philosophically constructive role for homonymy. To appreciate his basic idea, it serves to reflect upon a continuum of positions in philosophical analysis ranging from pure Platonic univocity to disaggregated Wittgensteinean family resemblance.

One might in the face of a successful challenge to Platonic univocity assume that, for instance, the various cases of goodness have nothing in common across all cases, so that good things form at best a motley kind, of the sort championed by Wittgensteineans enamored of the metaphor of family resemblances: all good things belong to a kind only in the limited sense that they manifest a tapestry of partially overlapping properties, as every member of a single family is unmistakably a member of that family even though there is no one physical attribute shared by all of those family members.

Aristotle insists that there is a tertium quid between family resemblance and pure univocity: he identifies, and trumpets, a kind of core-dependent homonymy also referred to in the literature, with varying degrees of accuracy, as focal meaning and focal connexion.

Aristotle assumes that his readers will immediately appreciate two features of these three predications of healthy. First, they are non-univocal, since the second is paraphraseable roughly as promotes health and the third as is indicative of health , whereas the first means, rather, something more fundamental, like is sound of body or is functioning well.

Hence, healthy is non-univocal. Second, even so, the last two predications rely upon the first for their elucidations: each appeals to health in its core sense in an asymmetrical way. That is, any account of each of the latter two predications must allude to the first, whereas an account of the first makes no reference to the second or third in its account. So, suggests Aristotle, health is not only a homonym, but a core-dependent homonym : while not univocal neither is it a case of rank multivocity. So, he is right that these are not exhaustive options. The interest in this sort of result resides in its exportability to richer, if more abstract philosophical concepts.

Aristotle appeals to homonymy frequently, across a full range of philosophical concepts including justice , causation , love , life , sameness , goodness , and body. His most celebrated appeal to core-dependent homonymy comes in the case of a concept so highly abstract that it is difficult to gauge his success without extended metaphysical reflection.

Aristotle’s Early Life

This is his appeal to the core-dependent homonymy of being , which has inspired both philosophical and scholarly controversy. One motivation for his reasoning this way may be that he regards the notion of a genus as ineliminably taxonomical and contrastive, [ 12 ] so that it makes ready sense to speak of a genus of being only if one can equally well speak of a genus of non-being—just as among living beings one can speak of the animals and the non-animals, viz. Since there are no non-beings, there accordingly can be no genus of non-being, and so, ultimately, no genus of being either.

Consequently, since each science studies one essential kind arrayed under a single genus, there can be no science of being either. Subsequently, without expressly reversing his judgment about the existence of a science of being, Aristotle announces that there is nonetheless a science of being qua being Met. Although the matter is disputed, his recognition of this science evidently turns crucially on his commitment to the core-dependent homonymy of being itself. Of course, the last three items on this list are rather awkward locutions, but this is because they strive to make explicit that we can speak of dependent beings as existing if we wish to do so—but only because of their dependence upon the core instance of being, namely substance.

Aristotle Politics Book 1

So, exists in the first instance serves as the core instance of being, in terms of which the others are to be explicated. If this is correct, then, implies Aristotle, being is a core-dependent homonym; further, a science of being becomes possible, even though there is no genus of being, since it is finally possible to study all beings insofar as they are related to the core instance of being, and then also to study that core instance, namely substance, insofar as it serves as the prime occasion of being.

In speaking of beings which depend upon substance for their existence, Aristotle implicitly appeals to a foundational philosophical commitment which appears early in his thought and remains stable throughout his entire philosophical career: his theory of categories. In what is usually regarded as an early work, The Categories , Aristotle rather abruptly announces:.

Aristotle does little to frame his theory of categories, offering no explicit derivation of it, nor even specifying overtly what his theory of categories categorizes. If librarians categorize books and botanists categorize plants, then what does the philosophical category theorist categorize? Aristotle does not say explicitly, but his examples make reasonably clear that he means to categorize the basic kinds of beings there may be.

If that is correct, the entities categorized by the categories are the sorts of basic beings that fall below the level of truth-makers, or facts. The constituents of facts contribute to facts as the semantically relevant parts of a proposition contribute to its having the truth conditions it has. If it is a fact that Socrates is pale , then the basic beings in view are Socrates and being pale. Importantly, these beings may be basic without being absolutely simple.

After all, Socrates is made up of all manner of parts—arms and legs, organs and bones, molecules and atoms, and so on down. The theory of categories in total recognizes ten sorts of extra-linguistic basic beings:. Although he does not say so overtly in the Categories , Aristotle evidently presumes that these ten categories of being are both exhaustive and irreducible, so that while there are no other basic beings, it is not possible to eliminate any one of these categories in favor of another.

Both claims have come in for criticism, and each surely requires defense. Nor, indeed, does he offer any principled grounding for just these categories of being, a circumstance which has left him open to further criticism from later philosophers, including famously Kant who, after lauding Aristotle for coming up with the idea of category theory, proceeds to excoriate him for selecting his particular categories on no principled basis whatsoever. Philosophers and scholars both before and after Kant have sought to provide the needed grounding, whereas Aristotle himself mainly tends to justify the theory of categories by putting it to work in his various philosophical investigations.

These may be revisited briefly to illustrate how Aristotle thinks that his doctrine of categories provides philosophical guidance where it is most needed. Thinking first of time and its various puzzles, or aporiai , we saw that Aristotle poses a simple question: does time exist? He answers this question in the affirmative, but only because in the end he treats it as a categorically circumscribed question. By offering this definition, Aristotle is able to advance the judgment that time does exist, because it is an entity in the category of quantity: time is to motion or change as length is to a line.

Time thus exists, but like all items in any non-substance category, it exists in a dependent sort of way. Just as if there were no lines there would be no length, so if there were no change there would be no time. A question as to whether, e. This helps explain why Aristotle thinks it appropriate to deploy his apparatus of core-dependent homonymy in the case of being. If we ask whether qualities or quantities exist, Aristotle will answer in the affirmative, but then point out also that as dependent entities they do not exist in the independent manner of substances.

Thus, even in the relatively rarified case of being , the theory of categories provides a reason for uncovering core-dependent homonymy. Since all other categories of being depend upon substance, it should be the case that an analysis of any one of them will ultimately make asymmetrical reference to substance. Aristotle contends in his Categories , relying on a distinction that tracks essential said-of and accidental in predication, that:. If this is so, then, Aristotle infers, all the non-substance categories rely upon substance as the core of their being.

So, he concludes, being qualifies as a case of core-dependent homonymy. Be that as it may, if we allow its non-univocity, then, according to Aristotle, the apparatus of the categories provides ample reason to conclude that being qualifies as a philosophically significant instance of core-dependent homonymy.

Indeed, the theory of categories spans his entire career and serves as a kind of scaffolding for much of his philosophical theorizing, ranging from metaphysics and philosophy of nature to psychology and value theory. Judged in terms of its influence, this doctrine is surely one of his most significant philosophical contributions. Like other philosophers, Aristotle expects the explanations he seeks in philosophy and science to meet certain criteria of adequacy. Unlike some other philosophers, however, he takes care to state his criteria for adequacy explicitly; then, having done so, he finds frequent fault with his predecessors for failing to meet its terms.

He states his scheme in a methodological passage in the second book of his Physics :. One way in which cause is spoken of is that out of which a thing comes to be and which persists, e.

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In another way cause is spoken of as the form or the pattern, i. Further, the primary source of the change and rest is spoken of as a cause, e. Further, the end telos is spoken of as a cause. This is that for the sake of which hou heneka a thing is done, e. A bronze statue admits of various different dimensions of explanation. If we were to confront a statue without first recognizing what it was, we would, thinks Aristotle, spontaneously ask a series of questions about it.

We would wish to know what it is, what it is made of , what brought it about , and what it is for. According to Aristotle, when we have identified these four causes, we have satisfied a reasonable demand for explanatory adequacy. More fully, the four-causal account of explanatory adequacy requires an investigator to cite these four causes:.

In Physics ii 3, Aristotle makes twin claims about this four-causal schema: i that citing all four causes is necessary for adequacy in explanation; and ii that these four causes are sufficient for adequacy in explanation. Each of these claims requires some elaboration and also some qualification. As for the necessity claim, Aristotle does not suppose that all phenomena admit of all four causes. Thus, for example, coincidences lack final causes, since they do not occur for the sake of anything; that is, after all, what makes them coincidences. If a debtor is on his way to the market to buy milk and she runs into her creditor, who is on his way to the same market to buy bread, then she may agree to pay the money owed immediately.

Although resulting in a wanted outcome, their meeting was not for the sake of settling the debt; nor indeed was it for the sake of anything at all. It was a simple co-incidence. Hence, it lacks a final cause. Similarly, if we think that there are mathematical or geometrical abstractions, for instance a triangle existing as an object of thought independent of any material realization, then the triangle will trivially lack a material cause. In non-exceptional cases, a failure to specify all four of causes, is, he maintains, a failure in explanatory adequacy. The sufficiency claim is exceptionless, though it may yet be misleading if one pertinent issue is left unremarked.

By this he means the types of metal to which silver and bronze belong, or more generally still, simply metal. That is, one might specify the material cause of a statue more or less proximately, by specifying the character of the matter more or less precisely. Hence, when he implies that citing all four causes is sufficient for explanation, Aristotle does not intend to suggest that a citation at any level of generality suffices.

He means to insist rather that there is no fifth kind of cause, that his preferred four cases subsume all kinds of cause. He does not argue for this conclusion fully, though he does challenge his readers to identify a kind of cause which qualifies as a sort distinct from the four mentioned Phys.

He does not rest content there, however. Instead, he thinks he can argue forcefully for the four causes as real explanatory factors, that is, as features which must be cited not merely because they make for satisfying explanations, but because they are genuinely operative causal factors, the omission of which renders any putative explanation objectively incomplete and so inadequate. Because he thinks that the four aitia feature in answers to knowledge-seeking questions Phys.

Generally, Aristotle does not respect these sorts of commitments. Thus, to the extent that they are defensible, his approach to aitia may be regarded as blurring the canons of causation and explanation. It should certainly not, however, be ceded up front that Aristotle is guilty of any such conflation, or even that scholars who render his account of the four aitia in causal terms have failed to come to grips with developments in causal theory in the wake of Hume.

For more on the four causes in general, see the entry on Aristotle on Causality. Together, they constitute one of his most fundamental philosophical commitments, to hylomorphism :. In general, we may focus on artefacts and familiar living beings. Hylomorphism holds that no such object is metaphysically simple, but rather comprises two distinct metaphysical elements, one formal and one material.

Among the endoxa confronting Aristotle in his Physics are some striking challenges to the coherence of the very notion of change, owing to Parmenides and Zeno. Thus, when Socrates goes to the beach and comes away sun-tanned, something continues to exist, namely Socrates, even while something is lost, his pallor, and something else gained, his tan. If he gains weight, then again something remains, Socrates, and something is gained, in this case a quantity of matter.

Accordingly, in this instance we have not a qualitative but a quantitative change.


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In general, argues Aristotle, in whatever category a change occurs, something is lost and something gained within that category, even while something else, a substance, remains in existence, as the subject of that change. Of course, substances can come into or go out of existence, in cases of generation or destruction; and these are changes in the category of substance. Evidently even in cases of change in this category, however, something persists. To take an example favourable to Aristotle, in the case of the generation of a statue, the bronze persists, but it comes to acquire a new form, a substantial rather than accidental form.

In all cases, whether substantial or accidental, the two-factor analysis obtains: something remains the same and something is gained or lost. In its most rudimentary formulation, hylomorphism simply labels each of the two factors: what remains is matter and what is gained is form. Importantly, matter and form come to be paired with another fundamental distinction, that between potentiality and actuality. Again in the case of the generation of a statue, we may say that the bronze is potentially a statue, but that it is an actual statue when and only when it is informed with the form of a statue.

Of course, before being made into a statue, the bronze was also in potentiality a fair number of other artefacts—a cannon, a steam-engine, or a goal on a football pitch. Still, it was not in potentiality butter or a beach ball. This shows that potentiality is not the same as possibility: to say that x is potentially F is to say that x already has actual features in virtue of which it might be made to be F by the imposition of a F form upon it.

So, given these various connections, it becomes possible to define form and matter generically as. Of course, these definitions are circular, but that is not in itself a problem: actuality and potentiality are, for Aristotle, fundamental concepts which admit of explication and description but do not admit of reductive analyses. The second premise is a phainomenon ; so, if that is accepted without further defense, only the first requires justification. The first premise is justified by the thought that since there is no generation ex nihilo , in every instance of change something persists while something else is gained or lost.

In substantial generation or destruction, a substantial form is gained or lost; in mere accidental change, the form gained or lost is itself accidental. Since these two ways of changing exhaust the kinds of change there are, in every instance of change there are two factors present. These are matter and form. For these reasons, Aristotle intends his hylomorphism to be much more than a simple explanatory heuristic. On the contrary, he maintains, matter and form are mind-independent features of the world and must, therefore, be mentioned in any full explanation of its workings. We may mainly pass over as uncontroversial the suggestion that there are efficient causes in favor of the most controversial and difficult of Aristotle four causes, the final cause.

Since what is potential is always in potentiality relative to some range of actualities, and nothing becomes actual of its own accord—no pile of bricks, for instance, spontaneously organizes itself into a house or a wall—an actually operative agent is required for every instance of change. This is the efficient cause.

These sorts of considerations also incline Aristotle to speak of the priority of actuality over potentiality: potentialities are made actual by actualities, and indeed are always potentialities for some actuality or other. The operation of some actuality upon some potentiality is an instance of efficient causation. By contrast, most think that Aristotle does need to provide a defense of final causation.

It is natural and easy for us to recognize final causal activity in the products of human craft: computers and can-openers are devices dedicated to the execution of certain tasks, and both their formal and material features will be explained by appeal to their functions. Nor is it a mystery where artefacts obtain their functions: we give them their functions. The ends of artefacts are the results of the designing activities of intentional agents. Aristotle recognizes these kinds of final causation, but also, and more problematically, envisages a much greater role for teleology in natural explanation: nature exhibits teleology without design.

He thinks, for instance, that living organisms not only have parts which require teleological explanation—that, for instance, kidneys are for purifying the blood and teeth are for tearing and chewing food—but that whole organisms, human beings and other animals, also have final causes. Crucially, Aristotle denies overtly that the causes operative in nature are intention-dependent.

He thinks, that is, that organisms have final causes, but that they did not come to have them by dint of the designing activities of some intentional agent or other. Although he has been persistently criticized for his commitment to such natural ends, Aristotle is not susceptible to a fair number of the objections standardly made to his view. Indeed, it is evident that whatever the merits of the most penetrating of such criticisms, much of the contumely directed at Aristotle is stunningly illiterate.

Aristotle’s Early Life

To anyone who has actually read Aristotle, it is unsurprising that this ascription comes without an accompanying textual citation. For Aristotle, as Skinner would portray him, rocks are conscious beings having end states which they so delight in procuring that they accelerate themselves in exaltation as they grow ever closer to attaining them. In fact, Aristotle offers two sorts of defenses of non-intentional teleology in nature, the first of which is replete with difficulty. He claims in Physics ii The argument here, which has been variously formulated by scholars, [ 21 ] seems doubly problematic.

In this argument Aristotle seems to introduce as a phainomenon that nature exhibits regularity, so that the parts of nature come about in patterned and regular ways. Thus, for instance, humans tend to have teeth arranged in a predictable sort of way, with incisors in the front and molars in the back. Hence, he concludes, whatever happens always or for the most part must happen for the sake of something, and so must admit of a teleological cause. Thus, teeth show up always or for the most part with incisors in the front and molars in the back; since this is a regular and predictable occurrence, it cannot be due to chance.

Given that whatever is not due to chance has a final cause, teeth have a final cause. The argument is problematic in the first instance because it assumes an exhaustive and exclusive disjunction between what is by chance and what is for the sake of something. But there are obviously other possibilities. Hearts beat not in order to make noise, but they do so always and not by chance. Second, and this is perplexing if we have represented him correctly, Aristotle is himself aware of one sort of counterexample to this view and is indeed keen to point it out himself: although, he insists, bile is regularly and predictably yellow, its being yellow is neither due simply to chance nor for the sake of anything.

Aristotle in fact mentions many such counterexamples Part. It seems to follow, then, short of ascribing a straight contradiction to him, either that he is not correctly represented as we have interpreted this argument or that he simply changed his mind about the grounds of teleology. Taking up the first alternative, one possibility is that Aristotle is not really trying to argue for teleology from the ground up in Physics ii 8, but is taking it as already established that there are teleological causes, and restricting himself to observing that many natural phenomena, namely those which occur always or for the most part, are good candidates for admitting of teleological explanation.

That would leave open the possibility of a broader sort of motivation for teleology, perhaps of the sort Aristotle offers elsewhere in the Physics , when speaking about the impulse to find non-intention-dependent teleological causes at work in nature:. As Aristotle quite rightly observes in this passage, we find ourselves regularly and easily speaking in teleological terms when characterizing non-human animals and plants.

It is consistent with our so speaking, of course, that all of our easy language in these contexts is lax and careless, because unwarrantedly anthropocentric. We might yet demand that all such language be assiduously reduced to some non-teleological idiom when we are being scientifically strict and empirically serious, though we would first need to survey the explanatory costs and benefits of our attempting to do so.

Aristotle considers and rejects some views hostile to teleology in Physics ii 8 and Generation and Corruption i. Once Aristotle has his four-causal explanatory schema fully on the scene, he relies upon it in virtually all of his most advanced philosophical investigation. As he deploys it in various frameworks, we find him augmenting and refining the schema even as he applies it, sometimes with surprising results.

One important question concerns how his hylomorphism intersects with the theory of substance advanced in the context of his theory of categories. As we have seen, Aristotle insists upon the primacy of primary substance in his Categories. According to that work, however, star instances of primary substance are familiar living beings like Socrates or an individual horse Cat. Yet with the advent of hylomorphism, these primary substances are revealed to be metaphysical complexes: Socrates is a compound of matter and form. So, now we have not one but three potential candidates for primary substance: form, matter, and the compound of matter and form.

The question thus arises: which among them is the primary substance? Is it the matter, the form, or the compound? The compound corresponds to a basic object of experience and seems to be a basic subject of predication: we say that Socrates lives in Athens, not that his matter lives in Athens. Still, matter underlies the compound and in this way seems a more basic subject than the compound, at least in the sense that it can exist before and after it does. On the other hand, the matter is nothing definite at all until enformed; so, perhaps form, as determining what the compound is, has the best claim on substantiality.

In the middle books of his Metaphysics , which contain some of his most complex and engaging investigations into basic being, Aristotle settles on form Met. He expects a substance to be, as he says, some particular thing tode ti , but also to be something knowable, some essence or other. These criteria seem to pull in different directions, the first in favor of particular substances, as the primary substances of the Categories had been particulars, and the second in favor of universals as substances, because they alone are knowable.

Plato and Aristotle on Women: Selected Quotes

In the lively controversy surrounding these matters, many scholars have concluded that Aristotle adopts a third way forward: form is both knowable and particular. This matter, however, remains very acutely disputed. Very briefly, and not engaging these controversies, it becomes clear that Aristotle prefers form in virtue of its role in generation and diachronic persistence.

When a statue is generated, or when a new animal comes into being, something persists, namely the matter, which comes to realize the substantial form in question. Even so, insists Aristotle, the matter does not by itself provide the identity conditions for the new substance.

First, as we have seen, the matter is merely potentially some F until such time as it is made actually F by the presence of an F form. Further, the matter can be replenished, and is replenished in the case of all organisms, and so seems to be form-dependent for its own diachronic identity conditions. For these reasons, Aristotle thinks of the form as prior to the matter, and thus more fundamental than the matter. This sort of matter, the form-dependent matter, Aristotle regards as proximate matter Met. Further, in Metaphysics vii 17 Aristotle offers a suggestive argument to the effect that matter alone cannot be substance.

Let the various bits of matter belonging to Socrates be labeled as a , b , c , …, n. Consistent with the non-existence of Socrates is the existence of a , b , c , …, n , since these elements exist when they are spread from here to Alpha Centauri, but if that happens, of course, Socrates no longer exists.

Heading in the other direction, Socrates can exist without just these elements, since he may exist when some one of a , b , c , …, n is replaced or goes out of existence. So, in addition to his material elements, insists Aristotle, Socrates is also something else, something more heteron ti ; Met. Hence, concludes Aristotle, as the source of being and unity, form is substance. Even if this much is granted—and to repeat, much of what has just been said is unavoidably controversial—many questions remain. For example, is form best understood as universal or particular? However that issue is to be resolved, what is the relation of form to the compound and to matter?

If form is substance, then what is the fate of these other two candidates? Are they also substances, if to a lesser degree? It seems odd to conclude that they are nothing at all, or that the compound in particular is nothing in actuality; yet it is difficult to contend that they might belong to some category other than substance. DA a13, a20—6; De Part. It is appropriate, then, to treat all ensouled bodies in hylomorphic terms:. Further, the soul, as the end of the compound organism, is also the final cause of the body. Minimally, this is to be understood as the view that any given body is the body that it is because it is organized around a function which serves to unify the entire organism.

Aristotle contends that his hylomorphism provides an attractive middle way between what he sees as the mirroring excesses of his predecessors. In one direction, he means to reject Presocratic kinds of materialism; in the other, he opposes Platonic dualism. He gives the Presocratics credit for identifying the material causes of life, but then faults them for failing to grasp its formal cause.

By contrast, Plato earns praise for grasping the formal cause of life; unfortunately, he then proceeds to neglect the material cause, and comes to believe that the soul can exist without its material basis. In his view, to account for living organisms, one must attend to both matter and form. Aristotle deploys hylomorphic analyses not only to the whole organism, but to the individual faculties of the soul as well. With each of these extensions, Aristotle both expands and taxes his basic hylomorphism, sometimes straining its basic framework almost beyond recognition.

He takes it as given that most people wish to lead good lives; the question then becomes what the best life for human beings consists in.


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  • Because he believes that the best life for a human being is not a matter of subjective preference, he also believes that people can and, sadly, often do choose to lead sub-optimal lives. In order to avoid such unhappy eventualities, Aristotle recommends reflection on the criteria any successful candidate for the best life must satisfy. He proceeds to propose one kind of life as meeting those criteria uniquely and therefore promotes it as the superior form of human life.

    This is a life lived in accordance with reason. When stating the general criteria for the final good for human beings, Aristotle invites his readers to review them EN a22— This is advisable, since much of the work of sorting through candidate lives is in fact accomplished during the higher-order task of determining the criteria appropriate to this task. Once these are set, it becomes relatively straightforward for Aristotle to dismiss some contenders, including for instance the life of pleasure.

    Plainly some candidates for the best life fall down in the face of these criteria. According to Aristotle, neither the life of pleasure nor the life of honour satisfies them all. What does satisfy them all is happiness eudaimonia. Still, as Aristotle frankly acknowledges, people will consent without hesitation to the suggestion that happiness is our best good—even while differing materially about how they understand what happiness is. So, while seeming to agree, people in fact disagree about the human good. Consequently, it is necessary to reflect on the nature of happiness eudaimonia :.

    In determining what eudaimonia consists in, Aristotle makes a crucial appeal to the human function ergon , and thus to his overarching teleological framework. He thinks that he can identify the human function in terms of reason, which then provides ample grounds for characterizing the happy life as involving centrally the exercise of reason, whether practical or theoretical. Happiness turns out to be an activity of the rational soul, conducted in accordance with virtue or excellence, or, in what comes to the same thing, in rational activity executed excellently EN a— Strikingly, first, he insists that the good life is a life of activity; no state suffices, since we are commended and praised for living good lives, and we are rightly commended or praised only for things we do EN b20—a Further, given that we must not only act, but act excellently or virtuously, it falls to the ethical theorist to determine what virtue or excellence consists in with respect to the individual human virtues, including, for instance, courage and practical intelligence.

    Aristotle concludes his discussion of human happiness in his Nicomachean Ethics by introducing political theory as a continuation and completion of ethical theory. Ethical theory characterizes the best form of human life; political theory characterizes the forms of social organization best suited to its realization EN b12— The basic political unit for Aristotle is the polis , which is both a state in the sense of being an authority-wielding monopoly and a civil society in the sense of being a series of organized communities with varying degrees of converging interest.

    Rather, he advances a form of political naturalism which treats human beings as by nature political animals, not only in the weak sense of being gregariously disposed, nor even in the sense of their merely benefiting from mutual commercial exchange, but in the strong sense of their flourishing as human beings at all only within the framework of an organized polis. The polis is thus to be judged against the goal of promoting human happiness.

    A superior form of political organization enhances human life; an inferior form hampers and hinders it.

    Aristotle: Politics

    Aristotle considers a fair number of differing forms of political organization, and sets most aside as inimical to the goal human happiness. For example, given his overarching framework, he has no difficulty rejecting contractarianism on the grounds that it treats as merely instrumental those forms of political activity which are in fact partially constitutive of human flourishing Pol.

    In thinking about the possible kinds of political organization, Aristotle relies on the structural observations that rulers may be one, few, or many, and that their forms of rule may be legitimate or illegitimate, as measured against the goal of promoting human flourishing Pol. Taken together, these factors yield six possible forms of government, three correct and three deviant:.

    The correct are differentiated from the deviant by their relative abilities to realize the basic function of the polis : living well. Given that we prize human happiness, we should, insists Aristotle, prefer forms of political association best suited to this goal. Necessary to the end of enhancing human flourishing, maintains Aristotle, is the maintenance of a suitable level of distributive justice. Accordingly, he arrives at his classification of better and worse governments partly by considerations of distributive justice.

    He contends, in a manner directly analogous to his attitude towards eudaimonia , that everyone will find it easy to agree to the proposition that we should prefer a just state to an unjust state, and even to the formal proposal that the distribution of justice requires treating equal claims similarly and unequal claims dissimilarly. Still, here too people will differ about what constitutes an equal or an unequal claim or, more generally, an equal or an unequal person.

    A democrat will presume that all citizens are equal, whereas an aristocrat will maintain that the best citizens are, quite obviously, superior to the inferior. Accordingly, the democrat will expect the formal constraint of justice to yield equal distribution to all, whereas the aristocrat will take for granted that the best citizens are entitled to more than the worst. When sorting through these claims, Aristotle relies upon his own account of distributive justice, as advanced in Nicomachean Ethics v 3.

    That account is deeply meritocratic. He accordingly disparages oligarchs, who suppose that justice requires preferential claims for the rich, but also democrats, who contend that the state must boost liberty across all citizens irrespective of merit. The best polis has neither function: its goal is to enhance human flourishing, an end to which liberty is at best instrumental, and not something to be pursued for its own sake.

    Still, we should also proceed with a sober eye on what is in fact possible for human beings, given our deep and abiding acquisitional propensities. Given these tendencies, it turns out that although deviant, democracy may yet play a central role in the sort of mixed constitution which emerges as the best form of political organization available to us. Inferior though it is to polity that is, rule by the many serving the goal of human flourishing , and especially to aristocracy government by the best humans, the aristoi , also dedicated to the goal of human flourishing , democracy, as the best amongst the deviant forms of government, may also be the most we can realistically hope to achieve.

    Aristotle regards rhetoric and the arts as belonging to the productive sciences. As a family, these differ from the practical sciences of ethics and politics, which concern human conduct, and from the theoretical sciences, which aim at truth for its own sake. Because they are concerned with the creation of human products broadly conceived, the productive sciences include activities with obvious, artefactual products like ships and buildings, but also agriculture and medicine, and even, more nebulously, rhetoric, which aims at the production of persuasive speech Rhet.

    If we bear in mind that Aristotle approaches all these activities within the broader context of his teleological explanatory framework, then at least some of the highly polemicized interpretative difficulties which have grown up around his works in this area, particularly the Poetics , may be sharply delimited. To some extent—but only to some extent—it may seem that he does. There are, at any rate, clearly prescriptive elements in both these texts.

    Still, he does not arrive at these recommendations a priori. Rather, it is plain that Aristotle has collected the best works of forensic speech and tragedy available to him, and has studied them to discern their more and less successful features. In proceeding in this way, he aims to capture and codify what is best in both rhetorical practice and tragedy, in each case relative to its appropriate productive goal.

    The general goal of rhetoric is clear. Different contexts, however, require different techniques. Thus, suggests Aristotle, speakers will usually find themselves in one of three contexts where persuasion is paramount: deliberative Rhet. In each of these contexts, speakers will have at their disposal three main avenues of persuasion: the character of the speaker, the emotional constitution of the audience, and the general argument logos of the speech itself Rhet.

    Rhetoric thus examines techniques of persuasion pursuant to each of these areas. When discussing these techniques, Aristotle draws heavily upon topics treated in his logical, ethical, and psychological writings. Accordingly, rhetoric, again like dialectic, begins with credible opinions endoxa , though mainly of the popular variety rather than those endorsed most readily by the wise Top.

    Finally, rhetoric proceeds from such opinions to conclusions which the audience will understand to follow by cogent patterns of inference Rhet. For this reason, too, the rhetorician will do well understand the patterns of human reasoning. By highlighting and refining techniques for successful speech, the Rhetoric is plainly prescriptive—but only relative to the goal of persuasion.

    It does not, however, select its own goal or in any way dictate the end of persuasive speech: rather, the end of rhetoric is given by the nature of the craft itself. The same holds true of the Poetics , but in this case the end is not easily or uncontroversially articulated. It is often assumed that the goal of tragedy is catharsis —the purification or purgation of the emotions aroused in a tragic performance. Despite its prevalence, as an interpretation of what Aristotle actually says in the Poetics this understanding is underdetermined at best. When defining tragedy in a general way, Aristotle claims:.

    Although he has been represented in countless works of scholarship as contending that tragedy is for the sake of catharsis , Aristotle is in fact far more circumspect.


    • Political theory.
    • Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants.
    • Bright Orange for the Shroud (Travis McGee, Book 6).
    • Presuppositions of Aristotle's Politics;
    • While he does contend that tragedy will effect or accomplish catharsis, in so speaking he does not use language which clearly implies that catharsis is in itself the function of tragedy. Although a good blender will achieve a blade speed of 36, rotations per minute, this is not its function; rather, it achieves this speed in service of its function, namely blending.

      Similarly, then, on one approach, tragedy achieves catharsis, though not because it is its function to do so. Unfortunately, Aristotle is not completely forthcoming on the question of the function of tragedy. One clue towards his attitude comes from a passage in which he differentiates tragedy from historical writing:. In characterizing poetry as more philosophical, universal, and momentous than history, Aristotle praises poets for their ability to assay deep features of human character, to dissect the ways in which human fortune engages and tests character, and to display how human foibles may be amplified in uncommon circumstances.

      We do not, however, reflect on character primarily for entertainment value. By varying just these three possibilities, scholars have produced a variety of interpretations—that it is the actors or even the plot of the tragedy which are the subjects of catharsis, that the purification is cognitive or structural rather than emotional, and that catharsis is purification rather than purgation. On this last contrast, just as we might purify blood by filtering it, rather than purging the body of blood by letting it, so we might refine our emotions, by cleansing them of their more unhealthy elements, rather than ridding ourselves of the emotions by purging them altogether.

      The difference is considerable, since on one view the emotions are regarded as in themselves destructive and so to be purged, while on the other, the emotions may be perfectly healthy, even though, like other psychological states, they may be improved by refinement.