Aristotles Teaching in the Politics

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Plato and Aristotle on Women: Selected Quotes

The surviving works of Aristotle are grouped into four categories. For example, all men are mortal, all Greeks are men, therefore all Greeks are mortal. He also broke rhetoric into types of speeches: epideictic ceremonial , forensic judicial and deliberative where the audience is required to reach a verdict. Aristotle takes a different approach, analyzing the purpose of poetry. He argues that creative endeavors like poetry and theater provides catharsis, or the beneficial purging of emotions through art.

After the death of Alexander the Great in B. He died a little north of the city in , of a digestive complaint. He asked to be buried next to his wife, who had died some years before. In his last years he had a relationship with his slave Herpyllis, who bore him Nicomachus, the son for whom his great ethical treatise is named.

The historian Strabo says they were stored for centuries in a moldy cellar in Asia Minor before their rediscovery in the first century B. In 30 B. In the 13th century, Aristotle was reintroduced to the West through the work of Albertus Magnus and especially Thomas Aquinas, whose brilliant synthesis of Aristotelian and Christian thought provided a bedrock for late medieval Catholic philosophy, theology and science. Scientists like Galileo and Copernicus disproved his geocentric model of the solar system, while anatomists such as William Harvey dismantled many of his biological theories.

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Subscribe for fascinating stories connecting the past to the present. Viewed by many as the founding figure of Western philosophy, Socrates B. The Athenian philosopher Plato c. In his written dialogues he conveyed and expanded on the ideas and techniques of his teacher Socrates. The Academy he The so-called golden age of Athenian culture flourished under the leadership of Pericles B. Pericles transformed his One of the greatest ancient historians, Thucydides c.

Aristotle’s Teaching in the “Politics” by Thomas Pangle

The warrior Achilles is one of the great heroes of Greek mythology. In around B. Most of all, Pericles paid artisans to build temples Greek philosophy and rhetoric moved fully into Latin for the first time in the speeches, letters and dialogues of Cicero B. A brilliant lawyer and the first of his family to achieve Roman office, Cicero was one of the 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.

Aristotle’s Early Life

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.

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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. 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.

PHILOSOPHY - Aristotle

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.


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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.

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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.

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Aristotle - Wikipedia

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. 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.


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  • 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.

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