Aristotles Catfish_ Silurus aristotelis by lifemate


									  Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle

              Prof.Rose Cherubin
            Department of Philosophy
            George Mason University
              “Homegrown” Philosophy in Athens

• Socrates (469-399 BCE)
   – left no writings, but served as an informal teacher and mentor to Plato,
     Alcibiades, and Xenophon, among others (and as a formal and informal
     nuisance to most of Athens)
• Plato (427-347)
   – wrote dialogues, of which about 3 dozen survive.
   – Many of these feature a character named after and based on Socrates.
   – Plato founded a school known as the Academy.
• Aristotle (384-322)
   – came to Athens in 367 from Stagira in Thrace (northern Greece) to
     study with Plato.
   – Some years after Plato‟s death, A. founded his own school in Athens,
     the Lyceum.
   – Aristotle wrote treatises on an even wider variety of topics than Plato,
     including physics, biology, logic, psychology, ethics, and more.

• What we know of Socrates comes mainly from his
  portrayals in Plato, Xenophon, and Aristophanes.
• Common elements in all 3 portrayals:
   – Socrates went around asking people questions in a systematic
     and sustained way;
   – These questions often had a what-is form (What is justice? What
     is piety? etc.);
   – Socrates‟ method involved demonstrating contradictions in his
     respondents‟ claims;
   – The Athenians‟ responses to the questions showed that they did
     not know what they thought they knew;
   – Socrates was especially committed to showing influential people
     that they were espousing contradictory or incoherent things.
           What did Socrates actually say?

• The short answer is: We don‟t know.
• He may well have said that he was wiser than other
  Athenians in so far as he recognized where he was
  ignorant, and tried to remedy these lacks – and also tried
  to search out further previously unnoticed areas of
• He seems to have looked for explanations and
  arguments as the appropriate ways to justify
  actions, suggesting that he was implicitly proposing a
  basis for right and authority other than “might makes
  right.” This basis would be truth, or a commitment to
  finding it.

• All surviving work is in dialogue form.
• Why might Plato have used this form?
• Effects:
  – Is Plato trying to espouse a certain set of
    ideas, and if so, which characters voice it?
    (Problems beset several proposals.)
  – If not, what does the dialogue form give the

• Well-known and influential ideas:
  – The Platonic Forms or Ideas
  – The “Socratic Method” (apparently based on
    something Socrates did, but further developed and
    portrayed in writing by Plato)
  – “platonic love”
  – intellectual, political, and social equality of the sexes
                   Plato: The “Forms”

• There is no single “theory of Forms” or “doctrine of
  Forms” in Plato.
• The Forms appear in proposals by various characters as
  ways of answering questions such as:
   – What if anything would make knowledge possible? (Knowledge
     of the ultimate nature of things, of what we should do, etc.)
   – Are there stable underlying recognizable features of the universe
     that make things be the way they are?
   – And, do they conform to the names we have for things, such that
     what we pick out using language are real features of the
     universe? For example, is there a Good Itself or Form of the
     Good that all good things “have and that makes them good?
               Plato: Socratic Method

• Often what is called the Socratic Method is a procedure
  of questioning to elicit a particular answer, a particular bit
  of content.
• But Plato portrays Socrates as asking questions to
  explore people‟s ideas and especially to show people the
  incoherences, contradictions, and unwarranted
  assumptions in their everyday claims and beliefs.
               Plato: “Platonic Love”

• The phrase „platonic love‟ generally refers to a non-
  physical attraction. This is not exactly what Plato
• The phrase seems to derive from a passage in Plato‟s
  Symposium, where Socrates describes how one can
  progress from love of physical beauty through love of
  beautiful deeds and behaviors to love of Beauty Itself.
  But it all starts with, and does not necessarily leave
  behind, physical attraction.
• Why then did „platonic‟ come to mean non-physical?
           Plato: Equality of the Sexes

• In Plato‟s Republic, the character Socrates argues that
  men and women are equally qualified and capable to
  carry out the various functions of citizens in a democracy
  or oligarchy, and that they should therefore have the
  same rights with respect to education, voting, property,
  and the like.
• Socrates and his friends are discussing an ideal
  community, so as to gain insight about justice. There is
  no question of such reforms being possible in practice
  (Socrates was executed for less).
          Assos, City walls and entry road (4th century BCE)
Aristotle spent time in this area when he was forced to leave Athens.
                              Life of Aristotle
•   384 BCE: Aristotle is born at Stagira in Thrace (northern part of the Greek
    peninsula). His father was court physician to King Amyntas II of Macedonia.

•   367-347: Aristotle studies, and later teaches, at Plato‟s Academy in Athens.

•   In 347 Plato dies, and there is also anti-Macedonian sentiment in Athens, so
    Aristotle accepts an invitation to work and teach in Assos in Asia Minor.
    About 344 he moves to nearby Mytilene. It is in this period that he seems to
    have begun his empirical research in biology and natural history.

•   342: Aristotle is recalled to Macedonia to serve as tutor to Alexander, son of
    King Philip. The tutoring seems to have ended in about 340.

•   334: Philip dies; Aristotle returns to Athens and founds a school, the

•   323: For Alexander-related reasons, anti-Macedonian sentiment returns to
    Athens, and Aristotle goes north to Chalcis, where he dies in 322.
               Aristotle‟s Catfish, Silurus aristotelis

• Aristotle spent much of his time in Asia Minor investigating fish. In
  History of Animals 621a20-b2, Aristotle reported on the odd
  behavior of a catfish of Asia Minor: the male guards the young by
  attacking predators and fishhooks, and by disturbing the water and
  somehow making grunting noises. For years it was thought that
  Aristotle was reporting a mere fanciful tale, but in the mid-19th
  century Agassiz discovered that there really was such a fish. It was
  named after Aristotle in 1857.
                First Causes and Principles

• Philosophia means „love of wisdom.‟ In the Metaphysics, Aristotle
  tries to figure out what wisdom might involve. Thus he investigates
  even his own enterprise.

• Aristotle argues that given what is said about “what is called
  „wisdom,‟” it appears that wisdom would be knowledge of “first
  causes and principles” – the most primary or fundamental reasons
  and sources for what is.

• Philosophy investigates first causes and principles, but Aristotle
  does not say that anyone has yet found them. In fact, he suggests
  that in our current condition we can‟t even conceive of what it would
  be like to know first causes and principles.
                       The “Four Causes”

• The word Aristotle uses for „cause‟ is „aitia,‟ which literally means
  „that which is responsible [for something].‟ Another way to
  understand this is that the aitia is the “why” of something: why an
  event happens, or why a thing is the way it is.

• Aristotle says that we speak of the “why” of things, that is, of
  “causes,” in four basic ways. These are sometimes referred to today
  as “Aristotle‟s Four Causes,” but a better way to understand them
  would be as four kinds of cause.

• The primary discussions of these issues are in Metaphysics Book
  One, Chapter 3; and Physics Book Two, Chapters 3 and 7.
                   The “Four Causes”: One

• One kind of cause is what Aristotle calls the “matter” (hulē). This is
  that which something is made of, its constituent stuff.

• This is sometimes known as the “material cause.”

• Examples: wood is the matter of a wooden table; a mixture of eggs,
  flour, and water might be the matter of bread.

• For Aristotle, matter is not limited to what we would today call
  “material” things, i.e. things we can sense or detect physically.
  Aristotle says that letters are the matter of syllables (not just audible
  or visible symbols of letters); that hypotheses are the matter of
  conclusions; and that mathematical objects (for example, ideal
  triangles that are two-dimensional) have “intelligible matter.”
                   The “Four Causes”: Two

• Another kind of cause is the source of motion, rest, or change: what
  sets off an event, or what is responsible for the something‟s coming
  into being, perishing, moving, or changing.

• This is sometimes called the “efficient cause” or the “moving cause.”

• Examples: a carpenter, working, is the moving cause of a house
  being constructed. A sculptor, working, is the moving cause of a
  statue. If lightning strikes ignite a brush fire, lightning was the
  moving cause of the fire. An adviser, Aristotle says, can be the
  moving cause of a course of action, a military campaign, etc.
                 The “Four Causes”: Three
• The third kind of cause is what Aristotle variously calls the “form”
  (eidos) or “substance” (a misleading translation of ousia which
  means „being‟) or “pattern” (paradeigma) or the account of “what it is
  to be” something (to ti ēn einai, sometimes translated as „essence‟).

• This is sometimes called the “formal” cause.

• A wooden table, a metal table, and a stone table share a “form,” that
  of “table,” even as they have different “matter” (materials). At the
  same time, it is the form that differentiates a wooden table from a
  wooden chair. Thus the form is part of what makes a thing what it is,
  and so is a “cause” of the thing‟s being what it is.

• Non-sensible things have forms too: straightness is the form of an
  ideal geometrical line, the ratio 2:1 is the form of an octave, etc.
                   The Four Causes: Four

• The fourth kind of cause is what Aristotle calls “that for the sake of
  which” something is, or that for the sake of which something is done.
  He sometimes refers to it as the “end” or “goal” (telos).

• This is sometimes called the “final” cause.

• Clearly, with many human actions, the end or goal is a cause, in the
  sense that we would not have performed the action if we had not
  had a certain goal or purpose in mind.

• Aristotle takes a more controversial position by saying that not only
  deliberate actions but also other things have a “sake” for which they
  occur or exist. Famously, he says that the telos of an acorn is an
                         Aristotle‟s Ethics

• Aristotle argues that all human actions, arts, and investigations aim
  ultimately at eudaimonia, which translates roughly as „happiness.‟ A
  more informative translation might be „flourishing,‟ for Aristotle
  understands it as “living well and doing well,” and as having a life
  that was desirable and lacking in nothing. Eudaimonia, he says, is
  desired for its own sake.

• He holds that this is only possible within a community; and that it
  requires aretē. This term is usually translated as „virtue,‟ but a more
  informative translation would be „excellence‟ – in this case,
  excellence at what is most deeply and characteristically human.
• What does virtue or excellence have to do with happiness? Aristotle
  suggests that the virtues are characteristics and habits that we need
  to have if we are going to make our community worth living in for all
  of us.

• Aristotle describes virtue or excellence as “a characteristic involving
  choice, consisting in observing the mean relative to us, a mean
  which is determined by a rational principle, such as a person of
  practical wisdom would use to determine it” (Nicomachean Ethics
  II.6). (“Practical wisdom” is “a truthful characteristic of acting with
  reason in matters good and bad for humans,” VI.5.)

• Courage, for example, is the mean between cowardice and
  recklessness; generosity is the mean between stinginess and
  extravagance; etc.

• Virtue or excellence is not simply doing the “right thing,” whatever
  that is. To be virtuous, an action must be done at the right time, for
  the right reason (namely, for the sake of the beautiful or noble or
  good), toward the right people, and in the right manner (II.6).

• But what is the right action, the right time, etc.? Aristotle is not
  specific. But that does not mean he has no answer. It also does not
  mean he is a relativist (saying that what each person thinks is right
  is what is right), nor that he is an absolutist (insisting that he knows
  the one right way to do everything).
          Aristotle‟s Pluralism without Relativism
•   1. Humans aim for "living well and doing well," a condition that would be
    both desirable for itself and worth living in.
          • a.What most people want in their lives requires some sort of
          • b.Our aim of happiness also requires that we be able to use all our
            capacities and potentials to their best advantage, especially those
            most human of capacities, the capacities involved in making and
            acting on good choices. This excellence in making choices would be
            "moral excellence" or "moral arete."(I.7)

•   2. Therefore we need to consider how to make choices well, and how to act
    on them well. We need to consider this both
          • order to be able to identify and seek our own goals; and
          • order to live with others in a way that makes such seeking

         • What then is this virtue/excellence, this making and acting on good
          Aristotle‟s Pluralism without Relativism
•   3. Aristotle goes on to describe how several characteristics normally called
    "virtues" fit this model of observing a mean between extremes: courage is a
    mean between cowardice an recklessness, generosity a mean between
    stinginess and extravagance, etc. But he never gives a criterion for
    determining what should count as e.g. courage, cowardice, or recklessness
    in a given situation.
•   Therefore it appears that there could be several different way of adhering to
    arete and arranging a society to enable the pursuit of happiness.

•   4. In fact, for Aristotle there are certain checks or parameters on any value
    system and any conception of virtue.
Aristotle‟s Pluralism without Relativism

•   a. Consistency
•   b. Social viability
•   c. "Contemplation" must be possible.
•   d. A virtuous action is done for the sake of what is kalos (beautiful;
    noble); to perform noble/beautiful and good deeds is something
    desirable for its own sake
• e. All of the virtues mentioned involve doing the "right amount" of
  the "right thing" at the "right time." That means that justice -
  balancing claims, actions, desires, needs; giving each person
  his/her "due", making restitution or reward, etc. - is central and no
  society can have arete without it.
• f. The search for knowledge must be possible.

To top