ARISTOTLE by nyut545e2


• Aristotle's father was Nicomachus, a
  doctor who lived near Macedon, in the
  north of Greece. So unlike Socrates and
  Plato, Aristotle was not originally from
  Athens. He was not from a rich family like
  Plato, though his father was not poor
  When Aristotle was a young man, about
  350 BC, he went to study at Plato's
Plato was already pretty old then. Aristotle
 did very well at the Academy. But he never
 got to be among its leaders, and when
 Plato died, Aristotle was not chosen to
 lead the Academy after him. Soon
 afterwards, Aristotle left Athens and went
 to Macedon to be the tutor of the young
 prince Alexander, who grew up to be
 Alexander the Great.
 As far as we can tell, Alexander was not at
 all interested in learning anything from
 Aristotle, but they did become friends.

When Alexander grew up and became king,
 Aristotle went back to Athens and opened
 his own school there, the Lyceum, in
 competition with Plato's Academy. Both
 schools were successful for hundreds of
• Aristotle was more interested in science than
  Socrates or Plato, maybe because his father
  was a doctor. He wanted to use Socrates' logical
  methods to figure out how the real world worked;
  therefore Aristotle is really the father of today's
  scientific method.
• Aristotle was especially interested in biology, in
  classifying plants and animals in a way that
  would make sense. This is part of the Greek
  impulse to make order out of chaos: to take the
  chaotic natural world and impose a man-made
  order on it.
• When Alexander was travelling all over
  Western Asia, he had his messengers
  bring strange plants back to Aristotle for
  his studies. Aristotle also made efforts to
  create order in peoples' governments.
• He created a classification system of
  monarchies, oligarchies, tyrannies,
  democracies and republics which we still
  use today.
• When Alexander died in 323 BC, though,
  there were revolts against Macedonian
  rule in Athens. People accused Aristotle of
  being secretly on the side of the

• He left town quickly, and spent the last
  years of his life back in the north again
  where he had been born.
• Ancient Greek philosophy is dominated by three
  very famous men: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
• All three of these lived in Athens for most of
  their lives, and they knew each other. Socrates
  came first, and Plato was his student, around
  400 BC. Socrates was killed in 399 BC, and
  Plato began his work by writing down what
  Socrates had taught, and then continued by
  writing down his own ideas and opening a
  school. Aristotle, who was younger, came to
  study at Plato's school, and ended up starting
  his own school as well.
• In the years after Plato and Aristotle died,
  in the 200's BC, three famous kinds of
  philosophy started up in the schools that
  Plato and Aristotle had started. These are
  the Stoics, the Skeptics, and the
• Each of these continued to be important
  ways of thinking about the world all the
  way through the Roman Empire, until
  people converted to Christianity in the
  300's AD, and even after that.
• The Stoics were a group of philosophers who
  first began teaching their ideas in the Hellenistic
  period. Stoicism was founded by a man named
  Zeno, who lived from 335-263 BC. He was
  friendly with the successors of Alexander who
  ruled Greece.
• Zeno lived in Athens, which was a great centre
  of learning. He used to lecture not in a
  classroom but outside on the porch of a public
  building. The word for porch in Greek is STOA,
  and so people called his students Stoics,
  "people who hang out on the porch."
• Zeno thought people should try to reach inner
  peacefulness. The best way to be peaceful was
  to be moderate in everything. So people should
  not eat too much, even of good food, and they
  should not party too much.
• But they should not work all the time either, or
  diet all the time. Men (Zeno didn't mention
  women much, but there were women who were
  Stoics) should give to charity and help out in the
  government, but they should not go to the
  extreme of rebellion
• People should try not to want anything too
  much, but be happy with what they had.
  This would lead to a happy life.

 Stoicism was very popular among the
 early Romans, who generally liked
 moderate behavior anyway. One famous
 Roman Stoic was Seneca
• We don’t know as much as we might like
  to about the activities of Plato’s Academy
  after the death of Aristotle. But between
  about 300 and 100 B.C. — almost up to
  the birth of Jesus — the Academy became
  known as the center of the Skeptics.
• The Skeptics were a group of philosophers
  whose main idea was that we can't really know
  anything for certain about the world around us,
  or about ourselves. Therefore, we can't really
  ever know what is right or wrong, either.
• Some of these ideas came from Socrates, who
  also thought that the wisest man is the one who
  realizes that he doesn’t know anything, but
  Skepticism really began with Pyrrhon (about
  365-270 B.C.) and was continued by Pyrrhon's
  student Timon (about 320-230 B.C.).
• You might say, if you can't really know
  anything, why bother studying philosophy
  at all? But the Skeptics said the real point
  was not to worry about things they couldn't
  know or didn't have enough information to
• Instead, people should relax and let go. If
  you couldn't know, then there wasn't any
  point in worrying about it. You should
  leave it in the hands of the gods.
• Some people think that this Skeptic
  attitude might have been influenced by
  Indian philosophy. This is certainly
  possible, because Alexander the Great
  went to India around this time, and we
  know that Alexander and his followers
  spoke to many Indian philosophers there.
• According to some Greek historians,
  Pyrrhon actually travelled to India with
• Pyrrhon himself did not write down any of
  his ideas, so we don't know as much about
  the Skeptics as we would like to. We do
  know that most people forgot about
  Skepticism after about 100 years, so it
  wasn't as successful a philosophy as
  Stoicism or Epicureanism
• Another philosophical group which
  developed in the Hellenistic period, around
  the same time as the Skeptics, was the
  Epicureans. Epicureans were named after
  their founder, Epicurus, who lived around
  300 B.C. Epicureans believed that the
  main reason for studying philosophy was
  practical: to make a happy life for yourself.
  They said that you would be happy if you
  had more pleasure in your life and less
  sadness. But sadness is caused by not
  getting what you want.
• The Epicureans said that the best way to be
  happy and not sad was to not want anything. It's
  wanting things that leads to pain. If you're
  always wanting more things, then you can't
  enjoy the things you do have, because you're
  always suffering the sadness of not having
  things. (You might want to compare this to the
  Chinese philosophy of Taoism). The Epicureans
  advised people not to make close friends or fall
  in love, because it could lead to sadness if your
  friend went away or died. The less you want, the
  happier you will be. These ideas, like the ideas
  of the Skeptics, may have been learned partly
  from Indian philosophers
• Epicureanism, like Stoicism, lasted
  throughout the Roman Empire. Lucretius
  was a famous Roman Epicurean in the
  time of Julius Caesar who wrote a long
  book on the subject, On the Nature of
  Things (De Rerum Naturae).
• Epicureans are still found as late as the
  200’s AD. The Roman emperor Marcus
  Aurelius, who wrote the Mediations, was
  an Epicurean
• Epicureans had an important influence on
  Christianity. The Christian idea that holy people
  should separate themselves from the world, not
  think about their bodies or about the things they
  own or on their friends and family and focus just
  on Heaven owes something to Epicureanism.
• But Christians hated Epicureans for denying the
  existence of heaven and hell, and the
  immortality of the soul, and for their reliance on
  pleasure as a good thing. So Epicureanism was
  done in partly by the rise of Christianity.
• The Epicureans also taught people that
  when they died, their soul would die with
  their body, because both were made of
  atoms that would be broken up and made
  into other things when you died.

• They said that therefore people should not
  be afraid of dying or worry about what
  would happen to them after they died.
• The Epicureans also said not to be afraid
  of the gods, because the gods did not
  interfere with people's lives.

• When things happened, it was just
  because of natural, scientific causes, and
  nothing to do with the gods.
Aristotle on
  the Soul
• Matter and Form
1. Aristotle uses his familiar matter/form distinction to
   answer the question ―What is soul?‖ At the beginning of
   De Anima II.1, he says that there are three sorts of
   – Matter (potentiality)
   – Form (actuality)
   – The compound of matter and form
2.Aristotle is interested in compounds that are alive. These
   - plants and animals - are the things that have souls.
   Their souls are what make them living things.
3.Since form is what makes matter a ―this,‖ the soul is the
   form of a living thing. (Not its shape, but its actuality,
   that in virtue of which it is the kind of living thing that it
Grades of
Actuality and
1. Aristotle distinguishes between two
   levels of actuality (entelecheia). At
   412a11 he gives knowing and attending
   as examples of these two kinds of
   actuality. (It has become traditional to
   call these first and second actuality,
   respectively.) At 412a22-26 he
   elaborates this example and adds this
   one: being asleep vs. being awake. But
   he does not fully clarify this important
   distinction until II.5 (417a22-30), to which
   we now turn.
2. At 417a20, Aristotle says that there are
   different types of both potentiality and
   actuality. His example concerns different
   ways in which someone might be
   described as a knower. One might be
   called a knower in the sense that he or
 a) is a human being.
 b) has grammatical knowledge.
 c) is attending to something.
• A knower in sense (a) is someone with a mere
  potential to know something, but no actual
  knowledge. (Not everything has this potential, of
  course. E.g., a rock or an earthworm has no
  such potential.) A knower in sense (b) has some
  actual knowledge (for example, she may know
  that it is ungrammatical to say ―with John and I‖),
  even though she is not actually thinking about it
  right now. A knower in sense (c) is actually
  exercising her knowledge (for example, she
  thinks ―that’s ungrammatical‖ when she hears
  someone say ―with John and I‖).
3. Note that (b) involves both actuality and
   potentiality. The knower in sense (b)
   actually knows something, but that actual
   knowledge is itself just a potentiality to
   think certain thoughts or perform certain
   actions. So we can describe our three
   knowers this way:

 A) First potentiality
 B) Second potentiality = first actuality
 C) Second actuality
4. Here is another example (not Aristotle’s)
    that might help clarify the distinction.

  a) First potentiality: a child who does not speak
  b) Second potentiality (first actuality): a (silent)
      adult who speaks French.
  C) Second actuality: an adult speaking (or
   actively understanding) French
A child (unlike a rock or an earthworm) can
  (learn to) speak French.

A Frenchman (unlike a French infant) can
  actually speak French, even though he is
  silent at the moment.
Someone who is actually speaking French
  is, of course, the paradigm case of a
  French speaker.
5. Aristotle uses the notion of first actuality in
    his definition of the soul (412a27):

  The soul is the first actuality of a natural
   body that is potentially alive
6. Remember that first actuality is a kind of
    potentiality -a capacity to engage in the
    activity which is the corresponding
    second actuality.

So soul is a capacity - but a capacity to do
7.A living thing’s soul is its capacity to
   engage in the activities that are
   characteristic of living things of its natural
   kind. What are those activities? Some
   are listed in DA II.1; others in DA II.2:
  –   Self-nourishment
  –   Growth
  –   Decay
  –   Movement and rest (in respect of place)
  –   Perception
  - Intellect
8. So anything that nourishes itself, that
  grows, decays, moves about (on its own,
  not just when moved by something else),
  perceives, or thinks is alive. And the
  capacities of a thing in virtue of which it
  does these things constitute its soul. The
  soul is what is causally responsible for
  the animate behavior (the life activities) of
  a living thing.
Degrees of
1.There is a nested hierarchy of soul
   functions or activities (413a23).

  a) Growth, nutrition, (reproduction)
  b) Locomotion, perception
 C) Intellect (= thought
2. This gives us three corresponding
  degrees of soul:

 a) Nutritive soul (plants)
 b) Sensitive soul (all animals)
 c) Rational soul (human beings
3.These are nested in the sense that
   anything that has a higher degree of soul
   also has all of the lower degrees. All
   living things grow, nourish themselves,
   and reproduce.
Animals not only do that, but move and
   perceive. Humans do all of the above
   and reason, as well. (There are further
   subdivisions within the various levels,
   which we will ignore.)
Soul and
1.    A key question for the ancient Greeks (as it still is for
      many people today) is whether the soul can exist
      independently of the body. (Anyone who believes in
      personal immortality is committed to the independent
      existence of the soul.) Plato (as we know from the
      Phaedo) certainly thought that the soul could exist
      separately. Here is what Aristotle has to say on this
 . . . the soul does not exist without a body and yet is not
      itself a kind of body. For it is not a body, but something
      which belongs to a body, and for this reason exists in a
      body, and in a body of such-and-such a kind
 So on Aristotle’s account, although the soul is not a
      material object, it is not separable from the body.
      (When it comes to the intellect, however, Aristotle
      waffles. See DA III.4)
2.Aristotle’s picture is not Cartesian:

  a)There is no inner/outer contrast. The soul is
     not an inner spectator, in direct contact only
     with its own perceptions and other psychic
     states, having to infer the existence of a
     body and an ―external‖ world.

  There is thus no notion of the privacy of
   experience, the incorrigibility of the
   mental, etc., in Aristotle’s picture.
  b) The soul is not an independently existing
      substance. It is linked to the body more
      directly: it is the form of the body, not a
      separate substance inside another
      substance (a body) of a different kind. It is a
      capacity, not the thing that has the capacity.

It is thus not a separable soul. (It is, at
    most, pure thought, devoid of
 c) Soul has little to do with personal identity and
     individuality. There is no reason to think that one
     (human) soul is in any important respect different
     from any other (human) soul. The form of one
     human being is the same as the form of any other.

There is, in this sense, only soul, and not souls.
  You and I have different souls because we are
  different people. But we are different human
  beings because we are different compounds of
  form and matter. That is, different bodies both
  animated by the same set of capacities, by the
  same (kind of) soul.

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