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ARISTOTLE • 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 either. When Aristotle was a young man, about 350 BC, he went to study at Plato's Academy. 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 years • 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 Macedonians. • 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 Epicureans. • 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 decide. • 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 Alexander • 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 substance: – 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 is.) Grades of Actuality and Potentiality 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 she: 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 French. 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 what? 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 soul 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 Body 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 topic: . . . 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 (414a20ff). 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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