Metaphysics of Aristotle

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					    The Metaphysics of Aristotle

“Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth.”
                  An introduction:
                 Dr. Paul R. Shockley
 Aristotle’s Background:
Born at Stagira in Northern Greece in 384 BC
367-347 BC student at Plato’s Academy
He left Athens after not being named head of Academy following Plato’s
Went to Macedonia & became the tutor to Alexander the Great when
Alexander was 12 (343 BC)
After Alexander became Emperor of all Greece, returned to Athens,&
established his own school: the Lyceum in 335 BC.

 Background: “The Philosopher.”
After Alexander died (323 BC), anti-Macedonian reactions in Athens
forced Aristotle to leave, as he did not wish to experience Socrates’ fate.
Died one year later in Chalcis.
Only about 1/4th of Aristotle’s writings have survived. Most were lost when
the Romans accidentally burned the great library in Alexandria, Egypt in
47 BC. Many of Aristotle’s greatest works were destroyed.
But we are left with the lecture notes Aristotle used for teaching at the

      What is the relationship between Plato & Aristotle?

    Three views:

   1. All of Western
philosophy is a “series
of footnotes to Plato.”
 Aristotle analyzed,
      expanded, &
misinterpreted Plato’s
       teachings.                                           4
       What is the relationship between Plato & Aristotle?

     Three views:

2. Aristotle is superior.
 Aristotle took Plato’s
  ideas and improved
  them substantively,
especially in the areas
 of metaphysics, logic,
    ethics, and even                                         5
          What is the relationship between Plato & Aristotle?

3. Distinct worldviews with different starting

Plato focuses his attention on abstract
realities/truths that are to be followed in all
areas of life into a unified knowledge whereas
Aristotle is concerned with the particular,
concrete object and its development, changes,
and purposes.

Aristotle is more concerned with the actual
knowledge of objects than with their logical
unification and abstract transcendence and                      6
rationalistic intelligibility.
 Significant Difference:
                           Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
Remember, Plato
believed that the
intelligible realm is
more real than the
sensible realm.

Plato believed that the
eternal, immutable
forms constitute
reality, transcendent of
the sensible realm of
 Aristotle Claims the Opposite::

                                  Plato abstracted the form
                                  from the actual object.
                                  Imagination and Beliefs
                                  dominated sensible realm
                                  whereas reasoning and
                                  knowledge was found in
                                  intelligible realm.
                                  Thus, true knowledge was
                                  found in the intelligible realm.

Plato ; School of Athens by Raphael
Aristotle Claims the Opposite::

Aristotle contends that is the
concrete, particular, actual,
and individual objects or
things that are real.
You are a particular. A dog is
a particular. An Ant is a
Thus, for Aristotle,
metaphysics is the study of
particular, individual concrete
                                  Aristotle; School of Athens by Raphael

 Aristotle’s Critique:

Abstract forms are only useless
copies of actual things.
Theory of forms does not explain the
existence and changes that take place
in concrete objects.
Theory of Forms sets up a dualism
between world of intelligibility and
world of flux. This theory does not
explain how the both of them are
While Aristotle does not reject the
forms, but he does rejecting the idea
that we are to separate the from from
the actual existence of the particular
object.                                              11
              Major Ideas to Know:

        • Matter is the physical stuff that
Matter:   composes the particular substance.

           • Form is the shape of the matter.
The form

              Major Ideas to Know:

        • Matter is the physical stuff that
Matter:   composes the particular substance.

           • Form is the shape of the matter.
The form

                  Major Ideas to Know:

                                          Every individual things
                                            consists of formed
• The form (universal) and the                    matter.
  sensible matter are united in
  individual things. Every         • The form is the purpose or
  individual things consists of      the end which the matter
  formed matter.                     serves.
                                   • The pine tree is the purpose
                                     or end which the matter of
        The Universal and the        the pine cone seed serves.
        Particular are united in
          individual objects.
 Major Ideas to Know: Potentiality & Actuality- which
 accounts for developmental changes in substances.

Principle of potentiality      Principle of Actuality is
   is the matter. For         the form. For example, a
example, a pine cone           mature pine tree is the
   seed is potential.          actualization of its form.

 Major Ideas to Know: Potentiality & Actuality- which
 accounts for developmental changes in substances.

  While the pine tree may be              Organisms are the
the actuality of the potentiality   actualization of the potentiality
 of a pinecone seed, the pine        of inorganic substances and
tree may be the potentiality of     are themselves the potentiality
          a log cabin.                    of the rational soul.

Explanatory Principles of Things & Their Changes.

             Matter           Form

           Potentiality     Actuality

The following four principles determine the nature of an individual
         object in cosmos (whether natural or man-made)

                                      Formal Cause:
                Material Cause:
                                      The form to be
                 The material of
                                      actualized (e.g.,
               which the object is
                                     the statueness of
               composed of (e.g.,
                                        Stephen F.

                                      Final Cause:
                Efficient Cause:
                                     The purpose for
                (The artist, his
                                     which the statue
                work, and tools
                                      of Stephen F.
               which created the
                                       Austin was

 The relationship between the Four Causes:

                                                     The final cause is viewed as identical
                                                      with the formal cause because it is
                                                       the purposive actualization of the
• Any object, whatsoever, is to                                 particular object.
  be understood only when it is
  seen as determined by its                   • The efficient cause is viewed
  material cause, the matter out                as one stage in the realization
  of which the form or pattern                  of the form cause. The maker
  into which it is taking shape.                of log cabins builds the log
                                                cabin house.

       Matter is the material cause whereas
             form is the formal cause.

Aristotle’s View of the Universe:

 Everything is connected causally with everything
 else as material or formal cause.
 Since the universe is characterized by eternal
 change or motion, it requires an uncaused cause
 or Prime Mover that is eternal.
 An eternal uncaused cause must exist in order to
 account for all the change and motion in the
Cosmological Argument: The Universe had a
beginning caused by something beyond the

Aristotle’s God:

 Distinct from universe.
 Not a personal God
 Not an object of worship

Everything Has Purpose:

 Aristotle’s view of reality/existence is that
 everything is teleological, that is, everything in
 universe has its own form, its own end, its own
 purpose (telos) to fulfill.

 According to Aristotle, everyone one of us have
 purpose, an end to fulfill.

Everything Has Purpose:

 Thus, for Aristotle, the good is whatever the
 nature of a thing aims at as its formal cause.
 What is your good? It is what man by his nature
 seeks: happiness. But what is happiness?

   Is our telos a life of pleasure?
   Is our telos a life of honor?
   Is our telos a life of wealth?
   Is our telos a life of power?                   24
What is our Highest good?

 Aristotle argues that pleasure, wealth, honor, or
 power are only a means to happiness.
 Happiness, for Aristotle, as our highest good,
 consists in the fulfillment of our function as
 The fulfillment of our function is “the activity of
 soul in accordance with virtue.”
 We will pursue this last theme when we examine
 virtue ethics.                                      25
         Personal Favorite quotes from Aristotle:

“I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who
conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.”
“At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law
and justice he is the worst.”
“Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.”
“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought
 without accepting it.”


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