by AristotleThis is a selection of key moments in Aristotle.For the most part it is outstanding.I really enjoyed reading Aristotle.Following the arguments was sometimes exciting.I have some problems with the selection:Per Nichomachean ethics, the section on friendship could have been dropped and this would have allowed the editor to include the section on justice.It’s hard to imagine any social discourse today that doesn’t involve “justice.”But no matter.
“Being itself.”Substance could mean:
Complex of both
“The form is indeed the nature rather than the matter” (28).
Cause:that out of which a thing comes to be (31).
Final: first in intention; last in operation.
The Soul is simple and a unity (58).If the soul is divided, then what holds the parts together?Why shouldn’t that be the more important?There are some problems, though.Aristotle will later speak of “higher” and “lower” parts of the soul.Does this not threaten the above-mentioned simplicity?One possible answer is that man is a hylo-morph and the line of division between soul and body isn’t firm.This would allow him to speak of “lower” (passional) aspects of the soul while maintaining simplicity.Perhaps.
The Soul is substance is actuality (65).The relation between soul and body is that of actuality to potentiality.It is the essential “whatness” of the body.Its substance is a complex of both form (actuality) and matter (potentiality).
Faculties of the soul
The soul is the cause or source of the body (72).Aristotle raises an interesting question, anticipating Locke: why do we not perceive the senses themselves as well as the objects of senses (76)?
Sense:the power of receiving into itself the impressionable forms of things.
Organ of sense: that in which the sense-power is seated.
For Aristotle, knowledge is domination:everything is a possible object of thought; therefore, to know is to dominate (92).
Soul for later Christian thinkers would be mind + will.
A problem: like is known by like.if thinking is a passive affection, and if the mind is simple and impassible and has nothing in common with the sense-world (since it is immaterial), then how can it come to think at all?For interaction between two factors is held to require a precedent community of nature between the factors (94).For the mind to know anything, therefore, it will have to a) belong to everything or b) contain some element common to all.
Aristotle’s solution, though not explicitly developed here, points towards a chain or scale of being.
speculative knowledge and its object are identical.
for those that contain matter, the objects of knowledge are potentially present in the mind.
Aristotle keeps saying actual knowledge is identical with its object (95, 97).What does he mean by this?Mind must always be know-ing.
We know a thing when we recognize its first cause (112).He then gives a long deconstruction of the history of pre-Socratic philosophy.Some good criticisms of Plato:
Is Mathematics among the forms or among those that participate in the forms?
What about the idea of “relations?”Is that, too, a form?
Are the Forms for Plato “substance?” But what do make of the fact that substance is both in our world and the ideal world?
If the forms are numbers:sometimes one number is from many numbers, yet if these are forms they are all in the ideal world.
More on substance
Sensible substance is changeable (137).Changes proceed from contraries.This means there must be something underlying the contraries, for the contraries do not change (that’s the whole point of being an established contrary).Is this the prima materia?
Everything that changes is something and changes into something.“Each substance comes into being out of something that shares its name” (139).
Per cause: interestingly, he notes that moving causes are simultaneous with their effects.
Thought and Movement
Movement cannot come into being or cease to be.It is coterminous with time.
Thought thinks on itself because it shares the object of its thought.
There is Aristotle’s famous line that all human activity aims at some end.This leads us to ask, “What is the good?”He correctly rebuts Plato’s idea that Knowing the Good makes me better at what I am doing. The one simply doesn’t follow the other.
Specifically, human good is the function of the soul in accordance with virtue.Further, a good life will aim at happiness (eudamion).Happiness is a good life and good actions.
Following this discussion on individual ethics, Aristotle notes that the science of politics is analogous to the soul.The goods one pursues in politics will be similar to the goods one pursues for the soul.
Choosing the mean
The good action will be the mean between two extremes. The problem with this, as Aristotle seems aware, is that it doesn’t apply to some actions.
Aristotle says a just man acts justly.Okay, that tells me how he acts; it doesn’t tell me what justice is.
This was my favorite section.Man is a political animal and political life is inherent to the natural order.The proof of this is that if you take away the social dimensions of life, man (as a rule) cannot survive.The best political regime is not necessarily monarchy/democracy/aristocracy, but the government that allows the greatest share to participate in the commonwealth.This sounds like democracy or a form of republicanism, but that is not Aristotle’s point.
Any form of government that prevents a large part of the people from sharing and participating is not a good form.Both monarchy and aristocracy (e.g., a high class republicanism) can allow a large participation.Republicanism works until there becomes an entrenched, elite class, making the middle and lower classes at least one step removed from the “sharing” in government.This is America today.
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