When X is beautiful: A Philosophical Introduction to

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Transcript When X is beautiful: A Philosophical Introduction to

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
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
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
rationalistic intelligibility.
Significant Difference:
Remember, Plato
believed that the
intelligible realm is
more real than the
sensible realm.
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
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
Major Ideas to Know:
• Matter is the physical stuff that
composes the particular substance.
• Form is the shape of the matter.
The form
Major Ideas to Know:
• Matter is the physical stuff that
composes the particular substance.
• Form is the shape of the matter.
The form
Major Ideas to Know:
• The form (universal) and the
sensible matter are united in
individual things. Every
individual things consists of
formed matter.
The Universal and the
Particular are united in
individual objects.
Every individual things
consists of formed
• The form is the purpose or
the end which the matter
• The pine tree is the purpose
or end which the matter of
the pine cone seed serves.
Major Ideas to Know: Potentiality & Actuality- which
accounts for developmental changes in substances.
Principle of potentiality
is the matter. For
example, a pine cone
seed is potential.
Principle of Actuality is
the form. For example, a
mature pine tree is the
actualization of its form.
Major Ideas to Know: Potentiality & Actuality- which
accounts for developmental changes in substances.
While the pine tree may be
the actuality of the potentiality
of a pinecone seed, the pine
tree may be the potentiality of
a log cabin.
Organisms are the
actualization of the potentiality
of inorganic substances and
are themselves the potentiality
of the rational soul.
Explanatory Principles of Things & Their Changes.
The following four principles determine the nature of an individual
object in cosmos (whether natural or man-made)
Material Cause:
The material of
which the object is
composed of (e.g.,
Formal Cause:
The form to be
actualized (e.g.,
the statueness of
Stephen F.
Efficient Cause:
(The artist, his
work, and tools
which created the
Final Cause:
The purpose for
which the statue
of Stephen F.
Austin was
The relationship between the Four Causes:
• Any object, whatsoever, is to
be understood only when it is
seen as determined by its
material cause, the matter out
of which the form or pattern
into which it is taking shape.
The final cause is viewed as identical
with the formal cause because it is
the purposive actualization of the
particular object.
• The efficient cause is viewed
as one stage in the realization
of the form cause. The maker
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
1. The universe had
a beginning
2. Anything that had
a beginning must
have been caused
by something
(someone) else.
Therefore, the
universe was
caused by
(someone) else.
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?
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.
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.”