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This chapter reflects on the ongoing scientific revolution as a metaphysical and even theological revolution, whose unarticulated presuppositions about being, nature, knowledge and truth have governed the so-called dialogue between science and religion. The essence of this revolution is captured in the Baconian triumph of art over nature, which conceives of nature mechanistically and knowledge pragmatically in advance of scientific inquiry and has produced a scientific and technological civilization that exceeds even Bacon’s utopian imagination in the New Atlantis and offers both promise and peril for the human future. Simultaneously challenging and conceding the stunning triumph of this utopian vision, and in dialogue with John Milbank’s poetic and ‘magical’ proposal to enfold its genuine achievements within a radically creational ontology, Hanby attempts to set forth some principles for any genuine dialogue in the future and for any conception of being, nature, knowledge and truth adequate to the Christian doctrine of God and the Christian vision of creation.
This Element is an examination of the philosophical themes presented in Aristotle's Nicomachean and Eudemian Ethics. Topics include happiness, the voluntary and choice, the doctrine of the mean, particular virtues of character and temperamental means, virtues of thought, akrasia, pleasure, friendship, and luck. Special attention has been paid to Aristotle's treatment of virtues of character and thought and their relation to happiness, the reason why Aristotle is the quintessential virtue ethicist. The virtues of character have not received the attention they deserve in most discussions of the relationship between the two treatises.
I explore different understandings of cause, the extent to which it is a feature of the world or an artifact of our imagination, and the consequences for knowledge that flows from these different assumptions.
A passage at 1048b18–35 in chapter six of Metaphysics Book Θ, forging a distinction between activities Aristotle classes as energeia, actuality, and those he calls kinesis, change, has become a favourite subject of discussion by analytic philosophers. This chapter argues that this now celebrated section does not fit into the overall programme of Θ, was not written for Θ, and should not be printed in the place we read it today. It is an isolated fragment of uncertain origin. Although there is good reason to accept that it is authentic Aristotle, its focus is rather different from what it is usually taken to be. Moreover, the distinction is unique in the corpus, and should not be imported into other Aristotelian contexts such as Nicomachean Ethics X or De Anima II.5. The chapter first documents the passage’s anomalous standing within the manuscript tradition. It then argues that Aristotle’s focus here is on verbal aspect, not tense. Next corruptions in the transmitted text are discussed, in light of the hypothesis that the passage was originally imported as a marginal annotation, and a revised text is proposed. Finally, the uniqueness of its philosophical content is established. It is a freak performance.
The framework of this paper is a defence of Burnet’s construal of Apology 30b2–4. Socrates does not claim, as he is standardly translated, that virtue makes you rich, but that virtue makes money and everything else good for you. This view of the relation between virtue and wealth is paralleled in dialogues of every period, and a sophisticated development of it appears in Aristotle. My philological defence of the philosophically preferable translation extends recent scholarly work on εἶναι in Plato and Aristotle to γίγνεσθαι, which is the main verb in the disputed sentence. When attached to a subject, both verbs make a complete statement on their own, but a statement that is further completable by adding a complement. The important point is that the addition of a complement does not change the meaning of the verb from existence to the copula. Proving this is a lengthy task which takes me into some of the deeper reaches of Platonic and Aristotelian ontology, and into discussion of whether Greek ever acquired a verb that corresponds to modem verbs of existence. I conclude that even when later authors such as Philo Judaeus, Sextus Empiricus and Plotinus debate what we naturally translate as issues of existence, none of the verbs they use (εἶναι, ὑπάρχειν, ὑφεστηκέναι) can be said to have existential meaning.
The relationship between Book I of Aristotle’s De Generatione et Corruptione to the rest of his writings on the physical world has been found puzzling. Aristotle’s first statement of its scope promises an account of very general principles of explanation. But the actual focus seems very restricted: theory of elements and of homoeomerous mixture. This study proceeds by examination of cross-references to and from other Aristotelian treatises. These reveal the reading order – the order of argument and exposition – that Aristotle intended for them. GC I presupposes readers already familiar with the cosmology and conceptual system expounded in the Physics, while in the other physical treatises the basic ideas of GC 1 are adapted and refined in explanations of more complex physical entities. GC 1 in fact provides three kinds of foundation: physical, conceptual, and teleological. The order Aristotle insists upon is directed towards a definite goal, the understanding of life and living things. It is not merely pedagogical. More likely it reflects a cosmic scale of values which grades living things as better than non-living, and knowledge of better things as a finer, more valuable kind of knowledge.
This short book review discusses the philosophical appropriation by Plato and Aristotle of the Greek institution, at once social, political, and religious, of theoria, ‘spectating’. Pythagoras was alleged to have classified those who travelled to the Olympic Games as competitors, traders, or spectators: symbolising the pursuit in human life of honour, economic gain, and wisdom. Plato and Aristotle are often taken accordingly to be committed to what is sometimes labelled ‘the spectator theory of knowledge’, with knowledge of ultimate principles construed as non-discursive intuition or ‘instant ocularity’. But the vision they have in mind is actually the ‘seeing’ constituted by grasp of an explanation of how a whole complex of things hangs together, achieved only after much preparatory, exploratory thought.
This paper is detective work. I aim to show that the brilliant Pythagorean mathematician Archytas of Tarentum was the founder of ancient Greek mathematical optics. The evidence is indirect. (1) A fragment of Aristotle preserved in Iamblichus is one of two doxographical notices to mention Pythagorean work in optics. (2) Apuleius credits Archytas with a theory of visual rays which saves the principle that the angle of reﬂection is equal to the angle of incidence. I argue that the source from which Apuleius got this information was the Catoptrics of Archimedes, the genuineness of which I defend against Knorr’s hypothesis that it is the Euclidean Catoptrics, which had been misattributed to Archimedes. (3) The omission of optics from the mathematical curriculum in Plato’s Republic, and the Timaeus’ wholly physical account of mirror images, can be explained as polemical, for it is well attested that optics was practised in the Academy. The reason Plato does not mention optics is that he objected to Archytas using mathematics to understand the physical world rather than to transcend it.
What does Aquinas mean when he speaks of ‘spiritual’ change in explaining sense perception? This chapter is partly exegesis of that notion, partly explication of the author’s own previous invocation of ‘spiritual’ change to characterise the way perception for Aristotle takes on sensible form without matter, and partly explanation of why in philosophy since Descartes it is so difficult to understand how for Aristotle and Aquinas perception is both physical and mental. For both thinkers, it is an ‘unordinary’ physical alteration. That does not make it a ‘mental’ event in any sense that contrasts with ‘physical’. In sight the eye is coloured by the sensible form of red conceived not as a natural form, but as what Aquinas calls an intentio. The notion of intentio here expresses the idea of cognitive awareness, or of sensible form causing knowledge in a being which has the power of cognition. Aquinas calls sight the ‘most spiritual’ of the senses because, whereas with the operation of the other senses ordinary natural processes are required either as causal antecedents or concomitant effects, in sight there is no similar natural change at all. In its power of cognition alone we reach the end of explanation.
This is a close scrutiny of De Anima II.5, led by two questions. First, what can be learned from so long and intricate a discussion about the neglected problem of how to read an Aristotelian chapter? Second, what can the chapter, properly read, teach us about some widely debated issues in Aristotle’s theory of perception? I argue that it refutes two claims defended by Martha Nussbaum, Hilary Putnam, and Richard Sorabji: (i) that when Aristotle speaks of the perceiver becoming like the object perceived, the assimilation he has in mind is ordinary alteration of the type exemplified when fire heats the surrounding air, (ii) that this alteration stands to perceptual awareness as matter to form. Claim (i) is wrong because the assimilation that perceiving is is not ordinary alteration. Claim (ii) is wrong because the special type of alteration that perceiving is is not its underlying material realisation. Indeed, there is no mention in the text of any underlying material realisation for perceiving.
Frege argues that number is so unlike the things we accept as properties of external objects that it cannot be such a property. In particular, (1) number is arbitrary in a way that qualities are not, and (2) number is not predicated of its subjects in the way that qualities are. Most Aristotle scholars suppose either that Frege has refuted Aristotle's number theory or that Aristotle avoids Frege's objections by not making numbers properties of external objects. This has led some to conclude that Aristotle's accounts of arithmetical and geometrical objects differ substantially. I close this supposed gap by showing that Aristotle's arithmetical objects, like geometrical objects, are just certain sensible things qua certain properties they in fact possess. Specifically, numbers are pluralities qua quantitative or relational properties like ten units or ten. I show that this view is resistant to the Fregean concerns about arbitrariness and numerical predication.
Myles Burnyeat (1939-2019) was a major figure in the study of ancient Greek philosophy during the last decades of the twentieth century and the first of this. After teaching positions in London and Cambridge, where he became Laurence Professor, in 1996 he took up a Senior Research Fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford, from which he retired in 2006. In 2012 he published two volumes collecting essays dating from before the move to Oxford. Two new posthumously published volumes bring together essays from his years at All Souls and his retirement. The essays in Volume 4 are addressed principally to scholars engaging first with fundamental issues in Platonic and Aristotelian metaphysics and epistemology and in Aristotle's philosophical psychology. Then follow studies tackling problems in interpreting the approaches to physics and cosmology taken by Plato and Aristotle, and in assessing the evidence for early Greek exercises in optics.
In this chapter the Condemnations of 1277 are discussed. While their impact might have been overstressed in the past, they remain an important landmark, with important consequences for how thinkers conceived of the relation between faith and reason, theology and philosophy. Rather than resulting in a separation of faith and reason, theology and philosophy, it led to a different notion of theological reason (more analytical, more pluralist and less sacramental).
This article introduces and clarifies a neglected sense of the word ἤ (‘or’) employed by Aristotle and other authors. In this sense, called ‘indifferent’, ἤ signifies ‘one or the other, regardless of which’. It is shown how attention to this use makes it possible to explain the source of the ambiguity of certain sentences, most obviously, though not exclusively, sentences that make a necessity claim about an embedded disjunction, for example ‘It is necessary that A or B’. Why this sense cannot be explained, as some scholars have suggested, by the distinction between exclusive and inclusive ἤ is also discussed. Finally, it is shown how awareness of this sense might rescue Aristotle from a gross inconsistency.
Alexander played an important role in medieval Islamic philosophy and Persian literature, serving as a vehicle for discussions of the ‘ideal king’ in Mirror for Princes literature. This chapter explores the background to one particular work, Amir Khusraw’s Mirror of Alexander (1299), in which the king consults the philosopher Plato for advice on rulership before embarking on his submarine voyage to explore the nature of the universe. Plato’s characterisation as a mystical sage is contrasted in medieval Islam with the wisdom of Aristotle, Alexander’s teacher. In Amir Khusraw as in Nizami, Alexander is as much a philosopher as a king.
In De Anima II.6, Aristotle divides perceptibles into three kinds: “special” perceptibles such as colors, sounds, and flavors, which can be perceived in their own right by only one sense; “common” perceptibles such as shapes, sizes, and movements, which can be perceived in their own right by multiple senses; and “incidental” perceptibles, such as the son of Diares, which can be perceived only “incidentally.” In this chapter, I explain what this division amounts to. First, I argue Aristotle’s distinction between perceiving something in its own right and perceiving it incidentally marks a causal distinction: what is perceived in its own right causes perception as such, while what is perceived incidentally coincides with what is perceived in its own right. Second, I argue that, for Aristotle, special perceptibles, unlike common ones, belong to homogeneous bodies on account of their chemical composition and affect sense organs along a range between contrary extremes. Finally, I explain the primacy Aristotle assigns to special perceptibles and his claim that perception of them alone is free from error. I conclude with some brief reflections on the primary/secondary quality distinction.
I present an overview of On the Soul, Aristotle’s investigation into how psuchē (soul) explains biological phenomena in a unified way. This principle serves as a final, formal, and efficient cause of living activities. Soul needs specific consideration because it is a unique sort of form. It is responsible not just for giving living things their capacities, but also for when and how they exercise these capacities. Soul orders the ways in which living things grow, reproduce, move, and cognize the world. It accounts for all the more specific capacities and activities of the living thing. Studying soul thus gives Aristotle the opportunity to make some of his most subtle distinctions about kinds of capacity and activity. Aristotle’s discussion of soul as cause also prepares the way for considering how it works together with body, as Aristotle does in the Parva Naturalia and biological works. I then present synopses of the chapters in this guide and discuss how they relate to one another.
I examine the status of Aristotle’s science of soul and argue that it is trans-generic in the way that Aristotle's universal mathematics is. For just as the branches of the latter differ considerably, so too do the sciences of life: botany, zoology, psychology, and (in Aristotle’s view) astronomy and theology. Discovering the correct definition of soul, which is their starting point or first principle, as with other scientific starting points, involves both induction and dialectic. Induction uses scientific observation of living things to move toward this starting point. Dialectic enables the scientist to assemble endoxa, or reputable beliefs, that allow us to solve each puzzle (aporia) that clouds our understanding (nous) of the starting point that induction enables us to reach.
The phenomenon of reflective awareness, i.e., perceiving that we perceive, has often been at the center of Aristotelian scholarship, whereas that of perceptual attention, i.e., focusing on something we perceive, has been much less studied. I examine in parallel the textual evidence for these phenomena and offer a concurrent analysis of them in order to understand better how Aristotle conceives them. I argue that the Aristotelian notion of the common sense lies at the basis of the explanation of perceptual attention as much as of that of reflective awareness. In the former case, the common sense perceives the special or common perceptible that it pays attention to in its own right, whereas in the latter case it perceives the act of perceiving coincidentally along with the respective special or common perceptible. Following Aristotle, the Peripatetics defended the view that the phenomenon of reflective awareness is due to the common sense, but paid no heed to perceptual attention. On the other hand, the Neoplatonic commentators conflated the two phenomena and explained both of them by postulating either a rational character of the senses or an attentive part in the rational soul.
According to Aristotle, the three main varieties of soul – nutritive, perceptual, and rational – are hierarchically ordered. I develop and defend an interpretation of the soul’s unity that centers on Aristotle’s attempt to explain this hierarchy’s organizing cause. Aristotle draws an analogy between this series of souls and the series of figures. I first elucidate the fundamental feature both series share: each series’ prior members are present in capacity in its posterior members. I do so by examining several other cases – mathematical, biological, and physical – where Aristotle appeals to presence in capacity. I then argue that an organism’s living body is continuous by nature. That is, an organism’s soul is the principle, cause, and end of a single, articulate activity of living and each of an organism’s vital bodily movements are aspects or partial manifestations of this unitary, natural activity. This account of natural continuity is, I contend, the key to understanding what it is for one soul to be present in capacity in another. And this account of presence in capacity is, I contend, the key to understanding what it is for a soul that comprises parts to be a unity.