In the dialectic of debates about the extension of life, one witnesses a predictably repeating pattern: one side appeals to a motley of variegated criteria for something’s qualifying as a living system, only to find an opposite side taking issue with the individual necessity or collective sufficiency of the proposed criteria. Some of these criteria tend to cluster with one another, while others do not: metabolism, growth and reproduction; self-organization and homeostasis; an ability to decrease internal entropy by the appropriation (...) of free energy; stimulus response suited to self-preservation and propagation; and adaptation. In competing approaches to the extension of life, these sundry criteria thus jockey for authority, with one group of theorists promoting some subset of them as essential for life, where the appeal to essence is as likely as not to be a simple modal sine qua non , and another denying that the nominated criteria are really necessary at all. The debate then stalls, because there seems to be no shared methodology for adjudicating such disputes. We may address this unhappy situation successfully by coming to appreciate that life is what we may call a core-dependent homonym. (shrink)
Among the instances of apparent illiberality in Plato's Republic, one stands out as especially curious. Long before making a forced return to the cave, and irrespective of the kinds of compulsion operative in such a homecoming, the philosopher-king has been compelled to apprehend the Good (Rep. VII.519c5-d2, 540a3-7). Why should compulsion be necessary or appropriate in this situation? Schooled intensively through the decades for an eventual grasping of the Good, beginning already with precognitive training in music and art calculated to (...) equip the guardian with a natural affinity towards the good and beautiful (Rep. III.401d3-402a4), the fully mature guardian might be expected to leap towards the Good when it is first opportune. For the Good is, according to Plato, the greatest thing to be learned (megiston mathêma; Rep. VI.504e4-5, 505a2). Reflection on these questions permits us to develop a richer appreciation of the forms of necessitation and compulsion Plato envisages for his guardians, which turn out to be primarily merely hypothetical instances of nomic necessitation. It follows that many of Plato's appeals to compulsion are neither coercive nor objectionably authoritarian. Footnotesa I thank the participants in the Liberty Fund Conference on Ancient Political Theory, held in San Diego, California in 2006, for their helpful and spirited criticisms. Still more do I thank Fred Miller and David Keyt, whose incisive written comments improved an earlier draft of this essay in countless ways. Finally, I am indebted to Ellen Wagner, who first permitted me to see the importance of questions regarding prepolitical necessitation for our understanding of Plato's Republic and from whose paper on this topic I have benefited enormously. (See note 5 below.). (shrink)
Classical Philosophy is a comprehensive examination of early philosophy from the presocratics through to Aristotle. The aim of the book is to provide an explanation and analysis of the ideas that flourished at this time and considers their relevance both to the historical development of philosophy and to contemporary philosophy today. From these ideas we can see the roots of arguments in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and political philosophy.
Aristotle attaches particular significance to the homomyny of many of the central concepts in philosophy and science: that is, to the diversity of ways of being that are denoted by a single concept. Shields here investigates and evaluates Aristotle's approach to questions about homonymy, characterizing the metaphysical and semantic commitments necessary to establish the homonymy of a given concept. Then, in a series of case studies, he examines in detail some of Aristotle's principal applications of homonymy--to the body, sameness and (...) and oneness, life, goodness, and being. This first full-length study of a central aspect of Aristotle's thought will interest philosophers working in a number of areas. (shrink)