The present PhD dissertation aims to examine the relation between modality and change in Aristotle’s metaphysics. -/- On the one hand, Aristotle supports his modal realism (i.e., worldly objects have modal properties - potentialities and essences - that ground the ascriptions of possibility and necessity) by arguing that the rejection of modal realism makes change inexplicable, or, worse, banishes it from the realm of reality. On the other hand, the Stagirite analyses processes by means of modal notions (‘change is the (...) actuality of what is virtual insofar as it is virtual’). In other words: to grasp what change is, one has to resort to the modal idiom of potentialities, while the fact that there is change is indicative of the fact that nature is full of modal properties. -/- Aristotle’s modal and kinetic realism finds a negative in the figure of the Megaric Diodorus Kronus. The polemical situation of Greek philosophy has indeed the dialectical advantage of not opposing the Aristotelian position to a sui generis straw man. Both in its reduction of modal judgements to temporal quantifications and in its dissolution of the reality of the state-of-being-in-motion in favour of a cinematographic view of processes, the philosophical figure of reductionist antirealism embodied by Diodorus constitutes an alternative that takes the opposite view of Aristotle’s realism. -/- The present study is structured as a discussion between these two positions. In the face of Diodorus’ antirealist challenges, Aristotle articulates modal and kinetic considerations: the answers he gives to Diodorus’ puzzles thus provide valuable insight into his metaphysics. Moreover, the examination of Aristotle’s and Diodorus’ metaphysics, because of their insight and originality, will not fail to interest the philosopher concerned with the metaphysical foundations of modern physics, insofar as the entanglement between modalities and processes is nowadays at the core of mechanics (phase spaces, path integrals, etc.). (shrink)
Aristotle claims that just as a builder uses ‘tools’ to build a house, so too the soul ‘use[s] heat and coldness as tools’ to build an animal (Generation of Animals 740b25–34). I consider two questions about this claim: (1) what sorts of things does the soul use, and what is it for things like them to be organized? and (2) what philosophical work does this sort of organization do in Aristotle’s account of animal generation? I argue that the soul needs (...) flexible intermediate agents, that it organizes them in a way that exploits their flexibility, and that this is due to the demands of a complex, multi-stage process directed at a single end. (shrink)
Devin Henry offers a comprehensive study of Aristotle’s hylomorphic account of substantial generation. In particular, he argues that, in Generation of Animals, Aristotle defends a view that Henry calls “reproductive hylomorphism” : an application of the hylomorphic model of substantial generation to the central case of the generation of animals. In this review, I explain Henry's view and offer some criticisms of his two-stage model of reproductive hylomorphism that distinguishes embryogenesis from morphogenesis.
This essay considers three case studies of Aristotle’s use of matter, drawn from three different scientific contexts: menstrual fluid as the matter of animal generation in the Generation of Animals, the living body as matter of an organism in Aristotle’s On the Soul (De Anima), and the matter of elemental transformation in Generation and Corruption. I argue that Aristotle conceives of matter differently in these treatises (1) because of the different sorts of changes under consideration, and (2) because sometimes he (...) is considering the matter for one specific change, and sometimes the matter for all of a thing’s natural changes. My account allows me to explain some of the strange features that Aristotle ascribes to the matter for elemental transformation in Generation and Corruption II. These features were interpreted by later commentators as general features of all matter. I argue that they are a result of the specific way that Aristotle thinks about the transmutation of the elements. (shrink)
Diogenes subscribes to a principle that, roughly, causal interaction and change require a certain sort of uniformity among the relata. Attending to this principle can help us understand Diogenes's relationship to the superficially similar Anaximenes without insisting, as some do, that Diogenes must be consciously responding to Parmenides. Diogenes is distinctive and philosophically interesting because his principle combines two senses of ‘archê’ (principle, starting-point), namely, the idea of source or origin and that of underlying (material) principle, and gives the rudiments (...) of an argument for associating the two, by which Aristotle may have been influenced. Diogenes’s principle and its deployment in biological explanations thematized a concern that Aristotle at least partially shared, and which led him to appeal, as Diogenes is said to have done, to pneuma (breath, air). (shrink)
Physics I 6 addresses the question of the number of principles and motivates the need for an underlying principle in addition to the contrary ones argued for in chapter 5. Physics I 6 ends in aporia about whether there are two or three principles, an aporia which is resolved with Aristotle’s own account in I 7. This chapter focuses on two issues. First, it explores how Aristotle’s arguments for contrary and underlying principles give rise to the aporia. Second, it discusses (...) Aristotle’s puzzling attitude towards, and use of, materialist views in I 6 and, more generally, in book I. Though Aristotle brings out deep tensions between his own hylomorphic conception and materialism, he also seems to downplay them for the purposes of arguing for an underlying principle. I suggest that this is a result of trying to motivate a hylomorphic conception of natural substance from within a more familiar materialist framework. (shrink)
This contribution offers an interpretation of the last half of chapter 1 of book 5 of Aristotle’s Physics in the form of a commentary. Among other things, it attempts an explanation of why Aristotle calls the termini of changes ‘something underlying’ (ὑποκείμενον) and ‘something not underlying’ (μὴ ὑποκείμενον). It also provides an analysis of Aristotle’s argument for the claim that what is not simpliciter does not change in the light of this interpretation.
In Physics 4.11, Aristotle says that changes are continuous because magnitude is continuous. I suggest that this is not Aristotle’s considered view, and that in Generation and Corruption 2.10 Aristotle argues that this leads to the unacceptable consequence that alterations can occur discontinuously. Physics 6.4 was written to amend this theory, and to argue that changes are continuous because changing bodies are so. I also discuss the question of Aristotle’s consistency on the possibility of discontinuous alterations, such as freezing.
Near the beginning of De Gen. et Cor. II.1, Aristotle claims that the generation and corruption of all naturally constituted substances are “not without the perceptible bodies”. It is not clear what he intends by this. In this paper I offer a new interpretation of this assertion. I argue that the assumption behind the usual reading, namely, that these “perceptible bodies” ought to be distinguished from the naturally constituted substances, is flawed, and that the assertion is best understood as a (...) claim that Aristotle has established in the second half of the first book of the De Gen. et Cor. (shrink)
The paper examines Posterior Analytics II 11, 94a20-36 and makes three points. (1) The confusing formula ‘given what things, is it necessary for this to be’ [τίνων ὄντων ἀνάγκη τοῦτ᾿ εἶναι] at a21-22 introduces material cause, not syllogistic necessity. (2) When biological material necessitation is the only causal factor, Aristotle is reluctant to formalize it in syllogistic terms, and this helps to explain why, in II 11, he turns to geometry in order to illustrate a kind of material cause that (...) can be expressed as the middle term of an explanatory syllogism. (3) If geometrical proof is viewed as a complex construction built on simpler constructions, it can in effect be described as a case of purely material constitution. (shrink)
In his questio on the motion of elements and mixed bodies in a void the Italian professor of practical medicine, Albertino Rinaldi da Salso di Piacenza (Albertinus de Rainaldis de Placentia, also known as Albertino da Piacenza), held the clearly non-Aristotelian view that an element in a void would not move instantaneously, but successively. To prove his conclusion Albertino draws to a large degree on arguments proposed by Richard Kilvington. Among the few 14th century authors who rejected Aristotle’s account of (...) motion in a vacuum Kilvington had presented the most thorough analysis of this subject. While Kilvington is known for his sophisticated argumentation and entangled style of presenting and sometimes nearly hiding his own opinions, Albertino’s treatise is better structured, and his conclusions are brought out more clearly. His disputation is an impressive testimony to the impact of Kilvington’s views of motion in a void. (shrink)
Attempts to find perennial elements in Aristotle’s cosmology are doomed to failure because his distinction of sub- and supra-lunary realms no longer holds. More fruitful approaches to the contemporary importance of Aristotelian cosmology must focus on parities of reasoning rather than content. This paper highlights the striking parallels between Aristotle’s use of symmetry arguments in cosmology and instances of Noether’s First Theorem in contemporary physics. Both observe simple motion, find symmetries in that motion, argue from those symmetries to notions of (...) conservation, and then conclude to cosmological structure. These parallels reveal an enduring relevance for Aristotelian cosmology that does not depend on positing an enduring content to his cosmological claims. (shrink)
Adriel M. Trott challenges the wholesale acceptance of the view that nature operates in Aristotle's work on a craft model, which implies that matter has no power of its own. Instead, she argues for a robust sense of matter in Aristotle in response to feminist critiques. She finds resources for thinking the female's contribution (and the female itself) on its own terms and not as the contrary to form, or the male. Using the image of a Möbius strip, Trott considers (...) how semen and menses flow through Aristotle's account of generation. She weaves together scholarship on matter, form and generation in Aristotle; on the mythological, Hippocratic and Pre-Socratic treatments of the feminine and the elemental; and on feminist readings of material. In doing so, she demonstrates the interdependence of form and matter in Aristotle's biology. (shrink)
Although Aristotle's contribution to biology has long been recognized, there are many philosophers and historians of science who still hold that he was the great delayer of natural science, calling him the man who held up the Scientific Revolution by two thousand years. They argue that Aristotle never considered the nature of matter as such or the changes that perceptible objects undergo simply as physical objects; he only thought about the many different, specific natures found in perceptible objects. Against this (...) view, this book argues that Aristotle offers a systematic account of matter, motion, and the basic causal powers found in all physical objects. It argues that Aristotle not only sees all perceptible objects as sharing certain basic physical properties, but he also holds that perceptible objects have these physical properties because they are ultimately made from physical matter of one kind or another. Finally, it argues that for Aristotle the basic properties of matter, including the basic properties of the material elements, cannot be understood teleologically. (shrink)
I examine the reasons Aristotle presents in Physics VIII 8 for denying a crucial assumption of Zeno’s dichotomy paradox: that every motion is composed of sub-motions. Aristotle claims that a unified motion is divisible into motions only in potentiality (δυνάμει). If it were actually divided at some point, the mobile would need to have arrived at and then have departed from this point, and that would require some interval of rest. Commentators have generally found Aristotle’s reasoning unconvincing. Against David Bostock (...) and Richard Sorabji, inter alia, I argue that Aristotle offers a plausible and internally consistent response to Zeno. I defend Aristotle’s reasoning by using his discussion of what to say about the mobile at boundary instants, transitions between change and rest. There Aristotle articulates what I call the Changes are Open, Rests are Closed Rule: what is true of something at a boundary instant is what is true of it over the time of its rest. By contrast, predications true of something over its period of change are not true of the thing at either of the boundary instants of that change. I argue that this rule issues from Aristotle’s general understanding of change, as laid out in Phys. III. It also fits well with Phys. VI, where Aristotle maintains that there is a first boundary instant included in the time of rest, but not a “first in which the mobile began to change.” I then show how this rule underlies Aristotle’s argument that a continuous motion cannot be composed of actual sub-motions. Aristotle distinguishes potential middles, points passed through en route to a terminus, from actual middles. The Changes are Open, Rests are Closed Rule only applies to actual middles, because only they are boundaries of change that the mobile must arrive at and then depart from. On my reading, Aristotle argues that the instant of arrival, the first instant at which the mobile has come to be at the actual middle, cannot belong to the time of the subsequent motion. If it did, the mobile would already be moving towards the next terminus and thus, per Phys. VI 6, would have already left. But it cannot have moved away from the midpoint at the very same moment it has arrived there. This means that the instant of arrival must be separated from the time of departure by an interval of rest. I show how Aristotle’s reasoning applies generally to rule out any continuous reflexive motion or continuous complex rectilinear motion. On my interpretation, however, the argument does not apply to every change of direction. When, as in the case of projectile motion, multiple movers and their relative powers explain why the mobile changes directions, distinct sub-motions are not involved. Aristotle holds that such motions cannot be continuous, not because they involve intervals of rest, but because they involve multiple causes of motion. My interpretation of the Changes are Open, Rests are Closed Rule allows us to make better sense of Aristotle’s argument than any previous interpretation. (shrink)
The difficulties often attributed to prime matter hold for all hylomorphic accounts of substantial change. If the substratum of substantial change actually persists through the change, then such change is merely another kind of accidental change. If the substratum does not persist, then substantial change is merely creation ex nihilo. Either way matter is an empty concept, explaining nothing. This conclusion follows from Aristotle’s homoeomerity principle, and attempts to evade this conclusion by relaxing the constraints Aristotle imposes on elementhood, generation, (...) and substrata all fail, and even the minimal constraints imposed by the Problem of Material Constitution are enough to generate the dilemma. -/- Aristotle resolves this dilemma in Physics I.9 by postulating pure potentiality-for-substance as the substratum of substantial change. Because the substratum persists, substantial change is not creation ex nihilo, but because it does not persist actually it is not a kind of accidental change. Aristotle uses this approach to solve the Problem of the Mixt and the Problem of Material Constitution without weakening his constraints on elementhood, generation, or substrata. This pure potentiality approach must be carefully distinguished from other ‘traditional’ or ‘prime matter’ views that posit some actuality for the substratum of substantial change, and it is best understood in light of the analogy found at Metaphysics Θ.6. Pure potentiality-for-substance can do the work needed in a substratum for substantial change because Aristotle is able to ground the identity, existence, and characterization of the substratum in the corrupting and generating substances rather than the substratum itself. (shrink)
Of Aristotle’s core terms, potency (dunamis) and actuality (energeia) are among the most important. But when we attempt to understand what they mean, we face the following problem: their primary meaning is movement, as a source (dunamis) or as movement itself (energeia). We therefore have to understand movement in order to understand them. But the structure of movement is itself articulated using these terms: it is the activity of a potential being, as potent. This paper examines this hermeneutic circle, and (...) works out a strategy for reading Aristotle based on his conception of our epistemological predicament. This hermeneutic approach helps us gain access to the phenomena of movement and its sources (potency, and energeia). The paper closes with a review of the conceptual resources we deploy to think about movement: homogeneity, space and time, impulse, relativity, the blend of sameness and difference, and being and non-being. Showing that Aristotle uses none of these clears the landscape for a fresh inquiry into his account of movement. (shrink)
I examine the passages where Aristotle maintains that intellectual activity employs φαντάσματα (images) and argue that he requires awareness of the relevant images. This, together with Aristotle’s claims about the universality of understanding, gives us reason to reject the interpretation of Michael Wedin and Victor Caston, on which φαντάσματα serve as the material basis for thinking. I develop a new interpretation by unpacking the comparison Aristotle makes to the role of diagrams in doing geometry. In theoretical understanding of mathematical and (...) natural beings, we usually need to employ appropriate φαντάσματα in order to grasp explanatory connections. Aristotle does not, however, commit himself to thinking that images are required for exercising all theoretical understanding. Understanding immaterial things, in particular, may not involve employing phantasmata. Thus the connection that Aristotle makes between images and understanding does not rule out the possibility that human intellectual activity could occur apart from the body. (shrink)
according to a certain interpretative tradition, Aristotle is committed to prime matter—an indefinite, indeterminate, and unknowable material substratum that exists as pure potentiality and underlies, among other features, the elements and their mutual transformations.1 This interpretative tradition has come under attack from various sources; among such sources are those who wish to deny Aristotle’s commitment to a material substratum that is ontologically more basic than the elements, and who instead affirm the conclusion that Aristotle’s account of nature and change does (...) not require prime matter.2A different objection to the interpretative tradition is voiced by those who wish to maintain Aristotle’s commitment... (shrink)
According to most scholars, in the Parts of Animals Aristotle frequently provides explanations in terms of material necessity, as well as explanations in terms of that-for-the-sake-of-which, i.e., final causes. In this paper, I argue that we misunderstand both matter and the way that Aristotle explains things using necessity if we interpret Aristotle as explaining things in terms of material necessity. Aristotle does not use the term “matter” very frequently in his detailed discussions of animal parts; when he does use it, (...) he typically identifies blood as matter. I argue that this is because blood is, for Aristotle, what properly nourishes and grows the other parts of the body and he views nourishment and growth as types of coming-to-be. The second half of the paper turns to necessity as a cause in the Parts of Animals. I argue that in the Parts of Animals Aristotle is not interested in distinguishing between what Aristotle elsewhere treats as very different types of necessity. (shrink)
Aristotle argued that in theory one could acquire knowledge of the natural world. But he did not stop there; he put his theories into practice. This volume of new essays shows how Aristotle's natural science and philosophical theories shed light on one another. The contributors engage with both biological and non-biological scientific works and with a wide variety of theoretical works, including Physics, Generation and Corruption, On the Soul, and Posterior Analytics. The essays focus on a number of themes, including (...) the sort of explanation provided by matter; the relationship between matter, teleology, and necessity; cosmic teleology; how an organism's soul and faculties relate to its end; how to define things such as sleep, void, and soul; and the proper way to make scientific judgments. The resulting volume offers a rich and integrated view of Aristotle's science and shows how it fits with his larger philosophical theories. (shrink)
My topic is the fundamental Aristotelian division between the animate and the inanimate. In particular, I discuss the transformation that occurs when an inanimate body comes to be ensouled. When nutriment is transformed into flesh it is first changed into blood. I argue that blood is unique in being, at one and the same time, both animate and inanimate; it is inanimate nutriment in actuality (or in activity) and animate flesh in potentiality (or in capacity). I provide a detailed exposition (...) of these manners of being (covering individual substances, artifacts, and mixtures), apply these insights to the case of blood, and then argue that blood's curious status is central to understanding hylomorphism in living organisms. (shrink)
In 'Physics' I.7, Aristotle claims that plants and animals are generated from sperma. Since most understood sperma to be an ovum, this claim threatens to undermine the standard view that, for Aristotle, the matter natural beings are generated from persists through their generation. By focusing on Aristotle’s discussion of sperma in the first book of the 'Generation of Animals', I show that, for Aristotle, sperma in the female is surplus blood collected in the uterus and not an ovum. I subsequently (...) argue that, for Aristotle, this blood does persist through the production of the fetus. (shrink)
Aristotle offers several arguments in Physics viii.8 for his thesis that, when something moves back and forth, it does not undergo a single motion. These arguments occur against the background of a sophisticated theory, expounded in Physics v—vi, of the basic structure of motions and of other continuous entities such as times and magnitudes. The arguments in Physics viii.8 stand in a complex relation to that theory. On the one hand, Aristotle evidently relies on the theory in a number of (...) crucial steps. Yet in other steps he seems to contradict or misapply the theory. This situation offers the occasion to examine Aristotle’s views about some fundamentals in the metaphysics of motion, while also raising questions about the unity of the text which has come down to us as the Physics. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine Aristotle's notion of potentiality as it applies to the beginning of life. Aristotle’s notion of natural kinēsis implies that we should not treat the entity at the beginning of embryonic development as human, or indeed as the same as the one that is born. This leads us to ask: When does the embryo turn into a human? Aristotle’s own answer to this question is very harsh. Bracketing the views that lead to this harsh answer, his (...) theory of kinēsis still gives us reason for searching for a replacement answer. Aristotle’s own work unfortunately gives us no help in finding this answer. (shrink)
I reconstruct Aristotle’s reasons for thinking that the intellect cannot have a bodily organ. I present Aristotle’s account of the aboutness or intentionality of cognitive states, both perceptual and intellectual. On my interpretation, Aristotle’s account is based around the notion of cognitive powers taking on forms in a special preservative way. Based on this account, Aristotle argues that no physical structure could enable a bodily part or combination of bodily parts to produce or determine the full range of forms that (...) the human intellect can understand. For Aristotle, cognitive powers with bodily organs are always spatiotemporally limited, but the understanding is not. Aristotle claims that our understanding applies to all instances of the thing understood wherever and whenever they exist. On Aristotle’s own account the intellect in its nature is only “potential,” it does not actually possess any form. Thus nothing prevents it from possessing all forms. (shrink)
It might seem quite commonplace to say that Aristotle identifies fire, air, water and earth as the στοιχεῖα, or ‘elements’ – or, to be more precise, as the elements of bodies that are subject to generation and corruption. Yet there is a tradition of interpretation, already evident in the work of the sixth-century commentator John Philoponus and widespread, indeed prevalent, today, according to which Aristotle does not really believe that fire, air, water and earth are truly elemental. The basic premise (...) of this interpretation is that Aristotle takes fire, air, water and earth to be, in some sense, composite bodies and, as such, analysable into simpler constituents. But, of course, an element of bodies is defined by Aristotle himself as something into which bodies can be analysed, and which does not admit further analysis . So if fire, air, water and earth can be analysed into simpler or more basic constituents, then it would seem to follow that the latter ought to be considered Aristotle's true elements. These are usually identified as the primary contraries hot and cold, dry and wet; many, perhaps most, commentators would insist also upon prime matter as the subject upon which these contraries act. (shrink)
Aristotle has a rather extreme concept of change: Alteration is the change of a sensible quality in a thing. This is produced when a thing comes into immediate contact with another thing and is affected by the opposite sensible quality of the latter. Book VII, chapter 3 of the Aristotelian Physics is the crucial text to explore this topic. The present volume sets out to analyze and clarify the reason of this approach.
I discuss in this paper Aristotle’s definition of nature in Physics 192b 20-23. I intend to prove that this definition has to be taken as a set of three (not only two) conditions: the first condition just establishes that nature is a sort of cause; the second condition concerns the relationship between nature and the natural thing that has it as a cause; the third condition concerns the relationship between nature and the properties that natural things have from nature’s causality.
I discuss some of Aristotle’s scattered remarks from which one can construct his conception of matter. Aristotle seems to oscillate between two conceptions: one in which matter is the principle of becoming, another in which matter is a constituent element with no contribution for processes of becoming. Sometimes Aristotle takes matter as a thing independent in itself, and the correlated form is a feature that does not contribute to the matter’s essence, nor is a necessary condition for its existence. But (...) sometimes Aristotle takes matter as a constituent element the existence of which depends on the whole thing it is the matter of. These different approaches to matter seem to suggest an inconsistent theory of matter. However, I argue that, quite to the contrary, Aristotle has a consistent theory about matter. One of my main points is to distinguish contexts in which Aristotle is indeed talking about matter in general from contexts in which he uses the term “matter” to refer to a given thing that was previously taken as matter and to talk about that thing not qua matter, but qua the thing it is. (shrink)
I argue that Aristotle’s teleology in natural science (more specifically, in biology) is not incompatible with his admissions of the “brute necessity” of the movements of matter. Aristotle thinks that the brute necessity emerging from the movements of matter is not sufficient to explain why living beings are what they are and behave the way they behave. Nevertheless, Aristotle takes this brute necessity to be a sine qua non condition in biological explanations. The full explanation of the features of living (...) beings requires the hylomorphic model, in which the brute necessity belonging to the matter is subordinated to the teleological causality of the form. The model for which I argue is pretty much Balme’s “cybernetic”. However, I explore some aspects of Aristotle’s texts that have not received much attention in the recent literature. (shrink)
Argues that Descartes mistook the sense of 'motion' intended by Aristotle in the latter's definition of life as the capacity for self-motion. Descartes' arguments against Aristotelian soul-as-life-principle consequently commit the 'straw man' fallacy.
The paper discusses Heidegger's early notion of the “movedness of life” (Lebensbewegtheit) and its intimate connection with Aristotle's concept of movement (kinēsis). Heidegger's aim in the period of Being and Time was to “overcome” the Greek ideal of being as ousia – constant and complete presence and availability – by showing that the background for all meaningful presence is Dasein, the ecstatically temporal context of human being. Life as the event of finitude is characterized by an essential lack and incompleteness, (...) and the living present therefore gains meaning only in relation to a horizon of un-presence and un-availability. Whereas the “theological” culmination of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics finds the supreme fulfillment of human life in the semi-divine self-immanence and self-sufficiency of the bios theōrētikos, a radical Heideggerian interpretation of kinēsis may permit us to find in Aristotle the fundamental structures of mortal living as self-transcendent movement. (shrink)
This MA thesis investigates Aristotle's natural teleology, its presuppositions and implications. In order to achieve a better understanding of his theory, a study of the criticisms he addresses to his predecessors - Platonists and materialists - is made. On the one hand, Aristotle exposes thoses theories for not being able to explain certain natural facts, such as the constancy of reproduction; on the other, he finds the origin of this deficiency in the emphasis these philosophers give to one cause alone (...) (be it material or formal). A solution to these problems, Aristotle argues, can only be reached if we seriously consider the four causes: material, formal, efficient and final. (shrink)
In his metaphysics and natural philosophy, Aristotle uses the concept of a material cause,i.e., that from which something can be made or generated. This paper argues that Aristotle also has a concept of matter in the sense of physical stuff. Aristotle develops this concept of matter in the course of investigating the material causes of perceptible substances. Because of the requirements for change, locomotion, and the physical interaction of material objects, Aristotle holds that all perceptible substances must be extended in (...) three dimensions, movable, and corporeal due to their material causes. Thus, perceptible substances are physical substances because they are made out of something physical. (shrink)