Modern philosophy of mathematics has been dominated by Platonism and nominalism, to the neglect of the Aristotelian realist option. Aristotelianism holds that mathematics studies certain real properties of the world – mathematics is neither about a disembodied world of “abstract objects”, as Platonism holds, nor it is merely a language of science, as nominalism holds. Aristotle’s theory that mathematics is the “science of quantity” is a good account of at least elementary mathematics: the ratio of two heights, for example, (...) is a perceivable and measurable real relation between properties of physical things, a relation that can be shared by the ratio of two weights or two time intervals. Ratios are an example of continuous quantity; discrete quantities, such as whole numbers, are also realised as relations between a heap and a unit-making universal. For example, the relation between foliage and being-a-leaf is the number of leaves on a tree,a relation that may equal the relation between a heap of shoes and being-a-shoe. Modern higher mathematics, however, deals with some real properties that are not naturally seen as quantity, so that the “science of quantity” theory of mathematics needs supplementation. Symmetry, topology and similar structural properties are studied by mathematics, but are about pattern, structure or arrangement rather than quantity. (shrink)
Aristotelian substance theory tells us that substances have structures (read: forms) as proper parts. This claim has recently been defended by Kathrin Koslicki who dubbed it the ‘Neo-Aristotelian Thesis.’ Strangely, Aristotelianism has not yet been universally embraced by philosophers – partly because some of its claims, such as the Neo-Aristotelian Thesis – are viewed by some as counterintuitive at best. In this paper, I argue for Aristotelianism by showing its philosophical usefulness: specifically, I put it to use in (...) saving the metaphysical doctrine of endurantism and some central mereological doctrines (such as Transitivity) from recent attacks. This utility gives us reason to endorse Aristotelianism. Along the way, I defend Koslicki's argument for the Neo-Aristotelian Thesis from a recent criticism, thus helping provide still more reason to endorse Aristotelianism: namely, Koslicki's vindicated argument. (shrink)
Central to the western theistic understanding of divine providence is the conviction that God is the sovereign Lord of nature. He created the physical universe and continually conserves it in existence. What's more, He is always and everywhere active in it by His power. The operations of nature, be they minute or catastrophic, commonplace or unprecedented, are the work of His hands, and without His constant causal influence none of them would or could occur.
Chakravartty claims that science does not imply any specific metaphysical theory of the world. In this sense, science is consistent with both neo-Aristotelianism and neo-Humeanism. But, along with many others, he thinks that a neo-Aristotelian outlook best suits science. In other words, neo-Aristotelianism is supposed to win on the basis of an inference to the best explanation (IBE). I fail to see how IBE can be used to favour neo-Aristotelianism over neo-Humeanism. In this essay, I aim to (...) do two things. Firstly, I explain why this failure is not idiosyncratic: it should be there even by Chakravartty's lights. Secondly, I raise some critical worries about Chakravartty's semirealism, especially in connection with the concept of a 'concrete structure' and the detection/auxiliary distinction. The essay ends with a dilemma: an exclusive disjunction encapsulated in its title. (shrink)
In general historical treatments, one often encounters the idea that Kepler’s and Newton’s discovery of elliptical planetary orbits marked a decisive break with tradition and definitively undermined any possibility of an Aristotelian approach to physics and astronomy. Although Aristotle had no understanding of gravity, I want to demonstrate that elliptical orbits were a refinement of earlier models and that one can produce an Aristotelian account of elliptical orbits once one corrects his crucial mistake about gravity. One interesting side-effect of this (...) straightforwardly Aristotelian approach is that it eliminates the empty, second focal point around which any elliptical system revolves. I should emphasize that the present paper is not intended to contradict, oppose, or replace any aspect of contemporary mathematical physics or astronomy. The point is not to propose a new scientific theory—we all know that planetary orbits are elliptical—but to demonstrate that metaphysical Aristotelianism is more versatile than is generally supposed. (shrink)
The view that dominated the last century claims that ethical thought requires thinking of some things – e.g. pleasure, knowledge, virtue – as good “full stop,” or good simpliciter . Traditional Consequentialists, for instance, argue that moral evaluations of acts, motives, etc . are grounded in facts about the simple goodness of that which those things bring about. Similarly, some rational intuitionists think that claims about what one has reason to do are grounded in facts about what is good simpliciter (...) . Such a view gives rise to a set of semantic, metaphysical, and epistemological puzzles about the nature of good simpliciter . I argue that an Aristotelian approach to ethics reveals that ethical thought does not requires good simpliciter , that Aristotelian positions avoid charges of metaphysical and epistemological queerness, and that it gives a straightforward semantic analysis of key moral terms, e.g. morally good/bad and morally right/wrong. I then distinguish between two varieties of Aristotelianism. (shrink)
Philosophers of mathematics agree that the only interpretation of arithmetic that takes that discourse at 'face value' is one on which the expressions 'N', '0', '1', '+', and 'x' are treated as proper names. I argue that the interpretation on which these expressions are treated as akin to free variables has an equal claim to be the default interpretation of arithmetic. I show that no purely syntactic test can distinguish proper names from free variables, and I observe that any semantic (...) test that can must beg the question. I draw the same conclusion concerning areas of mathematics beyond arithmetic. This paper is a greatly extended version of my response to Stewart Shapiro's paper in the conference 'Structuralism in physics and mathematics' held in Bristol on 2–3 December, 2006. (shrink)
Alasdair MacIntyre is an Aristotelian critic of communitarianism, which he understands to be committed to the politics of the capitalist and bureaucratic nation state. The politics he proposes instead is based in the resistance to managerial institutions of what he calls 'practices', because these are schools of virtue. This shares little with the communitarianism of a Taylor or the Aristotelianism of a Gadamer. Although practices require formal institutions. MacIntyre opposes such conservative politics. Conventional accounts of a 'liberal-communitarian debate' in (...) political philosophy face the dilemma that Alasdair MacIntyre, often identified as a paradigmatic communitarian, has consistently and emphatically repudiated this characterization. Although neo-Aristotelianism is sometimes seen as a philosophical warrant for communitarian politics, MacIntyre's Aristotelianism is opposed to communitarianism. This paper explores the rationale of that opposition. (shrink)
This volume deals with the development of moral and political philosophy in the medieval West. Professor Nederman is concerned to trace the continuing influence of classical ideas, but emphasises that the very diversity and diffuseness of medieval thought shows that there is no single scheme that can account for the way these ideas were received, disseminated and reformulated by medieval ethical and political theorists.
The rise in the recent Western pattern of surrogate decision making is not a necessary result of an increase in the number of elderly with decreased competence; it may rather manifest the dominant Western vision of human life and relations. From a comparative philosophical standpoint, the Western pattern of medical decision making is individualistic, while the Chinese is familistic. These two distinct patterns may reflect two different comprehensive perspectives on human life and relations, disclosing a foundational difference that can be (...) seen in the Aristotelian account of friendship and the Confucian account of humanity. The contemporary development of surrogate decision making in the West may illustrate a general tendency toward the Aristotelian account, while the Chinese approaches are congruent with the Confucian view. Also explored are some merits of the Chinese approach to family decision making for health care. (shrink)
After 25 centuries, Aristotle's influence on our society's moral thinking remains profound and he continues to be a very important contributor to contemporary debates in philosophical ethics. This collection showcases some of the best new writing on the Aristotelian notion of virtue of character, which remains central to much of the most interesting work in ethical theory.
Examining the ontological commitments that Marx and later Marxists inherited from Aristotle, this book shows why ontological commitments are important. It also explains the Aristotelian reading of Marx, linking this to a critique of analytical Marxism and the philosophy of later Lukacs.
In Liberty and Nature, Rasmussen and Den Uyl use an Aristotelian conception of the human good to provide a foundation for libertarianism. Their principal argument is that intelligence and virtue are necessary ingredients in every flourishing human life, but since these are not goods that the state can distribute to individuals, governments can play only a modest role in promoting the common good. The state best promotes the well?being of its citizens by allowing them to, pursue happiness in a manner (...) of their own choosing, and defending them against those who would invade their moral boundaries. (shrink)
Revisions of three lectures given at Catholic University of America in March 1978. Includes bibliographical references and indexes. Introduction.--The first lecture, Eternity of the world.--The second lectures, Monopsychism.--The third lecture, Rationalism.
"Powers and Capacities in Philosophy" is designed to stake out an emerging, discipline-spanning neo-Aristotelian framework grounded in realism about causal powers. The volume brings together for the first time original essays by leading philosophers working on powers in relation to metaphysics, philosophy of natural and social science, philosophy of mind and action, epistemology, ethics and social and political philosophy. In each area, the concern is to show how a commitment to real causal powers affects discussion at the level in question. (...) In metaphysics, for example, realism about powers is now recognized as providing an alternative to orthodox accounts of causation, modality, properties and laws. Dispositional realist philosophers of science, meanwhile, argue that a powers ontology allows for a proper account of the nature of scientific explanation. In the philosophy of mind there is the suggestion that agency is best understood in terms of the distinctive powers of human beings. Those who take virtue theoretic approaches in epistemology and ethics have long been interested in the powers that allow for knowledge and/or moral excellence. In social and political philosophy, finally, powers theorists are interested in the powers of sociological phenomena such as collectivities, institutions, roles and/or social relations, but also in the conditions of possibility for the cultivation of the powers of individuals. The book will be of interest to philosophers working in any of these areas, as well as to historians of philosophy, political theorists and critical realists. (shrink)
A problem for Aristotelian realist accounts of universals (neither Platonist nor nominalist) is the status of those universals that happen not to be realised in the physical (or any other) world. They perhaps include uninstantiated shades of blue and huge infinite cardinals. Should they be altogether excluded (as in D.M. Armstrong's theory of universals) or accorded some sort of reality? Surely truths about ratios are true even of ratios that are too big to be instantiated - what is the truthmaker (...) of such truths? It is argued that Aristotelianism can answer the question, but only a semi-Platonist form of it. (shrink)
Abstract The aim of the paper is to reassess the role of British Aristotelianism within the history of early modern logic between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as a crucial moment of cultural transition from the model of humanistic rhetoric and dialectic to that of facultative logic, that is, a logic which concerns the study of the cognitive powers of the mind. The paper shows that there is a special connection between Paduan Aristotelianism and British empiricism, through the (...) mediation of British Aristotelianism. British Aristotelians took the ideas of the Paduan Aristotelian tradition and carried them to an extreme, gradually removing them from the original Aristotelian context in which they were grounded and developing what would later become the fundamental ideas of British empiricism. (shrink)
The group of writings entitled De motu constitutes Galileo's earliest writings on dynamics. These manuscripts are usually dated to the years 1589 to 1592, when Galileo taught mathematics at the University of Pisa. Among their characteristics, the application of dynamic principles of Archimedean hydrostatics to the problem of motion stands out, as does their anti-Aristotelian tone. This paper tries to embed these writings within the cultural context in which they were created by documenting their link to the debate over the (...) motion of the elements between Girolamo Borro and Francesco Buonamici, the two most celebrated Pisan Aristotelians of the late sixteenth century. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to pinpoint some of the features that do—or should—make Aristotelianism attractive to current moral educators. At the same time, it also identifies theoretical and practical shortcomings that contemporary Aristotelians have been overly cavalier about. Section II presents a brisk tour of ten of the ‘pros’: features that are attractive because they accommodate certain powerful and prevailing assumptions in current moral philosophy and moral psychology—applying them to moral education. Section III explores five versions of (...) the view that Aristotle's position is somehow anachronistic and out-dated. As none of those bears scrutiny, Section IV addresses ten features of Aristotelianism that do not seem to sit well with contemporary moral philosophy and psychology: the genuine ‘cons’ of Aristotelianism. It is subsequently argued that if we want to avoid acquiring Aristotelianism on the cheap, those less attractive features need to be engaged head-on: reinterpreted, revised or simply rejected. (shrink)
I argue that Aristotelians who are sympathetic to the critique of liberal moral categories put forward by Alasdair MacIntyre ought to avail themselves of Marx's analysis of capitalism in Capital, Volume 1. Broadly speaking, there are two reasons for such a recommendation. First, Marx's account shows capitalism to be the sociological substrate for the evisceration of particularity that so concerns MacIntyre and other Aristotelians. I offer an explanation for why MacIntyre seems not to appreciate this. Second, Marx's own thinking is (...) markedly Aristotelian, in ways that I specify. (shrink)
William Gilbert’s 1600 book, De magnete, greatly influenced early modern natural philosophy. The book describes an impressive array of physical experiments, but it also advances a metaphysical view at odds with the soon to emerge mechanical philosophy. That view was animism. I distinguish two kinds of animism – Aristotelian and Platonic – and argue that Gilbert was an Aristotelian animist. Taking Robert Boyle as an example, I then show that early modern arguments against animism were often effective only against Platonic (...) animism. In fact, unacknowledged traces of Aristotelian animism can be found in Boyle’s mechanical account of nature. This was Gilbert’s legacy. (shrink)
In his treatment of subjective mind, Hegel argues that the development that characterizes the vital process of a human individual is logically unique in that it dissolves the contradiction between two logical determinations that characterize any vital activity: the contradiction between the ‘immediate singularity’ of the subject of this process and its ‘abstract generality’. Hegel employs the term Bildung to characterize any vital activity that has this form. The idea that the distinction between human life and non-human life is a (...) logical distinction is one of the main lessons that Hegel thinks we should learn from Aristotle's treatment of the idea of life. In this article I distinguish between two contemporary varieties of this Aristotelian idea: a sophisticated variety that emphasizes the idea of second nature in order to characterize the distinctiveness of the human, and a naive variety that thinks of the human's uniqueness in terms of characterizations that already belong to its first nature. I argue that Hegel is neither sophisticated nor naive but offers a third variety of Neo-Aristotelianism that solves the difficulties of the other two. This has decisive consequences for his understanding of Bildung. Although the notion of Bildung describes an empirical process, Hegel argues, it is not an empirical concept. Rather, it is the concrete concept of the process of actualization that characterizes a self-conscious form of life that reflects the inner temporality of this form's actuality. (shrink)