The historical treatment of atomism and the mechanical philosophy largely neglects what I call "chymical atomism," namely a type of pre-Daltonian corpuscular matter theory that postulated particles of matter which were operationally indivisible. From the Middle Ages onwards, alchemists influenced by Aristotle's Meteorology, De caelo, and De generatione et corruptione argued for the existence of robust corpuscles of matter that resisted analysis by laboratory means. As I argue in the present paper, this alchemical tradition entered the works of Daniel (...) Sennert and Robert Boyle, and became the common property of seventeenth-century chymists. Through Boyle, G.E. Stahl, and other chymists, the operational atomism of the alchemists was even transmitted to Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, where it became the basis of his claim that elements are simply "the final limit that analysis reaches.". (shrink)
Is there a fundamental layer of objects in nature? And if so what sorts of things populate it? Among those who answer ‘yes’ to the first question, a common answer to the second is ‘atoms,’ where an atom is understood in the original sense of an object that is spatially unextended, indivisible, and wholly lacking in proper parts. Here I explore some of the ontological consequences of atomism. First, if atoms are real, then whatever motion they appear to undergo must (...) be discrete. The link between atomism and discrete motion goes back at least to Aristotle and is admitted by some atomists, but the full significance of that admission has been neglected. I argue that a commitment to discrete motion in turn entails significant and sometimes counter-intuitive results. I also examine the implications of these results for the philosophy of mind and for discussions of metaphysical naturalism. (shrink)
The founder of atomic theory, according to Aristotle and Theophrastus, is Leucippus. His very existence has been called into question. Three of the best minds of nineteenth-century scholarship were embroiled in a vehement debate on this question, which thereupon became a cause célèbre, with scholars weighing in on both sides for the next half century. Ultimately this debate seems to have ended in stalemate and exhaustion rather than in any clear-cut decision. After briefly reviewing the debate, this article argues (...) that there are indications of an atomic theory different from Democritus's that can plausibly be attributed to Leucippus. It considers indications that the atomic theory was known in the mid-fifth century, and then tentatively explores Leucippus's contributions to atomism in a way that will illuminate Democritus's contributions. (shrink)
What ought we to make of Aristotle's apparently disparate comments on bodies in motion? I argue that Aristotle is concerned with a higher level project than dynamics and that is the establishment of a coherent theory of change in general. This theory is designed to avoid the paradoxes and infinities that Aristotle finds in Eleatic, Heraclitean and atomist accounts, notably in relation to comparatives such as 'quicker' and 'slower'. This theory relies on a broad application of proportionality (...) to all types of change, not merely those we would label 'dynamics'. To support this I argue that Aristotle denied the existence of the void and the possibility of instantaneous change, and that he could accommodate 'threshold' changes within his scheme. If this is so, then the aims of Aristotle's comments on motion become more comprehensible, and it will be understandable why Aristotle was more concerned with the application of proportionality in general rather with the investigation of specific cases in dynamics. (shrink)
De modo, quo Leibniz et Aristotelici aporiam generis solvere possunt, doctrina de conceptibus simpliciter simplicibus non respuendaDoctrina de conceptibus simpliciter simplicibus, in quos omnes notiones ultimatim possunt resolvi, (a recentioribus “atomismus conceptualis” vocata) firmiter irradicata est in occidentali philosophica traditione. Originem suam quidem ab Aristotele trahens semper apud peripateticos adfuit, purissime tamen expressa in operibus Leibnitii invenitur. Nihilominus, ab initio haec doctrina etiam difficultate quadam patiebatur, quae “aporia generis” vulgo dicitur. Difficillime est enim explicatu, quomodo simplicitas absoluta conceptuum primitivorum (seu (...) differentiarum ultimarum) stet cum conceptuum transcendentium existentia, qui necessario in unoquoque conceptu comprehenduntur. Tractatione nostra haec difficultas examinatur et solutio praebetur. Fundamentum cuius est: datur duplex continentia unius conceptus in altero, scilicet formalis et virtualis. Conceptus transcendentales a conceptibus primitivis seu simpliciter simplicibus non formaliter, id est ut pars ipsorum definitionis, sed virtualiter tantum continentur – quod nihil aliud dicit quam illos ex his necessario sequi. Notabile est, huiusmodi sulutionis originem apud Aristotelem quoque inveniri posse.Conceptual Atomism, “Aporia Generis” and the Way Out for Leibniz and the AristoteliansConceptual atomism is a doctrine deeply rooted in the tradition of western thought. It originated with Aristotle, was present in the entire Aristotelian tradition and came to its most pure expression in the work of Leibniz. However, ab initio this doctrine suffered from certain difficulty labelled traditionally “aporia generis”, namely the problem of how it is possible to reconcile the absolute simplicity of the primitive concepts (or ultimate differentiae) with the existence of transcendental concepts, that is, concepts necessarily included in every concept. In this paper the entire problem is subject to an analysis and a solution is suggested, based on a distinction between two different kinds of conceptual containment: the primitive concepts do not contain the transcendentals formally, that is, as constituents thatcan be revealed by means of definitional analysis, but they nevertheless do contain them virtually, that is, they strictly imply them. It is noted that the germ of this solution is already present in Aristotle. (shrink)
Presocratic atomism was one of the most influential of the early theories: both Plato and Aristotle thought of it as a major competing theory, and it was an important source for post-Aristotelian Hellenistic theories. It has been commonplace that the atomism developed first by Leucippus of Abdera and then by Democritus of Abdera was a reaction to the Eleatic arguments of Zeno and Melissus, but the details of that influence have sometimes seemed rather hazy. This article brings them into (...) sharper focus. This article considers the Eleatic foundations of atomism, especially the question of the importance of Zeno and Melissus for Democritus. By concentrating on some of the less-studied aspects of atomism and especially of the development of the concept of the unlimited into the notion of the infinite, it furthers the understanding of not only the development of early atomism but also the Eleatics Zeno and Melissus. (shrink)
This work analyzes two perspectives, Atomism and Infinite Divisibility, in the light of modern mathematical knowledge and recent developments in computer graphics. A developmental perspective is taken which relates ideas leading to atomism and infinite divisibility. A detailed analysis of and a new resolution for Zeno's paradoxes are presented. Aristotle's arguments are analyzed. The arguments of some other philosophers are also presented and discussed. All arguments purporting to prove one position over the other are shown to be faulty, mostly (...) by question begging. Included is a sketch of the consistency of infinite divisibility and a development of the atomic perspective modeled on computer graphics screen displays. The Pythagorean theorem is shown to depend upon the assumption of infinite divisibility. The work concludes that Atomism and infinite divisibility are independantly consistent, though mutually incompatible, not unlike the wave/particle distinction in physics. (shrink)
The intellectual history of evolutionary theory really does not begin in earnest until the late seventeenth/early eighteenth century. Prior to that, the idea that species might have evolved over time was not a serious possibility for most naturalists and philosophers. There is certainly no substantive debate in antiquity about evolution in the modern sense. There were really only two competing explanations for how living things came to have the parts they do: design or blind chance. Ancient Greek Atomism, for example, (...) taught that all composite bodies, including living things, are generated through the random collision of atoms as they rebel and move in the void. Plato and Aristotle both dismissed this possibility on the grounds that living things are too complex and too well-adapted to be products of chance. This eventually became the central premise in Galen’s own Argument from Design. That species forms might have gradually evolved over time by a process of natural selection was not seen as a plausible alternative. Of course, such a theory had been proposed by Empedocles in the fifth century BCE. But because his theory still relied heavily on chance, it was not taken seriously by any of the later ancient Greek or Roman thinkers. My aim in this paper is to investigate the reasons why evolutionary thinking failed to gain momentum in antiquity after its introduction by Empedocles. (shrink)
SUMMARY: If you think of analytic philosophy as disciplined argumentation, but with distinctive doctrinal commitments [to: positivism, logical atomism, ideal languages, verificationism, physicalistic reductionism, materialism, functionalism, connectivism, computational accounts of perception, and inductive accounts of language learning], then THAT analytic philosophy is fast going the way of acid rock and the plastic LP. Not because the method has betrayed the doctrines. Rather, the doctrines disintegrate under the method.
In Posterior Analytics 71b9 12, we find Aristotle’s definition of scientific knowledge. The definiens is taken to have only two informative parts: scientific knowledge must be knowledge of the cause and its object must be necessary. However, there is also a contrast between the definiendum and a sophistic way of knowing, which is marked by the expression “kata sumbebekos”. Not much attention has been paid to this contrast. In this paper, I discuss Aristotle’s definition paying due attention to (...) this contrast and to the way it interacts with the two conditions presented in the definiens. I claim that the “necessity” condition ammounts to explanatory appropriateness of the cause. (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)
This paper is on Aristotle's conception of the continuum. It is argued that although Aristotle did not have the modern conception of real numbers, his account of the continuum does mirror the topology of the real number continuum in modern mathematics especially as seen in the work of Georg Cantor. Some differences are noted, particularly as regards Aristotle's conception of number and the modern conception of real numbers. The issue of whether Aristotle had the notion of (...) open versus closed intervals is discussed. Finally, it is suggested that one reason there is a common structure between Aristotle's account of the continuum and that found in Cantor's definition of the real number continuum is that our intuitions about the continuum have their source in the experience of the real spatiotemporal world. A plea is made to consider Aristotle's abstractionist philosophy of mathematics anew. (shrink)
How, and why, does Earth (the element) move to the centre of Aristotle's Universe? In this paper, I argue that we cannot understand why it does so by reference merely to the nature of Earth, or the attractive force of the Centre. Rather, we have to understand the role that Earth plays in the cosmic order. Thus, in Aristotle, the behaviour of the elements is explained as one explains the function of organisms in a living organism.
In Physics, Aristotle starts his positive account of the infinite by raising a problem: “[I]f one supposes it not to exist, many impossible things result, and equally if one supposes it to exist.” His views on time, extended magnitudes, and number imply that there must be some sense in which the infinite exists, for he holds that time has no beginning or end, magnitudes are infinitely divisible, and there is no highest number. In Aristotle's view, a plurality cannot (...) escape having bounds if all of its members exist at once. Two interesting, and contrasting, interpretations of Aristotle's account can be found in the work of Jaako Hintikka and of Jonathan Lear. Hintikka tries to explain the sense in which the infinite is actually, and the sense in which its being is like the being of a day or a contest. Lear focuses on the sense in which the infinite is only potential, and emphasizes that an infinite, unlike a day or a contest, is always incomplete. (shrink)
A selection of Aristotle's most important philosophical works in English translation with an introduction and comments by Renford Bambrough with emphasis on metaphysical questions and a new afterword by Susanne Bobzien that focuses on how to study Aristotle and on Aristotle on determinism and freedom.
In De Anima, Aristotle, following his predecessor Plato, argues that the human soul has two parts, the rational and the irrational. Yet, unlike Plato, he thinks that the two parts necessarily form a unity. This is mostly evident in emotions, which seem to be constituted by both, a cognitive element, such as beliefs and expectations about one's situation, as well as, non-cognitive elements such as physical sensations. Indeed, in de Anima Aristotle argues that beliefs, bodily motion and physiological (...) changes, constitute the emotion. Hence, he avoids making sharp divisions between the cognitive (or rational) and non-cognitive or (non-rational) elements of emotion. Aristotle treats emotions as purposeful responses to our world, and in doing so, he avoids the problems that afflict the (until recently prominent) physiological theories according to which emotions are just irrational, uncontrolled responses to situations. Although our emotions can be irrational, more often than not they are rational. This is most evident in Aristotle's discussion in the Nicomachean Ethics, in which correct emotion is a large part of virtue. For instance, a courageous person when in a dangerous situation is neither fearless nor overwhelmed by fear. The complexity of Aristotle's view of emotion is nowhere more evident than in his analysis of anger in the Rhetoric. There, Aristotle argues that anger requires certain moral beliefs about the wrongness of contempt, spite and insolence, beliefs about our status and how we should be treated, a desire for revenge, and pleasure in the contemplation of revenge. Only the last thirty years or so psychologists and philosophers have started to develop theories of emotion of such complexity. Indeed, in psychology the prominent view seems to be the Schachter and Singer theory, which to a great extent resembles Aristotle's view. Schachter and Singer in their paper "Cognitive, Social and Physiological Determinants of Emotional State" argue against the then prominent James-Lange view, according to which emotions are bodily sensations and physiological changes. Schachter and Singer believe, like Aristotle, that emotions cannot be just dumb responses to situations. Although they recognize that emotion may be a physiological change or bodily sensation, they think that there must be another factor that would account for the variety of our emotions and our ability to distinguish and identify them. Schacther and Singer argue, as Aristotle did, that emotions involve both cognitive and non-cognitive elements in various degrees of complexity. According to them a subject identifies his physiological states of arousal as emotions in terms of the cognition offered to him or her. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate both views, and argue that Aristotle's account of emotion, not only resembles contemporary theories such as Schachter and Singer's, but also in many respects, it is paramount in complexity and insight. (shrink)
Between 1653 and 1655 Margaret Cavendish makes a radical transition in her theory of matter, rejecting her earlier atomism in favour of an infinitely-extended and infinitely-divisible material plenum, with matter being ubiquitously self-moving, sensing, and rational. It is unclear, however, if Cavendish can actually dispense of atomism. One of her arguments against atomism, for example, depends upon the created world being harmonious and orderly, a premise Cavendish herself repeatedly undermines by noting nature’s many disorders. I argue that her supposed difficulties (...) with atomism expose a deeper tension in her work between two fundamental metaphysical commitments each of which has substantial philosophical support: her monist theory of the material world (which maintains that there exists just one natural substance which is the single principal cause) and her occasional theory of causation (which requires multiple finite principal causes in nature -- causes that might be considered individual substances). Her monism undermines atomism while her theory of occasional cause seems to rest on a conception of nature that would be especially friendly to atomism. I argue further that we can solve this tension within a Cavendishian framework in such a way as to preserve her theory of causation and her monism, but that this solution depends upon our taking her monism in a particular (and weak) form. I finally note that we can best make sense of her unique and interesting form of monism by acknowledging her social-political motivations in addition to her motivations in natural philosophy. (shrink)
What constitutes a true human-to-human relationship? What is its importance and value for human life? These are the questions I explore in this talk on Aristotle's philosophy of friendship, originally presented as part of Boston University's Core Curriculum lecture series.
This paper reconstructs the relationship between the now, motion, and number in Aristotle to clarify the nature of the now, and, thereby, the relationship between motion and time. Although it is clear that for Aristotle motion, and, more generally, change, are prior to time, the nature of this priority is not clear. But if time is the number of motion, then the priority of motion can be grasped by examining his theory of number. This paper aims to show (...) that, just as numbers are generated by the soul, time is not presupposed by motion, but emerges through the soul’s articulation of motion. Time is co-constituted by the soul and motion. The now is the key to understanding both the contribution of motion and soul to the being of time. The now is part of the soul’s articulation of motion, and sets the stage for an act that distinguishes a unit from its underlying motion. The now, then, sets up an abstraction by which the soul generates the temporal number from motion. Reconstructing this account of abstraction allows us to formulate more strongly Aristotle’s claim to the ontological dependence of time on motion. The paper then gives a systematic overview of the relationships between the now and number in order to address the question of whether the now might be extended. It closes with an examination of the possibility that motion depends on time, and how universal time is possible. (shrink)
The Oxford Translation of Aristotle was originally published in 12 volumes between 1912 and 1954. It is universally recognized as the standard English version of Aristotle. This revised edition contains the substance of the original Translation, slightly emended in light of recent scholarship three of the original versions have been replaced by new translations and a new and enlarged selection of Fragments has been added. The aim of the translation remains the same: to make the surviving works of (...)Aristotle readily accessible to English speaking readers. (shrink)
The belief that Aristotle opposes potency (dunamis) to actuality (energeia or entelecheia) has gone untested. This essay defines and distinguishes forms of the Opposition Hypothesis—the Actualization, Privation, and Modal—examining the texts and arguments adduced to support them. Using Aristotle’s own account of opposition, the texts appear instead to show that potency and actuality are compatible, while arguments for their opposition produce intractable problems. Notably, Aristotle’s refutation of the Megarian Identity Hypothesis applies with equal or greater force to (...) the Opposition Hypothesis. For Aristotle, then, potency and actuality are compatible. (shrink)
It is sometimes asked whether virtue ethics can be assimilated by Kantianism or utilitarianism, or if it is a distinct position. A look atAristotle’s ethics shows that it certanly can be distinct. In particular, Aristotle presents us with an ethics of aesthetics in contrast to themore standard ethics of cognition: A virtuous agent identifies the right actions by their aesthetic qualities. Moreover, the agent’s concernwith her own aesthetic character gives us a key to the important role the emotions play (...) for Aristotle, which further distinguishes him from the other two theories we have mentioned. (shrink)
This presentation of Aristotle's natural deduction system supplements earlier presentations and gives more historical evidence. Some fine-tunings resulted from conversations with Timothy Smiley, Charles Kahn, Josiah Gould, John Kearns,John Glanvillle, and William Parry.The criticism of Aristotle's theory of propositions found at the end of this 1974 presentation was retracted in Corcoran's 2009 HPL article "Aristotle's demonstrative logic".
Aristotle and Confucius are pivotal figures in world history; nevertheless, Western and Eastern cultures have in modern times largely abandoned the insights of these masters. Remastering Morals is the first book-length scholarly comparison of the ethics of Aristotle and Confucius. May Sim's comparisons offer fresh interpretations of the central teachings of both men. More than a catalog of similarities and differences, her study brings two great traditions into dialog so that each is able to learn from the other. (...) This is essential reading for anyone interested in virtue-oriented ethics. (shrink)
Aristotle's discussion of perceiving that we perceive has points of contact with two contemporary debates about consciousness: the first over whether consciousness is an intrinsic feature of mental states or a higher-order thought or perception; the second concerning the qualitative nature of experience. In both cases, Aristotle's views cut down the middle of an apparent dichotomy, in a way that does justice to each set of intuitions, while avoiding their attendant difficulties. With regard to the first issue?the primary (...) focus of this paper?he argues that consciousness is both intrinsic and higher-order, due to its reflexive nature. This, in turn, has consequences for the second issue, where again Aristotle seeks out the middle ground. He is committed against qualia in any strong sense of the term. Yet he also holds that the phenomenal quality of experience is not exhausted by its representational content. (shrink)
In this article I compare and, especially, contrast Aristotle’s conception of virtue with one typical of sub-Saharan philosophers. I point out that the latter is strictly other-regarding, and specifically communitarian, and contend that the former, while including such elements, also includes some self-regarding or individualist virtues, such as temperance and knowledge. I also argue that Aristotle’s conception of human excellence is more attractive than the sub-Saharan view as a complete account of how to live, but that the African (...) conception is a strong contender for a limited group of the most important virtues related to morality qua rightness. (shrink)
THE PHILOSOPHY which I advocate is generally regarded as a species of realism, and accused of inconsistency because of the elements in it which seem contrary to that doctrine. For my part, I do not regard the issue between realists and their opponents as a funda- mental one; I could alter my view on this issue without changing my mind as to any of the doctrines upon which I wish to lay stress. I hold that logic is what is fundamental (...) in philosophy, and that schools should be characterized rather by their logic than by their metaphysic. My own logic is atomic, and it is this aspect upon which I should wish to lay stress. Therefore I prefer to describe my philosophy as "logical atomism," rather than as "realism," whether with or without some prefixed adjective. (shrink)
I lay out and examine two sharply conflicting interpretations of Aristotle's claims about nous in the De Anima (DA). On the human separability approach, Aristotle is taken to have identified reasons for thinking that the intellect can, in some way, exist on its own. On the naturalist approach, the soul, including intellectual soul, is inseparable from the body of which it is the form. I discuss how proponents of each approach deal with the key texts from the DA, (...) focusing on four of the most important and interesting topics in this area. Two of these topics concern the activity of understanding (noêsis): first, what does Aristotle mean when he claims that the intellect cannot have a bodily organ and, secondly, what role does Aristotle think phantasmata (“images” or “representations”) play in understanding something? Two of the topics concern DA 3.5, one of the most difficult passages in Aristotle's corpus: first, what is the nature and role of the productive intellect (nous poiêtikos) introduced there and, secondly, what are this chapter's implications for the question of whether the intellect or intellectual soul can exist apart from the body? I conclude by identifying areas where further research is necessary. (shrink)
In this paper I consider two related issues raised by Aristotle 's treatment of hearing and sounds. The first concerns the kinds of changes Aristotle takes to occur, in both perceptual medium and sense organs, when a perceiver hears a sounding object. The second issue concerns Aristotle 's views on the nature and location of the proper objects of auditory perception. I argue that Aristotle 's views on these topics are not what they have sometimes been (...) taken to be, and that when rightly understood they compare favourably in many respects with leading contemporary accounts. (shrink)
In De Anima I 4, Aristotle describes the intellect (nous) as a sort of substance, separate and incorruptible. Myles Burnyeat and Lloyd Gerson take this as proof that, for Aristotle, the intellect is a separate eternal entity, not a power belonging to individual humans. Against this reading, I show that this passage does not express Aristotle’s own views, but dialectically examines a reputable position (endoxon) about the intellect that seems to show that it can be subject to (...) change. The passage’s argument for the indestructibility of intellect via an analogy to perception does not fit with Aristotle’s own views. Aristotle thinks that perception operates via bodily organs, but denies this of understanding. He also requires separability from the body for indestructibility, something this analogy rules out. However, Aristotle’s Platonist interlocutors may well endorse such an argument. My dialectical interpretation best resolves the interpretative difficulties and explains its place in the larger context, Aristotle’s discussion of Platonist views on the soul. Aristotle presents a challenge to his insistence that the soul is subject to change, dialectically resolves that challenge, and then ends by reserving the right to give a different account of the intellect. (shrink)
A generally ignored feature of Aristotle’s famous function argument is its reliance on the claim that practitioners of the crafts (technai) have functions: but this claim does important work. Aristotle is pointing to the fact that we judge everyday rational agency and agents by norms which are independent of their contingent desires: a good doctor is not just one who happens to achieve his personal goals through his work. But, Aristotle argues, such norms can only be binding (...) on individuals if human rational agency as such is governed by objective teleological norms. . (shrink)
Aristotle recognizes two modes of apprehending time, viz., perceiving time and grasping time intellectually. This chapter clarifies what is and is not involved in these two modes of apprehending time. It also clarifies the way in which they interact, and argues that, according to Aristotle, one’s intellectual grasp of time has an effect on one’s perception of time for those beings who have intellect.
ABSTRACT This article deals with the communicational aspects of Aristotle’s theory of signification as laid out in the initial chapters of the De Interpretatione (Int.).1 We begin by outlining the reception and main interpretations of the chapters under discussion, rather siding with the linguistic strand. We then argue that the first four chapters present an account of verbal communication, in which words signify things via thoughts. We show how Aristotle determines voice as a conventional and hence accidental medium (...) of signification: words as ‘spoken sounds’ are tokens of thoughts, which in turn are signs or natural likenesses of things. We argue that, in this way, linguistic expressions may both signify thoughts and refer to things. This double account of signification also explains the variety of ontological, logical and psychological interpretations of the initial chapters of Int. (shrink)
This book offers a systematic overview of Aristotle's conception of well-being, virtue and justice in the Nicomachean Ethics, and then explores the major themes of Politics: civic-mindedness, slavery, family, property, the common good, class conflict, the limited wisdom of the multitude, and the radically egalitarian institutions of the ideal society.