History of Philosophy: Ancient and Medieval -- Dr. Ess
NOTE: These are based on an earlier writing assignment over Aristotle -- they are hence both useful as study guides and as a preview of the sorts of questions we will discuss in class and about which I will ask you to write. I expect for next class meeting that you will be prepared to discuss the issues in "1." and "2.a" -- but I will not collect any sort of written response you may wish to make to these questions. I do hope that you find them useful guides as you read Jones.
1. On my view, it is arguable whether or not Aristotle correctly interprets Plato regarding the kind of difference which operates between Plato's Forms and the world of sense.
Given however, this interpretation of Plato - how would you explain how Aristotle attempts to develop a metaphysics and epistemology which avoids too much difference between form and matter and between what mind knows and sense experience?
To answer this question fully, you would need to begin with Aristotle's account of form and matter, and then describe change in terms of his form/matter and actual/potential distinctions. In particular, can you explain how Aristotle combines these concepts -- including the notion of a "final cause" in his notion of "entelechy."
Relatedly, can you give a brief account of what human knowledge of sense-items is for Aristotle - and perhaps contrast this sort of knowledge with the sort of knowledge which "God," as pure thought thinking itself, has.
2. Aristotle defines for the Western world what is to be demanded of a philosophical/scientific (i.e., rational) account of the world. Simply, it must be purely rational (no Platonic myths need apply) - and complete. That is, expanding on the original Greek assumption that the universe is intelligible to the human mind, Aristotle develops an encylopedic system of individual branches of knowledge (biology, psychology, ethics, politics, physics, metaphysics, logic, etc.) which are consistent with one another and constitute an ordered whole.
Can you explain how this is so in one of two ways:
a. Illustrate how Aristotle's metaphysical notions of form and matter and of a final cause operate
(i) in biology to explain growth;
(ii) in ethics - in order to account for the final end of human behavior, i.e., the development of reason; and
(iii) in politics - in order to account for the Greek city-state as the end of social development.
In doing so, you will be illustrating the conceptual coherency of these particular views -- as each field or discipline (biology; ethics; politics) makes use of the same metaphysics to develop an account of appropriate to its subject matter.
That is to say, in doing so, you will engage first-hand with a primary feature of such a philosophical system-- i.e., just its conceptual coherency across diverse disciplines.
b. Recount Arisotle's analysis of language in the Categories, with special emphasis on how the pros hen and analogical equivocals function. Then show how especially the device of analogy, first developed in this linguistic analysis, is then used in central ways in his metaphysics, his ethics, and his politics. As in "a." - you will be illustrating how Aristotle builds a system of branches of knowledge which interlock with each other - in part through a shared use of metaphysical concepts. Make this point explicit as you develop your answer here.
3. Briefly describe how Aristotle's metaphysics and account of change, when applied to history, suggest that in order to determine the best political system, we need only look at where historical development leads us to.
Contrast what Aristotle, as a result of his analysis, sees as the best polity (see Jones, pp. 293 ff.) with Socrates' account of the ideal state. Be sure to show here how the difference between the Socratic/Platonic metaphysics and the Aristotelian metaphysics issues in a corresponding difference between the Platonic and Aristotelian politics.
Most abstractly, there is a difference between the difference operating between form and matter for Plato and Aristotle - which leads to a difference in terms of revolutionary (e.g., Plato's argument for the equality of women with men in the Republic) vs. conservative/reactionary politics (e.g., Aristotle's affirmation of the "natural inferiority" of women and barbarian peoples).
II. Post-Aristotelian Philosophies
Post-Aristotelian philosophy - including the Atomists - is marked by a shift from philosophy as a "science," as an episteme of what things are (metaphysics) to philosophy as "consolation," as a coping mechanism.
Explain briefly why this occurs -- i.e., the social and political conditions which lead to this shift in the focus of philosophy -- and then illustrate this new focus by way of recapitulating with some care two of the post-Aristotelian philosophies.
As you do so, make explicit the contrast between the focus and "style" of each of these philosophies with the Aristotelian conception of the philosophic quest towards a god-like contemplation of the system of the universe (i.e., the conception you have articulated more fully in "I.B," above).
[to see the Summary of Post-Aristotelian Philosophies, click here]