The Irony of Chance: On Aristotle’s Physics B, 4-6

International Philosophical Quarterly 43 (1):15-28 (2003)
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Abstract

The diversity of interpretations of Aristotle’s treatment of chance and luck springs from an apparent contradiction between the claims that “chance events are for the sake of something” and that “chance events are not for the sake of their outcome.” Chance seems to entail the denial of an end. Yet Aristotle systematically refers it to what is for the sake of an end. This paper suggests that, in order to give an account of chance, a reference to “per accidens causes” is not sufficient. Chance occurs as a parody of teleology; it is a“for-no-purpose” that looks like a purpose. The notion of “irony” is suggested as a way of accounting for a situation that keeps an ambiguity open. The fact that chance is thought of in relation to teleology does not mean that it is “reappropriated” by teleology. Rather,chance reveals a hiatus that betrays the limitation of a language concerned with substances to account for events.

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Pascal Massie
Miami University, Ohio

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