Review of Metaphysics 66 (4):663-690 (2013)

Christopher V. Mirus
University of Dallas
This essay explores Aristotle’s description of virtue or excellence as a completion through a contextual reading of two texts: the entry on “the complete” in his philosophical lexicon and the brief discussion of excellence in Physics 7.3. In both Aristotle explores conceptual and ontological issues germane to a general concept of excellence; in both, the key premise is that excellence is best thought of as a completion. His development of this claim draws on two larger themes. In Metaphysics 5, the concept of excellence as a completion belongs to a broad conceptual realm—explored in chapters 16–17 and 25–27—in which intelligible realities are presented metaphorically in terms of shape and size. Within this realm, excellence grows toward a limit set by the powers that make a substance what it is. In the Physics, excellence belongs to a world structured by contraries and therefore also by coming to be and destruction. What it completes is a substance’s power to negotiate such a world while maintaining and developing its own identity. Having grown to full stature through its proper excellence, the substance can keep itself from being affected or altered in ways that would undermine its being; in so doing, it approximates the self-sufficient impassivity that Aristotle attributes to thought. The themes of alteration and identity are also pursued in On the Soul 2.5, which provides an important complement to Physics 7.3
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