Understanding “what something is” has long occupied philosophers, and no Western thinker has had more influence on the nature of being than Aristotle. Focusing on a reinterpretation of the concept of energeia as “activity,” Aryeh Kosman reexamines Aristotle’s ontology and some of our most basic assumptions about the great philosopher’s thought.
Exploring what two foundational figures, Plato and Aristotle, have to say about the nature of human awareness and understanding, Aryeh Kosman concludes that ultimately the virtues of thought are to be found in the joys and satisfactions that come from thinking philosophically, whether we engage in it ourselves or witness others' participation.
Alternatively, we might attend not to the different answers appropriate to different questions asked about the same entity, but to the different answers which result when, about different entities, the same question is asked repeatedly, the question "What is it?" What is Socrates? a man; what is a man? an animal; and so on, branch by branch up the Porphyrian tree, until we reach "substance." Each ultimate answer will signify a supreme and irreducible genus of entity, not a type of (...) predicate, but a predicate, effecting a classification of things into their ultimate types. On the basis of such an account, Ross explains that although. (shrink)
Aristotle’s discussions, in Metaphysics Delta 7 and 8, of things designated by the terms we translate ‘being’ and ‘substance’ are revealing in several respects. The discussion in chapter 7 reveals the centrality in his thinking of the distinction between in itself and accidental being, a distinction different from that between substance and the other categories. The discussion in chapter 8 in turn reveals not only two related criteria for calling things substance, but a distinction as well between entities that are (...) called substances and the substance being which is the principle of their being so called. (shrink)
In Plato’s Euthyphro, an early response to Socrates’ question, What is holiness? defines holiness as what is loved by all the gods. Socrates responds to this proposed definition with an argument that is often misunderstood. English translations, in particular, finding it difficult to represent the argument’s distinction between finite passive constructions—‘x is loved’—and passive participial constructions—‘x is beloved’—represent the argument instead as concerned with a distinction between active and passive constructions. In this essay, I give a correct analysis of the (...) argument, using the relation of ‘x is employed’ and ‘x is an employee’ to illustrate the relation between finite passives and passive participles. Abrams is an employee because she’s employed; it’s not the case that she’s employed because she’s an employee. In the same way, someone is beloved because he’s loved; it’s not that he’s loved because he’s beloved. It’s easy then to see how Plato’s argument follows, and easy to see what Plato intends its limits to reveal. (shrink)
. This essay considers the place of mechanisms in ancient theories of science. It might seem therefore to promise a meager discussion, since the importance of mechanisms in contemporary scientific explanation is the product of a revolution in scientific thinking connected with the late Renaissance and its mechanization of nature. Indeed the conception of astronomy as devoted merely to “saving the appearances” without reference to the physics of planetary motion might seem an instance of ancient science vigorously rejecting mechanisms. This (...) fact should suggest to us that there is no simple truth about the role of mechanisms in science that is not relative to a particular strategy or historical moment in the development of a scientific tradition. It should also remind us of a parallel question concerning scientific theory, the question now expressed in the issue of realism and instrumentalism. A discussion of Aristotle's views on scientific explanation in the Posterior Analytics, and particularly his concept of what is prior and better known by nature, shows the ways in which Aristotle resists a crude choice between realism and instrumentalism. Early modern theories of science were committed to realism, and the notion of mechanisms was important to that commitment. Part of the force of mechanisms was that they were thought to reveal the activities by which phenomena are truly brought into being. In this way they often served early philosophers of science by promising a realistic science, able to discover the actual mechanisms by which phenomena were brought about in a universe increasingly viewed as mechanistic. Mechanisms, then, are of critical importance if one is a realist, but of considerably less importance if one is an instrumentalist. Since Aristotle, at least, was neither a realist nor an instrumentalist, his view might be thought to be typically Aristotelian: in some ways they're important, in some not. A glance at some contemporary instances suggests similarly that there can be no general view from a theoretical perspective of the status of mechanisms. Their place is dependent on specific features of specific projects of scientific research and explanation. (shrink)
God plays several roles in Aristotle’s account of a good life, none explicitly. A principle of good in general and of human good in particular, God is specifically a principle of intelligent agency, of our ability to choose and thus shape and act in accordance with virtue. God explains well-being not obviously a result of virtuous action: the divine can be seen as the source of blessed lives. Similarly, the divine can figure moral luck, the way lives turn out despite (...) our choices. Finally, God is the principle of awareness, specifically the awareness that a happy life requires. (shrink)