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Aristotle

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Aristotle's Views on Nature, Knowledge, and Being

Aristotle was a realist and a scientific thinker. He dealt with attempting to explain the world around him, using evidence that could be derived from the senses. Unlike his predecessors, Aristotle organized his thought more collectively. He described the being, relating to both living things and inanimate objects, as the state of essential substance, one definite characteristic. According to Aristotle, that being is changed by any number of things, including growth, modification, destruction, quality, even negation. In addition to that beings in Aristotle's theory can be primary while still having secondary caracteristics to describe the “that”(i.e. What is that? A baby deer”. Unlike plato where a being is refered to as a “form” and “this”. Aristotle's view on knowledge, and the attainment of such wisdom, also differed from his predecessors. In addition to that his views on the soul were very different from those that came before him.

Aristotle believed that the soul was a part of the body's make up that did not live on after death. However, he beleieved that the soul was the essence of the being that is created through the living experiences of that human. For example, a good person would be said to have a good soul, and after death the good soul does not move on to a paradise called heaven, but it rather dies along with the body. According to our notes and Aristotle's text on the soul (psuchē),” the soul is the form of the body's matter, but in the unified sense of being the actualization of potentials in a living being, an active capacity to function and develop (On the Soul II.1). Aristotle specifically identifies the human soul with phusis, dunamis, energeia, ousia, and logos (412a20ff), all of which suggests a dynamic capacity to be-in-the-world.” In addition to that these characteristics are what set us apart from different species. Humans have logos(logic), we have the ability to obtain memory and use reason. A dog has a natural sense of survival, it knows when it is in anger to stray or bite. However, a human in a dangerous situation has the ability to think out his actions, and futhermore these actions will be determined by the past experiences of that particular human being. If the person has a history of non violence and is not confrontational then the end result would differ completely from a person who is violent and aggressive. This is what sets us apart, its the sixth sense that we have to think out situations.

As earlier mentioned, Aristotle developed a concept, the “essential being” of objects, in an effort to identify the unified reference betweens objects, both living and inanimate. He referred to this “substantive existence” as ousia, the basic form of an object. According to Aristotle, all things come to be from nature, by one of the four basic elements, air, water, fire, or earth. That object experiences changes throughout its existence that moves it from one form to another. However, all like beings still have “one definite characteristic” that relates them. Primary ousia is the “that” over the “what”. Meaning that a being could be and not be at the same instant, unlike Plato his predesesor. Plato would disagree, he would state that if some thing is then it cant be something else at the same time. For example if I were to say that a baby is a human, Aristotle would agree. However, Plato would question my argument by saying how could the baby be a baby and a human in the same breath. Plato didnt havethe notion of primary being(ousia) or secodary being he felt that either something is or it isnt, no grey area for growth or evolution. Therefore in the theories of plato a butterfly and a catepillar are two totally different beings, a tadpole and a frog are too different beings in his eyes. Aristotle however would suggest that the catepillar and tadpole are just the beginning phases in the total life of a butterfly or frog like a baby growing to a man.

Aristotle outlined four causes to explain an object that was in its current state, or the cause of being. The four causes are material, efficency, formal, and the final cause; let me explain it in the example of a wooden table. He first mentions the objects material or “essential substance.” For example, when referring to a wooden table, the material used would be the tree from which the table was made. Likewise, when referring to a man, the essential substance that would relate him to other like beings would be his humanity. He then goes on to mention the formal or current state of the object. Again, when referring to a wooden table, the table would be the current state of the object. Next, Aristotle refers to the third cause of being as the source of motion. In other words, Aristotle recognizes that some factor changed the object from its essential state to its current state. He mentions these factors could either be intrinsic, occuring naturally, or extrinsic, occuring through process, or both. He notes a number of sources of motion of an object, including growth, modification, manipulation, destruction, production, or negation (323-324). All responsible for changing the current form of an object, yet not denying its original form. In the case of the wooden table the efficeint cause would be the carpenter who made the wooden table into existence. The final cause of being was the purpose of the current object. Again, to reference the wooden table, its purpose in its current form would be to provide support. Unlike its purpose in its essential state as a tree. Aristotle also vocalizes his theories on natural progression which he refers to as phusis. According to our class notes, phusis refers to “nature. More precisely, intrinsic activity or movement, as opposed to the extrinsic movement that brings out forms of technē. Derived from original meaning of birth and growth.” He described phusis as the natural process of an object. He recognizes the natural process called growth, and states that all things that exist in nature possess the “principle of movement and rest”(413). He admits that while the process does alter the state of an objet, the changes are finite and the being stays constant. For example a fawn is a baby deer that will eventually grow into a full grown deer. Because the fawn is a baby does not make it a different being, Aristotle would agree because this is all a part of phusis or movement with in the body.

Aristotle dealt with what was in front of him what he could see, touch and feel. Not really to much concerned with what may or may not be rather he used science and reason to explain his theories unlike many of the ancient philosophers that came before him. That is why is theory on the “ first mover” puzzled me, I understand the theory but I do not understand why the “great” Aristotle(i say great because I feel he was a great) felt he had to explain the unexplainable. The thought that there is one absolute first being that set everything in motion to me is false and a reach to try to appease the audience. We are only able to truly “know” what we have witnessed and seen on this earth during our life time so the thought of knowing what happened before is proposterous to me. Sometimes I wonder if Aristotle had the technology and the evidence that we have today if he would have even came up with his theory on the “first-mover.” I dont think so, today scientists have discovered hundreds of thousands of stars that are just as strong or stronger than the sun, that are capable of sustaining a solar system that could possibly have a planet similar to earth. So therefore it is possible for there to be another place that has a totally different history, philosophy, religion, language and everything else that make us Huamans. So the audacity for us little beings and forms of matter to think or even suggest that we know the WHOLE truth is totally erroneous and seems to be a way to past time. And the”Great” Aristotle also fell victim to this human flaw that we have of trying to explain what we can't grasp

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