Philosophy: Basic Questions; Prof. Boedeker; handout on Aristotle #1

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Philosophy: Basic Questions; Prof. Boedeker; handout on Aristotle #1

I. Aristotle’s life:

384 BCE: born in Stagira, Macedonia, north of _________________________.

366-347: studies at Plato’s _________________________ until Plato’s death.

347-335: teaches in Macedonia; one of his students was the future Macedonian king, _________________________ the Great.

335: returns to Athens and founds his own _________________________, the Lyceum.

323: Alexander the Great dies; Aristotle flees Athens to Calcis.

322: Aristotle dies.
II. Being as “primary substance”:

1. In the Categories, Aristotle tries to catalogue the “categories”, i.e., the basic ways in which we use the word “________________” (“am”, “is”, “are”, etc.). There are basically three kinds of categories:

  1. primary substance = _________________________ things

(like you, me, your computer, your car, and my cat Frank);

  1. secondary substance = __________ a primary substance is = what is _____________ of a primary substance

(For example, you are ______________________, you are alive, Frank is a cat, your computer is a tool; in these examples, humanity and life are said of you, catness is said of Frank, and toolness is said of your computer.)

  1. what is __________ a substance = all of the categories except (primary and secondary) ___________________________.

C A T E G O R I E S :

secondary substances





said of


quality  in  (Socrates)  in  having

relation primary substance acting on

position being affected (by)

(Primary) substance (ousia): a particular thing (the “focal meaning” of __________________).

This is so because all the categories except primary substance depend on primary substances, but primary substances don’t depend on any of the others.

  • For example, there can be no quality of paleness without a particular ___________ thing.

  • There can be no action without some particular thing _________________.

  • There can be no animals without some particular __________________.

  • There can be no humans without some particular _______________ _____________.

III. Cause (aitia) of a primary substance: an answer to the question “______________ is this thing as it is?”

  1. The four causes of primary substances:

    1. material: that ____________ _________ which a thing comes to be

    2. formal: the ________________________, model, or definition

    3. “efficient”, or “moving”: what ________________________ the substance or its motion

    4. final (telos): what something is ____________: the _________________, goal, or end.

All primary substances but ____________ have all four of these causes. God has just a _________________ and a ________________ cause, which are identical: to be a ___________________ being (and therefore always engage in the most perfect activity).

  1. Motion (kinesis, really “natural, or orderly, ________________________”):

= the change in a substance’s ___________________ cause from potentiality (dynamis) to ___________________________ (energeia)

= the change in a substance’s formal cause so that it becomes ________________________ with its _______________________ cause

  1. The most important of these four “causes” is the ____________________ cause. This is because it determines

    1. what that substance should be made out of (i.e., its __________________ cause),

    2. what its “shape” (i.e., its __________________________ cause) should be,

    3. how it should be produced (i.e., its _______________________________ cause).

IV. Aristotle’s “big beef” with Plato (over universals):

  1. Plato calls universals, i.e., things that can have examples, “_____________________”. (Thus for Plato all universals are forms, and all forms are universals.) Plato thinks that universals do 2 things:

    1. ___________________________ exist in (non-physical) reality


    1. can actually exist ________________ from primary substances (particular things).

  1. For Aristotle, there are 2 kinds of universals: “________________________ substances” and “categories other than ________________________”. Aristotle’s own view makes use of a distinction that Plato doesn’t make: between forms that ________________________ exist and forms that only ________________________ exist. This distinction allows us to see that Plato was wrong on both points:

    1. For Aristotle, universal forms – such as humanity, paleness, space, etc. – cannot ________________________ exist at all. Instead, they can exist only (as forms) in the _________________. And generally forms in your mind are not _____________________. Otherwise, when you thought about pots in general (“potness”), you would literally become a ________________________. Instead, all forms in the mind – and thus all universals – are only _______________________, not actual.

    2. Particular forms of particular ________________________ substances, like the form of me, you, Socrates, your computer, etc.:

a. Like universal forms, particular forms – such as the form of me, you, Socrates, your computer, etc. – exist in the mind _______________________. For example, my memory of my dearly departed grandmother is a potential particular form in my mind, not an _________________ one. (Otherwise I would become my ________________________ whenever I thought about her.)

b. But unlike universal forms, particular forms _____________ actually exist. But the particular form of a primary substance cannot actually exist unless that primary substance ________________________ exists. Thus if a primary substance ceases to actually exist, then _______ ______________ its actual particular form.

Aristotle on potential vs. actual and particular vs. universal forms:

universal particular

actual (=in actualized forms in particular substances

substances (e.g., the shape of ______________________)

= energeia

= carried out

as a substance)
potential the objects of understanding impressions on the sense-organs or in the soul:

(= dynamis i.e., theoretical reason the objects of

= merely in (e.g., - perception (e.g., the shape of ___________________),

a soul = not - imagination (e.g., the shapes of things in _________)

carried out - memory (e.g., the shape of my _____________________)

as a substance)

  1. What’s most important for our purposes here is the very different ways in which Plato and Aristotle conceive _____________________, and what truly is:

    1. For Plato, what truly is are ____________________, particularly the Form of the good. Thus what truly is is ________________________, eternal, unchanging, non-physical, and contains no opposite qualities.

    2. For Aristotle, on the other hand, what truly is are _____________________ substances, most of which are ________________________, non-eternal, changing, physical, and contain opposite qualities.

V. Virtue and happiness

A. Ethics: The main questions of ethics are

1. what is a ________________ human being, and

2. how can we become ________________?
B. Formal and final causes of good human beings:

1. Aristotle defines the _____________________ cause (i.e., the goal or purpose) of human life as eudaimonia. This is translated as “___________________________”, but this is a bit misleading, since eudaimonia is not the same as _______________________. A less misleading translation of “eudaimonia” might be “______________________________”.

2. Aristotle defines the ________________________ cause (i.e., the definition, or essence) of a happy person as arête. This is translated as “_______________________”, but this is a bit misleading, since arête is not the same as acting ___________________ (say, obeying the Golden Rule: “do to others as you would want them to do to you”). A less misleading translation of “arête” might be “___________ _____________________”.

  1. Relations between virtue and happiness:

  1. Since a substance’s __________________________ cause determines its formal cause, the nature of human happiness determines __________________________.

  2. Since a substance’s formal cause is _______________________ for it to carry out its final cause, someone must be virtuous in order to be truly ________________. Thus there are no truly happy people who are not _________________________. Arete (= virtue, human excellence) is someone’s condition that _________ _____________ tends to lead to eudaimonia (= living the good life, happiness).

  3. Nevertheless, a substance’s formal cause is not ___________________ for it to carry out its final cause.

      1. That is, it’s quite possible for a substance to have a formal cause in good order, but never to carry out its _____________________ cause. (Think, for example, of the poor condom that goes _________________ past its expiration date, or of the acorn that never becomes an _________ _______________.)

      2. Similarly, virtue is necessary but not ________________ for happiness. Thus no one can be happy without being ________________________, but someone can be virtuous without being _______________________.

  4. The reason why substances with the proper formal cause don’t carry out their final cause is because something ________________ interfered.

      1. For example, someone’s “plans” didn’t work out, or the acorn got eaten by a ______________________________.

      2. Similarly, if a virtuous person is ________________, this is because something ________________ to the person interfered with his or her achieving ________________. Examples include:

- acutely painful chronic ________________________

- extreme ____________________

- not having good __________________________

- not having a good ___________________--_.

      1. ________________ goods = things other than virtue that are necessary to achieving happiness. These include

- good ________________

- sufficient ________________

- good ________________

- good ________________

VI. Method in ethics:

  1. Ethics is a unique science. It’s unlike both the mathematical sciences and the rest of the social sciences:

1. Mathematical sciences

      1. start with _________________________principles and reason to _________________________conclusions. (For example, from 2 + 2 = 4, I know that if I have 2 apples and add 2 more apples, then I have 4 apples.)

      2. apply in _______ cases (i.e., there are no _______________________to mathematical laws).

    1. Ethics is unlike the mathematical sciences in these ways. Instead, ethics is a kind of _________________________science. Social sciences

      1. start with _________________________people, and try to generalize about them.

      2. try to come up with generalizations that are true _________________, but that have some _________________________.

    2. Social sciences other than ethics (like sociology, psychology, anthropology, etc.) generally begin by studying people who are representative, or typical, of _______ people in general. (For example, polls take a random _____________________ of the whole population.)

    3. Ethics doesn’t begin by taking a random sample of the population. Instead, ethics begins with particular cases of ____________________ and _________________ people. These may be few and far between.

  1. The problem of where to begin the study of ethics

  1. We have a problem:

      1. Ethics ________________ by studying particular cases of virtuous and happy people.

      2. But how do we know who is virtuous and happy before we’ve ________________ our study of ethics? (A version of Meno’s paradox about ________________.)

  1. Aristotle’s solution:

    1. The ________________ of ethics is to get a complete and consistent definition and theory of virtue and happiness.

    2. But ethics begins in a different place from its goal. Ethics begins with what most ________________ about virtue and happiness, and who most ________________ is virtuous and happy.

    3. But ethics doesn’t end here. Ethics ________________ by noting that much of what people say is ________________ with other things that they say. For example, people say that person P is virtuous or happy, and that virtue consists in V or happiness consists in H, but

      1. P isn’t really either V or H, or

      2. P is H but not V (which should be ________________).

    4. From these inconsistencies in what people say, ethics then proceeds ___________________: by ________________ what people say until we reach a theory of virtue and happiness that is ________________, i.e., free of contradictions.

VII. Virtue (and its opposite, vice):

  1. Aristotle vs. Plato (“Socrates”)

1. Plato in the Republic holds that virtue is ________________, and that vice is ________________. Plato’s theory implies two things:

    1. If someone is virtuous, then she is virtuous because of some ________________ she has.

    2. If someone knows what the right thing to do is, then he will “________________” do it. Thus if someone does the wrong thing, he must be ________________ of what the right thing to do is.

2. Aristotle rejects Plato’s theory:

a. Aristotle ________________ the first part (a) of Plato’s theory, because he denies that someone must ________________ anything to be virtuous. Instead, someone must only ________________ in order to be virtuous.
b. But Aristotle ________________ part (b) of Plato’s theory. Plato’s theory can’t account for “________________”, which is ________________ what the right thing to do is, but doing ________________ anyway.
3. For Aristotle, there are 2 basic kinds of virtues. These 2 kinds are related to each other:

a. Virtues of thought: depend just on our ability to think through ____________________ – whether practical, theoretical, or having to do with how to live your life – and come up with a good _____________________________. (See Section VIII C below for more on the different kinds of thinking.)

b. Virtues of character: virtues that require something more than just _______________________:

- the right ____________________ (as opposed just to ____________________) for goals that will make you ____________________ happy


- the right ____________________

B. Virtues of character have 6 important features:
1. acting ________________:

    1. Example 1: A boy scout helps an old lady across the street, but does so only because his scoutmaster ordered him to, having threatened to demote him to cub scout if he didn’t.

We ________________. say that the boy scout acted ________________. Conclusion 1: no one counts as acting virtuously if he was ________________ to perform a particular action.

    1. Example 2: During World War II, concentration camp prisoners participated in exterminating Jews, but they did so only because the Nazi guards forced them to at gunpoint.

We ________________ say that they acted ________________.

Conclusion 2: no one counts as acting viciously if he was ________________ to perform a particular action.

General conclusion: someone acts virtuously (or viciously) only if he does so ________________, i.e., without ________________.

2. decision and deliberation:

a. Example 1: A visitor on a nuclear submarine trips on a banana peel and accidentally depresses a button that launches the sub’s nuclear missiles, thereby starting World War III.

Although the person acted in a highly regrettable and perhaps even careless manner, we ________________ say that he acted ________________.

Conclusion 1: no one counts as acting viciously if he didn’t ________________ to perform that action.

b. Example 2: A monkey escapes from the zoo and makes his way into a nuclear power plant while it was about to have a meltdown that would release a huge cloud of plutonium into the atmosphere, thereby killing 1 billion people. While happily swinging from various pipes, the monkey happens to turn a knob that releases extra coolant into the reactor core, thereby preventing the meltdown.

Although what the monkey did was extremely ________________, we wouldn’t say that he acted ________________.

Conclusion 2: no one counts as acting virtuously if he didn’t ________________ to perform that action.
c. General conclusion: someone acts virtuously (or viciously) only if he ________________ to perform the action in question.
d. For Aristotle, decisions to act always involve ________________:

Aristotle’s theory of decision:

Decision (to act) = ________ (for an end) + ____________ (about means to ends)
________________: Golly gee, I sure am hungry! I want ice cream.



end: I want ice cream.

means to end: If I go to Hy Vee, then I can get ice cream.

conclusion: Therefore I should go to Hy Vee.


________________: I’ll go to Hy Vee.

3. the “________________”, i.e., acting and feeling in such a way that falls between 2 ________________ vices. Every virtue of character has 2 opposite vices.

action or feeling vice 1 (excess) virtue of character vice 2 (deficiency)

confidence at danger

taking pleasure


desire for honor


saying “nice” things


Aristotle’s “Golden Mean” does ________________ imply that someone who acts in a luke-warm, middle-of-the-road, intermediate way in ________________ situation is virtuous. This is because for Aristotle, there is no such thing as a virtuous (or vicious) ________________. There are only virtuous (or vicious) ________________. Thus his “Golden Mean” applies only to ________________, not actions. Virtuous people are those who always tailor their actions and feelings so that they are an ________________ response to each ________________ situation they encounter. And some situations do call for ________________ reactions. Horrible crimes call for extreme ________________, natural disasters call for great ________________, etc.
4. having gotten in the ________________ of acting and feeling rightly, through ________________ of the right kinds of actions and feelings:

a. Example: Stickler Sam fulfills conditions 1-3 of virtue. That is, he acts voluntarily, as the result of a decision and deliberation, and always appropriately in different situations. Nevertheless, he does so without any naturalness, style, or grace. He always has to spend a lot of time calculating and agonizing over what the appropriate thing to do is in each different situation. For this reason, his actions seem forced and awkward, and what he says somewhat insincere and stilted.

b. Conclusion: Since Stickler Sam spends so much time ________________ over his decisions, he’s probably not ________________. And the source of his ________________ comes not from something external to him, but from ________________. Since virtue is someone’s condition that by itself tends to lead to ________________, Stickler Sam is probably not ________________.

c. General conclusion: Someone is virtuous only if she is in the ________________ of deliberating, deciding, acting, and feeling in the right way. Doing the right thing and feeling the right way are kinds of ________________. And the only way to acquire these habits and skills is by ________________, i.e., by ________________.

Directory: boedeker
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boedeker -> History of Philosophy: Renaissance through Enlightenment
boedeker -> Totalitarianism and Fascism
boedeker -> Two problems with the last argument for the immortality of the soul in Plato’s
boedeker -> Nationalisms in the 19th Century: Italy, Germany, Austria
boedeker -> History of Philosophy: Ren. En.; worksheet on Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677)
boedeker -> Leviathan (1651) from Chapter XXI, in course packet); and Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), from his
boedeker -> Humanities III prof. Boedeker Worksheet on Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), Eichmann in Jerusalem: a report on the Banality of Evil
boedeker -> Nietzsche & Nihilism; Boedeker
boedeker -> Nietzsche, Nihilism, and the “Overcoming” of Western Metaphysics Topics for the first paper

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