A-level Philosophy Aristotle

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  • Created on: 02-01-18 18:37


Born in Macedonia, 384 BCE

Aged 17 moved to Athens, joined Plato’s Academy

347 BCE, moved to Turkey

341 BCE, moved back to Macedonia to become Alexandra Great’s tutor

After Alexander became King, Moved back to Athens and founded his own school: the Lyceum.

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Plato and Aristotle

Aristotle was taught by Plato but had approached topics of study differently

Plato: emphasising the world of ideas and reason as the source of knowledge

Aristotle: emphasising the physical world and experience as the basis of knowledge

Aristotle approach is empirical and not concerned with the world of forms

Aristotle reject the theory of forms as the relationship between forms and objects in the material world was never explained

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The Four Causes

Was interested in why things exist in the way they do

Turned to the world around him in order to reason why anything exists at all

E.g. A car is made of matter, but all the bits of matter have a particular structure and arrangements as part of the car.

Aristotle identified the four causes as to why a thing or object exists as it does.

There is no ideal form! Opposite of Plato

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The Material Cause

Refers to the matter or substance that something is made of

E.g. a book is made out of paper

Aristotle said that materials always have the potential for change

The materials represent the impermanence of our world

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The Formal Cause

Refers to what gives the matter its form or structure

E.g. a book does not have random pages and words. It is cut and arranged in a certain way

What we are doing is mentally fitting the object into a category we already know.

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The Efficient Cause

Refers to the cause of an object existing

E.g a book exists because someone wrote it

However, the efficient cause does not necessarily have to be a person, as a gust of wind might be the efficient cause of a tree falling over

An object might have more than one efficient cause- e.g. a cake’s efficient cause is not only the baker but the mixing and cooking process too

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The Final Cause

Concerned with the reason why something is the way it is

Concerned with the function of anything or object

The final cause is teleological (the purpose/end)

This cause examines the purpose of the object; the reason it exists at all

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Use Teleology

Explains the final cause for living things as well, that is, their purpose

Not obvious what the final cause of a natural object is

Aristotle sees the final cause in terms of the function it performs

Objects in nature seemed to be driven towards a goal to obtain a certain form proper to them and their actions are all directed towards this goal

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The Prime Mover

Everything in life is changing

Everything that exists is in a permanent state of ‘movement’ or ‘motion’

By motion, we mean a state of change Aristotle observed four things:

1.The physical world was constantly in a state of motion and change

2.The planets seemed to be moving eternally

3.Change of motion is always caused by something

4.Objects in the physical world were in a state of actuality and potentiality

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The Prime Mover

Aristotle concluded that something must exist which causes the motion and change without being moved and that is eternal

The prime mover causes change and motion by attracting other things towards itself

It does nothing but is the object of everything

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Nature of the prime mover

1.Does not depend on anything else for its existence, otherwise, he would be capable of change – e.g. if god relied on sunlight for his existence, then God would change and die if the sunlight fizzled out.                                                                                              God = no potential = has no capacity for change = must exist independently/necessarily

2.Must be eternal, because of lack of potentiality. If God cannot change, then he cannot cease to be and if he exists then that means he must have always existed  

3.God = perfectly good; badness = lacking something that should be there –  if god = pure actuality, then he must contain everything thought to be there, so he must be perfect

4.God must = immaterial and beyond time and space, meaning that he cannot perform any kind of physical activity. God must be purely spiritual, thought and not thinking about anything which could cause him to change, which led Aristotle to conclude that God must think only for himself and his own perfect nature.

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Nature of the prime mover

5.The prime mover relates to Aristotle ideas about causation. Prime mover = the final cause of everything that exists in the universe, in the sense of being the purpose and being the origin of everything

6.Prime mover is not an efficient cause as it cannot do anything

7.Aristotle describes the prime mover s the final cause, in the term of it drawing everything to itself without itself being affected

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Difficult to evaluate because it often lacks clarity → Hard to follow

Scholars believe that the surviving writings of Aristotle were never meant for publication but are Lecture notes → Maybe the notes were made by his students, who jotted down in an abbreviated way the main gist of what they understood → They could’ve added their own comments and ideas as to why Aristotle gave the impression that he was contradicting himself

Some criticised Aristotle for rejecting Plato’s belief, in another world

It may make more sense to talk about a ‘spiritual knowledge’ or ‘intuitive knowledge’ rather than simply confine ourselves scientifically

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Aristotle believed that the universe must have a ‘telos’ is criticised by many such as Russell and Dawkins. The claim that it made no sense to talk of a purpose for the universe → it just exists without any kind of goal → simply a result of chance

More likely to question the unmoved mover seems like an unnecessary complication

Aristotle’s god is often objected by theists – they argue that his god is irrelevant for the universe because he no interaction with it and is unaffected by it.

Theists might claim that the God of their own experience is very different from the one Aristotle arrived at through logic and that perhaps philosophical logic has its limitations.

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