Ancient Greek Philosophical Influences- Aristotle


Ancient Greek Philosophical Influences- Aristotle

Aristotle’s understanding of reality.

Aristotle was an empiricist.

Empiricist: Believes that all knowledge is based on sense experience.

“Per genus et per differentia”- Aristotle’s method of defining things in the universe.

  • Means by type and difference, it involves establishing the species or type of something, for example a guinea pig, and then comparing it with other rodents. This process of reflective categorisation, Aristotle believed, would lead to a closer understanding of the universe.

Aristotle believed that the only way to learn was through experience of the outside world.

“The pleasures arising from thinking and learning will make us think and learn more.”- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics.

The Four Causes

Material Cause- This is the physical properties of the object which explains what it is made from.

Eg: the material cause of the chair is wood.

Formal Cause- This explains what shape something takes, or what its identifying features are.

Eg: the formal cause of the chair is the seat and back and legs.

Efficient Cause- This explains the activity that makes something happen. It brings about change and ‘actualises potential’ turning something from what it could be to what it actually is.

Eg: the efficient cause of the chair is the carpenter.

Final Cause- This is the thing’s purpose of existence or end goal. Aristotle used the term ‘telos’ or end goal. Fulfilling its telos made it good.

Eg: The chair is a good chair if it is sturdy and comfortable to sit on.

Aristotle believes that all nature is purposive. He believed everything has a purpose and use empirical evidence from the world around him in order to explain his ideas of purpose. He believes that it is the Prime Mover that gives everything a purpose

The Prime Mover.

Aristotle observed four things:

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

  2. The planets appeared to be moving eternally.

  3. Change or motion must always have a cause.

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

This led him to many conclusions...

  • Aristotle believed that there must be a Prime Mover (or unmoved mover) to account for the fact that everything in the physical world is in a constant state of change.

  • He REJECTED the notion of infinite


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