Combining Philosophers

Ideas for Aristotle, Allan Gibbard and Deborah Achtenberg

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63 ideas

26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 1. Nature
Nothing natural is disorderly, because nature is responsible for all order [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Nothing natural - nothing due to nature - is disorderly, because in all things nature is responsible for order.
     From: Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE], 252a11)
     A reaction: This sounds dangerously tautological. What is responsible for disorder? If a forest is smashed up by an earthquake, 'order' doesn't sound like a good description of the result. It is certainly no more orderly than if people smash the forest.
'Nature' refers to two things - form and matter [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: 'Nature' refers to two things - that is, both to form and to matter.
     From: Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE], 194a12)
     A reaction: The 'New Essentialism' (e.g. book by Brian Ellis) seems to imply that matter is basic, and that form is the result of the essence of matter. They seem to have parted company with Aristotle. Does he think matter is created on Thursday, and form on Friday?
Nature is a principle of change, so we must understand change first [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Nature is the subject of our enquiry, and nature is a principle of change, so if we do not understand the process of change, we will not understand nature either.
     From: Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE], 200b12)
     A reaction: This is a very distinctively Greek attitude which doesn't seem to concern us much, but perhaps it should. Movement is just as fundamental as forces, particles and the rest that physicist talk about. Why do particles respond to forces?
Nature does nothing in vain [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Nature does nothing in vain.
     From: Aristotle (De Anima [c.329 BCE], 434a29)
Why are some things destructible and others not? [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: A basic principle of things has to explain why some things are destructible and others are not.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 1075b)
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 2. Natural Purpose / a. Final purpose
An unworn sandal is in vain, but nothing in nature is in vain [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: We say of a sandal which is not worn that it is in vain; God and nature, however, do nothing in vain.
     From: Aristotle (On the Heavens [c.336 BCE], 271a33)
There has to be some goal, and not just movement to infinity [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: There has to be some goal, and not just movement to infinity.
     From: Aristotle (On the Heavens [c.336 BCE], 277a26)
If nature makes everything for a purpose, then plants and animals must have been made for man [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: If nature makes nothing without some end in view, nothing to no purpose, it must be that nature has made plants and animals for the sake of man.
     From: Aristotle (Politics [c.332 BCE], 1256b20)
     A reaction: That was a rather fast move! If a tiger eats a man, how do we explain that? Why are some plants poisonous? Pebbles on a beach seem to have no purpose.
Everything is arranged around a single purpose [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: All things are arranged around a single purpose.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 1075a)
Nature has purpose, and aims at what is better. Is it coincidence that crops grow when it rains? [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: What is wrong with the idea that nature does not act purposively, and does not do things because they are better? The proper analogy is the idea that it is sheer coincidence that the crops grow when it rains.
     From: Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE], 198b16)
     A reaction: In this context, it simply never occurred to Aristotle to give a causal explanation instead of a purposive one. Or that he had got it the wrong way round - growth of crops is 'for the better' only because we eat them, but are we 'for the better'?
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 2. Natural Purpose / b. Limited purposes
The nature of a thing is its end and purpose [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The nature of a thing is its end and purpose.
     From: Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE], 194a29)
     A reaction: Cf 5084. This is the teleologists' manifesto, but it is very hard to find out why Aristotle took this view. He seems to offer it as self-evident. What would he have made of the proposal that there is no ultimate purpose to anything?
A thing's purpose is ambiguous, and from one point of view we ourselves are ends [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: From one point of view we too are ends. What a thing is for is ambiguous.
     From: Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE], 194a35)
     A reaction: A really interesting concession from the great teleologist. This opens up what I think of as the 'existentialist' possibility - that we can invent our own purposes. If there are two types of 'telos', which one matters for morality?
The nature of any given thing is determined by its end [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The nature of any given thing is determined by its end.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1115b23)
     A reaction: A nice statement of the essence of the teleological view. A counterexample might be something which had a very unimpressive end, but was incidentally rather wonderful, like being a perfectionist about a menial task.
Teeth and crops are predictable, so they cannot be mere chance, but must have a purpose [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Things such as teeth and crops turn out as they do either always or usually, whereas no chance or spontaneous event does. ..So, given that these things cannot be accidents or spontaneous events, they must have some purpose.
     From: Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE], 199b33)
     A reaction: This is a good argument, and Darwin's theory does not destroy it. We have no idea why there is order, regularity and pattern in nature. Aristotle does not leap to a divine explanation. The 'purpose' of things might be non-conscious.
Aristotle needed to distinguish teleological description from teleological explanation [Irwin on Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Aristotle does not distinguish teleological description and teleological explanation, or not as clearly as he should.
     From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE]) by Terence Irwin - Metaphysical and psych. basis of 'Ethics' p.40
     A reaction: I assume the explanation has to be factual and true, but the description might be a convenient way of focusing our view of something.
It is folly not to order one's life around some end [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Not to have ordered one's life in relation to some end is a mark of extreme folly.
     From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1214b10)
     A reaction: A most interesting claim, not found in the Nichomachean Ethics. There the teleology is descriptive, but here it is prescriptive. It is tempting to rebel against Aristotle's injuncture. He was a driven workaholic. Why not float through life like gossamer?
The best instruments have one purpose, not many [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Every instrument will be made best if it serves not many purposes but one.
     From: Aristotle (Politics [c.332 BCE], 1252b03)
     A reaction: Sound like a good general truth, but not a universal truth. Swiss army knife. Ship in a bottle. Pins. Wrapping paper.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 2. Natural Purpose / c. Purpose denied
Eyes could be used for a natural purpose, or for unnatural seeing, or for a non-seeing activity [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: One might wonder if it is possible to use each thing both for its natural purpose and otherwise - and that as itself or incidentally. E.g. twisting an eye so that one thing appear two, but also using an eye as something to sell or eat.
     From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1246a26)
     A reaction: The important idea here is the core notion that there is a 'natural' purpose. Sceptics might say that all purposes derive from how a mind wishes to use something; otherwise there would be processes, but no 'functions' or 'purposes'.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 3. Natural Function
Is ceasing-to-be unnatural if it happens by force, and natural otherwise? [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: If what happens by force is unnatural, then forced ceasing-to-be is unnatural, and is opposed to natural ceasing to be.
     From: Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE], 230a29)
     A reaction: This is an important matter for Aristotle, who needs a concept of 'unnatural' behaviour for his ethics. Our law enshrines the idea of 'death by natural causes'. But 'force' needs discussion. Why is a hitman unnatural, and lightning natural?
Each thing's function is its end [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Each thing's function is its end.
     From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1219a08)
     A reaction: Function and end are not the same, but this confirms how closely related they are for Aristotle. Can an inanimate object have an end, without having any apparent function? Could I construct a set of cogwheels which each had a function, but no end?
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 4. Mathematical Nature
Pythagoreans say the whole universe is made of numbers [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: For Pythagoreans the entire universe is constructed from numbers.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 1080b16)
     A reaction: The original view seems to have been more extreme than the mere idea that mathematics is the guide to nature, or the language of God. Stones are made of numbers. Aristotle was unimpressed.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 5. Infinite in Nature
The heavens seem to be infinite, because we cannot imagine their end [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The region beyond the heavens seems to be infinite because it does not give out in our thoughts.
     From: Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE], 203b25)
     A reaction: An interesting case of inconceivability (of a limit) implying impossibility. But it is undeniable that the outer limit of the cosmos is unimaginable for us. Is there a 'Road Closed' sign?
Continuity depends on infinity, because the continuous is infinitely divisible [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: In defining continuity one is almost bound to rely on the notion of infinity; it is because the continuous is what is infinitely divisible.
     From: Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE], 200b18)
     A reaction: Parmenides and the Achilles Paradox lie behind this view, and the fact that Aristotle was opposed to the view that some things are indivisible ('atomism'). Nice point, though - that space and time immediately imply the infinite.
There are potential infinities (never running out), but actual infinity is incoherent [Aristotle, by Friend]
     Full Idea: Aristotle developed his own distinction between potential infinity (never running out) and actual infinity (there being a collection of an actual infinite number of things, such as places, times, objects). He decided that actual infinity was incoherent.
     From: report of Aristotle (works [c.330 BCE]) by Michèle Friend - Introducing the Philosophy of Mathematics 1.3
     A reaction: Friend argues, plausibly, that this won't do, since potential infinity doesn't make much sense if there is not an actual infinity of things to supply the demand. It seems to just illustrate how boggling and uncongenial infinity was to Aristotle.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / a. Greek matter
Matter is the limit of points and lines, and must always have quality and form [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The matter is that of which points and lines are limits, and it is something that can never exist without quality and without form.
     From: Aristotle (Coming-to-be and Passing-away (Gen/Corr) [c.335 BCE], 320b16)
     A reaction: There seems to be a contradiction here somewhere. Matter has to be substantial enough to have a form, and yet seems to be the collective 'limit' of the points and lines. I wonder what 'limit' is translating? Sounds a bit too modern.
The primary matter is the substratum for the contraries like hot and cold [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: We must reckon as an 'orginal source' and as 'primary' the matter which underlies, though it is inseparable from the contrary qualities: for 'the hot' is not matter for 'the cold' nor 'cold' for 'hot', but the substratum is matter for them both.
     From: Aristotle (Coming-to-be and Passing-away (Gen/Corr) [c.335 BCE], 329a30)
     A reaction: A much discussed passage.
Aristotle's matter can become any other kind of matter [Aristotle, by Wiggins]
     Full Idea: Aristotle's conception of matter permits any kind of matter to become any other kind of matter.
     From: report of Aristotle (works [c.330 BCE]) by David Wiggins - Substance 4.11.2
     A reaction: This is obviously crucial background information when we read Aristotle on matter. Our 92+ elements, and fixed fundamental particles, gives a quite different picture. Aristotle would discuss form and matter quite differently now.
Matter is perceptible (like bronze) or intelligible (like mathematical objects) [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Matter divides into that which is perceptible and that which is intelligible: the former comprises bronze, wood and all process-apt matter, the latter matter is present in the perceptibles but not qua perceptible, e.g. the mathematicals.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 1036a09)
Matter is neither a particular thing nor a member of a determinate category [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: By matter I mean that which in itself is neither a particular thing nor a certain quantity nor assigned to any other of the categories by which being is determined.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 1029a20)
     A reaction: This seems to be the classic definition of matter in Aristotle. He doesn't say here that matter has an inferior mode of existence, but elsewhere he says that it is potential rather than actual, which seems to confiscate its passport.
Aristotle says matter is a lesser substance, rather than wholly denying that it is a substance [Aristotle, by Kung]
     Full Idea: Metaphysics Z.3, often read as denying that matter is a substance, can more plausibly be interpreted as claiming that matter cannot be the only and not a first-rank substance.
     From: report of Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], matter) by Joan Kung - Aristotle on Essence and Explanation VI
     A reaction: This certainly sounds a more plausible view, and in modern understanding some kind of elemental matter is our best candidate for what could be meant by 'substance'. Perhaps the 'fields' of modern physics play that role.
Substance must exist, because something must endure during change between opposites [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: There can be no doubt that matter is a substance. Consider all changes between opposites. In all of them there is something that underlies the change.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 1042a)
Aristotle had a hierarchical conception of matter [Aristotle, by Fine,K]
     Full Idea: Aristotle had a hierarchical conception of matter; what is matter may itself have matter.
     From: report of Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], matter) by Kit Fine - Aristotle on Matter §1
     A reaction: This shows that Aristotle's 'hule' is not like our word 'matter' so a real effort must be made to grasp how he is conceptualising it.
Matter desires form, as female desires male, and ugliness desires beauty [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: What desires the form is matter, as the female the male, and the ugly the beautiful.
     From: Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE], 192a22)
     A reaction: Wow! This is a very active view of matter. The drive in nature (the 'conatus' in Spinoza) can be discerned in all sorts of levels. It is Nietzsche's will to power. It seems to be the opposite of entropy.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / b. Prime matter
Primary matter is what characterises other stuffs, and it has no distinct identity [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: If earth is air-esque and earth is (not fire but) fire-esque, then it is fire that is primary matter. Such matter is not a this-something.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 1049a25)
     A reaction: For being a 'this-something' read 'having determinate identity'. Aristotle's account of 'primary matter' is controversial and much discussed.
Ultimate matter is discredited, as Aristotle merged substratum of change with bearer of properties [Simons on Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The idea of ultimate matter is discredited philosophically because of the version of the doctrine found in Aristotle, who ran together the two notions of being a substratum of change on the one hand, and being the bearer of properties on the other.
     From: comment on Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], Bk 06.6) by Peter Simons - Parts 6.6
     A reaction: This is an illuminating comment on Aristotle. The substratum of change seems to be a fairly substantial essence, while the bearer of properties seems to shrivel to minimal size because it can't have properties of its own.
Aristotle may only have believed in prime matter because his elements were immutable [Aristotle, by Alexander,P]
     Full Idea: It has been held that Aristotle needed the conception of prime matter only because he held that the transmutation of one element into another is impossible.
     From: report of Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], matter) by Peter Alexander - Ideas, Qualities and Corpuscles 01.2
The traditional view of Aristotle is God (actual form) at top and prime matter (potential matter) at bottom [Aristotle, by Gill,ML]
     Full Idea: Since antiquity prime matter has enjoyed a hallowed place in the Aristotelian system, which displays an awesome completeness, with God (pure form and actuality) at the top, and prime matter (pure matter and potentiality) at the bottom.
     From: report of Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], God) by Mary Louise Gill - Aristotle on Substance Ch.2
     A reaction: Gill suggests that actually the four elements should be at the bottom, with matter only coming into it when distinct objects are in the offing. The Great Chain of Being emerged as the story between the two extremes.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / c. Ultimate substances
There couldn't be just one element, which was both water and air at the same time [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: No one supposes a single 'element' to persist, as the basis of all, in such a way that it is Water as well as Air (or any other element) at the same time.
     From: Aristotle (Coming-to-be and Passing-away (Gen/Corr) [c.335 BCE], 332a09)
     A reaction: Of course, we now think that oxygen is a key part of both water and of air, but Aristotle's basic argument still seems right. How could multiplicity be explained by a simply unity? The One is cool, but explains nothing.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / e. The One
It doesn't explain the world to say it was originally all one. How did it acquire diversity? [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Nor is it a sufficient explanation of the world to say just that all things were originally together. For things differ in matter. Indeed, why otherwise did an infinity of things come-to-be, and not just one?
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 1069b)
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / f. Ancient elements
The Four Elements must change into one another, or else alteration is impossible [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: These bodies (Fire, Water and the like) change into one another (and are not immutable as Empedocles and other thinkers assert, since 'alteration' would then have been impossible).
     From: Aristotle (Coming-to-be and Passing-away (Gen/Corr) [c.335 BCE], 329b1)
     A reaction: This is why Aristotle proposes that matter [hule] underlies the four elements. Gill argues that by matter Aristotle means the elements.
Fire is hot and dry; Air is hot and moist; Water is cold and moist; Earth is cold and dry [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The four couples of elementary qualities attach themselves to the apparently 'simple' bodies (Fire, Air, Earth, Water). Fire is hot and dry, whereas Air is hot and moist (being a sort of aqueous vapour); Water is cold and moist, and Earth is cold and dry.
     From: Aristotle (Coming-to-be and Passing-away (Gen/Corr) [c.335 BCE], 330b02)
     A reaction: This is the traditional framework accepted throughout the middle ages, and which had a huge influence on medicine. It all looks rather implausible now. Aristotle was a genius, but not critical enough about evidence.
I claim that Aristotle's foundation is the four elements, and not wholly potential prime matter [Aristotle, by Gill,ML]
     Full Idea: Tradition holds that prime matter, a subject exhausted by its potentialities, lies at the foundation. I argue that Aristotle's system is instead grounded in the four simple bodies, earth, water, air and fire, as ultimate objects.
     From: report of Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], matter) by Mary Louise Gill - Aristotle on Substance Ch.2
     A reaction: This seems to be a controversial view of Gill's, though I found her case persuasive. Those seeking an Aristotelianism that fits with modern science should like her reading. However, physical fields may be seen as pure potentiality.
When Aristotle's elements compound they are stable, so why would they ever separate? [Weisberg/Needham/Hendry on Aristotle]
     Full Idea: It is not easy to understand what would induce a compound to dissociate into its elements on Aristotle's theory, which seems entirely geared to showing how a stable equilibrium results from mixing.
     From: comment on Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE]) by Weisberg/Needham/Hendry - Philosophy of Chemistry 1.1
Aether moves in circles and is imperishable; the four elements perish, and move in straight lines [Aristotle, by Gill,ML]
     Full Idea: For Aristotle, aether and the four sublunary elements obey different physical laws. Aether moves naturally in a circle and, unlike its lower counterparts, is not a source of perishability. The four sublunary elements move naturally in straight lines.
     From: report of Aristotle (On the Heavens [c.336 BCE]) by Mary Louise Gill - Aristotle on Substance Ch.2
     A reaction: I think it is anachronistic for Gill to talk of 'obeying' and 'laws'. She should have said that they have different 'natures'. We can be amused by Greek errors, until we stare hard at the problems they were trying to solve.
An element is what bodies are analysed into, and won't itself divide into something else [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: An element is a body into which other bodies may be analyzed, present in them potentially or in actuality (which of these is still disputable), and not itself divisible into bodies different in form. That is what all men mean by element.
     From: Aristotle (On the Heavens [c.336 BCE], 302a05), quoted by Weisberg/Needham/Hendry - Philosophy of Chemistry 1.1
     A reaction: This is the classic definition of an element, which endured for a long time, and has been replaced by an 'actual components' view. Obviously analysis nowadays goes well beyond the atoms.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / g. Atomism
Bodies are endlessly divisible [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Bodies are divisible through and through.
     From: Aristotle (Coming-to-be and Passing-away (Gen/Corr) [c.335 BCE], 326b27)
     A reaction: This is Aristotle's flat rejection of atomism, arrived at after several sustained discussions, in this text and elsewhere. I don't think we are in a position to say that Aristotle is wrong.
Wood is potentially divided through and through, so what is there in the wood besides the division? [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: If having divided a piece of wood I put it together, it is equal to what it was and is one. This is so whatever the point at which I cut the wood. The wood is therefore divided potentially through and through. So what is in the wood besides the division?
     From: Aristotle (Coming-to-be and Passing-away (Gen/Corr) [c.335 BCE], 316b11)
     A reaction: Part of a very nice discussion of the implications of the thought experiment of cutting something 'through and through'. It seems to me that the arguments are still relevant, in the age of quarks, electrons and strings.
If a body is endlessly divided, is it reduced to nothing - then reassembled from nothing? [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Dividing a body at all points might actually occur, so the body will be both actually indivisible and potentially divided. Then nothing will remain and the body passes into what is incorporeal. So it might be reassembled out of points, or out of nothing.
     From: Aristotle (Coming-to-be and Passing-away (Gen/Corr) [c.335 BCE], 316b24)
     A reaction: [a bit compressed] This sounds like an argument in favour of atomism, but Aristotle was opposed to that view. He is aware of the contradictions that seem to emerge with infinite division. Graham Priest is interesting on the topic.
26. Natural Theory / B. Natural Kinds / 1. Natural Kinds
Unusual kinds like mule are just a combination of two kinds [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The kind that is common to both horse and ass and which most nearly comprises them happens not to have a name, but can safely be presumed to be both, i.e. the horse-ass or 'mule'. ...A mule does not come from a mule.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 1033b32)
     A reaction: [second part at 1034b04] Does ancient Greek have a word for 'mule' - it sounds as if it doesn't. Nice chicken-and-egg problem. Must a natural kind be derived from a natural kind? No. Gold does not derive from gold.
26. Natural Theory / B. Natural Kinds / 2. Defining Kinds
All water is the same, because of a certain similarity [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Any water is said to be specifically the same as any other water because it has a certain similarity to it.
     From: Aristotle (Topics [c.331 BCE], 103a20)
     A reaction: (Cf. Idea 8153) It take this to be the hallmark of a natural kind, and we should not lose sight of it in the midst of discussions about rigid designation and essential identity. Tigers are only a natural kind insofar as they are indistinguishable.
26. Natural Theory / B. Natural Kinds / 6. Necessity of Kinds
Whatever holds of a kind intrinsically holds of it necessarily [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: In each kind, whatever holds of something in itself and as such holds of it from necessity.
     From: Aristotle (Posterior Analytics [c.327 BCE], 75a30)
     A reaction: This seems to confirm the view that essential properties are necessary, but it does not, of course, follow that all necessary properties are essential properties (e.g. trivial necessities are not essential).
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 2. Types of cause
A 'material' cause/explanation is the form of whatever is the source [Aristotle, by Politis]
     Full Idea: In the 'material cause/explanation', it is especially important to emphasise Aristotle's view that it is not simply the parent that generates the offspring, but the form of the parent.
     From: report of Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE]) by Vassilis Politis - Aristotle and the Metaphysics 2.4
The 'form' of a thing explains why the matter constitutes that particular thing [Aristotle, by Politis]
     Full Idea: By the form of a thing, such as a changing human being, Aristotle means that which explains why the matter of this particular thing constitutes the thing that it constitutes: a particular human being.
     From: report of Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE]) by Vassilis Politis - Aristotle and the Metaphysics 2.4
     A reaction: If Politis is right then clearly the so-called 'formal cause' is much better understood as the 'formal explanation'. The Greek word for cause/explanation is 'aitia'.
Causes produce a few things in their own right, and innumerable things coincidentally [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: A cause may be a cause either in its own right or coincidentally. The cause in its own right of a house is house-building ability, but a house may coincidentally be caused by something pale or educated. ..There could be infinite coincidental causes.
     From: Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE], 196b25)
     A reaction: If we seriously want to identify THE cause of an event, this distinction seems useful, even though a cause 'in its own right' is a rather loose locution. It leads on to analyses of necessary and sufficient conditions.
Types of cause are nature, necessity and chance, and mind and human agency [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The accepted types of cause are nature, necessity and chance, and also mind and human agency.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1112a28)
     A reaction: Aristotle accepts this traditional analysis, but also has his own four types (material, formal, efficient and final). Presumably 'nature' would be contingent causes. 'Chance' seems the odd one out. 'Mind' seems to imply free will.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 3. Final causes
The four causes are the material, the form, the source, and the end [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The first type of cause is that from which a thing is made (bronze of a statue); the second type is the form or pattern (ratio 2:1 for the octave); the third is the source (the deviser of a plan); the fourth type is the end (as health causes walking).
     From: Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE], 194b23-)
     A reaction: [Compressed quotation] These four became known as the Material Cause, the Formal Cause, the Efficient Cause, and the Final Cause. For a statue they are the bronze, the shape, the sculptor, and the beauty. We now focus on the Efficient Cause.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 4. Naturalised causation
Is there cause outside matter, and can it be separated, and is it one or many? [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: We must especially inquire and investigate whether there is any cause beyond matter in itself or not, and whether this is separable or not, and whether it is one or many in number.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 0995b)
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 5. Direction of causation
People assume events cause what follows them [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Men take its occurring after as its occurring because.
     From: Aristotle (The Art of Rhetoric [c.350 BCE], 1401b)
     A reaction: The Latin is 'post hoc propter hoc' - after this so because of this. It is quite a good inductive rule, but obviously open to abuse, as in legal cases, as when someone happens to acquire a lot of money just after a crime.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / c. Conditions of causation
We exercise to be fit, but need fitness to exercise [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Exercise is the cause of fitness, but fitness is also the cause of exercise.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 1013b)
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 9. General Causation / b. Nomological causation
Pure Forms and numbers can't cause anything, and especially not movement [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: If we allow Forms or numbers, they will not be the cause of anything, or, if that is too strong, they will at any rate not be the cause of any movement.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 1075b)
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 9. General Causation / d. Causal necessity
When a power and its object meet in the right conditions, an action necessarily follows [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Whenever the potential active and the potentially affected items are associated in conditions propitious to the potentiality, the former must of necessity act and the latter must of necessity be affected.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 1048a08)
     A reaction: Of course the world could end between the two happenings, so this can't be full-scale metaphysical necessity. That point is not enough, though, to get rid of Aristotle's intuition here.
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / b. Scientific necessity
It is not possible for fire to be cold or snow black [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: It is not possible for fire to be cold or snow black.
     From: Aristotle (Categories [c.331 BCE], 12b01)
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / d. Knowing essences
Scientists must know the essential attributes of the things they study [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: It would be strange for a natural scientist to know what the sun and the moon are, but to be completely ignorant about their necessary attributes.
     From: Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE], 193b27)
     A reaction: This nicely captures the common sense idea of essentialism - that we must know the essential features of things, and ignore the incidental ones (like sunspots, or phases of the moon).