Aristotle is both the first great Platonist and Plato's first great critic. Aristotle accepts the broad framework of Platonism, but he rejects what he regards as its excesses and mistakes.

The Aristotelian Corpus

Page from 1831 Bekker edition

The Aristotelian corpus is arranged systematically. The logical works are first and are followed by the physical and ethical works.

This arrangement of the works within the corpus may not have originated with Aristotle. After his death in 322 BCE, the history of his works is uncertain. The Roman general Sulla sacked Athens in 86 BCE, and the books showed up in Rome. There the books eventually came into the hands of Andronicus of Rhodes. He edited them and became the eleventh successor to Aristotle as head of the Lyceum (in the first century BC). The Aristotelian corpus, as we now have it, seems to originate with Andronicus.

It is traditional academic practice to quote Aristotle with reference to the edition Immanuel Bekker produced in the 19th century. The image (to the right) shows the first page of Aristotle's lectures on physics, which begin on page 184 in the "a" column.


The now standard collection of English translations of Aristotle is The Complete Works of Aristotle, edited by Jonathan Barnes (Princeton University Press, 1984), but it should not be thought automatically that these translations are the best translations available. Translation is not easy, particularly for philosophical texts. Translators almost inevitably write some of their interpretation of the philosophy into the translation. This is true especially for some of Aristotle's more difficult works.

In this course, we use the translations in the Perseus Digital Library. Unfortunately, unlike in the case of Plato, not all of Aristotle is available in this library. The MIT Classics Archive has additional works (but without the Greek text and other nice features of the Perseus Digital Library). The library at Arizona State University has the editions in the Loeb Classical Library.

Selected Readings

The readings for this unit are for the most part from the Categories, Posterior Analytics, Physics, On the Soul, Metaphysics, and the Nicomachean Ethics. These works are difficult, and it is not feasible to read them in their entirety in the short time allotted in a semester class. Some of the more important passages are listed below. Read more generally if possible.

1. Wisdom, Knowledge, and Intellect

Perseus Digital Library, Nicomachean Ethics
Arizona State University Library, Loeb Classical Library: Prior Analytics, Posterior Analytics
MIT Classical Library: Prior Analytics, Posterior Analtyics

• Wisdom is "intellect" (νοῦς) and "knowledge" (ἐπιστήμη)
• Knowledge grasps relations of consequence and incompatibility between "universals"
• Intellect grasps universals by "induction"

"A deduction (συλλογισμός) is an argument in which, certain things having been supposed, something different from those supposed results of necessity because of their being so" (Prior Analytics I.1.24b). "The reason why we must deal with deduction before we deal with demonstration is that deduction is more universal; for demonstration (ἀπόδειξις) is a kind of deduction, but not every deduction is a demonstration" (Prior Analytics I.4.25b).

"We think we know a thing without qualification, and not in the sophistic, accidental way, whenever we think we know the cause (αἰτίαν) in virtue of which something is—that it is the cause of that very thing—and also know that this cannot be otherwise. Clearly, knowledge (ἐπίστασθαί) is something of this sort" (Posterior Analytics I.71b).

"Whether there is any other method of knowing will be discussed later. Our contention now is that we do at any rate obtain knowledge by demonstration. By demonstration I mean a syllogism which produces knowledge, in other words one which enables us to know by the mere fact that we grasp it. Now if knowledge is such as we have assumed, knowledge must proceed from premises which are true, primary, immediate, better known than, prior to, and causative of the conclusion. On these conditions only will the first principles be properly applicable to the fact which is to be proved. Syllogism indeed will be possible without these conditions, but not demonstration; for the result will not be knowledge" (Posterior Analytics I.71b).

"Not all knowledge is demonstrative. The knowledge of immediate premises is not by demonstration. It is evident that this must be so; for if it is necessary to know the prior premises from which the demonstration proceeds, and if the regress ends with the immediate premises, the latter must be indemonstrable. Such is our contention on this point. Indeed we hold not only that knowledge is possible, but that there is a definite first principle of knowledge by which we recognize (γνωρίζομεν) ultimate truths (ὅρους)" (Posterior Analytics I.72b).

"Since what is known without qualification cannot be otherwise, what is known by demonstrative knowledge will be necessary. Now knowledge is demonstrative when we possess it in virtue of having a demonstration; therefore the premisses from which demonstration is inferred are necessarily true." (Posterior Analytics I.73a).

"Knowledge (ἐπιστήμη) is a demonstrative state (ἕξις ἀποδεικτική)" (Nicomachean Ethics VI.3.1139b).

"Knowledge (ἐπιστήμη) is a taking up (ὑπόληψις) about universals (καθόλου), things that are by necessity" (Nicomachean Ethics VI.6.1140b).

"The wise (σοφὸν) must know what is derived from the origins of a science and grasp the truth about the origins. Wisdom is intellect (νοῦς) plus knowledge (ἐπιστήμη)" (Nicomachean Ethics VI.7.1141a). "It is clear that wisdom is knowledge and intellect about what is by nature most honorable" (Nicomachean Ethics VI.7.1141b).

2. Induction, Experience, and Reason

Perseus Digital Library: Metaphysics
Arizona State University Library, Loeb Classical Library: Posterior Analytics, On the Soul
MIT Classical Library: Posterior Analytics, On the Soul

• Human beings naturally acquire "reason" (λόγος) and its "knowledge" over time as they mature

"All animals have an inborn discriminatory capacity, called perception. If perception is present, in some retention of the percept comes about, but in others not. ... When many such things come about, a difference comes about, so that some come to have reason (λόγον) from the retention of such things, and others not. From perception comes memory, and from memory (when it occurs often in connection with the same thing), experience (ἐμπειρία); for memories that are many in number from a single experience. From experience, or from the whole universal (καθόλου) that has come to rest in the soul (the one apart from the many, whatever is one and the same in all those things), there comes a starting-point of art (τέχνης) and of knowledge (ἐπιστήμης), of art if it deals with coming to be, of knowledge if it deals with being. Thus the states [that grasp the starting-points for demonstration] neither belong in us in a determinate form, nor come about from other states that are more cognitive (γνωστικωτέρων); but they come about from perception—as in a battle when a rout occurs, if one man makes a stand another does and then another, until a position of strength is reached. The soul is such as to be capable of undergoing this" (Posterior Analytics II.19.99b-100b).

"It is clear that it is necessary to cognize (γνωρίζειν) the primary things by induction (ἐπαγωγῇ). For perception implants the universal (τὸ καθόλου)" (Posterior Analtyics II.19.100b).

"Now of the thinking states by which we grasp truth, some are always true, others admit of error. Belief (δόξα) and reasoning (λογισμός) admit error, whereas knowledge (ἐπιστήμη) and intellect (νοῦς) are always true. No kind other than intellect is more precise than knowledge. Whereas starting-points of demonstrations are more cognizant (γνωριμώτεραι) and all knowledge involves an account (λόγου), there will not be knowledge of the starting-points, and since except intellect nothing can be truer than knowledge, it will be intellect that apprehends the starting-points" (Posterior Analtyics II.19.100b).

"There are two things that most define the soul: movement in respect of place and thinking (νοεῖν), being sensible (φρονεῖν), and perceiving (αἰσθάνεσθαι). Thinking and being sensible are regarded as a kind of perception (for in both the soul discriminates (κρίνει) and is cognizant (γνωρίζει) of something). Indeed the ancients go so far as to say that being sensible and perceiving are the same. ... But it is apparent that being sensible and perceiving is not the same, for perception is present in all the animals but only some are sensible. Further, perceiving is distinct from thinking. In thinking we find right and wrong. We find right in being sensible, knowledge (ἐπιστήμη), true belief (δόξα ἀληθής), and we find wrong in their opposites. But perception of the special objects of the senses is always true, and is found in all animals, and while it is possible to think falsely, thinking is found only where there is reason (λόγος)" (On the Soul III.3.427a).

"All men naturally desire knowledge (πάντες ἄνθρωποι τοῦ εἰδέναι ὀρέγονται φύσει)" (Metaphysics I.1.980a).

"Thus the other animals live by impressions and memories, and have but a small share of experience; but the human race lives also by art and reasoning.It is from memory that men acquire experience, because the numerous memories of the same thing eventually produce the effect of a single experience. Experience seems very similar to science and art, but actually it is through experience that men acquire science and art; for as Polus rightly says, 'experience produces art, but inexperience chance.' Art is produced when from many notions of experience a single universal judgement is formed with regard to like objects.To have a judgement that when Callias was suffering from this or that disease this or that benefited him, and similarly with Socrates and various other individuals, is a matter of experience; but to judge that it benefits all persons of a certain type, considered as a class, who suffer from this or that disease (e.g. the phlegmatic or bilious when suffering from burning fever) is a matter of art" (Metaphysics I.1.980b).

"It would seem that for practical purposes experience (ἐμπειρία) is in no way inferior to art (τέχνης); indeed we see men of experience succeeding more than those who have theory without experience. The reason of this is a that experience is knowledge of particulars, but art of universals (αἴτιον δ᾽ ὅτι ἡ μὲν ἐμπειρία τῶν καθ᾽ ἕκαστόν ἐστι γνῶσις ἡ δὲ τέχνη τῶν καθόλου); and actions and the effects produced are all concerned with the particular. For it is not man that the physician cures, except incidentally, but Callias or Socrates or some other person similarly named, who is incidentally a man as well. So if a man has theory without experience, and knows the universal, but does not know the particular contained in it, he will often fail in his treatment; for it is the particular that must be treated. Nevertheless we consider that knowledge and proficiency belong to art rather than to experience, and we assume that artists are wiser than men of mere experience (which implies that in all cases wisdom depends rather upon knowledge);and this is because the former know the cause, whereas the latter do not. For the experienced know the fact, but not the why; but the artists know the why and the cause (οἱ μὲν γὰρ ἔμπειροι τὸ ὅτι μὲν ἴσασι, διότι δ᾽ οὐκ ἴσασιν: οἱ δὲ τὸ διότι καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν γνωρίζουσιν). For the same reason we consider that the master craftsmen in every profession are more estimable and know more and are wiser than the practitioners, because they know the causes of the things which are done. We think that the practitioners, like certain inanimate objects, do things, but without knowing what they are doing (as, for instance, fire burns); only whereas inanimate objects do each of these things through a certain nature, practitioners do theirs through habit (ἔθος). Thus the master craftsmen are superior in wisdom, not because they can do things, but because they possess a theory (λόγον) and know the causes" (Metaphysics I.1.981a).

3. Natural Bodies and their Specific Behaviors

Arizona State University Library. Loeb Classical Library, Physics
MIT Classical Library, Physics

• Natural bodies have "natures"
• Forms in matter are the natures of natural bodies

"Of things that exist, some exist by nature (φύσει), some from other causes (αἰτίας). By nature the animals and their parts exist, and the plants and the simple bodies (earth, fire, air, water)—for we say that these and the like exist by nature. All the things mentioned present a feature in which they differ from things which are not constituted by nature. Each of them has within itself a starting-point of change and staying unchanged (ἀρχὴν ἔχει κινήσεως καὶ στάσεως).... For nature is the starting-point and cause of being moved and of being at rest..." (Physics II.1.192b).

"In one way nature (φύσις) is said to be the ultimately underlying material (ὕλη) of all things that have in themselves the principle of movement and change. In another way, nature is said to be the shape or form according to the account (ἡ μορφὴ καὶ τὸ εἶδος τὸ κατὰ τὸν λόγον). ... What is potentially flesh or bone has not yet its own nature, and does not exist by nature, until it receives the form according to the account, which we name in defining what flesh or bone is. ... [N]ature [said in this way] is the shape or form (not separable except according to the account (οὐ χωριστὸν ὂν ἀλλ' ἢ κατὰ τὸν λόγον) of things in them which is a starting point of motion. And this is more [what] nature [is] than the material (ὕλης) [is]" (Physics II.1.193a-b).

• The "for something" is present in nature

"This is the difficulty: why should we suppose nature acts for something (ἕνεκά του) and because it is better? Why should not everything be like the rain? Zeus does not drop the rain to make the corn may grow. It comes of necessity (ἀνάγκης). For the rising vapour must needs be condensed into water by the cold, and must then descend, and incidentally (συμβαίνει), when this happens, the corn grows. Similarly also, if someone’s corn on the threshing floor is ruined it does not rain for the sake (ἕνεκα) of this, so that the corn is ruined, but the result is incidental (συμβέβηκεν) to the raining. What, then, is to stop the parts of nature from being like this--the front teeth of necessity growing sharp and suitable for biting, and the back teeth broad and serviceable for chewing the food, not coming to be for this, but by coincidence (συμπεσεῖν)? And similarly for the other parts in which the for something (τὸ ἕνεκά του) seems to be present. So that when all things turned out just as they had come to be for something, then the things, suitably constituted as an automatic outcome (αὐτομάτου), survived; when not, they died, and die, as Empedocles says of the man-headed calves. This difficulty, or something like it, is the account which might give us pause. It is impossible, however, that this should be how things are. The things mentioned, and all the things which are due to nature, come to be as they do always or for the most part, and nothing which is the outcome of luck or an automatic outcome (ἀπὸ τύχης καὶ τοῦ αὐτομάτου) does that. We do not think that it is the outcome of luck (τύχης) or coincidence (συμπτώματος) that there is a lot of rain in winter, but only if there is a lot of rain in August; nor that there are heatwaves in August, but only if there is a heatwave in winter. If, then, things seem to be either a coincidental outcome (συμπτώματος) or for something (ἕνεκά του), and the things we are discussing cannot neither be a coincidental nor a automatic outcome (μήτε ἀπὸ συμπτώματος μήτ᾿ ἀπὸ ταὐτομάτου), they must be for something (ἕνεκά του). But all such things are due to nature, as the authors of the views under discussion themselves admit. The for something (τὸ ἕνεκά του), then, is present in things which are and come to be due to nature" (Physics II.8.198b).

• Physics is "second philosophy"

"To what point should the physicist know the form and the essence (τὸ εἶδος καὶ τὸ τί ἐστιν)? ... [To] what is separable in form but in matter (ἅ ἐστι χωριστὰ μὲν εἴδει, ἐν ὕλῃ δέ) ... What is separable, and how things are with it, is a question for first philosophy to determine" (πῶς δ᾿ ἔχει τὸ χωριστὸν καὶ τί ἐστι, φιλοσοφίας τῆς πρώτης διορίσαι ἔργον)" (Physics II.2.194b).

"Natural philosophy is a kind of wisdom, but not the primary kind (ἔστι δὲ σοφία τις καὶ ἡ φυσική, ἀλλ᾽ οὐ πρώτη.)" (Metaphysics IV.?.1005b).

"[T]he study of sensible substances (αἰσθητὰς οὐσίας) belongs to physics or secondary philosophy (φυσικῆς καὶ δευτέρας φιλοσοφίας); for the physicist must know not only about the matter (ὕλης), but also about the substance according to the account (κατὰ τὸν λόγον); this is even more essential" (Metaphysics VII.11.1037a).

4. The Soul is the Form of the Living Body

Arizona State University Library, Loeb Classical Library: On the Soul
MIT Classical Library, On the Soul

• The soul is the "first actuality" of the body

"We speak of the soul as being pained or pleased, being bold or fearful, being angry, perceiving, thinking. All these things are regarded as modes of movement, and hence it might be inferred that the soul is moved. This, however, does not follow. We may admit that being pained or pleased, or thinking, are movements, and that the soul is the cause of these movements. For example, we may regard anger or fear as such and such movements of the heart.... Yet to say that the soul is angry is like saying that the soul weaves or builds houses. Doubtless it is better to avoid saying that the soul pities or learns or thinks, and to say instead that the man does this with his soul (ἄνθρωπον τῇ ψυχῇ)" (On the Soul I.4.408b).

"Substances (οὐσίαι) most of all are thought to be bodies, especially natural bodies, for they are the starting points for other bodies. Of the natural bodies, some have life and some do not. Life we say is self-nutrition and growth and decay. Thus every natural body having life is a substance as a composite (συνθέτη). But since it is a body of a definite kind, viz., having life, the body cannot be soul, for the body is not something predicated of a subject, but rather is itself to be regarded as a subject, i.e., as matter (ὕλη). So the soul must be substance as the form (ψυχὴν οὐσίαν εἶναι ὡς εἶδος) of a natural body, which potentially has life. And substance is actuality (ἐντελέχεια). The soul, then, is the actuality of a body. But actuality is of two kinds, corresponding to knowledge (ἐπιστήμη) and contemplation (τὸ θεωρεῖν). The soul is actuality like knowledge. Sleeping and waking presuppose the existence of soul, and waking corresponds to contemplation, sleeping to knowledge since it comes first. That is why the soul is the first actuality (ἐντελέχεια ἡ πρώτη) of a natural body having life potentially in it" (On the Soul II.1.412a).

"The substance (οὐσία) is the cause of existing, and here, in the case of living things, to exist is to live, and the soul (ψυχή) in them is the cause (αἰτία) and starting-point (ἀρχὴ)" (On the Soul II.4.415b).

5. The Theory of Existence in the Categories and the Metaphysics

Perseus Digital Library: Metaphysics
Arizona State University Library, Loeb Classical Library: Categories.
MIT Classical Library: Categories

• Primary and secondary substances

"A substance (οὐσία)--that which is called a substance most strictly, primarily, and most of all--is that which is neither said of a subject nor in a subject, e.g. this or that man (ὁ τὶς ἄνθρωπος) or this or that horse. The species in which the things primarily (πρώτως) called substances are, are called secondary (δεύτεραι) substances, as also are the genera of these species. For example, this or that man belongs in a species, man, and animal is a genus of the species; so these--both man and animal--are called secondary substances" (Categories 5.2a).

"All the other things are either said of the primary substances (πρώτων οὐσιῶν) as subjects or in them as subjects. ... So if the primary substances did not exist it would be impossible for any of the other things to exist" (Categories 5.2a).

"It is reasonable that, after the primary substances (πρώτας οὐσίας), their species and genera should be the only other things called secondary substances (δεύτεραι οὐσίαι). For only they, of things predicated, reveal the primary substance. For if one is to say of this or that man what he is, it will be in place to give the species or the genus (though more informative to give man than animal); but to give any of the other things would be out of place--for example, to say white or runs or anything like that" (Categories 5.2b).

• Primary substances are "individual" (ἄτομον)

"Every substance seems to signify a this (τόδε τι). As regards the primary substances (πρώτων οὐσιῶν), it is indisputably true that each of them signifies a this; for the thing revealed is individual (ἄτομον) and one in number. But as regards the secondary substances (δευτέρων οὐσιῶν), though it appears from the form of the name--when one speaks of man or animal--that a secondary substance likewise signifies a this, this is not really true; rather, it signifies a qualification (ποιόν τι)--for the subject is not, as the primary substance is, one (ἕν), but man and animal are said of many things" (Categories 5.3b).

• First philosophy and "being as being" (τὸ ὂν ᾗ ὂν)

"[W]hat is called wisdom (σοφίαν) is concerned with the primary causes and principles (τὰ πρῶτα αἴτια καὶ τὰς ἀρχὰς)..." (Metaphysics I.1.981b). "Wisdom is knowledge of certain principles and causes (ἡ σοφία περί τινας ἀρχὰς καὶ αἰτίας ἐστὶν ἐπιστήμη).... So we must consider what these causes and principles are whose knowledge is wisdom" (Metaphysics I.1.982a). "[And] God (θεὸς) is one of the causes and a kind of principle..." (Metaphysics I.2.983a). "Thus we have stated what is the nature of the science which we are seeking, and what is the object which our search and our whole investigation must attain. It is clear that we must obtain knowledge of the primary causes (φανερὸν ὅτι τῶν ἐξ ἀρχῆς αἰτίων δεῖ λαβεῖν ἐπιστήμην)" (Metaphysics I.?.983a).

"There is a science which studies being qua being, and the properties inherent in it in virtue of its own nature ((ἔστιν ἐπιστήμη τις ἣ θεωρεῖ τὸ ὂν ᾗ ὂν καὶ τὰ τούτῳ ὑπάρχοντα καθ᾽ αὑτό)). This science is not the same as any of the so-called particular sciences, for none of the others contemplates being generally qua being; they divide off some portion of it and study the attribute of this portion, as do for example the mathematical sciences" (Metaphysics IV.1.1003a).

"Clearly then the study of things which are, qua being, also belongs to one science. Now in every case knowledge is principally concerned with that which is primary, i.e. that upon which all other things depend, and from which they get their names. If, then, substance is this primary thing, it is of substances that the philosopher (φιλόσοφον) must grasp the first principles and causes (τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς αἰτίας)" (Metaphysics IV.?.1003b).

"And there are just as many divisions of philosophy as there are kinds of substance; so that there must be among them a first philosophy and one which follows upon it (καὶ τοσαῦτα μέρη φιλοσοφίας ἔστιν ὅσαι περ αἱ οὐσίαι: ὥστε ἀναγκαῖον εἶναί τινα πρώτην καὶ ἐχομένην αὐτῶν)." (Metaphysics IV.?.1004a).

"First philosophy treats things which are both separable and immutable" (ἡ δὲ πρώτη καὶ περὶ χωριστὰ καὶ ἀκίνητα) (Metaphysics VI.?.1026a).

"One might indeed raise the question whether the primary philosophy (πρώτη φιλοσοφία) is universal or deals with some one genus or entity; because even the mathematical sciences differ in this respect—geometry and astronomy deal with a particular kind of entity, whereas universal mathematics applies to all kinds alike.Then if there is not some other substance besides those which are naturally composed, physics will be the primary science (ἡ φυσικὴ ἂν εἴη πρώτη ἐπιστήμη); but if there is a substance which is immutable (οὐσία ἀκίνητος), the science which studies this will be prior to physics, and will be primary philosophy, and universal in this sense, that it is primary. And it will be the province of this science to study being qua being; what it is, and what the attributes are which belong to it qua being" (Metaphysics VI.?.1026a).

• The unmovable first mover

"It is impossible that movement should come into being or cease to be; for it must always have existed. Nor can time come into being or cease to be; for there could not be a before or after if time did not exist. It follows that movement is continuous in the way time is; for time is the same thing as movement or an attribute of movement. And there is no continuous movement except movement in place, and of movement in place only that which is circular is continuous. ... If something acts, this will not be enough if its substance is potentiality; for there will not be eternal movement; for that which is potentially may possibly not be. There must be a starting-point (ἀρχὴν) whose substance (οὐσία) is actuality (ἐνέργεια)" (Metaphysics XII.7.1071b).

"There is, then, something which is always moved in an unceasing motion, which is motion in a circle; and this is plain not in theory only but in fact. The first heaven (πρῶτος οὐρανός) must be eternal, and there is something which moves it. And since that which is moved and moves is intermediate, there is a mover which moves without being moved (ὃ οὐ κινούμενον κινεῖ), being eternal, substance, actuality (ἀΐδιον καὶ οὐσία καὶ ἐνέργεια)" (Metaphysics XII.7.1072a).

"This is the starting point (ἀρχῆς) on which the heavens and nature depend. Its life is like the best which we temporarily enjoy. It must be in that state always, which for us is impossible... Holding in actuality (ἐνεργεῖ) is the intellect (νοῦς) the divine possesses, and contemplation (θεωρία) is that which is most pleasant and best. ... If, then, the state God (ὁ θεὸς) always enjoys is as great as that which we enjoy sometimes, it is marvelous; and if it is greater, this is still more marvelous. Nevertheless it is so. Moreover, life belongs to God. For the actuality (ἐνέργεια) of intellect (νοῦ) is life, and God is that actuality; and the essential actuality of God is life most good and eternal. We hold, then, that God is a living being, eternal, most good" (Metaphysics XII.7.1072b).

"It is evident that there is only one heaven. For if there is to be a plurality of heavens (as there is of men), the principle of each must be one in kind but many in number. But all things which are many in number have matter (for one and the same definition applies to many individuals, e.g. that of man; but Socrates is one), but the primary essence has no matter, because it is complete reality. Therefore the prime mover, which is immovable, is one both in formula and in number..." (Metaphysics XII.8.1074a).

• Primary substances are forms

"Indeed long ago, now, and always, what is sought after and always puzzled over, what is being (τί τὸ ὄν), is the question what is substance (οὐσία)" (Metaphysics VII.1028b).

"The primary philosophy treats of things which are both separable and immutable (ἡ δὲ πρώτη καὶ περὶ χωριστὰ καὶ ἀκίνητα)" (Metaphysics VI.1.1026a).

"It seems that separateness and a this belong most of all to substance (τὸ χωριστὸν καὶ τὸ τόδε τι ὑπάρχειν δοκεῖ μάλιστα τῇ οὐσίᾳ). And so form (εἶδος) and the compound of form and matter would be thought to be substance. more than matter (ὕλης). The substance out of the two, of matter and form, may be dismissed since it is posterior and its nature is clear. And matter also is obvious in a way. But the third must be examined, for it is most perplexing" (Metaphysics VII.1029a).

7. The Good Life for a Human Being

Perseus Digital Library: Eudemian Ethics, Nicomachean Ethics

• The aim of politics is the good of the citizens

"Let us discuss what it is that we pronounce to be the aim of politics, that is, what is the highest of all the goods that action can achieve. As far as the name goes, we may almost say that the great majority of mankind are agreed about this; for both the multitude and persons of refinement speak of it as happiness (εὐδαιμονίαν), and conceive the good life or doing well to be the same thing as being happy. But what constitutes happiness is a matter of dispute; and the popular account of it is not the same as that given by the wise" (Nicomachean Ethics I.?.1095a).

• Three conceptions of the good life: the life of pleasure, politics, and contemplation

"To judge from men's lives, the more or less reasoned conceptions of the good or happiness that seem to prevail are the following. On the one hand the generality of men and the most vulgar identify the good with pleasure, and accordingly are content with the life of enjoyment—for there are three specially prominent lives, the one just mentioned, the life of politics (πολιτικὸς), and thirdly, the life of contemplation (θεωρητικός)" (Nicomachean Ethics I.?.1095b).

• The argument from function shows that the good life is a "practical life of holding with reason (πρακτική τις τοῦ λόγον ἔχοντος)"

"To say however that the good is happiness will probably appear a truism; we still require a more explicit account of what constitutes happiness. Perhaps then we may arrive at this by ascertaining what is man's function (ἔργον). For the goodness or efficiency of a flute-player or sculptor or craftsman of any sort, and in general of anybody who has some function or business to perform, is thought to reside in that function; and similarly it may be held that the good of man resides in the function of man, if he has a function. Are we then to suppose that, while the carpenter and the shoemaker have definite functions or businesses belonging to them, man as such has none, and is not designed by nature to fulfill any function? Must we not rather assume that, just as the eye, the hand, the foot and each of the various members of the body manifestly has a certain function of its own, so a human being also has a certain function over and above all the functions of his particular members? What then precisely can this function be? The mere act of living appears to be shared even by plants, whereas we are looking for the function peculiar to man; we must therefore set aside the vital activity of nutrition and growth. Next in the scale will come some form of sentient life; but this too appears to be shared by horses, oxen, and animals generally. There remains therefore what may be called the practical life of holding with reason (πρακτική τις τοῦ λόγον ἔχοντος)" (Nicomachean Ethics I.?.1097b).

• The virtues necessary for the good life are those that are proper to the "activity and business of the soul with reason (ψυχῆς ἐνέργειαν καὶ πράξεις μετὰ λόγου)"

"If we declare that the function (ἔργον) of man is a certain life, and that this is an activity and business of the soul with reason (ψυχῆς ἐνέργειαν καὶ πράξεις μετὰ λόγου), and that the good of man is to do this well (εὖ) and beautifully (καλῶς), and that if a function is completed well when it is completed in accordance with its proper virtue (οἰκείαν ἀρετὴν), then from these premises it follows that the good of man is the activity of his soul in conformity with virtue (τὸ ἀνθρώπινον ἀγαθὸν ψυχῆς ἐνέργεια γίνεται κατ᾽ ἀρετήν), or if there are several virtues, then the good of man is the activity of his soul in conformity with the best and most the end among these virtues (κατὰ τὴν ἀρίστην καὶ τελειοτάτην)" (Nicomachean Ethics I.7.1098a).

"Inasmuch as happiness is a certain activity (ἐνέργειά) of soul (ψυχῆς) in conformity with complete virtue (ἀρετὴν τελείαν), it is necessary to examine what virtue is. For this will probably assist us in our investigation of happiness (εὐδαιμονίας)." (Nicomachean Ethics I.?.1102a).

• There are two kinds virtues in connection with reason: virtues of character and virtues of intellect

"If we should say that this part [= the part capable of being controlled by reason] has reason, then the part that has reason will have two parts, one that has authority in itself, and one that listens as to a father. Now virtue also is differentiated in correspondence with this division of the soul. Some forms of virtue are called intellectual (διανοητικὰς), others virtues of character (ἠθικάς): Wisdom or intelligence and prudence are intellectual, liberality and temperance are virtues of character" (Nicomachean Ethics I.?.1103a).

• Virtue of character is a state with respect to choice

"What comes about by force or because of ignorance seems to be ἀκούσια. What is forced has an external origin, the sort of origin in which the agent or victim contributes nothing--if, e.g., a wind or human beings who control him were to carry him off" (Nicomachean Ethics III.1.1109b).

"What is ἑκούσιον seems to be what has its origin in the agent himself when he knows the particulars that the action consists in" (Nicomachean Ethics III.2.1111a).

"Choice (προαίρεσις) is something someone does of his own accord (ἑκούσιον). But they are not the same, the latter being the wider. Children and animals as well as men are capable of doing something of their own accord (ἑκουσίου), but they are not capable of choice" (Nicomachean Ethics III.2.1111b). "Choice is not a wish (βούλησίς), though they appear closely akin. .... We wish for ends, but choose the means to our end; for example we wish to be healthy, but choose things to make us healthy.... In general, choice is concerned with things that are up to us (ἐφ᾽ ἡμῖν)" (Nicomachean Ethics III.2.1111b). "Choice is preceded by consideration (προβεβουλευμένον), since choice involves reasoning and some process of thought (προαίρεσις μετὰ λόγου καὶ διανοίας)" (Nicomachean Ethics III.2.1112a). "We deliberate about things that are up to us and practical (βουλευόμεθα δὲ περὶ τῶν ἐφ᾽ ἡμῖν καὶ πρακτῶν)" (Nicomachean Ethics III.3.1112a).

"Choice will be a deliberate desire of things in our power; for when we judge from deliberation, our desire is according to our wish (ἡ προαίρεσις ἂν εἴη βουλευτικὴ ὄρεξις τῶν ἐφ᾽ ἡμῖν: ἐκ τοῦ βουλεύσασθαι γὰρ κρίναντες ὀρεγόμεθα κατὰ τὴν βούλευσιν)" (Nicomachean Ethics III.3.1113a).

"Three elements in the soul control action and the attainment of truth: namely, sensation, intellect, and desire (αἴσθησις νοῦς ὄρεξις). Of these, sensation never originates action, as is shown by the fact that animals have sensation but are not capable of action (πράξεως) [but only reaction to stimuli of sensation]. Pursuit and avoidance in the sphere of desire correspond to affirmation and denial in the sphere of the intellect. Since virtue of character (ἠθικὴ) is a state with respect to choice, and choice (προαίρεσις) is desire informed by deliberation, it follows that both what issues from reason (λόγον) must be true and the desire must be correct for choice to be good, and reason must assert and desire must pursue the same things. This thinking (διάνοια) and truth [in the virtue of character] is practical (πρακτική). Of thinking that is theoretical (θεωρητικῆς), not practical nor productive, the well and badly [in this thinking are in the attainment of] true and false. This is the function (ἔργον) of the whole of thinking, but of thinking that is practical, the function is truth agreeing with correct desire. The starting-point of action--that of movement, not the goal--is choice, and the starting-point of choice is desire and reasoning directed to some end (ὄρεξις καὶ λόγος ὁ ἕνεκά τινος). Hence choice necessarily involves intellect and thought (νοῦ καὶ διανοίας) and a certain disposition of character. For doing well and the reverse in the sphere of action necessarily involve thought and character. Thought by itself however moves nothing, but only thought directed to an end, and dealing with action (ἀλλ᾽ ἡ ἕνεκά του καὶ πρακτική)" (Nicomachean Ethics VI.2.1139a).

"[Choice] is not present in other animals, nor at every time of life, nor in a human being no matter what state he is in; for deliberation (βουλεύσασθαι) is not, either, nor a judgment about the why (ὑπόληψις τοῦ διὰ τί); a belief (δοξάσαι) about whether something should be done or not may well be present in many, though not through reasoning (λογισμοῦ)" (Eudemian Ethics II.10.1226b). "For that part of the soul is deliberative which is capable of discerning (θεωρητικὸν) a cause (αἰτίας): the for sake of which (ἕνεκα)—which is one of the causes—‘cause’ being something because-of-which. And we say that the for sake of which something is or comes to be is a cause—for instance, the carrying of goods is a cause of walking if it is for the sake of that that a man walks. That is why those who have no goal before them are not in a position to deliberate" (Eudemian Ethics II.10.1226b).

• The best life is the life of contemplation

"If happiness (εὐδαιμονία) consists in activity (ἐνέργεια) in accordance with virtue (ἀρετὴν), it is reasonable that it should be activity in accordance with the highest virtue; and this will be the virtue of the best part of us. Whether then this be the intellect (νοῦς), or whatever else it is that is thought to rule and lead us by nature and to have cognizance (ἔννοιαν) of what is noble and divine, this itself being divine or as being relatively the divinest part of us, it is the activity of this part of us in accordance with the virtue proper (οἰκείαν ἀρετὴν) to it that will be perfect happiness (τελεία εὐδαιμονία); and it has been stated already that this activity is the activity of contemplation (θεωρητική)" (Nicomachean Ethics X.7.1177a).

"That which is proper (οἰκεῖον) to each thing is by nature (φύσει) the best and most pleasant for it. For man this the life according to the intellect (ὁ κατὰ τὸν νοῦν βίος), if this [the intellect] more than anything else is man (εἴπερ τοῦτο μάλιστα ἄνθρωπος). Therefore this life will be the happiest" (Nicomachean Ethics X.7.1178a).

"We all suppose that the gods are alive and in work, since surely they are not asleep like Endymion [who, in myth, is said to have chosen eternal sleep so that he would exist forever]. And if someone is alive, and action is excluded, and production even more, nothing is left but contemplation (θεωρία). Hence the activity of the gods that is superior in blessedness is contemplation (τοῦ θεοῦ ἐνέργεια, μακαριότητι διαφέρουσα, θεωρητικὴ ἂν εἴη). The human activity most akin to this is the nature of happiness (εὐδαιμονίας). An indication is that other animals have no happiness, being completely deprived of contemplation. The whole life of the gods is blessed, and human life is blessed to the extent that it resembles this sort of activity, but none of the other animals is happy because none shares in contemplation at all. Happiness extends just so far as contemplation, and those to whom contemplation more fully belongs are more truly happy, not accidentally, but according to contemplation. Contemplation is valuable according to itself. Happiness, therefore, must be some form of contemplation (εὐδαιμονία θεωρία τις)" (Nicomachean Ethics X.8.1178b).

• The second best life is the life of practical wisdom

"We said before that there are two parts of the soul, one with reason (λόγον) and one without reason (ἄλογον). Now we should divide in the same way the part with reason. Let us assume it has two parts, one with which we consider (θεωροῦμεν) beings whose origins do not admit of being otherwise, and one with which we consider beings whose origin do admit of being otherwise. For when the beings are of different kinds, the parts of the soul naturally suited to each are also of different kinds, since the parts possess awareness (γνῶσις) by being somehow similar and appropriate to their objects. Let us call one the part for knowledge (ἐπιστημονικὸν), and the other the part for reasoning (λογιστικόν), since deliberating (βουλεύεσθαι) is the same as reasoning, and no one deliberates about what cannot be otherwise. ... Hence we should find the best state of each part, for this is the virtue (ἀρετὴ) of each" (Nicomachean Ethics V1.2.1139a).

"[Practical wisdom (φρόνησιν)] is a state of reason (λόγου) attaining truth in relation to things that are good and bad for human beings" (Nicomachean Ethics VI.5.1140b).

"Of the two parts of the soul that have reason (λόγον), practical wisdom (φρόνησις) is a virtue of one of them, of the part that has belief (δοξαστικοῦ); for belief is concerned, as practical wisdom is, with what admits of being otherwise" (Nicomachean Ethics VI.5.1140b).

"Practical wisdom (φρόνησις) is not about universals (καθόλου) only. It must also come to know particulars, since it is concerned with action and action is about particulars. Hence in other areas also some people who lack knowledge but have experience (ἔμπειροι) are better in action than others who have knowledge. For someone who knows that light meats are digestble and healthy, but not which sort of meats are light, will not produce health; the one who knows that bird meats are healthy will be better a producing health" (Nicomachean Ethics VI.7.1141b14-21).

"Practically wise (φρόνιμος) young people do not seem to exist. The reason is that practical wisdom is concerned with particulars, and this comes to be known from experience (ἐμπειρίας), but a young person lacks experience, since some length of time is needed to produce it" (Nicomachean Ethics VI.8.1142a).

"Practical wisdom then stands opposite to intellect (νῷ); for intellect apprehends definitions, which cannot be proved by reasoning, while practical wisdom deals with the ultimate particular thing, which cannot be apprehended by knowledge (ἐπιστήμη), but only by perception..." (Nicomachean Ethics Vi.9.1142a).

"It is not possible to be ... practically wise (φρόνιμον) without virtue of character (ἠθικῆς ἀρετῆς)" (Nicomachean Ethics VI.13.1144b).

"Someone is not practically wise (φρόνιμος) simply by knowing (εἰδέναι); he must also act on his knowledge" (Nicomachean Ethics VII.10.1152a).

"Happiest secondarily is the life according to the other virtue (δευτέρως δ᾽ ὁ κατὰ τὴν ἄλλην ἀρετήν). For the activities in accordance with this are human (αἱ γὰρ κατὰ ταύτην ἐνέργειαι ἀνθρωπικαί). We display justice, courage and the other virtues in our intercourse with our fellows..." (Nicomachean Ethics X.7.1178a).

8. Lack of Control

Perseus Digital Library: Eudemian Ethics, Nicomachean Ethics

"The continent is the one who abides by his rational calculation (λογισμῷ), and the incontinent is one who abandons it. The incontinent person knows that his actions are base, but does them because of his feeling (πάθος), while the continent person knows that his appetites are base, but because of reason (λόγον) does not follow them" (Nicomachean Ethics VII.1.1145b).

"Spirit (θυμὸς) ... is like over-hasty servants who run out before they have heard all their instructions, and them carry them out wrongly, or dogs who bark at any noise at all, before investigating to see if it is a friend. In the same way, spirit, because the heat and swiftness of its nature, hears but does not the hear the instruction, and rushes off to exact penalty. For reason (λόγος) or imagination (φαντασία) has shown that we are being slighted or wantonly insulted, and spirit, as though it had inferred (ὥσπερ συλλογισάμενος) that is right to fight this sort of thing, is irritated at once. Appetite (ἐπιθυμία), however, only needs reason or perception (αἴσθησις) to say that this is pleasant, and it rushes off for gratification" (Nicomachean Ethics VII.6.1149a).

"We speak of knowing (ἐπίστασθαι) in two ways, and ascribe it both to someone who has it without using it and to someone who has and is using it. Hence it will matter whether someone has the knowledge that his action is wrong, without attending to his knowledge, or both has it and attends to it. For this second case seems extraordinary (δεινόν), but wrong action when he does not attend to his knowledge does not seem so" (Nicomachean Ethics VII.3.1146b).

"Some people, for example, those asleep or mad or drunk, both have knowledge in a way and do not have it. Moreover, this is the condition of those with passions (πάθεσιν). For anger and sexual appetite and some conditions of this sort disturb the body, and even produce fits of madness in some people. It is clear that we should say that incontinents (ἀκρατεῖς) have knowledge in a way similar to these people" (Nicomachean Ethics VII.3.1147a13-18).

9. The Problem of Universals

Perseus Digital Library: Metaphysics

"The philosophies described above were succeeded by the system of Plato, which in most respects accorded with them, but contained also certain peculiar features distinct from the philosophy of the Italians. In his youth Plato first became acquainted with Cratylus and the Heraclitean doctrines--that the whole sensible world is always in a state of flux, and that there is no knowledge (ἐπιστήμης) of it--and in after years he still held these opinions. And when Socrates, disregarding the physical universe (τῆς ὅλης φύσεως) and confining his study to ethical (ἠθικὰ) questions, sought in this sphere for the universal (καθόλου) and was the first to concentrate upon definition, Plato followed him and assumed that the problem of definition is concerned not with any sensible thing but with entities of another kind; for the reason that there can be no general definition of sensible things which are always changing. These entities he called Ideas (ἰδέας), and held that all sensible things are named after them sensible and in virtue of their relation to them; for the plurality of things which bear the same name as the Forms exist by participation in them" (Metaphysics I.6.987a).

"[I]t would seem impossible that the substance and the thing of which it is the substance exist in separation; hence how can the Ideas, if they are the substances of things, exist in separation from them" (Metaphyscis I.?.991b)?

"In this connection there is a difficulty which is the hardest and yet the most necessary of all to investigate, and with which our inquiry is now concerned. If nothing exists apart from individual things (παρὰ τὰ καθ᾽ ἕκαστα), and these are infinite in number, how is it possible to obtain knowledge (ἐπιστήμην) of the numerically infinite? For we acquire our knowledge of all things only in so far as they contain something universal (καθόλου), some one and identical characteristic. But if this is essential, and there must be something apart from individual things, it must be the genera; either the lowest or the highest; but we have just concluded that this is impossible" (Metaphysics III.?.999a).

"If nothing exists apart from individual things, nothing will be intelligible (νοητὸν); everything will be sensible, and there will be no knowledge of anything—unless it be maintained that sense-perception is knowledge. Nor again will anything be eternal or immovable, since sensible things are all perishable and in motion" (Metaphysics III.?.999b).

"And in general it is because they suppose that thought is sense-perception, and sense-perception physical alteration, that they say that the impression given through sense-perception is necessarily true; for it is on these grounds that both Empedocles and Democritus and practically all the rest have become obsessed by such opinions as these. ... But the reason why these men hold this view is that although they studied the truth about reality, they supposed that reality is confined to sensible things... (Metaphysics IV.?.1009b).

"And as concerning reality, that not every appearance is real, we shall say, first, that indeed the perception, at least of the proper object of a sense, is not false, but the impression we get of it is not the same as the perception" (Metaphysics IV.?.1010b).

"It is evident that nothing belonging as a universal is a substance, as nothing predicated in common signifies a this (φανερὸν ὅτι οὐδὲν τῶν καθόλου ὑπαρχόντων οὐσία ἐστί, καὶ ὅτι οὐδὲν σημαίνει τῶν κοινῇ κατηγορουμένων τόδε τι)" (Metaphysics VII.?.1038b).

"Those who speak of the forms in one way speak rightly that they are separate, if they are substances, but in another way wrongly, in that they say the form is one over many (οἱ τὰ εἴδη λέγοντες τῇ μὲν ὀρθῶς λέγουσι χωρίζοντες αὐτά, εἴπερ οὐσίαι εἰσί, τῇ δ᾽ οὐκ ὀρθῶς, ὅτι τὸ ἓν ἐπὶ πολλῶν εἶδος λέγουσιν)" (Metaphysics VII.16.1040b).

"The theory of forms occurred to those who enunciated it because they were convinced as to the true nature of reality by the doctrine of Heraclitus, that all sensible things are always in a state of flux; so that if there is to be any knowledge or thought about anything, there must be certain other entities, besides sensible ones, which persist. For there can be no knowledge of that which is in flux. Now Socrates devoted his attention to the virtues of character, and was the first to seek a general definition of these. ... and he naturally inquired into the essence of things; for he was trying to reason logically, and the starting-point of all logical reasoning is the essence. ... But whereas Socrates regarded neither universals nor definitions as existing in separation (χωριστὰ), they gave them a separate existence, and to these universals and definitions of existing things they gave the name of Ideas" (Metaphysics XIII.4.1078b).

"They treat the Ideas as universal substances, but also as separable and particular (ἅμα γὰρ καθόλου τε ὡς οὐσίας ποιοῦσι τὰς ἰδέας καὶ πάλιν ὡς χωριστὰς καὶ τῶν καθ᾽ ἕκαστον). ... The reason why those who hold substances to be universal combined these two views was that they did not identify substances with sensible things. They considered that the particulars in the sensible world are in a state of flux, and that none of them persists, but that the universal exists besides them and is something distinct from them. This theory, as we have said in an earlier, was initiated by Socrates as a result of his definitions, but he did not separate universals from particulars; and he was right in not separating them" (Metaphysics XIII.9.1086.).