Introduction and Posterior Analytics


I. Core of Platonism

            A. Metaphysical – Forms and participation

            B. Epistemic – Innate knowledge through recollection

II. Aristotle rejects the World of the Forms

Three basic reasons that we will see in the Metaphysics, but let’s just review them now.

            A. “Participation” is an empty term.

            B. Parsimony.

            C. Arguments render all these weird and incoherent views of form – e.g. If we argue that there must be one Form when we use the same name for many things then we Forms of negations. Blind.

D. The Forms can’t explain change

III. What is really real is the individual “substance”. (“Sub” – under, “stare” -- to stand) (p.251)

            A. “Primary substance” individual things. (e.g. This individual human being)

            B. “Secondary substance” – species and genera.  (e.g. man and animal)

C.  All properties and secondary substances are either said of primary substances or are in primary substances. (p.252). If there were no human beings there would be no species “man”. If there were no blue things, “blue” would just not exist.

-- But how can we talk and think about such things? --

IV. Consistency of human grasp on mental likenesses (“affections”). (Contrary to Gorgias) We all have the same likeness in mind. (p.254)

V. Universals vs. Particulars (p.255)

-- n.b. with all this talk of secondary substances and universals, Aristotle is agreeing with Plato that there is  a Form or Nature, and that grasping this nature or form, the unity that is shared by the many, is what is crucial for understanding. --

VI. Deduction (a valid argument) and Demonstration (a deduction which is not only valid, but sound argument AND  the premises not only happen to be true, but are seen to be true upon acquaintance with them.) (P. 258). The premises of a demonstration are better known than the conclusion.

An example of a deduction: All X are Y., q is an X, therefore q is a Y.

An example of a demonstration: All men are animals. X is a man. X is an animal.


Posterior Analytics

-- Problems with how we acquire these premises --

I. First Puzzle: It seems like either… (pp.262-263)

A.  Our primary principles i.e. our premises in a demonstration themselves must be proved. But then we get an infinite regress and can’t ever know anything.

B. We can allow circular demonstration, and then anything and everything can be proven. (A is explained by B and B is explained by C and C is explained by A, but then A is explained by A, and that’s NOT an explanation.)

C. So we have to say that we can grasp some primary principles without their being proven in a demonstration. But how?

II. Second Puzzle: It seems like either… (p.264)

A. We already knew them (Plato). Absurd to say we have this high degree of knowledge without noticing it.

B. We can acquire them, but that seems impossible since, if we don’t already possess knowledge we can’t recognize that something is the case. 

C. So we have to say that there’s something in us – a potentiality – to grasp truth.

III. How we come to know things. (pp.264-265)

            A. It all starts with perception!!! Empiricism.

            B. Need retention to produce memory.

C. For rational beings, many memories produce “experience”, a particular kind of experience. “ – the one apart from the many, whatever is present as one and the same in all of them –“

D. the stopping of the retreat – induction.

IV. Levels of cognitive grasp (p.265)

            A. belief and reasoning admit of being false.

            B. Knowledge is the conclusion of a demonstrative argument.

            C. Understanding, better than knowledge.  Grasp of the universal.



I. A kind of analogy between nature and craft

A. Craft is trying to complete or imitate nature. House building, medicine.

B. This means that you can argue that if craft works a certain way, entails certain principles, nature does, too.


II. The four causes – we’re trying to explain what it takes for something to exist as it does.

-- Let’s look at examples from both craft and nature --

A. matter – can’t be just that. (p.268)

B. form

-- Note hylomorphism! – Form explains what something is, while matter individuates.

C. agent

D. final

II. “The last three often amount to one;…” (p.273) So form is just super-important!

III. A puzzle – maybe nature – unlike craft -- does not act “for” something.

A. “Necessity” – it’s all matter which is determined. For example, Empedocles’ theory of evolution. The parts of natural organisms seem to be for something, -- have a proper function – but really they just “pop up by chance” i.e. they’re “thrown up” by the determined material universe, and if an animal with these parts can survive it does.

B. --things that happen by luck or chance happen rarely—Chance is pointless e.g. a stone falls and hits someone, “by chance”.

C. Can’t be right. Parts apparently serving purposes always or usually the case, so can’t be chance. Analogy with craft. (p.274)

(Isn’t the thought that evolution occurs through random mutation and survival of the fittest under attack? LeMaitre? )


De Anima (On the Soul)

I. The soul is the form of the body for any living thing. (p.278)

II. The “actuality”, the “doing” thing. Analogy, sight is the actuality of the eye.

III. Is the soul separable? At first glance you’d say, “no”.

IV. Kinds or aspects or parts of soul

A. Nutritive and perceptive are actualities of the body.

B. Understanding? Book 3, Chapter 4)

            1. The puzzle – Anaxagoras – if intellect is simple and unaffected, having nothing in common with anything, how can it be affected? (p.284)

            2. Tabula rasa (Passive or receiving intellect)

C. Book 3, Chapter 5!

            1. In the soul there is a sort of matter (potentiality) and then the producing part. “Passive intellect” and “Active or agent intellect”.

            2. Long-debated issue – Do we each have our own agent intellect, or is there a single agent intellect which is shared by all of us? Immutable and eternal? While passive is perishable?

            3. Immortal “part” of soul, but not personal?

V. Book 3, Chapter 10; The “desiring part” call it the “will”. A moved mover. Moved by desire it moves the human being (or other animal).  So there must be an object of desire to move the human being or other animal.



Book 1

I. Philosophy -- Most basic questions about any being.

II. A brief history

            A. It’s all matter

            B. Need a cause of motion. (Anaxagoras and Empedocles hint at a cause for motion that explains why things move towards the good. Teleology. Atomists say there’s motion, but don’t try to explain it.)

            C.Plato – definitions and Ideas

III. Why Platonism is wrong. (pp.292-293)

            A. Unparsimonious

            B. “One over many” > forms of negations.

            C. Ideas of relatives

            D. The Third Man

            E. Participation is “empty talk”

IV. Most importantly…no explanation of change!

Books 4-12

I. We are studying Being qua being.

            A.  Two Substances ; The form and the compound of matter and form. (p.299)(Remember Introduction with Primary and Secondary substances? The individual object is primary, the form is a secondary substance)

            B. But there must be a third – something not given in the observable world. (p.299)

II. The ultimate cause of change. (Terminology – motion=change; all motion can be described as going from potential to actual)

A. Aristotle’s universe

B. It’s always been moving and changing in this teleological way.

III. The Unmoved Mover – The explanation for teleological change; god

            A. The Proof

1. Things are in motion. (Observation)

2. Nothing can cause its own motion.

3. A thing’s motion must be caused by something already actual (in all except one case that would be something already in motion).

4. There cannot be an infinite series of moved movers.

5. Therefore there must be a “first” Unmoved Mover.

            B. N.b. UM not first in time. It’s causality is simultaneous with the motion of everything being moved. (p.301)

            C. Moves by desire (p.301 and p.281)

            D. What it does and is

                        1. Perfect Act

                        2. i.e. Thinking

                        3. Thinking Itself.

IV. (In Chapter 8 which we skipped) There are no other causal systems.

            A. If there were, each would have to have its own Unmoved Mover.

            B. There can be only one – it is immaterial, and it is matter which individuates individuals of the same kind.  (p.303)


Nicomachean Ethics

Books 1 and 2

I. Introduction on how Aristotle is NOT going to go about things.

            A. Much modern ethics – the big or only question is, “Should I do act X?”

            B. Motive>Act>Consequences

            C. Deontological Ethics vs. Consequentialist Ethics

            D. For Aristotle the question is, “How can you achieve the goal of your existence?”

II. So, what is the goal of your existence? Happiness!!!

    --- Selfish? No.: Consequentialist? Not really. ---

            A. Function of human being – reasoning

            B. Functioning WELL = virtue (Like the virtuoso performance on the harp!)

            C. Throughout life – “One swallow does not make a spring,…

            D. Virtuous activity

                        1. Rational Guidance

                        2. Working on the “raw materials” of desires and feelings. (Qua human these are given, though we can mold them through our actions.)

            E. Plus some external goods.

III. The Golden Mean – need to pursue desires, express feelings, engage in activities not too much and not too little.

            A. Some examples – courage, pleasure

            B. NOT a mathematical mean (p.313) – e.g. eating

                        1. mean relative to the individual and the situation

                        2. NOT relativism – there is an objective good.

            C. Some names of actions and feelings refer to excess and deficiency already and these are bad. (p.316)

            D. Easy to miss the mark and hard to hit it.

--So it’s hard to learn how to be good and happy, since it’s easier to miss and there’s no exact mean for everyone --

IV.  Virtues are acquired – they are habits.

A. Don’t have them by nature. (Just like musical ability. May have some innate tendency, but don’t become the expert without practice.)

            B. NOT an academic exercise.

            C. Must practice – do the virtuous acts -- under the guidance of someone who is already an expert.

 V. A Puzzle – The loop – To be just we must do just actions, but to do just actions we must already be just. (p.314)

            A. No, it is possible to do a just action without being just. (By accident, because someone forced you to, do it in order to benefit somehow…)

            B. For the agent to be (for example) just he must

                        1. know that he’s doing a just action.

                        2. He must have decided on it for itself.

                        3. he must do it from a firm and unchanging state.

  --- So your actions collectively are super important in that they constitute the happy life. Can’t really separate the actions from that particular consequence. But motive is important in that you are not really doing the (for example) just actions unless you know it, have decided on it, and do it from a just condition.


Book 3

I. When is an action voluntary, such that the agent can receive praise and blame? The agent is responsible.

            A. Done from oneself

            B. Not force or non-culpable ignorance.

            C. Should we say that fine or pleasant objects of desire compel us, so we’re not responsible when we’re led astray by desire?

                        1. No because then we’d have to say EVERY action is compelled, since we ALWAYS aim at what we judge to be fine or pleasant.

                        2. We’d have to say that our praiseworthy actions are compelled as much as our blameworthy actions, and nobody wants to say that!

-- Definition on p.318, “…what is voluntary seems to be what has its origin in the agent himself when he knows the particulars that the action consists in.”

            D. Animals and Children can act voluntarily.

II. Distinction between merely acting voluntarily and making a decision.

            A. Prior deliberation

            B. We do not deliberate about ends, but about means.

III. Everyone aims either at the good (the excellent person) or the apparent good (the base person).

            A. How can the base person be responsible for his actions, if he is aiming at what appears to him to be good?

            B. He is responsible for his own character, since character is created through choices and actions.


Book 7

How can we explain the incontinent (akratic) person – the one who knows that it is wrong to do X and still does it?

I. Socrates – Whenever we do something wrong it is always a matter of ignorance.

A. Doing what’s wrong is bad for us and we’d never deliberately do what’s bad for us.

B. Manifestly false. (p.330)

II. A number of ways to analyze cases of akrasia.


Take an example of a practical syllogism –

1. Adultery is wrong – it shouldn’t be done. (Universal premise)

2. Doing this particular action, Q, would be an instance of adultery. (Particular premise)

3. Therefore I shouldn’t do Q.


It would be very puzzling for someone to have both premises clearly and vividly in mind, yet do Q.


A. You can know something without attending to it.

B. You can fail to recognize the truth of the particular premise.

C. You can have the knowledge, but not use it – you’re drunk, or obsessed.

D. You can know something in a sort of “thin”, hasn’t taken root yet, sort of way. (Repeating phrases like actors do.)

E. There can be conflicting universal beliefs. (1* It is good to relieve stress. 2* Doing Q would relieve stress. 3*. Therefore I should do Q.)


Book 10

The best activity is “studying”, preferably studying what is best

I. Self-sufficient

II. Not aimed at some further good.

III. Divine.



Book I

I. How does the city come into being?

A. Household

1.Natural and necessary for reproduction

                        2. The natural slave

B. Community

C. City

II. What’s it for?

A. Self-sufficiency.

B. Living…well!

C. City is a natural institution – someone who could function well without the City is “either a beast or a god.”

D. City is prior to the household and the individual.

                        1. Whole and part.

                        2. But, purpose of the City is the flourishing of the individual, the family, etc.

                        3. Can’t make sense of the activities of the individual without understanding him within the City.


Book II

What’s wrong with Plato’s Republic

I. We’re looking at actual and also ideal constitutions since none of the actual ones is perfect.

II. Three alternatives – everything in common, nothing in common, some things and not others.

A. Nothing?

B. Socrates -- the greatest possible unity?

III. Everything in common? Women and children?

-- Aristotle would say that what he’s looking at is the way things actually work. --

            A. [General] “Tragedy of the commons” – each child will be neglected by all.

            B. Everybody will claim the one who is prospering.

            C. Impossible not to recognize your own child sometimes.

            D. “Unholy acts”

                        1. Patricide and matricide

                        2. Gay incest

            E. “Love will be watery” – what inspires affection

                        1. That a thing is your own.

                        2. That it is your only one.

IV. Stuff in common [Not worrying about the specific ways of doing this.]

            A. How to divide it? Those who labor much and receive little will complain about those who labor little and receive much.

            B. Having everything in common, all living together, breeds quarrels.

            C. More progress if everyone attends to his own business. – Does not conflict with things being “common” but on the basis of friendship. Not impossible.

            D. Two pleasures made impossible in the Republic

1. A pleasure in ownership, “…love of self is a feeling implanted by nature and not given in vain.”

                        2. Pleasure in helping others – can only be done with private property.

            E. Two virtues made impossible in the Republic

                        1. Temperance towards women – respect for family relationships.

                        2. Generosity


-- The perennial appeal of the thought that we should abolish private property --


V.  Communal property solves problems?

            A. In “some wonderful manner” everybody will become everybody’s friend.

            B. No – the problem is not private property but human wickedness.

            C. If it worked, it would have been tried and we’d know it worked.

VI. What about the “lowest” level, the majority?

            A. Plato just doesn’t say anything about them. But they’re important! They’re the producers! The guardians can’t live without them!

            B. Upshot seems to be two states in one such that the guardians are “a mere occupying garrison”.

            C. Are men and women to do the same jobs? Well, if everybody’s out in the fields, who’s managing the household? Silly to use analogy of animals.

VII. Same person always rules (not having different people take turns) Cause jealousy and dissention.

VIII. Deprives the guardians of happiness in favor of the happiness of the whole.

A. But the whole cannot be happy unless all, or most, or some of its parts are.

B. No reason to think the producers are happy…they just do what they’re told.


Book 3

I. Rule by the one, the few, or the many.

II. What justifies the authority of the state? It’s doing its job. (p.342)

III. Three good forms of state, One --Kingship, Few -- Aristocracy, Many -- Polity.

IV. Corresponding bad states, Tyranny, Oligarchy, Democracy. (Note that the latter two are really descriptions of the material possessions of the rulers, and that it is few or many follows from that.)


-- Ideal state – later in the Politics  in which all the citizens are educated sufficiently to be morally virtuous and happy and will all own private property and will all take turns governing.

Book 4

I. The best in reality – a mixed constitution – a Polity, but with elements of aristocracy and kingship.

II. The most important thing is to have a large middle class that is engaged in governing! The “intermediate system”. The rich and the poor are subject to disruptive vices which the middle class tend to avoid. (p.345)

            A. Rich and favored aggressive and wicked on a large scale, poor and ill-favored “crooked” and wicked on a small scale.

            B.  Rich have trouble submitting to being ruled, poor have trouble ruling. Rich despise poor, poor envy rich. So the city settles into a master/slave relationship, not a community of free citizens.

III. This rule by the middle class is rare because, at least in recent history, it’s been a struggle between the rich and the poor, and whoever is on top, rather than trying to establish a wholesome constitution, tries to enhance its own wealth and power.