Aristotle (The Routledge Philosophers)
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In this extensively revised new edition of his excellent guidebook, Christopher Shields introduces the whole of Aristotle’s philosophy, showing how his powerful conception of human nature shaped much of his thinking on the nature of the soul and the mind, ethics, politics, and the arts.
Beginning with a brief biography, Shields carefully explains the fundamental elements of Aristotle’s thought: his explanatory framework, his philosophical methodology, and his four-causal explanatory scheme. Subsequently he discusses Aristotle’s metaphysics, the theory of categories, logical theory, and his conception of the human being as a composite of soul and body.
The last part concentrates on Aristotle’s value theory as applied to ethics and politics, and assesses his approach to happiness, virtue, and the best life for human beings, before turning to a consideration of Aristotle's theory of rhetoric and the arts, with a special focus on his perennially controversial treatment of tragedy.
This second edition includes an expanded discussion of Aristotle's method, and new sections on key issues in perception, thought, akrasia, and mimesis. It concludes with an expanded assessment of Aristotle's legacy, sketching currently emerging Neo-Aristotelian movements in metaphysics and virtue ethics.
bronze moulded into a human shape by the activity of a sculptor. Still, we may be perplexed. Why is there a statue here, high in the mountains where it is so unlikely to be seen? Upon closer inspection, we see that it is a statue of a man wearing fire-fighting gear; and we read, finally, a plaque at its base: ‘Placed in honour of the seventeen fire-fighters who lost their lives in the service of their fellows on this spot, in the Red Ridge Blaze of 23 August 1933.’ So, now we know what it is: a
bronze statue and the silver bowl have a common material cause, namely metal; but as we become more specific, their material causes diverge, because they are different sorts of metal, one bronze, with all of the properties of that kind of metal, and the other silver, with its peculiar features. From Aristotle’s perspective, we do not cite a new kind of cause when we become more or less specific, but rather we move vertically within a kind of cause. After all, in each case, we specify more or less
rationality is prior to them, that it is more central and more explanatorily potent. Thus, when we want to say what it was for a human being to be a human being, or to specify the being of human being, or, in our terminology, to specify its essence, we will do well to appeal to rationality rather than the cluster of necessary features it explains. Aristotle has a technical term for non-essential but necessary features. They are propria (idia, in Greek; Cat. 3a21, 4a10; Top. 102a18–30,
defined. For we have said that features of friendship extend from oneself and to all others. Indeed, all the proverbs agree, in mentioning, for example, ‘a single soul’, or ‘what is common to friends’, or ‘friendship as equality’, or ‘the knee is closer than the shin’. For all these are things which one bears in the first instance to oneself, since one is in the first instance a friend to oneself. (EN 1168b1–10; cf. EE 1240b3–31) This remark occurs in a passage in which Aristotle is combating
first that humans have a single and unalterable nature, and surprisingly even for an essentialist, that this nature has a rather startling character: we are, at base, according to Aristotle, knowledge seekers. He does not say or think, as other theorists of human nature have thought and said, that it is the nature of human beings to be selfish, or dominating, or somehow narrowly self-interested. On the contrary, he thinks that all humans are so constituted that their dominant activity is