From Ancient and Medieval Philosophy: Essential Selections, by James Fieser


Copyright 2016, updated 12/1/2016




Life of Aristotle

Organon: Logic

Physics: Natural Science

Metaphysics: First Philosophy

On the Soul: Psychology

Nicomachean Ethics: Happiness and Virtue

Politics: Statecraft

Poetics: Aesthetics




Diogenes’ Account (Diogenes, Lives, 5)

Aristotle was the son of Nicomachus and Phaestias, a citizen of Stagira . . . . Nicomachus lived with Amyntas, the king of the Macedonians, as both a physician and a friend. He was the most eminent of all the pupils of Plato. He had a lisping voice, as is asserted by Timotheus the Athenian, in his work on Lives. He had also very thin legs, they say, and small eyes. He would indulge in very conspicuous clothing and rings, and would dress his hair carefully. He had also a son named Nicomachus, by Herpyllis his concubine, as we are told by Timotheus.

            He separated from Plato while he was still alive, so that they tell a story that he said, "Aristotle has kicked us off, just as chickens do their mother after they have been hatched." But Hermippus says in his Lives, that while he was absent on an embassy to Philip, on behalf of the Athenians, Xenocrates became the president of the school in the Academy. When he returned and saw the school under the presidency of someone else, he selected a promenade in the Lyceum. In this he would walk up and down with his disciples, discussing subjects of philosophy until the time for anointing themselves came. Because of this he was called a Peripatetic [i.e., walker]. But others say that he got this name because once when Alexander was walking about after recovering from a sickness, Aristotle accompanied him and kept conversing with him. When Aristotle’s pupils became numerous, he then gave them seats, saying “It would be shame for me to hold my peace, and for Isocrates to keep on talking.” He would accustom his disciples to discuss any question which might be proposed, training them just as an orator might.

            After that he lived in Macedonia, at the court of Philip, and was entrusted by him with his son Alexander as a pupil. Aristotle pleaded with Alexander to restore his native city which had been destroyed by Philip, and had his request granted. He also made laws for the citizens. In imitation of Xenocrates, he made it a rule in his schools that a new president should be appointed every ten days. When he thought that he had spent time enough with Alexander, he left for Athens . . . . Back in Athens, he presided over his school there for thirteen years. But he retired secretly to Chalcis since Eurymedon, the hierophant, had impeached him on an indictment for impiety . . . on the ground of having written the hymn to the before mentioned Hermias [i.e., a friend and fellow pupil from Plato’s Academy].

            It is said that a great many dishes were found in his house. Lycon stated that he would bathe in a bath of warm oil, and afterwards to sell the oil. But some say that he would place a leather bag of warm oil on his stomach. Whenever he went to bed, he would take a brass ball in his hand and arrange a brass dish below it so that, when the ball fell into the dish, he might be awakened by the noise.


Aelianus’ Account: Aristotle’s conflict with Plato (Aelianus, Various Histories, 3.9; 3.36)

The first conflict between Aristotle and Plato is said to have started as follows. Plato did not approve of his life and habit, for Aristotle wore rich garments and shoes, and cut his hair in a manner not used by Plato. He also wore many rings for ornament. He had a ridiculing kind of look, and was dogmatic in discourse. All of this was unbecoming of a Philosopher. Seeing this, Plato rejected him and preferred instead Xenocrates, Speusippus, Amyclas, and others, to whom he showed respect, and admitted them into his conversation. Once, when Xenocrates had gone his country, Aristotle came to Plato, accompanied with a great many of his disciples, including Mnason the Phocian, and the like. Speusippus was then sick and unable to be with Plato. Plato was eighty years old, and through age his memory was greatly impaired. Aristotle assaulted and outwitted him by arrogantly submitting some questions, arguing with him, and revealed himself as injurious and ungrateful. Plato then left his public walk, and walked privately with his friends. After three months Xenocrates returned from his journey, and found Aristotle walking where he had left Plato. Seeing this, he and his disciples did not go to Plato, but directly to the city, where he asked someone where Plato was walking, questioning whether Plato was sick. The person answered, “He is not sick, but Aristotle bothered him which made him abandon the walk, and now he teaches philosophy privately in his own Garden. After hearing this, Xenocrates immediately went to Plato, whom he found discoursing with those present, who were prominent young men, and some of the noblest. When Plato had ended his discourse, he greeted Xenocrates warmly in his usual manner, and Xenocrates did the same to him. When the company left, Xenocrates, without speaking a word to Plato, or telling Plato about it, got his friends together, and harshly criticized Speusippus for having surrendered the walk to Aristotle. Then to the best of his ability he confronted Aristotle, and opposed with him to the point that eventually Aristotle was thrown out, and Plato was restored to his former place. . . .

            When Aristotle left Athens, fearing to be detained, someone asked him “What kind of City is Athens?” he answered, “It is very beautiful, but in it pears grow upon pears, and figs upon figs Fig” meaning flatterers. When someone who asked him why he left Athens, he answered, “Because he did not want the Athenians to sin twice against philosophy”.




Homonyms, Synonyms and Paronyms (Categories)

1. Things are termed homonymous, when the name alone is common, but the definitions (of their substances according to their name) is different. Thus "man" and "the picture of a man" are each termed "animal," since of these, the name alone is common, but the definitions (of their substances according to their names) is different. For if anyone were to designate what in either of these makes it "animal," he would assert a unique definition for each.

            But things are called synonyms, when both the name is common and the definitions (of their substances according to the name) are the same. For example, both "a man" and "an ox" are "animal," since each of these is predicated of as "animal" by a common name, and at the same time the definitions of the substances are the same. For if a person gave the reason of each as to what in either made it "animal," he would designate the same reason.

            Things are called paronyms which receive their title from the name of something, though their case endings differ. For example, "a grammarian" is called so from "grammar," and "a courageous man" from "courage."


Ten Categories of Expressions and Things (Categories)

4. Of non-complex things that we express, each signifies either (1) substance, (2) quantity, (3) quality, (4) relation, (5) place, (6) time, (7) position, (8) state, (9) action, or (10) affection. To speak generally, examples of substance are "man" or "horse". Those of quantity are "two" or "three cubits". Those of quality, are "white," a "grammatical thing". Those of relation, are "a double," "a half," "greater." Those of place are "in the Forum," "in the Lyceum". Those of time are "yesterday," "last year". Those of position, are "he reclines," "he sits". Those of state are "he is wearing shoes," "he is armed". Those of action are "he cuts," "he burns". Those of affection are "he is cut," "he is burned." Now each of the above, considered by itself, is predicated neither affirmatively nor negatively. Rather, it is from the connection of these with each other, that affirmation or negation arises. For, every affirmation or negation appears to be either true or false, but when a thing is expressed without any connection with other things, it is either true or false, but simply "man," "white," "runs," "conquers."

            5. Substance, in its strictest, first, and chief sense, is that which is neither predicated of any subject, nor is in any, such as "a certain man" or "a certain horse." But secondary substances are the species to which primary substances belong. So too with the genera of those species. For example, "a certain man" belongs to "man" as a species, and the genus of this species is "animal." Thus, both "man" and "animal" are termed secondary substances. . . .

            Among secondary substances, the species is more of a substance than the genus, since it is closer to the primary substance. Also, if anyone tries explain what the primary substance is, he will explain it more clearly and appropriately by giving the species, rather than the genus. For example, as a person defining "a certain man" would do so more clearly, by giving "man" than "animal," since “man” is more unique to "a certain man," but the “animal” is more general. In like manner, whoever explains what "a certain tree" is, will define it in a more known and appropriate manner, by introducing "tree" rather than "plant." The primary substances are termed substances especially because of their predicates. They are the subjects of all other things, and these other things are either predicated of them or are in them.. . . .

            It seems that the unique feature of substance is that, being one and the same in number, it can receive contrary qualities. No one can affirm with things that are not substances that, being one in number, they are also capable of contraries. Thus "color," which is one and the same in number, is not "white" and "black". Neither can the same action, which is also one in number, be both bad and good. So too with every other thing that is not a substance. But substance being one and the same in number, can receive contraries. For example, "a certain man", being one and the same, is at one time white and at another black, and both warm and cold, and bad and good.

            6. Of quantity, one kind is discrete, and another continuous. Further one consists of parts that have positions relative to each other, but the other have parts that do not have relative positions. . . . It is the uniqueness of quantity to be called "equal" and "unequal." For each of the above-mentioned quantities  is said to be "equal" and "unequal". Thus body is called "equal" and "unequal". Number and time are also said to be "equal" and "unequal". Likewise, in the case of everything else that is enumerated, each one is called "equal" and "unequal." By contrast, all other things that are not quantities do not at all appear to be called "equal" and "unequal". For instance, disposition is not termed entirely "equal" and "unequal," but rather "similar" and "dissimilar". Whiteness is not at all "equal" and "unequal," but rather "similar" and "dissimilar". Thus, the uniqueness of quantity will especially consist in its being termed "equal" and "unequal."

            7. Things are termed relations which are said to be what they are, by belonging to other things, or in whatever other way they may be referred to something else. Thus "the greater" is said to be what it is in reference to another thing, for it is called greater than something else. "The double" is also called what it is in reference to something else, for it is said to be double of a certain thing. So too with numerous things of this kind, such as habit, disposition, sense, knowledge, and position. For, all of these are said to be what they are because they belong to others, or however else they are referred to another, and they are only this. For habit is said to be the habit of someone, knowledge the knowledge of something, position the position of something, and so with the rest. Relations, therefore, are such things, as are said to be what they are, from belonging to others, or which may somehow be referred to another. For example, a mountain is called "great" in comparison with another; that is, the mountain is called "great" in relation to something. "Like" is said to be like something, and other things of this sort, are similarly spoken of, in relation to something. Reclining, standing, sitting, are nevertheless certain positions, and position is a relative. But to recline, to stand, or to sit, are not themselves positions, but are paronymously denominated from the above-named positions.

            8. By quality, I mean that, according to which, certain things are said to be what they are. However, quality can be predicated in several different ways. A first type of quality is called "state" and "condition". But state, differs from condition, in that with state a thing more lasting and stable. Of this type are both knowledge and the virtues, for knowledge appears to be included among those things which are endure, and is difficult to remove. . . . A second kind of quality is when someone is naturally predisposed to, such as to boxing, running, good health, disease and, in short, whatever things are said to be natural strengths or weaknesses. . . . A third kind of quality consists of passive qualities and affections, such as sweetness, bitterness, sourness, and the like. Others are warmth, coldness, whiteness, and blackness. These are clearly qualities because their objects are said to be qualified [i.e., modified] by them. For example, honey is said to be sweet from receiving sweetness, a body white from receiving whiteness, and similarly. They are called passive qualities, not because the objects of the qualities undergo anything, for neither is honey said to be sweet from undergoing anything, nor anything else of such a kind. So too heat and cold are called passive qualities, not because the objects themselves undergo anything. However, it is because each of the above-mentioned qualities affects the senses, they are called passive qualities. For example, sweetness, produces a certain affect in the taste, and warmth in the touch, so with the rest. . . . The fourth kind of quality is figure and the form which everything has, and also straightness and curvature, and whatever is like them. For each of these a thing is called "qualified." Thus a triangle or a square is said to be a thing of a certain quality, also a straight line or a curve, and everything is said to be "qualified" according to form.. . . .

            9. Action and affection allow for contrariety, and in greater or lesser degrees. For, to make warm is contrary to making cold, and to be warm is contrary to the being cold. To be pleased is contrary to being grieved. So that they admit contrariety. They are also capable having greater or lesser degrees, for it is possible with heat to be more and less heated, to be more or less grieved, Thus, to act and to be affected allow for greater or lesser degrees.

            [The following sentences were inserted at this point by an early editor: “So much may be said of these. Regarding position, in our treatment of relations above we have spoken of being in positions, and that it is paronymously denominated. As regards the other categories, place, time, and state, nothing else is said of them beyond what was mentioned at the outset, because they are obvious. For example, ‘state’ signifies to be wearing shoes, to be armed. ‘Place’ signifies in the Lyceum, in the Forum, and the like. Of the proposed categories, then, enough has been stated.]


The Truth of Future Contingent Events is Undecided, Not Fated (On Interpretation, 9)

With those things which are [in the present], and have been [in the past], the affirmation and negation of them must necessarily be true or false [i.e., truth in the past and present is already established]. . . .  Thus, “being” must of necessity be when it is, and “non-being”, not be when it is not. But it is not necessary [or determined in advance] that every being should be, nor that non-being should not be. For, it is not the same thing to say that (a) every being necessarily is when it is, and (b) every being simply is from necessity [i.e., is fated to exist from necessity]. So too with non-being. There is the same reasoning also in the case for contradiction. It is necessary for everything to either be or not to be, also that it either will, or will not be. Yet we cannot speak of the necessity of each separately.

            Suppose, for example, I say that it is necessary that a naval battle will either occur tomorrow or not occur tomorrow. Yet it is not necessary that there will be a naval battle tomorrow, or necessary that there will not be a naval battle tomorrow. Yet, it is necessary that it will “either be or not be”.

            Now, statements and the states of affairs asserted by our statements are similarly true. It is thus evident that when contrary states of affairs may possibly occur, it is necessary that contradiction [in our statements] will also occur in the same way. This happens with things that are not always existent, or not always non-existent. For of these, one part of the contradiction must necessarily be true and the other false. Yet it cannot be said that this particular one or that particular one is true. Instead, it is undecided [or indeterminate] how it may happen. One must [eventually] be the true rather than the other, yet not already true or false.


Dialectical Deduction: Reasoning from Reliable Opinions (Topics, 1.1)

The purpose of this treatise is to discover a method by which we will be able to reason about every proposed problem from reliable opinions (endoxa), and when we ourselves give an argument we may assert nothing against it. First, then, we must declare what a deduction is and what are its differences, in order that the dialectical deduction may be understood. We will investigate this in the present treatise.

            A deduction, then, is an argument such that when certain things are laid down, something else follows with necessity from them. [Syllogistic] demonstration is when a deduction consists of premises that are primary and true, or are of such a kind as assume that the principle of the knowledge concerning them came through other premises that are primary and true. But dialectical deduction is that which draws from reliable opinion. True and primary things certainly compel belief, not through other things, but through themselves. For it is impossible to investigate the "why" in first principles of science, since each first principle itself must be credible by itself. However, reliable opinions are those which appear to all, or to most people, or to the wise, and to these either to all or to the greater number, or to those who are especially renowned and illustrious.


Contentious Deductions and Fallacies begin with Flawed Premises (Topics, 1.1)

A contentious deduction is one which is constructed from opinions that appear to be reliable but are not truly reliable, or which appear to consist of opinions that seem to be reliable. For not every opinion that appears to be reliable truly is so, since those that are called reliable do not always appear entirely reliable on face value. This is precisely what happens with principles of contentious arguments, since immediately, and for the most part, the nature of the falsity in them is evident even to those who have only a little perception. Let then the first of the contentious deductions [i.e., genuine dialectical deductions] be called simply “deductions”. Then, let the other be called “contentious deductions”, but not simply a “deduction”, since it while it appears to draw an inference, it does not truly do so.

            Besides all the above-named deductions, there are fallacies, which consist of premises unique to certain sciences, as happens to be the case in geometry and its related sciences. This type of reasoning seems to differ from the deductions listed above. For, he who describes some [geometrical] figure falsely neither reasons from the true and primary, nor from reliable opinions. That is, his reasoning does not fall within the definition [of “deduction”], since he neither assumes things which appear to all men, nor those which appear to the greater number, nor to the wise, and to these neither to all, nor to the greater part, nor to the most famous. Rather, he makes a deduction from assumptions that are indeed appropriate to his science, yet not from true assumptions, such as either by improperly describing semicircles, or by improperly drawing certain lines. He produces a fallacy.


Dialectics Valuable for Intellectual Exercises, Conversation, and Philosophical Science (Topics, 1.2-3)

To follow upon what we have stated, let us describe to what an extent and for what subjects this treatise is useful. It is so for three: intellectual exercises, conversation, and philosophical science. That it is useful for intellectual exercise appears evident from the fact that by possessing method, we will be able more easily to argue upon every proposed subject. It is useful for conversation because, having listed the opinions of the majority, we will converse with them, not from an outside perspective, but from their own dogmas, refuting whatever they appear to us to have erroneously stated. It is useful for philosophical science, because being able to dispute on both sides, we will more easily perceive in each what is true and false. Also, when appropriate, it is useful for [uncovering] the first principles of each science. For, we cannot say anything about these from the relevant principles of a proposed science, since they are the first principles of all. But we must necessarily discuss these through reliable opinion. This is especially appropriate for dialectics, for being investigative, dialectics provides a path to the principles of all fields of study.

            We will possess this method perfectly when we approach it as we do in rhetoric, medicine, and similar abilities. That is, we choose from the available possibilities. For, the rhetorician will not persuade through every method, nor will the physician heal through every method. But we say that a person sufficiently knows his science if he omits no possibility.


Fallacies of the Sophists: Faulty Reasoning Masquerading as Genuine (Sophistical Refutations, 1, 17)

Consider now sophistical refutations, which appear to be actual refutations, yet are in truth fallacies and not real refutations. Let us start with the first in natural order.

            It is clear that some arguments are legitimate, but others are not, and only appear to be. Similar things happen in other areas as they do with arguments. For, some people have good habits, others only appear to have them, and merely inflate themselves because of their family, and decorate themselves accordingly. Some people, again, are beautiful because of their actual beauty, but others only appear to be so by adorning themselves. Similarly, in the case of inanimate things, some are really silver or gold, but others are not and only appear that way to the senses. For instance, substances like litharge and tin seem silvery, while others dyed with gall appear golden.

            In the same way with argument and refutation, one approach is indeed real, but the other is not although it seems real from inexperience. For, inexperienced people make their observations, so to speak, by standing at a distance. Now, an argument begins with certain established things and necessarily moves to something that is different from those established things. A refutation, then, is an argument with a contradiction of the conclusion. Some people do not actually attain argument and refutation, but only appear to do so from various causes.

            A natural and common cause of fallacies is through names. We cannot discourse by producing the things themselves, but instead use names as symbols instead of things. We then think that what happens with names also happens with things.  This is similar with those who calculate [and rely on their counting devices]. But there is a difference [between things and words]. For names and the number of sentences are finite, whereas things are infinite in number. For this reason, it is necessary that the same sentence and a single name will signify many different things. Just as those who are not clever in calculation are deceived by skillful people, in the same way, with regard to arguments, those who are unskilled in the power of names are fooled by fallacies. This occurs both when they dispute themselves, and when they hear others dispute.

            For this reason, and others that we will discuss, there may be an argument and refutation in appearance, but not in reality. For some men it is more important to try to appear to be wise, rather than actually be wise and not appear to be. Sophistry is apparent but not real wisdom, and the sophist is a merchant in apparent but not real wisdom. Thus, it is clearly necessary for these people, that they should only seem to perform the function of a wise man, rather than actually perform that function while at the same time not appearing to do so. On the other hand, it is the business of those who are skillful in anything (if I may compare one thing with another) not to deceive others about what they know, yet be able to expose another person who does deceive. This involves being able to, first, properly give a reason, and, second, properly obtain an answer from someone.

            Therefore, it is necessary that those who desire to argue sophistically, should investigate the class of the above-named arguments, since it is to the purpose. For a power of this kind will cause a person to appear wise, which these people happen to prefer. There is then, a certain class of arguments as this, and it is evident that they, whom we call sophists, desire such a power. . . .

            With names then, which are properly so called, it is necessary to answer either directly or by making a distinction. But fallacy depends on the secret understanding implied in our statements, such as when responding to questions that are not put clearly but instead are abbreviated. Consider this illustration. "Is what belongs to the Athenians, the possession of the Athenians?" "Yes." So it must be with other things. "Does not man also belong to animals?" "Yes." “Therefore man is the possession of animals.” For we say that man is of animals, because he is an animal, and Lysander is of the Spartans, because he is a Spartan. Thus, it is evident that where the proposition is unclear, we must not make a direct concession [but instead go on and draw a distinction].




The Science of Nature Begins with Universal First Principles and Proceeds to Particular Elements (Physics, 1.1)

With all subject matters that have principles, causes, or elements, it is through these that we obtain knowledge and understanding. For when we think that we know anything, it is the primary causes and first principles of it that we know, and have proceeded to the elements from which it is composed. This being the case, it is evident that we should first try to define the things that pertain to the principles of the science concerning nature. But the natural path in which we should proceed, is to begin with things that are more known and evident to us, and move towards things that are more evident and known to nature. For that which is known to us is not the same as that which is simply known. Hence it is necessary to proceed, after this manner, from things more obscure in nature yet evident to us, to things more evident and known in nature.

            To us, however, things that are at first evident and clear, are more confused, and afterwards the elements and principles become known from these through analysis. Thus, it is necessary to proceed from universals to particulars, for the whole is more known to our senses, and that which is universal is a type of whole that includes many things as parts. So too with Names and definitions, where a name signifies an indefinite type of whole, as, for instance, a circle. But a definition divides it into its several parts. Also, children at first call all men fathers, and all women mothers, but afterwards they distinguish each of these.


Nature as Matter: The Natural Capacity to Change (Physics, 2.1)

Some things exist by nature, some from other causes. Animals and their bodily organs, plants, and the physical elements (earth, fire, air, and water) such things as these we say exist by nature. There is one particular in which all the objects just named are observed to differ from things that are not constituted by nature: each of them has within itself a principle of movement and rest, that is, whether this movement be locomotion, or growth and decrease, or qualitative change. On the other hand, with such objects as beds and coats, there is no inherent tendency to change (provided we are speaking [not of their materials but] of the beds and coats themselves as products of craftwork). Of course, with respect to the stone or earth or composite matter of which such things are made, they do to that extent have such a tendency. This, however, is a purely incidental aspect. [However, it offers additional evidence that] what causes a thing to change or be at rest is its nature. That is, the nature that belongs to it primarily, not as an incidental attribute. . . .

            Some thinkers identify the nature, or substantive existence of a physical object with its proximate constituent, which considered in itself lacks the arrangement that characterizes the object: a bed, they say, is nothing but wood, a statue nothing but bronze. In support of this theory Antiphon points out that if you were to bury a bed, which in rotting were to generate enough force to send forth a shoot, the offshoot would be wood but not a bed. This shows that the artificial arrangement produced by the craftsman is merely an incidental attribute, while that which persists uninterruptedly through the process of change determines what a thing really is.

            By an extension of this argument suppose we say that the same relation that exists between a thing and its materials is found also between the materials themselves and certain ulterior elements, such as water might be an ulterior constituent of bronze and gold, or earth of wood and bones, and so on. If so, these elements will constitute the real nature of the thing. That is why some declare earth, others fire or air or water, still others a partial or total combination of these, to be the true nature of things. And when any such element, or combination of such elements, is taken as primary, a thinker will often declare this to be all that a thing really is, dismissing its other aspects as temporary modifications (pathos) or habitual states or habitual dispositions of it. He will regard it moreover as eternal, on the ground that it cannot be transformed into anything other than itself. Other phases of existence, however, becoming created and destroyed ceaselessly.

            Here, then, is one meaning of the word nature: the proximate material of whatever contains a principle of movement or change.


Nature as Form: The Shape of a Thing when Fulfilling its Potentiality (Physics, 2.1)

But [in contrast to nature’s capacity to change], from another point of view we may regard the nature of a thing as consisting in its form, as in its shape or definition.

            Just as we apply the word “art” to a thing both as having been produced by art and as having an artistic character, so we apply the word nature to what is in accordance with nature, or has a natural foundation as well as to the natural basis itself. As in the one case we should not call a bed artistic if it were only potentially a bed and had not yet received a bed's actual form. So in the case of natural products, what is potentially flesh or bone does not possess its proper nature and does not exist naturally until it actually assumes the form implied by its logical meaning. This logical meaning is made explicit by defining what flesh or bone properly is. Thus in this second sense of the word, nature means the shape or form of such things as have an inherent tendency to change. This natural form is distinguishable in meaning although inseparable in fact from the matter that receives it. But while the word nature may sometimes connote the matter and sometimes the form it is never directly synonymous with the composite thing of which these are the complementary aspects: we say of a man not that he is nature, but that he exists by virtue of a certain nature.

            Of these two meanings of nature the second is the more fundamental. For a thing is more truly said to have a certain nature when it has actually realized that nature than when it merely is capable of it. Besides, man is born from man, but not bed from bed. Hence it is generally held that the real nature of a bed is not its visible form, but the wood. For, if the bed were to sprout, its offshoot would be merely wood, not another bed. If we agree that any such visible form not capable of reproducing itself is [a product of] art, it would seem that nature must be essential form capable of reproducing itself. For man reproduces [the essential form of] man.

            This is further shown by our practice of using the word nature for the process of growth by which the nature of a thing is attained. Herein nature differs from the art of healing, which aims not simply at healing but at health. The healing art stands at the beginning of the process, not at the end as a goal. Nature's relation to nature is different from this. A growing thing, qua growing, must grow out of something and into something else. What is it that it grows into? Not what it arose from, but what it tends toward. Its final shape, then, is its nature.

The words shape and nature, we may observe in passing, are used in a twofold sense: that is, there is a sense in which even deficiency is a sort of form, [since it is the lack of something with a definite character]. But whether a specific deficiency is involved in cases of absolute creation is a question to be considered later.


Physics deals with both Matter and Form (Physics, 2.2)

With which of nature's two aspects, form or matter, is the natural scientist properly concerned? With both of them, no doubt. But even so, he still must examine each of them individually, and the question then arises whether the same type of inquiry is appropriate to each.

            A study of the ancients would suggest that natural science is exclusively concerned with matter. Even Empedocles and Democritus tell us little about the form and enduring essence of things. We must admit that art imitates nature, and that to a certain extent it is the business of every scientific technique to understand not only its own distinctive character but also the material appropriate to it. For example, the doctor must understand not only health but also the bile and phlegm in which health is or is not to be found, the builder must have knowledge not only of the way in which a house is to shape up but also of the bricks and beams that are its materials, and so in other cases. We must then conclude that it is the business of the natural scientist to study both the formal and material aspects of nature. . . .

            To what extent, then, must the natural scientist study the form and essence of things? To a certain extent of course he must, inasmuch as his investigation must include the goals toward which things strive. [However, the scientist should not do so to the extent of neglecting their material basis] any more so than the doctor [in studying health] should neglect the sinew, or the smith overlook the material properties of bronze. For the objects of natural science, while distinguishable ideally from the matter in which they reside, are not actually separable. Man and the sun must both be taken account of in explaining the generation of man. As for entities that can be separated from their matter, what they are and what their mode of existence, this is a question that belongs more properly to basic philosophy.


Four Causes: Material, Formal, Efficient and Final (Physics 2.3)

We have next to consider the question of the causes that make a thing what it is: what they are and how they are to be classified. For knowledge is the object of our studies, and we can hardly be said really to know a thing until we have grasped the “why” of it, that is, until we have grasped the causes that are most directly responsible for it. Clearly, then, this must be our aim also with regard to the phenomena of becoming and perishing and all forms of physical change, so that having grasped the underlying principles we may employ them in the explanation of particular phenomena.

            [1. Material cause.] In one sense, then, the “reason” for anything means the material out of which an object is generated and which is immanent in the generated object: for example, the bronze of a statue, the silver of a bowl, and also the genera to which such materials belong.

            [2. Formal cause.] Next, it may mean the form or pattern, that is, what the thing is defined as being essentially. It also may mean the genus to which this essence belongs. Thus the ratio 2:1 is a formal condition of the musical octave. Generally speaking, number and the causes that make up the definition of a thing are what constitute its formal condition.

            [3. Efficient cause.] A third meaning is the immediate source of change or of cessation from change. In this sense a man who gives advice acts as “determining agency” [on him who receives it], a father on his offspring, and generally speaking whatever produces or changes anything on the product or on the thing changed.

            [4. Final cause.] Finally, the reason for anything may mean the end (telos) or purpose for the sake of which a thing is done: for example, health may be a determining cause in going for a walk. Why is he taking a walk?" we ask. "In order to be healthy." Having said this, we think we have given a sufficient explanation. Under this category must also be put all the intermediate steps which the agent must take as means to the end. Examples are losing weight, defecation, also drugs and surgical instruments, as means to health. All these are for the sake of an end, although they differ in that some are actions to be performed while others are instruments to be used. Thus we have enumerated the various ways in which one thing can cause another.


The Four Causes involve Purpose (Physics, 2.7)

It is clear, then, that there are such things as determining causes and that they are of four kinds, as we have stated. These correspond to the four meanings of the question “why.” The “why” of anything may be referred: (1) to the essential nature of the thing in question, when it is a question of things that do not involve change (for example, in mathematics, where our reasoning ultimately falls back upon the definition of a straight line or commensurability or the like); or (2) to the thing that started a movement going (for example, "Why did they make war? Because they had been raided"); or (3) to the end in view (for example, [they make war] in order to gain sovereign power); or (4) in the case of things that come into existence, to the material out of which they come. These, then, being the four kinds of determining cause that there are, it is the business of the natural philosopher to understand them all. His explanations, to be scientifically adequate, must take account of each of them: the matter, the form, the moving force, and the goal.

            It sometimes happens that the last three of these causes coincide. The essential nature of a thing may often be regarded as identical with the fundamental purpose which it serves. Both of these aspects must be identical in kind with the source of the thing's movement, for example, man being produced only by man. This latter identity holds true in all cases where the efficient cause is itself something that changes. As for the opposite sort of case (that is, where the efficient cause possesses within itself neither movement nor the power of movement, but is motionless), this falls outside the province of natural science. From this we may distinguish three branches of inquiry: one of things to which movement is foreign, a second of moving but imperishable things, and a third of things that perish.

            In short, then, when we explain anything we must immediately take into account its material, its essential character, and the source of its movement. For, this is principally how explanations of occurrences are sought. "What comes into existence, and what has preceded it?" "What was the force or agent that started the process, and on what did it act?" Questions such as these, properly ordered, are essential to every [scientific investigation].

            The principles that give rise to and govern physical movement or change are of two kinds. One of them does not itself partake of change, and is therefore not physical. I refer to whatever produces movement or change in other things without itself being affected. This is the absolutely unalterable and primary [aspect of things], their essential character, or form. It is thus also their end and goal. As nature is inherently goalful, the natural scientist must not neglect this aspect. He must, in short, explain the “why” of things in all four of its aspects, showing (1) how one thing necessarily, or at any rate normally, arises from another [efficient cause]; (2) how one thing is a precondition of another's existence, as premises provide the material for a conclusion [material cause]; (3) how this or that [entity or aspect] manifests a thing's essential nature [formal cause]; (4) and why it is better that this or that should be as it is (not, of course, without qualification but relatively to the whole character of the thing in question).


Nature acts for a Purpose, Not from mere Chance (Physics, 2.8)

We must now explain in what sense nature belongs to the class of final causes. Then [in the next chapter] we will consider what is meant by necessity when spoken of with reference to natural phenomena. For, people are constantly appealing to necessity as the cause of things, arguing that since the hot and the cold and all the other qualities are each of a certain definitive nature, the objects which they characterize. must exist and be created by necessity. Even those who admit some further determining principle of things (such as [Empedocles and his] Love and Strife, or [Anaxagoras and his] Mind) do not consistently adhere to their explanations [but fall back upon the idea of necessity].

            [With reference to our first question] it may be objected that nature does not act with reference to a goal nor by reason of the fact that one thing is better than another, but instead for the same reason that it rains, that is, not to make the corn grow, but of necessity. When rain falls, so the argument runs, it is simply because the rising vapor has become cooled, and being cooled turns to water, which descends, causing the corn to grow. It is on the same basis as, when rain spoils the crops on the threshing-floor, we do not suppose it fell for the sake of spoiling them but that it merely happened to do so. Why, then, should it not be the same with the organic parts of nature? Take the case of our teeth, for example: the front teeth are sharp and suitable for tearing the food, the back ones broad and flat, suitable for grinding it. May they not have grown up thus by simple necessity, and their adaptation to their respective functions be purely a coincidence? The same argument can be offered about any organic structure to which purpose is commonly ascribed. It is further explained that where the organic structures happen to have been formed as if they had been arranged on purpose, the creatures which thus happen to be suitably organized have survived, while the others have perished (such as Empedocles relates of his man-faced ox-creatures).

            While these and similar arguments may cause difficulties, they certainly do not represent the truth. For in the first place, teeth and all other natural phenomena come about in a certain way if not invariably at least normally, and this is inconsistent with the meaning of luck or chance. We do not appeal to luck or coincidence in explaining the frequency of rain in winter [in Athens where winters are wet and summers are dry] nor of heat in mid-summer. We would, however, if the situation were to be reversed. As every occurrence must be ascribed either to coincidence or to purpose, if such cases as the foregoing cannot be ascribed to coincidence or chance, they must be ascribed to purpose. But since even our opponents [such as Empedocles] will admit that all such occurrences are natural events, it follows that there is such a thing as purpose in nature and its processes [that is, final cause].




Wisdom as Knowledge of the Fundamental Principles of the Causes the Govern Everything (Metaphysics, 1.1-2)

Everyone supposes that what is called “wisdom” deals with the first causes and principles of things. Thus, as has been said before, the man of experience is considered wiser than the possessors of any sense-perception whatever. The artist wiser is than the men of experience, the masterworker wiser than the mechanic, and the theoretical kinds of knowledge are more of the nature of wisdom than the productive. Clearly then wisdom is knowledge about certain principles and causes.

            Since we are seeking this knowledge, we must inquire about what kind are the causes and the principles, the knowledge of which is wisdom. If one were to take the notions we have about the wise man, this might perhaps make the answer more evident. We suppose first, then, that the wise man knows all things, as far as possible, although he has not knowledge of each of them in detail. Secondly, he who can learn things that are difficult, and not easy for man to know, is wise (sense-perception is common to all, and therefore easy and no indication of wisdom). Again, he who is more exact and more capable of teaching the causes is wiser, in every branch of knowledge. So too with the sciences, where that which is desirable on its own account (and for the sake of knowing it) is more of the nature of wisdom than that which is desirable on account of its results. Also, the superior science is more of the nature of wisdom than the ancillary. For the wise man must not be ordered but must order, and he must not obey another, but the less wise must obey him.

            These are the various notions, then, which we have about wisdom and the wise. Now of these characteristics, that of knowing all things must belong to him who has in the highest degree universal knowledge. For, in a sense, he knows all the instances that fall under the universal. These things, the most universal, are on the whole the hardest for men to know since they are farthest from the senses. The most exact of the sciences are those that deal most with first principles. For those which involve fewer principles are more exact than those which involve additional principles. . . .


Against Plato’s Theory of the Forms (Metaphysics, 1.9)

Consider those [such as Plato] who posit the Forms as causes. Firstly, in seeking to grasp the causes of the things around us, they introduced other things equal in number to these. It is as if a man who wanted to count things thought he would not be able to do it while they were few, but tried to count them when he had added to their number. For the Forms are practically equal to (or not fewer than) the things. In trying to explain the things, these thinkers proceeded from them to the Forms. Thus, to each thing there answers an entity which has the same name and exists apart from the substances. Additionally, there is a one over many with other groups, whether the many are in this world or are eternal.

            Further, of the ways in which we prove that the Forms exist, none is convincing. For from some arguments no inference necessarily follows, and from other arguments there arise Forms even of things of which we think there are no Forms. For, according to the arguments from the existence of the sciences, there will be Forms of all things of which there are sciences. According to the “one over many” argument, there will be Forms even of negations. According to the argument that there is an object for thought even when the thing has perished, there will be Forms of perishable things, for we have an image of these. Further, of the more accurate arguments, some lead to Forms of relations, of which we say there is no independent class, and others introduce the “third man”. . . .

            Most importantly, one might ask the question what on earth the Forms contribute to sensible things, either to those that are eternal or to those that come into being and cease to be. For they cause neither movement nor any change in them. Further, they help in no way either towards the knowledge of the other things (for they are not even the substance of these, otherwise they would have been in them), or towards their being, if they are not in the particulars which share in them. If they were particulars, they might be thought to be causes, just as white causes whiteness in a white object by entering into its composition. But this argument, which first Anaxagoras and later Eudoxus and certain others used, is very easily overthrown, for it is not difficult to collect many insurmountable objections to such a view.

            Further, all other things cannot come from the Forms in any of the usual senses of “from”. To say that they are patterns and the other things share in them is to use empty words and poetical metaphors. For what is it that works, looking to the Forms? Anything can either be, or become, like another without being copied from it, so that whether Socrates or not a man Socrates like might come to be. Evidently this might be so even if Socrates were eternal. There will be several patterns of the same thing, and therefore several Forms. For example, Forms of man will include “animal”, “two-footed” and also “man himself”. Again, the Forms are patterns not only of sensible things, but also of Forms themselves also. That is, the genus, as genus of various species, will be so. Therefore the same thing will be pattern and copy.

            Again, it would seem impossible that the substance and that of which it is the substance should exist separately. How, therefore, could the Forms, being the substances of things, exist separately? In the Phaedo the case is stated in this way: the Forms are causes both of being and of becoming. Yet when the Forms exist, still the things that share in them do not come into being, unless there is something to originate movement. Many other things come into being (for example, a house or a ring) of which we say there are no Forms. Clearly, therefore, even the other things can both be and come into being owing to such causes as produce the things just mentioned. . . .


Laws of Thought: Identity, Contradiction, Excluded Middle (Metaphysics, 4.4, 4.7)

As we said, there are some who assert that it is possible for the same thing to be and not to be, and say that people can judge this to be the case. Among others many writers about nature use this language. But we have now posited that it is impossible for anything at the same time to be and not to be, and by this means have shown that this is the most indisputable of all principles. Some indeed demand that even this must be demonstrated, but this they do through lack of education. For it reveals a lack of education to not know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not. For it is impossible that there should be demonstration of absolutely everything (there would be an infinite regress, so that there would still be no demonstration). But if there are things of which one should not demand demonstration, these persons could not say what principle they maintain to be more self-evident than the present one. . . .

            First then this at least is obviously true, that the word “be” or “not be” has a definite meaning, so that not everything will be “so and not so”. Again, if “man” has one meaning, let this be “two-footed animal”. What I understand by the expression “having one meaning” is this: if “man” means “X”, it follows that, if A is a man then “X” will be what “being a man” means for him. It makes no difference even if one were to say a word has several meanings, if only they are limited in number. For, to each definition there might be assigned a different word. For instance, we might say that “man” has not one meaning but several, one of which would have one definition, namely, “two-footed animal”, while there might be also several other definitions if only they were limited in number. For, a unique name might be assigned to each of the definitions. If, however, they were not limited but one were to say that the word has an infinite number of meanings, obviously reasoning would be impossible. For, not to have one meaning is to have no meaning, and if words have no meaning our reasoning with each other, and indeed with ourselves, has been annihilated. For, it is impossible to think of anything if we do not think of one thing; but if this is possible, one name might be assigned to this thing.

            Let it be assumed then, as was said at the beginning, that the name has a meaning and has one meaning. It is impossible, then, that “being a man” should mean precisely “not being a man”, if “man” not only signifies something about one subject but also has one significance. (For we do not identify “having one significance” with “signifying something about one subject”, since on that assumption even “musical” and “white” and “man” would have had one significance, so that all things would have been one. For they would all have had the same significance.)

            It will not be possible to be and not to be the same thing, except in virtue of an ambiguity, just as if one whom we call “man”, others were to call “not-man”. But the point in question is not this, whether the same thing can at the same time be and not be a man in name, but whether it can in fact. . . .

            Let this, then, suffice to show (1) that the most indisputable of all beliefs is that contradictory statements are not at the same time true, and (2) what consequences follow from the assertion that they are, and (3) why people do assert this. Now since it is impossible that contradictories should be at the same time true of the same thing, obviously contraries also cannot belong at the same time to the same thing. For of contraries, one is a privation no less than it is a contrary-and a privation of the essential nature (and privation is the denial of a predicate to a determinate genus). If, then, it is impossible to affirm and deny truly at the same time, it is also impossible that contraries should belong to a subject at the same time, unless both belong to it in particular relations, or one in a particular relation and one without qualification.   But on the other hand there cannot be an intermediate between contradictories, but of one subject we must either affirm or deny any one predicate. This is clear, in the first place, if we define what the true and the false are. To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false.


Universals do not Exist Apart from Particulars (Metaphysics, 7.16)

Since the term “unity” is used like the term “being”, and the substance of that which is one is one, and things whose substance is numerically one are numerically one, evidently neither unity nor being can be the substance of things, just as being an element or a principle cannot be the substance, but we ask what, then, the principle is, that we may reduce the thing to something more knowable. Now of these concepts, “being” and “unity” are more substantial than “principle” or “element” or “cause”, but not even the former are substance, since in general nothing that is common is substance. For substance does not belong to anything but to itself and to that which has it, of which it is the substance. Further, that which is one cannot be in many places at the same time, but that which is common is present in many places at the same time. Thus, clearly no universal exists apart from its individuals.

            But those [among Plato’s followers] who say “the Forms exist” are correct in one respect: if Forms are substances, they have separate existence. But in another respect they are not right, because they say that “the one over many” is a Form. The reason for their doing this is that they cannot declare what are the substances of this sort, namely, the imperishable substances which exist apart from the individual and sensible substances. They make them, then, the same in kind as the perishable things (for this kind of substance we know), namely, “man-itself” and “horse-itself”, adding to the sensible things the word “itself”. Yet even if we had not seen the stars, I suppose they still would have been eternal substances apart from those which we knew. Thus, even now if we do not know what non-sensible substances there are, it is doubtless necessary that there should he some. Clearly, then, no universal term is the name of a substance, and no substance is composed of substances.


Substance and Accident (Metaphysics, 8.1, 5.8, 5.30)

We have said that the causes, principles, and elements of substances are the object of our search. Some substances are recognized by everyone, but some have been advocated by particular schools. Those generally recognized are, first, the natural substances, that is, fire, earth, water, air, etc., [which are] the simple bodies. Second are plants and their parts, animals and the parts of animals, and even the physical universe and its parts. Some particular schools say that Forms and the objects of mathematics are substances. There are arguments which lead to the conclusion that there are other substances, the essence and the substratum. Again, in another way the genus seems more substantial than the various species, and the universal than the particulars. With the universal and the genus the Forms are connected, and it is because of the same argument that they are thought to be substances. Since the essence is substance, and the definition is a formula of the essence, for this reason we have discussed definition and essential predication. Since the definition is a formula, and a formula has parts, we had to consider also with respect to the notion of “part”, what are parts of the substance and what are not, and whether the parts of the substance are also parts of the definition. Further, too, neither the universal nor the genus is a substance. We must inquire later into the Forms and the objects of mathematics, since some [followers of Plato] say these are substances as well as the sensible substances. . . .

            We call “substance” (1) the simple bodies, that is, earth and fire and water and everything of the sort, and in general bodies and the things composed of them, both animals and divine beings, and the parts of these. All these are called substance because they are not predicated of a subject but everything else is predicated of them. (2) That which is the cause of their being, insofar as they are present in such things as are not predicated of a subject, as the soul is of the being of an animal. (3) The parts which are present in such things, limiting them and marking them as individuals, and by whose destruction the whole is destroyed, just as a [three-dimensional] body is destroyed by the destruction of the plane, as some say, and the plane is destroyed by the destruction of the line. In general number is thought by some to be of this nature, for if it is destroyed, they say, nothing exists, and it limits all things. (4) The essence, the formula of which is a definition, is also called the substance of each thing.

            It follows, then, that “substance” has two senses, (A) ultimate substratum, which is no longer predicated of anything else, and (B) that which, being a “this”, is also separable and, of this nature, is the shape or form of each thing. . . .

            Accident” means (1) that which attaches to something and can be truly asserted, but neither of necessity nor usually. For example, if someone in digging a hole for a plant has found treasure. This (the finding of treasure) is an accident for the man who dug the hole, since neither does the one come of necessity from the other (or after the other), nor does he usually find treasure if he digs to plant something. A musician might be pale, but since this does not happen of necessity nor usually, we call it an accident. There are, then, attributes and they attach to subjects, and some of them attach to these only in a particular place and at a particular time. Thus, something will be an accident whenever it attaches to a subject, but not because it was this subject, or the time this time, or the place this place. Therefore, too, there is no definite cause for an accident, but a chance cause, that is, an indefinite one. Going to Aegina was an accident for a man, if he went not in order to get there, but because he was carried out of his way by a storm or captured by pirates. The accident has happened or exists, not in virtue of the subject’s nature, however, but of something else. For, the storm was the cause of his coming to a place for which he was not sailing, and this was Aegina.

            Accident has also another meaning, that is, (2) all that attaches to each thing in virtue of itself but is not in its essence, as having its angles equal to two right angles attaches to the triangle. Accidents of this sort may be eternal, but no accident of the other sort is.


Potentiality and Actuality (Metaphysics, 9.6-8)

We say that potentially, for instance, a statue of Hermes is in the block of wood, and the half-line is in the whole, because it might be separated out. We call even the man who is not studying a man of science, if he is capable of studying. The thing that stands in contrast to each of these exists actually. Our meaning can be seen in the particular cases by induction, and we must not seek a definition of everything but be content to grasp the analogy. [Thus, actuality is to potentiality] just as that which is building something is to that which is capable of building something; or the waking to the sleeping; or that which is seeing to that which has its eyes shut but has sight; or that which has been shaped out of the matter to the matter; or that which has been hammered into shape to the unshaped. Let actuality be defined by one member of this antithesis, and the potential by the other. But all things are not said in the same sense to exist actually, but only by analogy, as A is in B or to B, C is in D or to D. For some are as movement to potentiality, and the others as substance to some sort of matter. . . .

             What, and what kind of thing, the actual is, may be taken as explained by these and similar considerations. But we must distinguish when a thing exists potentially and when it does not. For it is not at any and every time. For example, is earth potentially a man? No, but rather when it has already become seed, and perhaps not even then. It is just as it is with being healed. Not everything can be healed by the medical art or by luck, but there is a certain kind of thing which is capable of it, and only this is potentially healthy. Further (1) the delimiting mark of that which as a result of thought comes to exist in complete reality from having existed potentially is that, if the agent has willed it, it comes to pass if nothing external hinders. But the condition on the other side (namely, in that which is healed) is that nothing in it hinders the result. It is on similar terms that we have what is potentially a house. If nothing in the thing acted on (that is, in the matter) prevents it from becoming a house, and if there is nothing which must be added or taken away or changed, this is potentially a house. The same is true of all other things the source of whose becoming is external. (2) In the cases in which the source of the becoming is in the very thing which comes to be, a thing is potentially all those things which it will be of itself if nothing external hinders it. For example, the seed is not yet potentially a man, since it must be deposited in something other than itself and undergo a change. But when through its own motive principle it has already got such and such attributes, in this state it is already potentially a man. But in the former state it needs another motive principle, just as earth is not yet potentially a statue (for it must first change in order to become brass). . . .

            Actuality is prior to all potentiality both in formula and in substantiality. However, with regard to time, actuality is prior to potentiality in one sense, but not in another.

             (1) Clearly, actuality is prior to potentiality in formula, for that which is in the primary sense potential is potential because it is possible for it to become active. For example, I mean by “capable of building” that which can build, and by “capable of seeing” that which can see, and by “visible” that which can be seen. The same account applies to all other cases, so that the formula and the knowledge of the one must precede the knowledge of the other.

            (2) Actuality is prior to potentiality regarding “time” in this sense: the actual which is identical in species though not in number with a potentially existing thing is to it. I mean that to this particular man who now exists actually and to the corn and to the seeing subject the matter and the seed and that which is capable of seeing, which are potentially a man and corn and seeing, but not yet actually so, are prior in time. But prior in time to these are other actually existing things, from which they were produced. For from the potentially existing the actually existing is always produced by an actually existing thing, for example, man from man, musician by musician. There is always a first mover, and the mover already exists actually. We have said in our account of substance that everything that is produced is something produced from something and by something, and that the same in species as it.

            This is why it is thought impossible to be a builder if one has built nothing or a harper if one has never played the harp. For, he who learns to play the harp learns to play it by playing it, and all other learners do similarly. So arose the sophistical quibble, that one who does not possess a science will be doing that which is the object of the science. For, he who is learning it does not possess it. But since, of that which is coming to be, some part must have come to be, and, of that which, in general, is changing, some part must have changed (this is shown in the treatise on movement), he who is learning must, it would seem, possess some part of the science. But here too, then, it is clear that actuality is in this sense also, namely, in order of generation and of time, prior to potency.

            But (3) actuality is also prior to potentiality in substantiality. Firstly, because the things that are posterior in becoming are prior in form and in substantiality (for example, man is prior to boy and human being to seed; for the one already has its form, and the other has not), and because everything that comes to be moves towards a principle, that is, an end (for that for the sake of which a thing is, is its principle, and the becoming is for the sake of the end), and the actuality is the end, and it is for the sake of this that the potency is acquired. For animals do not see in order that they may have sight, but they have sight that they may see. Similarly men have the art of building that they may build, and theoretical science that they may theorize. But they do not theorize that they may have theoretical science, except those who are learning by practice. But, even these do not theorize except in a limited sense, or because they have no need to theorize. Further, matter exists in a potential state, just because it may come to its form. When it exists actually, then it is in its form. The same holds good in all cases, even those in which the end is a movement. So, as teachers think they have achieved their end when they have exhibited the pupil at work, nature does likewise. For if this is not the case, we will have Pauson's Hermes over again, since it will be hard to say about the knowledge, as about the figure in the picture, whether it is within or without. For the action is the end, and the actuality is the action. So even the word “actuality” is derived from “action”, and points to the complete reality.


Unmoved Mover (Metaphysics, 12.7-8)

The first heaven [i.e., the outer sphere of the universe] must be eternal. There is therefore also something which moves it. Since that which moves and is moved is intermediate, there is something which moves without being moved, being eternal, substance, and actuality. The object of desire and the object of thought move in this way: they move without being moved. The primary objects of desire and of thought are the same. … The final cause is (a) some being for whose good an action is done, and (b) something at which the action aims. Of these the latter exists among unchangeable entities though the former does not. The final cause, then, produces motion as being loved, but all other things move by being moved. … On such a principle, then, depend the heavens and the world of nature. …

            It is clear then from what has been said that there is a substance which is eternal and unmovable and separate from sensible things. It has been shown also that this substance cannot have any size, but is without parts and indivisible (for it produces movement through infinite time, but nothing finite has infinite power. While every size is either infinite or finite, it cannot, for the above reason, have finite size, and it cannot have infinite size because there is no infinite size at all). But it has also been shown that it is impassive and unalterable, since all the other changes are posterior to change of place. . . .

            The first principle or primary being is not movable either in itself or accidentally, but produces the primary eternal and single movement. Now, since (a) that which is moved must be moved by something, and (b) the first mover must be in itself unmovable, and (c) eternal movement must be produced by something eternal and a single movement by a single thing, and (d) since we see that besides the simple spatial movement of the universe, which we say the first and unmovable substance produces, there consequently are other spatial movements which are eternal, namely, those of the planets. Each of these movements also must be caused by a substance both unmovable in itself and eternal. For the nature of the stars is eternal just because it is a certain kind of substance, and the mover is eternal and prior to the moved, and that which is prior to a substance must be a substance. Evidently, then, there must be substances which are of the same number as the movements of the stars, and in their nature eternal, and in themselves unmovable, and without size, for the reason before mentioned. It is also evident that the movers are substances, and one of these is first and another second according to the same order as the movements of the stars. . . . The number of all the spheres (both those which move the planets and those which counteract these) will be fifty-five. Let this, then, be taken as the number of the spheres, so that the unmovable substances and principles also may probably be taken as precisely so many.

            The nature of the divine thought involves certain problems. For while thought is held to be the most divine of things observed by us, the question how it must be situated in order to have that character involves difficulties. For if it thinks of nothing, what dignity is there in this? It is just like one who sleeps. If it thinks, but this depends on something else, then (since that which is its substance is not the act of thinking, but a potency) it cannot be the best substance. For it is through thinking that its value belongs to it. Further, whether its substance is the faculty of thought or the act of thinking, what does it think of? Either of itself or of something else. If of something else, either of the same thing always or of something different. Does it matter, then, or not, whether it thinks of the good or of any chance thing? Are there not some things about which it is incredible that it should think? Evidently, then, it thinks of that which is most divine and precious, and it does not change. For change would be change for the worse, and this would be already a movement. First, then, if “thought” is not the act of thinking but a potency, it would be reasonable to suppose that the continuity of its thinking is wearisome to it. Secondly, there would evidently be something else more precious than thought, namely, that which is thought of. For both thinking and the act of thought will belong even to one who thinks of the worst thing in the world, so that if this ought to be avoided (and it ought, for there are even some things which it is better not to see than to see), the act of thinking cannot be the best of things. Therefore it must be of itself that the divine thought thinks (since it is the most excellent of things), and its thinking is a thinking on thinking.




The Importance of the Study of the Soul (On the Soul, 1.1)

It may be assumed that all knowledge is beautiful and admirable. But one branch may be more so than another, either because of the exactness which is required for its examination, or for treating of objects more important and wonderful than any others. For both of these reasons, then, we may reasonably assign the first place to an inquiry into soul. For the knowledge of the soul promises to greatly contribute to all truth, and most especially to truth about nature, since, as we say, it is the origin of living beings. The object of our inquiry, then, is to study and discover its essential nature as well as its accidents. Among these, some seem to be affections unique to the soul, and others to belong to living beings, as original properties, through the soul.


Soul as Actuality of a Natural Body that Potentially Possesses Life (On the Soul, 2.1)

Let us attempt to determine what soul is, and what is the most general definition that can be given of it.

            Substance is the name that we assign one class of existing things. This substance may be viewed from several perspectives, either, first, as matter, meaning by matter that which in itself is not any individual thing; or, secondly, as form and specific characteristic in virtue of which an object comes to be described as such and such an individual; or, thirdly, as the result produced by a combination of this matter and this form. Further, while matter is merely potential existence, the form is perfect actualization (a conception which may be taken in two types, either as resembling knowledge possessed or as corresponding to observation in active exercise).

            These real substances again are thought to correspond for the most part with bodies, and more particularly with natural bodies, because these latter are the source from which other bodies are formed. Now among such natural bodies, some have and others do not have life. By life we mean the process of nutrition, increase and decay from an internal principle. Thus every natural body possessed of life would be a real substance, and a substance which we may describe as composite.

            Since then the body, as possessed of life, is of this compound character, the body itself would not constitute the soul. For body is not something attributed to a subject [as is the case with life and soul]. Rather, the body acts as the underlying subject and the material basis. Thus then the soul must necessarily be a real substance, as the form which determines a natural body possessed potentially of life. The reality however of an object is contained in its perfect actualization. Soul therefore will be a perfect actualization of a body such as has been described. Perfect actualization however is a word used in two senses: it may be understood either as an implicit state corresponding to knowledge as possessed, or as an explicitly exercised process corresponding to active observation. Here, in reference to soul, it must evidently be understood in the first of these two senses. For the soul is present with us as much while we are asleep as while we are awake. While waking resembles active observation, sleep resembles the implicit though not exercised possession of knowledge. Now in reference to the same subject, it is the implicit knowledge of scientific principles which stands prior.

            Soul therefore is the earlier or implicit perfect actualization of a natural body possessed potentially of life. Such potential life belongs to everything which is possessed of organs. Organs, we must remember, is a name that applies also to the parts of plants, except that they are completely uncompounded. Thus the leaf is the protection of the pericarp [i.e., the wall of a fruit] and the pericarp of the fruit. While the roots are analogous to the mouth in animals, both being used to absorb nourishment. Thus then, if we be required to frame some one common definition, which will apply to every form of soul, it would be that soul is the earlier perfect actualization of a natural organic body.


Soul requires Body (Hylomorphism): Soul plus Body parallels Sight plus the Eye (On the Soul, 2.2)

The definition we have just given should make it evident that we must no more ask whether the soul and the body are one, than ask whether the wax and the figure impressed upon it are one, or generally inquire whether the material and that of which it is the material are one. For, though unity and being are used in a variety of senses, their most distinctive sense is that of perfect actualization.

            A general account has thus been given of the nature of the soul. It is, we have seen, a real substance which expresses an account of a thing. Such a substance is the manifestation of the inner meaning of such and such a body. Suppose, for example, that an instrument such as an axe were a natural body. Then its axehood (or its being an axe) would constitute its essential nature or reality, and thus, so to speak, its soul. For, if this axehood were taken away from it, it would be no longer an axe, except in so far as it might still be called by this same name. However, the object in question is as matter of fact only an axe. It has no soul that is the account and manifestation of the meaning of a body of this kind. Rather, that axe is only a natural body possessing within itself a cause of movement and of rest.

            The theory just stated may also be viewed in reference to the separate bodily parts. Suppose that the eye was a living thing [like an animal]. Vision would be its soul, because vision is the reality which expresses the idea of the eye. The eye itself, on the other hand, is merely the material substratum for vision. When this power of vision fails, it no longer remains an eye, except in so far as it is still called by the same name. It would be just in the same way as an eye carved in stone or depicted in a painting is also called an “eye”. Now what is true of the part must be applied to the living body taken as a whole. For perception as a whole stands to the whole sensitive body, as such, in the same ratio as the particular exercise of sense stands to a single organ of sense.

            The part of our definition which speaks of something as "potentially possessed of life " must not be taken to mean that which has thrown off its soul, but rather that which has it. For, the seed and the fruit is such and such a body potentially. In the same way, then, just as cutting is the full actualization of an axe, or actual seeing the actualization of the eye, so too waking may be said to be the full actualization of the body. But it is in the sense in which vision is not only the exercise but also the implicit capacity of the eye that soul is the true actualization of the body. The body on the other hand is merely the material to which soul gives reality. Just as the eye is both the pupil and its vision, so too the living animal is together the soul and body in combination.

            It is not then difficult to see that soul (or certain parts of it if it naturally allows for division) cannot be separated from the body. For in some cases the soul is the actualization of the parts of body themselves. It is however perfectly conceivable that there may be some parts of it which are separable and this because they are not the expression or actualization of any particular body. Indeed it is further matter of doubt whether soul as the perfect actualization of the body may not stand to it in the same separable relation as a sailor to his boat. This much may suffice as a description and sketch of the nature of the soul.


Abilities of the Soul: Nutrition, Appetite, Sensation, Locomotion, Thought (On the Soul, 2.2-3)

It may serve as a fresh beginning for our inquiry to say that the animate is distinguished from the inanimate or soulless by the fact of life. There are a number of ways in which a thing is said to live. Yet it needs to possess only one of them, such as reason, sense perception, locomotion and rest, and additional movement regarding nutrition, as well as of decay and growth. In all these cases we say it lives. Hence it is that all plants are thought to live. For, they clearly contain within themselves a power and principle that enables them to acquire growth and undergo decay in opposite directions. They do not while growing upwards not grow downwards. Rather, they grow in both directions and on all sides, and they continue to live so long as they can take in nourishment.

            Now this faculty of nutrition may be separated from the other functions. But in the case of mortal creatures, the other faculties cannot exist separately from this, as indeed is evident from plants which possess no other psychic power except this faculty of growth. . . .

            The term real substance is, as we have before remarked, used in three senses. It may denote either the specific form, or the material substratum, or thirdly the combination of the two. Of these different aspects of real substance, the matter or substratum is only the potential ground, whereas the form is the perfect actualization. Since then it is the product of the two that is animate, it cannot be that the body is the full actualization or expression of the soul. Rather on the contrary, it is the soul which is the full actualization of some body. This fact fully supports the view of those who hold that the soul cannot exist without some sort of body, yet cannot be identified with a body of any sort whatever. The truth is that soul is not body but it is something which belongs to body. Hence further, it exists in a body and in a body of such and such a nature. It cannot be left undetermined in the way that earlier thinkers introduced the soul into the body, without first determining what sort of body it was, although it does not even look as though any casual thing admitted any other casual thing.

            This same conclusion may be reached also on a priori grounds. The full realization of each object is naturally reached only within that which is potentially existent and within that material substratum which is appropriate to it. It is clear then from these considerations that soul is a kind of full realization or expression of the idea of that which has potentially the power to be of such a character.


No One Definition of Soul Possible for All Living Things (Soul, 2.3)

Of the powers of soul which have been mentioned, some organisms, as has been said, possess all, others again a few, while a third class possesses one only. The powers in question are those of nutrition, sensation, desire, locomotion and of reasoning. Plants possess the function of nutrition only. Other creatures have this and also the faculty of sensation. If they have sensation, then they must also have the faculty of desire: for desire includes appetite, passion and wish. However, animals without exception possess one at least of the senses, namely touch. Wherever a faculty of sense is present, it is accompanied by a feeling of pleasure and pain, and an object which is pleasant or painful. But where these are present, appetite is also there, sine appetite is the desire of what is pleasant.

            Further, all animals have a sense for nourishment (this involves touch, since all animals are fed by means of things that dry and moist, hot and cold, and touch is the sense which directly perceives these). As for the objects of other senses, by contrast it is only incidentally that they are fed by them. For neither sound, colour, nor smell directly contribute to food. Flavour again is included under the class of things that are tangible. Now hunger and thirst, which attach to taste, are forms of appetite, hunger being concerned with what is hot and dry, thirst with what is cold and moist, while flavor is their seasoning, so to speak. These subjects we must afterwards discuss with more detail. Meanwhile it need only be asserted that those animals which possess the sense of touch have also the attribute of desire. Whether in addition they possess imagination is an obscure subject, which must be investigated afterwards. Besides these faculties, some animals also possess the power of locomotion. Others, such as men or other beings similar or superior to them, if there be any such, also possess understanding and reason.

            It is clear, then, that there is one general definition of soul, neither more nor less than there is one definition of figure. Just as in the latter case, there is no figure other than the triangle and the figures which follow on it, so neither in the case of soul is there any form of it beyond those which we have enumerated. No doubt it is possible to have in reference to figures a common definition that will suit all figures, and yet be uniquely characteristic of no one figure in particular. A similar general definition is also possible with respect to the forms of soul that we have named. [But such common definitions are mere abstractions.] Hence it is absurd both in this case and in others to seek for a universal definition which will be unique to no one form of existence, nor framed with reference to the particular and individual species, if such common definition makes us neglect particular analysis.

            The different forms of soul in fact stand to one another in the same way as do the several species of figure. For, both in the case of figures and of animate beings, the earlier form always exists potentially in the later. Thus the triangle is contained within the square, and similarly the function of nutrition is implicitly contained within the faculty of sense. Thus we must push our inquiry into particulars and ask what is the soul of each form of existence, such as what is the soul of a plant, or a man, or some animal. We must also ask why they stand in such an order of succession. For example, the sensitive nature is not found without the nutritive [as with animals], and yet the sensitive nutritive is found without the sensitive, as with plants. Again, without the sense of touch, none of the other senses is present. But touch itself is found apart from the others, for many animals possess neither sight nor hearing nor the sense of smell. So likewise animals possessed of the faculties of sense sometimes have, sometimes do not have, the faculty of locomotion. Finally, the smallest class possess also reflection and understanding. All mortals that possess the faculty of reasoning possess also all the other powers, whereas those that possess each of those others do not in every case possess reflection. Some in fact do not even possess imagination, while others live by the aid of this alone. Regarding the speculative reason, a different account must be given. Meanwhile it is clear that the special definition of each of these powers separately is at the same time the most appropriate account of the soul.


Passive Mind Receives an Object’s Form (On the Soul, 3.4)

With regard to the part of the soul with which one knows and thinks (whether it is distinct in reality or only conceptually), we must ask what is its distinguishing feature, and how thinking occurs.

            If thinking is like perceiving, then it is a process of passively submitting to an intelligible object, or something like this. Then thinking must be without experience but capable of passively receiving an object’s form. It will be potentially this form although not actually it. Just as the capacity for perception is to the thing perceived, so also will reason be to that which is intelligible.

            Then since reason can understand all things, then it must be unmixed with any of those things, as Anaxagoras says, so that it can master them and thereby acquire knowledge. For if some other kind of substance was imposed between them, this would hinder and prevent its knowing. So no special nature belongs to it except that of potentiality. The part of the soul which is called reason (I call reason that by which the soul understands and conceives) is not actually any of the existing things until it thinks them. Hence it is reasonable to believe that it is not mixed with the body. For, if it was, it would take on a certain quality, like coldness or warmth. This would also be true if it had a kind of organ similar to the faculty of sensation. But in fact it is no one of these. They [i.e., the followers of Plato] are right who say that the soul is the seat of Forms, except that the whole of it is not, but only the intelligent part, and the Forms are there not actually but potentially.

            That inability to function does not occur alike in the case of the faculty of sense and of reason is evident from the consideration of the sense organ and the sense process. For sense cannot function in consequence of too strong a stimulus, as sound in the midst of too strong sound stimulations, nor from intense colors or smells can it gain the sense of vision or smell. But the reason when it deals with something very intelligible does not think the inferior details any the less clearly but all the better. Sense is not independent of the body, but reason is. But when it becomes identical with each thing in the way in which a knower is said to do when he is exercising his knowledge (this happens when he is able to act for himself), even then in a sense it is still a potentiality, though not indeed in the same sense as before learning or discovery. But it is still capable of thinking itself.

            We can distinguish size in particular from size in general, and water in particular from water in general. So it is in other cases, though not in all, for in some cases they are one and the same. So in the case of flesh in general and in particular, one distinguishes them either by different faculties or by the same differently applied. For flesh is not immaterial, but like “the snubnosed” is a particular form in a particular embodiment. By the perceptual faculty, then, one discriminates the warm and the cold and those things of which flesh is a certain expression. One judges the notion “flesh” either by some other quite different faculty or by one which is to the faculty of sense as a crooked line is to a straight one.

            Again in the case of abstractions, “the straight” is like “the snubnosed”, for it occupies space. If straight in general is different from straight in particular, then the essential notion of “the straight” is judged by a different faculty. Granting this duality, then, one judges by another faculty or one differently applied. In general, then, as things are distinguishable from their matter, so also are the things relating to mind.

            One might raise the following difficulty: if thinking is passively submitting to something, and if the reason is simple, nonsensuous and has nothing in common with anything, then, as Anaxagoras says, how can it think? For, one thing acts upon another only if there is some feature common to both. Further, one might ask whether thought itself is thinkable. Suppose that thoughts are intelligible in and of themselves (and not by virtue of something else), and what is intelligible is always the same in kind. Then either thoughts will belong to everything, or they will have something mixed with them that makes them intelligible like other things.

            It was said above that passivity is due to some common feature, because the mind is potentially the objects of thought, though nothing actually before it thinks. Just as is a tablet upon which nothing has been actually written, so too must be the nature of the mind. It is itself thinkable as other things are. In the case of material things, the thinker and the object of thought merge. But for theoretical knowledge and the object of such knowledge are identical. (We will have to examine the reason why we do not always think.) In material things the objects of thought are potentially present. So that mind is not subject to them (for mind is potentially of such forms independently of matter), but the objects of thought are subject to mind.


Active Mind Illuminates things, is Immortal and Eternal (On the Soul, 3.5)

As in all nature, there is the material factor which embodies every general class (it being those things potentially), while there is another element that constitutes the cause and the productive factor. It determines all after the manner in which craftsmanship shapes the matter it works upon. In the soul also there must be the same aspects analogous to these.

            Mind is in one aspect [passively] of such a character that it is able to identify itself with all things, yet in another aspect mind is [actively] such as to create all things. It is an influence like light. For in a sense light makes potential colors become actual colors.

            This [active] mind is separate, unaffected and unmixed. It is in its essence actuality. Now, what actively produces is always superior to what is passively affected. Similarly, the first principle is superior to matter.

            Actual knowledge is identical with the thing known, but potential knowledge is prior in time in particular cases, though not absolutely in time.

            Thought does not sometimes occur and sometimes not occur. But when it is by itself, it is pure in its nature, and this alone is immortal and eternal. We do not remember it because it has no sense content; but the passive mind is mortal. Without this nothing thinks.




All Action Aims at a Highest Good (Ethics 1)

            1. Every art and every scientific inquiry, and similarly every action and purpose, may be said to aim at some good. Hence the good has been well defined as that at which all things aim. But it is clear that there is a difference in the ends. For the ends are sometimes activities, and sometimes results beyond the mere activities. Also, where there are certain ends beyond the actions, the results are naturally superior to the activities.

            As there are various actions, arts, and sciences, it follows that the ends are also various. Thus health is the end of medicine, a vessel of shipbuilding, victory of strategy, and wealth of domestic economy. It often happens that there are a number of such arts or sciences which fall under a single faculty, as the art of making bridles, and all such other arts as make the instruments of horsemanship, under horsemanship, and this again as well as every military action under strategy, and in the same way other arts or sciences under other faculties. But in all these cases the ends of the ruling arts or sciences, whatever they may be, are more desirable than those of the subordinate arts or sciences, as it is for the sake of the former that the latter are themselves sought after. It makes no difference to the argument whether the activities themselves are the ends of the actions, or something else beyond the activities as in the above mentioned sciences. . . .

            2. Suppose it is true that in the sphere of action there is an end which we wish for its own sake, and for the sake of which we wish everything else, and that we do not desire all things for the sake of something else. For, if that is so, the process will go on without end, and our desire will be idle and futile. It is then clear that this will be the good or the supreme good. Does it not follow that the knowledge of this supreme good is of great importance for the conduct of life, and that, if we know it, we will be like good archers who have a mark at which to aim, we will have a better chance of attaining what we want? But, if this is the case, we must try to understand, at least in outline, its nature, and the science or faculty to which it belongs.

            It would seem that this is the most authoritative or ruling science or faculty, and such is evidently the political. For it is the political science or faculty which determines what sciences are necessary states, and what kind of sciences should be learned, and how far they should be learned by particular people. We perceive too that the faculties which are held in the highest esteem (e.g., strategy, domestic economy, and rhetoric) are subordinate to it. But as it makes use of the other practical sciences, and also legislates upon the things to be done and the things to be left undone, it follows that its end will comprehend the ends of all the other sciences, and will therefore be the true good of humankind. For although the good of an individual is identical with the good of a state, yet the good of the state, whether in attainment or in preservation, is evidently greater and more perfect. For while in an individual by himself it is something to be thankful for, it is nobler and more divine in a nation or state. These then are the objects at which the present inquiry aims, and it is in a sense a political inquiry. . . .


Happiness not identical with Pleasure, Honor or Wealth (Ethics 1)

            5. But to return from our digression: It seems reasonable that people should derive their conception of the good or of happiness from people’s lives. For there are practically three main lifestyles: the sensual, the political, and, thirdly, the speculative. Thus ordinary people conceive it to be pleasure, and accordingly approve a life of enjoyment. Now the majority of them present an absolutely slavish appearance, as choosing the life of wild beasts, but they meet with consideration because so many persons in authority share the tastes of [the extravagant Assyrian ruler] Sardanapalus.

            On the other hand, cultivated and practical people [comprising the second lifestyle], identify happiness with honor, as honor is the general end of political life. But this appears too superficial for our present purpose. For honor seems to depend more upon the people who pay it than upon the person to whom it is paid, and we have an intuitive feeling that the good is something which is proper to a person himself and cannot easily be taken away from him. It seems too that the reason why people seek honor is that they may be confident of their own goodness. Accordingly they seek it at the hands of the wise and of those who know them well, and they seek it on the ground of virtue. Hence it is clear that in their judgment at any rate virtue is superior to honor. It would perhaps be right then to look upon virtue rather than honor as being the end of the political life. Yet virtue again, it appears, lacks completeness. For, it seems that a person may possess virtue and yet be asleep or inactive throughout life, and, not only so but he may experience the greatest calamities and misfortunes. But nobody would call such a life a life of happiness, unless he were maintaining a paradox. It is not necessary to dwell further on this subject, as it is sufficiently discussed in the popular philosophical treatises. The third life is the speculative which we will investigate hereafter.

            The life of money-making is in a sense a life of constraint, and it is clear that wealth is not the good of which we are in seeking. For it is useful in part as a means to something else. It would be a more reasonable view therefore that the things mentioned before, viz. sensual pleasure, honor and virtue, are ends than that wealth is, as they are things which are desired on their own account. Yet these too are apparently not ends, although much argument has been employed to show that they are. . . .


Happiness and the Human Function (Ethics 1)

            7. … It appears, then, that happiness is something final and self-sufficient, being the end of all action. While it seems a generally admitted truth that happiness is the supreme good, what we need is to define its nature a little more clearly. The best way of arriving at such a definition will probably be to ascertain the function of humans. For, as with a flute-player, a statuary, or any artisan, or in fact anybody who has a definite function and action, his goodness, or excellence seems to lie in his function, so it would seem to be with humans, if indeed he has a definite function. Can it be said then that, while a carpenter and a cobbler have definite functions and actions, humans, unlike them, is naturally functionless? The reasonable view is that, as the eye, the hand, the foot, and similarly each several part of the body has a definite function, so humans may be regarded as having a definite function apart from all these. What then, can this function be? It is not life, for life is apparently something which humans shares with the plants. Rather, it is something unique to him that we are looking for. We must exclude therefore the life of nutrition and increase. There is next what may be called the life of sensation. But this too, is apparently shared by humans with horses, cattle, and all other animals. There remains what I may call the practical life of the rational part of human nature. But the rational part is twofold. It is rational partly in the sense of being obedient to reason, and partly in the sense of possessing reason and intelligence. The practical life too may be conceived of in two ways, either as a moral state, or as a moral activity: but we must understand by it the life of activity, as this seems to be the truer form of the conception.

            The function of humans then is an activity of soul in accordance with reason, or not independently of reason. Again the functions of a person of a certain kind, and of such a person who is good of his kind e.g. of a harpist and a good harpist, are in our view generically the same, and this view is true of people of all kinds without exception, the superior excellence being only an addition to the function. For, it is the function of a harpist to play the harp, and of a good harpist to play the harp well. This being so, we may then define the function of humans as a kind of life, and this life as an activity of soul, or a course of action in conformity with reason. If the function of a good person is such activity or action of a good and noble kind, and if everything is successfully performed when it is performed in accordance with its proper excellence, it follows that the good of humans is an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue. But, if there are more virtues than one, is an activity of the soul in accordance with the best and most complete virtue. But it is necessary to add the words “in a complete life.” For as one swallow or one day does not make a spring, so one day or a short time does not make a fortunate or happy person. . . .


Happiness and the Divisions of the Soul (Ethics 1)

            12. … Happiness is something which is both precious and final. This seems to be so because it is a first principle or ultimate starting point. For, it is for the sake of happiness that we do everything else, and we regard the cause of all good things to be precious and divine. . . .

            13. Since happiness is an activity of the soul in accordance with complete or perfect virtue, it is necessary to consider virtue, as this will be the best way of studying happiness. It appears that virtue is the object upon which the true statesman has expended the largest amount of trouble, as it is his wish to make the citizens virtuous and obedient to the laws. We have instances of such statesmen in the legislators of Crete and Sparta and such other legislators as have resembled them. But if this inquiry is proper to political science, it will clearly accord with our original purpose to pursue it. But it is clear that it is human virtue which we have to consider. For, the good of which we are in search is, as we said, human good, and the happiness, human happiness. By human virtue or excellence we mean not that of the body, but that of the soul, and by happiness we mean an activity of the soul.

            If this is so, it is clearly necessary for statesmen to have some knowledge of the nature of the soul, in the same way as it is necessary for one who is to treat the eye or any part of the body to have some knowledge of it, and all the more as political science is better and more honorable than medical science. Clever doctors take a great deal of trouble to understand the body, and similarly the statesman must make a study of the soul. But he must study it with a view to his particular object and so far only as his object requires. For, to elaborate the study of it further would, I think, be to aggravate unduly the labor of our present undertaking.

            There are some facts concerning the soul which are adequately stated in popular discourses, and these we may rightly adopt. It is stated, for example, that the soul has two parts, one irrational and the other possessing reason. But whether these parts are distinguished like the parts of the body and like everything that is itself divisible, or whether they are theoretically distinct, but in fact inseparable, as convex and concave in the circumference of a circle, is of no importance to the present inquiry.

            Again, it seems that of the irrational part of the soul one part is common, that is, shared by humans with all living things, and nutritive. I mean that it is the part which is the cause of nutrition and increase. For we may assume such a faculty of the soul to exist in all things that receive nutrition, even in embryos, and the same faculty to exist in things that are full grown, as it is more reasonable to suppose that it is the same faculty than that it is different. It is clear then that the virtue or excellence of this faculty is not distinctively human but is shared by humans with all living things. For, it seems that this part and this faculty are especially active in sleep, while good and bad people are never so little distinguishable as in sleep. From this we get the saying that there is no difference between the happy and the miserable during half their lifetime. This is only natural, for sleep is an inactivity of the soul in respect of its virtue or vice (except in so far as certain impulses affect it to a slight extent, and make the visions of the virtuous better than those of ordinary people). But enough has been said on this point, and we must now leave the principle of nutrition, as it possesses no natural share in human virtue.

            It seems that there is another natural principle of the soul which is irrational and yet in a sense partakes of reason. For in a restrained or unrestrained person we praise the reason, and that part of the soul which possesses reason, as it exhorts people rightly and exhorts them to the best conduct. But it is clear that there is in them another principle which is naturally different from reason and fights and contends against reason. For just as the paralyzed parts of the body, when we intend to move them to the right are then drawn away in a contrary direction to the left, so it is with the soul. The impulses of unrestrained people run counter to reason. But there is this difference, however, that while in the body we see the part which is drawn astray, in the soul we do not see it. But it is probably right to suppose with equal certainty that there is also something in the soul that is different from reason, which opposes and thwarts it, although the sense in which it is distinct from reason is immaterial. But it appears that this part too partakes of reason, as we said. In any event, in a restrained person it obeys reason, while in a temperate or courageous person it is probably still more obedient, as being absolutely harmonious with reason.

            It appears, then, that the irrational part of the soul is itself twofold. For, the nutritive faculty does not participate at all in reason, but the faculty of desire or general appetite participates in it more or less, in so far as it is submissive and obedient to reason. But it is obedient in the sense in which we speak of “paying attention to a father” or “to friends,” but not in the sense in which we speak of “paying attention to mathematics.” All correction, rebuke and exhortation is a witness that the irrational part of the soul is in a sense subject to the influence of reason. But if we are to say that this part too possesses reason, then the part which possesses reason will have two divisions, one possessing reason absolutely and in itself, the other listening to it as a child listens to its father.

            Virtue or excellence, again, admits of a distinction which depends on this difference. For we speak of some virtues as intellectual and of others as moral. Wisdom, intelligence and good judgment are intellectual virtues. Liberality and temperance are moral virtues. For when we describe a person’s character, we do not say that he is wise or intelligent but that he is gentle or temperate. Yet we also praise a wise person in respect of his mental state, and such mental states as deserve to be praised we call virtuous.


Virtues Are Acquired through Training (Ethics 2)

1. Virtue or excellence being twofold (partly intellectual and partly moral) intellectual virtue is both originated and fostered mainly by teaching, and it therefore demands experience and time. Moral virtue on the other hand is the outcome of habit. Accordingly its name is derived by a slight deflection of habit. From this fact it is clear that no moral virtue is implanted in us by nature, and a law of nature cannot be altered by habituation. Thus, a stone naturally tends to fall downwards, and it cannot be habituated or trained to rise upwards, even if we were to habituate it by throwing it upwards ten thousand times. Nor again can fire be trained to sink downwards, nor anything else that follows one natural law be habituated or trained to follow another. It is neither by nature then nor in defiance of nature that virtues are implanted in us. Nature gives us the capacity of receiving them, and that capacity is perfected by habit.

            Again, if we take the various natural powers which belong to us, we first acquire the proper faculties and afterwards display the activities. It is clearly so with the senses. It was not by seeing frequently or hearing frequently that we acquired the senses of seeing or hearing. On the contrary it was because we possessed the senses that we made use of them, not by making use of them that we obtained them. But the virtues we acquire by first exercising them, as is the case with all the arts, for it is by doing what we ought to do when we have learned the arts that we learn the arts themselves. We become, for example, builders by building and harpists by playing the harp. Similarly it is by doing just acts that we become just, by doing temperate acts that we become temperate, by doing courageous acts that we become courageous. The experience of states is a witness to this truth, for it is by training the habits that legislators make the citizens good. This is the object which all legislators have at heart. If a legislator does not succeed in it, he fails of his purpose, and it constitutes the distinction between a good polity and a bad one.

            Again, the causes and means by which any virtue is produced and by which it is destroyed are the same. It is equally so with any art, for it is by playing the harp that both good and bad harpists are produced. The case of builders and all other artisans is similar, as it is by building well that they will be good builders and by building badly that they will be bad builders. If it were not so, there would be no need of anybody to teach them, and they would all be born good or bad in their several trades. The case of the virtues is the same. It is by acting in such transactions as take place between person and person that we become either just or unjust. It is by acting in the face of danger and by habituating ourselves to fear or courage that we become either cowardly or courageous. It is much the same with our desires and angry passions. Some people become temperate and gentle, others become licentious and passionate according as they conduct themselves in one way or another way in particular circumstances. In a word character traits are the results of activities corresponding to the character traits themselves. It is our duty therefore to give a certain character to the activities, as the character traits depend upon the differences of the activities. Accordingly, the difference between one training of the habits and another from early days is not a light matter, but is serious and all-important.


The Study of Virtue aims at Virtuous Behavior and is Inexact (Ethics 2)

            2. Our present study is not, like other studies, purely speculative in its intention. For the object of our inquiry is not to know the nature of virtue but to become ourselves virtuous, as that is the sole benefit which it conveys. It is necessary therefore to consider the right way of performing actions, for it is actions as we have said that determine the character of the resulting character traits.

            That we should act in accordance with right reason is a common general principle, which may here be taken for granted. The nature of right reason, and its relation to the virtues generally, will be subjects of discussion hereafter. But we must admit at the outset that all reasoning upon practical matters must be like a sketch in outline, it cannot be scientifically exact. We began by laying down the principle that the kind of reasoning demanded in any subject must be such as the subject matter itself allows. Questions of practice and expediency no more allow invariable rules than questions of health.

            But if this is true of general reasoning upon ethics, it is still more true that scientific exactitude is impossible in reasoning upon particular ethical cases. They do not fall under any art or any law, but the agents themselves are always bound to pay regard to the circumstances of the moment as much as in medicine or navigation.

            Still, although such is the nature of the present argument, we must try to make the best of it.

            The first point to be observed, then, is that in such matters as we are considering deficiency and excess are equally fatal. It is so, as we observe, in regard to health and strength. For, we must judge of what we cannot see by the evidence of what we do see. Excess or deficiency of gymnastic exercise is fatal to strength. Similarly an excess or deficiency of meat and drink is fatal to health, while a suitable amount produces, augments and sustains it. It is the same then with temperance, courage, and the other virtues. A person who avoids and is afraid of everything and faces nothing becomes a coward. A person who is not afraid of anything but is ready to face everything becomes rash. Similarly, he who enjoys every pleasure and never abstains from any pleasure is overindulgent. He who avoids all pleasures like a boor is an insensible sort of person. For temperance and courage are destroyed by excess and deficiency but preserved by the mean state.

            Again, not only are the causes and the agencies of production, increase and destruction in the character traits the same, but the sphere of their activity will be proved to be the same also. It is so in other instances which are more conspicuous, for example, in strength. For, strength is produced by taking a great deal of food and undergoing a great deal of labor, and it is the strong person who is able to take most food and to undergo most labor. The same is the case with the virtues. It is by abstinence from pleasures that we become temperate, and, when we have become temperate, we are best able to abstain from them. So too with courage. It is by habituating ourselves to despise and face alarms that we become courageous, and, when we have become courageous, we will be best able to face them. . . .


Virtues Are Character Traits (Ethics 2)

            5. We have next to consider the nature of virtue. Now, since there are three qualities of the soul, namely, emotions, faculties and character traits, it follows that virtue must be one of the three. By the “emotions” I mean desire, anger, fear, courage, envy, joy, love, hatred, regret, emulation, pity. In a word, these are whatever is attended by pleasure or pain. I call those “faculties” in respect of which we are said to be capable of experiencing these emotions, for example, capable of getting angry or being pained or feeling pity. I call those “character traits” in respect of which we are well or ill-disposed towards the emotions. For example, towards the emotion of anger, it is ill-disposed if our anger be too violent or too feeble, it is well-disposed if it be duly moderated. The same goes for our other emotions.

            Now neither the virtues nor the vices are emotions, since we are not called good or evil because of our emotions but because of our virtues or vices. Again, we are not praised or blamed because of our emotions. A person is not praised for being angry in an absolute sense, but only for being angry in a certain way. However, we are praised or blamed because of our virtues or vices. Again, while we are angry or afraid without deliberate purpose, the virtues are in some sense deliberate purposes, or do not exist in the absence of deliberate purpose. It may be added that while we are said to be moved in respect of our emotions, we are not said to be moved in respect of our virtues or vices, but said to have a certain disposition.

            These reasons also prove that the virtues are not faculties. For we are not called either good or bad, nor are we praised or blamed, as having an abstract capacity for emotion. Also while Nature gives us our faculties, it is not Nature that makes us good or bad, but this is a point which we have already discussed. If then the virtues are neither emotions nor faculties, it remains that they must be moral states. The nature of virtue has been now generally described.


Virtuous Mean between Extremes (Ethics 2)

            6. But it is not enough to state merely that virtue is a moral state, we must also describe the character of that moral state. It must be laid down then that every virtue or excellence has the effect of producing a good condition of that of which it is a virtue or excellence, and of enabling it to perform its function well. Thus the excellence of the eye makes the eye good and its function good, as it is by the excellence of the eye that we see well. Similarly, the excellence of the horse makes a horse excellent and good at racing, at carrying its rider and at facing the enemy.

            If then this is universally true, the virtue or excellence of people will be such a moral state as makes them good and able to perform their proper function well. We have already explained how this will be the case, but another way of making it clear will be to study the nature or character of this virtue.

            Now in everything, whether it be continuous or discrete, it is possible to take a greater, a smaller, or an equal amount, and this either absolutely or in relation to ourselves, the equal being a mean between excess and deficiency. By the mean in respect of the thing itself, or the absolute mean, I understand that which is equally distinct from both extremes and this is one and the same thing for everybody. By the mean considered relatively to ourselves I understand that which is neither too much nor too little. But this is not one thing, nor is it the same for everybody. Thus if 10 be too much and 2 too little we take 6 as a mean in respect of the thing itself. For, 6 is as much greater than 2 as it is less than 10, and this is a mean in arithmetical proportion. But the mean considered relatively to ourselves must not be determined in this way. It does not follow that if 10 pounds of meat be too much and 2 be too little for a person to eat, a trainer will order him 6 pounds, as this may itself be too much or too little for the person who is to take it. It will be too little, for example, for Milo [the Olympic wrestler], but too much for a beginner in gymnastics. It will be the same with running and wrestling, insofar as the right amount will vary with the individual. This being so, everybody who understands his business avoids alike excess and deficiency. He seeks and chooses the mean, not the absolute mean, but the mean considered relatively to ourselves.

            Every science then performs its function well, if it regards the mean and refers the works which it produces to the mean. This is the reason why it is usually said of successful works that it is impossible to take anything from them or to add anything to them, which implies that excess or deficiency is fatal to excellence but that the mean state ensures it. As we say, good artists have an eye to the mean in their works. But virtue, like Nature herself, is more accurate and better than any art. Virtue therefore will aim at the mean. I speak of moral virtue, as it is moral virtue which is concerned with emotions and actions, and it is these which allow excess and deficiency and the mean. Thus it is possible to go too far, or not to go far enough, with respect to fear, courage, desire, anger, pity, and pleasure and pain generally, and the excess and the deficiency are alike wrong. But to experience these emotions at the right times and on the right occasions and towards the right persons and for the right causes and in the right manner is the mean or the supreme good, which is characteristic of virtue. Similarly there may be excess, deficiency, or the mean, in regard to actions. But virtue is concerned with emotions and actions, and here excess is an error and deficiency a fault, while the mean is successful and praiseworthy, and success and merit are both characteristics of virtue.

            It appears then that virtue is a mean state, so far at least as it aims at the mean.

            Again, there are many different ways of going wrong. For, evil is in its nature infinite, to use the Pythagorean figure, but good is finite. But there is only one possible way of going right. Accordingly, the former is easy and the latter difficult. That is, it is easy to miss the mark but difficult to hit it. This again is a reason why excess and deficiency are characteristics of vice and the mean state a characteristic of virtue: “For good is simple, evil manifold.” Virtue then is a state of deliberate moral purpose consisting in a mean that is relative to ourselves, the mean being determined by reason, or as a prudent person would determine it.

            It is a mean state firstly as lying between two vices, the vice of excess on the one hand, and the vice of deficiency on the other, and secondly because, while the vices either fall short of or go beyond what is proper in the emotions and actions, virtue not only discovers but embraces the mean.

            Accordingly, virtue, if regarded in its essence or theoretical conception, is a mean state, but, if regarded from the point of view of the highest good, or of excellence, it is an extreme.

            But it is not every action or every emotion that admits of a mean state. There are some whose very name implies wickedness, as for example, malice, shamelessness, and envy, among emotions, or adultery, theft, and murder, among actions. All these, and others like them, are condemned as being intrinsically wicked, not merely the excesses or deficiencies of them. It is never possible then to be right with respect to them, since they are always sinful. Right or wrong in such actions as adultery does not depend on our committing therewith the right person, at the right time or in the right manner. On the contrary, it is sinful to do anything of the kind at all. It would be equally wrong then to suppose that there can be a mean state or an excess or deficiency in unjust, cowardly or overindulgent conduct. For, if it were so, there would be a mean state of an excess or of a deficiency, an excess of an excess and a deficiency of a deficiency. But as in temperance and courage there can be no excess or deficiency because the mean is, in a sense, an extreme, so too in these cases there cannot be a mean or an excess or deficiency, but, however the acts may be done, they are wrong. For it is a general rule that an excess or deficiency does not allow a mean state, nor a mean state of an excess or deficiency.


Examples of Virtues and Vices (Ethics 2)

            7. But it is not enough to lay down this as a general rule. Rather, it is necessary to apply it to particular cases, as in reasonings upon actions general statements, although they are broader, are less exact than particular statements. For all action refers to particulars, and it is essential that our theories should harmonize with the particular cases to which they apply. We must take particular virtues then from the catalogue of [twelve specific] virtues.

            (1) In regard to feelings of fear and confidence, courage is a mean state. On the side of excess, he whose fearlessness is excessive has no name, as often happens, but he whose confidence is excessive is rash, while he whose timidity is excessive and whose confidence is deficient is a coward.

            (2) With respect to pleasures and pains (although not indeed of all pleasures and pains, and to a less extent with respect to pains than of pleasures) the mean state is temperance, the excess is overindulgence. We never find people who are deficient in regard to pleasures; accordingly such people again have not received a name, but we may call them insensible.

            (3) As regards the giving and taking of money, the mean state is generosity, the excess and deficiency are extravagance and stinginess. Here the excess and deficiency take opposite forms. For, while the extravagant person is excessive in spending and deficient in taking, the stingy person is excessive in taking and deficient in spending.

            (4) With respect to money there are other dispositions as well. There is the mean state which is magnanimity, for the magnanimous person, as having to do with large sums of money, differs from the generous person who has to do only with small sums. The excess corresponding to it is vulgarity, the deficiency is pettiness. These are different from the excess and deficiency of generosity, and what the difference is will be explained hereafter.

            (5) Concerning honors and dishonors [i.e., a sense of importance regarding what one deserves], the mean state is self-confidence, the excess is what is called conceit, the deficiency timidity.

            (6) Corresponding to generosity, which, as we said, differs from magnanimity as having to do not with great but with small sums of money, there is a moral state which has to do with small honor and is related to high-mindedness which has to do with great honor. For it is possible to aspire to honor in the right way, or in a way which is excessive or insufficient. If a person’s aspirations are excessive, he is called overambitious, if they are deficient, he is called unambitious, while if they are between the two, he has no name. The dispositions too are nameless, except that the disposition of the overambitious person is called overambition. The consequence is that the extremes lay claim to the mean or intermediate place. We ourselves speak of one who observes the mean sometimes as overambitious, and at other times as unambitious; we sometimes praise an overambitious, and at other times an unambitious person. The reason for our doing so will be stated in due course, but let us now discuss the other virtues in accordance with the method which we have followed so far.

            (7) Anger, like other emotions, has its excess, its deficiency, and its mean state. It may be said that they have no names, but as we call one who observes the mean good tempered, we will call the mean state good temper. Among the extremes, if a person errs on the side of excess, he may be called ill-tempered and his vice spiritless, if on that of deficiency, he may be called impassive and his deficiency impassivity.

            There are also three other mean states with a certain resemblance to each other, and yet with a difference. For while they are all concerned with interaction in speech and action, they are different in that one of them is concerned with truth in such interaction, and the others with pleasantness, one with pleasantness in amusement and the other with pleasantness in the various circumstances of life. We must therefore discuss these states in order to make it clear that in all cases it is the mean state which is an object of praise, and the extremes are neither right nor praiseworthy but blameworthy. It is true that these mean and extreme states are generally nameless, but we must do our best here as elsewhere to give them a name, so that our argument may be clear and easy to follow.

            (8) In the matter of truth-telling, then, he who observes the mean may be called truthful, and the mean state truthfulness. Pretense, if it takes the form of exaggeration, is boastfulness, and one who is guilty of pretense is a boaster. But if it takes the form of depreciation it is irony, and he who is guilty of it is ironical.

            (9) As regards pleasantness in amusement, he who observes the mean is witty, and his disposition wittiness. The excess is buffoonery, and he who is guilty of it a buffoon, while he who is deficient in wit may be called a humorless and his moral state humorlessness.

            (10) As to the other kind of pleasantness, namely, pleasantness in social life, he who is pleasant in a proper way is friendly, and his mean state friendliness. But he who goes too far, if he has no hidden motive in view, is obsequious, while if his object is self-interest, he is a flatterer, and he who does not go far enough and always makes himself unpleasant is a quarrelsome and morose sort of person.

            (11) There are also mean states in the emotions and in the expression of the emotions. For although shame is not a virtue, yet [in reaction to fear of disgrace] a properly shameful person is praised as if he were virtuous. For here too one person is said to observe the mean and another to exceed it, as for example, the excessively shameful person who is never anything but shameful. By contrast, a person who has insufficient shame, or no shame at all, is called shameless, and one who observes the mean is properly shameful.

            (12) Righteous indignation, again, is a mean state between envy and malice. They are all concerned with the pain and pleasure which we feel at the fortunes of our neighbors. A person who is righteously indignant is pained at the prosperity of the undeserving. But the envious person goes further and is pained at anybody’s prosperity, and the malicious person is so far from being pained that he actually rejoices at misfortunes [of those who are exploited]. . . .


Difficulty in Finding the Virtuous Mean (Ethics 2)

            9. It has now been sufficiently shown that moral virtue is a mean state, and in what sense it is a mean state. That is, it is a mean state as lying between two vices, a vice of excess on the one side and a vice of deficiency on the other, and as aiming at the mean in the emotions and actions.

            That is the reason why it is so hard to be virtuous. For, it is always hard work to find the mean in anything, for example, it is not everybody, but only a person of science, who can find the mean or center of a circle. So too anybody can get angry, which is an easy matter, and anybody can give or spend money. But to give it to the right persons, to give the right amount of it and to give it at the right time and for the right cause and in the right way, this is not what anybody can do, nor is it easy. That is the reason why it is rare and praiseworthy and noble to do well. Accordingly, one who aims at the mean must begin by departing from that extreme which is the more contrary to the mean. He must act in the spirit of Calypso’s advice, “Hold the ship out beyond the surf and spray,” for of the two extremes one is more sinful than the other. As it is difficult then to bit the mean exactly, we must take the second best course, as the saying is, and choose the lesser of two evils, and this we will best do in the way that we have described, i.e., by steering clear of the evil which is further from the mean. We must also observe the things to which we are ourselves particularly prone, as different natures have different inclinations, and we may ascertain what these are by a consideration of our feelings of pleasure and pain. Then we must drag ourselves in the direction opposite to them. For, it is by removing ourselves as far as possible from what is wrong that we will arrive at the mean, as we do, when we pull a crooked stick straight.

            But in all cases we must especially be on our guard against what is pleasant and against pleasure, as we are not impartial judges of pleasure. Hence our attitude towards pleasure must be like that of the elders of the people in the Iliad towards Helen, and we must never be afraid of applying the words they use. For, if we dismiss pleasure as they dismissed Helen, we will be less likely to go wrong. It is by action of this kind, to put it summarily, that we will best succeed in hitting the mean.

            It may be admitted that this is a difficult task, especially in particular cases. It is not easy to determine, for example, the right manner, objects, occasions, and duration of anger. There are times when we ourselves praise people who are deficient in anger, and call them good tempered, and there are other times when we speak of people who exhibit a savage temper is ill-tempered. It is not however one who deviates a little from what is right, but one who deviates a great deal, whether on the side of excess or of deficiency, that is blamed. For he is sure to be found out. Again, it is not easy to decide theoretically bow far and to what extent a man may go before he becomes censurable, but neither is it easy to define theoretically anything else within the region of perception. Such things fall under the head of particulars, and our judgment of them depends upon our perception.

            It is clear, then, that the mean state is everywhere praiseworthy, but that we ought to incline at one time towards the excess and at another towards the deficiency. For, this will be our easiest manner of hitting the mean, or in other words of attaining excellence.




States Aim at the Highest Good (Politics 1.1)

Every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good. For, mankind always act in order to obtain that which they think good. But, if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good.

            Some people think that the qualifications of a statesman, king, householder, and master are the same, and that they differ, not in kind, but only in the number of their subjects. For example, the ruler over a few is called a master; over more, the manager of a household; over a still larger number, a statesman or king, as if there were no difference between a great household and a small state. The distinction which is made between the king and the statesman is this: When the government is personal, the ruler is a king; when, according to the rules of the political science, the citizens rule and are ruled in turn, then he is called a statesman.

            But all this is a mistake. For, governments differ in kind, as will be evident to anyone who considers the matter according to the method which has until now guided us. As in other departments of science, so in politics, the compound should always be resolved into the simple elements or least parts of the whole. We must therefore look at the elements of which the state is composed, in order that we may see in what manner the different kinds of rule differ from each other, and whether any scientific result can be attained about each one of them.


Natural Rulers and Subjects: Families, Villages, States (Politics 1.2)

He who thus considers things in their first growth and origin, whether a state or anything else, will obtain the clearest view of them. In the first place there must be a union of those who cannot exist without each other, namely, of male and female. This is a union which is formed, not by deliberate purpose, but because, in common with other animals and with plants, mankind have a natural desire to leave behind them an image of themselves. Because of this, the race may continue, and through natural ruler and subject, both may be preserved. For that which can foresee by the exercise of mind is by nature intended to be lord and master, and that which can with its body give effect to such foresight is a subject, and by nature a slave. Hence master and slave have the same interest. Now nature has distinguished between the female and the slave. For nature is not stingy, like the smith who fashions the Delphian knife for many uses. Rather,  she makes each thing for a single use, and every instrument is best made when intended for one and not for many uses. But among barbarians no distinction is made between women and slaves, because there is no natural ruler among them: they are a community of slaves, male and female. Accordingly, the poets [Euripides] say, “It is plausible that Greeks should rule over barbarians” as if they thought that the barbarian and the slave were by nature one.

            Out of these two relationships between man and woman, master and slave, the first thing to arise is the family, and Hesiod is right when he says, “First house and wife and an ox for the plough,” for the ox is the poor man’s slave. The family is the association established by nature for the supply of men’s everyday wants, and the members of it are called by Charondas “companions of the cupboard,” and by Epimenides the Cretan, “companions of the manger.” But when several families are united, and the association aims at something more than the supply of daily needs, the first society to be formed is the village. The most natural form of the village appears to be that of a colony from the family, composed of the children and grandchildren, who are said to be suckled “with the same milk.” This is the reason why Hellenic states were originally governed by kings, namely, because the Hellenes were under royal rule before they came together, as the barbarians still are. Every family is ruled by the eldest, and therefore in the colonies of the family the kingly form of government prevailed because they were of the same blood. As Homer says: “Each one gives law to his children and to his wives.” For they lived dispersedly, as was the manner in ancient times. Accordingly, men say that the Gods have a king, because they themselves either are or were in ancient times under the rule of a king. For they imagine, not only the forms of the Gods, but their ways of life to be like their own.

            When several villages are united in a single complete community, large enough to be nearly or quite self-sufficing, the state comes into existence, originating in the bare needs of life, and continuing in existence for the sake of a good life. Therefore, if the earlier forms of society are natural, so is the state, for it is the end of them, and the nature of a thing is its end. For what each thing is when fully developed, we call its nature, whether we are speaking of a man, a horse, or a family. Besides, the final cause and end of a thing is the best, and to be self-sufficing is the end and the best.


The State is Prior to the Individual (Politics 1.2)

Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. He who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is either a bad man or above humanity. He is like the “Tribeless, lawless, hearthless one,” whom Homer denounces, the natural outcast is immediately a lover of war. He may be compared to an isolated checker piece.

            Now, that man is more of a political animal than bees or any other social animals is evident. Nature, as we often say, makes nothing in vain, and man is the only animal whom she has endowed with the gift of speech. While mere voice is but an indication of pleasure or pain, and is therefore found in other animals (for their nature attains to the perception of pleasure and pain and the intimation of them to each other, and no further), the power of speech is intended to set forth what is useful and not useful, and therefore likewise what is just and unjust. It is a characteristic of man that he alone has any sense of good and evil, of just and unjust, and the like, and the association of living beings who have this sense makes a family and a state.

            Further, the state is by nature clearly prior to the family and to the individual, since the whole is of necessity prior to the part. For example, if the whole body is destroyed, there will be no foot or hand, except in an equivocal sense, as we might speak of a stone hand. For, when destroyed, the hand will be no better than that. But things are defined by their working and power. Thus, we ought not to say that they are the same when they no longer have their proper quality, but only that they have the same name. The proof that the state is a creation of nature and prior to the individual is that the individual, when isolated, is not self-sufficing. Therefore he is like a part in relation to the whole. But he who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god: he is no part of a state. A social instinct is implanted in all men by nature, and yet he who first founded the state was the greatest of benefactors. For man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all. For, armed injustice is the more dangerous, and he is equipped at birth with arms, meant to be used by intelligence and virtue, which he may use for the worst ends. Accordingly, if he has not virtue, he is the most unholy and the most savage of animals, and the most full of lust and gluttony. But justice is the bond of men in states, for the administration of justice, which is the determination of what is just, is the principle of order in political society.


Parts of the Household (Politics 1.3)

Seeing then that the state is made up of households, before speaking of the state we must speak of the management of the household. The parts of household management correspond to the persons who compose the household, and a complete household consists of slaves and freemen. Now we should begin by examining everything in its fewest possible elements. Accordingly, the first and fewest possible parts of a family are master and slave, husband and wife, father and children. We have therefore to consider what each of these three relations is and ought to be: I mean the relation of master and servant, the marriage relation (the conjunction of man and wife has no name of its own), and thirdly, the procreative relation (this also has no proper name). There is another element of a household, the so-called art of getting wealth, which, according to some, is identical with household management, according to others, a principal part of it. We will also have to consider the nature of this art.


In Defense of Natural Slavery (Politics 1.5)

Is anyone intended by nature to be a slave, and for whom such a condition is useful and right, or rather is not all slavery a violation of nature? There is no difficulty in answering this question, on grounds both of reason and of fact. For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but practical. From the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.

            There are many kinds of rulers and subjects. That rule is the better which is exercised over better subjects. For example, to rule over men is better than to rule over wild animals, since the work is better which is executed by better workmen. Where one man rules and another is ruled, they may be said to have a work. For in all things which form a composite whole and which are made up of parts, whether continuous or discrete, a distinction between the ruling and the subject element comes to light. Such a duality exists in living creatures, but not in them only since it originates in the constitution of the universe. Even in things which have no life there is a ruling principle, as in a musical scale.

            But we are wandering from the subject. We will therefore restrict ourselves to the living creature, which, in the first place, consists of soul and body: and of these two, the one is by nature the ruler, and the other the subject.


Rule of One, Few, or Many (Politics 3.7)

Having determined these points, we have next to consider how many forms of government there are, what they are, and, most importantly, what are the true forms. For when they are determined the perversions of them will immediately be apparent. The words constitution and government have the same meaning, and the government, which is the supreme authority in states, must be in the hands of one, or of a few, or of the many. The true forms of government, therefore, are those in which the one, or the few, or the many, govern with a view to the common interest. But governments which rule with a view to the private interest, whether of the one or of the few, or of the many, are perversions. For the members of a state, if they are truly citizens, ought to participate in its advantages. Of forms of government in which one rules, we call that which regards the common interests, kingship or royalty. That in which more than one, but not many, rule, is an aristocracy. It is called this either because the rulers are the best men, or because they have at heart the best interests of the state and of the citizens. But when the multitude administer the state for the common interest, it is called by the general name of all governments, which is “constitutional government.” There is a reason for this use of language. One man or a few may excel in virtue, but as the number increases it becomes more difficult for them to attain perfection in every kind of virtue. However, they may still attain perfection in military virtue, for this is found in the masses. Hence in a constitutional government the fighting-men have the supreme power, and those who possess arms are the citizens.

            Of the above-mentioned forms, the perversions are as follows: of royalty it is tyranny; of aristocracy it is oligarchy; of constitutional government it is democracy. For tyranny is a kind of monarchy which has in view the interest of the monarch only; oligarchy has in view the interest of the wealthy; democracy, of the poor. None of them have in view the common good of all.




The Medium of Imitative Art: Different Instruments (Poetics, 1)

Epic poetry and tragedy, comedy also and cithyrambic: poetry, and the music of the flute and of the lyre in most of their forms, are all in their general conception types of imitation. They differ, however, from each other in three respects, namely, the medium, the objects, and the manner or type of imitation, being in each case distinct.

            There are persons who, by conscious art or mere habit, imitate and represent various objects through the medium of color and form, or again by the voice. So also in the arts above mentioned, taken as a whole, the imitation is produced by rhythm, language, or harmony, either singly or combined.

            Thus harmony and rhythm alone are used in the music of the flute and the lyre. This is also the case in other instruments, such as that of the shepherd's pipe, which are essentially similar to these. In dancing, rhythm alone is used without harmony. For even dancing imitates character, emotion, and action, by rhythmical movement.

            There is another art that imitates by means of language alone, either in prose or verse (which, verse, again, may either combine different meters or consist of but one kind), but this has up till now been without a name. For there is no common term we could apply, on the one hand, to the mimes of Sophron and Xenarchus and the Socratic dialogues, and, on the other, to poetic imitations in iambic, elegiac, or any similar meter. People do, indeed, add the word “maker” or “poet” to the name of the meter, and speak of elegiac poets, or epic (that is, hexameter) poets, as if it were not the imitation that makes the poet, but the verse that entitles them all indiscriminately to the name. Even when a treatise on medicine or natural science is brought out in verse, the name of poet is by custom given to the author. Yet Homer and Empedocles have nothing in common but the meter, so that it would be right to call the one poet, the other physicist rather than poet. On the same principle, even if a writer in his poetic imitation were to combine all meters, as  Chaeremon did in his Centaur, which is a medley composed of meters of all kinds, we should bring him too under the general term poet. So much then for these distinctions.

            There are, again, some arts which use all the means above mentioned, namely, rhythm, tune, and meter. Such are dithyrambic and nomic poetry, and also tragedy and comedy. But between them the difference is, that in the first two cases these means are all used in combination, in the latter, first one means is used, then another.

            Such, then, are the differences of the arts with respect to the medium of imitation.


The Objects of Initiative Art: The Moral Character of People (Poetics, 2)

The objects of imitation are men in action, and these men must be either of a higher or a lower type (for moral character mainly answers to these divisions, goodness and badness being the distinguishing marks of moral differences). It then follows that we must represent men either as better than in real life, or as worse, or as they are. It is the same in painting. Polygnotus depicted men as nobler than they are, Pauson as less noble, Dionysius drew them true to life.

            Now it is evident that each of the types of imitation above mentioned will exhibit these differences, and become a distinct kind in imitating objects that are thus distinct. Such diversities may be found even in dancing, flute-playing, and lyre-playing. So again in language, whether prose or verse unaccompanied by music. Homer, for example, makes men better than they are; Cleophon as they are; Hegemon the Thasian, the inventor of parodies, and Nicochares, the author of the Deiliad, worse than they are. The same thing holds good of Dithyrambs and Nomes. For,  here too one may portray different types, as Timotheus and Philoxenus differed in representing their Cyclopes. The same distinction marks off tragedy from comedy, for comedy aims at representing men as worse, tragedy as better than in actual life.


The Manner of Imitative Art: Narration vs. Living Characters (Poetics, 3)

There is still a third difference, namely, the manner in which each of these objects may be imitated. For the medium being the same, and the objects the same, the poet may imitate by narration (in which case he can either take another personality as Homer does, or speak in his own person, unchanged) or he may present all his characters as living and moving before us.

            These, then, as we said at the beginning, are the three differences which distinguish artistic imitation: the medium, the objects, and the manner. Thus, from one point of view, Sophocles is an imitator of the same kind as Homer, since both imitate higher types of character. But from another point of view, Sophocles is of the same kind as Aristophanes, since both imitate persons acting and doing. Hence, some say, the name of “drama” is given to such poems, as representing action. For the same reason the Dorians claim the invention both of Tragedy and Comedy. . . .

            This may suffice as to the number and nature of the various modes of imitation.


Instinctive Nature of Imitation, Harmony and Rhythm in Poetic Song (Poetics, 4)

Poetry in general seems to have sprung from two causes, each of them lying deep in our nature. First, the instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood, one difference between him and other animals being that he is the most imitative of living creatures, and through imitation learns his earliest lessons. No less universal is the pleasure felt in things imitated. We have evidence of this in the facts of experience. Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when they are reproduced with minute accuracy, such as the forms of the most base animals and of dead bodies. The cause of this, again, is that learning gives the liveliest pleasure, not only to philosophers but to men in general even though their capacity for learning is more limited. Thus the reason why men enjoy seeing a likeness is that, in contemplating it, they find themselves learning or inferring, and saying perhaps, “Ah, that is he.” For if you happen not to have seen the original, the pleasure will be due not to the imitation as such, but to the execution, the coloring, or some such other cause.

            Imitation, then, is one instinct of our nature. Next, there is the instinct for harmony and rhythm, meters being manifestly sections of rhythm. Persons, therefore, starting with this natural gift, developed by degrees their special aptitudes, till their rude improvisations gave birth to Poetry.

            Poetry now diverged in two directions, according to the individual character of the writers. The graver spirits imitated noble actions, and the actions of good men. The more trivial sort imitated the actions of lowlier persons, at first composing satires, as the former did hymns to the gods and the praises of famous men.


Tragedy arouses Fear and Pity, and allows for Cathartic release of these Emotions (Poetics, 6, 17)

Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain size. It is in language that is embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the various kinds being found in various parts of the play. It is in the form of action, not of narrative. Through pity and fear it brings about the proper catharsis (or purging) of these emotions. By “language that is embellished,” I mean language into which rhythm, harmony, and song enter. By “the various kinds in various parts,” I mean, that some parts are rendered through the medium of verse alone, others again with the aid of song. . . .

            Fear and pity may be aroused by spectacular means. But they may also result from the inner structure of the piece, which is the better way, and indicates a superior poet. For the plot should be constructed so that, even without the aid of the eye, he who hears the tale told will thrill with horror and melt to pity at what takes place. This is the impression we would receive from hearing the story of the Oedipus. But to produce this effect by the mere spectacle is a less artistic method, and dependent on extraneous aids. Those who employ spectacular means to create a sense of the monstrous (but not the terrible), are strangers to the purpose of Tragedy. For we must not demand of Tragedy any and every kind of pleasure, but only that which is proper to it.

            Since the pleasure which the poet gives is that which comes from pity and fear through imitation, it is evident that this quality must be impressed upon the incidents. Let us then determine what are the circumstances which strike us as terrible or pitiful. Actions capable of this effect must happen between persons who are either friends or enemies or indifferent to one another. If an enemy kills an enemy, there is nothing to excite pity either in the act or the intention, except so far as the suffering in itself is pitiful. So again with indifferent persons. But when the tragic incident occurs between those who are near or dear to one another, these are the situations to be looked for by the poet. This occurs, for example, if a brother kills, or intends to kill, a brother, a son his father, a mother her son, a son his mother, or any other deed of the kind is done.


Astonishment in Literature is Embellished through Fabrication (Poetics, 9, 24)

Again, tragedy is an imitation not only of a complete action, but of events inspiring fear or pity. Such an effect is best produced when the events come on us by surprise. The effect is heightened when, at the same time, they follow as cause and effect. The tragic astonishment (thaumaston) will there be greater than if they happened by themselves or by accident, for, even coincidences are most striking when they have an appearance of design. An example is the statue of Mitys at Argos, which fell upon Mitys’s murderer while he was a spectator at a festival, and killed him. Such events seem not to be due to mere chance. Plots, therefore, constructed on these principles are necessarily the best. . . .

            The element of astonishment  is required in tragedy. Astonishment depends chiefly on irrationality for its chief effects, and has wider scope in epic poetry, because there the person acting is not seen. Thus, the pursuit of Hector would be ludicrous if placed upon the stage, with the Greeks standing still and not joining in the pursuit, and Achilles waving them back. But in the epic poem the absurdity passes unnoticed. Now, astonishment is pleasing, as may be inferred from the fact that everyone tells a story with some addition of his own, knowing that his hearers like it. It is Homer who has chiefly taught other poets the art of telling lies skillfully. The secret of it lies in a fallacy, For, assuming that if one thing is or becomes, a second is or becomes, men imagine that, if the second is, the first likewise is or becomes. But this is a false inference. Hence, where the first thing is untrue, it is quite unnecessary, provided the second be true, to add that the first is or has become. For the mind, knowing the second to be true, falsely infers the truth of the first. There is an example of this in the bath scene of the Odyssey.


Questions for Review

1. In Aristotle’s “Categories”, what are the ten categories, and what are some features of the first category of substance?

2. In Aristotle’s “On Interpretation”, what is his view of the truth of future contingent events (see the first question for analysis below for help)?

3. In Aristotle’s “Topics”, what are some features of dialectical deduction from reasonable opinion, and how is its valuable?

4. In Aristotle’s “Sophistical Refutations”, what are some features of fallacies of the sophists?

5. In Aristotle’s “Physics”, what is the relation between matter and form?

6. In Aristotle’s “Physics”, what are the four causes?

7. In Aristotle’s “Physics”, what is his reason for saying that nature acts for a purpose rather than from chance?

8. In Aristotle’s “Metaphysics”, what are some of his criticisms of Plato’s theory of the forms?

9. In Aristotle’s “Metaphysics”, what are some of the ways that he defines substance and accident?

10. In Aristotle’s “Metaphysics”, what are some of the things he says about potentiality and actuality?

11. In Aristotle’s “Metaphysics”, what are some features of the unmoved mover?

12. In Aristotle’s “On the Soul”, what are some of his examples of how the soul requires a body?

13. In Aristotle’s “On the Soul”, what are some of the abilities of the soul?

14. In Aristotle’s “On the Soul”, what are some features of passive and active mind respectively?

15. In Aristotle’s “Ethics”, what is wrong with identifying happiness with pleasure, honor or wealth?

16. In Aristotle’s “Ethics”, why aren’t virtues emotions or faculties?

17. In Aristotle’s “Ethics” pick a virtue, and give (a) its natural urge, (b) its vice of excess, (c) its vice of deficiency, (d) the mean.

18. In Aristotle’s “Politics”, what are some of the features of natural rulers?

19. In Aristotle’s “Politics”, why is the state prior to the individual?

20. In Aristotle’s “Poetics”, what are some features of tragedy?


Questions for Analysis

            1. Aristotle’s sea battle example rests on two the broad vs. narrow scope of the term “necessarily”. Consider these two statements: (a) “Necessarily (a sea battle will occur tomorrow or will not occur tomorrow)” and (b) “(Necessarily a sea battle will occur tomorrow) or (necessarily a sea battle will not occur tomorrow)”. The first, which Aristotle accepts, is a logically necessary truth. The second, which he rejects, assumes fatalism and that the truth of all future contingent events are already fixed on the timeline. Leibniz, however endorses this second view here: “The content of the subject must always include that of the predicate in such a way that if one understands perfectly the concept of the subject, he will know that the predicate pertains to it also. . . . When we carefully consider the connection of things we see also the possibility of saying that there was always in the soul of Alexander marks of all that had happened to him and evidences of all that would happen to him and traces even of everything which occurs in the universe, although God alone could recognize them all” (Discourse, 1686, 8). Who is right, Aristotle or Leibniz?

            2. In the section “Nature acts for a Purpose” (Physics 2.8), Aristotle argues that things arise in nature for a purpose, not from chance. Darwin makes the following criticism of this passage from Aristotle: “We here see the principle of natural selection shadowed forth, but how little Aristotle fully comprehended the principle, is shown by his remarks on the formation of the teeth” (Origin of Species, Sixth Edition, 1872, Preface). Explain Darwin’s point and discuss how Aristotle might respond.

            3. In Physics 2.8 Aristotle argues how purpose is built into nature, both in the larger functioning of natural objects, like a human being, and also in the particular parts of a person, such as her teeth. It’s easy to think that Aristotle’s teleology rests on the intentions of a divine designer. However, Greek philosophy scholar Edward Zellar argues otherwise: “The most important feature of the Aristotelian teleology is the fact that it is neither anthropocentric nor is it due to the actions of a creator existing outside the world or even of a mere arranger of the world, but is always thought of as immanent in nature” (Outlines, 1883, 48). Discuss Aristotle’s teleology in the Physics, and whether it can make sense apart from the intentions of a divine designer.

            4. Hume makes the following criticism of Aristotle’s notion of substance as a substratum that underlies an object: “The color, taste, figure, solidity, and other qualities, combined in a peach or melon, are conceived to form one thing; and that on account of their close relation, which makes them affect the thought in the same manner, as if perfectly uncompounded. But the mind rests not here. Whenever it views the object in another light, it finds that all these qualities are different, and distinguishable, and separable from each other; which view of things being destructive of its primary and more natural notions, obliges the imagination to feign an unknown something, or original substance and matter, as a principle of union or cohesion among these qualities, and as what may give the compound object a title to be called one thing, notwithstanding its diversity and composition” (Treatise, 1739, 1.4.3). That is, the mind first combines all of the qualities of a peach into a single unified object, but then the mind continues by separating the same qualities from each other and inventing an underlying substance beneath the qualities that unifies them. How might Aristotle respond to Hume?

            5. Bertrand Russell says the following: "Aristotle's metaphysics, roughly speaking, may be described as Plato diluted by common sense" (History of Philosophy, 1945, 1.19). Compare and contrast Plato’s and Aristotle’s views on Forms and universals, and discuss whether Russell is correct.

            6. According Greek philosophy scholar George Grote, in section 2.1 of “On the Soul” Aristotle maintains that the soul dies with the body: "We see here the full extent of Aristotle's difference from the Platonic doctrine, in respect to the immortality of the soul. He had defined soul as the first actualization of a body having potentiality of life with a determinate organism. This of course implied, and he expressly declares it, that soul and body in each individual case were one and indivisible, so that the soul of Socrates perished of necessity with the body of Socrates" (Aristotle, 1871, 12). Is there another way of interpreting Aristotle’s view of the soul and life after death in “On the Soul” 2.1?

            7. Hugo Grotius makes the following criticism of Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean in the Nicomachean Ethics: “Aristotle considered the very nature of virtue as a mean in passions and actions. That principle, once adopted, led him. . . to apply the designation of vice to certain things which either do not exist, or are not in themselves vices, such as contempt for pleasure, contempt for honors, and complete absence of anger against men” (The Laws of War and Peace, 1625, Prolegomena). That is, virtue as a mean between extremes does not work in all cases. Examine the vices that Grotius mentions and discuss whether his criticism of Aristotle is correct.

            8. Samuel Pufendorf makes the following criticism of Book 1 of Aristotle’s Politics: “As for Aristotle's whole discourse on this subject [of natural slavery and servitude], we might put a more respectful and favorable construction on his words. Thus, we might say that by making two kinds of servitude, natural and legal, he means the former to be when a man of more strength than intelligence serves another whose ability and intellect dispose him for command. In this situation, they both enjoy a condition that is agreeable to their nature and their necessities. . . . But still it must be established as a most certain principle, that the bare force of such a natural aptitude neither gives the one a right of imposing a condition of servitude, nor oblige the other to receive it.” (The Law of Nature and Nations, 1672, 3.3). Explain Pufendorf’s point and discuss how Aristotle might respond.

            9. Nietzsche makes the following criticism of Aristotle’s theory of tragedy: “What is tragic? Again and again I have pointed to the great misunderstanding of Aristotle in maintaining that the tragic emotions were the two depressing emotions: fear and pity. Had he been right, tragedy would be an art unfriendly to life. It would have been necessary to caution people against it as against something generally harmful and suspicious. Art, otherwise the great stimulus of life, the great intoxicant of life, the great will to life, here became a tool of decadence, the handmaiden of pessimism and ill-health. For to suppose, as Aristotle supposed, that by exciting these emotions we thereby purged people of them, is simply an error. Something which habitually excites fear or pity, disorganizes, weakens, and discourages . . .  would presuppose an art in which art itself was denied. Tragedy would then constitute a process of dissolution. The instinct of life would destroy itself in the instinct of art” (Will to Power, 1901, 851). What is Nietzsche’s point and how might Aristotle respond to Nietzsche?