This article discusses some of the most important recent controversies in the psychology of Plato’s Republic. These include its views on akratic action, the capacities of the parts of the soul, and the distinction between the rational part of the soul and the nonrational parts. It argues that the Republic accepts the possibility of synchronic akratic action, that is, action contrary to the agent’s belief about what is overall best at the time of action. It then considers some recent arguments that the lower parts of the soul, especially the Appetitive part, are cognitively primitive. Against these views, this article argues that the Appetitive part is capable of means-end reasoning and of forming a conception of its own good. Finally, this article argues that Plato’s distinction between the rational and the nonrational parts of the soul is to be understood in terms of the intelligible versus sensible distinction.
S. Marc Cohen
Aristotle's Physics is a study of nature (phusis) and of natural objects (ta phusei). According to him, these objects—either all of them or at least some of them—are in motion. That is, they are kinoumena, things that are subject to change. The first book of the Physics is largely devoted to this task. The account of substantial change in the Physics is devoid of any commitment to prime matter. Aristotle also takes up the topics of alteration and coming-to-be in De Generatione et Corruptione. He adopts a kind of conservation principle: “the corruption of one thing is the generation of another, and vice versa.” In addition, Aristotle points out that all changes involve both a subject (hupokeimenon) and an attribute (pathos) of a sort which can be predicated of the subject, and says that either one of these is capable of “change” (metabolê).
Anaxagoras of Clazomenae proposed a theory of everything. Like other Presocratics, Anaxagoras addressed topics that could now be placed outside the sphere of philosophical inquiry: not only did he explore metaphysics and the nature of human understanding but he also offered explanations in physics, meteorology, astronomy, physiology, and biology. His aim seems to have been to explain as completely as possible the world in which human beings live, and one's knowledge of that world; thus he seeks to investigate the universe from top to bottom. This article explores Anaxagoras's world from its basic foundations. It undertakes to show the connections among the metaphysical, epistemological, and cosmological parts of Anaxagoras's theory. The discovery and publication of new material has also enhanced the understanding of Presocratic thought. A spectacular example is the new material from Empedocles of Acragas that has become available.
There are various motives for refining the notion of cause. Aristotle's was an interest in providing the most informative and illuminating method of explaining the central natural phenomena of his universe. A different sort of motive is created by problems of free will and responsibility, of which readers may have been reminded by the reference to indeterminism. The thought that our free and responsible behaviour is caused by factors over which we have no control has often seemed impossible to accept and impossible to reject. The challenge then is to refine the notion of cause either so that the thought becomes more acceptable or so that it becomes more rejectable.
This chapter, which analyses the ethical theories of Greek sceptic Sextus Empiricus, begins by considering other sceptical figures who preceded Sextus, both for their intrinsic interest and to set the context for Sextus's work. These include Pyrrho, Arcesilaus of Pitane, Carneades of Cyrene, and Philo of Larissa. The chapter then examines surviving works of Sextus Empiricus, the best known being Outlines of Pyrrhonism.
Wayne J. Hankey
Plato, and a wide variety of ancient, Arabic, and medieval Platonisms had a significant influence on Aquinas. The Corpus, with its quasi-Apostolic origin for Aquinas, was his most authoritative and influential source of Neoplatonism. His most influential early sources of Platonism came from Aristotle and Augustine, that is besides the Dionysian Corpus and the Liber. Aquinas greatly acknowledged the Neoplatonic, and the Peripatetic, commentaries and paraphrases he gradually acquired, because they enabled getting to the Hellenic sources. A great part of Aquinas's last writing was devoted to explicating Aristotle's works including the Liber de causis, which was attributed to him. Aquinas wished to understand the philosophical schools such as their characters, the differences between and within them, their memberships, influences, histories, and the extent to which they are complementary. Aquinas gave an extended treatment of the history of philosophy, including lists of differences and agreements between Plato and Aristotle, beginning with ‘the opinions of the ancients and of Plato’ in his On Separate Substances. When Aquinas treated Aristotle in On Separate Substances, he did not leave his Neoplatonic framework behind. There is much more in On Separate Substances concerning the numbers, including an elaborate reasoning that saves the verbally opposed positions of both Proclus and Dionysius.
According to Aristotle, the “democratic” freedom treasured by the exponents of ancient Greek democracy has two marks, one personal and one political: (i) to live as one wishes and (ii) to rule and be ruled in turn. Though Aristotle is a critic of such freedom, it has been claimed that he has no notion of his own to set against it. This chapter counters this claim by showing the development within Aristotle’s Politics of a conception of “aristocratic” freedom that is richer than the democratic. By this aristocratic conception a person is free to the extent that he is able to live a life of politics and philosophy, and a polis is free to the extent that its institutions promote such a life for each and every citizen by removing the impediments to its realization such as unfavorable political institutions, lack of moral and intellectual education, and insufficient material resources.
It is not an overstatement to say that no other figure in the history of philosophy has exercised a stronger influence on phenomenology than Aristotle. It suffices to recall Franz Brentano’s decisive role in the genesis of phenomenology or to enumerate the Aristotelian concepts and patterns of thought that phenomenological research—from Husserl to its contemporary practitioners—has appropriated or assimilated. But the most critical element of that influence is the fact that Aristotle has served as the privileged pivot for phenomenology’s own development. The present chapter presents a brief overview of phenomenological approaches to Aristotle and focuses on two episodes in that long story, namely, on Heidegger’s and Gadamer’s interpretations of Aristotle’s practical philosophy and how they contributed to the elaboration of their conceptions of phenomenology.
In late antiquity, the commentary became the most prominent genre of philosophical writing. Aristotle was the author who received the lion's share of attention, even though the commentators, beginning with Porphyry, were Platonists. Since Aristotle was seen not only as harmonious with Plato, but as more suitable for initial study in philosophy, commentaries for the use of students were naturally more often devoted to his works than to Plato's. The practice of writing commentaries on Aristotle, and the curriculum the commentaries were meant to support, cut across confessional lines. The Arabic tradition of commentary on Aristotle focuses on the earlier parts of the Aristotelian curriculum, with most emphasis on the logical and physical works. Only the greatest commentator of the Arabic tradition, Averroes, commented extensively on the De Anima or the Metaphysics. As in the Greek tradition, confessional divides were no obstacle to continuous and even co-ordinated efforts to understand Aristotle. This is best shown by the group of commentators known as the “Baghdad school.”
This essay attempts to answer three questions about Aristotle’s account of agency: (1) What is an action? (2) Under what conditions is an action voluntary or intentional? (3) What is the relation between an agent and an action when he or she acts voluntarily? This article focuses on those actions that are processes, taking as its starting point Aristotle’s account of processes and capacities in the Physics to suggest that this account underlies his discussion of actions there and elsewhere. In the second part, it is argued that, in the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle, is concerned with analyzing intentional action in terms of an agent’s capacities (or skills) and their desired goals and knowledge. The final part of the essay contrasts Aristotle’s views of agency with some recent proposals in the philosophy of action.