The MOST Theological Collection: An Introduction to Christian Philosophy
"Chapter II: The Greeks"
I - The Presocratics
Preliminary Note: There were even some libraries found in ancient times. There was one in the Temple of Nabu at Nineveh at least since the time of Sargon II (721-05 BC). But the greatest was that of King Assurbanipal (668-626? B.C.),the last great king of Assyria, who sent scribes out to copy tablets, including works from the Sumerians and Akkadians. Nearly 30,000 texts have been excavated. The King wrote: "I read the beautiful clay tablets from Sumer and the obscure Akkadian writing which is hard to master. I had my joy in the reading of inscriptions on stone from the time before the flood." (Cited from Jack Finegan, Light From the Ancient Past, Princeton, 1974, pp.216-17). (There is a king list from Sumer, which gives 8 kings before the flood, with a total reign of 241,200 years: cf.Finegan,pp.29-30,36.To speak of the flood in Mesopotamia is remarkable, for they had annual floods).
For long, no one could read cuneiform writing. But in 1835 military duties took Henry Rawlinson to the area near the rock of Bisotun (Behistun) in Kurdistan, a remote region of Persia. At 400 feet up there was an inscription by King Darius of Persia in Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian. With crude scaffolding he clambered all over the steep wall in visits over the next 12 years and copied nearly the entire inscription, which was about 1200 square feet. He began by deciphering the kings' names in the Old Persian text. Then he was able to construct an alphabet and translate sentences and paragraphs. But the Elamite and Babylonian Scripts seemed syllabic rather than alphabetic. He had to find more texts, and did so, and eventually learned to read cuneiform.
Knowledge of Egyptian hieroglyphics was lost for 1400 years, until Champollion on Sept 14, 1822 read the name of Rameses II. The language itself had survived in Coptic, which was still spoken in the 19th century. Before that point, in August 1799 an artillery captain with the army of Napoleon found a stone at Rosetta, with text in 3 forms: Greek, Demotic, and Hieroglyphic.(Demotic was a cursive form of hieroglyphic, done first with brush on papyrus). It was a decree of Ptolemy V from 196 BC. In 1802 Sylvestre de Sacy located the names of Ptolemy and Arisinoe in the demotic part, but could do not more. In 1814 Young, an English physicist worked on the hieroglyphic, and read Ptolmis. Champollion decided that the work of others before him showed the royal names had alphabetic character. By counting the signs compared with the Greek words, he found the signs were more numerous. Therefore not all were word signs. Champollion like Young had read one cartouche as Ptolmis. Now he got two more, which should be Ptolmis and Kliopatra. The names had 5 letters in common PTLOI. Five similar signs were found in the expected positions on the two cartouches.
Thus he found PTOLMIS =1 2 3 4 5 6 7. KLIOPADRAT (plus a determinative) had signs = 8 4 6 3 1 9 10 11 9 2.
Champollion soon read 79 names, and drew up an alphabet. But all texts were from the Greek and Roman period.
He then tried the more ancient Pharaonic names. He picked a cartouche (a frame, indicating a royalty) with three signs. The top sign was like a disk with a dot in the middle. He guessed it stood for Ra, the sun god. The second sign was something like a three pronged pitchfork with no handle, but some short spikes sticking out the top, almost as if continuing the lines of the tines. The third sign looked like two shepherd's crooks. He recalled that he had seen those signs before, standing for SS. He had seen the second sign at Rosetta in a position corresponding to Greek genethlia (birthday). So he guessed that second sign was not alphabetic, but was equivalent to Coptic MS, meaning "to be born".
So, combining all three he read: ra -- ms -- ss which meant Ra begets him, that is Ramsess II.
Now the system became clear. Some signs, like the first one, were for words (Ra), some like the second sign, were for syllables; others, like the third were for alphabetic single letters.
The idea of writing was probably borrowed from Mesopotamia. Pictorial signs are found late in the predynastic period, that is, something recognizable as a symbol, but nothing like a connected sentence. Connected sense with a grammar is not found until 3rd or 4th dynasty.
Greek Education: It was called Paideia, raising children. It included intellectual and cultural things, especially the seven liberal arts. There were few schools in Greece during the classic fifth century B.C. There were some traveling teachers called Sophists, who offered to teach anything for a price. Many of them claimed to be able to argue well on both sides of any question -hence the name Sophists, related to sophistry, dishonest argumentation. The root was sophia, wisdom. The art of oratory was highly prized, especially since one gave his own speeches in court in a lawsuit, which the Greeks seem to have enjoyed.
Especially important is this fact: the sophists rejected the authority of existing institutions of teaching, and substituted the right of private judgment. So they based ethics on relativism. Protagoras said man is the measure of all things. This tended too to skepticism. Plato objected to the fact that they took pay for their teaching - he refused to do that.
The relation of the Greek culture to religion is very different from ours. The whole culture was permeated with religion. One could not be a citizen without being part of the state religion, and in addition, born into it. They would say that an individual needs the help of the gods for his own requirements; but the state as state also needs their help. Hence the state as state must worship. So they would find incomprehensible the American notion of separation of Church and state. Vatican II rejected that, in its Declaration on Religious Liberty §1: "It leaves untouched traditional Catholic teaching on the obligations of people and societies towards the one true Church."
The religion of Greece was of course polytheistic and largely formalism and externalism. There was an extensive disconnection of religion and morality. The gods were thought to enforce few things, chiefly, worship for themselves, doing one's duty to the state, to a guest in the house, to a suppliant who would come with proper ritual in the name of Zeus. Other matters the gods did not enforce, and in their own conduct acted as if no morality existed. So Zeus was believed to commit adultery often, would have done more had not his wife Hera been trailing him. She had no moral ideas either, was just a jealous wife.
Yet in this second area of morals, which the gods did not enforce, the Greeks were not completely lawless. Athens in the 5th century B.C. even had a law against homosexual acts. Plato in his Republic taught that one should observe justice even if no man or god would catch him in violation.
The Presocratic Philosophers themselves: They were all concerned with the world-stuff, that out of which everything is made. They are sometimes called physicists, but the name is misleading, for they did no experimental work - not having the means.
There was a strong tendency to consider them atheists in their own day, e.g., in the Apology of Plato we find that Anaximander was charged with atheism for thinking the sun was a red hot stone.
There was science before the Greeks, e.g., in Babylonia there was astronomy; in Egypt, medicine and even a little surgery. But the other peoples tended to explain all by divine causality; the Greek "scientists" tended to seek purely natural explanations, leaving out the gods. That is why many thought them atheistic. Really, they should have said not either the gods or natural causes, but both God and the natural laws He has established.
The Greek world picture had five chief components:
1) The sun goes around the earth: geocentrism.
2) Many thought the world was flat. But Anaximander thought the earth was a cylinder suspended in space. And there are three stories, with the sky the upper, the earth the second, the netherworld below.
3) This form of the universe always has been and always will be. Aristotle thought there were about 50 spheres in the sky, on which the various celestial bodies are fastened. These spheres always have been in motion, and always will be: Physics 8.1. In Politics 2.5 Aristotle said that almost everything has been found out, and in Politics 7.9 he added that most things had been invented several times over in the course of ages, or rather, times without number. But they were lost in great disasters. Plato in Laws 3.677 has a tradition of deluges and cataclysms recurring. Herodotus in 2.142 says the Egyptian priests told him that in about 11,000 years the place of the rising of the sun had changed four times.
4) The idea of recording history has been relatively recent in the history of mankind. The use of writing to make records goes back no farther than about 4000 B.C.
5) The above really imply the eternity of matter. They did not stop to ask what caused its existence, and so on the whole did not reach a notion of creation, even though the principles of Aristotle really require creation.
a) Thales: From Miletus, early 6th century. Miletus was a great sea power, captains were adventurous. Much intellectual ferment on the west coast of Asia Minor, more than in the western section of Greece. Aristotle in Metaphysics 1.3.5 said Thales held the world stuff is water. Probably meant that water could take many forms. We have no fragments left of his writing, if indeed he did any.
b) Anaximander: Also of Miletus,born about 610 B.C. An associate of Thales. Said the first element is to apeiron, the boundless, which is eternal and ageless and encompasses all worlds. All things come form it and pass into it again. There is eternal motion, which brought about the world. There are innumerable worlds since to apeiron is boundless. The sun is a wheel 28 times the size of the earth, full of fire. The earth is a cylinder, suspended in space.
By to apeiron he seems to have meant "having no precise characteristics" e.g.not wet or dry, ot hot or cold, liquid or solid) so as to be able to take on any forms. He seems to have lacked the notion of privation (the lack of something that should be there).So cold is not just a privation of heat, but the opposite of heat.
c) Anaximenes: A somewhat younger contemporary of Anaximander, also from Miletus. Our information on him comes from later sources (cf.Aristotle,Metaphysics 1.3 and Plutarch, Stromata. 3). He said the basic stuff is air. It is always in motion, else it would not change so much as it does. When it is dilated it becomes fire, when it is condensed, it becomes winds, when felted, becomes cloud, when further condensed, become water, when still further condensed, it is earth, at maximum condensation, stones. He went back to the flat earth theory.
Philosophical and Religious Society:
a) Pythagoras: No fragments. Most important account is by Aristotle, especially, Metaphysics 1.5.2: "Since it seemed clear that all other things have their whole nature modelled upon numbers, and that numbers are the ultimate things in the whole physical universe, they [the Pythagoreans] assumed the elements of numbers to be the elements of everything, and the whole universe to be a proportion [harmony] or number." Founded a religious society, affected Plato. Held reincarnation.
Philosophers of Change:
a) Heraclitus: Flourished c 500 B.C. Did not publish his work, but deposited it in the temple of Artemis. Thinks he has found something that eluded all others. Was called ho skoteinos "the dark [obscure] one".
He makes process the fundamental instead of a stuff. All is fire. Without motion or strife nothing would exist at all. The universe subsists by an attunement of opposite tensions. He seems to have held that hot turns into cold and vice versa - so opposite qualities are really the same.
However there is a Logos, which is God, that regulates this constant change.
He said you cannot step twice into the same river - for they are always flowing. Also: to God all things are right, but people think some things are wrong, some right. - This leads to amorality.
Strong resemblance to process philosophy/theology of today.
b) Parmenides: The opposite of Heraclitus. Said there is no change, everything is one being. He argued thus: the difference between this being and that being is being - but being will not distinguish one being from another being - it is like white lines on a white surface. So there is only one being. In what seems to be a change, before a change it is being - afterwards it is still being: so, no change.
Greeks took this seriously, could not answer until Aristotle showed differences within being, by his potency/act teaching.
Melissus of Samos was a disciple of Parmenides, but made a change: being cannot be spatially finite as Parmenides said, for then beyond being would be nothing, and being would be bounded by nothing. That which is limited by nothing is not limited, but is infinite.
Zeno also defended Parmenides, constructed some paradoxes to prove him right, e.g,, if Achilles races a hare, but gives the hare a head start of perhaps 10 feet, by the time Achilles reaches the ten feet line, the hare has gone farther, and so on: so he will never catch it. For the answer see Aristotle,Physics 7.5 and 6.9.
c) Xenophanes of Colophon: Some say he was the founder of the school of Elea, to which Parmenides belonged. Not too likely. Probably born around 580 BC. He is often charged with being a pantheist, i.e., sum total of all things equals God. He said the following things about God: The whole of God sees, the whole perceives, the whole hears, but with no effort he sets all things in motion by mind and thought. He always stays in the same place, and does not move at all, nor it is suitable that he should move from one place to another. - But this need not mean pantheism at all. The charge of pantheism rests on a statement of Aristotle in Metaphysics 1.5.12: "Looking at the whole material universe, he said that the one was god."
He also said that the poets attributed many immoral things to the gods. He was concerned with this. If one believes in the old gods, and then becomes a teenager, he may think: I think I will go and imitate Zeus. (Plato and others too had similar fears).
Mediators between Heraclitus and Parmenides: They tried to find a middle position between saying no change, and all is change.
a) Empedocles: Of Acragas in Sicily, c 493-433. It is debated, but it seems he tried to reconcile ideas of Parmenides with facts of change and motion. He abandons the notion of a single world-stuff and says there are four elements: earth, air, fire, water. Previous philosophers had proposed air, water, or fire. He kept these, added earth.
He explains process by two things which he calls Strife and Love. They are forces, but material. Love is the unifier, Strife the divider. There are four periods in history: 1) Love is supreme, Strife is outside. All elements are mixed, nothing distinguishable from anything else. 2) Strife invades, the elements are separated but come together in various combinations, 3) Strife is supreme. The four elements are distinct and separate. Love is out. 4) Love begins to invade, the elements again begin to mingle. - Our world could exist only in periods 2 and 4. We note a resemblance here to the idea of Heraclitus that the state of the universe subsists on an attunement of opposite tensions.
b) Anaxagoras: Of Clazomenae. He came to Athens in 480 ,perhaps with the invasion of Xerxes of Persia, was probably about 20 then. He was the first philosopher to settle in Athens, stayed perhaps 30 years. Became a friend and teacher of Pericles. Was accused by the political opponents of Pericles about 450 on charges of being pro-Persian, irreligious. He had taught the sun was a red-hot stone, and the moon was made of earth. So we see that he suffered from the problem we spoke of above in saying we explain things either by the gods or by natural causes. We should say both. He escaped, went back to Ionia, west coast of Asia Minor, settled at Lampsacus, lived about 25 years.
What he taught is not too clear. One fragment says that nothing comes into being or passes away, but there is a mingling and a separation of the things that are. He rejected the four element idea of Empedocles, saying the four elements were mixtures of many qualitatively different parts. He said that in the beginning all kinds were mingled together ,were infinite both in number and in smallness. In everything there is a portion of everything.
His special attempt at a contribution was the principle of nous, mind. Only nous would be completely separate from anything else. All nous is alike. Nous is the finest and purest of all things, and has all knowledge about everything and the greatest power.
Not clear if he meant a spiritual reality - the distinction of matter vs spirit was not generally clear then.
The function of nous seems to be to start the rotatory movement or vortex going. Aristotle, in Metaphysics A.4.985 a.18-21 said he used nous like a deus ex machina,and drags it in whenever he is at a loss to explain why something necessarily is. Elsewhere he makes anything rather than nous the cause. Plato in Phaedo 97 b 8 has Socrates saying he at first had high hopes when he heard of nous, but was disappointed on following through.
a) Leucippus and Democritus: We are not able to know which of these two contributed which part. But together they developed the atomic theory. Leucippus was a contemporary of Melissos. Democritus was born later, about 450 BC.
We can explain the world by supposing two things, atoms and the void. By atoms they meant the "uncuttable", i.e, we slice a bit of matter down and down finer until we cannot get it finer. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the modern concept of an atom, except the word. So they are in no sense forerunners of our atomic physics.
We will number steps to facilitate comment: 1) There were always atoms falling in the void. 2) As they fell they sometimes swerved, and so some could fall on others. 3) Our world is just a chance combination of atoms, which just fell together and will fall apart. Since atoms have been falling for infinite ages, there has been time for many combinations to fall together and then fall apart. Our world just fell together, and will fall apart, and there will be nothing left: annihilation.
1) The assumption is childish. Matter needed a cause. Further, in a vacuum the uncuttable bits would not fall -there would be no up or down. That comes about only by gravity in which every large body in the universe attracts every other large body with a force proportioned to their masses and in inverse proportion to the distance. 2) They offer no reason for the swerve - it is just that they need it to "explain". 3) This leads to no survival, and no need of the gods. So the Epicureans gladly took on this idea. They made pleasure the goal of life. But to fear a possible accounting to gods could hinder that. So they welcomed annihilation. It was popularized in Rome by Lucretius, in first century B.C.in his On the Nature of Things .In book 3 he gives more than a dozen "proofs" for no survival. At the end he says life is like a banquet. When you have eaten, that is all - go - and be nothing.
II - Socrates and Plato:
Socrates wrote nothing, and claimed he did not teach - though he really did, in the sense that by his questioning he tried to lead people to see things. Our knowledge of him depends on two sources, the works of Plato,and the Memorabilia by Xenophon. Xenophon pictures Socrates as almost cocksure of the answers to all sorts of things - Plato pictures Socrates as groping at times, at other times, pretending to grope, so as to draw answers out of his listeners. Still further, there is debate on whether Plato in all dialogues was faithful to what Socrates really held, or was he faithful only in the earlier dialogues, in which often no answer is reached. The later view seems much more likely to be the true one.
Life of Socrates: Socrates was born in 469 BC, ten years after the battle of Platea, in which the Greeks finally repulsed the second Persian invasion, which had come in 480 (first invasion had been in 490). Socrates fought at Potidea around 432, just before the start of the Peloponnesian War, and at Amphipolis about ten years later. At Potidea he saved the life of Alcibiades, an arrogant young noble. Alcibiades later said that the prize for bravery which he himself got should have gone to Socrates.
The wife of Socrates was Xantippe, famed for her tongue. He had three sons, Lamprocles, Sophroniscus and Menexenus. Lamprocles, according to Xenophon's Memorabilia 2.2 could not stand his mother's temper, but Socrates rebuked him, reminding him of all she had done for him. Xenophon also said (2.10) that she had the worst temper of any woman in the world. She was much younger than Socrates, and not in sympathy with what he called his "vocation " (more on it presently). She thought him a lazy loafer. He gave up his work as a statue maker, and went about questioning people in Athens, making them look like fools much of the time. It seems he held no political office until 406, when he was in the Senate of 500. He was for a time a member of a Prytany, a committee that managed the day to day business for a portion of each year, with the Prytanies in rotation. At the trial of the six generals who at the Battle of Arginusae chose to pursue the enemy rather than to rescue sailors who had fallen into the sea, he refused to put the question to a vote. The trial was illegal. He also refused to obey the order of the thirty to arrest Leon of Salamis. The Thirty had been imposed on Athens by Sparta for about 8 months in 405-04 BC. Sending him to arrest Leon was an attempt to compromise Socrates.
Trial: An orator, Lycon, and a poet, Meletus, charged him with atheism and corrupting the youth. He was condemned and died in 399. Xenophon and Plato both say Socrates was punctilious in offering sacrifice in public, and even at home. At times he sounds like a monotheist, but he often speaks like the others of many gods. He did reject the usual myths about Zeus, Chronos and other Olympians. Many educated people then also rejected them. He seems to have had a simple unfailing confidence in the gods: the good man is always under their special care. He thought he had some sort of spirit with him, a daimonion, since boyhood. It often checked him from doing things. So Socrates was not an atheist in our sense. He seems not even to have been an atheist in the Athenian sense: one who will not join in the public worship of the gods. He seems to have joined, perhaps merely out of a sort of compulsion. Perhaps he did not believe in Zeus.
The charge of corrupting the youth was not for homosexuality - though there was a law in Athens against it, probably not enforced.
The Life of Plato: Before going further, a sketch of the life of Plato. He was born at Athens in 429 or 428. When about twenty he became a follower of Socrates. After the death of S in 399, Plato withdrew to Megara on the isthmus, and later visited Egypt, Sicily, and the Greek cities in lower Italy. In Sicily he got to know the Dionysius I, Tyrant of Syracuse, but later had a falling out. One story says Dionysius sold Plato as a slave, but Plato was set free by Anniceris of Cyrene. When Plato got back to Athens he began to teach in a grove owned by Academus. After a time he went again to Sicily, invited by Dion, brother in law of Dionysius I, and tried to win over the younger Tyrant Dionysius II to philosophy - Plato had the idea that a philosopher-king would be the ideal. But jealousy arose between Dionysius II and his uncle Dion, so Plato, with some difficulty, returned to Athens. He tried to continue to instruct Dionysius by letter. Dion went to Athens, associated with Plato there. In 361 Plato was recalled to Syracuse for a third visit by Dionysius. In 360 he returned to Athens, continued to teach until his death in 348/47.
Plato's academy had the goal of investigating knowledge in many fields. Besides philosophy they studied also mathematics, astronomy and the physical sciences, and worshipped the Muses. Students came not only from Athens but from abroad. There was probably also some study of botany.
The "vocation" of Socrates: In Plato's Apology, the speech of S in the Athenian court, he says some friend asked the Oracle of Delphi who was wisest of all men. The reply: Socrates. Since oracles often were deliberately obscure and riddling, S thought he had to explore to see what it meant. So he went about questioning various groups of men who were thought to be wise. He found none of them were. He concluded that the oracle meant: He is wisest who like S knows he has no wisdom. But then he continued what he claimed was his "mission" from Apollo, by continuing to question people, and to urge them to take most thought to making their soul good. Young men watched him do it, then they went and did likewise. This is what was meant by corrupting the youth. It was not a charge of homosexuality.
As to homosexuality: In the Symposium Alcibiades says one night he slept under the same cloak with S, trying to induced him to homosexual acts. But S did not do it. This is in line with other things we know about Socrates. Over and over again, in several dialogues, Plato reports Socrates stressed that the real philosopher, the seeker for truth, must have as little as possible to do with the things of the body. In the Phaedo 65: "Is it not obvious that...the philosopher as much as is possible frees the soul from communion with the body?" Ibid 82-83: "Those who really seek wisdom with determination abstain from all bodily desires and will not give themselves over to them....each pleasure and pain seems to have a nail, and it nails the soul to the body...and makes it bodily." There are more such statements in the Phaedo 66, and 114. He speaks similarly in the Republic 485-86, 517, 519, 543. Xenophon, though he differs from Plato in many things, agrees on this in Memorabilia 1,3,5 and 1,3,8. In the latter passage he urges avoiding familiarity with beautiful persons, saying it was hard to do that and retain continence. He gives the same advice in 1.3.13.
Therefore when in the Symposium Plato pictures S as describing an ascent to the Idea of Beauty (more on the Ideas presently) starting with loving a beautiful young male body - this is Plato expressing his own tendencies, not those of Socrates. Similarly in book V of the Republic, Plato makes him say that if a man is brave in battle he should have the right to kiss and be kissed by every man in the army.
Socrates' Spirituality: His proposal to have as little as possible to do with the things of the body is really the high Christian ideal of detachment, of which St. Paul speaks in 1 Cor.7.29-32. So it is not strange to see St. Justin the Martyr, in First Apology 46, saying that in the past some who were thought to be atheists, such as Socrates and Heraclitus, were really Christians, because they followed the Logos, the Divine Word. (More on how this might work out later in our treatment of St. Justin).
The world of Ideas: Socrates and Plato as we said used to go about questioning men in Athens. S would ask philosophical questions. The man would say he did not know the answer, might add he had not had any schooling. But S would not give up. He would keep at him with many questions, and then sometimes, not always, the man would come out with some sort of answer to a philosophical question. This seems to have led S and P to ask how it could be. Their reasoning could be expressed in a disjunctive argument: The man learned the answer either in this life or in a previous life. He did not learn it in this life, he admits that. Therefore he learned it in a previous life.
What was that world like? We notice what sort things he knows, things about justice, beauty, goodness in themselves. These things of course do not have bodies. So in the previous world he must have seen justice, goodness etc. as they are in themselves. These are Ideas or Forms (Greek eidos or "idea"). Why would anyone leave that world, for it is so much better than our world? He must have committed some fault, which resulted in his being cast out. He then took a body - so the body is not part of us, but more like a prison. Why would he not remember being in the world of Ideas? He must have taken a drink from a river in the underworld - mythology is brought in here - which causes one to forget everything. But when S questioned him, that stirred up his memory, and so he recalled things. So all learning is really recollection, anamnesis. We do not really teach anyone anything, we merely get him to remember. At the end of this life one dies, but will return. Plato had visited the Pythagoreans who believed in reincarnation. If a man lived several lifetimes as a noble philosopher, he would come back each time as a human being. But if not, he might come back as some sort of animal. However if he lived several lives as a noble philosopher, he would get permission to omit any more reincarnations, his soul w would get wings and fly away, and never have a body again. - We can see why St. Paul had a poor reception in Athens preaching the resurrection.
What was wrong about the argument that seemed to prove a previous existence? It was a disjunctive argument. In that type we should make a complete list of all possibilities, then eliminate all but one. That will be the right answer. But if the list would b e incomplete, or some item was not properly eliminated, the answer would be wrong. S failed in this way: He did not see that we must subdivide learning in this life. The man questioned admitted he had not learned it previously. But he learned it on the spot while S questioned him. S did not realize what he was doing, but he was, by making many distinctions, breaking up the problem into smaller parts, which were easier to manage. Then the man could see. So the theory of the world of Ides was without foundation.
The Fathers of the Church liked Plato. They did not on the whole believe in the world of Ideas, although Origen seems to have had something much like it - he said before this life we were all in a world of spirits. According to the varied merits of the spirits, some became angels, some devils, some human beings, some stars in the sky (they thought they were alive!). Origen did not add reincarnation. But he did think hell was not permanent. Christ had to reign, according to 1 Cor 15.25-28 (cf. also Psalm 109.1) until all His enemies would be subjected to Him. B ut a soul in hell would not be subject. Therefore hell had to release all humans, perhaps also all devils. St. Augustine seems to have believed in the world of Ideas around the time of his conversion, but soon discarded it. Yet he, as it were, "baptized" the notion, turned the Ideas into exemplary cause in the mind of God - before God can say let light be, for example, logically, He has an idea in His mind of what light is (cf. De diversis quaestionibus 83 q.46.1-2).
This theory of the world of Ideas was useful in pointing out the fact that this present world is of scant account compared to heaven. The Fathers of course liked the insistence of Socrates that the wise man will have as little as possible to do with the things of the body. This was the same as the detachment St. Paul urged, as we saw above. Similarly in Republic 517 S says, "One should not wonder that those who reach this blessed vision [of the Good] are not willing to go down to human affairs, for their souls are always hastening into the upper world where they desire to live."
In book 7 of the Republic he gives a long simile or comparison to explain why those who once have seen the true realities would not like to descend again. He imagines a large cave, in which prisoners are bound, ever since birth, in such a way that they can see only the wall in front of them. They see shadows on the wall from objects passing between them and a fire farther back. Since they were there from birth, and have never seen the true realities, only shadows, they think shadows are the only realities. Suppose then that one of them got loose and went out of the cave and saw the real world, and then came back to tell his friends they had mistaken shadows for reality. They would think him crazy, and want to kill him. This of course is parallel to the case of a philosopher who has contemplated the Ideas, the true realities, and tries to tell others about them.
Similarly in the Apology he insists that no matter what people say, he must keep on urging them to take more thought for their souls than for things of this life.
Further, S held that the ideal is to be come as much like to God as possible. In Theatetus 176 he says: "We should fly away from earth to heaven as fast as possible; to fly away means to become like God, so far as this can be done; and to become like Him ,is to become holy, just and wise...God is...perfect righteousness,and the man who is most righteous is most like Him."
The Good = God?: Socrates and Plato are not clear on the point, but seem to think that the Good, or the Idea of Good is the same as God. In Republic 7.517: "The Idea of Good appears last of all, and we can see it only with effort; when it is seen, we also conclude it is the universal author of all things beautiful and right, the parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellect." In Republic 6.509 B he is uncertain whether he should even speak of the Good as an Idea - may be beyond the Ideas: "The sun provides not only the power of being seen for things seen, but...also their generation and growth and nurture, although it is not itself generation.... Similarly with things known...the Good is not only the cause of their becoming known, but the cause that they have being...the Good is not being, but beyond being in dignity and power."
In saying the Good is beyond being he has in mind the analogy of being. When a man addressed Jesus as "Good Master" He decided to teach dramatically, and He said (Lk 18.18-19): "Why do you call me good? One is good. God." He means that if we use the word good to apply to creatures and to God, the two senses have something in common, but far more that is different. So when Plato says the Good is beyond being, it means that the word good as applied to creatures and as applied to the Good has something in common, but far more difference. Plotinus, who claimed to follow Plato, wrote in Enneads 6.8.9: "The One is other compared to all things," and in 5.4.1: "He is said to be beyond being." In a similar vein St. Augustine wrote (On Christian Doctrine 1.6.6): "He must not even be called inexpressible, for when we say that word, we say something."
Socrates/Plato also spoke of the transcendence of God when in Symposium 203: "No god associates with man." We need to recall here that Plato believed not only the great God, who was all good, and even beyond being, but also that there were lesser gods, composed of body and soul, but the bodies were of matter finer than clouds. In Timaeus 41 Plato represents the great God as telling the inferior gods that being made of two parts, they could die, but he will not allow that to happen. But Plato believed that not even the second level gods would associate with us. To even send up a prayer to them, we needed the mediation of the daimones, beings composed also of body and soul, whose bodies were flesh, of much higher quality than ours. Since the daimones were thought to be immoral or amoral, St. Augustine (City of God 8.14-18) ridicules this notion - that decent men could not speak to the gods, but the impure daimones could!
Very obviously, he is far from pantheism at this point.
Socrates shows deep confidence in the gods. In Phaedo 62: "It is correct to say that the gods take care of us, and that we humans are one of the possessions of the gods...so a man must not kill himself before God sends him some necessity like that which I now have." (S is under death sentence, must drink the hemlock in prison). Again, in the Republic 613 he says, "The gods...never neglect a person who earnestly desires to be just, and desires to become as like to God as is possible for man to be by practicing virtue." Cf. also Apology 41 :"We must be of good hope in regard to death, and think this one thing to be true, namely, that there is no evil for a good man, dead or alive, and that the gods do not neglect his affairs."
Of course the Fathers of the Church would like this attitude, as also the realization S shows of the brevity of life, in Republic 608, saying that "All the time from boyhood to old age is little indeed compared with all time...do you think an immortal thing [the soul is immortal] should be serious about such a little time, and not rather about all time?"
The main idea of the dialogue called Gorgias is that it is much worse to commit something unrighteous than to suffer it. This of course is the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount. In line with this S is pictured as saying in Theatetus 176-77: "They [evil-doers] do not know that the penalty of wrong doing.... is not stripes and death...evil-doers often escape these, but a penalty that cannot be escaped...that they lead a life like the pattern into which they are going." He speaks of the automatic penalties that are part of the very nature of things, e.g., a hangover after a drunk, or a high risk of a loveless marriage after much premarital sex. The Roman Historian Tacitus in Annals 6.6 quotes part of a letter of Emperor Tiberius to the senate near the end of his life, when he was holed up in the island of Capri, and was indulging himself in orgies of sex: "May the gods cause me to perish, senators, even more than I feel myself perishing now, if I know what to write to you or how to write it." Then the pagan Tacitus comments: "His crimes and wickedness had turned into punishment for him. Rightly did the wisest of men [he means Socrates in saying things such as we have just quoted] say that if the souls of tyrants could be laid bare, one could see wounds and mutilations - swellings left on the spirit like lash marks on a body, by cruelty, lust and ill-will. Neither the autocracy of Tiberius nor his isolation could save him from admitting the inner torments that were his retribution."
The Seven Liberal Arts: In book 7 of the Republic he speaks at length of the seven arts. We begin with mathematics or arithmetic. But the important thing, S. insists, is not just knowledge of counting, but the senses must invite the intelligence to probe further, to thinking, to intellectual knowledge. Similarly for plane geometry, solid geometry, astronomy and harmonics all should be aimed at developing the seventh study, which is not rhetoric as it was for the Sophists, but dialectics, philosophy, aimed at coming to see the Idea of Good.
Socrates/Plato on the immortality of the soul: It is really pathetic to see Socrates and other fine minds of antiquity struggling bravely to prove to themselves that there is some survival. At the end of his Apology , when he has been condemned to death by the Athenian court, Socrates reasons thus: Death is either becoming nothing, or going to a better place. As to becoming nothing, think of a night in which you slept so well you did not even dream. Why even the Great King of Persia would think that fine. So if death ends all, it is like that. (Poor man, in sleep we are not nothing, we have some awareness, we enjoy the refreshment when we wake up).
In the Krito S is in prison waiting for death. His friend Krito comes, offers to bribe the jailor to let him go. He could go to Thessaly, and would be appreciated there. But S thinks it wrong. He imagines the Laws, personified, telling him he is trying to destroy them if he escapes. Then when he finally has to meet the Laws in the next world, they will not be pleased with him. So he must stay. - His argument is invalid, for he personifies the Laws. They are not a person, and he would not be really destroying them by preventing them from working injustice.
In the Phaedo, which probably comes from Plato's mature period, S is in prison, soon to die. He holds a discussion with several friends. S shows no fear in the face of death. He thinks he is still obeying a divine command because he had that in a dream (we notice that in the Apology his daimonion gives only negative orders, i.e., to turn him away from something, never positive commands, to do something). But he will heroically obey. The gods are the best overseers, and he thinks the god has put him into this fix, so he must accept.
He appeals to belief from time immemorial that there is survival. That seems to be true all right. A. E. Taylor (p.179) says that S like all great religous teachers rests his hope in the last resort on the goodness of God, rather than on a natural imperishability of the human soul.
Further, S says, he has long been "practising dying" melete thanatou, by having as little as possible to do with the things of the world, even with the pleasure of food, drink, love and clothes. So now it is not hard to die.
After a bit more general discussion, he goes into his proofs for the immortality of the soul in the Phaedo:
First argument ( 70c - 77d): a) The world is made up out of opposites, so that hot comes from cold etc. Therefore life must come from death. COMMENT: This is sad, that notion of the opposites being both equally positive goes back to Anaximander of Miletus, whom we have already seen. So many Greeks accepted it. But heat and cold are not both positive: cold is the privation of heat. Further, hot does not really come from cold, but follows after it, if there is a source of heat to provide the means to speed up the molecular motion (without motion of the whole body -this is what physics now holds about heat, it is molecular motion without the motion of the whole). So, sadly, this first part of the first argument is worthless.
b) Learning in this life is really just recalling what we once knew in the previous life, anamnesis. Since we had a previous life, we will have another life. COMMENT: In the Meno he saw that a man can be made to give true answers by asking the right questions in matters of geometry. So he must have had the knowledge from a previous life. This is confirmed by the phenomenon of association: when we see an article belonging to a friend, we think of the friend. Still further, in mathematics we speak of equality. But two objects we see are never perfectly equal. Yet we have a concept of equality as such. We did not acquire this knowledge at the moment of birth - for we need to recall it later. So we would ask: When did we lose it so as to need to remember it later? So we were somewhere before birth, in which we saw the Ideas or Forms. So we survive death.-- Really, this argument if at all valid - it is not - would prove only a previous life,not also a future life. As Cebes in the Phaedo observes at this point, having had a previous life does not prove there will be a future life. - Behind this seems to be the Orphic belief in rebirth. At the end of the Phaedo S will seem to give up this sort of argument, and to go back to the belief that the final destiny of the righteous is to be with the gods. This perhaps reflects a pre-philosophical tradition that the soul is a fallen divinity, destined to regain its former place among the gods if it lives rightly.
Second argument ( 78b - 84b): The soul is most like the divine and immortal and the simple and indissoluble and unchangeable. Therefore the soul should be indissoluble or very nearly so. To enter the family of the gods, the soul must depart entirely pure. So it is for the sake of such purity that lovers of wisdom abstain from all bodily desires. Pleasure and pain as it were nail the soul to the body and make it bodily. COMMENTS: We notice that S is vague, he says the soul is most like the divine and the simple, and so is indissoluble, or nearly so. He adds that the more a soul avoids bodily pleasures, the more pure it will be and like the gods. But even with this, he gives no firm proof.
Some commentators do think he here makes the soul simple, without parts, and so incapable of coming apart. But the trouble is, as we have said, that he is not firm in saying this. Nor does he at all prove the soul is simple. He merely says it is "most like" what is simple. He could have proved it very easily thus: I have a dog who is neither high nor low, long nor short, pointed nosed or snubnosed, black or white or brown or mixture. I get this concept by taking away from every live dog all that is individual. Then I have left a concept of just plain dog. Suppose I offered the best artist in the world any sum to make an image of my dog, using any medium whatsoever. He could not do anything, for no material can hold this concept. Therefore, that in me which does hold it is not material but spiritual. This is even more true with the concepts of justice, beauty, goodness etc.
Interlude: (84c - 85b): Simmias wishes some god would reveal the truth to them. He is not convinced by the arguments thus far. Nor should he be convinced, for they prove nothing. Here we recall our comments on the relation of theology to philosophy as the answers in the back of the book. Simmias also wonders: Could the soul be just like an attunement or harmony on the harp - when the harp is gone, so is the tuning. This is called "epiphenomenalism", which says consciousness is a byproduct of the activities of the bodily organism, a sort of whistle of the steam escaping from the engine.
Cebes thinks S has only proved preexistence - really, he has not even proved that. But as to later survival, Cebes wonders: could it be like the case of a weaver who makes his own cloak. He wears out many of them (bodies) and eventually wears out himself.
So they now wonder: the arguments seemed so good, yet now they do not. Can we really trust arguments at all?
Socrates' answer to Simmias and Cebes (88e - 102a): S opens by warning against scepticism.
Then he answers Simmias: Simmias has agreed on reminiscence and preexistence. But if the soul were a harmony, it could not exist before the body of which it is a harmony - but the soul in the previous existence did exist without the body.
S. adds that we see the soul opposing the body in many ways -it would not do it if it were a harmony of the body. COMMENT: Fails to distinguish moral and physical orders. Simmias meant a physical harmony. The soul opposes the body in the moral sphere, not the physical sphere.
Next S tries to answer Cebes: 1) He recalls his own experiences. He once studied the natural sciences, with the presocratics. He came to doubt all the explanations. 2) He also had trouble with mathematics, could not agree with himself even when one is added to one whether either the one has become two, or the one which was added became two [this is based on the notion of the Form of one]. 3) Then he came upon Anaxagoras, with his ideas of nous .At first S was delighted, then found Anaxagoras himself hardly used nous. So he gave that up.4) Then he turned to reasoning, and tried to lay down in each case the reasoning which seemed strongest. So he considered as true what ever seemed to harmonize with that. For example, he postulated that there are Ideas of Forms. He said he will shortly show that this proves immortality. He says for example a thing is beautiful not from shape or color but from participating in the Idea of Beauty. COMMENT: Notice he is only postulating, not proving things, even the existence of the Ideas or Forms. He began with what seemed most likely to be true, judged all else by its agreement or lack of agreement with that. But the base itself was not proved.
Third argument (102 - 107b): When we say that Simmias is taller than Socrates, but shorter than Phaedo, we do not mean Simmias is both tall and short, or that two opposed Forms are in him. (He only happens to be taller or shorter, accidentally, not inasmuch as he is Simmias).
So we see that a form excludes its opposite. No form will accept its opposite. But, death and life are opposites, incompatible. The soul brings life. So if death approaches the soul, it does not receive death and it is immortal and imperishable. Nothing could escape destruction if the immortal, which is everlasting, could be destroyed. All admit that God Himself cannot suffer destruction. So the soul if it is immortal it is imperishable too.
COMMENTS: the argument rests on that of the Forms or Ideas. But that is not at all proved. Further, we could reason: When death approaches life, death is either destroyed or retreats. But also: when life approaches death, life is destroyed or retreats. S does not consider this last possibility.
At the end, Cebes accepts, but Simmias says that in this momentous matter, he distrusts human weakness and is forced to have a little incredulity. Socrates replies: That is true, and you should still examine our first suppositions to see if you can trust them.
It is sad: Socrates has failed in the Phaedo to prove immortality.
In the Phaedrus Socrates adds this argument: The soul is immortal since that which is ever in motion is immortal. But that which moves another and is moved by another ceases to live when it ceases to move. Only the self-moving never ceases to move. .... Now the beginning is unbegotten, for that which is begotten has a beginning. But the beginning is begotten of nothing, for if it were begotten of something, then the begotten would not come from a beginning. But if it is unbegotten, then it is also indestructible. We comment: he has not proved that the soul is self-moving.
Religion and Morality: In many ancient culture there was a partial disconnection of religion and morality. That is, the moral code for them could be divided into two areas, one small, the other large. The small area included the things the gods would enforce with sanctions, reward or punishment. In Greece there were few things in this area, chiefly: respect for the gods, duty to country and family, duty to a suppliant who comes with a bough of a tree having wool garlands on it and says he comes in the name of Zeus, duty to a guest in the house. But on other things, the gods were thought not to enforce. Zeus did not mind if someone committed adultery - the person would be imitating Zeus himself!. Nor would Zeus mind if someone committed murder. But there were lesser beings, the Furies, who liked to drive a person mad for committing murder.
The word for this second large area was ta ethe, customs. In Latin it was parallel: mores. Did this mean that people considered most points of morality as being merely custom, what society approves? Not likely. St. Paul in Romans 2.14-16 says that the gentiles who do not have the law, revealed religion, do by nature the things of the law. They show the work of the law written on their hearts. Accordingly ,conscience will accuse or defend them at the judgment. Anthropology agrees, for primitives do have a rather good knowledge of the basic moral code - how well they live up to it is a separate question. Aristotle in Nichomachean Ethics 3.1 asks about the effect of ignorance on culpability. He says that ignorance of particulars may excuse in varied degrees. But he says that ignorance of basic moral principles does not excuse - everyone knows them. However, St. Paul in Romans 1 pictures the gradual blinding of persons who do not live as they should, down to the point where, in 1.32, he mentions those who once knew that certain things deserve death, but now not only do them, but approve of doing them. They have lost their moral vision by repeated sinning.
Socrates/Plato tried to improve this perception. The Republic by seeking to find what is the nature of justice. Here he uses the Greek dikaiosyne broadly - Aristotle admits the word can be used that way.
In book I, the speakers try in vain to find out what justice is, and wind up nowhere. One of them Thrasymachus, says might is right. Socrates refutes that view. After further consideration of the same things in book II, Socrates suggests they look at justice on large scale, i.e., in a state, instead of in an individual. Then it should be easier to see. He begins to go into the details of an imaginary ideal state. An essential point, he says, is for each man to have one job only, so as to do it very well. There will be three classes: guardians (rulers and soldiers) and craftsmen. They must carefully regulate the literature people read: for the stories about the misdeeds of Zeus and others are scandalous. They must also control the types of music: for certain types of music resonate with and tend to promote certain interior attitudes. S also makes a start at speaking on physical training. Mentions chiefly simple wholesome food, avoiding excesses. The guardians (rulers and soldier class) must live and eat together, have few private possessions, just the bare essentials, no money at all, to avoid jealousy. Should avoid protracted doctoring: if someone cannot be cured in reasonable time, just give up and let nature take its course.
In book IV, there should not be many laws - people will do well through education.(Socrates thinks that virtue is knowledge, i.e., if someone knows what is right he will do it. Vice is ignorance). He thinks the state must have prudence, justice, discipline (temperance) and fortitude. Wisdom is especially in the rulers, courage in the soldiers, all classes must have discipline. Now he thinks he is finally finding what justice is: No one can be prudent, disciplined, courageous, without justice. So, justice in the state is founded on the principle of one man one job. But, what is justice in an individual? He works out three parts in a man: First, nothing can have two opposite properties at the same time, e.g., cannot be moving and at rest. But, at times we want to do something, yet do not want to do it - so there are two parts, reason and desire. But we also at times see a conflict in ourselves between desire and disgust - if we see a dead animal we have desire to look at it, yet disgusts. So he exults: we have found three parts in man: 1) the reasonable part - special in the rulers, 2) the spirited part - strong in the soldiers, for courage, 3) the desiring part - common in the craftsman class. But in the individual there are the same three parts: if all play their proper parts and do not interfere with each other, THIS IS JUSTICE. We note the parallel to the state. (COMMENT: S is wrong here. He has justice concerned within the man himself, whereas it really concerns his relations to others. Temperance and fortitude regulate his own attitudes, in facing pleasure, in facing danger. Prudence finds the right means. Justice gives to others what is coming to them, no more, no less).
In book V, S was about to go into the kinds of injustice in detail, but the others interrupt: they notice he said the guardians have all in common: so, what about women and children? S reluctantly admits he does mean that. The family must be abolished! No child should know its parents. There should be marriage festivals, which the rulers craftily manipulate, like stock-breeders, to mate the best with the best. He begins to ask: Is such a state really possible? He puts off the question, speaks first of war. In war, take the children along as servants, give them horses to escape if danger becomes great. But no solider will desert, if he does, he is downgraded to the lowest class. If a man is brave in battle, he can kiss and be kissed by all other men, and can have more weddings. But again it is asked: Is such a state possible? S says we do not have to prove it, we used the state merely to get to know what is justice. But we might possibly take an existing state and make it ideal, if the philosophers could be kings, or kings become philosophers. A real philosopher is one who seeks and appreciates truth everywhere, but there some who seem to be philosophers, but are not, just as there are people who like beauty in visible things, but do not seek the Idea of Beauty. Real philosophers seek the Idea of Truth. Opinion (doxa) is neither knowledge nor ignorance, it is in between, if it just happens to be right. Those who welcome opinion instead of truth are philodoxers, not philosophers.
In book VI S says that since the philosopher loves truth he will always be honest, give little time to the body. Will not be cowardly: will have all four cardinal virtues. Adeimantus objects: Good philosophers are useless to society, false ones are villains. S admits it is true, but the fault is in society, for society corrupts the good, favors false things. A ruler ought to have discipline and also be quick to learn - these two things are not often found together. So we might try to get the multitude to accept a philosopher as a king. Possible if we paint an ideal picture of what a philosopher should be. Greatest task is to get the candidate to learn the Good. For there is something even higher than the Ideas: Goodness itself, for it is beyond being. We cannot even say what goodness itself is. But just as sight needs light, so truth needs Goodness itself. He distinguishes between episteme, real knowledge which comes only by deduction, and doxa, opinion, which may just happen to be right.
In book VII comes the cave simile, which we saw above. One who has once seen the true reality would not want to come back to the cave - so S did not want to be involved in Athens. We must get the weights off the soul to see well - again, have little to do with the body. To produce good men we need more than gymnastic (bodily training) and music (the fine arts). But we start with the five branches of mathematics, but not just to learn physical things, but to lead to thinking: they are arithmetic, plane geometry, solid geometry, astronomy, harmonics. But these are to lead to dialectics, philosophy. (There are seven if we put gymnastics first). Women can be put through this training too if they are apt.
Book VIII opens with a reemphasis on communism of wives and children, but then goes to the chief topic: there are four bad kinds of constitutions of the state. The ideal is the aristocracy, ruled by the best men. The four bad kinds are: timocracy (honor is highest value), oligarchy (wealth is highest), democracy (love of money), tyranny (insatiate desire for liberty). With each one he sketches the corresponding types of men: the timocratic, the oligarchic, the democratic, the tyrannical. He imagines how one kind changes to the other, both in states and in men. (The picture of the tyrannical man is saved for book IX).
In book IX: the tyrannical man is one who is ruled by disorderly desires. When the democratic man becomes a father, his son is led into complete lawlessness by total liberty. His evil friends implant in him some "protector" some dissolute passion. It runs wild, he becomes the tyrannical man, ruled by his passions. This man is unhappy: a) he is not free, is ruled by passions b) just as there are three parts of the soul, each with its special kind of pleasure, each group thinks its kind of pleasure is the best. But only the wise man has had experience of all three, and so only he can judge what is best. He says the pleasures of knowledge are best. c)only the pleasures of the just are real, pleasures of the body only seem to be pleasures. And the objects of the pleasures of knowledge are real, the Ideas. Those that are objects of desire are only images. Therefore only the just man is happy. So one should pursue justice even if he could get away with injustice. In fact, he should pursue justice even if he came off worse in this life. COMMENT: S gives pleasure as reason for pursuing justice, not intrinsic morality. Nor do we say this world is not real - S thinks only the world of Ideas is fully real.
This last thought leads to book X, which opens with a long attack on mimesis (creative imitation). It is the ruin of hearer's minds, unless they know what things really are. In the world of Ideas there is the Idea of bed, in this world, a poor copy, but mimesis makes a poor imitation of the poor copy. Mimesis makes a rebellion within us, of contrary opinions, for things appear different from different angles. also, decent people try to restrain grief, which is contrary to reason. But the poets promote it in tragedy and get us to like it. It leads to perversity, makes people rejoice in ruin of heroes. So when we hear Homer is the teacher of Greece, it is not true.
The greatest reward of virtue of justice is in the next life, for the gods love and care for the just. Even in this life the just are eventually honored. But that is nothing to what they get from the gods. Virtue makes one as like to God as one can be!. (COMMENT:S here disagrees with the usual Greek notion that the gods are amoral).
Each things has its own natural evil, which destroys it. Injustice is the evil of the soul. But injustice does not destroy the soul, so the soul is immortal. COMMENT: Mixes categories .Injustice is in the moral category, the existence of soul is in the order of being.
Finally the myth of Er who came back to life, and described what things are like on the other side. Souls come before three Fates, and get the lot for the next lives. Each chooses his own destiny, according to how much of virtue he has. So prepare now. At the judgment the interpreter urges souls to choose well. Some even so choose badly, e.g., choose to be tyrants on earth. Then souls come to the river of Oblivion, Lethe ,and drink from the River of Neglectfulness, Amelete Potamon, and so forget what happened in the other world. They go to sleep ,wake up, born in this life again. Some men come back as beasts, some beasts as men.
Does the Republic really reflect the thought of Socrates? Probably yes in the first book and part of the second, where S is still groping, which seems to have been typical of him. But in the rest of the Republic he is usually almost cocksure, and promotes homosexuality, communism of wives and children.
III - Aristotle
1. Life: Aristotle was born at Stagira, a small town in the Chalcidice, in the northern Aegean. His father was Nicomachus, court physician to Amyntas, King of Macedonia. The fact that his father was a physician affected Aristotle. Probably he learned medicine and biology to some extent at an early age.
In 367 B.C. at the age of 17 he went to Plato's Academy,and stayed for twenty years as a pupil of Plato. This is the first of the three main periods for Aristotle, his intellectual development.
Plato died in 347. There were three candidates for the next head of the school: Aristotle, Xenocrates and Speusippus, Plato's nephew. We do not know who made the decision, but Speusippus was chosen. Both Aristotle and Xenocrates left Athens. Some suggest Aristotle was not chosen because he was not orthodox. He surely did reject the world of Ideas, which was central to Plato's thought. But unorthodoxy is not likely to be the reason. Speusippus also rejected the original form of the theory of Ideas. If the decisive thing were fidelity to Plato, Xenocrates should have been chosen. Perhaps the choice was determined by the desire to keep Plato's property in the family. For there were legal problems of making over the property of an Athenian citizen to a non-citizen of Athens, such as Aristotle. Yet, these difficulties did not prevent Xenocrates, another non-citizen, from becoming head later, the third head, after Speusippus.
We do not know the motives of A for leaving. Some say relations were strained, but there is no proof. Perhaps an outbreak of anti-Macedonian feeling in Athens after Philip of Macedonia sacked Olynthus in 348 was part of the reason. A circle of friends went with A, chief of them was his pupil,colleague and eventual successor, Theophrastus.
A went first to Assos in Asia Minor, on the invitation of Hermeias, ruler of Atarneus. This begins his second period, the period of travels. He was in various centers in Asia Minor and Macedonia. It was a period specially important for the development of his interests in the natural sciences. He was on excellent terms with Hermeias. He eventually married Pythias, some say the niece of Hermeias, or his adopted daughter, or sister. After three years at Assos he moved to Lesbos. Two years later, in 342, he was invited by Philip of Macedonia to be the tutor of his 14 year old son, Alexander.
The influence of A on Alexander, as tutor and later, seems slight. It has been suggested that Alexander collected and sent to Aristotle, during his second Athenian period, specimens of rare animals from Persia and India. Aristotle's nephew Callisthenes went with Alexander to Persia as his historian, but was executed on a charge of "treason" in 327. This must have hurt relations of A and Alexander. Actually, Aristotle died within 6 years of Alexander's first entry into the valley of the Indus. Callisthenes had flattered Alexander, presented everything A did as heroic. He wrote that when Alexander marched past Mt. Climax on the shore of Pamphylia, the waves withdrew, prostrating themselves before Alexander. He was executed for refusing to follow the Persian custom, which Alexander had adopted, of prostrating self before the king on state occasions.
A stayed in Macedonia until 335 when Alexander became king. Then A returned to Athens .This was his third period: 335-323. Xenocrates was head of the Academy by that time. A taught on his own in the Lyceum, a grove just outside Athens, used also by other teachers. Plato says Socrates used to go to that grove. The school may have been informal under A. Probably only after his death did it get extensive property and have legal status as a religious association.
A did coordinate the work of many philosophers and scientists in an unprecedently ambitious program of research in many fields.
When in 323 news reached Athens of the death of Alexander, there was an anti-Macedonian revolution. A was charged with impiety. He did not wait for a trial, but fled to Chalcis in Euboea, and is reported to have said he did it, "to save the Athenians from sinning twice against philosophy." He died there the next year at age 62.
2. Reference System in His works: In 1831 Immanuel Bekker in Berlin brought out an edition of Aristotle with pages numbered continuously throughout all volumes. These numbers are usually used for reference today, that is, after the book and chapter numbers, these marginal number will be given - a help against typos. He wrote broadly, on physics, chemistry of the four elements, meteorology, astronomy, zoology, psychology, logic, ethics, metaphysics, statecraft, the art of poetry, the art of rhetoric, and other things. These works are on the whole extant. We know he wrote some works we do not have now, his literary or exoteric works. Many of them were dialogues. Cicero and Quintilian speak of them as a "golden stream."
3. Ancient Editions: Our existing texts may have been A's notes for his own lectures - the more common opinion. Some think they were the work of a careful student who attended his courses. It is certain they were not composed for publication as they stand. Scant literary polish. Many digressions and repetitions.
In the second half of the first century B.C. Andronicus of Rhodes edited and published A's works. We do not know for certain what was their fate before this - some reports that his library went to Theophrastus, then to Neleus of Scepsis. But the heirs of Neleus seemed not interested, but hid them in a cellar to keep the Kings of Pergamum from getting them for their library. They were recovered in damaged condition by a bibliophile named Apellicon, who took them to Athens. When Sulla conquered Athens in 88 BC he sent the books to Rome. There they were poorly treated until Andronicus was put in charge. This seems not a very credible story.
4. Nichomachean Ethics:
1.3. He says Ethics is not an exact science since it is not speculative, but practical, and so does not use necessary deductions, but depends much on finding the (golden) mean between two extremes. That mean is relative also, i.e., courage should be greater for a soldier than for an ordinary man. And even some good things can be harmful. Yet he did hold to absolute principles, e.g., adultery, theft, and murder are not in the middle - they are always evil.
1.1. He stresses that all people aim at a goal when they act. Nature does it automatically, we do it consciously. We may seek a goal as a means to something further, or for its own sake. But there cannot be an endless string of things sought for something else: there must be a highest good. Good is what everyone aims at.
1.2. The highest goal should be self sufficient, making life lacking in nothing. The goal of the state is higher, more inclusive than that of individuals. So statecraft is higher than ethics. COMMENT: this could lead to totalitarianism. We, not he, can escape it by noting that every one has a goal still higher than that of the state,union with God. He also admired Sparta, a totalitarian state. And he thought the state should do more than just provide for what individuals cannot get by themselves: this could lead in the direction of totalitarianism, but might not.
1.6. Plato thought the highest good is the idea of Good. A tries to refute that with some very subtle reasons, that are not conclusive.
1.5.& 10.7. The highest good is really happiness, and actually, the happiness of intellectual contemplation of the truth.
1.7. Happiness is an activity of the highest virtue, intellectual virtue. This makes us most like the gods, for they have it constantly. But moral activity is not the highest, the gods do no practice it.
1.7 & 1.10. Happiness is not an habitual disposition, if it were, it could be found in one asleep. But in addition, we need sufficient material goods to make this contemplation possible and a full life-span.
1.4-5. Both philosophers and common people agree happiness is the goal, but disagree on what is happiness. Some say pleasure is it: but to follow pleasure, the whim of the moment, is a life fit for cattle.
10.4. He does poorly on analyzing pleasure, says it accompanies and in a way completes the activity of the healthy sense faculty exercised on a good object - compares it to the bloom of health in the young. But he should have said pleasure is a means to the goal of working better afterwards. He does say this of recreation in 10.6, does not broaden it enough.
1.13. There are two kinds of virtue, intellectual and moral.
2.1. We get intellectual virtue chiefly from teaching. Moral virtue comes from habit, from often acting in accord with it.
10.9. Theoretical reasoning moves some, but in general people need good rearing under good laws, such as those of Sparta! (A totalitarian state). The best test of moral virtue is whether we get pleasure or pain from carrying out virtue. Plato says we should be trained from the start of life to find pleasure and pain in the right things. There are three things that move us to act: real good, pleasure, expediency.
2.6. Moral virtue is marked by the relative mean, the right amount, not too much, not too little. Thus courage is between rashness and cowardice; temperance in pleasure is between profligacy and insensibility; gentleness in anger is between irascibility and apathy; generosity in giving money is between prodigality and stinginess; proper pride is between vanity and pettiness. But, as he said above, there are some things in which there is no golden mean, e.g., theft, murder, adultery. COMMENT: These exceptions show that the golden mean is not the real standard. A did not find it. Nor did he really see that our goal is union with God - he could not have reasoned to the possibility of the Beatific Vision, revelation is needed for that, but he could have seen a natural union with God. Plato did see a likeness to God as possible, and a welcome by the gods in the next life. A might have used his potency-act theory (cf. his Metaphysics 9.1) to say that moral good in action is the harmonious actualization of all the potencies in such a way that each gets its due, and no one potency gets so much as to hinder the fulfillment of the other potencies in the same person or in different persons.
3.1. Actions are: willing, non-willing, or unwilling. Willing or voluntary acts are those with the principle of action within the agent - so even animals can do willing acts, according to A. In non-willing acts, the principle is also from within, but the act is done through ignorance and later when information comes is NOT regretted. This type is neither fully voluntary nor fully involuntary. Unwilling acts are done either through ignorance which is later regretted, or are done under physical compulsion.
Ignorance of particulars may excuse, in varied degrees; but ignorance of the basic moral principles does not excuse. Everyone who is not blinded should know them. (Thus blinding can develop, as St. Paul explains in Romans 1).
7.2. Socrates said sin is ignorance, virtue is knowledge. A disagrees: the law does punish those who sin. Only an incontinent man thinks his behavior is not wrong, when his passion blinds him.
3.5. Negligence that is part of a man's character does not excuse: he is responsible for developing his character. Similarly ignorance coming from blindness does not excuse, e.g., in a drunk who does not know what he is doing.
3.4. In the abstract or in general, we wish for the real good, not the apparent good. But in practice, we go for what seems good. If the one who acts is a man of sound judgment, the spoudaios, real and apparent good will match.
3.2. Decisions of will made after deliberation are a better indication of character than one's actions. Thus, a man may decide to rob a bank, later give the project up. But he is guilty for that decision.
6.2-7. The mind has five faculties to reach truth: 1) the mind looks at something, sees first principles, so basic they cannot be proved; this is nous. 2) comparing two items from #1 we can reach a further conclusion; this is episteme. 3) If we gather together all conclusions reached by the above process we have wisdom, sophia, which knows the highest most basic principles of everything. 4) For acting, we need practical wisdom or prudence, which picks the best means for the ends we aim at: this is phronesis. 5) In some kinds of acting, that is, in making things, we need know-how or art: techne.
6.8. Much experience is needed for prudence, and so young men are weak on it. There is a natural cleverness, which if developed fully becomes full virtue of prudence. The natural, undeveloped form of virtues can grow independently of each other, but in the full virtue all grow together and in proportion. They are bound together by prudence.
8.2. We all need friends for happiness. Love is required between friends, it must be mutual, and known by both. There must be an exchange of benefits. To love is to will or wish good to another for the other's sake. So love is not a feeling: liking is an attitude of feeling, which is different from love.
8.3. There are three kinds of friendship, depending on the basis: real good, pleasure, utility. Only the first is real solid friendship.
8.7. There must be something like equality between the friends. If too much distance, no friendship is possible. So no friendship possible between a god and a man.
8.9. Friendship and the state both involve having things in common: koinonia, so each has claims and obligations. All forms of sharing are parts of the great sharing, which is the city-state polis.
8.10. There are three good, and three bad forms of constitutions of states: 1) monarchy is good if the ruler rules for the common good; it is tyranny if he rules for selfish ends. 2) aristocracy is good if the nobles rule for the common good; it is oligarchy if they rule for selfish ends; 3) politeia, constitutional government when all have votes is good if the votes are used for the common good; otherwise if used for selfish purposes it is democracy.
8.11. In perverted forms of government there is little scope for friendship or justice, for rulers and subjects have nothing in common. It is more like the relation of a craftsman to his tool. A master could have friendship with a slave in so far as he is a man, but not inasmuch as he is a slave, a living tool.
By this word A means the study of operating a state, or statecraft. He directed the writing of the constitutions of 158 Greek city-states. Probably not all were done before he wrote this work. He himself wrote only one extant part, the Constitution of Athens.
The reason for existence of a state is to provide for things individuals cannot get alone. But it exists not only to provide for basic needs, but for the requisites of the good life. [This opens the way to great abuses, in the direction of totalitarianism as experience shows]. A state must have a moral aim. This distinguishes it from an alliance, which is only for mutual protection. COMMENT: Building on this thought, he could have reasoned to a world state: just as nature wants men to form a state to provide for things individuals cannot provide for, so, when the world grows to such an extent that individual states cannot suffice for everything, e.g., peace and elimination of terrorists - there should be a world state to the extent needed. However, though theoretically it is called for, in practice it is impossible. For no basis of distribution of power within it would be workable. For example, if power depended on population size, China would rule; if money, perhaps the Arabs would rule. Then others would stay out.
States arose when several households formed a village, several villages formed a union (synoikismos) which became a city-state (polis). Man is by nature political. He alone forms societies. COMMENT: What of a bee hive?
Nature itself calls for the fact that some rule, others are ruled. Plants exist for animals, animals for man ,man's body for his soul. Women are naturally subject to men, and slaves to masters. In 1.5: "That some should rule and others be ruled is not only necessary but beneficial. From birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule." A slave can follow out rational plans, but cannot make them. Accidentally, some become slaves through war who should be free.
A state is made up of persons dissimilar in birth, wealth, virtue, and yet it is a unity. The state should not try to level all differences. Good government needs the rule of law, as against the rule of men. Individuals can be swayed by emotions. The laws provide general rules: the magistrates should adjust or fill in on the details. Laws should be for the good of all, not just the ruling class.
We already saw the several kinds of constitutions in Ethics 8.10. Here he adds that the best constitution is one in which every man can act best and live in happiness. Happiness depends on virtuous (intellectual) activity. So the extent to which a man is capable of happiness ,depends upon his capability for practicing virtue. Only citizens can practice the virtues of statesman and philosophers, and so only they can be happy. A child is not happy: at his age he is not capable of intellectual contemplation of truth.
A does not look for the best imaginable state, as Plato did, but the best that would be workable. There should be a natural limit of size, no more citizens than can be addressed at a single assembly . [He has in mind direct, not representative democracy]. If the state became too large, metics, resident aliens, might get rights, would be hard to detect them. COMMENT: Citizenship depended on religion, and religion by birth. One could not be a citizen without being a member of the state religion. Not enough to be willing to be a convert. Very hard to get citizenship in a state where one was not born. He notes Greek states had a hard time controlling size. This led to poverty, revolution, crime. So he favors abortion and killing deformed children.
The size of the land should be enough to produce all the state needs. Greek cities needed little but timber, stone and metal. It may export and import, but should not become a market center. It needs access to the sea. It should have a healthful climate and good water, and should face east. It should be fortified with walls heavy enough for the new siege machinery.
Democracy and oligarchy are both in error. The democrats consider all are equal - when they are really equal only in free birth. Oligarchs think men are unequal in all because they are unequal in wealth. A state should take into account all qualities: wealth, birth, and especially moral and intellectual virtue. It should give favors and goods according to merit, so that those superior in virtue should get more.
There are many functions within a state: Farmers for food; artisans and craftsmen for manufacturing; merchants for trade; soldiers for peacekeeping; well to do citizens for wealth; priests for religious services; prudent men to rule; serfs to provide leisure for others to engage in contemplation of the truth.
Some occupations are incompatible with the life of a citizen: those of a farmer, artisan, trader. These occupations prevent the leisure needed for the good life. The best arrangement is that some should have functions at varied times of life: In physical prime, they can be soldiers; after the prime, can be rulers, who need wisdom, which comes only after physical prime. In old age they can be priests. Within the ruling class, they should take turns at power.
Education is needed for the ruling class. He who is to rule must first learn to obey. Nature herself made the distinction. The young do not mind being ruled or think self better: they will have the same privileges later in life. The state should set the age for marriage, physical condition of parents, should decide on exposure of infants, and the duration of marriage.
There should be physical training from infancy, to make them fit for military service. Reading, writing, and drawing should be taught for their practical value. Gymnastics [The word stands for any form of bodily training; music means those things that pertain to the Muses.] Music should be for recreation, but not just as amusement. Good also for moral discipline and rational enjoyment. It makes men better critics. But in ripe age, one should give it up. Men should not be professional musicians or learn difficult instruments.
Some types of music are by nature adapted to promote various interior attitudes. The Dorian mode is best; the Phrygian is bad. The Lydian may be helpful.
COMMENTS: 1.Dr.John Diamond, a New York psychiatrist, according to Twin Circle, July 22, 1979 studied more than 20,000 recordings of various types of music, and found that rock music with a stopped, anapestic beat could be stressful and depressing. He said it was found in over half the top record hits in any given week. It consists of two short beats and one long beat. He found that muscle strength drops more than half while a person listens to records with that rhythm. Also that beat interferes with brain wave patterns and causes mental stress. Sounds that are too loud can cause permanent damage to ears, which cannot be repaired.
2. A shows limitations and narrowness from fourth century beliefs, when he says that slavery is natural, that the life of a farmer, craftsman or trader is not suitable for citizens. He shows bias against barbarians who naturally should be slaves. The actual city-state of the 4th century is his model. He has no world vision like Alexander.
3. He did not foresee much progress in political institutions or in the crafts. In 2.5 he said that almost everything has been found out. And in 7.9 he thinks that things have been invented several times over in the course of ages, but lost in great cataclysms. This reminds us of Plato, Laws 3.677 which speaks of traditions of deluges. Herodotus in Histories 2.142 says that the Egyptian priests told him that in a span of something over 11,000 years, the place of the rising of the sun had changed four times. This reminds us of I. Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision ,who thought what is now the planet Venus was a celestial body that strayed into the solar system, made a close pass at the earth, causing its rotation to reverse, and finally settled down as a planet.
4. The chief merit of his Politics is seeing how political science can be studied empirically,a nd stressing the fact that states exist for the common interest, and the need of moral character for states. In 1.2 he said that man when perfected is the most noble of animals, but without law and justice man is the worst, the most unscrupulous and bestial of animals, going beyond other animals in lust and gluttony.
5. He tended toward totalitarianism in his admiration of Sparta, and in saying in Ethics 1.2 that the goal of the state is higher and more inclusive than that of individuals. Similarly in Politics 8.1 he says, "we should not suppose that any one of the citizens belongs to himself. They all belong to the state, are part of it, and the are of each part is inseparable from the care of the whole."
6. Physics and Metaphysics:
(Because of the close connections, we will make a synthesis of his thought on both Physics and Metaphysics. The name Metaphysics was given by Andronicus of Rhodes, the first editor, who put the Metaphysics after the Physics, i.e, meta. -- We will indicate the source of each item with P for Physics, and M for Metaphysics).
M 2.1: The search for truth is in a way hard, in a way easy. No one gets it all, but collectively we do not miss altogether. It is difficult because our eyes are dazzled by what is in itself most evident, most true [the self-evident things].
M 1.1: The joy we find in sensation shows we naturally desire knowledge. There are degrees of understanding: 1) Sense perception; 2) memory: memory plus sense perception makes animals more able to learn. In men, memory leads to experience; 3) Experience is formed in men out of repeated impressions. It leads to true knowledge, episteme. Animals instead must use imagination plus memories; 4) True knowledge, episteme ,arises out of experience. It is a more general knowledge, speculative and practical; 5) art, techne is practical know-how, coming from many experiences.
P 1.1: There are two ways to begin to search: a) with what is most evident to us, the data of perception, or b) with what is most knowable in itself, the basic principles, self-evident things. He says he will chose the former, as most practical. Actually he chooses b.
M 6.1: There are three related sciences. Physics deals with all material things, all of which are capable of change. Mathematics deals with objects that are incapable of change, and that are only mentally, not actually separable from matter. Metaphysics has objects that are incapable of change, and are actually separable from matter. Note: He repeats this in M 6.1. and adds that to show what a thing is (its essence), is part of the same inquiry as to show that it is (its existence). Sadly, A did not follow up to see that essence and existence are related as potency and act - more on those soon.
M 4.2 and 5.8: He is unclear and confused. He first says that the word being is used in several ways, in analogous senses to apply to substances or concrete things ,modifications of substances, things on the way to being substance, corruptions or qualities or privations of substances, things productive of substance. He adds that the word ousia [can mean either being or substance] has two chief senses:1)the ultimate subject which cannot be predicated of something else; 2) whatever has individual and separate existence, having its own shape and form. COMMENT: This is part of his problem coming from not having recognized that essence and existence are a special case of potency and act. He should have said: Everything that is, is being. Logically,there must first be the capacity for being (potency,essence) then could come the fulfillment of that capacity (act, existence).
P 1.8: Parmenides said all is one being, and there is no change. But he missed the distinction between a) absolute nonbeing, nothing and b) incidental nonbeing, which is privation, the lack of something that should be there. By this means A showed there is a difference within being, and implies the solution to the dilemma of Parmenides.
P 4.11: Time is a special kind of change. It is a measure of change, on a scale of before and after.
P 1.2: The basic principles of physical things are more than one, and their number is either finite or infinite.
Physics takes for granted, from observation, that there is more than one being, and that there is change - against Parmenides. Also, if everything were one, there could be no principles, for principles cover many things. COMMENT: Here he clearly rejects pantheism, in which there is only one being, God.
P 1.4: The principles are pairs of opposites, such as hot/cold, wet/dry. This works well for the basic principles should not be derived from anything else, nor from each other, but all else should be derived from them. A pair of opposites fills this bill. Heat comes from cold; but cultured does not come from cold but from uncultured.
P 1.6: The basic principles cannot be infinite in number - then nature would be unknowable, but we do know it. [He misses a point. Our knowledge of nature is real but not entirely complete. So the principles are not infinite for that reason, not for the reason he gives]. So there is more than one principle, but the number is not infinite. It seems there should be more than two, for opposites, such as heat and cold, do not act on each other, but on a third thing, a substrate.[Here he is thinking of heat and cold as both positive, and does not think cold could be the privation of heat]. But we could also make them only two by saying there is a substrate plus heat, and make cold the privation of heat. [Here he shifts framework, and treats cold, rightly, as the privation of heat].
COMMENT: He has two ways of exploring - via pairs of opposites, as he has just done, or by the four causes and potency/act, which he now begins.
P 2.3: The four causes: [He uses the Greek word aitia, which covers whatever should be mentioned to give a complete explanation. English is narrower, would include only items 3 and 4, not 1 and 2). 1) Material cause: that out of which something is made, e.g., the steel of a saw; 2) formal cause, the distinguishing characteristics of a saw that are given to the steel. This cause generally includes all factors that make up the definition of a thing, i.e., the saw shape; 3) efficient cause, the immediate propelling factor, which pushes or pulls, i.e., the smith who makes the saw; 4) final cause, the purpose for which it is made, a saw is made to cut wood.
He notes further that causes can be mutual, can work on each other, but in different modes, e.g, health and exercise in which health is the goal or final cause, exercise is the efficient cause.
Further, there are 3 pairs of causes: 1) prior or posterior: the more inclusive is prior, e.g., expert is a more inclusive term than physician, who is one kind of expert; 2) essential or incidental: a statue is made essentially by a sculptor, i..e, the man inasmuch as he is sculptor, not in as much as he is a man. As man he is the incidental cause. Essential can also be called proper; 3) actual or potential. A house is made by an actual builder, not by a potential builder.
P 2.7: Causes can coincide with each other. Formal and final causes can coincide, for the nature or form indicates what a thing can be used for. Efficient and formal causes can coincide in physical things, e.g., a rabbit can beget a rabbit, since the rabbit has rabbit form. A rabbit never begets a chipmunk, for rabbit lacks chipmunk form.
P 2.4-6: Luck and Chance: A uses luck to mean something that serves a human purpose, or what would have been a human desire if thought of. Chance covers the same sort of thing in relation to the unconscious purposiveness of nature. Chance in Greek then always means a favorable outcome - in English it could be either favorable or unfavorable.
Both chance and luck come from their causes incidentally, not properly, in the sense that there is no cause programmed to produce chance or luck events.
M 6.2. Accidentals: Somewhat similar is the accidental, that which just happens to happen. Accidental things do come from potencies, but there is no potency programmed to produce an accidental. That would have to be a random potency, and there is none. COMMENT: This implies a denial of causality: the accidentals have no cause, he would think. Einstein reacted against this sort of proposal, which quantum physics also makes, by saying: God does not roll dice.
P.2.8: Nature does aim at a goal, hence it is called purposive or telic (Greek telos means purpose). Empedocles tried to say nature acts by necessity, and is not aimed at a goal: rain falls because vapor rises, is cooled, falls back as rain. But rain may help or may ruin crops, and so, he says, nature is not aimed at a goal. A replies: there is still so much regularity and constancy in natural things that nature does aim, unconsciously, at a goal, even though there are some failures. Were Empedocles right, it would be a matter of random chance what would come up if we planted an apple seed.
P 1.7: Matter and form; substance and accident: there are two kinds of change ,deep change or substantial change, and accidental or shallow change. In each, something stays, something shifts. In substantial change, first matter stays, substantial form is changed, e.g., I eat hamburger which has cow form, the cow form is replaced by my form, but I keep the first matter. In accidental change substance stays, the accidents shift, e.g., if we change the color of something.
M.9.1: Potency and act: If we travel from one place to another, we first have the capacity, or potency; then if the trip happens, the potency is filled, fulfilled, actualized. But the same pattern shows when any change is made: first potency, then act or perfection of the potency.
Potency and act are metaphysical components of things e.g., in substantial change, first matter remains, but it keeps its ability to take on new substantial forms. Special cases are: a) first matter, which is 100% potency, with no actuality at all, and substantial form; b)substance, which is part potency, part act, and accidents, which fulfill the substance; c)essence or nature, the capacity to be something, and existence, its fulfillment. Thus Greeks thought of and described Centaurs, but that nature or essence never reached existence.
He at times speaks of active potencies, which can produce change; passive potencies receive change. Above, and ordinarily, we mean passive potencies.
P 2.1: Motion is the functioning of a changeable thing in actualizing the potency a thing has inasmuch as it is potency (or: qua potency). This is his language. It is simple: change or motion (he has one word for both) is the actualizing of a potency, inasmuch as it is still not fully actualized, or, is still potential. For there can be degrees of actualization.
M 9.9: There are good and bad potencies. A good actuality is better than a good potency. But in bad things, the actuality is worse than the mere potency to be bad.
P 3.1: A thing cannot be both actual and potential in the same respect at the same time, e.g., a glass cannot be at the same time full and empty. But outside these limits, things can act on something, and at the same time be acted on by another thing.
P 8.3: Some things move at times, at times are at rest. Observation shows that not everything is always at rest, as Parmenides claimed. And observation shows that not everything is always changing, as Heraclitus said. An objection is raised by the followers of Heraclitus: some changes are too small to see, so there could always be change in spite of observation. A replies: We can see it when a stone dropped off a roof stops falling.
P 8.1: Eternal motion: A thinks the stars and other things in the sky are attached to various (about 50 of them) spheres in the sky, which always have been moving and always will be moving. So his use of the word eternal is different from ours, his use implies time. Our use of eternal means the condition of God in which all is present to Him, no change, and so no past, and no future.
First proof: We imagine two slides projected. In the first, we see no beings - they are nonexistent. In the second we see beings in existence and changing. Where is the first change? It might seem to be in frame 2. But no, before frame two the cause that is behind the motion must have started to produce the change. So there is a cause before the first cause - which is absurd. So some beings have always been in change. COMMENT: Instead of saying there would have to be a cause before the first cause, we should change the numbers and call the two stages first and second stages. So his proof is worthless.
Second proof: All thinkers - except Plato - agree time is eternal. But, time is either motion or the measure of motion. So motion is eternal. COMMENT: He tries to use an argument from authority - which is inadmissible in philosophy. And he leaves out the greatest authority of the time period!
Third proof: Time is a now or includes a now. But a now presupposes something before and after it - and so on ad infinitum. COMMENT: A now ,a moment, need not have anything before it. Time, the measure of change, started when change started, with creation - of which A. knows nothing.
P 8.7: Eternal motion must be locomotion: There are three kinds of motion or change: change of quantity, change of quality, change of place (locomotion). Quantitative change presupposes change of quality, as in the assimilation of food. Qualitative change presupposes that the moving cause comes closer. This is locomotion.
P 8.9: Eternal motion must be locomotion in a circle: We consider: rotation, rectilinear motion, or a combination. Of course, the combination presupposes the two others. But rectilinear motion cannot continue without many turnings back, for a straight line cannot be infinite, since the diameter of the spherical universe is finite. Therefore rotation is logically presupposed to the other two. So eternal locomotion is rotation, motion in a circle, as in the spheres in the sky.
M 2.2: No infinite regress: There cannot be an infinite chain of causes behind things: 1) Material causes: if a thing is made out of something, there must be an ultimate thing out of which such things are made; 2) Efficient causes: if #1 is moved by #2 and #2 by #3 and so on there must be an ultimate cause to support the movement. COMMENT: This could lead to proof of existence of God. A does believe in God, but does not reach it this way. We could do it thus: "Since when a potency is actualized, some emptiness or capacity is filled or fulfilled, there is more being at the end or top of the process. If I cause a change, where did I get the added being that appears? Perhaps I had it some where within me, but if so: where did that part of me get it? So I look outside myself for a source. I may find a long or short chain of sources/causes, but if each had to get up from potency to act, we must still ask: Where did that cause get the added being? No one lifts self off the floor by pulling up on shoelaces. We cannot give ourselves what we do not have. So we have to come to a Cause that does not have to get up to actuality: it is Pure Act. This is God. 3) Final causes: If there were not really a final final cause, there would be no intermediate causes, for their goodness and attractiveness have to come from the final final cause. The means are means to the end, which that final final is. 4) Formal causes: The formal cause is also the essence. And a full definition will list all the things that make up the formal cause. So we can say: since the first definition in a series is the fuller and the truer, if there were no such definition, there would be no later ones. COMMENT: Commentators disagree on what he means by the fuller definition.
P 8.5. There is an Unmoved Mover: This means a Mover that does not travel or undergo any sort of change in causing change. So, when an agent moves, it is either the ultimate responsible agent or not. There cannot be infinite regress, as we just saw. So there must be an ultimate mover, needing no other mover as source of its motion. That is the Unmoved Mover, the First Cause, God.
M. 12.6: Nature of the Unmoved Mover: Something potentially moving would not account for eternal motion, for a potency may not be actualized. Something merely moving as a matter of fact is not enough, if it contains any potency - for the potency may not be actualized. Therefore the Unmoved Mover must have no potency, must be Pure Act. COMMENT: This is true. We used a better way to reach it above in our addition to his ideas on no infinite regress in efficient causes. We saw it had to be Pure Act, no potency at all in it. We add now: a being with no potency is without limit, for potency is not only capacity but also limit. So the Unmoved Mover is Infinite. Again, since matter is potency, and the Unmoved Mover has no potency, He must be spiritual, not material. Further, since time is a measure of change, and He is incapable of change - potency is needed for change - therefore He is outside time, and all things a present to Him: no past, no future. He is in eternity in the strict sense, not the loose sense Aristotle uses, of something that always has moved, always will move.
Sadly, A next raises a difficulty: Everything that functions has a potency, but not everything that has a potency functions. So, potentiality is logically presupposed to actuality, and so there need not be any reality at all. He tries to reply by saying: If we accept the statements of Hesiod, who says all came from Night, or Anaxagoras, who says all came from chaos, there would be no actual cause for motion. COMMENT: This is pitiful, he drags in even a poet Hesiod, and has no answer. Really, he should have said: The only being whose existence is necessary is God - all else is contingent, would not have to exist. But God decided to create. A knew nothing of creation, although his arguments showing no infinite regress in material causes could have led him to it (we saw it from M.2.2 recently above).
M 12.7. He continues replying to the objection he raised in the second part of 12.6: So, our answer must be right, otherwise we would have to say things came out of night, chaos, or nonbeing. COMMENT: Yes, things did come out of nonbeing, were created out of nothing. Here he rejects the possibility of creation. But then he continues: So there is something eternally moving, in unceasing circular motion. That which produces this motion is itself in motion, and so is the intermediate ,not the ultimate mover. But since there is no infinite regress, as we saw above, there must be an Ultimate Mover, which is without motion or change - otherwise we would have to regress further. COMMENT: Here he is quite right, there is an Ultimate Mover, which is God. But he will get into trouble when he now continues:
How does it cause movement? It does so as an a object of desire and thought. It is the final cause, the goal. COMMENT: Here is a sad mistake. He needs something to account for the movement of everything else, he says it is the Ultimate Mover. But he has been speaking of efficient causes. Only they turn wheels, cause change or movement. But he jumps the track, and says the Ultimate Mover is a final cause. Why did he do this? Because in his world, he could not find or imagine anything that could cause change or movement without undergoing some movement or change itself at the same moment. Even if he could have pictured a God who could cause movement/change by merely willing it, A would probably have said: There are two moments: first the Mover has not yet willed to cause motion/change; second, He does will it. So there is a change in Him. Hence A could not have accepted this idea. But we can do what he could not do. God can indeed cause things by merely willing it. But there are not two moments in Him, He, having no potency, cannot change, and so is not in time - for time is a measure of change/motion .So, all the acts or decisions of His will are always there, eternal, identified with His being. He can order something to happen at any point He wills on the time scale. But His act of will simply IS, eternal, without change. He adds a fine sentence:
The life of this Mover is like the best, which we have only at times. For He is always in the state of contemplation of truth, thought. Further, thinking deals with what is best in itself, and the highest kind of thinking deals with what is best in the highest sense, which is thought. So, thought is the object of His thought. He thinks about thinking! COMMENT: Sad again, then God would know nothing outside of Himself. But in M 12.10 he adds that the order in an army depends on the General. This would imply that the order in the world depends on God, so He would know all things in the world. A never resolved this difficulty.-- Historically, when people try to find out HOW God knows things, they run into foolish conclusions. Thus Plotinus says that the One is unconscious: if He had a thought, there would be a duality, He and His thought. Some so-called Thomists says God cannot know anything except by causing it. But that would make Him like a blind man, who knows a chair is moving only if and because he is moving it. St. Thomas Aquinas knew better. When he asks how God can know future contingents, things involving a free decision, he always recurs to eternity, to make the future free decisions present. For as future, they have no existence in advance, nor are there causes lined up to intersect and cause the decision - then it would not be free. Now there would be no need to explain carefully that eternity makes things present if all Thomas would have had to say was: God knows the future because He plans to cause it. For a full discussion, and the actual texts of St. Thomas, with analysis, see Wm. G. Most, New Answers to Old Questions, St. Paul Publications, London, 1971, §§ 458-479.
Really, we must just say God is transcendent, above and beyond all our categories and classifications.
P 8.6. The Unmoved Mover is eternal, otherwise there would not be eternal motion. But: Could a series of beings, coming in and out of existence suffice? He says: No, a cause would be needed to make them, and they would not account for the continuity of movement. COMMENT: Yes, God the Unmoved Mover is eternal, but not in the sense A has in mind, which is a time sense: always has been moving, always will. God simply IS, no past, no future. He continues:
There is probably only one Unmoved Mover, since if a finite explanation suffices, it is better. COMMENT: This is sad again. He did not know the Unmoved Mover is infinite, and so there could not be two, they would coincide. He was also affected by astronomy, for he says also in M.12.6 that the number of movers should be investigated by the aid of that branch of mathematics which is closest to philosophy, i.e., astronomy. Astronomy in his day held for many spheres in the sky, onto which the sun, moon, stars and planets are attached. It is not easy to be sure what number A held for, probably 55, perhaps 49. With the requirements has laid down for an Unmoved Mover - must not undergo any movement or change in causing movement - he should have seen that the spheres in the sky are not Unmoved Movers.
P 8.10. Does the Unmoved Mover have Size? He says he cannot have infinite size, for there is no such thing - he thinks he proved that in Physics 3.5. But it cannot have finite size either, for a finite agent would not be able to exert unlimited force, or keep things in motion for unlimited, eternal time. So the Unmoved Mover must have no size, be indivisible, without parts. COMMENT: He is very close here to seeing that the Unmoved Mover is spiritual. We can see that by noting that He has no potency. But matter, first matter is pure potency. With no potency, He has no matter, is spiritual.
7. Beyond Aristotle in Physics and Metaphysics:
Aristotle's principles are very fruitful, and can even help in the understanding of Scripture. Here are some further developments beyond what he was able to see:
a) Distinction of Potency and Act: A did not bring out that they are really,not just mentally, distinct from each other. For a passive potency, a capacity,limits what perfection it can receive. Now if potency and act were really identical, then the more perfect or actual a thing would be, the more limited it would be. That is nonsense,for act is perfection and potency is limit.
b) God is Infinite: With the above conclusion in mind, we can see that God is Infinite. We say, and A saw it too, that He is Pure Act, no potency. So, no limit, infinite.
c) Essence and Existence: A saw two special pairs of potency-act, namely, matter-form; substance-accident. But he missed the important pair: essence-existence. (He once had a hint of it in Metaphysics 6.1, as we saw above). Essence is the whatness of a thing, approximately, its nature. But does that essence reach actual existence? In all creatures, since they do not have to exist - their existence is not necessary - essence need not reach existence, e.g., the case of a centaur.
But a Being that is necessary, that has no potency, will have identification of essence and existence: its essence or nature is to exist. We think of the words of God to Moses in Exodus 3.14: "I am."
d) First Cause is Efficient, not just Final: We saw above that A left his reasoning incomplete in speaking of the chain of efficient causes. He did see that a creature-cause that acts must get its power to act from another, for it is not the ultimate source of that power. (In other words: there is a rise from potency to act in which new being appears. Where does the extra come from? It is really from creation). So we come to a First Cause, which is the Ultimate Source. Sadly, he made it a final cause instead of an efficient cause. But a final cause turns no wheels. We saw above how to correct A's deficiency.
e) Dependence: All creatures need this Pure Act to actualize their potency for existence, e.g.,to bring them into existence.
f) More Dependence: When any creature acts that is, as we saw, a passage from potency to act. But we add: there is a passage from potency to act for the movements of heart, lungs, etc. The same holds for getting a good thought.
g) Free Decisions: When I make a free decision of my will, that too is a rise from potency to act, which must depend, ultimately, on the movement from Pure Act.
Is this compatible with freedom? Yes. We could explain this way: Suppose a movement from Pure Act is offered me (directly or through a chain of causes) to move my free will to a decision. I cannot make an act of acceptance - that involves a rise from potency to act. But experience shows I can reject it, can do wrong. (More on how this happens presently).
So here is the way to visualize things: A movement from the First Cause causes actualizes the potency of my mind to see something He would like to lead me to do or accept. At the same time, almost automatically, it actualizes the potency of my will, not as far up as a decision, but as far as a favorable attitude. But when this is in place, suppose I simply do nothing against it, in the precise juncture when I could reject? Then the Pure Act orders the movement to go into phase 2. In it, it is producing the free decision of my will, yet in such a way that I am acting along with it, by power being received at the same instant from the movement.
So I do control the outcome, but I do it by means of a metaphysical zero, by non-rejection. Some object: This is the same as a good decision. But no: a positive decision involves a rise form potency to act - non-rejection does not. It is merely the lack of a decision, an ontological zero.
We return to the matter of rejecting, which experience shows is in my power. But there is a problem. To reject has to involve a decision, a movement from potency to act. For this I need the First Cause, Pure Act. How can that be done?
Let us recall the picture. At the start, the movement from Pure Act actualized the potency of my mind to see something as good, and actualized the potency of my will, not up to a decision, but only to a favorable attitude. Suppose then, when this has been done, and I see it, it does not please me? Then the favorable attitude collapses, in other words, the actualization of my will as far up as a favorable attitude collapses, falls down to potency .This is enough to serve as a critical condition. If it appears, the First Cause will actualize the potency of my will to reject.
h) Help in understanding Scripture. Many translations weaken 2 Cor 3.5 and Phil 2.12-13. They should be rendered, in 2 Cor: "Not that we are sufficient to think anything by ourselves as from ourselves; our sufficiency is from God"; and in Phil 2.12-13: "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works [produces] in you both the will and the doing." As to the good thought, we saw it needs the First Cause to cause the rise from potency to act. So too for the good decision of will. God will cause this decision in us provided we non-reject, as explained above.
The first part of Phil 2.12-13 urges us to work out our salvation "with fear and trembling". That phrase, "fear and trembling" is stereotyped, as a comparison with other NT passages shows. It merely means "with great respect."
Why with great respect? Because when we do good, we are using God's own power to act. But, more frightening, when we do evil, we also need the movement of the First Cause. We are actually using His power to do evil. The evil does not come from Him. He provides the power, we provide the specification to evil.
Incidentally the Second Council of Orange in 529 AD, in canons 4 and 7 (DS 374 and 377) defined the sense of these two passages of St. Paul. It was a local Council, but because of the special approbation by Pope Boniface II, its canons are equal to those of a General Council. Most modern translations simply ignore the Canons of this council.
8. Psychology: A means here the study of soul, different from the matter of modern psychology.
1.1: Why study soul? We study soul because all knowledge is beautiful, and especially that which is more exact and deals with more excellent objects. Study of soul rates high on both counts.It is the principle (arche) of animal life.
We want to know under what class of things soul falls, is it a particular substance, quantity, quality or something else. Are all souls of the same kind? Is there one definition for all souls?
1.5: Is soul made up of the four elements? The soul is not composed of the four elements, earth, air, fire, water. Some think it is, saying that since like is known by like, the soul needs something of all four elements. But A replies: Yes, but the soul also knows combinations and proportions of elements, so it should have all these, including a stone and a man. COMMENT: His argument is invalid, for a color TV tube, having electron guns for the primary colors, can make all colors. That "principle" that like is known by like is false, but it must have been around in his day. He probably does not hold it himself.
2.2: What is life? Life connotes intelligence, sensation, spatial movement, and ability to take on nutrition. If any of these is present, we call things alive. COMMENT: He knows what "connotes" life, but does not try to define life itself.
2.3: Levels of soul: There seem to be various levels of soul: plants have only nutrition, other things add sensation, animals have at least one sense (if only one, it would be touch). (When he tries to specify which is most basic, he sometimes mentions ability to take nutrition, sometimes speaks of reproduction).
1.1: Survival after death: (We return to this chapter for very different matter). It seems that in most cases soul neither acts nor is acted upon without the involvement of the body. If there is an exception, it is thinking. But if thinking needs mental images, it too will depend on the body. If it needs the body for everything, then the soul might be comparable to the straightness of a line, which cannot exist without the line. (In 1.4 he will add: If the soul could be destroyed, it probably would be destroyed by the feebleness of old age. But what really happens in old age seems parallel to what happens to eyes in old age. If an old man could get new eyes, he would see as well as a young man. This seems to imply the soul is ageless). COMMENT: Here he is making an approach to survival after death:is there something the soul can do without the body? But if images are needed, body will be needed. In 3.7-8 he will return to the point, and say that both speculative and practical thought need images. This would imply no survival is possible. He does not draw the conclusion. He is right that practical thought, aimed at action, needs images, e.g., a diver taking off from the board must have an image of what he intends to do. But no image is needed for abstract concepts, such as that of justice, truth, goodness,or even that of dog.
2.1. Soul is the form of the body: There are three kinds of things: matter, form, and the combination of the two. Matter is potentiality; form is actuality. Every natural body has both matter and form. So it is evident that the body is the matter, the soul is the form. So: Soul is the substantial form of a natural body which has the potency for life. Soul actualizes that potency and so makes it alive. COMMENT: 1) He does not take up the question of whether soul is a different and independent substance from that of the body. If the two differ as potency and act, however, they would seem to be rather different. 2)There is a problem here. First matter has no characteristics at all. But in conception, two living things, ovum and sperm, unite, and each does have characteristics. Only this union brings human life. Could there be one form for the matter following upon another?
1.1: Body-soul relationships: (Still another, related, problem about soul/body relationship). It seems that all the "affections" [modifications, pathe] of the soul - anger, fear, pity, etc. are always accompanied by bodily counterparts. Evidence: when the body is not aroused or worked up, a thought that might bring fear or anger may cause little or no arousal; but when the body is already worked up, perhaps by a different emotion, small causes may bring emotions. COMMENT: 1) Modern psychology knows there are two elements to an emotion, the bodily changes (chiefly biochemistry) and the mental interpretation. Very similar or same biochemistry may serve for two emotions, such as fear and anger. But the mental interpretation makes the difference: If I see before me something that is threatening, the interpretation is fear; if something outrageous, the interpretation is anger. So A can say that when strong chemistry is already present, a small stimulus may bring a large effect, e.g., if someone is very angry, he may more easily fall into fear if the stimulus for fear appears. 2) Modern psychology also knows of somatic resonance: because we are made of two things, body and soul, and the two are so closely joined as to add up to one person, therefore if there is a condition on either side, there should be - for normal running, not just for survival of the thing - a parallel on the other side, which is called a resonance. When the resonance is on the bodily side (most usual) it is called somatic resonance. For example, love is in the spiritual will, a desire or will for the well-being of another for the other's sake. But normally in human affairs, feeling or chemistry will be the somatic resonance; any feeling from the nonsexual response of parents to their own children, to the overtly sexual response of mates. A seems to sense something of this sort of relationship too. More on this in the section below on Beyond Aristotle in Psychology.
1.4: Can the soul be moved? (We return to this chapter for still different matter). He asks: Can the soul be moved? [First he has in mind locomotion, for his word for movement covers both locomotion and other kinds of change]. He says no, the soul does not go from place to place. At most it moves from place to place incidentally, like the color on a ball when the ball is thrown.
[Then he asks about other kinds of changes, and becomes a bit confused, for he does not distinguish feelings from other changes. He says the soul itself does not become angry. But then he asks about thinking, loving, etc. He says these are not movements of the soul but of the organism that has a soul. We reply that since love is an attitude of a soul, willing good to another for another's sake, yes the soul can be changed or moved in that sense].
One of the two information gathering powers: sensation (the other is intellect):
2.12: Sense and sense organ: In sensation we receive the sensible form without receiving the matter, a wax tablet takes the imprint of a gold signet ring without taking the gold. The sense organ is that which has a potency to receive sense impressions. Sense organ, and sense potency are one in reality, but mentally we distinguish them. The organ takes up space, and is a compound of potency and act, the potency is mere potency, takes up no space.
This potency comes from a certain ratio (logos) in the organ. It is really a balance (mesotes) in a middle position between opposite qualities. The potency is not determined in any direction. If it were, it would color what is received. The sense stimulus is like a harmony in relation to the ratio. So, excesses in the objects of sense can damage the sense organ. Excessively loud sounds do damage hearing.
3.2: Common actualization of two potencies: The potency of the sense to perceive, and the potency of the object to be perceived share a single common actualization.
2.6: Three kinds of sense objects: 1) Objects special or proper to a particular sense,e.g.,color to sight. Perceived directly and properly, not just incidentally. [A thinks there is a one to one correspondence, each sense has one proper object, and no other sense can pick that object up properly, only incidentally]. 2) The common sensibles, which are perceptible to all the senses, but not proper to any one of them: common to all. These include: movement, rest, number, figure, size etc. They are perceived properly and directly, not just incidentally, not by each individual sense, but by the complex of the work of several senses. 3)Incidental objects: these are not perceived directly, e.g., the fact that this white object which we perceive is the son of Socrates. Sonship is not perceived directly and properly, but only incidentally.
Each sense in judging its own proper object is not deceived. [in 3.3. he will say: there is a minimum of error]. The proper sensibles are the most strictly perceptible, being adapted each to a special sense.
3.1: How we know the common sensibles? We register them only incidentally through each individual sense acting alone. We register them properly through the complex of the five senses. Yet there is no proper organ for the common sensibles. If there were, we would violate the one to one correspondence. But there is an aisthesis koine, a common or joint functioning of the senses. He means not an organ, but a process. The data seems to be integrated by a center. In his small work, On Youth and Old Age 4692) he seems to say the center is in the heart.
2.5: In sensation is like known by like? To see if this is true, we ask: Why do we not perceive the senses themselves, i.e., why do they not cause sensation without an external object - for, according to that theory, they contain fire, earth etc. Reply: the faculty of sensation if we consider it as a potency rather than as an organ, has no actual, only potential existence. So just as fuel does not burn by itself without an external kindling agent, so these senses need an outside object. While a thing is being acted upon, it is unlike the thing that acts on it. When it has been acted upon it is like, not just that both are actual or even that they share a common actualization (as in 3.2) but that the sense takes on the form of the object. COMMENT: A is a bit confused here. We can consider the power of sensation either as organ or as potency or as both. If we choose for a time to think of only one, of potency, this does not destroy the reality that there are both. Really, he should have said: This like known by like theory should result in the senses buzzing all the time, since they have the 4 elements in them. They do not do that, so the theory is false.
When we deal with an object proper to two senses, e.g., a sweet white pill, two senses each handle their proper objects. The data is fed into the soul.
3.2: How do we perceive that we perceive? That is, how do I see that I see, etc.? A.says we see that we see either by the sense of sight, or by some other sense. So it must be that we do it by the sense of sight, otherwise two false things would follow: (1) We could have two senses each with the same proper object - A thinks this cannot be. (2) or we would need an infinite regress, i.e., something to see that we see that we see, and so on to infinity. So we conclude: We see that we see by the sense of sight. COMMENT: His argument is a disjunction, but his list is not complete, it lacks the other possibility: We see that we see by the fact that we have reflex consciousness, since we have a spiritual soul. It can as it were bend back on itself and see itself seeing.
3.3: Error in sense perception: 1) As along as a sense registers its own proper objects, perception is true, or with a minimum or error. 2) When we go further, and perceive that this white object is e.g,, the son of Socrates, there is a chance of error, for this is incidental perception. 3)When we perceive the common sensibles, error can readily occur.
The other information gathering power: intellect:
Two preliminary comparisons:
3.3: Comparison of thought and sensation: Some think thought is just a higher degree of sense perception. But those who say this overlook the problem of error: the soul spends much of its time in it. More positively, we can show that thinking is not the same as sense perception:(1) All animals have sensation, but not thinking; (2) perception by sense is always true, or with a minimum of error; but thinking is more easily in error. COMMENTS:1)As to the second point, if thought were merely a higher form of sensation, it could be more difficult, and so more error. As to (1) it needs sharpening. The example we gave above about a concept of dog or justice etc.is the real means of showing. The dog in my concept is not high or low, long or short, etc. So if I hired the best possible artist, gave him a choice of media, he could not make an image - for no material can hold that concept. So that in me which holds it is not material but spiritual.
3.3: Comparison of thought and imagination: (Note: Imagination in Greek means the power of making and keeping images. English usually implies making up out of nothing. The Greek does not). We see differences: 1) We can imagine things when and as we wish; but we cannot make just any judgment we wish, we must keep to the truth. We could imagine the house is on fire, but not believe it at will. 2) When our mind judges something dreadful is true, we are disturbed. But if we merely imagine it, we may not be disturbed.
3.4: The passive intellect: This is the intellect inasmuch as it can take on the form of anything whatsoever without taking on the matter, like the impression of a signet ring in wax. So the passive intellect must be unmixed with everything, otherwise it would slant perceptions. And it must have no nature but the capacity to receive. So it must not be mixed with the body. It must be at zero on the scale from potential to actual. When the passive mind has taken on many forms or actualizations it still has indefinitely large potential to take on more. When it has become actualized to some extent in this way, self-knowledge become possible.
Overstimulation weakens a sense's power to perceive; but when the mind has been reflecting on highly intelligible things, it is not weakened. COMMENT: Right after thinking, there may be fatigue, but in the long run much thinking will not dim the power of the mind to perceive, will more likely develop it.
3.5: The active intellect: In all nature we find two things, the matter which potentially can take on the form of all things, and the active cause that makes it take on the form. Mind in the passive sense becomes all things; in the active sense it makes all things - as light makes potential colors actual.
Mind in this active sense is separable from the body, it is impassive, is unmixed. It is essentially an activity (energeia).
Only when separated from the body is mind its true self; this alone is immortal and everlasting. We do not remember such a state, because active mind cannot be acted on, and so cannot receive impressions, and the passive mind is not separable from the body. COMMENT: We do not know what state he has in mind. Cannot be Plato's world of Ideas, for after being in it, the soul can be led to remember it again, so it did take on impressions. We will speculate further in the Beyond Aristotle section.
Mind does not think intermittently, so that at one time it thinks, at another time not. COMMENT: 1) This seems to be true of the subconscious mind. A must have had experience of its work in solving problems. But otherwise we are not sure what he means here. 2) Does A think each one has an active intellect, or does God do the work for us? His friend and successor Theophrastus said he did mean we each have one. That should settle it. Yet Alexander of Aphrodisias (2-3d cent.A.D. early commentator on A) said there is only one active mind for all, which is God Himself. - When A says the mind is pure activity, someone might take it to mean it is God, since God is Pure Act. But we must recall that active mind has two aspects, as organ, and as activity. As organ, it is a compound of potency and act, and so not identified with God.
3.6: How error is possible in thinking: Just as sight is infallible in seeing color, but can be wrong in thinking that this particular white thing is Socrates, similarly the mind cannot err when simply perceiving the essence of a thing, but can err when there is a compounding, when the object is not indivisible e.g., propositions always involve putting things together, so as to say in effect: This is that sort of thing. In this, error is possible. Also if thinking refers to past or future, time is an element, and so error is possible.
9. Beyond Aristotle in Psychology:
a) In regard to soul and body as form to matter: We already saw above the modern concept of somatic resonance. We can see many applications:
(1) In the aged who are somewhat broken down, the bodily debility may damage somatic resonance to judgment. Something similar happens in young children when too tired.
(2) Teenagers usually starting late in High School may find temptations to doubt their faith. There are two reasons: first, the deep physical changes, especially glandular, put somatic resonance to faith (and other things too) into an unstable condition. Second, in addition, they are in the period of changeover from the childhood pattern of accepting things because the elders said so, to the adult pattern where one should be able to give sound reasons for things including faith. Here apologetics is much needed. Many, sadly, never make this crossover completely.
(3) Spiritual growth lies basically in the complete alignment of one's will with the will of God. But that development needs a parallel development in somatic resonance. Somatic resonance grows in a step-graph pattern, not on a continuous line going up. A corollary: Negative mortification, since it affects the body, is helpful to make larger changes in somatic resonance. The same is true of severe trials that affect body and soul, if one accepts them generously as the will of God. (4) In Ethics 8.2 we saw that love is an attitude of the spiritual will, willing good to another for the other's sake. There is a normal somatic resonance to that in feelings. These feelings are the somatic resonance to love, and so tend greatly to bring love with them. Further, the feelings that arise automatically from the hormones cast as it were a rosy light on someone else, making them seem wonderful. That is a starter for the attitude of love in the will. But this splendid process can be frustrated either by masturbation, which turns one back again to the selfish attitude of babies; or by premarital sex, in which two persons use each other for sensory gratification. They think they have love, great feelings of warmth, tenderness. But that may be only chemistry. And if they are sinning and putting each other into mortal sin - that could result in never being happy again, if death should catch them - real love is very unlikely to develop. But it will seem like love, and so they may be led into marriage, and afterwards find out they had no real love at all, just chemistry.
(4) Science News, Dec.30,1972, p.424 reports research showing a tendency to suppose that physical beauty means beauty of character.
(5) Scientific American, Feb.1974, pp.84-91 shows low levels of Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, predispose to high sexual activity and difficulty in sleeping.
(6) Science News, July 16, 1983, pp.45-46 shows biochemistry can predispose to anxiety. Issue of Nov. 10,1990 ,p. 301 reports suicide victims show abnormal levels of serotonin and norepinephrine.
(7) Science News, August 20, 1983, pp.122-25: A chemist from Argonne Laboratories went to Stateville Prison in Illinois, got hair samples from violent criminals, found high correlation between highs and lows of certain trace elements and criminal behavior. This does not mean no freedom, but does mean a predisposition. Since it is bodily, it could even be inherited.
b) Active intellect apart from the body: Aristotle said in 3.5 that only when separated from the body is the mind fully itself. He does not say in what way. Let us explore.
Since we in this life can hold abstract concepts ,e.g., justice, goodness ,etc. in memory, we have a spiritual memory. This memory comes along with the soul after separation.
In the present life, the power to know that is natural to the spiritual soul is held down because it is tied to the material component of the brain, a marvelous thing, but yet far inferior to a spiritual intellect. But at death that link is broken, and so the natural power of the spiritual intellect asserts itself. So the lights go on. The data about God we carry over will be understood far more clearly then - and there will be no distractions from the senses then - and so the lights go on. The soul intensely wants God.
If the will is in accord with God's will, eventually that vision can be had. If the will is turned against Him, the soul will both intensely want, and intensely flee Him - a sort of twisted state that must be permanent, since no substantial change is possible after death. Scripture speaks of fire in hell. The most recent declaration of the Doctrinal Congregation, May 17, 1979 says that hell will have a "repercussion on the whole being of the sinner." The pain in addition to the loss of God must be of an intensity comparable to what fire would give in this life.
To reach the vision of God, two things are needed in addition to the state of grace: 1)complete purification of the soul, of its power to see. If not done fully in the present life, it must be done then; 2)what the soul should have done towards being like Christ in the rebalancing of the objective order after sins will have to be completed then. Thank Heavens there is a means to do this, Purgatory. Otherwise the soul could never reach the vision of God.
There is no time in the next life. We are full of changes (metabolism) and on a planet that spins and travels constantly. Time is the measure of those changes - ahead is a moment we call future, it changes to present, changes to past. This goes on in the present life without stop. But at death that movement is stilled. If a soul goes directly to heaven, it waits only one instant for resurrection, for there is no change. Similarly for a soul in hell. But a soul in purgatory must have the two developments just mentioned, which we assume may be in stages - so there are some as it were markers. Some private apparitions of souls from Purgatory - the Church does not guarantee these, but we may believe if we wish - have souls reporting many years in Purgatory for even small faults. We can picture it this way: imagine a graph with two lines on it, above and below. The higher line represents aevum ,the duration in Purgatory. The lower line represents time. We might as it were draw a line from a point on the aevum line, and see where it reaches the line for time. In that sense a soul might speak of e.g., 50 years in Purgatory.
The suffering in Purgatory comes essentially from the frustrated desire to see God. Yet there is immense consolation, for the soul is certain of its own salvation, and does love God greatly.
The Church teaches that we can and should pray for the souls in Purgatory. They cannot merit or help themselves, but we can help them. Then they pray for us. They would know in general from alleviation that someone is praying, and then be moved to pray for the one who helped them. God probably gives them information on who it is.
When we know things in the present life, we do not take these objects into us, only an image of them. An image can represent them well enough, for images are finite, but so are the objects we see. But no image could make the Infinite known in what St. Paul calls face to face vision (1 Cor 13.12). So it must be that the divinity will join itself directly to the human soul or mind, without even an image in between - the divinity performs the work an image would do. The soul is as it were a finite receptacle, trying to take in the Infinite. So it never becomes dull. Further, St. Augustine says that souls in heaven participate (we note the Platonic language) in the eternity of God, in which there is no change (City of God 10.7). Just as God simply IS, so the soul in heaven simply IS unutterably fulfilled and happy. It does not really go on and on and on - it IS. Similar comment for a soul in hell.
Within the Holy Trinity we might say there are streams of infinite knowledge (resulting in the Son) and infinite Love (resulting in the Holy Spirit). Only a being part divine (cf.2 Peter 1.4) can as it were plug into those streams. Grace now makes us radically capable of that vision in the world to come.
VI - The Secularized Philosophy of the Hellenistic Age
It might have seemed that an ideal combination was at hand. Aristotle, as we saw, became the tutor of young Alexander the great. A great mind, and great power, might have accomplished so much. Yet there seems to have been small interaction. Aristotle's eyes were limited by his vision of the city-state; Alexander had a vision of empire, and achieved it.
The Greek world and all the Near East was permanently changed. So this age is called the Hellenistic Age, in contradistinction to the Hellenic Age that had gone before it. The freedom of the city-states was in practice about gone. After Alexander's death, his successors - often called the Diadochi, their Greek generic name - fought for power. At first there were 5 empires, then 4, and finally it settled down into three: Macedonia, Egypt, and Syria as the Romans called the latter. Today we often refer to it as the Seleucid Empire.
Literature took a very different color - no works of the stature of the greatest earlier ones were produced. Religion was affected by widespread disbelief in the old myths, which began around the end of the 5th century among the more intelligent people.(The same thing happened in Rome around the end of the 1st century B.C.)
New philosophies did arise in this age, but there were no minds comparable to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, until Plotinus, several centuries later.
Alexander captured and put into circulation the great Persian treasury. The result was an inflation of everything except wages, and a financial instability. A man might be financially up one day, down the next. People looked for something to rescue them. Some turned to religion. They saw that chance seemed to rule all, and they already had a goddess of chance, Tyche. So some worshipped Tyche to gain stability.
But others looked to philosophy. They wanted philosophy to offer a supreme good, a Summum bonum, which would make a man completely satisfied, which could be had even in this life, by one's own efforts alone, without the help of any man or god.
Chiefly three philosophies tried to fill this request: Cynics, Epicureans, and Stoics.
Cynics had already been around for some time. They went back to Antisthenes (c.445 - c.365). He rejected Plato's ideas, is said to have said: "O Plato, I see a horse, but I do not see horseness." He held that virtue is wisdom, but the wisdom consisted chiefly in "seeing through" the values of most humans. Riches, passions etc. are not really good, nor is poverty, contempt really evil. Independence is the true good.
Diogenes of Sinope, who died about 324, is noted in the Hellenistic age. He said Antisthenes had not lived up to his own ideas. He spent most of his life in Athens and later in Corinth. He called himself "Dog" and said animals are models for mankind. From this comes the name Cynics, for Greek kyon means dog. Living on so low a level, one cannot be blown over by the stormy blasts of fortune.
Epicurus was born about 342 at Samos. He made pleasure the supreme good. But he did not mean by it what later Epicureans would mean. For him it was the absence of pain plus gentle satisfaction. If someone had asked him to come to happy hour and get drunk, he would have said: "That would be fun. But think of my head tomorrow! Seneca, the later Roman Stoic, reports Epicurus lived a rather ascetic life, thinking that long-running satisfaction was to be had that way.
The Epicureans of course liked the thought of Democritus, according to whom, as we saw above, everything fell together by chance, will fall apart again, so there is no survival, and no need to fear the gods - just have fun! It was promoted specially by Lucretius (91-51 B.C.) who popularized the ideas of Democritus in his De rerum natura ,which includes, especially in book III, numerous arguments to prove there is no survival. When life is over it is like leaving the table after having a good meal. There is nothing more to come.
Zeno of Citium in S.E.Crete was born about 336 BC. He was the founder of the Stoic school, which gets its name from the Stoa or porch where he lectured.
Stoicism borrows its cosmology from Heraclitus, especially the doctrine of the Logos and of Fire as the world-substance. But he took some things from Plato and Aristotle too. His idea of logoi spermatikoi seems to have been a transposition of the theory of Ideas to the material plane. These were the active forms of all things that are to be, which unfold themselves as individual things as time goes on. St. Augustine used this idea to explain how God stopped creating after 6 days, and yet new individuals arise (City of God 11.9).
Natural beauty in the universe points to a principle of thought, God. But the Stoic God was material. The crasser elements come from God and finally are resolved into Him again, so that all that exists is either the original Fire, that is God in Himself, or God in His different states. While the world exists, God is its soul. But there is an unending series of world-constructions and world-destructions - an eternal cycle.
Fate and Providence are just different aspects of God. So there is no human freedom. Liberty for Stoics meant doing consciously, with assent, what one would do anyway. Thus people would as it were accept God's will.
In Ethics, they held that no act is evil in itself. It is the intention, the moral condition of the doer that makes a thing evil. The act as a physical thing is indifferent. (This sounds like Consequentialism or Proportionalism today!) Life according to nature means life according to the principle that is active in nature, the Logos, a principle in which the human soul shares.
But as to the Supreme Good - it is to live habitually according to reason for reason's sake. This is not only the highest good, it is the only good. So there is only one evil, the opposite of that. All else is indifferent.
This resulted in a marvelous example of painting one's self into a corner. They exalted reason to such an extent that it was impossible to act reasonably. For if I see three courses open to me, I can make a list of the good and bad things about each, and then see the best pattern. But the Stoic cannot make such a list: everything is indifferent except to live by reason: so it makes no difference if one is sick or well, rich or poor, even dead or alive. So they were allowed suicide. In fact, if things contrary to nature would be more weighty, one can be praised for suicide. St. Augustine (City of God 19.4) laughs at Stoic pretentions. After starting out to make it possible to reach the supreme good by one's own means even in this life, yet the point may come where it is better to commit suicide!
To live according to nature is not positively good, is strictly indifferent, yet some things are preferable or relatively choiceworthy: proegmena ,and some are even to be avoided: apoproegmena.
Now since emotions interfere with reason, they cannot be tolerated. So the wise man is without passions. So he is in this way second to none, not even second to Zeus (if one believed the stories about Zeus in mythology, a decent man would be far better).
All virtues are bound together: so one either is or is not virtuous: there are no degrees.
Romans having a more practical mind, saw that their great Roman heroes of the past would not measure up to this ideal, and so would be fools. So they wisely tempered it. And Cicero says that to uproot all feeling would be to pull up all humanity by the roots (De amicitia 13.48). Yet the sternness of Stoics did agree with traditional Roman temperament, especially before 200 B.C.
The Fathers of the Church were at times influenced by the Stoic sternness and lack of feeling, e.g., St. Augustine felt a bit guilty for having wept for his Mother's death. The problem was that Christian detachment might seem to go that far. Clement of Alexandria (Stromata 184.108.40.206) said Christ was apathes, without emotion. W. A. Jurgens (The Faith of the Early Fathers, Collegeville, 1970, I. p.186, note 17 thinks he meant only the lack of immoderate emotions. St. Hilary of Poitiers (De Trinitate 10.23) said Jesus had no interior reaction of pain.
Scepticism: appears in a number of authors. Pyrrho of Elis (c.360 - c.270) seems to have been influenced by the ideas of Democritus and the relativism of the Sophists. So he said we can only know how things appear to us, not their interior nature. The same thing may appear differently to different people.
Sextus Empiricus (c.250) argued against the possibility of proving any conclusions syllogistically. He said there would be a vicious circle if we argued: "All men are mortal" and then tried to conclude "Socrates is mortal" - we would first have to know that Socrates is mortal before we could state the first premise, "All men are mortal." This means he accepted only inductive proof - not deductive proof. In deductive proof we would say that all are made up of two parts, body and soul, and so the two can come apart, and that is what it means to be mortal.
The Middle Academy founded by Arcesilaus (315-242) was also sceptic. Arcesilaus, according to Cicero, is supposed to have said he was certain of nothing, not even of the fact that he was not certain of anything.
The New Academy was founded by Carneades of Cyrene (214 - 129 B.C.) He went with Diogenes on an embassy to Rome in 156. He held that knowledge is impossible, that there is no criterion of truth. Cicero spoke with some respect of the New Academy.
St. Paul of Tarsus met Greek philosophers in Athens (Acts 17.16-34) and after arguing with them also gave a discourse on the Areopagus. He quotes a few lines of Greek poetry - which need not mean he had a Greek education. Jews would in general be averse to that. He said he had seen an altar on going up the Areopagus inscribed "to an Unknown God". Paul said he would tell them about that god. He did not know what they really meant. They believed the gods were jealous, and if someone omitted proper sacrifice to one even by accident, there would be punishment, as we see in the myth of the Calydonian hunt. So that latter really was a way of saying: "In case we forgot someone, please accept this". Paul also tried to preach the resurrection - which did not please the Platonists, who hoped to get finally free of a body.
In chapter 1 of Romans Paul says atheists are inexcusable, since the existence of God is so evident from creation. He then went on the describe in vivid language the progressive degradation of idolaters, who fell into all sorts of sins, the centerpiece of which is homosexuality. In the last verse of the chapter he says that some who used to know these things deserve death, now are so far gone that they not only do such things, but approve of doing them: they say sin is good.
It is very true that a person can enter onto a sort of spiral in the bad direction, which feeds on itself and gets larger as it goes out farther. Imagine someone who has never been drunk before, but tonight he gets very drunk. Since this was the first time, the next day he will have guilt feelings, from the clash of the voice of his beliefs, and the voice of his actions. Something has to give. If he does not reform, his beliefs will be pulled into line with his actions, so that if we tell a confirmed drunk he should not do it, he will not grasp the fact. Not just that belief, but other interconnected beliefs will give way, until finally the person is quite blind, and thinks sin is good. There is also a spiral in the good direction. If someone lives vigorously in accord with faith, which tells us the things of this world are of scant value compared to eternity, then his ability to understand spiritual things grows more and more.
The picture St. Paul gives in Romans 1 has often been misunderstood. Many scholars recognize Paul is painting the Greeks much worse than they really were. This is evident from his own words in 1 Cor 6.11. After giving a smaller list of great sins and sinners, he says: "Certain ones of you were these." That he said to Corinth, one of the most licentious cities in Greece.
Could we avoid the error by saying Paul is only expressing tendencies, that not all were guilty of all the things he mentions? Some commentators try this. But for two reasons it will not work: 1) The chief thrust of Paul's argument in the first chapters of Romans is to show that all are hopeless if they try for justification by keeping the law - so they must turn to faith. So, if he merely said there was a tendency, or that only some were guilty, there would be gaping holes in his argument. 2) At the start of chapter 2, Paul says that "for this reason" anyone who judges another is guilty "of the very same sins." Commentators have done poorly here. They ignore the connector "for this reason" saying it is a colorless Greek particle. There are such things, but the word used here is not such, it is dio, which means"for which reason." It is strong. Secondly, they say merely that anyone who judges is a sinner in general. They cannot explain how Paul can say the man is guilty "of the very same sins." As we said, since Paul has to call everyone guilty of the very same sins, it is implied that everyone is guilty of every sin. How this can be we will explain i the next paragraph.
We are not charging St. Paul with error. No, there seems to be a remarkable pattern in his writing, in which, especially in regard to the Law, he can take two kinds of views. We could call one of these the focused view (cf.e.g., Gal 3.21; 3.10; 1 Cor 15.56; 2 Cor 3.6 and 9), the other, the factual view (cf.e.g., Rom 3.2; 7.12 and 14 and 9.4) In the focused view it is as though we are looking through a tube, and can see only what is framed by the circle of the tube: the Law makes heavy demands - it gives no strength - so one must fall and be spiritually dead. But in the factual view, the limit of the circle is removed, and we see the whole horizon: the Law still makes heavy demands, and gives no strength - but off to the side, in no relation to the Law, there is divine help, grace, available even before Christ. If one uses this, he will not fall and be dead. Rather, he is enabled to avoid the penalties that are part of the very nature of things (cf. St. Paul 1 Cor 6.12. For the idea in general, cf. Wm. G. Most, "Focusing in St. Paul" in Faith & Reason II.4, fall, 1976, pp.47-70).
We can, when convenient, call the focused view also a system as system view: the setup of being a gentile what does it do? It lets one know what is right and wrong (anthropology as we saw earlier shows primitives do know that rather well). But that knowledge gives no strength. So they must fall. Then in order to let St. Paul say everyone is guilty of "the very same sins" we add: "Each major precept of the law makes a heavy demand, gives no strength, so everyone falls, is guilty of "the very same sins".
Paul needs this, as we said, to work out his argument: everyone is hopeless if he tries to seek justification by keeping the Law - so, we must turn to faith for justification.
But in 1 Cor 6.11, Paul uses the factual view, in which not everyone, not even in licentious Corinth, is guilty of every sin.
We would add that the Romans were not so bad as the Greeks. Cicero quotes Ennius, the oldest Roman hexameter poet, saying, as against the Greek way, "The beginning of crime to bare bodies in public" (Tusculan Disputations 4.33.70). Cicero also tells us (De officiis 1.35.120), that according to the custom of his time, once a boy in the family reaches puberty, the father no longer goes to the public baths with him. Still further, Suetonius, writing around 110 AD the lives of the first 12 Emperors, has a section in each biography for the virtues, and another for the vices. He accuses many of them of homosexuality -- but it is always listed among the vices. Even Athens in 5th century B.C.had a law against homosexual acts, though it was probably not enforced. Cf.K.J Dover, Greek Homosexuality, Harvard University Press, 1978.
VII - Classical Philosophy as a Preparation for the Gospel
Greek philosophy helped prepare the way for the Gospel in two ways: 1) The positive work starting with Socrates, helped people to see that there are things above sense; 2) This however still left a desire for more.
Clement of Alexandria, in his Stromata 1.5, written about 208-11 AD) said: " Before the coming of the Lord, philosophy was necessary for justification to the Greeks; now it is useful for piety...for it brought the Greeks to Christ as the law did the Hebrews." This reminds us of St. Paul in Galatians 3.24 saying the Law was the slave that took the Hebrews towards Christ. Clement added in Stromata 1.20: "Philosophy of itself made the Greeks just, though not to total justice; it is found to be a helper to this [perfect justice], just as the first and second steps for one ascending to the upper part of the house, and like the elementary teacher for the [future] philosopher." It means that philosophy could lead to justification, the state of grace, for the Greeks, but would not take one to the higher levels of spiritual development. We will see presently that St. Justin the Martyr proposed the very same thing much earlier.
We already indicated that the Fathers liked and used Plato. Thus St. Augustine (City of God 8.5) says all other philosophies must give way before Plato.
It seems the Fathers on the whole knew little of Aristotle. For example, a careful study, Elizabeth A. Clark, Clement's use of Aristotle (E. Mellen Press, NY,1977) concludes that we cannot be sure Clement knew any work of Aristotle directly. If any, it would have been his Ethics. Other ideas of Aristotle he could have picked up through Middle Platonism, which had taken over some positions of Aristotle (cf. also,for the period up to Nicea, Jean Daniélou, Gospel Message and Hellenistic Culture, tr. John A. Baker, Westminster, Philadelphia, 1973).