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The Aristotle Project

The Aristotle Project

Author: Adam Voight

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Lively discussion of any topic you can imagine informed by the work of Aristotle. In most issues, I try to focus on how his thought might cohere with or relate to Darwinian evolution. I think that there is a fundamental agreement and that this podcast is the best way to explain this. For more on this look at my blog "Zoon Echon Blogon"" at "adamvoight.wordpress.com".
29 Episodes
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Here Aristotle deals with the opinion that the ultimate goal of action is the experience of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. This will take us back to the doctrine that the soul has three parts or faculties and to a discussion about how they relate.
In these chapters, Aristotle discusses what sort of thinking goes into a moral decision. Socrates and other thinkers have claimed that science and morality are fundamentally the same sort of reasoning, but Aristotle differs. Even though deliberation does use universal principles, these are of a different sort from those of theoretical science. This is very useful for keeping in mind just what sorts of moral factors go into a decision and how moral praise and blame differ from the intellectual.
We discuss how someone doing something results in moral blame or praise.
A crucial part of complete eudaimonia is being the right kind of person rather than merely following rules. The right kind of person has "vitrue" or in Greek "arete".
In this episode we focus on how eudaimonia is different from many of the assumptions we make about "happiness", for there is no proper way to translate the Greek word into English. I addition, Ada and Adam debate whether habituation rather than nature or theoretical learning a la Socrates is the best source of virtue.
In this series was ask about the good; not the good of the cosmos or of living creatures, but the good life for humans in so far as it results from our deliberate life decisions and our character.This is a very different sort of study, but one that shares a lot with the metaphysics. However, our primary interest will be to ask how Aristotle's ideas of practical wisdom relate to our modern views of politics and morality on the one hand and our conceptions of function in darwinian biology.
In this episode we summarize all that we have discussed thus far as ask really difficult questions about how the science of First Philosophy coheres with the Darwinian worldview. What sort of study is it? Is it empirical (like phyiscs), formal (like math) or neither? Where exactly does he go wrong? It's hard to say, but it's somewhere in the latter half of Book Lambda. IN this episode we retrace his argument and think about where he might improve it to take account of modern science.
In this episode we try to understand an answer what is the fundamental sort of change that ultimately drives all changes whatsoever all the way up to the most large-scale stages of cosmic evolution. The answer we get (such as we can manage it) is surprising similar to that given us by Aristotle in the final chapters of Book Lambda.
While much of the "Metaphysics" seems to deal with something that one might need to understand our own cognitive architecture, in the last half of Book Lambda Aristotle crosses over into cosmology. Is he really right in doing so? Does the science of being qua being really have authority over the cosmos in this way? Or is this Aristotle making a category mistake?
Book Lambda of Aristotle's "Metaphysics" takes the concept of substance and uses it in a cosmological "Theory of Everything". Based on the idea that substance is most real, he then goes on to explain how substance makes the world go around, as in how it happens that planets go in circles and never seem to stop or slow down. At the same time, there are other material beings here on earth which almost never go in circles in space. Why is this? Aristotle's answer is pretty genius, and utterly different from anything you might have heard thus far.
Now that we've got an idea on how Empedocles thought, now we can go back and see how Aristotle approaches him the the early portion of the "Metaphysics". Aristotle likes how Empedocles has a primitive idea of substance that is not a universal or abstract but which makes sense for living creatures and other physical beings.
The Cosmic Cycles of of Empedocles are unique in all of Greek philosophy. Indeed their only parallel are the Hindu "Kalpas" and modern geological epochs. The cosmic cycles are implied the the laws of physics discussed in our last episode, the Four Element and the Twin Forces of Love and Strife. Empedocles uses his surprisingly modern physics to explain the mythology of monsters and gods and Creation. The cosmogony and zoogony (origin of animals) are among the most bizarre remnants of early Greek thought, but it all follows from a strict set of physical laws acting on the material elements.
In addition to his religious and magical doctrines, Empedocles was a major figure in the development of natural science. Surprisingly enough, he took a rather reductionistic view that the entire cosmos was nothing but the material elements and the forces of nature. However, these principles were seen in a way that seems rather bizarre from our modern perspective, but which are crucial for the development of Western philosophy and science.
We shall now take a short break from the core books of the metaphysics and spend a few episodes on Empedocles, who lived about 200 years before Aristotle and whose work mixes elements from yoga, Big Bang cosmology and evolutionary biology. After we learn about this curious philosophy, we shall then look at how Aristotle and MANY others used or criticized it. Our discussions will span modern science, epic poetry, archaic mythology, and to science of “first philosophy”.
The last few chapters of Book Z are famously difficult, but a reasonable interpretation can make them defensible in the modern context, especially if we think in terms of DNA and other related forms of biological information.
According to Plato, the "really real" could never be destroyed or created. Aristotle holds that they can be created from previously existing form and matter, and that this can happen by nature.His arguments for this are pretty subtle, and are necessary for refuting idealism and asserting the reality of the physical world.
"Essentialism" has become a deragatory word in modern philosophy, but with Aristotle having an essence is something valuable and distinctiveAristotle considers only a very few beings to be "really real". As a result, we organisms have an essence in a much more real sense than colors and mere shapes.
With book Zeta, Aristotle gives a more details explanation about the "really real" , which we translate as "substance'. He looks into what is meant by "really real"and why his view differs from both materialism and idealism. The view in Book Zeta is quite "naturalistic" but thinks that nature includes more than matter, but also form or what modern people call "information'.
"You could not step twice into the same river." - As quoted in Plato, Cratylus, 402aHeraclitus of Ephesus is one of the most interesting of the Early Greek thinkers, appealing to people as different as Hegel and Nietzsche. In light of our discussion of his ideas in the last episode, we shall now hear the views of Heraclitus of Ephesus in his own words and his relevancy to us.
In the modern world, people often wonder if our beliefs have some foundation. Descartes claimed this for his principle of "I think therefore I am.", but Aristotle had radically different foundational principles which many in his day claimed to disagree with - "The Three Laws of Thought". Aristotle claims that this is far more fundamental than even the "cogito".
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