Skip to main content

What was the Aristotle metaphysics

  What was the Aristotle metaphysics ?

Aristotle's metaphysics, roughly speaking, may be described as Plato diluted by common sense. He is difficult because Plato and common sense do not mix easily. When one tries to understand him, one thinks part of the time that he is expressing the ordinary views of a person innocent of philosophy, and the rest of the time that he is setting forth Platonism with a new vocabulary. 

It does not do to lay too much stress on any single passage, because there is liable to be a correction or modification of it in some later passage. On the whole, the easiest way to understand both his theory of universals and his theory of matter and form is to set forth first the common-sense doctrine which is half of his view, and then to consider the Platonic modifications to which he subjects it. What was the Aristotle theory of universals and  matter and form ?

Aristotle theory of universals

Up to a certain point, the theory of universals is quite simple. In language, there are proper names, and there are adjectives. The proper names apply to "things" or "persons," each of which is the only thing or person to which the name in question applies. The sun, the moon, France, Napoleon, are unique; there are not a number of instances of things to which these names apply. On the other hand, words like "cat," "dog," "man" apply to many different things. The problem of universals is concerned with the meanings of such words, and also of adjectives, such as "white," "hard," "round," and so on. He says: "By the term 'universal' I mean that which is of such a nature as to be predicated of many subjects, by 'individual' that which is not thus predicated."

What is signified by a proper name is a "substance," while what is signified by an adjective or class-name, such as "human" or "man," is called a "universal." A substance is a "this," but a universal is a "such" it indicates the sort of thing, not the actual particular thing. A universal is not a substance, because it is not a "this." ( Plato's heavenly bed would be a "this" to those who could perceive it; this is a matter as to which Aristotle disagrees with Plato.) "It seems impossible," Aristotle says, "that any universal term should be the name of a substance. For . . . the substance of each thing is that which is peculiar to it, which does not belong to anything else; but the universal is common, since that is called universal which is such as to belong to more than one thing." The gist of the matter, so far, is that a universal cannot exist by itself, but only in particular things.

 Superficially, Aristotle's doctrine is plain enough. Suppose I say "there is such a thing as the game of cricket," most people would regard the remark as a truism. But if I were to infer that cricket could exist without cricket-players, I should be rightly held to be talking nonsense. Similarly, it would be held, there is such a thing as parenthood, but only because there are parents; there is such a thing as sweetness, but only because there are sweet things; and there is redness, but only because there are red things. 

And this dependence is thought to be not reciprocal: the men who play cricket would still exist even if they never played cricket; things which are usually sweet may turn sour; and my face, which is usually red, may turn pale without ceasing to be my face. In this way we are led to conclude that what is meant by an adjective is dependent for its being on what is meant by a proper name, but not vice versa. This is, I think, what Aristotle means. His doctrine on this point, as on many others, is a common-sense prejudice pedantically expressed.

But it is not easy to give precision to the theory. Granted that cricket could not exist without cricket-players, it could perfectly well exist without this or that cricket-player. And granted that a person can exist without playing cricket, he nevertheless cannot exist without doing something. The quality redness cannot exist without some subject, but it can exist without this or that subject; similarly a subject cannot exist without some quality, but can exist without this or that quality. The supposed ground for the distinction between things and qualities thus seems to be illusory.

 There is another term which is important in Aristotle and in his scholastic followers, and that is the term "essence." This is by no means synonymous with "universal." Your "essence" is "what you are by your very nature." It is, one may say, those of your properties which you cannot lose without ceasing to be yourself. Not only an individual thing, but a species, has an essence. The definition of a species should consist in mentioning its essence. 

form and matter

The next  point in Aristotle's metaphysics is the distinction of "form" and "matter." (It must be understood that "matter," in the sense in which it is opposed to "form," is different from "matter" as opposed to "mind.")

Plato's theory of forms ideal world was without change, material world was a world of change.

Here, again, there is a common-sense basis for Aristotle's theory, but here, more than in the case of universals, the Platonic modifications are very important. We may start with a marble statue; here marble is the matter, while the shape conferred by the sculptor is the form. Or, to take Aristotle's examples, if a man makes a bronze sphere, bronze is the matter, and sphericity is the form; while in the case of a calm sea, water is the matter and smoothness is the form. So far, all is simple.

He goes on to say that it is in virtue of the form that the matter is some one definite thing, and this is the substance of the thing. What Aristotle means seems to be plain common sense: a "thing" must be bounded, and the boundary constitutes its form. Take, say, a volume of water: any part of it can be marked off from the rest by being enclosed in a vessel, and then this part becomes a "thing," but so long as the part is in no way marked out from the rest of the homogeneous mass it is not a "thing." A statue is a "thing," and the marble of which it is composed is, in a sense, unchanged from what it was as part of a lump or as part of the contents of a quarry. We should not naturally say that it is the form that confers substantiality, but that is because the atomic hypothesis is ingrained in our imagination. Each atom, however, if it is a "thing," is so in virtue of its being delimited from other atoms, and so having, in some sense, a "form."

We now come to a new statement, which at first sight seems difficult. The soul, we are told, is the form of the body. Here it is clear that "form" does not mean "shape." I shall return later to the sense in which the soul is the form of the body; for the present, I will only observe that, in Aristotle's system, the soul is what makes the body one thing, having unity of purpose, and the characteristics that we associate with the word "organism." The purpose of an eye is to see, but it cannot see when parted from its body. In fact, it is the soul that sees.

It would seem, then, that "form" is what gives unity to a portion of matter, and that this unity is usually, if not always, teleological. But "form" turns out to be much more than this, and the more is very difficult.

The form of a thing, we are told, is its essence and primary substance. Forms are substantial, although universals are not. When a man makes a brazen sphere, both the matter and the form already existed, and all that he does is to bring them together; the man does not make the form, any more than he makes the brass. Not everything has matter; there are eternal things, and these have no matter, except those of them that are movable in space. Things increase in actuality by acquiring form; matter without form is only a potentiality.

The view that forms are substances, which exist independently of the matter in which they are exemplified, seems to expose Aristotle to his own arguments against Platonic ideas. A form is intended by him to be something quite different from a universal, but it has many of the same characteristics. Form is, we are told, more real than matter; this is reminiscent of the sole reality of the ideas. The change that Aristotle makes in Plato's metaphysic  is, it would seem, less than he represents it as being.

The final explanation of Aristotle's want of clearness on this subject is, however, to be found in the fact that he had only half emancipated himself, as we shall see, from Plato's tendency to hypostatise ideas. The 'Forms' had for him, as the 'Ideas' had for Plato, a metaphysical existence of their own, as conditioning all individual things. And keenly as he followed the growth of ideas out of experience, it is none the less true that these ideas, especially at the point where they are farthest removed from experience and immediate perception, are metamorphosed in the end from a logical product of human thought into an immediate presentment of a super-sensible world, and the object, in that sense, of an intellectual intuition.

 Aristotle's view, be unknowable, whereas it is of the essence of his metaphysics that, as there comes to be more of form and less of matter, things become gradually more knowable. This is only consistent with the rest of his views if the form can be embodied in many particular things. If he were to say that there are as many forms that are instances of sphericity as there are spherical things, he would have to make very radical alterations in his philosophy. For instance, his view that a form is identical with its essence is incompatible with the above suggested escape.

The doctrine of matter and form in Aristotle is connected with the distinction of potentiality and actuality. Bare matter is conceived as a potentiality of form; all change is what we should call "evolution," in the sense that after the change the thing in question has more form than before. That which has more form is considered to be more "actual." God is pure form and pure actuality; in Him, therefore, there can be no change. It will be seen that this doctrine is optimistic and teleological: the universe and everything in it is developing towards something continually better than what went before. He rejected Heraclitus philosophy. 

The concept of potentiality is convenient in some connections, provided it is so used that we can translate our statements into a form in which the concept is absent. "A block of marble is a potential statue" means "from a block of marble, by suitable acts, a statue is produced." But when potentiality is used as a fundamental and irreducible concept, it always conceals confusion of thought. Aristotle's use of it is one of the bad points in his system.

Aristotle's theology

Aristotle's theology is interesting, and closely connected with the rest of his metaphysics--indeed, "theology" is one of his names for what we call "metaphysics." (The book which we know under that name was not so called by him.)

There are, he says, three kinds of substances: those that are sensible and perishable, those that are sensible but not perishable, and those that are neither sensible nor perishable. The first class includes plants and animals, the second includes the heavenly bodies (which Aristotle believed to undergo no change except motion), the third includes the rational soul in man, and also God.

The main argument for God is the First Cause: there must be something which originates motion, and this something must itself be unmoved, and must be eternal, substance, and actuality. The object of desire and the object of thought, Aristotle says, cause movement in this way, without themselves being in motion. So God produces motion by being loved, whereas every other cause of motion works by being itself in motion (like a billiard ball). God is pure thought; for thought is what is best. "Life also belongs to God; for the actuality of thought is life, and God is that actuality; and God's self-dependent actuality is life most good and eternal. We say therefore that God is a living being, eternal, most good, so that life and duration continuous and eternal belong to God; for this is God"

"It is clear then from what has been said that there is a substance which is eternal and unmovable and separate from sensible things, It has been shown that this substance cannot have any magnitude, but is without parts and indivisible. . . . But it has also been shown that it is impassive and unalterable; for all the other changes are posterior to change of place"

The conception of an unmoved mover is a difficult one. To a modern mind, it would seem that the cause of a change must be a previous change, and that, if the universe were ever wholly static, it would remain so eternally. 

To understand what Aristotle means, we must take account of what he says about causes. There are, according to him, four kinds of causes, which were called, respectively, material, formal, efficient, and final. Let us take again the man who is making a statue. The material cause of the statue is the marble, the formal cause is the essence of the statue to be produced, the efficient cause is the contact of the chisel with the marble, and the final cause is the end that the sculptor has in view.

 In modern terminology, the word "cause" would be confined to the efficient cause. The unmoved mover may be regarded as a final cause: it supplies a purpose for change, which is essentially an evolution towards likeness with God.

God exists eternally, as pure thought, happiness, complete self-fulfilment, without any unrealized purposes. The sensible world, on the contrary, is imperfect, but it has life, desire, thought of an imperfect kind, and aspiration. All living things are in a greater or less degree aware of God, and are moved to action by admiration and love of God. Thus God is the final cause of all activity. Change consists in giving form to matter, but, where sensible things are concerned, a substratum of matter always remains. Only God consists of form without matter. The world is continually evolving towards a greater degree of form, and thus becoming progressively more like God. But the process cannot be completed, because matter cannot be wholly eliminated. This is a religion of progress and evolution, for God's static perfection moves the world only through the love that finite beings feel for Him. Plato was mathematical, Aristotle was biological; this accounts for the differences in their religions.

Aristotle's religion and soul

This would, however, be a one-sided view of Aristotle's religion; he has also the Greek love of static perfection and preference for contemplation rather than action. His doctrine of the soul illustrates this aspect of his philosophy.

To understand Aristotle's doctrine of the soul. we must remember that the soul is the "form" of the body, and that spatial shape is one kind of "form." What is there in common is hte conferring of unity upon a certain amount of matter. The part of a block of marble which afterwards becomes a statue is, as yet, not sparated from the rest of the marble; it is not yet a "thing," and has not yet any unity. After the sculptor has made the statue, it has unity, which it derives from its shape. Now the esential feature of the soul, in virtue of which it is the "form" of the body, is that it makes the body an organic whole, having purposes as a unit.

 A single organ has purposes lying outside itself; the eye, in isolation, cannot see. Thus many things can be said in which an animal or plant as a whole is the subject, which cannot be said about any part of it. It is in this sense that organization, or form, confers substantiality. That which confers substantiality upon a plant or animal is what Aristotle calls it "soul." But "mind" is something different, less intimately bound up with the body; perhaps it is a part of the soul, but it is possessed by only a small minority of living beings . Mind as speculation cannot be the cause of movement, for it never thinks about what is practicable, and never says what is to be avoided or what pursued.

A similar doctrine, though with a slight change of terminology, is set forth in the Nicomachean Ethics. There is in the soul one element that is rational, and that is irrational. The irrational part is twofold: the vegetative, which is found in everything living, even in plants, and the appetitive, which exists in all animals . 

The life of the rational soul consists in contemplation, which is the complete happiness of man, though not fully attainable. "Such a life would be too high for man; for it is not in so far as he is man that he will live so, but in so far as something divine is present in him; and by so much as this is superior to our composite nature is its activity superior to that which is the exercise of the other kind of virtue (the practical kind).

 If reason is divine, then, in comparison with man, the life in accordance with it is divine in comparison in human life. But we must not follow those who advise us, being men, to think of human things, and being mortal, of mortal things, but must, so far as we can, make ourselves immortal, and strain every nerve ot live in accordance with the best thing in us; for even if it be small in bulk, much more does it in power and worth surpass everything".

summary

Theology -  fruits, oxygen , and shadows.

Substance - The underlying formless matter of which things are made.

Form - The essence, idea and shape that takes.

Aristotle's four cause of change.
1. Material cause - Determined by the material which the thing is made of.

2. Formal cause - Determined by the form (arrangement, shape, essence) which the thing is made of. 

3. Efficient cause - Determined by the external agent or force.

4. Final cause - Determined by the aim or purpose that is serving.

Teleology - Purpose behind everything in nature. 

The unmoved mover (God) - God is not definable. God can move everything but nobody can move him.

  

 

History of logic - Aristotle

ARISTOTLE'S influence, which was very great in many different fields, was greatest of all in logic. In late antiquity, when Plato was still supreme in metaphysics, Aristotle was the recognized authority in logic, and he retained this position throughout the Middle Ages. It was not till the thirteenth century that Christian philosophers accorded him supremacy in the field of metaphysics. Aristotle is the father of logic

This supremacy was largely lost after the Renaissance, but his supremacy in logic survived. Even at the present day, all Catholic teachers of philosophy and many others still obstinately reject the discoveries of modern logic, and adhere with a strange tenacity to a system which is as definitely antiquated as Ptolemaic astronomy. 

This makes it difficult to do historical justice to Aristotle. His present-day influence is so inimical to clear thinking that it is hard to remember how great an advance he made upon all his predecessors (including Plato), or how admirable his logical work would still seem if it had been a stage in a continual progress, instead of being (as in fact it was) a dead end, followed by over two thousand years of stagnation. 

In dealing with the predecessors of Aristotle, it is not necessary to remind the reader that they are not verbally inspired; one can therefore praise them for their ability without being supposed to subscribe to all their doctrines. Aristotle, on the contrary, is still, especially in logic, a battle-ground, and cannot be treated in a purely historical spirit.

It is helpful to know something about Aristotle’s logic because important developments in later philosophy either turned upon it or were sparked by extensions and developments of it, especially in the work of Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell and others in twentieth-century ‘Analytic philosophy’



Aristotle logic syllogism 

Aristotle's most important work in logic is the doctrine of the syllogism. A syllogism is an argument consisting of three parts, a major premiss, a minor premiss, and a conclusion. Syllogisms are of a number of different kinds, each of which has a name, given by the scholastics. The most familiar is the kind called "Barbara":

Aristotelian logic example
All men are mortal (Major premiss). Socrates is a man (Minor premiss). Therefore: Socrates is mortal (Conclusion). Or: All men are mortal. All Indians are men. Therefore: All Indians are mortal.

Other forms are: No fishes are rational, all sharks are fishes, therefore no sharks are rational. (This is called "Celarent.").

All men are rational, some animals are men, therefore some animals are rational. (This is called "Darii.")

No Indians are black, some men are Indians , therefore some men are not black. (This is called "Ferio.")

These four make up the "first figure"; Aristotle adds a second and third figure, and the schoolmen added a fourth. It is shown that the three later figures can be reduced to the first by various devices.

There are some inferences that can be made from a single premiss. From "some men are mortal" we can infer that "some mortals are men." According to Aristotle, this can also be inferred from "all men are mortal." From "no gods are mortal" we can infer "no mortals are gods," but from "some men are not Indians" it does not follow that "some Indians are not men."

Apart from such inferences as the above, Aristotle and his followers thought that all deductive inference, when strictly stated, is syllogistic. By setting forth all the valid kinds of syllogism, and setting out any suggested argument in syllogistic form, it should therefore be possible to avoid all fallacies.

Aristotle took it that the fundamental unit of logical interest is the proposition, the ‘what is said’ by an utterance, this ‘what is said’ being either true or false. A proposition is not a sentence: the sentences ‘snow is white,’ ‘Schnee ist weiss,’ ‘la neige est blanche,’ ‘xue shi baide,’ respectively in English, German, French and Mandarin, all express the same proposition. So do the sentences ‘snow is white,’ ‘whiteness is a property exemplified by snow,’ ‘precipitated ice crystals nucleated around atmospheric particles typically scatter all the visible wavelengths of light.’ Likewise ‘I have a stomach ache’ as said by me might be false but as said by you might be true; here therefore the same sentence expresses different propositions.

The structure of propositions is analysed by Aristotle into two chief components, the subject and the predicate. The subject is that about which something true or false is asserted; the predicate is what is asserted about the subject. So in ‘snow is white’ the subject term is ‘snow’ (and the subject is snow) and the predicate term is ‘is white’ (and whiteness is ‘predicated of’ – said about – the subject). These terms are the focus of his attention. His logical writings contain two slightly different accounts of how they are to be classified. One is the scheme of categories (sometimes known as the predicaments) and the other is what came to be known as the five words or five predictable.

  Aristotle - The Logic of Categories

The intention behind the notion of the categories is to reveal what we are saying when we make an assertion of the forms ‘A is B,’ ‘A is a B,’ ‘As are Bs.’ For example, if I say ‘A is white,’ the predicate is in the category of ‘quality’ – that is, it tells us what A is like. If I say ‘A is a snowflake’ the predicate falls into the category of ‘substance’, that is, it tells us what thing it is. If I say ‘there are five snowflakes’ the predicate falls into the category of ‘quantity’, how many there are. If I say ‘one snowflake fell after another snowflake’ the predicate is in the category of ‘relation’, how they were related to each other (in this case, in time. ‘Mehul is Sunil’s father’ is another example of the category of relation, in this case, in genetics).

Substance, quality, quantity and relation are the four main categories. Aristotle adds six others: place, time, position, condition, activity, passivity. He does not claim that this list is complete or exhaustive, and because there are pre figurings of this classification in Plato it is likely that Aristotle took his starting point from there.

predicate logic 

Aristotle’s investigation of how such classes relate to each other as representable in these ways gave him the concept of a classification into genus, species, difference, property and accident. These are the ‘five words’ (quinque voces) as later logicians called them, and they list the ways in which a predicate can relate to a subject – or, alternatively put, the ways in which we can speak about something. You can speak about something specifically, or generally; that is species and genus. You can talk about the differences between species of things that separate them from each other; that is difference. You can talk about the characteristics of something that are found in all instances of the class of things it belongs to – these are properties. Or you can speak of a characteristic that something happens to have but which it could just as likely not have – which it has accidentally, so to speak; these are accidents, like the shape of a shoe or the colour of a shirt.

The ‘species’, or as Aristotle first called it the ‘definition of a thing relates to its essence, the ‘what makes it what it is’ factor. It is specific to the thing in question. The genus is that part of the thing’s essence which is not unique to it, but is shared with other things of the same kind in general. So ‘lion’ is a species of the genus ‘animal’. (Biological taxonomy differs from this classification, having a more detailed hierarchy  in descending order: domains, kingdoms; phyla, classes, orders, families, genera and species.) 

The differentia distinguish one species from another within a genus; they are what make circles different from squares though they are both instances of ‘shape. These concepts gave Aristotle his fundamental view about how we categorize or define anything: we do it ‘by genus and difference’.

What Aristotle wished to achieve was understanding  that is, he wished to give explanations of things and ultimately of the universe itself. The Greek word for explanation, aitia, also means ‘cause’, and Aristotle framed the task of explaining things as ascertaining their causes: to know or understand something, he said, is to know its cause. Now, causes themselves have causes, and there is a risk that the chain of explanation by causes might run back for ever. This is where definition enters the picture. 

Suppose you explain A by saying it was caused by B, and that B was caused by C; you will reach a point, say D (or perhaps eventually Z), where the explanation stops because at that point we say ‘because it is what it is’; we have reached the definition of the thing, an account of its nature, from which explanations of C and B and A follow.

By the time that logical orginality revived, a reign of two thousand years had made Aristotle very difficult to dethrone. Throughout modern times, practically every advance in science, in logic, or in philosophy has had to be made in the teeth of the opposition from Aristotle's disciples.


''Man is political animal'' - Aristotle.

 ARISTOTLE'S Politics is both interesting and important-testing, as showing the common prejudices of educated Greeks in his time, and important as a source of many principles which remained influential until the end of the Middle Ages. I do not think there is much in it that could be of any practical use to a statesman of the present day, but there is a great deal that throws light on the conflicts of parties in different parts of the Hellenic world. There is not very much awareness of methods of government in non-Hellenic States. There are, it is true, allusions to Egypt, Babylon, Persia, and Carthage, but except in the case of Carthage they are somewhat perfunctory. 

There is no mention of Alexander, and not even the faintest awareness of the complete transformation that he was effecting in the world. The whole discussion is concerned with City States, and there is no prevision of their obsolescence. Greece, owing to its division into independent cities, was a laboratory of political experiment; but nothing to which these experiments were relevant existed from Aristotle's time until the rise of the Italian cities in the Middle Ages. In many ways, the experience to which Aristotle appeals is more relevant to the comparatively modern world than to any that existed for fifteen hundred years after the book was written.

The book begins by pointing out the importance of the State; it is the highest kind of community, and aims at the highest good. In order of time, the family comes first; it is built on the two fundamental relations of man and woman, master and slave, both of which are natural. Several families combined make a village; several villages, a State, provided the combination is nearly large enough to be self- sufficing. 

The State, though later in time than the family, is prior to it, and even to the individual, by nature; for "what each thing is when fully developed we call its nature," and human society, fully developed, is a State, and the whole is prior to the part. The conception involved here is that of organism: a hand, when the body is destroyed, is, we are told, no longer a hand. The implication is that a hand is to be defined by its purpose that of grasping which it can only perform when joined to a living body. In like manner, an individual cannot fulfil his purpose unless he is part of a State. 

He who founded the State, Aristotle says, was the greatest of benefactors; for without law man is the worst of animals, and law depends, for its existence, on the State. The State is not a mere society for exchange and the prevention of crime: "The end of the State is the good life.  And the State is the union of families and villages in a perfect and self-sufficing life, by which we mean a happy and honourable life" . "A political society exists for the sake of noble actions, not of mere companionship" .

This leads to the question: how large should a State be? Large cities, we are told, are never well governed, because a great multitude cannot be orderly. A State ought to be large enough to be more or less self-sufficing, but not too large for constitutional government. It ought to be small enough for the citizens to know each other's characters, otherwise right will not be done in elections and lawsuits. The territory should be small enough to be surveyed in its entirety from a hill-top. We are told both that it should be self-sufficient  and that it should have an export and import trade , which seems an inconsistency.

"The city- sate is a product of human nature"

A State being composed of households, each of which consists of one family, the discussion of politics should begin with the family. The bulk of this discussion is concerned with slavery--for in antiquity the slaves were always reckoned as part of the family. Slavery is expedient and right, but the slave should be naturally inferior to the master. From birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule; the man who is by nature not his own but another man's is by nature a slave. Slaves should not be Greeks, but of an inferior race with less spirit ,  Tame animals are better off when ruled by man, and so are those who are naturally inferior when ruled by their superiors. It may be questioned whether the practice of making slaves out of prisoners of war is justified; power, such as leads to victory in war, seems to imply superior virtue, but this is not always the case. 

War, however, is just when waged against men who, though intended by nature to be governed, will not submit ; and in this case, it is implied, it would be right to make slaves of the conquered. This would seem enough to justify any conqueror who ever lived; for no nation will admit that it is intended by nature to be governed, and the only evidence as to nature's intentions must be derived from the outcome of war. In every war, therefore, the victors are in the right and the vanquished in the wrong. Very satisfactory!

Plato's Utopia is criticized by Aristotle on various grounds. There is first the very interesting comment that it gives too much unity to the State, and would make it into an individual. Next comes the kind of argument against the proposed abolition of the family that naturally occurs to every reader. Plato thinks that, by merely giving the title of "son" to all who are of an age that makes their sonship possible, a man will acquire towards the whole multitude the sentiments that men have at present towards their actual sons, and correlatively as regards the title "father." Aristotle, on the contrary, says that what is common to the greatest number receives the least care, and that if "sons" are common to many "fathers" they will be neglected in common; it is better to be a cousin in reality than a "son" in Plato's sense; Plato's plan would make love watery. 

Then there is a curious argument that, since abstinence from adultery is a virtue, it would be a pity to have a social system which abolishes this virtue and the correlative vice . Then we are asked: if women are common, who will manage the house? I wrote an essay once, called "Architecture and the Social System," in which I pointed out that all who combine communism with abolition of the family also advocate communal houses for large numbers, with communal kitchens, dining-rooms, and nurseries. This system may be described as monasteries without celibacy. It is essential to the carrying out of Plato's plans, but it is certainly not more impossible than many other things that he recommends. ''Aristotle defends private property and the family''.

Plato's communism annoys Aristotle. It would lead, he says, to anger against lazy people, and to the sort of quarrels that are common between fellow-travellers. It is better if each minds his own business. Property should be private, but people should be so trained in benevolence as to allow the use of it to be largely common. Benevolence and generosity are virtues, and without private property they are impossible. Finally we are told that, if Plato's plans were good, someone would have thought of them sooner.  I do not agree with Plato, but if anything could make me do so, it would be Aristotle's arguments against him.

Aristotle sent his disciples and asked them to bring all the city-state constitutions. Aristotle studied all the constitution. They bring about 150 constitution.  After studying all the constitutions they realize that all the states have different systems.


Correct       

deviant

1. One ruler                     

Kingship 

Tyranny

2. few ruler                     

Aristocracy

oligarchy

3. many ruler                   

 polity

Democracy

These term were coined by Aristotle and we still use this term in political science.

A government is good when it aims at the good of the whole community, bad when it cares only for itself. There are three kinds of government that are good: monarchy, aristocracy, and constitutional government (or polity); there are three that are bad: tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy. There are also many mixed intermediate forms. It will be observed that the good and bad governments are defined by the ethical qualities of the holders of power, not by the form of the constitution. This, however, is only partly true. An aristocracy is a rule of men of virtue, an oligarchy is a rule of the rich, and Aristotle does not consider virtue and wealth strictly synonymous. 

What he holds, in accordance with the doctrine of the golden mean, is that a moderate competence is most likely to be associated with virtue: "Mankind do not acquire or preserve virtue by the help of external goods, but external goods by the help of virtue, and happiness, whether consisting in pleasure or virtue, or both, is more often found with those who are most highly cultivated in their mind and in their character, and have only a moderate share of external goods, than among those who possess external goods to a useless extent but are deficient in higher qualities". There is therefore a difference between the rule of the best (aristocracy) and of the richest (oligarchy), since the best are likely to have only moderate fortunes. There is also a difference between democracy and polity, in addition to the ethical difference in the government, for what Aristotle calls "polity" retains some oligarchic elements . But between monarchy and tyranny the only difference is ethical.

He is emphatic in distinguishing oligarchy and democracy by the economic status of the governing party: there is oligarchy when the rich govern without consideration for the poor, democracy when power is in the hands of the needy and they disregard the interest of the rich.

Monarchy is better than aristocracy, aristocracy is better than polity. But the corruption of the best is worst; therefore tyranny is worse than oligarchy, and oligarchy than democracy. In this way Aristotle arrives at a qualified defence of democracy; for most actual governments are bad, and therefore, among actual governments, democracies tend to be best.

The Greek conception of democracy was in many ways more extreme than ours; for instance, Aristotle says that to elect magistrates is oligarchic, while it is democratic to appoint them by lot. In extreme democracies, the assembly of the citizens was above the law, and decided each question independently. The Athenian lawcourts were composed of a large number of citizens chosen by lot, unaided by any jurist; they were, of course, liable to be swayed by eloquence or party passion. When democracy is criticized, it must be understood that this sort of thing is meant.

The main cause was the conflict of oligarchs and democrats. Democracy, Aristotle says, arises from the belief that men who are equally free should be equal in all respects; oligarchy, from the fact that men who are superior in some respect claim too much. Both have a kind of justice, but not the best kind. "Therefore both parties, whenever their share in the government does not accord with their preconceived ideas, stir up revolution" . Democratic governments are less liable to revolutions than oligarchies, because oligarchs may fall out with each other. The oligarchs seem to have been vigorous fellows. In some cities, we are told, they swore an oath: "I will be an enemy to the people, and will devise all the harm against them which I can." Now-a-days, reactionaries are not so frank.

Aristotle's class analysis
Aristotle understood class contradiction as the foundation of politics.  Aristotle did not use the term directory class, but he used the term  'faction'' for class. He said that the conflict between Athens and Sparta was also shaped by class contradictions. 

Aristotle dislike democracy. he gave definition '' Democracy is when the poor, and not the men of property, are the rulers.  Why did not Aristotle support democracy  ? because people are so easily mislead and so fickle in their views the ballot should be limited to the intelligent.''  Aristotle supported the aristocratic system. 

Aristotle concludes that there is no wickedness too great for a tyrant. There is, however, he says, another method of preserving a tyranny, namely by moderation and by seeming religious. The There is a long argument to prove that foreign conquest is not the end of the State, showing that many people took the imperialist view.

As we have seen in connection with slavery, Aristotle is no believer in equality. Granted, however, the subjection of slaves and women, it still remains a question whether all citizens should be politically equal. Some men, he says, think this desirable, on the ground that all revolutions turn on the regulation of property. He rejects this argument, maintaining that the greatest crimes are due to excess rather than want; no man becomes a tyrant in order to avoid feeling the cold.

There is, it is true, an exception: conquest of "natural slaves" is right and just. This would, in Aristotle's view, justify wars against barbarians, but not against Greeks, for no Greeks are "natural slaves." In general, war is only a means, not an end; a city in an isolated situation, where conquest is not possible, may be happy; States that live in isolation need not be inactive. God and the universe are active, though foreign conquest is impossible for them. The happiness that a State should seek, therefore, though war may sometimes be a necessary means to it, should not be war, but the activities of peace. no decision as to which method is likely to prove the more successful.

Men who work for their living should not be admitted to citizenship. "Citizens should not lead the life of mechanics or tradesmen, for such a life is ignoble and inimical to virtue." Nor should they be husbandmen, because they need leisure. The citizens should own the property, but the husbandmen should be slaves of a different race . Northern races, we are told, are spirited; southern races, intelligent; therefore slaves should be of southern races, since it is inconvenient if they are spirited. The Greeks alone are both spirited and intelligent; they are better governed than barbarians, and if united could rule the world  . One might have expected at this point some allusion to Alexander, but there is none.

Aristotle's fundamental assumptions, in his Politics, are very different from those of any modern writer.

Both for good and evil, therefore, the day of the cultured gentleman is past.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

An Overview of the Sophists Philosophy

Want to learn more about Sophists philosophy? Follow this guide which dives into its foundations and unceasing relevance today!  The Sophists Philosophy The Sophists were a group of ancient Greek teachers, who sought to explain the world through rhetoric, reason, and debate. Their philosophy had a major influence on Western thought and paved the way for modern day philosophical schools of thought. Here you can find out more about their teaching and beliefs. What is Sophists best known for? The teaching of the Sophists was merely a translation into theoretical propositions of these practical tendencies of the period. The Sophists were the children of their time, and the interpreters of their age. Their philosophical teachings were simply the crystallization of the impulses which governed the life of the people into abstract principles and maxims.  Sophists claimed to make a weaker position appear stronger by using techniques of rhetoric and  debate.  Sophists was founder  of relativism

The Milesian school/ the Pre-Socratic philosophers

Explore the thought-provoking ideas of the Milesian School and discover how they revolutionized pre-Socratic philosophies. Get to know who the school's prominent figures were and what they contributed to knowledge.  What is the Milesian School and its Philosophers?  The Milesian School was a pre-Socratic school of philosophy founded in the Sicilian Greek city of Miletus. Its main figures were Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes—three of the first major philosophers to emerge in history. Their theories on cosmology, causation, and human nature shaped our understanding of the world today. Thales proposed that water is fundamental to all life; Anaximander theorized that the Earth began as an undifferentiated mass; while Anaximenes speculated that air is the primordial element to exist in the universe.  Thanks to these three philosophers and other Milesian thinkers who followed them, we have access to early revolutionary knowledge about our natural environment and our place within it.

The Origins of Cynic Philosophers and Their Philosophy

Explore the history behind Cynic philosophy and discover what makes it unique among ancient worldviews. Read on to learn more about this fascinating branch of knowledge! Exploring the Origins of Cynic Philosophers and Their Philosophy  Cynicism is an ancient philosophy that emphasizes the pursuit of virtue through self-control, personal integrity, and autonomy in spite of life's hardships. This school of thought explored a variety of topics such as morality, justice, and honor to name a few. Learn more about the Cynics philosophy and its impact on later generations here! What is Cynic Philosophy? Cynic philosophy is a school of thought focused on living in accordance with nature. Its practitioners aimed to lead an authentic life that resists external influence and cultivates an unyielding sense of personal autonomy. Utilizing strict reason as its moderate, this ancient system of belief sought to rid the world of a variety of vices, including pride, greed, and ignorance. What is Dio