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Essay on Aristotle: A Comprehensive View on Nature and Society

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Aristotle: A Comprehensive View on Nature and Society


In order to fully understand Aristotle’s views on a natural system, it is necessary to first explain some general principles of his philosophy. It is in his work the Categories that Aristotle presents the concept of substance, a concept that will serve as the foundation for much of his philosophical system.

Substance, for Aristotle, is not a universal, but rather, it is the particular; substance is not a “such,” but a “this.” Thus, substance is neither in nor is it said of a subject (as are qualities). Rather it is that which makes the subject numerically one; it is that which makes the subject the individual. Substance is “an individual man and [or] an individual horse.” Aristotle still classifies universals as substances, for they define what constitutes the substance, and without these universals, a substance would not be what is.

There are four characteristics of substances: a substance is a “this”, not a qualification or a ‘such’ (which stresses individuality); a substance has no contraries to it (there are no opposites of a substance); a substance does not admit more or less (there are not degrees of a substance); and a substance can admit contraries while remaining numerically one.

In the Physics, Aristotle addresses that which constitutes Natural Objects as substances. He states that all Natural Substances consist of both form and matter. Matter is that out of which the substance arises and form is that into which the matter develops. In building a table, the wood, nails, etc., are the matters, and the idea of a table, what the end result will be, is the form, according to Aristotle. Matter and form are inseparable from each other; there is no ‘form’ apart from concrete things. Aristotle explains that all substances contain within themselves the origin of their change and movement. He continues by stating that the change, which can occur, is due to four possible natural causes: formal cause, material cause, efficient cause, and final cause. Formal and material causes are self explanatory, in that it is the form or the matter of the substance that is responsible for the change within the substance. Efficient and final cause, however, will become clearer once we investigate Aristotle’s ideas of actuality and potentiality. We should begin the explanation of actuality and potentially ...


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... nature and our striving towards the “good,” by means of moderate actions is everyday life. Knowing this practical type of reason, we can now examine the theoretical type of reason, intellectual virtue. Happiness is an activity, it is not a passive state for Aristotle. It is our potential which allows us to be motivated by the concept of the “Unmoved Mover,” towards a state of perfection or perfect happiness. In order to achieve this state, a human, according to Aristotle, must partake in an activity which is both sought for intrinsic purposes and is in itself perfect. Intellectual virtue is this activity. It is a theoretical principle which each person knows “a priori;” it is the act of doing what is most natural for all humans to do, to reason. It is our nature according to Aristotle, to reason, and it follows that if we achieve the perfectness or excellence (arete) in our nature, we achieve perfect happiness. Specifically, for Aristotle, the best way to come close to achieving the perfect “good” is to act as a seeker of truth.

The philosopher is the way to go according to Aristotle; “Philosophical thoght is the way to consummate perfect happiness, but it doesn’t pay well.”


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