PHIL 401-002 (Spring 2007)
Essay Assignment on Aristotle

Contact Dr. Jan Garrett

Last revised on February 10, 2007

Probable Due Date and Time: Class time, February 27.

Length: 1200 words (at least 1000 excluding quoted materials). Please give me a word count that does not include quoted material. You may exceed the minimum page length by 2-3 pages if you wish.

Format: double spaced, word-processed, about one-inch page margins; paragraphs normally between 7 and 10 lines.

I am looking for a coherent summary, reasonably well documented, of key passages on Aristotle's scientific method, natural philosophy (including psychology), and metaphysics, which we have studied in the last several weeks. (You may want to read some passages which we have not discussed closely in class.) Below are some suggested approaches. You would not have to answer all the questions listed, but I'd like you to try to deal with several. Show what you understand in the best light possible and, if you can, deal with ideas found in more than one place in Aristotle.

If you have not carefully worked through the study questions corresponding to the key passages on which you'll be relying, you should probably do that before trying to compose your essay.

Cite the Aristotelian work and Bekker numbers as documentation for your attributions to Aristotle. You may use embedded parenthetical format: e.g., "Aristotle holds that . . . (Phys. 201b28-30)." I'll assume you mean the Irwin-Fine translations unless otherwise indicated. You may refer to other works, such as Jonathan Barnes' Cambridge Companion to Aristotle thus: (Barnes 1995, [page number]). Use endnotes and a bibliography if you cite such other sources.

Incidentally, De Anima is the Latin title for On the Soul.

Apart from the texts we have discussed together, you may wish to read the Irwin-Fine selections from De Partibus Animalium (= On the Parts of Animals) I.1, I.5 (Irwin-Fine pp. 206-218).

Suggested Topics

Aristotle on scientific understanding and method in natural science.

What is knowledge through demonstration or demonstrative understanding, and why is it important for Aristotle? (See Post. Analytics I.1-2, especially.) Explain key terms such as "demonstration," "primary," "immediate," "prior and better known." What is a middle term, and why is it important for Aristotelian explanations? Distinguish principles in each genus (or distinctive to a given genus) from common principles. How are the principles (primary premises) acquired by scientific inquirers? (Post. Anal. II.19 and Metaphysics I.1, especially 980a27-981b12.)
Aristotle's conceptual scheme (four causes, potentiality, actuality, etc.) in the discussion of nature, cause, motion, soul, and, if you wish, the parts of animals (Physics; On Soul; On the Parts of Animals).
You might start with the four causes as discussed in Physics II.3, and then elaborate on them in terms of potentiality and act. What senses (meanings) of "nature" does A. distinguish (Phys. II.1); relate these to the kinds of cause. Is it just accidental that "nature" has all these senses or are all these senses tied together into some fairly integrated conceptual network? Explain. How is nature like art (or making)? In what sense does nature do things for an end? Does nature, like some deliberate makers, ever goof? What role do the causes play in the sorts of insights for which Aristotle looks in the study of animals? (See Parts I.1. I have provided Study Questions for this work now.) How does Aristotle define motion, and how is this account dependent on his basic notions of cause, potentiality, etc.? How many kinds of motion are there? Relate to Aristotle's notion of categories. (See Phys. III.) How does Aristotle's general definition of soul make use of his basic conceptual scheme? (See On Soul II.)
Aristotle on the soul in general, with special attention to the nutritive and sensitive soul
What three senses of substance does Aristotle distinguish in On Soul II.1. Which of these three senses corresponds to the concrete individual, which is called primary substance in the Categories? How does Aristotle define soul in general and how is it related to the body? How is this definition dependent on concepts introduced in Phys. II.3?

How are the sensitive faculties (sight, etc.) related to bodily organs? How do sensible forms arise in the soul? Distinguish the "proper objects of perception" from the "common objects of perception")? Integrate other material from On Soul ii or iii or other works as appropriate.

Aristotle on the soul in general, with special focus on his views of the intellectual soul (On Soul II.1 and III, especially chapters 4-5).
How does A. define soul in general and how is it, in general, related to the body? In what way is the (possible) intellect dependent upon the sensitive faculty? How does it differ from the sensitive faculty? How does Aristotle describe the intellect? What is its relation to the body? Why? Distinguish the aspects or types of intellect? How does he describe the productive (active) intellect? (See especially Study Question 37 for On Soul.) Discuss: "Aristotle's theory of soul is very different from familiar forms of dualism, such as Plato's. Yet there seem to be dualistic elements in the account of intellect."

If you find yourself stuck at any point, please ask for guidance, references to other relevant passages in Aristotle, secondary sources, matters of style, etc. I am here to help.