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  1. CLASSICAL PHILOSOPHY 2 HU-2053 BS-English 4
  2. Aristotle: •Aristotle was born 384-322 B.C in the Macedonian region of northeastern Greece. •Aristotle was sent to Athens at about the age of seventeen to study in Plato’s Academy, then a pre-eminent place of learning in the Greek world. Once in Athens, Aristotle remained associated with the Academy until Plato’s death in 347. •He left for Assos, in Asia Minor, on the northwest coast of present-day Turkey. There he continued the philosophical activity he had begun in the Academy, but in all likelihood also began to expand his researches into marine biology. •Although speculation concerning Aristotle’s influence upon the developing Alexander has proven irresistible to historians, in fact little concrete is known about their interaction.
  3. Works:  Aristotle is a towering figure in ancient Greek philosophy, making contributions to logic, metaphysics, mathematics, physics, biology, botany, ethics, politics, agriculture, medicine, dance and theatre.  He was a student of Plato who in turn studied under Socrates. He was more empirically-minded than Plato or Socrates and is famous for rejecting Plato's theory of forms.  In his lifetime, Aristotle wrote as many as 200 treatises, of which only 31 survive.  Unfortunately for us, these works are in the form of lecture notes and draft manuscripts never intended for general readership, so they do not demonstrate his reputed polished prose style which attracted many great followers, including the Roman Cicero.
  4. Works:  Aristotle was an ancient Greek philosopher who contributed the foundation of both symbolic logic and scientific thinking to Western philosophy.  He also made advances in the branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, moving away from the idealism of his mentor Plato to a more empirical and less mystical view of the nature of reality.  Aristotle was the first philosopher to seriously advance a theory of Virtue Ethics, which remains one of the three major schools of ethical thought taken most seriously by contemporary philosophers. With all these contributions, he may have been the single most important philosopher in history until at least the late 18th century.
  5. Aristotle's Philosophy Through History  As a young man, Aristotle studied at Plato’s school and remained there until Plato’s death.  Afterward, he served as a tutor to Alexander the Great, a fact about his past that hurt his standing with many people once Alexander began to conquer the majority of the known world.  Like his mentor Plato, most of Aristotle’s work was lost initially. Unlike Plato, his actual works were never recovered and instead we only have class notes from his students to give us an idea of what Aristotle’s views and beliefs actually were.  The views of Plato and the later philosopher Plotinus were judged more compatible with Christianity then the scientific and essentially pagan views of Aristotle.
  6. Aristotle's Philosophy Through History  Aristotle rejected the idea of Plato’s “Theory of the forms,” which stated that the idealized essence of an object existed apart from that object.  Plato thought that physical things were representations of idealized perfect forms that existed on another plane of reality.  Aristotle thought that the essence of an object existed with the thing itself.  In this way, he also rejected the idea of a soul that existed outside of the physical body, instead believing that human consciousness resided completely with the physical form.  Aristotle thought simply that the best way to gain knowledge was through “natural philosophy,” which is what we would now call science.
  7. Nicomachean Ethics Summary  Nicomachean Ethics is a philosophical inquiry into the nature of the good life for a human being.  Aristotle begins the work by positing that there exists some ultimate good toward which, in the final analysis, all human actions ultimately aim.  The necessary characteristics of the ultimate good are that it is complete, final, self-sufficient and continuous.  This good toward which all human actions implicity or explicitly aim is happiness ‹ in Greek, "eudaimonia," which can also be translated as blessedness or living well, and which is not a static state of being but a type of activity.
  8. Nicomachean Ethics Summary  To discover the nature of human happiness it is necessary to determine what the function of a human being is, for a person's happiness will consist in fulfilling the natural function toward which his being is directed.  This natural function must be something which is specific to human beings, which is essential to being human. A person is primarily his intellect. While the spirited and desiring parts of the soul are also important, the rational part of the soul is what one can most properly consider a person's identity.  The activity which only human beings can perform is intellectual; it is activity of the highest part of the soul (the rational part) according to reason.
  9. Nicomachean Ethics Summary  Human happiness, therefore, consists in activity of the soul according to reason. In practical terms, this activity is expressed through ethical virtue, when a person directs his actions according to reason. The very highest human life, however, consists in contemplation of the greatest goods. More will be said later on this topic, which is the culmination of the Ethics.  Ethical virtue "is a habit disposed toward action by deliberate choice, being at the mean relative to us, and defined by reason as a prudent man would define it." Each of the elements of this definition is important.
  10. Nicomachean Ethics Summary  Virtue is not simply an isolated action but a habit of acting well.  For an action to be virtuous a person must do it deliberately, knowing what he is doing, and doing it because it is a noble action.  In each specific situation, the virtuous action is a mean between two extremes.  Finally, prudence is necessary for ethical virtue because it is the intellectual virtue by which a person is able to determine the mean specific to each situation.
  11. Nicomachean Ethics Summary  The first virtue discussed is bravery. It is a mean between rashness and cowardice.  A brave man is one who faces and fears what he should for the right reason, in the right manner and at the right time.  A brave man performs his actions for the sake of what is noble. A brave man is thus one who is fearless in facing a noble death.
  12. Nicomachean Ethics Summary  The next virtue is temperance. It is a mean with regard to bodily pleasures.  The intemperate man desires pleasurable things and chooses them because they are pleasurable; he is pained when he fails to get what he desires.  A temperate man is moderately disposed with regard to pleasures and pains. He loves such pleasures as right reason dictates.  Temperance keeps the desiring part of the soul in harmony with reason.
  13. Nicomachean Ethics Summary  Generosity is the third virtue which Aristotle examines.  With regard to property, generosity is a mean between wastefulness and stinginess.  A generous man will give to the right person, the right amounts and at the right times.  He will also take proper care of his possessions.  Generosity does not depend on the quantity of the giving but on the habit of the giver, which takes into account the amount which the giver himself has and is able to give away.
  14. Nicomachean Ethics Summary  The next virtue is munificence, which consists giving large amounts for suitable occasions.  The deficiency of this virtue is called meanness and the excess is ostentation.  A munificent man spends gladly and lavishly, not calculating costs, but always for a noble purpose.
  15. Nicomachean Ethics Summary  Magnanimity, the fifth virtue Aristotle discusses, is one of the peaks of virtue.  A magnanimous man claims and deserves great honors.  Someone who deserves honors but doesn't claim them is low-minded, and someone who claims honors but doesn't deserve them is vain.  It is better to be vain than low-minded, because vanity will be naturally corrected by life experience.  A magnanimous man is great in each of the virtues, and is a sort of ornament of virtues because he shows how good a virtuous life is.