March 5 2012
Short papers due Wednesday!
What is Metaphysics?
-The investigation into what types of things there are in the world and what
relations these things bear to one another.
-The word derives from the Greek words meta (meaning "beyond" or "after") and
physica (meaning "physical"), "physical" referring to those works on the nature of
matter [i.e. an inquiry into “stuff”] by Aristotle. The prefix meta- ("beyond") was
attached to the chapters in Aristotle's work that physically followed after the
chapters on "physics", in posthumously edited collections. Aristotle himself did not
call these works Metaphysics but usually “first philosophy”.
Materialism (sometimes called “physicalism”)
-The view that everything real is matter or material or energy.
-All things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness)
are the result of material interactions.
In other words, matter is the only substance.
Matieralism is an example of an “Ontological monism”.
(Ontological = what is there?)
(Monism = one type of thing)
1 Aristotle’s Materialism:
M ATTER (POTENTIALITY )= that which persists and which is, for some range
of X’s, potentially X
FORM (ACTUALITY )=that which makes some matter which is potentially X
T HE COMPOUND OF MATTER AND FORM
A particular thing is always a combination of both matter and form.
-The matter of the substance is the stuff of which it is composed, e.g. the matter of
the house are the bricks, stones, timbers etc., or whatever constitutes the potential
house. Bricks (etc.) have the potential to be placed into the FORM of a house they
have other potentialities too, of which the form of a house is but one.
-This particular house (i.e. any house we might point to) is a combination of the
matter of which it is composed, and the form, the actuality, of the house into which
that material was constituted.
-Aristotle was interested in compounds that are alive. These plants and animals
are the things that have souls.
-Their souls are what make them living things.
2 Wait! Souls? I thought Aristotle was a materialist…
Importantly: not the “soul” that Christianity invokes.
-Since form (the actuality) is what makes matter a “this,” (this house, this turtle,
etc..), the soul is the form of a living thing. (Not its shape, but its actuality, that in
virtue of which it is the kind of living thing that it is.)
(e.g) What makes an elephant an elephant is not the tissue, the organs, blood and
ivory, etc alone, but the specific form all of that matter takes. The compound of
matter and form.
A living thing’s soul is its capacity to engage in the activities that are characteristic of
living things of its natural kind.
For grasshoppers and cacti and beluga whales that will involve various sorts of
things… hopping, swimming, mating, etc…
For us, that is to be rational; political; social etc…