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PHL200Y1 Study Guide - Pre-Socratic Philosophy, Epicureanism


Department
Philosophy
Course Code
PHL200Y1
Professor
Lloyd Gerson

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1. What is Aristotle’s definition of the soul? How does the soul serve to unify all of the functions of a living
thing?
Aristotle defines the soul as the first actualization of a body that is potentially alive.
In De Anima Aristotle says that there are three kinds of substances: matter, form and the
composite of matter and form. The matter of a human is a human body. Without a human body,
you do not have the potential to be a living human being. Matter then is potentiality. The form of
a human being is being able to do human being things.
The soul is what makes you a human being because without a soul you do not have the capacity
to do human being activities. The form of a human being is a human soul. Thus, the soul is the
capacity that you have to be alive and what is causally responsible for being alive. Form is
actuality. Aristotle stresses that form and matter are not separate. The soul cannot exist apart
from the body because it is the capacity of a potential body to be alive. Without a body, there
isn’t a capacity to do living things. This is very different from Platos belief that the soul is
separable from the body.
Aristotle says that there are 3 kinds of souls. There are nutritive souls, sensitive souls and
rational souls. Nutritive souls are the capacity of a potentially alive body to grow, reproduce, and
be nourished. Everything that is alive has a nutritive soul. Sensitive souls are the capacity that a
potentially alive body has to perceive and move. All animals have sensitive souls as well as
nutritive souls. Rational souls are the capacity that a potentially alive body has to think and
reason. Only humans have rational souls. The soul unifies all of the functions of a living thing
because souls are casually responsible for the life activities that living things have depending
upon what sort of living things that they are. Thus, humans do “human things” because humans
have nutritive souls, sensitive souls and rational souls. Plants do “plant things” because plants
only have nutritive souls.
Aristotle’s four causes explain why something is the way that it is. The four causes are: material
cause, formal cause, efficient cause, and final cause. Material cause is what something is made
out of. The material cause of a human being is a human body. The potential to do the things that
human beings do depends on having a human body. The formal cause is what makes something
the sort of thing that it is. The formal cause of a human being is a human soul. Without a human
soul you can’t be a human being because you wouldn’t have the capacity to do human being
things. Form determines matter. You have a human body because you are a human being. You
aren’t a human being because you have a human body. The efficient cause is what causes change.
The efficient cause of a human being would be the parents that produced that human being. The
final cause is the end goal or result of an activity. An example of this would be, I am studying for
the final for the final cause of doing well on the final. Aristotle says that in a way the four causes
are all one.
1. Can we attain knowledge? If so, how? If not, why not? Compare the views of Aristotle, Plato,
the Stoics and the Skeptics.

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Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics all believed that knowledge was attainable. All three
schools of thought believed that pure reason was an important process for gaining knowledge but
only Plato believed that knowledge could not be gained from sense perception.
Plato believed that true knowledge was gained by knowing the immaterial forms and that
the immaterial forms could only be known by the dialectical process of reasoning (a process
which is entirely immaterial). In the simile of the divided line, Plato says that the form of the
good shines light on all of the forms as the sun shines light on the physical realm allowing us to
see. Plato believed that all learning was recollection of a priori knowledge of the forms from our
souls before they were embodied. Plato asserted that knowledge could only be gained by
intuitive thought because the senses could not be trusted.
Aristotle rejected Plato’s theory of knowledge and believed that knowledge could be
acquired by empirical observation. By abstracting the universal and necessary truths from
particulars in the visible world, knowledge could be attained. Thus for Aristotle, the first step to
acquiring knowledge is to observe the visible world and collect empirical data from it. As
opposed to Plato, Aristotle thought that knowledge could only be gained by studying nature, not
through intuition alone.
The Stoics also believed that the acquisition of knowledge began with observations of the
natural world but they thought that nothing incorporeal existed. This is substantially different
from Platos view that knowledge is thought (which is entirely incorporeal) and Aristotles view
that knowledge is thought (immaterial) abstracted from the corporeal world. The Stoics were
materialists. They thought that knowledge was matter that was gained through the senses by
understanding the order of the natural world.
The skeptics did not believe that knowledge was attainable. They argued that you
couldn’t have evidence that something was true because you cannot know what would be
evidence for something until you know that that something is true. They said that we should live
entirely by appearances and that we should suspend judgment about whether or not something is
true since we have no way of knowing.
2. Accounting for change is one of the major concerns of ancient philosophes. Discuss Stoic and
Aristotelian views of change and compare them to the pre-Socratic of your choice.
The pre-Socratic Parmenides argued that change was impossible. He said that change
would be an account of something coming to be from nothing and that that is impossible.
Aristotle agreed that it was impossible for something to come to be from nothing but he refuted
Parmenides claim by arguing that there is “something which subsists or underlies” all change
(with the exception of substantial change). Aristotle said that all natural things change and that
there are four kinds of change. There is qualitative change (when a quality of something
changes), quantitative change (when something changes in amount), locomotive change (when
something changes place) and substantial change (when something comes into existence or
ceases to exist). The first three kinds of change are said to be accidental changes. Accidental
changes are processes that consist of three parts. They are made up of form, privation and matter.
Form is the property that a natural thing has, owing to it being the sort of natural thing that it is.
Privation is the other property that a thing that exists by nature can have, owing to it being the
sort of thing that it is. Matter is the underlying principle of change that connects form and
privation. Matter is only knowable by analogy. For example, lets think of someone who grows
taller. The form is that they’re short, the privation is that they aren’t tall and the matter is the
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