Philosophy Midterm Study Guide
Aristotle’s On the Soul
1. Can one err in perceiving something? Why/Why not? Can one err in thinking about
something? Why/Why not?
There are two kinds of perception, the first being perception with the senses,
namely touch, sight, smell, etc, and the second being perception with the mind. When
using our senses we are less likely to make a mistake in our perceptions.Aristotle states,
“Perception of special objects of sense is always free from error”(Bk.III Ch.3 pg.224).
When we only perceive one thing, namely a taste as in sour, a feeling from touch, as in
hot, we are not wrong in taking these perceptions as true. We are not combining
perceptions to create an idea of something; rather we are using one sense to divulge
information about one aspect of that thing. However, when we begin combining, or
synthesizing individual perceptions in our minds to create a new idea about a thing, we
can more easily err.
2. What doesAristotle mean and refer to when he is telling us that “in forming
opinions we are not free” (427b20)?
Aristotle means that our opinions are never free from error. There is too much
synthesis of ideas, perceptions, and emotions to ever be one hundred percent true every
time. Opinions involve truth and falsehood because they are made up of subjective ideas
and so when there is a possibility of falsehood, there is the potential for error. Opinions
also involve emotion, and because emotion is subjective (because one thing can evoke
different emotions in different people) those opinions cannot be “true”.
Aristotle’s Metaphysics Bk. Zeta
3. How does learning proceed (1029b2), according to Aristotle?
According to Aristotle, learning proceeds by moving from, “…what is by its
nature less intelligible to what is more intelligible.” We begin with information that is less
understood or even confusing and move towards a higher understanding of that same
material, but not necessarily a complete understanding. We start with something familiar
and use this familiar information to help us understand the information that is more
foreign to us.
4. What doesAristotle mean when he says that “the form . . . is not produced” (1033b3)?
Aristotle states that “Obviously then the form also, or whatever we ought to call
the shape present in the sensible thing, is not produced, nor is there any production of it, nor is the essence produced…” (Bk. Zeta Ch.8). Form is not produced because a thing,
for example a bronze sphere, does not simply come as a bronze sphere in the earth. We
must obtain the substance of which it is created, bronze, and introduce sphere-ness, or the
form, to it, by shaping it.
5. Is an artifact (a manmade thing) considered a primary substance? Why? Why not?
An artifact is something manmade and not alive, like a desk.Aprimary substance
has a self-sustaining capacity, like a plant, or an animal. So, artifacts are not considered
primary substances because they have no self-sustaining capacity.
6. What is the difference between whatAristotle calls a “substance” and “secondary
Aristotle states that there are primary and secondary substances. Both substances
have a self-sustaining capacity but they are a little different. We begin with a broad topic
of “genus” which would be equivalent to the broad category of “animal”. We then move
to the slightly more specific topic of species, which is equivalent to the category of
“man”. The last topic is called “the this” which is a specific man, a particular man, for
example a man called “Max”. The man and/or species is the secondary substance. The
“this” and/or Max is the primary substance.
Descartes’Meditations II & IV (pp. 31 – 39 & pp. 57  – 61 )
7. Why does Descartes go into intricate detail when describing the properties of the piece
of wax? What is the point of this exercise? Outline Descartes’findings in this
Descartes begins talking about the properties of wax and how they do not define
what a piece of wax is.All the properties of wax can change yet it is still wax. He does
this in order to describe how we can understand the idea or essence of something, and its
parts do not define it. He also applies this to knowing about himself. He is able to define
himself by understanding he is not made up of parts but rather there is an essence of him
and those parts only play a small part in who he is.
8. What does Descartes mean when he says that “I am not merely present to my body as a
sailor is present to a ship” (p. 78)? Descartes means that a sailor is with his ship, but Descartes is connected, united,
and mixed with, his body. He would perceive pain through not only his senses but also
his mind if something caused it to his body whereas a sailor would only perceive it
through his senses if something happened to his ship, if at all. He also perceives things
that only a thing with a mixture of body and mind could perceive, such as thirst and
Descartes’Discourse on Method “Introduction” and Parts 1 – 3
9. The “Introduction” to Descartes’Discourse on Method states that “Descartes was born
into an unsettled, even tumultuous and skeptical time” (p. 4). List some of the historical
events that account for the tumultuous nature of Descartes’time.
One of the largest events of his time was the Scientific Revolution. This brought
about a new worldview that supported hypotheses and experiments instead of ideas
closely related to the Church and logical reasoning. The emancipation from church
doctrine also made it so that people, including Descartes, did not have to rely on God as
the bearer of all truth, rather each individual is in charge of his or her own ideas.
10. What are the four “precepts” (p. 25) that Descartes lays down for himself and
professes to follow?
The first precept is to not accept anything as true unless it is obviously and
evidently so. The second precept is to divide any problem into as many parts as possible
in order for simpler analysis. The third is to begin with simpler notions and move to the
more complex. The fourth, and last, precept