1: Aristotle, The Categories and Ordering the World


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In this Introduction to Aristotle we will be looking at the foundations of Logic. Here we focus on the Categories. Lecture by Ian Kluge.

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1: Aristotle, The Categories and Ordering the World

  1. 1. An Introduction to the History of Science and Philosophy of Science THE LEGACY OF ARISTOTLE Part 1 Analyzing Reality
  2. 2. Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE)
  3. 3. <ul><li>This picture is often used to illustrate the central purpose of philosophy which is to see through the limitations of our own subjective viewpoints and appearances and to discover reality. </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>An Introduction to the History of Science and Philosophy </li></ul><ul><li>One of the important truths you will learn in this course is how closely science and philosophy relate to each other both in the past and in the present. This trend begins with Aristotle who is both the originator of many sciences but also the first systematic philosopher. </li></ul><ul><li>The two subjects are intertwined in his work because both study reality. As Abdu’l-Baha says, “ Philosophy consists in comprehending the reality of things as they exist, according to the capacity and the power of man,” ( Some Answered Questions , p. 221.) He also says “science is the discoverer of realities” ( The Promulgation of Universal Peace , 138). He adds “all m ankind must be given knowledge of science and philosophy” ( The Promulgation of Universal Peace , 108). </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>Philosophy studies reality in a different way than science. Science studies specific aspects of reality , e.g. electronics, “O” type stars, frogs. The two ways of studying reality are complementary, like the two sides of a coin. We can’t have one without the other. That is why in the history of science many of the greatest names – Aristotle, Descartes, Newton, Einstein and Heisenberg – were also philosophers of science. </li></ul><ul><li>Philosophy studies the most general features of all things/processes e.g. causality (See Abdu’l-Baha below), change, the structure of all existing things, what humans can know and how. E.g. Can a raven turn into a writing desk? Why not? As we keep asking ‘why’ or ‘why not’ we eventually come to the general concept of ‘potentials’: desks don’t have the potential to change into ravens and vice versa. All existing things/processes have potential to change into certain things but not others. </li></ul><ul><li>Philosophy also helps clarify and sharpen our thinking. Everything </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>we say or do has philosophical implications. A simple scientific act like observing the sun raises all kinds of issues: e.g. we assume that both of us observe the same sun; it is the same sun as it was a minute ago; our observation does not change the sun; we can make probable predictions about the sun rising tomorrow. </li></ul><ul><li>If we are suntanning, these questions do not matter, but if we are trying to understand and know about the nature of reality, they matter a lot. Later, you will learn about another scientist-philosopher, Descartes, who asked if we can really know anything at all even as scientists. </li></ul><ul><li>Philosophy helps us see unity or similarities underneath the diversity of reality because it studies the most general features of reality, e.g. all things/processes are caused by something other than themselves; they have form (structure) and matter (‘stuff’ they are made of). </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>Philosophy helps find fundamental differences, i.e. hidden diversities. E.g. although a frog and a human are both alive, a human has a “rational soul” ( Some Answered Questions , 208) and a frog does not. How could physical science discover that fact since the “rational soul” is not physical? </li></ul><ul><li>Thus, philosophy helps to clarify and sharpen our thinking about reality. E.g. how many kinds of reality are there? </li></ul><ul><li>Philosophy also helps define and clarify our concepts so we know exactly what we are thinking and talking about. E.g. what exactly do we mean by the word ‘cause’? What other concepts are implicitly involved when we talk about causes? (see Abdu’l-Baha below). </li></ul>
  8. 8. Why Start with Aristotle? <ul><li>“ An Introduction to the History of Science and Philosophy” starts with Aristotle for two reasons : </li></ul><ul><li>The first reason is that Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE) is the most important ancient source of modern science. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1.1) He pioneered such studies as biology (including dissection), physics, astronomy, meteorology and psychology. He developed them into specialized areas of study. For example, in biology he developed the first system of classifying living things by examining their physical characteristics; in physics, he examined the nature of motion, change, </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><ul><li>momentum; in psychology he studied the senses, dreams, sleep, memory, respiration; in meteorology he studied winds, weather patterns, evaporation, earth-quakes, tornadoes and lightning. In astronomy he developed the heliocentric concept of the universe that dominated western civilization for almost 2,000 years. He knew the earth was a sphere. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1.2) He established many principles and axioms of scientific research that are still used today: </li></ul></ul><ul><li>(a) The universe is an orderly place governed by rational laws, patterns and regularities. </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>(b) If we observe nature and think correctly, we will learn something about reality itself. </li></ul><ul><li>(c) Research must be empirical, i.e. based on observations of phenomena. It must begin with induction. (d) Research must be systematic, i.e. organized and guided by rational principles of examination appropriate to the subject matter . </li></ul><ul><li>(e) Understanding and explaining phenomena means </li></ul><ul><li>developing causal explanations. </li></ul><ul><li>Thinking challenge : compare Aristotle’s prescriptions for science with myths which explain phenomena as the personal acts of the gods or goddess. </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>The second reason to begin with Aristotle is that he is also the first systematic philosopher. To Aristotle philosophy was not about expressing personal opinions but about studying the nature of reality at its most fundamental level. His view is close to Abdu’l-Baha who says “ Philosophy consists in comprehending the reality of things as they exist, according to the capacity and the power of man,” ( Some Answered Questions , p. 221.) </li></ul><ul><li>Aristotle wrote books on metaphysics (studies the common features of all existing things); logic (the laws of correct thinking); ethics (what is right and wrong and why); politics (different systems of government); and literature (the different kinds of literature and how they work). Throughout his books, he has much to say about human nature. </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>Aristotle is also the first philosopher of science. </li></ul><ul><li>Philosophy of science critically examines the assumptions, methods and procedures, foundations and implications of science. It deals with such questions as: </li></ul><ul><li>(a) what makes a scientific method different from a non-scientific method? What is ‘scientific reasoning’? What are the characteristics of a true scientific theory? E.g. today we say that a study is ‘scientific’ only if it is objective, repeatable, measurable, physical and falsifiable (we know what it takes to prove it wrong). </li></ul><ul><li>(b) what assumptions, biases, pre-conceptions do we have when we observe a phenomenon or experiment with it? </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>(c) what are the characteristics of a true scientific theory? </li></ul><ul><li>(d) what are the hidden implications of a scientific statement? E.g. to say that science is concerned with physically observable and measurable facts seems to imply certain limits of scientific knowledge. Or does it imply nothing exists except physical reality? </li></ul><ul><li>All of the great pioneers in science – Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Einstein, Bohr and Heisenberg – were also philosophers of science. This tradition begins with Aristotle. </li></ul><ul><li>Aristotle systematically developed standards for biological studies as well as the standards for thinking scientifically, e.g. we require certain ‘primary truths’ or axioms. </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>The next slide shows the famous painting by Raphael, “The School of Athens” in which all the great Greek philosophers are represented. </li></ul><ul><li>Plato is in the center on the left and Aristotle is in the center on the right. </li></ul>
  15. 16. The Categories <ul><li>One of Aristotle’s most important books is “The Categories” in which he outlines the qualities that all physically sensible things have in common. Using the categories helps us to give order to our knowledge of the material world we live in. There are ten categories. As you read through these, imagine a cat: </li></ul><ul><li>1): Quantity : how much of something is there? 450 grams? How tall, wide, long is it? </li></ul><ul><li>2) : Quality : what qualities does something have? What </li></ul><ul><li>color? Texture? Shape? </li></ul><ul><li>3): Relation : how something relates to other things? Is it </li></ul>
  16. 17. <ul><ul><ul><li>cause? Effect? Friend? Enemy? Bigger ? Smaller? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Are things equivalent? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>4) Place: where something is physically located in its environment. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>5) When : when we observe something in time or its location in a time sequence. E.g. a parent exists before the child. A cat may be observed at 4 PM. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>6) State/Condition : this refers to what something is </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>like for a limited period of time, e.g. the cat is sleeping, relaxed, hungry. It may also refer to what something is wearing or carrying, e.g. sandals, spear. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  17. 18. <ul><li>7): Position : this may also be understood as “pose” or “posture” of something, i.e. how it is related to its own parts. E.g. bent over, standing, sitting, twisted, leaning forward. </li></ul><ul><li>8): Action : how something affects something else, or </li></ul><ul><ul><li>what something is actually doing, e.g. running, writing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>an essay, making me laugh, escaping from a dog. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>9): Receptivity : how something is being affected by other things, e.g. being warmed by sunlight, being eaten by a cat, being planted by a farmer. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>10) Substance : this is the most complex of Aristotle’s categories. The most important thing to remember is that ‘substance’ may only sometimes refers to physical ‘matter’ </li></ul></ul>
  18. 19. <ul><li>10.1): We will only be concerned with physically sensible and physically changeable substances that concern science. </li></ul><ul><li>10.2): Primary (first) substance : the individual things we perceive around us, e.g. a car, a fly, a rose, your mother or father. They are (a) separate from other things; (b) particular items; (c) numerically one. </li></ul><ul><li>10.2): Secondary substance : are ‘kinds of things’ to which particular things belong, e.g. human being (your mother); roses (the rose your boy/girlfriend gave you); horses (Black Beauty); rivers (Zayanderood). Every primary substance belongs to a secondary substance or class of things. A primary substance is always a particular example of a secondary substance (class). </li></ul>
  19. 20. <ul><li>10.3) Matter : sometimes ‘substance’ is used simply to refer to the physical matter of which things are made, e.g. paper, steel, cement, leather. </li></ul><ul><li>10.4): Substratum : sometimes ‘substance’ is used to mean the ‘stuff’ that endures through all changes and is neither created nor destroyed (see the conservation laws of physics). </li></ul><ul><li>*** Matter is one form of substratum. Elements e.g. gold or iron are already particular forms of it. Even the atomic particles – electrons, positrons, neutrons – are </li></ul><ul><li>particular forms of the substratum. We cannot see just plain substratum. We always see a particular form of it. </li></ul>
  20. 21. <ul><li>*** Whenever we read or use the word ‘substance’ we must use the context to make sure which of these 4 possible meanings is meant. </li></ul><ul><li>THREE IMPORTANT PAIRS IN ARISTOTLE </li></ul><ul><li>Aristotle analyzes reality in terms of three other pairs of concepts that apply all things studied by science. </li></ul><ul><li>Matter and Form : every individual or primary substance studied by science has 2 aspects: matter and form. </li></ul><ul><li>*** Matter and form cannot be separated physically but they can be distinguished mentally. </li></ul><ul><li>*** Imagine a bronze statue. It has matter (bronze) from which it is made but also it also has form, the shape of a warrior, e.g. Achilles. </li></ul>
  21. 22. <ul><li>*** For the statue of Achilles to exist, both matter and form are needed. If we take away form by melting the statue, we have a lump of bronze but no statue. </li></ul><ul><li>*** Form is not just ‘shape’ of things but in more complex things is also the ‘structure’ e.g. the form of a watch includes the structure of its parts. </li></ul><ul><li>*** The form of a thing is also called its ‘ essence ,’ i.e. the shape and/or structure a thing needs to be the kind of thing it is. E.g. my watch needs to have a particular structure in order to tell time and be a watch. </li></ul><ul><li>***The essence is also be defined as the qualities a thing (star) must have to be the kind of thing it is (a member of the class of stars). It is also defined by having certain potentials (see below). </li></ul>
  22. 23. <ul><li>2): Actuality and Potentiality : The actuality of a thing is what the thing is right now, e.g. a baby rabbit, a part of a watch, a car, a river, a pen, my friend Max. The potentiality or possibility of a particular thing (primary substance) to change, i.e. to act or to be acted on (effected) by other things. E.g. a baby rabbit grows into an adult rabbit; a car gets crashed; the part of a watch becomes useful by being integrated into a watch; my fat friend Max goes loses 20 kilos. Each of them reaches a new actuality and reveals new possibilities. </li></ul><ul><li>*** All primary (individuals) and secondary (classes) substances are defined by their potentials/possibilities. A thing cannot change into something or do anything for which it lacks the potential(s). A raven cannot change into a writing desk. All humans have the potential to learn; a rock does not. </li></ul>
  23. 24. <ul><li>*** Potentials are innate in a thing and part of its essence; they help make a thing what it is. </li></ul><ul><li>*** Change is actualizing or making actual of potentials in a thing. E.g. movement is actualizing a thing’s potential or possibility for existing at a different place; growth is actualizing a thing’s potential for existing in a mature form. </li></ul><ul><li>*** Change is teleological, i.e. it ‘aims’ at a particular end-stage or goal. E.g. when we feed baby rabbits they grow up into adult rabbits and not into something else. (More below) </li></ul><ul><li>3): Essential and Accidental Qualities: essential qualities or activities are necessary for a thing to be the kind of thing it is. E.g. a fish must be able to breathe in water; a triangle needs 3 sides; a car needs wheels; </li></ul>
  24. 25. <ul><li>a house needs a roof; a computer needs a chip. An accidental quality is one which is not necessary for a thing to be what it is. E.g. the color of a car does not stop it from being a car; the size of a rabbit does not stop it from being a rabbit; it doesn’t matter if a salad bowl is made of plastic or wood. </li></ul><ul><li>*** The essential/accidental distinction is important in everyday life. When you want to buy a car, you decide ‘what you really want’ in a car, i.e. the essential qualities for you. The accidental qualities are those qualities you don’t care about. </li></ul>
  25. 26. <ul><li>Concept of causality : In Some Answered Questions , Abdu’l-Baha explains Aristotle’s concept of causality; he uses Aristotle’s terminology: </li></ul><ul><li>“ For the existence of everything depends upon four causes-- the efficient cause, the matter [material cause], the form [formal cause] and the final cause. For example, this chair has a maker who is a carpenter [the efficient cause] a substance [matter] which is wood [material cause], a form which is that of a chair, and a purpose [final cause] which is that it is to be used as a seat.” </li></ul><ul><li>*** Both natural and man-made things can be explained by these four causes. </li></ul>
  26. 27. <ul><li>*** In natural things, purpose does not require a conscious, deliberating/thinking agent to operate. There is no one like a carpenter making trees or fish. </li></ul><ul><li>*** In nature, the efficient, formal and final cause all operate together and can only be separated in thought not in reality. </li></ul><ul><li>***In nature an efficient cause already operates within certain limits and to a particular end-state or goal or effect; if it did not, it would be acting randomly. But no one has ever seen a cause act randomly: e.g. no one has ever hit a tennis ball and seen it burst into flowers. </li></ul><ul><li>*** Since the efficient cause does not act randomly it is constrained or limited: it can only reach certain end-states or effects. </li></ul>
  27. 28. <ul><li>*** But when it acts towards a particular end-state or effect, the efficient cause implicitly contains the formal and final cause. E.g. iron filings will not grow carrots, because the efficient causes that operate on iron filings will not start the process of making carrots. They limit the effects. </li></ul><ul><li>*** We can also say that the laws of physics, chemistry etc that force efficient causes effects, i.e. limit or form the effects we can expect, act as formal and final causes. </li></ul>
  28. 29. <ul><li>Applying What We Have Studied </li></ul>
  29. 30. <ul><li>The assignments below require you to make use of many of the concepts we have discussed in this section. </li></ul><ul><li># 1: This question is about what you think. There is no right or wrong answer. Your grade will depend on how well you explain your opinion with reasons and examples. </li></ul><ul><li>Do you think that philosophy and the philosophy of science are worth studying? </li></ul>
  30. 31. <ul><li>#2: Pick any physical object in your room and describe it in terms of Aristotle’s first nine categories: quantity, quality, relation, place, time state/condition, position, action, receptivity. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1.1: Why is what you chose a primary substance? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1.2: What is its secondary substance? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1.3: What kind of physical matter is it made of? </li></ul></ul>
  31. 32. <ul><li>#3: Which of the following qualities is essential for a thing to be a car? Label essential qualities with an “E” and the accidental </li></ul>
  32. 33. <ul><li>qualities with an “A”: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- steering wheel </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- leather covered seats </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- brakes </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- ash tray </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- four doors </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- color </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- transmission </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- electronic door opener </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- gas pedal </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>However, if you were planning to buy a car to suit your personal preferences, you might think some “accidentals’ were actually “essential.” Which ones are essential now? </li></ul></ul></ul>
  33. 34. <ul><li># 4: Applying the 4 types of causality: a hand-carved dining room table: </li></ul><ul><li>(a) The efficient cause is </li></ul><ul><li>(b) The material cause is </li></ul><ul><li>(c) The formal cause is </li></ul><ul><li>(d) The final cause is </li></ul><ul><li># 5: Identify the primary substance with a “P” </li></ul><ul><li>(a) my dog Otto </li></ul><ul><li>(b) horses </li></ul><ul><li>(c) rocks </li></ul><ul><li>(d) my wife’s diamond </li></ul><ul><li>(e) flowers </li></ul>
  34. 35. <ul><li>(f) cars </li></ul><ul><li>(g) my car </li></ul><ul><li>(h) roses </li></ul><ul><li>(i) the rose on my table. </li></ul><ul><li># 6: Take a blank piece of paper. What are 5 potentials ‘hidden’ in it, i.e. what can you change it into? </li></ul><ul><li># 7: Here is a mental exercise in discovering the unities hidden in diversities, i.e. the general features of reality. Choose two very different objects, e.g. a rose and a vase; a pen and an aspirin bottle. Find 5 – 10 ways in which they are alike. There are no wrong answers. </li></ul>