Aristotle (4020) Midterm, due 3/14.

Please drop off your mid-term in class or (preferably) e-mail it to me by 3:00, Monday March 14.

Type up the three of the four essays below. Use these essays as an opportunity to show me how well you understand the material. In order to do this, imagine that you are trying to explain the subject to your intelligent, but ignorant, roommate. That is, state things clearly enough, explain any technical terminology, offer examples where they are needed for illustration, and expand on any cryptic or compressed remarks, so that a person not already familiar with the material would understand what you mean. By doing this, you'll show me that you understand what you're talking about.

In each of the essays below, I give a number of points that I want you to touch upon. However, please do not simply answer them one-by-one, in a disconnected, "bullet-point," choppy manner. Incorporate your discussion of each of the points within a continuous, coherent, flowing essay on the topic. They do not necessarily need to be treated in order in which I mention them.

Many of the points listed in the paper writing guidelines are also relevant for writing these essays. Make sure that you offer reasons and arguments in support of your evaluations. Maximum length per essay: 3 pages. If your paper's main topic was one of the questions below, please don't write on that question.


  1. The Principle of Non-Contradiction. Aristotle says that (i) he can refute the person who denies the PNC if the person simply 'says something,' and that (ii) the person who denies PNC shows that he really believes it when he acts. Explain these two defenses of PNC, and then evaluate one of them. If you evaluate (i), consider in particular the question of whether Aristotle's argument is question-begging, and if you evaluate (ii), consider whether it is valid.
  2. Primary substance and nature. Fido is a dog. In the Categories, Aristotle would say that Fido is a 'primary substance,' and in the Physics he would classify Fido as a 'hylomorphic compound of matter and form' that exists 'by nature.' Explain as clearly as you can what these claims mean, how they relate to one another, and why Aristotle asserts them. Do you think Fido is a substance? Why, or why not?
  3. Scientific explanation. I start with some phenomenon whose features I wish I explain, such as thunder, which I initially identify as something like "a noise in the clouds." Explain what it is for Aristotle to have scientific understanding of something. Make sure that you include discussions of (i) the role of 'real definitions' (such as "thunder is an extinguishing of fire in the clouds") in scientific undertstanding, (ii) the role of perception in scientific understanding, and (iii) why there is no scientific understanding of the 'coincidental.' Then pick one of (i)-(iii) and evaluate what Aristotle says.
  4. The soul. Explain what the soul is for Aristotle, including along the way his criticisms of Plato and Democritus, and relating his ideas on the soul to his metaphysics more generally. How does the soul act as an efficient, formal, and final cause? Then, evaluate his criticisms either of Democritus and his ilk or Plato and his ilk.

Return to the Aristotle page.