Aristotle (4020) Mid-term, due October 9 by 3 p.m.

Please e-mail me your midterm by 3:00, Tuesday Oct. 9.

Type up the three of the essays below: one from questions 1-2, and 2 from questions 3-5. 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: 1000 words. If your first paper's main topic was one of the questions below, please don't write on that question.


  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. Happiness, the human function, and post-mortem events. Explain Aristotle's own conception of what 'happiness' (eudaimonia) is, and his 'function' argument in favor of it. Given this conception of happiness, why would Aristotle think that post-mortem events can have an impact on one's happiness, contra Solon? Then evaluate either (i) his argument in favor of his conception of happiness, or (ii) his contention that post-mortem events can effect one's happiness.
  4. Virtue, pleasure, and incontinence. Consider to the following four cases: four people have borrowed a great deal of money from a friend, who now needs it back, but each is poor, and returning it would be a hardship. The first returns it easily, and is happy to have the opportunity to pay his friend back. The second really doesn't want to return it, and has to struggle with himself, but with a great effort of will he manages to overcome his reluctance and return the money, because he knows that is what he ought to do. The third believes he should return the money, but doesn't do so, and feels ashamed afterwards. The fourth withholds the money with no compunction and makes up a lie about not having it in order to put off his friend. Write an essay in which you explore Aristotle's answer the following questions: how do we explain what is going on in causing the actions in these 4 cases (particularly cases 2 and 3)? Of the four cases, which is best, which is worst, and why? (Relate this to a more general consideration of what virtue is for Aristotle.) Then evaluate what Aristotle says on one of these 2 questions.
  5. Character and the voluntary. In NE III 5 Aristotle says that "[since] we cannot refer actions back to other sources than those that are in ourselves, then the actions whose sources are in us are themselves in our power, i.e., voluntary," and he supports this conclusion by pointing to practices of punishment. However, as Aristotle notes, it might be objected that (i) one's actions are the inevitable outcome of one's character, and (ii) everybody aims at what appears good to him, and a person does not control what appears good to him; instead, his character controls what appears good to him. Explain and evaluate Aristotle's respond to these objections. Along the way, relate Aristotle's discussion here to his earlier discussion of what is voluntary in NE III 1.

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