Aristotle Assignments


For 4/22 and 4/24.Readings for next week:

Aristotle's cosmology. Read all of the selections from On the Heavens (aka De Caelo) in the Ackrill reader, i.e., DC I 2, 9, 10 (281b3-33), II 12 (292a10-b25), III 6, and the paper "Aristotle's 'Cosmic Nose' Argument for the Uniqueness of the World," that I e-mailed you.

Papers.

Explain and evaluate one of Aristotle's arguments in the readings, for the positions described below. Since Aristotle's cosmology has been falsified, try to be charitable: are there points he makes in the course of his argumentation that hold up or are worthwhile, even if his conclusions are not acceptable? You can also approach these topics by trying to talk about how what Aristotle says in his cosmology sheds light on the other parts of his philosophy we have studied thus far, or contradict/stand in tension with other areas of his philosophy.


For 4/15 and 4/17.

Readings: selections from the Politics in Ackrill's book. (Book I chapters 1-7; book III chapters 1-4 for Tuesday; book VII chapters 1-3 and 13-15; book VIII chapters 1-3 for Thursday). Also re-read the selections from the end of NE book X that deal with politics.

Papers. Pretty wide open--set out and discuss something Aristotle says in the readings. But here are a few specific things we'll be looking at:


4/10. Continue discussion of book X, and bring Aquinas into the mix too. Re-read Tuesday readings, and also look at:

Readings from Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, book III, "God the End of Creatures." Chapters 2, 3, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 34, 37, 38, 39, 40, 47, 48, 61.

(If you don't want to click on each of the links above to individual chapters, go to here for the table of contents of the Summa Contra Gentiles and scroll down to Book III. You may also want to do this if you'd like to see what some of the surrounding chapters are that we're skipping. Some of those might be useful to look at to answer some of your questions.)

Paper: Either respond to one of the Tuesday topics (esp. looking at Nagel), or, for Aquinas...

Lay out and evaluate Aquinas' argument for one of the following:

One useful way of approaching the above questions is to see Aquinas as working within a basically Aristotelian metaphysical and ethical position but still wanting to maintain the centrality of an afterlife in attaining happiness.
For 4/8. Book X, chapters 6-end.

Papers: Pretty wide open. Any of the following:


For Tues 4/1, Thurs 4/3. Reading Nicomachean Ethics Books 8 and 9, and Julia Annas' paper, "Self-Love in Aristotle."

Note: The Ackrill book is missing much of books 8 and 9, but there is a decent translation available here.

Papers.

  1. Aristotle make the following claims: there are three types of friendship, the friendships of utility, pleasure, and virtue. The first two types are unstable. The friendship of virtue is the only stable type of friendship; it is complete, and it can only occur between virtuous people. Explain what these three types of friendship are, and his arguments for the claims above. If you disagree with any of them, say which ones, and why. (Reading, NE Bk 8 chapter 3)
  2. Aristotle claims that the virtuous person loves himself and is a friend to himself (or at least takes the same attitude toward himself as toward his friend), whereas the base person is not a friend to himself. Why does Aristotle think these things? Do you agree with him? Why or why not? (Reading NE Bk 9 chapter 4).
  3. Anything else, e.g., Annas' claims about the sense in which a good friend loves himself.

3/25 and 3/27.

Reading: NE book VII chapters 11-14, NE book X chapters 1-5, and Julia Annas, "Aristotle on Pleasure and Goodness." Papers:

  1. Explain and evaluate one of Aristotle's arguments for one of the following claims:
  2. Explain and evaluate one of Aristotle's definitions of pleasure.
  3. Explain and evaluate one of Annas' defenses of one of Aristotle's claims about pleasure.

3/20. Reading: NE book VII chapters 1-10, and Burnyeat on Aristotle on learning to be good (in the packet). Papers: Issler 6020, Chapparel 4020.

Topic is pretty open: explain and evaluate some part of what Aristotle says in the reading, e.g.,



3/18. No new reading. We will do the material for 3/13. Paper: Jason Beachy.
For 3/13. We may continue the discussion of NE VI, depending on how class goes on Tuesday. Then move on to Aristotle's philosophy of science. Readings:

The selections from Posterior Analytics in the Ackrill reader (Posterior Analytics I 1-4, 10, 13 II 1-2, 8-10, 12, 19), and R.J. Hankinson, "Philosophy of Science" in the course packet; concentrate especially on the first few pages (through p. 113), but read the whole thing.

Papers: (Wheeler)


3/11. Reading. Nicomachean Ethics book VI. Paper (Brad Summers).

Pretty wide open. Explain and evaluate one of Aristotle's claims. For instance:


For 2/28. Continue on the 2/26 material, paper topics as for 2/26 (Bryn Snyder, Jane Bledsoe)
For 2/26. Readings: Metaphysics Epsilon (VI), Physics II 4-6, short selection of mine on aitia, arche, and the coincidental that I e-mailed you. NB: some of the material from last Thursday (metaphysics Alpha) we'll also be discussing.

Paper topics (Wade Smith), either look at Alpha (see below), or:


For 2/21. Re-read 2/19 readings. Paper topics, same as before, or explain and evaluate one of Aristotle's claims in Metaphysics Alpha (either as made by Aristotle himself, or Lear's interpretation/explanation of him). These can include: For 2/19 and 2/21 (readings and papers are for the whole week).

Please read the selections from Metaphysics Alpha (chapters 1-2), Beta (chapter 1), and Gamma (chapters 1-3, chapter 4 1004b35-1006a28, 1008b2-1009a5, chapter 5 1009a6-16, 1010b1-29) in the Ackrill book, plus the selection from Jonathan Lear in the course packet. Papers (Tuesday Kristina Pope, Thurs. Vick Smith, 6020 Jason Outlaw):

  1. Aristotle says that he can refute the person who denies the PNC if the person simply 'says something.' Explain how this refutation is supposed to work, and say whether you think it does work.
  2. Aristotle says that the fact that supposed deniers of PNC can act shows that they really believe PNC. Explain and evaluate his argument.
  3. Lear considers the question of whether Aristotle's argument for PNC is question-begging. Briefly explain why you think Aristotle's argument either is or is not question-begging, and, if it is, whether it's question-begging in an unacceptable manner.
  4. Explain and evaluate something else Aristotle says about PNC.

For 2/10. Paper: Kendall Lotze. Reading: photocopied selection from Cicero distributed on Thursday, plus re-read Thursday's readings.

Paper topics. Any from last Thursday are OK, plus:

  1. Explain why Carneades thinks that PB has no fatalist consequences. Do you agree with him?
  2. Explain why Carneades thinks that not even Apollo can have knowledge of everything that will happen in the future. Do you agree with him?
  3. Explain why Chrysippus thinks that the 'Idle Argument' fails, and why not even causal determinism has fatalistic consequences. Do you agree?
For 2/7. Readings: Aristotle, On Interpretation chapter 9 and Sorabji's article on Tomorrow's Sea Battle. (Also, quickly skim through the previous chapters of On Interpretation to get a sense of the context. I will probably e-mail you some additional, later responses to the fatalist argument presented in De Int 9.)

Papers (Little, Steven W.; Dan Issler for 6020):

  1. Briefly explain the fatalist argument presented in de Int 9: why do unacceptable consequences follow from the universal applicability of the Principle of Bivalence, and what are these consequences? How does Aristotle rebut the fatalist? Do you agree that these unacceptable consequences follow from the Principle of Bivalence?
  2. Explain in what sense Sorabji thinks my actions can have an effect on the past, and why he thinks this. Do you agree with his position and arguments?

For 2/5. Reading: Nicomachean Ethics Book III, esp. chapters 1-5, plus the reading by Bostock on the course packet.

Paper (Lenzer, James C.)

  1. Explain & summarize, in your own words, the basic idea behind Aristotle's definition of what is voluntary in NE III 1. Why does Aristotle think that "pleasant things and fine things" do not force us to do what we do? (And what does this mean?) Does Aristotle's definition appear correct? (Some additional questions to think about, or write on: Can you think of any counterexamples to this definition? Does Aristotle's definition seem compatible, or incompatible, with causal determinism?)
  2. Explain and evaluate one of the 'excusing conditions' Aristotle discusses in NE III 1.
  3. In NE III 5 Aristotle says that "[since] we cannot refer actions back to other principles beyond those in ourselves, then it follows that whatever has its principle in us is itself up to us and 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. How does Aristotle respond to these objections? Does Aristotle's response appear adequate? Why or why not? (Additional possible question to think or write about: do you think his response is compatibilist, or libertarian, or neither?)
For 1/31. Read NE book III, chapters 6-12, and Book IV.

Paper (Vicki Horwitz).

Pretty wide open. Either explain and evaluate one of Aristotle's arguments regarding the virtues of character (e.g., courage), or a stated related to a virtue of character (e.g., shame). Or, if you wish, write about what Aristotle's discussions of particular virtues reveals about the more general claims he makes regarding the virtues (in book II) or happiness (in book I).


For 1/29. Re-read the assignment for 1/24. Paper: Allen Armstrong; write on one of the 1/24 topics, other than topic #1 (as Jason Beachy wrote on that one).


For 1/24. Read Nicomachean Ethics, book II, and Urmson's article in the course packet on the mean.

Papers (Jason Beachy, for 6020 session, Jane Bledsoe, either from 1/24 or 1/22):

  1. (see NE II.3 in particular). Aristotle says that, to be virtuous, it isn't enough to do the right thing; one must also take pleasure (or at least not feel pain) in doing the right thing. Why does he think this? Consider to the following two cases: Two people have borrowed a great deal of money from a friend, who now needs it back, but both are 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. Which person is better? Which person is more praiseworthy? What would Aristotle say, and do you agree with him? Why or why not?
  2. "The golden mean." Aristotle says that virtue is a mean between extremes. What does he mean by this, and why does he think it? In what sense is virtue a mean, and in what sense isn't it? Do you agree with Aristotle? (See NE II.5 and II.6. in particular, and NE II 7 to see the application of this doctrine to particular virtues.)
  3. Urmson defends Aristotle's doctrine of the mean against several objections, which he says are based on misunderstandings of the doctrine; correctly interpreted, he says, Aristotle's doctrine is (more or less) right. Explain one of the things that Urmson says, and then evaluate it, with regard either to (i) whether it is a correct interpretation of Aristotle, or (ii) whether it is, in itself, correct about the nature of the virtues.

For 1/22. Re-read the readings for 1/17, and write on one of those topics. Paper, James Summers.

Possible bonus paper topics:

  1. Pick out something from the article 'what sort of cause is Aristotle's final cause?" and write on that (explain and evaluate whatever you wish).
  2. Does Aristotle's ethics (as expounded in NE I)--the 'function argument' in particular--depend upon Aristotle's metaphysics? Why or why not?

For 1/17.

Possible paper topics (pick one, although earlier would be better, Christopher Capparell. For 6020, paper is from Tim Clewell, pick any topic from 1/15 or 1/17):
  1. What does Aristotle mean when he says that certain things (like human beings) exist 'by nature,' and why does he believe this? Explain briefly in your own words, and evaluate some part of what he says.
  2. Explain Aristotle's doctrine of the '4 causes' in your own words, and why he thinks that there 4 different types of explanation. Evaluate some part of what he says.
  3. Why does Aristotle think that teleological explanations of natural phenomena are indispensable? Explain and evaluate his arguments.
  4. Look at Parts of Animals 640b5 ff. in particular, in light of Aristotle's discussion of the four causes in the Physics. Why does Aristotle maintain that looking at the material cause alone is insufficient when trying to understand organisms, and why were the accounts of e.g., Democritus inadequate? Do you agree with Aristotle? Why or why not?

For 1/15. Re-read book I of the Nicomachean Ethics (excluding chapter 6), and read Irwin's article on Aristotle and Solon.

Possible paper topics (Jaye Spangler; pick one):

  1. Why isn't having virtue sufficient for happiness, according to Aristotle? (Look at chapter 5 in particular.) What *is* the relationship between virtue and happiness? (See chapters 7 and 13 in particular.) What do you think of Aristotle's arguments?
  2. Why does Aristotle think that happiness can't be the same as pleasure, or a life of pleasure? Do you agree with him? Why or why not? See chapters 5 and 7 in particular.
  3. Explain and comment on Aristotle's own conception of what eudaimonia is (based upon the notion of there being a human 'function').
  4. Why does Aristotle think that post-mortem events can have an impact on one's happiness, contra Solon? Explain and evaluate what he says.

For 1/10. Please read: Here are some reading response paper topics that you might want to think about as you're doing the reading, as we'll be exploring these questions in our class. Papers:

  1. Why isn't having virtue sufficient for happiness, according to Aristotle? (Look at chapter 5 in particular. ) What *is* the relationship between virtue and happiness? (See chapters 7 and 13 in particular.) What do you think of Aristotle's arguments?
  2. Why does Aristotle think that happiness can't be the same as pleasure, or a life of pleasure? Do you agree with him? Why or why not? See chapters 5 and 7 in particular.
  3. Explain and comment on Aristotle's own conception of what eudaimonia is (based upon the notion of there being a human 'function').
  4. Why does Aristotle think that post-mortem events can have an impact on one's happiness, contra Solon? Explain and evaluate what he says.
Please also post a question or comment to the class bulletin board on uLearn.
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