Aristotle (4020) Mid-term, due February 27

Please post your midterm on iCollege by the end of the day on Monday, February 27. Ue the following filename convention: last4digitsofID#-4020midterm.docx, and do not put your name on your midterm. Please also upload your midterm as a single document (not 3 separate ones).

Type up the three of the essays below: one from questions 1-2, and 2 from questions 3-6. 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. Final causes in nature. Explain Aristotle's doctrine of the 4 causes. Then explain why Aristotle thinks there are final causes in nature, even in cases where there is no conscious intention. (For instance, when it comes to biological phenomena like the location, material composition, and frequency of beating of the heart. Please relate your discussion to Aristotle's contentions that organisms exist 'by nature' and are substances.) How would Epicurus criticize Aristotle on this question? Evaluate
  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 physics more generally. How does the soul act as an efficient, formal, and final cause? Then evaluate some part of Aristotle's position as you explained it above.
  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. Shame. Explain the role of shame in Aristotle's theory of moral development (as given by Aristotle and explained by Burnyeat). Make sure that you relate your discussion to what Aristotle says concerning the virtues (and what motivates the virtuous person), the doctrine of the mean, and eudaimonia. Then explain why he thinks that shame isn't a virtue. Finally, evaluate other (i) something Aristotle says about the role of shame in moral development or (ii) why shame isn't a virtue.
  6. 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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