Introduction to Aristotle: Philosophy, Ethics, and the Order of Nature
For much of Western history, Aristotle was known simply as “the philosopher.” Systematic and extraordinarily wide-ranging, Aristotle’s thought encompasses everything from metaphysics to politics to psychology to logic to poetic tragedy—and even plant biology. A student of Plato, Aristotle originated a philosophy very different in orientation from Platonic idealism, one that was fundamentally empirical, commonsensical, and practical. And though Aristotle’s dominance over Western philosophy was eventually eclipsed by the work of the early moderns, such as Newton, Hobbes, and Descartes, he continues to sit, as it were, in the shadows of modern thought—a continued source of inspiration for thinkers discontented with the pathologies of modernity, from Leibniz to Hegel to Marx to the contemporary moral philosophers Alasdair MacIntyre and Martha Nussbaum. What are Aristotle’s key ideas—on the nature of living beings, natural science, the order of nature and the universe, politics, and ethics—and in what ways do they remain a generative source for thinking about contemporary problems of being, the natural world, the social good, and our relationships to others?
This course will be a survey of Aristotle’s panoramic philosophy. We’ll investigate his ideas in logic, philosophy of science, metaphysics, theology, psychology, ethics and politics, and the interconnections between them. We’ll discuss key Aristotelian concepts like hylomorphism, the nature of causality, the teleological order of nature, the relation between actuality and potentiality, and practical wisdom. Is nature an intelligible totality illuminated by the purposiveness of its parts? Does this mean that we must acknowledge natural hierarchies which shape social and political order? What is a soul and how does it relate to the body? How do we recognize and teach virtue? What is the relationship between virtue and human flourishing? What is the best and happiest life for human beings? We’ll read widely across Aristotle’s corpus, including Categories, Physics, Metaphysics, On the Soul, Nicomachean Ethics, and Politics.
Course ScheduleThursday, 6:30-9:30pm EST
April 08 — April 29, 2021