Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Forms | Aristotle

"Aristotle, with his colossal common sense, was perhaps the greatest of all philosophers..." G.K. Chesterton

As I said, Aristotle took an opposite view from Plato's when it came to the idea of forms. Instead of concurring that what had started out as rational became empirical during the world's beginning, Aristotle believed that the answer to the forms lied within the physical itself.

(The fancy term for Aristotle's belief is "Hylomorphism" which means "matter-form.")

I'm actually having a little trouble finding some direct quotes (if you know them off of the top of your head feel free to comment below). But, I'm sure I'll come across them in my reading sometime in the future and update this post.

Otherwise, here's a summary found in Anthony Kenny's Ancient Philosophy:

"The difference between Aristotelian forms and Platonic Forms is that for Aristotle forms are not separate (chorista): any form is the form of some actual individual... Aristotle cannot avoid, however, the questions for which Plato sought a solution in his theory. He must, for instance, provide his own answer to someone who asks what is common to the many things that are called by the same name or fall under the same predicate. He must, that is, offer an account of universal terms...

Whatever there is must be either a substance or something that belongs to a substance, such as a quantity or a quality of it. When we are listing the things that there are, we may count, if you like, health and goodness; but any actual health is someone's health, and any actual goodness is the goodness of something or other. If we ask, in such cases, what really and truly is, the answer will be: this healthy person, this good dog... Material entities... are substances (p.217)..."

The gist of it is that Aristotle thought that what made a thing what it was (a cat is a cat because ______, a table is a table because ________, a horse is a horse because _______) is actually within the thing itself.

He focused on recognition. He saw that the true way to do this would be to interpret something within the object being observed itself. He was highly critical of Plato's idea of forms, preferring his own ontology.

In his philosophy, every physical thing of a certain type was that certain type because of their like-elements. A cat's a cat because it's furry, has pointed ears, whiskers, a cat-face, four legs, a tail, is a certain size, and meows (not because of some perfect cat form). A table's a table because it is made out of a sturdy substance and sits on inanimate legs (not because of some perfect table form). A horse is a horse because of its alike tributes that only horses have (not because of its form). Obviously, there are some overlap between the essence of things. But, that is where their true forms differ.

As you can see, his idea becomes more complex:

I don't believe this view is as important as Aristotle's view on the Causes. But, this idea has been highly influential especially within the medieval church and physics.

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