Philosophy | Aristotle
P512 | 3295 | Morgan


Topic: Aristotle’s Metaphysics

In this course we shall begin from two directions, aiming towards the
Aristotelian Metaphysics from two starting points.  First, we shall
look at those features of Aristotle’s early logic and account of
scientific knowledge that led him to reject the possibility of
metaphysics.  Then, we shall consider how his criticism of Plato and
the Theory of Forms generated early Aristotelian conclusions about
language and ontology – outside the framework of a unified philosophy
of being qua being. Here we shall look at selections from
Metaphysics, Alpha, Mu, and Nu, selected fragments from the early
Aristotelian dialogue On the Ideas (peri ideon), selections from the
Topics and especially the early chapters of the Categories.

All along, however, our attention will be on the Metaphysics, and
most of our time will be spent on it.  First, we shall look closely
at Metaphysics Gamma, the defense of the science of being qua being,
discussion of its method, and the arguments for the Law of Non-
Contradiction.  We then move directly to the central books of the
Metaphysics, Zeta, Eta, and Theta (VII-IX), and the study of
substance.  Here the major problem of Aristotle’s metaphysical
thinking emerges: what is substance?  By a close examination of these
books, together with Book Lambda (XII), we shall try to answer this
question:  Is substantial form or the concrete individual or the
Unmoved Mover the primary sort of substance in Aristotle’s mature
ontology?  In the course of these books we shall also find suggestive
discussions of the notions of matter and form, actuality and
potentiality, essence and definition, the unity of definition, genus
and matter, individuation and identity, and much else.  If helpful,
we shall gloss these discussions with others from elsewhere in
Aristotle’s writings.

This course is intended for graduate students and advanced
undergraduates.  Knowledge of Greek is not necessary but, of course,
would be helpful.  Familiarity with philosophy and/or Greek thought
and culture would also be of benefit, as would some knowledge of the
philosophical literature on language, truth, meaning, and similar
topics from Frege to the present.  The course would be valuable for
those interested in philosophy, classical Greek thought, linguistics,
and the history of philosophy, science and religious thought.