Aristotle | Natural Law, Natural Rights, and American Constitutionalism
Ethics» Natural Law» Plato and Aristotle when walking down the high street but understand what "2" is and can see manifestations of the concept all around. Aristotle did affirm the existence of a “law of nature,” but he was admired by and Here we find a deeper relationship between the Founders and Aristotle, since. The Greeks -- Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle emphasized the distinction between " nature" (physis, φъσις) and "law," "custom," or "convention" (nomos, νуμος).
Plato thought this also applied to goodness. We cannot experience pure goodness in this world but we understand the idea or form of goodness through our reason and can see when goodness is reflected in things and people around us. Sometimes it is difficult to explain why a thing, a person or an action is good. Nobody thinks that Jesus and his disciples really looked or dressed as da Vinci has them in the painting, nor does it reflect the seating arrangements recorded in any gospel or book of Roman customs, nor is it technically well finished, having been the subject of constant conservation efforts since it was painted using an experimental paint.
Yet The Last Supper is still one of the most famous paintings in the world and da Vinci one of the best known artists; The Last Supper has been credited with inspiring many people down the ages, most recently Mel Gibson and author Dan Brown.
A person might be good even though they are not physically perfect and might even do things that are generally disapproved of — think about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a plump, balding and bespectacled priest who was involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler. An action might be good even if it is not strictly rational, legal or likely to produce the most happiness. Think about a pilot landing his helicopter in a minefield to save an injured soldier.
Plato and Aristotle So, for Plato, ideals like goodness are metaphysical — they are above and beyond experience and are only reflected in the world we live in. Reason can aspire to understand what goodness is, but it may always elude our grasp and certainly will be impossible to explain definitively. Plato argued that human beings have innate ideas which are confirmed through experience, i. Aristotle did not accept this.
For Aristotle metaphysical discussion can only be speculation. The root of our understanding is in experience, what we sense through taste, smell, feel, hearing and sight. The only way that we can understand things is by observing them, by collecting and inducing from data.
Whereas Plato thought of the "forms" existing in another world, metaphysically, Aristotle saw them as concepts, categories of understanding in this world. Everything is defined by its formal cause, this is what makes a cat a cat and not a stick of rhubarb and is a mark of order in the world, but formal causes have no independent existence, they are made real by things fulfilling their form to a greater or lesser extent.
Goodness comes from something fulfilling its form, its nature. A good cat is sleek, furry, purry and is fond of fish — a cat that is missing some of its cattiness is deficient, naturally evil. Phaedo B—Dbut Aristotle has his own reasons for endorsing it. His science attests to the presence and operation of causally active forms at each level of analysis of the physical world.
Accordingly, when it comes to specifying the moving cause of an artefact, Aristotle will refer to the art of the craftsman as the fundamental component operative in the change.
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In cases where a living being is generated, it is the parental form which is transmitted to the newly emerging living being. It is, nevertheless, important to note that Aristotle restricts the principle of causational synonymy in different and subtle ways.
Most significantly, an important domain of cases where a property of an object is actualised is exempted from the requirements of this principle. The actualisation of a property can be the continuation of a previous causal process to the extent that Aristotle claims it is a second actuality, following upon a previously acquired first actuality.
In these cases the emergence of the second actuality does not necessarily require an additional external efficient cause. It is important to note that these claims are far from trivial: Second, the principle of causational synonymy is couched in terms which do not include locomotions: One of the reasons for this is that locomotion, as Aristotle claims, affects the least the substance, the ousia of the object undergoing motion Physics 8.
Unlike the other types of change, locomotion does not change the being of the moved object at all. To some extent that should mean that the predication of place should remain extrinsic to the being of the entity that is at a particular location.
Third, the principle of causational synonymy is restricted to substances at the end of Metaphysics 7. This heat in the motion can be the presence of an active potentiality in the motion which is able to elicit heat in the body, without heat being predicable of motion itself.
But even if such non-inherential subsistence of properties is not envisaged in this passage—the alternative being that the heat in motion is the heat in the skin of the patient, caused by the rub, which then enters into the inner recesses of the body, becoming heat in the body—some similar sort of presence is required in two large classes of cases: Aristotle claims that in a chain of efficient causes, where the first element of the series acts through the intermediary of the other items, it is the first member in the causal chain, rather than the intermediaries, which is the moving cause Physics 8.
Then, both in cases of natural generation and artificial production, it is only this first efficient cause which has to satisfy the requirement of synonymous causation.
Here, the causal efficacy of the paternal human form is transmitted through the generative potentialities of the semen of the father. The semen, however, although it acts as an efficient cause in the process of the formation of the embryo, is not a human; it does not possess the form it transmits in the same way as the male parent.
He compares the case to the activity of a craftsman, where the form of the product of the artistic production is in the soul of the craftsman, and then through the motions of the instruments this form can get imposed on the material manufactured into an artefact. This is so, because all the three restrictions above specify cases where Aristotle can claim that a preceding, more prominent cause has already satisfied the requirement: Given his commitment to causal synonymy, Aristotle needs to invoke considerations through which a chain of efficient causes of some entity can be meaningfully compared in terms of causal efficacy.
These considerations will on each occasion describe synonymous causes not only as temporally prior, but also as having priority in terms of causal efficacy over the intermediate causes, which are responsible only for the transmission of the forms of the original locus of causal efficacy.
This allows, then, that in the two major paradigms of such causation—in natural generation and in artificial production—the forms—the nature of the natural entity, and the art[ 31 ] of the craftsman exercising his art respectively—are the causally operative entities initiating change.
This has wide ranging consequences for the status of forms in several respects. First, the causal relevance of these forms shows that not any arrangement or configuration can qualify as a full-fledged form. While it is true that privations are also forms in some sense Physics 2. Moreover, the causal relevance of forms allows Aristotle to switch e.
We should note that in the latter cases, Aristotle specifies causes which are unmoved. They do not effect motion by being in motion themselves, in so far as they are the causally effective forms within the causal framework; hence they are not under any reactive influence during this process either.
Priority among motions Even though the foregoing might have suggested that generation of substances is fundamental for all the other kinds of changes, in fact locomotion will have a privileged status. All other changes depend on locomotions, because any two entities involved in change, with their active and passive potentialities respectively, need to come into contact in order for the interaction to occur.
Moreover locomotion is the form of change which can occur in isolation of generation, perishing and the other forms of change Physics 8. Other changes are independent kinds of change insofar as they can occur in an entity which does not perform any other change.
Nevertheless all these forms of change include or presuppose that some other entity engages in locomotion. With this argument Aristotle can establish an eternal chain of motions and refute those who hold that there could have been a previous stationary state of the universe. Such an eternal chain, Aristotle argues, needs to rely on a cause which guarantees its persistence: But then the whole causally connected series of events, Aristotle claims, would also be contingent.
This is so, even though there are infinite causal chains: In view of the fact that such a complete segregation of the elemental masses is avoided through the constant excitation caused by the celestial motions, producing heat in the sublunary domain, especially around the regions of the Sun,[ 37 ] Aristotle will be entitled to assert that the cause of the human being is in the first instance his or her father, but is at the same time the Sun as it moves along its annual ecliptic path.
The infinite causal chains passing through male parents cannot subsist on their own without this constant external support, and this dependence can always be analysed in terms of finite causal chains. Movers and unmoved movers The definition of motion as the actuality of a potentiality of the entity undergoing motion in so far as it is potential requires that in each case the passive potentiality for the change is present in the changing object.
Any influence the entity is exposed to interacts with its nature in a substantive manner. The entity does not possess potentialities for change which would not be directly related to the tendencies emerging from its nature. Note, however, that even if we endorsed the exhaustiveness of the dichotomy of natural and forced motions, and accepted the thesis that simple bodies possess a unique natural motion De caelo 1.
Aristotle's Natural Philosophy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Where there is room for some more complex relationships among the targets of changes than a simple opposition along an axis of a single dimension—and this is eminently so between locomotions along rectilinear and circular paths respectively—there can be several forced translations in contrast to the single natural motion of the elements endowed with rectilinear natural motion, as Aristotle also admits in some passages of the De caelo see 1.
Although this allows for several different motions that are contrary to the nature of the same entity, the natural motion will still have a single opposite motion, the one which is directed to the opposite location. Consequently, natural circular motion will have no motion that is opposite to it De caelo 1. A mover can effect a motion which is contrary to its own nature. Although such movers can effect motions in the contrary direction to the motion at the head of the causal chain levers are operated by the downward push of something heavy at the other endthe crucial consideration for Aristotle in this case is that the original, initiating cause of the causal chain should effect the motion according to its nature.
Taken together, these considerations imply that we have a complete account of the physical domain once we have a thorough description of what is natural to the entites in that domain, together with a specification of all the circumstances in which they operate.
This need not be so, however, in cases of natural motion. Apart from the cases where the nature of the entity is at the same time a moving and efficient cause—i. This is eminently so in the remaining large class of natural motions, the natural motions of the elements. The nature of these elements, their inner principle of motion and rest is not the moving cause of the motions of the elements, Aristotle claims.
If it were, then it would be up to the elementary masses to determine when they should perform their motions, but plainly it is not. Moreover, the principle of causational synonymy rules out that any homogenous mass, without an internal demarcation into components which move and are moved, could move itself Physics 8. This is so because, on the assumption that one part of a homogenenous body could move another part, the active component of change would be, in every aspect, indistinguishable from the part in which change is effected, and this in turn would mean that change would occur even though there would be no transmission of a causally relevant property from the active part to the passive.
Their thrust being in a single direction, the elements cannot circumvent even rather simple obstacles they may encounter on their way a sealed container can retain air under water, the roof stays put pressing down on the walls of a building etc.
But even such a causally responsible agent will not qualify as the moving cause, without yet further qualifications. For the identification of the moving cause of these locomotions Aristotle invokes his distinction of two potentialities.
Some heavy material can be potentially light, as it can be transformed into a light material in a process of generation, whereas the emerging light material is still potential in a sense until it has acquired its full-fledged status, which involves its having arrived at that region of the cosmos which is its natural place.
This analysis, then, describes the natural locomotion of the elements as a possibly postponed, completing stage within a single overarching process, and hence in these cases Aristotle can identify the cause of the second stage of the process with the efficient cause of the first stage, the entity which generated the element in the first place Physics 8.
Once it is established that there is a mover for each change, the finite causal chains[ 44 ] can be followed up to the primary instance of motion, the celestial revolutions. Whether the cosmos has unmoved or moved movers, moreover, whether the universe is causally closed or needs some continuous external causal influence for its preservation, depends ultimately, then, on the status of the celestial motions. Revolutions in the celestial realm are the natural motions of the special element making up the celestial spheres.
This, however, does not entail that they have no need of an external unmoved[ 45 ] mover: Nevertheless, the celestial bodies cannot be moved by an external mover of the same sort as the sublunary elements. These celestial bodies are eternal and ungenerated. Consequently, Aristotle cannot appeal to the entity which produced them as responsible for their locomotions.