Aristotle (4020) final

Please e-mail me your exam by Thursday, Dec. 6.

Type up three of the essays below. (If your final paper was largely on one of the topics below, please do not write on it.) 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.

  1. Scientific explanation. I start with some phenomenon whose features I wish I explain, such as thunder, which I initially identify as something like "a noise in the clouds." Explain what it is for Aristotle to have scientific understanding of something. Make sure that you include discussions of (i) the role of 'real definitions' (such as "thunder is an extinguishing of fire in the clouds") in scientific undertstanding, (ii) the role of perception in scientific understanding, and (iii) why there is no scientific understanding of the 'coincidental' (as discussed in Metaphysics Epsilon). Then pick one of (i)-(iii) and evaluate what Aristotle says.
  2. Bivalence and freedom. Explain the fatalist argument presented in de Int. 9: why do unacceptable consequences follow from the universal applicability of the Principle of Bivalence, and what are these consequences? How does Aristotle rebut the fatalist? Explain why Carneades thinks that PB does not have fatalist consequences and why Chrysippus thinks that neither PB nor everything being fated has unacceptable consequences. Then briefly evaluate: with whom (if any of them) do you agree, and why? What is the correct response to the fatalist argument?
  3. Virtue friendships. Explain Aristotle's views on virtue friendships. Include discussions of the following points along the way (i) why friendship is necessary for happiness, (ii) the characteristics that virtue friendships have, (iii) the sense in which a 'virtue friend' is a self-lover, and the sense in which he is not. Julia Annas has claimed that there is a tension between Aristotle's claims about the way in the virtue friend is a 'self-lover' (even when he performs apparently self-sacrificing acts) and about the way in which a virtue friend promotes the good of his friend 'for the friend's own sake.' Explain this apparent tension. Do you think that there is a serious problem here, and if so, can it be resolved?
  4. The intellectual virtues. Briefly explain what the intellectual virtues are for Aristotle, in what ways they differ from the virtues or character, and why he thinks that 'contemplative' intellectual activity (and the life centered around such activity) is superior to 'practical' activity and the political life. (Make sure to bring the reasons he gives both in NE VI and NE X.) Then evaluate something Aristotle says, either about the nature of the intellectual virtues or their value.
  5. The state. Briefly discuss (i) the nature and function of the state, and (ii) the relationship between the state and its citizens, and (iii) the sense in which the state exists 'by nature,' according to Aristotle. Somewhere along the way, bring up what Aristotle would say about Hobbes' 'state of nature' and the state as founded upon a contract to escape this state, and how Aristotle may criticize a state such as the United States. Then evaluate something you've explained.

Return to the Aristotle page.