Aristotle’s Physics Book II
Book II, Chapter 1 – Nature is an intrinsic principle, art is extrinsic.
In Book II, Aristotle tries to identify the means by which we explain change – causes.
- Definition of Nature: It is evident that self generating things have an intrinsic principle of motion and rest in them primarily and essentially, and not incidentally. If they do not have an intrinsic cause of their becoming something else, then they came to be by another interfering cause – such as you or me, or chance. His example: A doctor who heals himself in virtue of his training, his being a doctor was the per se cause of the healing, and his being a carpenter is a per accidens cause. This contrast with art brings out what Aristotle means, because we experience intentionality every day. (ὡς οὔσης τῆς φύσεως ἀρχῆς τινὸς καὶ αἰτίας τοῦ κινεῖσθαι καὶ ἠρεμεῖν ἐν ᾧ ὑπάρχει πρώτως καθ’ αὑτὸ καὶ μὴ κατὰ συμβεβηκός)
- Natures Need Matter. But things which have natures (this intrinsic principle of motion) must exist substantively (possess matter), that is, they must have a principle that remains the same in them which is the seat of the nature driving the thing. Privation is in a way a form…that was (is) not fully what it should have been.
- Art is distinct from nature. Beds do not reproduce or come to be on their own. They do not ‘become’ without man. So art is an addition or if rightly oriented, a perfection nature which presumes its regularity. See https://www3.nd.edu/~maritain/jmc/ti01/ashley.htm
- Self-Evident Generation. To try to prove that natures exist is absurd because it is self evident. (This makes a bit more sense when you consider that the word physis in Greek means growth/change/generation/coming-to-be.)
- He identifies two accounts of nature (which end up being matter and form): 1) those who think natures are simply the matter which is backed up by planting of a bed resulting in a tree, and 2) those that think that it is the form that is given in the definition of the thing.
- In the end nature is more form than matter, but both form and matter are natural since one cannot do without the other because there needs to be a place for the nature to sit, and an ability to reproduce or become. ”
καὶ μᾶλλον αὕτη φύσις τῆς ὕλης· ἕκαστον γὰρ τότε λέγεται ὅταν ἐντελεχείᾳ ᾖ, μᾶλλον ἢ ὅταν δυνάμει.
Summary: Since ‘coming-to-be’ or a nature must happen with a substrate in order to become, and since ‘coming-to-be’ pertains more to what causes the change than what is changed, then nature pertains more to form but requires matter to continue.
Important Distinctions Given By Smith Ch. VII
- The goal in Book II is to define this subject further and know the middle terms to demonstrate properties of the subject, which are still undetermined. What do these middle terms look like?
- Contrasting nature with art lets us see that nature, unlike art which is crafted externally, has within it what makes generate itself a certain way.
- Some object to this distinction for three reasons: 1) The supposed natures can be indistinguishable, like pebbles or bodies of water. Butour ability to find or know whether a particular effect is a result of nature or art doesn’t change the difference between the principles in general. 2) Aristotle attributes too much to spontaneity (e.g. iron wouldn’t rust without water so its an external cause, not internal). ButMotion always requires an extrinsic cause of some sort, but the material on which the cause works, reacts to that cause according to its own inner principle of motion. 3) Art moves too. But it is the natural component itself which contains within itself a principle of motion nor change.
- The words in the definition of nature, use a man for example: primarily (the peculiar characteristic like rationality, but not weight), essentially (weight and rationality), not incidentally (excludes white or black hair).
- Physical knowledge has priority over mathematical knowledge. For example, if you define walking as a certain velocity of feet propelling body…you’ve missed the more certain knowledge that was grounding for that math in the first place.
- Art is always a product of reasoning according to nature. Art simply extends nature.
- The composite of matter and form is not a nature itself, but that which comes to be by nature – which is more in form than in prime matter – yet both are required.
Summary: Art is an extension of nature, and a nature can be understood by art as that which motivates the coming-to-be of a thing by actualizing matter.
Since ‘coming-to-be’ or a nature must happen with a substrate in order to become, and since ‘coming-to-be’ pertains more to what causes the change than what is changed, then nature pertains more to form but requires matter to continue. Art is an extension of nature, and a nature can be understood by art as that which motivates the coming-to-be of a thing by actualizing matter.
Book II, Ch. 2 – Natural science returns to nature, mathematics does not.
In Book II, Ch. 2 Aristotle considers how a natural philosopher differs from a mathematician by considering the difference in subjects. Math considers reality totally separately from change and matter though it can applied to matter insofar as it has been ordered by form. General Natural Science (or natural philosophy) must consider matter as part of the essence of the thing – just like a doctor must know the nature of health and its material constitution in order to bring about health in a patient. It cannot consider only the form of the thing.
- Both the natural philosopher and mathematician immobilize and immaterialize the object they are studying through abstracting the unity found in the actual changing/becoming thing.
- There are mixed sciences which have physical things as a subject, but use mathematics as their principles like optics, harmonics, and astronomy.
- The natural philosopher must also be concerned with ‘that for the sake of which the thing changes’ (telos). Since form is the end of matter, it belongs to natural philosophy to consider both form and matter.
- The artist must know both senses of nature: matter and form. The natural philosopher is concerned with the forms that are in matter but do not exist apart from it.
In sum: the natural philosopher is similar to the mathematician in that he abstracts from matter, but differs from the mathematician because he necessarily must return to the matter, and therefore both matter and form are part of his definitions.
Smith Ch. VIII
- The subject matters differ so before looking at middle terms its important to fix this, because it has been common in the past (ie. with Plato and Pythagorus) to conflate the subject matters natural philosophy and mathematics.
- General Natural Science (GNS – same as natural philosophy) is distinct from math, not because of the reality they study, but because of the object (DT V.I), or that which confronts a sense or intellectual power. Round is the first found in material things and GNS it is not free from the sensible qualities, unlike math which is free – quantified being.
- What is prior to something makes the understanding of the posterior dependent on it. Substance can’t be understood without quantity, quantity without quality, quality etc. So to understand math (quantified being), you must first understand quality.
- GNS studies ‘why’ generation insofar as it relates to motion, where math cant have an insight into its object by study of motion. GNS studies quantity insofar as it relates to mobility.
- Mathematical Physics starts with physical matter as subject (and so requires GNS to be represented because of its necessary and intrinsic reference to mobile being), is mathematical in its principles/form, and has physical conclusions – often by dialectic. (see Wallace, Modeling of Nature, 238-248 for more detail).
- GNS starts with physical matter, uses both matter and form for principles (both because for is the ned of matter, and to study form requires study of matter 194a), and has physical conclusions.
- We must experience the (general) effects of a nature to come to know the form in a being which has effects some of which are measurable in its matter. For example, we can say something weighs two pounds but explaining what weight is to someone who has never experienced weight’s resistance is meaningless – math gets its reality from the physical though the nonphysical could be as well though less certain.
- Just as form is related to matter, so quality is related to what is qualified. Structure, mass, energy, are effects produced by form in matter – they are neither form, nor matter.
In sum, in the modern sciences which mix both, unless we related the knowledges of the effects of form to the forms themselves, will not be able to pursue their knowledges to their ultimate physical sources.
- We should understand the logical empiricist tradition to show the essential elements on which a probabalist view rests.
- The logical empiricsts use concepts/terms and theories which were built from measurement and experimentation, in order to form propositions.
- There are two types of metrics accepted: qualitative (1. compares homogenus units, 2. taken in invariable conditions, 3. requires intelligence, 4. not infinitely accurate) and quantitative (1. extensively – as in the account of heat in two things compared or 2. intensively – as in an effect or cause reveals greater or less heat in comparison to other instances of that cause and effect).
- Metrical concepts then allow us to 1) associate math with physical phenomena and 2. serve to extend the domain of the physical to the great and small.
- Theories or theoretical concepts are based on many hypotheses, which are unsubstantiated knowledge claims, to explain laws or facts. (But if the concept can’t be disengaged and returned to the observable it is only probable.)
- Hypothetical arguments (dialectics) are thrown out hypotheses to be proved, cut and try (scientific method):
- P–>Q, P:Q
- P–>Q, ~Q:~P
- P–>Q, ~P:~Q
- P–>Q, Q:P (P is sufficient but not necessary : this is invalid form of denying the antecedent or affirming the consequent)
- IFF (P–>Q) then we have necessity and sufficience (P<–>Q).
- P–Q,Q: Possibly P (Hypothetic-Deductive scientific method, where P is not directly observable or measurable, but Q is and possible Ps are identified from the reactions.
- If this can be repeated: P–?Q1,Q2,Q3,;…Qn, Q1,Q2,Q3 increasing probability of P.
- Combining 7 with 2 allows for eliminating false hypotheses.
- General attempts to calculate probability across all these systems have failed (Rudolf Carnap)…Verificationism. Popper tried the opposite…using falsification but same problem.
- Quine destroyed falsificationism by pointing out that Pa,Pb,Pc…Pn–>Q:~P? (there is no answer…)
Modern sciences are based on dialectic which uses the form concepts resulting from experimentation to form theories and test them by a logical method.
- Quantity is prior to quality in the categories/predicables because without extension we couldn’t have color. Both of these are prior to motion. But since we can’t individuate beings without change occurring then how can we then study mobile being before quantitative being?
- The priority in being doesn’t mean that we come to substance or any of the more prior ONLY through the posterior.
- Where do categories and predicables fit in any science?
- Categories are first intentions, while predicables are second intentions. First intentions (signs of real things-universals) can be divided into formal (that act or sign by which a thing is understood or performed) and objective intentions (that which is understood or performed). Second intentions (signs of signs) can also do the same where the formal is the logical concept and the objective is the first intention itself. In short, the subject matter of a science studies the categories of a thing (each category is a highest genus), where logic uses the predicables to study first intentions. The object of a science refers to the primary substance, before it has been immaterialized and immobilized.
- Do the principia quo include all categories besides substances or only refer to matter, form and privation?
The natural philosopher is similar to the mathematician in that he abstracts from matter, but differs from the mathematician because he necessarily must return to the matter, and therefore both matter and form are part of his definitions. Modern sciences are based on dialectic which uses the form concepts resulting from experimentation to form theories and test them by a logical method. In sum, in the modern sciences which mix both, unless we related the knowledges of the effects of form to the forms themselves, will not be able to pursue their knowledges to their ultimate physical sources.
Book II Chapter 3 – Types of Causes
The ‘how’ and ‘why’ in the opening lines seem to refer to matter (and efficient), and form (and final). There’s not much to say here – the standard account of four causes.
Smith Ch. IX
- The middle term of a syllogism represents the cause of an attribute being predicated of a subject and, as a cause, is only nominal in its description since we can’t define a cause on account of circularity…so the description would be: something on which other things are dependent for existence or becoming.
- Matter (because without potency nothing would happen) and Form (because it gives the matter order are the principles or causes that enter into the becoming of the effect and therefore called intrinsic causes – unlike privation and others. This is taken from the dialectic comparing them with human art.
- Since form intrinsically determines and organizes matter, it also gives it its essence which we know and organize by species. Species is the perfect form of knowing because anything more general is imperfect/incomplete, while anything individual is not necessary.
- Sometimes the term ‘species’ is used implying a composite of form and matter, but more often used as simply ‘the determinant of matter’. It can also be used as a whole species instead of a specific instance of a form.
- Form is an evolution or eduction from the within the material – the shape of a pot is not so much imposed from without but rather, brought out from within, since it preexisted in the molders mind.
- Unactualized form requires an agent because form in potential does not exist, and so can’t do the job. Form can’t cause it because its not actual. When we ask what did it, however, Hume believes we can’t have knowledge of this because we associate certain events with others on the level of sense and so effectively we have no intelligence. But he’s wrong because 1) we don’t think all common sequences of events are causal, a being that is not moved by another is independent and could do anyting at any time in any way and this destroys even calculation and probability since that presumes same “causes” and same “effects” resulting from them – kettles could boil on a block of ice at least in theory.
- Neither form, because motion happens only if new form is not present, nor privation, because old form no longer exists, explains motion by themselves. Therefore the motion takes place only to the extent that the new form is NOT present, terminating in the new form.
- Efficient causes can be divided into perfecting, preparatory, instrumental, and counseling.
- The final cause explains ‘why’ the efficient cause acts.
- There are three modes of each cause, either in commonness of predication (doctor-health) or commonness of cause (sun ->heat): 1) Prior or Posterior Per Se, in the same species of cause – e.g. doctor is prior to artist in causing health (commonness of predication – that which does the causing) or fire is prior to sun in causing heating (commonness of cause- the cause itself). 2) Prior or Posterior Per Accidens, e.g. Polyceitus is an accident nearer to the effect than white man, or musical, but both are accidental to the proper per se cause of the statue, which is a sculptor. 3) Actual or Potential, e.g. a builder in act causing a house and a builder potentially causing a house. The difference between first acts/potencies (being a rational animal) and second acts/potencies (having the power of speech) are derivatives of this distinction. But it should be noted that the power to speak is a second act relative to actually speaking.
In sum, we discovered more about middle terms which simply describe a dependence that an effect or being has for existing. The formal and final cause are intrinsic principles because the effect depends on them, while the agent and final are extrinsic because in order to bring about eh emergence from within matter, an agent is needed and an agent needs to have an end (will be covered in more depth why in Chs. 7-9).
- If a genus does not exist apart from individuals which participate in it, then why does he seem to say that general causes do? What’s the difference between singular (proper?), individual, and particular causes?
- General causes exist in the same way that genuses do…in individual natures. However, a cause is called general because it brings about various effects through other natures acting per se perhaps simultaneously. For example, the sun, if it is the source of all heat on earth, then it is also the source of the heat in the fire, which particular instance of fire may act directly on a piece of iron. In this way the sun has caused the iron to be hot in this individual circumstance, though the fire may be acting per se (or per accidens in the case that the fire was intended to heat soup – in which case the sun is a general cause of both
- Some have believed that the world was spontaneously generated and others think it started necessarily, but that seems strange since nothing else is spontaneous – humans don’t come from cow seeds, so why should people think chance explains something as serious as the beginning of the world?
- Just as per se substances have accidents, per se causes have accidents beside the their intention – and these are innumerable and indefinable – nothing happens by chance per se. In a way, these are two types of purpose – but the chance ‘purpose’ is not real.
- Chance involves purpose and purpose involves intelligence, therefore instances of chance are indefinite/indefinable…so strictly speaking, nothing happens by chance.
- Spontaneity (automaton) describes a ‘coming to be’ that we describe as happening for an end, but not really. For an event to be spontaneous it must 1) belong to what potentially happens for an end, 2) the event isn’t that normal end, and 3) the event is brought about by an accidental external force which is called fortune if man intends it.
- Therefore spontaneity is the genus and chance and fortune the species.
- While it is true that chance and fortune exist as a source of change, the change happens through a potentially infinite # of agents or natural causes.
Spontaneity is the genus in which chance and fortune are species.
Smith Ch. X
Chance is occasionally posited as a fifth cause, but how, the opinions vary between determinists, and indeterminists who think that everything is the result of chance.
- Determinism posits chance as a manifestation of our ignorance of natures mechanics – Newton thought the world was a timepiece.
- Indeterminism seems to be indicated by modern science in the form of 1) evolution of accidental traits in biology, 2) thermodynmics-everything is running downhill, and 3) radioactivity – the half-life of an element can be statistically known, not but individual atoms, 4) the behavior of particles is like that too, when measured. So if measure is the only way to know the law of behavior, there are no laws.
- To have a chance event according to Aristotle, there must be an end that is typically aimed for and an accidental rather than essential cause or effect. In other words, the effect must be accidental, rare, other than the expected, and uncontrolled (by man).
- There may be an explanation for what seems like chance, but the mind will always be ignorant of some explanations because there are infinite connections to make. 1) Failure to investigate all circumstances may lead to us attributing to chance what is not, but we will always be ignorant of all causes – potential and actual. 2) chance is as real as accidents inhereing in substances. 3) There are two orders.
- There is a difference between randomness and chance. A barrel of randomly mixed beans is an ordered barrels in a statistically describable way, though the particular interactions of the beans may be accidental to each other, just as the parts of a car are accidental.
In sum, chance is not so much a cause as a plurality of causes that end with no per se line relative to another line. Statistics is evidence of order rather than chance. Something which is always there as more primary (against indeterminism) there is a real difference between essential and accidental.
Wallace Modeling of Nature Ch. 2
- Why presume there are a potentially infinite number of agent causes and if there are, does why must this preclude there actually being a per se cause of every effect?
- The principle of sufficient reason (PSR) is different than the principle of causality (PC). PSR states that for everything which exists (even accidents) there is always an explanation of how it came to be. PC states that nothing can be reduced from potency to act except by something in act (ST I.2.3). But having an explanation of how something came to be (PSR) is not the same as having an explanation of why/on account of what thing/agent(propter quid) it came to be per se (PC). Not all things are per se caused, but all things that exist have an explanation for their existence. See Feser Scholastic Metaphysics 2.3/2.4.
- Just as we say that just we don’t doubt the existence of a per se/proper cause in healing (in a case of the doctor doctoring, but uncertain whether the healing was on account of his training or not), so too can’t we say that our lack of a grasp of the potentially infinite doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t a per se cause for every given effect? Why assume that just because something is indefinite, that that per se cause doesn’t exist in itself? Sounds like saying our minds determine the reality.
- Does he presume a hard line between always and for the most part and rarely? The fact that there are three classes shows there isn’t and that’s basically what Hume’s critique of causality was.
- Why are accidents not per se caused by their subjects? Accidents have real being but where else would their inferior being come from?
- If a tree wouldn’t survive without its green color, what makes it accidental?
- If an accidental cause actually does exist (there are certain effects that don’t have per se causes), then what prevents that effect from going on to render many other effects also accidental, if not an infinite number of other effects as accidental?
- How do we know the difference between two orders of causality and ‘complex causes’, like the 10 builders mentioned in the last post?
Spontaneity is the genus in which chance and fortune are species. Chance is not so much a cause as a plurality of causes that end with no per se line relative to another line. Statistics is evidence of order rather than chance. Something which is always there as more primary (against indeterminism) there is a real difference between essential and accidental.