Aristotle

Aristotle is a towering figure in ancient Greek philosophy, making contributions to logic, metaphysics, mathematics, physics, biology, botany, ethics, politics, agriculture, medicine, dance and theatre. He was a student of Plato who in turn studied under Socrates. He was more empirically-minded than Plato or Socrates and is famous for rejecting Plato’s theory of forms.

As a prolific writer and polymath, Aristotle radically transformed most, if not all, areas of knowledge he touched. It is no wonder that Aquinas referred to him simply as “The Philosopher.” In his lifetime, Aristotle wrote as many as 200 treatises, of which only 31 survive. Unfortunately for us, these works are in the form of lecture notes and draft manuscripts never intended for general readership, so they do not demonstrate his reputed polished prose style which attracted many great followers, including the Roman Cicero. Aristotle was the first to classify areas of human knowledge into distinct disciplines such as mathematics, biology, and ethics. Some of these classifications are still used today.

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Aristotle

Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.) numbers among the greatest philosophers of all time. Judged solely in terms of his philosophical influence, only Plato is his peer: Aristotle’s works shaped centuries of philosophy from Late Antiquity through the Renaissance, and even today continue to be studied with keen, non-antiquarian interest. A prodigious researcher and writer, Aristotle left a great body of work, perhaps numbering as many as two-hundred treatises, from which approximately thirty-one survive.[1] His extant writings span a wide range of disciplines, from logic, metaphysics and philosophy of mind, through ethics, political theory, aesthetics and rhetoric, and into such primarily non-philosophical fields as empirical biology, where he excelled at detailed plant and animal observation and description. In all these areas, Aristotle’s theories have provided illumination, met with resistance, sparked debate, and generally stimulated the sustained interest of an abiding readership.

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Dialectic of the Ladder: Wittgenstein, the ‘Tractatus’ and Modernism

Late in his illuminating and useful examination of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Benjamin Ware quotes Wittgenstein’s assessment of the Viennese house the philosopher designed and built for his sister in 1940, by many lights a modernist masterpiece that Wittgenstein himself deems “the product of a decidedly sensitive ear and good manners, an expression of great understanding (of a culture, etc.).” This pronouncement, and the one that immediately follows and complicates it — “But primordial life, wild life striving to erupt into the open — that is lacking. And so you could say it isn’t healthy” — can be seen as emblematic of the sort of two-punch therapeutic wallop with which, on Ware’s reading, Wittgenstein intentionally imbued his philosophical writings in general and the Tractatus in particular. The first punch is typically one we can’t feel, and in fact functions more like a gentle and comforting stroke that seduces us with that which already feels good and right to us: in this case, Wittgenstein’s first statement appeals to our preconceived notions about taste — it appeals to our investment in manners, sensibility, and culture. But with characteristic self-criticality, and a philosophical penchant for flipping things on us, Wittgenstein adds that the house is lacking life, and so — here’s the second punch — what we thought were our thoughts, what we took for our values and ideals, is suddenly revealed to be unhealthy.

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Heraclitus

A Greek philosopher of Ephesus (near modern Kuşadası, Turkey) who was active around 500 BCE, Heraclitus propounded a distinctive theory which he expressed in oracular language. He is best known for his doctrines that things are constantly changing (universal flux), that opposites coincide (unity of opposites), and that fire is the basic material of the world. The exact interpretation of these doctrines is controversial, as is the inference often drawn from this theory that in the world as Heraclitus conceives it contradictory propositions must be true.

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Four philosophers who realized they were wrong

Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways.

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Aristotle on Practical Truth

This study aims to show that the notion of practical truth is indispensable to Aristotle’s ethics. It pursues its goal in six chapters. The first two, introductory, chapters — one on Plato and one on misinterpreting Aristotle — prepare the ground for the core of the book, a sustained treatment of Aristotle’s conception of practical truth. Chapter three is a lightly revised version of Olfert’s prize-winning article ‘Aristotle’s Conception of Practical Truth’ (JHP, 2014), arguing that practical truth is both truth in the proper sense of ‘truth’ and a special kind of truth. Chapter four spells out the connection between practical truth and the other functions of practical reason, explaining how wish, decision, and action all express practical reason’s concern for practical truth. The last part of the book, chapters five and six, draw out the implications of taking practical truth to be among the primary notions in Aristotle’s moral psychology. Olfert first examines how pleasure can contribute to the development of truth-oriented practical reason, and then concludes by arguing that developing practical reason can also change what we enjoy.

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REad also: Aristotle on Practical Truth

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Toward a History and Philosophy of Scientific Agency

Fisch aims to offer a philosophy of scientific agency. Specifically, the book is framed around developing an account of how a scientist can be persuaded to accept a new theory, one that is fundamentally different from the theory she currently accepts. Fisch argues that this is a problem that Thomas Kuhn left us with. Given Kuhn’s theory of scientific change, according to which science progresses through radical revolutionary changes of theory, one needs to explain how such changes are rationally mediated. One needs to explain how reasons that are external to one’s conceptual framework can move one to abandon that framework.

Fisch maintains that neither Kuhn nor his successors, critics nor sympathetic commentators, provided an adequate answer to the challenge Kuhn raised. That is, no one has satisfactorily explained how one could change one’s view when such a change requires a significant rethinking and reassessment of one’s values. That, after all, is what theory change involves, assuming Kuhn is correct.

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Read also: Creatively Undecided: Toward a History and Philosophy of Scientific Agency

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A Philosophy for the Science of Well-Being

Ostensibly, philosophy and science share goals that are fundamentally related to truth-seeking. Yet the ways in which each discipline pursues these goals are often vastly different and can lead to different claims about the nature of their object. The study of well-being is a prime example. Even despite increasing efforts to engage in interdisciplinary research, the science of well-being proceeds very differently than the philosophy of well-being, to the extent where we might reasonably question whether or not the science and philosophy are talking about the same thing.

Anna Alexandrova’s ambitious and timely book tackles these concerns head-on, raising important questions regarding the relationship between philosophy and science, and offering insights into how one might inform the other. Written from the perspective of the philosophy of science, Alexandrova’s aim is to develop a philosophy of the science of well-being that shows how the science of well-being can best succeed in delivering knowledge of well-being, and in explaining how and why that knowledge succeeds and fails (p. xv).

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Read also:  A Philosophy for the Science of Well-Being

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Reference and Representation in Thought and Language

This is a welcome addition to the ongoing debate on reference. Both philosophers of language and linguists contributed to the volume, and the topics of the papers vary considerably. However, as the editors explain in the introduction, “one relevant element common to all contributions is that . . . even if none of them questions that singular terms are typically used to refer directly to individual objects, most of them address issues beyond reference” (2). The book can be of interest to both graduate students and scholars that work in philosophy of language, linguistics, and philosophy of mind. Given the limited space I have in this review, I’ll say something about each paper, aware I am not able to do justice to any one of them..

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Read also: Reference and Representation in Thought and Language

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Dignity: A History

Dignity is one of the building blocks of our human abstract vocabulary. Like love, friendship, hope and faith, it is a cluster concept (philosophically) and a very thick concept (anthropologically) whose nebulous core is ubiquitous in all known human cultures. At a certain moment in the history of ideas, dignity became attached to “humanity”, and acquired a foundational moral value. It happened in the Jewish Bible and in Stoic philosophy. Christianity taught that original sin blemished human dignity and that only Christian grace offers some restoration. For many centuries, this move rendered dignity or Imago Dei irrelevant as a moral property of all humans. People were expected to behave with dignity and to accept the grace of the Church and her teachings; but they did not hear about any treatment owed them solely because all human beings had dignity.

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