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(384-322 BCE)

General Introduction: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Jonathan Barnes, Ed. The Complete Works of Aristotle. The Revised Oxford Translation. Two Volumes. Princeton, 1984.

Online index to works at MIT Classics:

Cite by Bekker pages when availabl, e.g., (16a11). Or use Title, Chapter, Paragraph, e.g., (Eth. I.4).

Review and Commentary[edit]

From Revised Oxford Edition

and: Richard McKeon. Introduction to Aristotle. 2nd Ed. Univ. of Chicago, 1973.

"apart from the sciences and arts . . . there are no parts of his philosophy" vs. Dialectic in Plato (McKeon xvii).


Categories (Barnes): all terms can be classified as references to:

  • Substance
    • Primary: Individual
    • Secondary: Species, Genus
  • Quantity
  • Qualification
  • Relative
  • Where
  • When
  • Position
  • Having
  • Doing
  • Being Affected

De Interpretatione (Barnes)

"falsity and truth have to do with combination and separation" (Barnes 25; 16a11)

  • Name
  • Verb
  • Negation
  • Affirmation
  • Statement
  • Sentence

Prior Analytics (Barnes)

  • Demonstrative Understanding
  • Proposition
  • Term
  • Deduction
  • Predication

Posterior Analytics (McKeon)

"demonstration does not necessarily imply the being of Forms nor a One beside a Many . . . there must be a single identical term unequivocally predicable of a number of individuals" (77a4-9)

"A science expands by . . . apposition of fresh extreme terms. E.g. A is predicated of B, B of C, C of D, and so indefinitely" (78a13-15)

"Ignorance -- defined not as the negation of knowledge but as a positive state of mind -- is error produced by inference" (79b23-24)

"Every syllogism is effected by means of three terms" (81b10)


"Of things that exist, some exist by nature, some from other causes" (192b1)

Of those that exist by nature "Each of them has within itself a principle of motion and stationariness" (192b15)


Four Causes

(1) "that out of which a thing comes and which persists" [material cause] (194b23)

(2) "the form or the archtype" [formal cause] (194b27)

(3) "the primary source of the change" [efficient cause] (194b28)

(4) "in the sense of the end or 'that for the sake of which' a thing is done" [final cause] (194b32)

"Nature belongs to the class of causes which act for the sake of something" (198b10)


De Anima

"the soul must be a substance in the sense of the form of a natural body having life potentially within it. But substance is actuality, and this soul is the actuality of a body" (412a19)

"psychic powers . . . we have mentioned are the nutritive [plants], the appetitive, the sensory, the locomotive [animals], and the power of thinking [humans]" (414a27)


"all men suppose what is called Wisdom to deal with the first causes and principles of things" (981b27)

"And the science which knows to what end each thing must be done is the most authoritative of the sciences, and more authoritative than any ancillary science; and this end is the good of that thing, and in general the supreme good in the whole of nature" (982b4-8)

"it is necessary that there should be an eternal unmovable substance" (1071b3)


"Happiness, then, is something final and self-sufficient, and is the end of action" (1097b21)

"Now if the function of man is an activity of soul which follows or implies a rational principle . . . human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue . . . in a complete life" (1098a5-20)

"no function of man has so much permanence as virtuous activities . . . and of these themselves the most valuable are more durable because those who are happy spend their life most readily and most continuously in in these; for this seems to be the reason why we do not forget them. The attribute in question, then, will belong to the happy man, and he will be happy throughout his life; for always, or by preference to everything else, he will be engaged in virtuous action and contemplation, and he will bear the chances of life most nobly and altogether decorously, if he is 'truly good' and 'foursquare beyond reproach'" (1100b11-22)

"Since happiness is an activity of the soul in accordance with perfect virtue, we must consider the nature of virtue" (1102a5)

"Neither by nature, then, nor contrary to nature do the virtues arise in us; rather we are adapted by nature to receive them, and are made perfect by habit" (1103a23)

the means to that end provided uniquely by nature? reason

the mean between extremes

cowardice vs rashness = courage

stinginess vs prodigality = liberality

humility vs vanity = pride

insensibility vs self-indulgence = temperance


the state is what encourages virtue


Beginning to End[edit]


(Meta. V.2) ‘Cause’ means (1) that from which, as immanent material, a thing comes into being, e.g. the bronze is the cause of the statue and the silver of the saucer, and so are the classes which include these. (2) The form or pattern, i.e. the definition of the essence, and the classes which include this (e.g. the ratio 2:1 and number in general are causes of the octave), and the parts included in the definition. (3) That from which the change or the resting from change first begins; e.g. the adviser is a cause of the action, and the father a cause of the child, and in general the maker a cause of the thing made and the change-producing of the changing. (4) The end, i.e. that for the sake of which a thing is; e.g. health is the cause of walking.
(Meta. V.4) "‘Nature’ means (1) the genesis of growing things-the meaning which would be suggested if one were to pronounce the ‘u’ in phusis long. (2) That immanent part of a growing thing, from which its growth first proceeds. (3) The source from which the primary movement in each natural object is present in it in virtue of its own essence."

First Mover (Meta. Bk. XII)

(Meta. XII.3) "Note, next, that neither the matter nor the form comes to be-and I mean the last matter and form. For everything that changes is something and is changed by something and into something. That by which it is changed is the immediate mover; that which is changed, the matter; that into which it is changed, the form. The process, then, will go on to infinity, if not only the bronze comes to be round but also the round or the bronze comes to be; therefore there must be a stop."
(Meta. XII.7) "Since (1) this is a possible account of the matter, and (2) if it were not true, the world would have proceeded out of night and ‘all things together’ and out of non-being, these difficulties may be taken as solved. There is, then, something which is always moved with an unceasing motion, which is motion in a circle; and this is plain not in theory only but in fact. Therefore the first heaven must be eternal. There is therefore also something which moves it."

On the Soul II

(Soul II.1) "the soul is the first grade of actuality of a natural body having life potentially in it"
(Soul II.1) "the soul is inseparable from its body, or at any rate that certain parts of it are (if it has parts) for the actuality of some of them is nothing but the actualities of their bodily parts. Yet some may be separable because they are not the actualities of any body at all."
(Soul II.4) "The soul is the cause or source of the living body. The terms cause and source have many senses. But the soul is the cause of its body alike in all three senses which we explicitly recognize. It is (a) the source or origin of movement, it is (b) the end, it is (c) the essence of the whole living body."

On the Soul III

(Soul III.3) "thought is found only where there is discourse of reason as well as sensibility"
(Soul III.5) "Actual knowledge is identical with its object: in the individual, potential knowledge is in time prior to actual knowledge, but in the universe as a whole it is not prior even in time. Mind is not at one time knowing and at another not. When mind is set free from its present conditions it appears as just what it is and nothing more: this alone is immortal and eternal (we do not, however, remember its former activity because, while mind in this sense is impassible, mind as passive is destructible), and without it nothing thinks."


(Eth. I.1)"EVERY art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim."

And what then is the good or purpose that humans by nature seek in their essence?

And what distinctive capabilities has nature provided for the fulfillment of this human essence?