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Aristotle on the Meaning of Man

A Philosophical Response to Idealism, Positivism, and Gnosticism

Peter Jackson

Why was (and is) Aristotle «right» and why are we «wrong»? In other words, why are Aristotle’s philosophical reflections on man and the world full, real, and convincing and why is so much of our modern philosophy partial and false? This work offers a detailed assessment of Aristotle’s thought in response to these questions.

Using «man» as a case study, this work shows how Aristotle philosophically treats «him» as a physical, biological, social, political, ethical, creative, poeticising, and philosophising object in the world. It then continues by laying out his consequent conclusions regarding the necessary capacities of natural objects in the world.

Regarding the modern philosophical approach to «man», this work shows that it flows from several directions into narcissism, nihilism, and a desire to control and manipulate the world and other people. In short, this work considers these approaches and seeks to show that Aristotle’s philosophy is «right», true, and commendable and that our modern philosophy is (often) «wrong», vacuous, and distasteful.

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Chapter 1.5: Aristotle on Becoming Something


← 94 | 95 →CHAPTER 1.5

Aristotle on Becoming Something

It is, I suggest, important to recognise that Aristotle’s consideration of craft gives us a pathway through which we can (and should) go right down to the ontological bedrock which is, at root, for Aristotle (i) about “principles” or “archai” literally finding and moving through and fulfilling themselves in matter and substance and (ii) about mediated cycles of “being” and “coming-to-be”. I suggest (a) that Aryeh Kosman explains Aristotle’s “being” beautifully in the following passage:

Substance, that is, ousia or be-ing, is an activity, an entity’s manifesting what it is; to be a man is to shine forth with humanity, to act one’s manhood out in the world. Aristotle thus says that of things which are actual, some are “as motion to potentiality, others as ousia to some matter [Met. Θ 1048b8f].” Beings therefore imitate divinity in being, acting out, what they are; imitatio dei consists in striving not to be God, but to be one’s self, to emulate that being who is totally active, i.e. who totally is what he is1

and (b) that he also explains the importance to Aristotle of the concept of “actuality” in respect to substance as follows:

That the essence of God is actuality [Met. Λ 1071b20] has other than metaphysical force for Aristotle. For we partake of divinity in our capacity for action which is actuality and which has no limit and no end outside itself. The...

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