Chapter

Critique of Earlier Philosophers on the Good and the Causes Critique of Earlier Philosophers on the Good and the Causes <i>Metaphysics</i> A 7–A 8 989<sup>a</sup>18

Stephen Menn

in Aristotle's Metaphysics Alpha

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199639984
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191743337 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199639984.003.0007

Series: Symposia Aristotelia

Critique of Earlier Philosophers on the Good and the Causes Critique of Earlier Philosophers on the Good and the Causes Metaphysics A 7–A 8 989a18

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In Chapter 7 Aristotle draws some conclusions from the survey of earlier philosophers' views in A3-6. He is interested, not so much in what archai they believed in, or in what kinds of causes they believed in, but rather in how they used their archai as causes: that is, how they used, in explaining other things, the things they posited at the beginning of their accounts. In A7 he is especially interested in how philosophers who posited a Good as an archê used it in explanations. Developing the Phaedo, Aristotle argues that although Anaxagoras posited a Good (namely nous), he used it in explanations only as an efficient cause, not as a final cause, and so did not use it as a cause quâ good. Aristotle then turns the argument against Plato, arguing that although he posited a Good (namely the One), he used in explanations only as a formal cause, not as a final cause, and so did not use it as a cause quâ good. (Plato used efficient and final causes, but, Aristotle claims, he used his archai only as formal and material causes, and used only derivative things as efficient and final causes.) Aristotle is himself implicitly promising that he will discover a good archê and use it in explanations as a final cause. He is not arguing that earlier thinkers progressively discovered the four causes, but rather that even those who posited a Good failed to use it as a final cause; this helps to persuade Aristotle's readers that a new investigation is needed. This chapter concludes with a discussion of Aristotle's critique of the material monists in the first part of A8.

Keywords: archê; truth; final cause; good [as principle]; one [as principle]; numbers; Plato (and; as topics under Plato: Phaedo; Timaeus; Lecture on the Good); Anaxagoras; Empedocles; material monists; sunkrisis; diakrisis

Chapter.  14074 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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