Saturday, July 21, 2012

Aristotle 101 - Part II, Bodies & Attributes

Yes, more notes from Mortimer Adler's Aristotle for Everybody.
Aristotle recognized that the universe contained more things that could be thought of than simply the physical bodies (things) we observe:  mathematical concepts, fictional characters, ideas and theories for example.  Adler promises to address those after he lays much more of the groundwork: 

When considering physical bodies, Aristotle drew a sharp distinction between 1) a body, and 2) the characteristics it possesses.  A rock, for example, is a body.  Lets say we have a rock that is grey and weigh 5 lbs.  Its color and weight are characteristics that belong to the rock.  The color and weight don't exist, in and of themselves, apart from the rock.  If the stone is blown up, you no longer have the weight "5 lbs."

The stone on the other hand does have existence.  You can change the stone's color by painting it purple, or its weight by grounding it down from 5 lbs. to 2 lbs.  But white has not magically transmuted into purple or 5 lbs. been changed into 2.  It is the rock that changed.  "Physical things, in short, are changeable.  Physical attributes are not changeable; they are the respects in which physical things change" (p.13).

There are three principal respects in which things change:
1) in quanity - weight or size
2) in quality  - shape, color, texture
3) in place    - move from one place to another

The most important attributes are those which do not change as long as that body exists.  These are the attributes that help us in defining something's nature.
Examples:  certain metals conduct electricity; mammals suckle their young; human beings ask questions

Human beings are physical things, bodies.  But we're more than that.  We are rational animals - not just things, but persons.  Aristotle is going to teach us about our three dimensions as bodies, as well as three dimensions unique to us as persons.
Previous post in this thread:  Aristotle 101 - Introduction

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