So far, then, Aristotle’s appeals to homonymy or multivocity areprimarily destructive, in the sense that they attempt to undermine aPlatonic presumption regarded by Aristotle as unsustainable. Importantly, just as Aristotle sees a positive as well as a negativerole for dialectic in philosophy, so he envisages in addition to itsdestructive applications a philosophically constructive role forhomonymy. To appreciate his basic idea, it serves to reflect upon acontinuum of positions in philosophical analysis ranging from purePlatonic univocity to disaggregated Wittgensteinean familyresemblance. One might in the face of a successful challenge toPlatonic univocity assume that, for instance, the various cases ofgoodness have nothing in common across all cases, so that good thingsform at best a motley kind, of the sort championed by Wittgensteineansenamored of the metaphor of family resemblances: all good things belongto a kind only in the limited sense that they manifest a tapestry ofpartially overlapping properties, as every member of a single family isunmistakably a member of that family even though there is no onephysical attribute shared by all of those family members.
Aristotle’s illustration does succeed in showing that there isconceptual space between mere family resemblance and pureunivocity. So, he is right that these are not exhaustiveoptions. The interest in this sort of result resides in itsexportability to richer, if more abstract philosophical concepts. Aristotle appeals to homonymy frequently, across a full range ofphilosophical concepts including justice, causation,love, life, sameness, goodness, andbody. His most celebrated appeal to core-dependent homonymycomes in the case of a concept so highly abstract that it is difficultto gauge his success without extended metaphysical reflection. This ishis appeal to the core-dependent homonymy of being, which hasinspired both philosophical and scholarly controversy. At one point, Aristotledenies that there could be a science of being, on the grounds thatthere is no single genus being under which all and only beingsfall (SE 11 172a9–15). One motivation for his reasoningthis way may be that he regards the notion of a genus asineliminably taxonomical and contrastive, so that it makes ready sense to speak of a genus of being only if onecan equally well speak of a genus of non-being—just as amongliving beings one can speak of the animals and the non-animals,viz. the plant kingdom. Since there are no non-beings, thereaccordingly can be no genus of non-being, and so, ultimately, no genusof being either. Consequently, since each science studies oneessential kind arrayed under a single genus, there can be no scienceof being either.
Aristotle does little to frame his theory of categories, offering noexplicit derivation of it, nor even specifying overtly what his theoryof categories categorizes. If librarians categorize books andbotanists categorize plants, then what does the philosophical categorytheorist categorize?
In speaking of beings which depend upon substance for their existence,Aristotle implicitly appeals to a foundational philosophical commitmentwhich appears early in his thought and remains stable throughout hisentire philosophical career: his theory of categories. In what isusually regarded as an early work, The Categories, Aristotlerather abruptly announces:
Although Aristotle's principal goal in X.7–8 is to show thesuperiority of philosophy to politics, he does not deny that apolitical life is happy. Perfect happiness, he says, consists incontemplation; but he indicates that the life devoted to practicalthought and ethical virtue is happy in a secondary way. He thinks ofthis second-best life as that of a political leader, because heassumes that the person who most fully exercises such qualities asjustice and greatness of soul is the man who has the large resourcesneeded to promote the common good of the city. The political life hasa major defect, despite the fact that it consists in fully exercisingthe ethical virtues, because it is a life devoid of philosophicalunderstanding and activity. Were someone to combine both careers,practicing politics at certain times and engaged in philosophicaldiscussion at other times (as Plato's philosopher-kings do), he wouldlead a life better than that of Aristotle's politician, but worse thanthat of Aristotle's philosopher.
After thirteen years in Athens, Aristotle once again found cause toretire from the city, in 323. Probably his departure wasoccasioned by a resurgence of the always-simmering anti-Macedoniansentiment in Athens, which was free to come to the boil after Alexandersuccumbed to disease in Babylon during that same year. Because ofhis connections to Macedon, Aristotle reasonably feared for his safetyand left Athens, remarking, as an oft-repeated ancient tale would tellit, that he saw no reason to permit Athens to sin twice againstphilosophy. He withdrew directly to Chalcis, on Euboea, an islandoff the Attic coast, and died there of natural causes the followingyear, in 322.
Of course, first philosophy is not the only field of inquiry to studybeings. Natural science and mathematics also study beings, but indifferent ways, under different aspects. The natural scientist studiesthem as things that are subject to the laws of nature, as things thatmove and undergo change. That is, the natural scientist studies thingsqua movable (i.e., in so far as they are subject to change). Themathematician studies things qua countable and measurable. Themetaphysician, on the other hand, studies them in a more general andabstract way—qua beings. So first philosophy studies the causesand principles of beings qua beings. In Γ.2, Aristotle adds thatfor this reason it studies the causes and principles of substances(ousiai). We will explain this connection in Section 3below.
Although Aristotle is deeply indebted to Plato's moral philosophy,particularly Plato's central insight that moral thinking must beintegrated with our emotions and appetites, and that the preparationfor such unity of character should begin with childhood education, thesystematic character of Aristotle's discussion of these themes was aremarkable innovation. No one had written ethical treatises beforeAristotle. Plato's Republic, for example, does not treatethics as a distinct subject matter; nor does it offer a systematicexamination of the nature of happiness, virtue, voluntariness,pleasure, or friendship. To be sure, we can find in Plato's worksimportant discussions of these phenomena, but they are not broughttogether and unified as they are in Aristotle's ethical writings.
History The beginning of western politics goes back to the “Socrates” philosophers; which consists of Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle (who is known as the “father of political science”) Most of their most famous...
It is difficult to rule out that possibility decisively, sincelittle is known about the period of Aristotle’s life from341–335. He evidently remained a further five years inStagira or Macedon before returning to Athens for the second and finaltime, in 335. In Athens, Aristotle set up his own school in apublic exercise area dedicated to the god Apollo Lykeios, whence itsname, the Lyceum. Those affiliated withAristotle’s school later came to be called Peripatetics,probably because of the existence of an ambulatory (peripatos)on the school’s property adjacent to the exerciseground. Members of the Lyceum conducted research into awide range of subjects, all of which were of interest to Aristotlehimself: botany, biology, logic, music, mathematics, astronomy,medicine, cosmology, physics, the history of philosophy, metaphysics,psychology, ethics, theology, rhetoric, political history, governmentand political theory, rhetoric, and the arts. In all these areas,the Lyceum collected manuscripts, thereby, according to some ancientaccounts, assembling the first great library of antiquity.
More importantly, the unvarnished condition of Aristotle’ssurviving treatises does not hamper our ability to glean theirphilosophical content. His thirty-one surviving works (that is,those contained in the “Corpus Aristotelicum” of ourmedieval manuscripts that are judged to be authentic) all containrecognizably Aristotelian doctrine; and most of these contain theseswhose basic purport is clear, even where matters of detail and nuanceare subject to exegetical controversy.