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Features Of The Aristotelian World View

1151 words - 5 pages

Features of the Aristotelian World View

The universe is finite, spherical, and eternal (has no beginning and no ending).

--Finite because (1) an infinite cosmos would have no center and the universe obviously has a center; and (2) the daily rotation of an infinite cosmos would require that celestial bodies travel an infinite distance in a finite period of time, an absurdity.
--Spherical because (1) the perfect shape is the sphere (it contains more volume per surface area than any other shape; also it is perfectly symmetrical—rotate it any way you wish and it looks the same); and (2) nothing exists outside the cosmos; as the cosmos rotates therefore, it cannot move into a place that ...view middle of the document...

The concept of final cause makes Aristotle’s worldview teleological or goal-oriented. Not everything happens because of prior causes (as modern science purports); much, perhaps the most important things, happens because reality is responsive to final causes existing in the future.

There are five kinds of elements in the universe. In the sublunar region we find earth, air, fire, and water. Earth and water have gravitas and naturally move downwards in a rectilinear fashion (toward the center of the earth which is the center of the cosmos). Air and fire have levitas and naturally move upwards in a rectilinear fashion (away from the center of the earth). In the supralunar region we find the fifth element that is variously called ether, quintessence, and ethereal fire. Ether is neither heavy nor light (has neither gravitas nor levitas) and so moves in such a fashion as to neither approach the center of the universe nor recede from it. This can only be in a circular fashion.

Motion in the sublunar region is of two types: natural and unnatural (forced or violent). Natural sublunar motion is either upwards or downwards from the earth’s center in a rectilinear fashion. Unnatural motion involves forcing an object to deviate from its natural motion. For example, when I throw a ball, I force it to travel horizontally, at least for a brief time. When that force is exhausted, the ball’s natural motion takes over and it falls vertically to the earth.

Natural motion can be understood in terms of natural place. Everything in the universe has its natural place and natural motion is movement toward that place. A rock falls downward toward the earth because that is where it came from and it “wants” to return home. (Think of things having sympathies and antipathies; the rock “inclines” toward earth and “disinclines” to be removed from it.) Any attempt to remove or keep an object from its natural place involves unnatural motion. Note that for Aristotle rest is an object’s natural state, for when an object is at “home,” it is at rest. A moving object is one not fully arrived, as it were, and therefore suffers a want or lack.

All this implies a teleological universe, one governed more by final causes than by antecedent or prior causes. Even rocks are sentient and therefore suffer when they are moved from their natural place. On a grander scale, everything is lifted upward by some glorious future...

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