Teleological account of nature

For Aristotle, knowledge actually comes from those sensible particulars, which he calls “primary substance” [οὐσία], which are simply individual things in nature that grow and change. However, despite this turn toward sensory or empirical knowledge and away from Plato’s rationalism and “otherworldliness,” Aristotle will further develop the notion of reality as purpose driven, or teleological.
With that being said, I’d like you to look at a short passage that was assigned for our class yesterday, Thursday 9/10. We didn’t get this far in class, but specifically pp. 57-60 of your text, i.e. Book II Chapter 8 of Aristotle’s Physics, especially p. 58 (marginal p. 198b33) to p. 59 (199b). Read this section closely and explain, in your own words, how and in what manner is Aristotle developing a teleological account of nature, i.e. one that is goal or purpose oriented? You may want to reference Aristotle’s discussion of causation and change, known as “The Four Causes,” found in pp. 48-9 (194b17-195a27) of your text, but only if you find it to be helpful, since we have yet to discuss this in class (this will be the subject of discussion on Tuesday).

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You really can draw from any of the surrounding text that you find helpful, but I’d like you focus primarily on the aforementioned passage and elaborate upon how Aristotle is explaining nature to be teleological in empirical terms, i.e. through reasoning based upon observation rather than pure rational inquiry, as with Plato. Finally, briefly discuss which theory you feel is more reliable in obtaining knowledge about the intelligible character of reality, Plato’s rationalism or Aristotle’s empiricism, and why. Note that this is not a paper on the Four Causes, so don’t try to mine the internet for what these are and write about that. Instead, this assignment is meant to push you to try to read Aristotle’s somewhat difficult writing to get a sense of what kind of argument he is trying to make, and how it relates to the idea we discussed in Thursday’s class, that of reality/nature being teleological. This will be related to Aristotle’s Four Causes, but since we have yet to discuss this in class fully, only look to the text and try to discern Aristotle’s point here.

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