Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Philosophy, Science and the Sciences

PS Aristotle: Physics

Menn, Stephen

Wed. 16-18, HAN 6, 1.03

An introduction to Aristotle’s theoretical philosophy through slow and careful reading of central texts, concentrating on working through Book II of his Physics, with other texts of Plato and Aristotle brought in for background and comparison. The class will be mainly driven by student presentations, which may be in English or German. We will examine Aristotle’s attempt to reconstruct “physics” or “natural philosophy” in response to Plato’s critique of the pre-Socratics. Can physics be a science, and if so, what kind of science? How should its object be delimited--if it is about natural things, what is “nature”? How are natural things like and unlike artificial things, and how is physics like and unlike the arts? What kinds of causes or explanations should the physicist cite? Should the physicist narrate the formation of the world and the things in it, following a temporal sequence, or demonstrate atemporal truths like the geometer? From what starting-points should such narration or demonstration begin? What kind of necessities should the physicist try to discover, and what are the scope of chance and purpose in the natural world?