Aristotle - Philosophy and Faith with Francis Selman on Totus2us


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Fr Francis: "A notable feature of Aristotle's natural science, which distinguishes him sharply from many of our contemporaries, is that he thought that things in nature have an end. The end of a plant or animal, for example, is to reach its perfect development. It is difficult to deny that many things in nature serve a purpose or end: Aristotle gives the example of leaves, to provide shade. To say that things have an end is quite contrary to thinking that the world has just come about by chance. He also thought that we have an end. The end of human beings, he says, is to act well, just as the end of a harpist is to play the harp well. In Aristotle's view, we act well when we act according to our nature, not contrary to it. Thus for us to act well is to act according to reason, because we have rational nature. To act according to reason is what we mean by virtue. He discusses the virtues, especially justice, courage, prudence and temperance, in his book the Nicomachean Ethics. He begins this book by observing that we almost always act for an end: I clean my teeth to keep my teeth healthy, I put on a pullover to keep warm, I take a bus to go to the chemist, and so on. But he also asks whether there is some end to which all our actions and other ends are directed. And he thinks there is: it is happiness. No one desires to be unhappy. Happiness took two forms for Aristotle: the first is to flourish by taking a full part in the life of the city state, especially by the practice of the social virtues. But in Book 10 of the Ethics, he says that activity makes us most happy which is most like God's activity. This is contemplation. The connection between the two is that the life of virtue disposes us for contemplation." Visit for more.

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