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The first exhaustive study of Aristotle’s concept of chance.
This landmark book is the first to provide a comprehensive account of Aristotle’s concept of chance. Chance is invoked by many to explain the order in the universe, the origins of life, and human freedom and happiness. An understanding of Aristotle’s concept of chance is indispensable for an appreciation of his views on nature and ethics, views that have had a tremendous influence on the development of Western philosophy. Author John Dudley analyzes Aristotle’s account of chance in the Physics, the Metaphysics, in his biological and ethical treatises, as well as in his other works. Important complementary considerations such as Aristotle’s criticism of pre-Socratic philosophers, particularly Empedocles and Democritus; Plato’s concept of chance; the chronology of Aristotle’s works; and the relevance of Aristotle’s thought to evolution and quantum theory are also covered in depth. This is an essential book for scholars and students of Western philosophy.
“…an indispensable resource for scholars interested in Aristotle on chance … This lucid, well-constructed, and stimulating book is highly recommended for both specialists and non-specialists with an interest in Aristotle and chance or causality more generally.” — The European Legacy
John Dudley is Research Fellow in the De Wulf-Mansion Centre for Ancient, Mediaeval and Renaissance Philosophy at the University of Leuven in Belgium.
Table of Contents
PART I: CHANCE IN THE PHYSICS OF ARISTOTLE
1. The doctrine of Phys. II, iv-vi
i. Context and method ii. Terminology iii. Only unusual occurrences come about by chance iv. Chance refers to events v. Some events are meaningful and others are not vi. Chance events are both unusual and meaningful vii. Chance is a cause viii. Chance is an accidental cause that is meaningful ix. Chance as an accidental cause can pertain to any category x. Chance events are inherently unpredictable xi. The relationship of τύχη to τέχνη; their outcomes are contingent xii. Both good luck and bad luck are meaningful xiii. Good luck xiv. The distinction between τύχη and ταὐτόματον xv. The relationship of ταὐτόματον to μάτην xvi. Substances generated counter to nature fall under ταὐτόματον xvii. Chance, νοῦς and φύσις
2. The structure of Phys. II, iv-vi
3. Dating Phys. II, vi
a. Texts in which τύχη covers all of chance b. τύχη in Aristotle’s mature metaphysical writings
i. the meaning of ταὐτόματον καί τύχη ii. Inconclusive passages in the later metaphysical writings iii. The sources of generation iv. Note on Met. K v. Conclusion
4. Necessity and Chance
a. Aristotle’s concept of necessity
i. Introduction ii. Absolute necessity iii. Final causes are not derived by absolute necessity iv. The necessity of the Unmoved Mover v. Hypothetical necessity vi. Degrees of hypothetical necessity vii. Force viii. Fate ix. The correspondence of the four causes to absolute and hypothetical necessity x. The coincidence of hypothetical and absolute necessity xi. The distinction in subject-matter and method between physics and the other two theoretical sciences xii. Accidents occur by absolute and not by hypothetical necessity xiii. There is no science of the unusual accident xiv. Necessity in relation to man
b. Necessity and chance: Aristotle’s criticism of the Presocratics
i. The compatibility of necessity and chance in Greek thought ii. Necessity and chance in Democritus iii. Conclusion
Additional notes to chapter IV
a. Phys. VIII, iv b. Plato’s concept of chance c. Empedocles’ zoogony d. Phys. II, iv, 196 a 28-33
5. The causes of that which occurs by chance
a. Chance events b. Monsters c. spontaneous generation
i. The vocabulary of spontaneous generation ii. The causes of spontaneous generation iii. The evolution of the theory of spontaneous
d. The parallel between chance events and chance substances
i. The unusualness of monsters and spontaneous generation ii. The unusual category and the efficient cause
PART II: CHANCE IN THE ETHICS OF ARISTOTLE
6. Chance as the source of external prosperity
a. The necessity of external prosperity
b. Good fortune throughout a complete live (βίος τέλειος) is necessary for perfect happiness
i. Aristotle recognizes the existence of various degrees of happiness ii. The happiness sought in the ethical works is perfect happiness iii. Perfect happiness must last throughout life iv. Perfect happiness requires a “complete life” (βίοςτέλειος) v. Perfect happiness on one day and in a complete lifetime vi. Chance, external prosperity and happiness
7. Chance and Intuition
a. The doctrine of τύχη in EE VIII, ii b. The doctrine of good fortune (εὐτυχία) in MM II, viii
Additional note on the chronology of Aristotle’s ethical works Appendix I. Chance in the lists of the sources of happiness in NE and EE Appendix II. Differences in the role of chance in NE, EE, and MM
PART III: IMPLICATIONS OF ARISTOTLE’S CONCEPT OF CHANCE
8. Chance and Aristotle’s rejection of determinism
a. Determinism and final causality b. Determinism and efficient causality
i. Human free choice ii. Unusual accidents: Met. E(VI), iii iii. Chance iv. Conclusion
Additional note on determinist interpretations of Aristotle’s philosophy of nature
9. Aristotle’s concept of chance and related contemporary questions
a. Chance and the order in the universe b. Chance and the origin of live
c. Chance and evolution
i. Aristotle’s analogy of substance ii. Teleology iii. The operation of chance
d. Quantum theory e. Conclusion
a. Textual conclusions b. Doctrinal conclusions
Bibliography Index locorum Index nominum Index rerum