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Philosophy of the Human Person: Explication #1

Due 9/27, start of class, hard copy

Instructions: Answer the following prompt in 2 pages.  For the sake of fairness, do not write more than 2 and ½ pages or less than 1.  In essay format, answer the following questions in order by having a clearly-marked paragraph corresponding to each of the following numbered requests.  The lettered sub-parts should appear in the numbered paragraph to which they belong.  Use 12-point font, standard margins, double-spacing, and do not put your name anywhere but on the final page of the document as the last thing you type (this is for the purpose of blind grading.).  The point of this exercise is to practice producing a short, clear, accurate answer to the prompt.  The assignment does not require an intro paragraph or a summary conclusion.  Just jump right into answering the prompt and then stop when you have answered everything.  Do not use outside sources.  You are welcome to quote from any work of any of the authors we’ve read, but you need not do this so long as you explain things clearly and I know where you’re getting your information.  If you choose to quote, please don’t throw block quotes at me without any explanation of them.  They don’t explain themselves, you know! Cite any quotes simply by putting the fragment or page number at the end of the quote—e.g. “I hold you back from this path, that ‘it is not!’”(Parm. fr. 293), or (Physics 193b7), etc.  You need not create a bibliography or title page.  You need not even use up space giving your paper a title!

Prompt: In his work Categories, Aristotle lays out his 10 category theory of being.  In Book 2, he makes distinctions between what is said of a subject, what exists in a subject, and what is neither said of, nor exists in a subject.  First, 1) explain to me, in good English prose, what Aristotle means when he says that some things are a) said of a subject, others b) exist in a subject, and still others c) are neither said of nor exist in a subject, giving specific examples of things in each group.   Make use of the terms “accidents,” “primary substances” and “secondary substances” somewhere in your answer.  Before proceeding further, read the following paragraph from Aristotle’s Physics:

“The statement that complete separation never will take place is correct, though Anaxagoras is not fully aware of why that is the case.  For affections are indeed inseparable.  For if colors and states had entered into the mixture, and complete separation took place, then there would be something white or healthy which was nothing but white or healthy, i.e. was not the predicate of a subject.  So his principle of Mind absurdly aims at the impossible, if wishes to separate them, and it is impossible to do so . . .” (Physics 188a5-a12).

In this paragraph, Aristotle is explaining to Anaxagoras and to us the correct reason why separation of everything from everything is impossible, as well as criticizing Anaxagoras’s doctrine of “mind.”  Second, 2) explain, in good English prose, a) Aristotle’s reasons for why complete separation of everything from everything is impossible, b) why Anaxagoras is someone who, according to Aristotle, needs to hear these reasons, and c) why Aristotle says that Anaxagoras’s “principle of mind absurdly aims at the impossible.”  Hint: the correct answer to 1b above plays a role in the correct answer to 2a and should feature somehow in your answer.  Third, 3) I say that there are two deductive arguments in this passage, though they are not stated explicitly, but implieda) Tell me one proposition that is a conclusion of one of these arguments, and b) tell me one proposition that is a premise in the argument that leads to the whichever conclusion you have chosen.  c) State the formal structure of the argument you have chosen and tell me whether it is valid or invalid.  If it is valid and one that we have dealt with in class, give me its name.  Lastly, d) don’t tell me whether Aristotle’s argument is sound in this case, but rather tell me what it takes for any argument to be sound.  (i.e. tell me the definition of soundness).

If you have done this assignment well, it should look roughly like a very short essay in which you first explain (in the first paragraph) a few things that one should know about Aristotle’s category theory, then make use of some of those things (in the second paragraph) to explain Aristotle’s reasons for saying that complete separation of everything from everything is impossible, and then show (in the third paragraph) that you can recognize the constitutive parts and structure of the arguments that you are analyzing. Might sound tough, but if you focus on answering carefully and in order each of the above parts and sub-parts, you’ll be on the right track. You can do it!