Syllabus: Aristotle’s Philosophical Theology




ARISTOTLE’S PHILOSOPHICAL THEOLOGY

Spring Semester 2020

Instructors: Christopher Shields and Fred Miller


Course description: In the Metaphysics Book XII (Λ) Aristotle argues that the universe has a first cause, which he designates as ‘god’.  After outlining his metaphysical framework, he argues that all motion ultimately depends upon an immovable mover as its efficient and final cause. He offers a description of this prime mover as a divine intellect.  Rather surprisingly, he also conjectures that there are in fact many immovable movers.  He concludes nonetheless that the unity and goodness of the whole universe are due to the one prime mover which is its ruler.  Throughout the course we will study the text of Metaphysics Λ closely, taking into account related works of Aristotle, as well as major commentaries—ancient, medieval, and modern—which have shaped our understanding of Aristotle’s philosophical theology.  We will also discuss the major criticisms of Aristotle’s argument, and we will consider whether he offers any enduring insights for modern philosophers, theologians, and scientists still seeking a grand ‘theory of everything’.


The following schedule of meetings includes the main reading assignments for each session.  For Metaphysics Λ, read the relevant parts of the translation and commentary in Judson’s Aristotle Metaphysics Book Λ.  For ps.-Alexander read the relevant parts in Miller’s Ps.-Alexander On Aristotle’s Metaphysics 12. For other works of Aristotle a convenient source is Barnes Complete Works of Aristotle (2 vols.).  Individual articles are in the course packet.  

Please also consult Course Readings and Bibliography.


1. INTRODUCTION TO ARISTOTLE’S PHILOSOPHICAL THEOLOGY

Judson, Introduction, Aristotle Metaphysics Book Λ, 1-21

Menn, ‘Aristotle’s theology’

Guthrie, ‘The development of Aristotle’s theology’


2. SUBSTANCES

Metaphysics XII.1; ps.-Alexander 668-72. Background: Categories 1-5; Metaphysics VII

Berti, ‘The program of Metaphysics Λ (chapter 1)’(in Horn, 67-86)

Frede, ‘Metaphysics Λ 1’ (in Frede and Charles)


3. CHANGE AND HYLOMORPHISM

Metaphysics XII.2; Ps.-Alexander 672-4.  Background: Physics I

Charles,‘Metaphysics Λ 2:  matter and change’ (in Frede and Charles)


4. COMING-TO-BE AND PERISHING

Metaphysics XII.3; ps.-Alexander 674-8. Background: Generation & Corruption I.1-6

Crubellier,‘What the form has to be and what it needs not be (Metaphysics Λ 3)’ (in Horn)

Judson, ‘Formlessness and the priority of form: Metaphysics Zeta 7-9 and Λ 3’ (in Frede and Charles)


5. CAUSES AND PRINCIPLES

Metaphysics XII.4-5; ps.-Alexander 668-85. Background: Physics II.1-7, Metaphysics I.1-2, V.1-9 

Crubellier, Metaphysics Λ 4’ (in Frede and Charles)

Code, ‘Some remarks on Metaphysics Λ 5’ (in Frede and Charles)

Rapp, ‘The principles of sensible substance in Metaphysics Λ 2-5’ (in Horn)


6. THE PRIME MOVER

Physics VIII 

Graham, Aristotle Physics Book VIII translation and commentary (Clarendon Press, 1999) 

Judson, ‘Heavenly motion and the unmoved mover’ (in Gill and Lennox)

Kosman, ‘Aristotle’s prime mover’ (in Gill and Lennox)


7. THE PRIME MOVER AS EFFICIENT CAUSE

Metaphysics XII.6-7.1072a18; ps.-Alexander 685-92. Background: Metaphysics IX

Berti, ‘Unmoved mover(s) as efficient cause(s) in Metaphysics Λ 6’ (in Frede and Charles)

Fazzo,‘Unmoved mover as pure act or unmoved mover in act?’ (in Horn)


8. THE PRIME MOVER AS FINAL CAUSE

Metaphysics XII.7.1072a18-b14, ps.-Alexander 692-6. Background: Physics II.8-9

Laks, ‘Metaphysics Λ 7’ (in Frede and Charles)

Ross, ‘The causality of the prime mover in Metaphysics Λ’ (in Horn)

Bodnár, ‘Cases of celestial teleology in Metaphysics Λ’ (in Horn 247-67)


9. THE PRIME MOVER AS INTELLECT

Metaphysics XII.7.1072b14-1073a11; ps.-Alexander 696-700. Background: De Anima III.4-11

Norman, ‘Aristotle’s philosopher-god’

Herzberg, ‘God as pure thinking: an interpretation of Metaphysics Λ 7’ (in Horn)


10. HOW MANY MOVERS? HOW MANY HEAVENS?

Metaphysics XII.8; ps.-Alexander 700-10. Background: On the Heavens I-II

Matthen and Hankinson, ‘Aristotle’s universe: its form and matter’

Lloyd, ‘Metaphysics Λ 8’ (in Frede and Charles)

Beere,‘Counting the unmoved movers: astronomy and explanation in Aristotle’s Metaphysics XII.8’


11. THE DIVINE INTELLECT

Metaphysics XII.9,; ps.-Alexander 710-14. Background: Nicomachean Ethics I.7-8, X.7-8

Brunschwig,‘Metaphysics Λ 9: a short-lived thought experiment?’ (in Frede and Charles)

Kosman, ‘Metaphysics Λ 9:  divine thought’ (in Frede and Charles)


12. THE RULER OF THE UNIVERSE

Metaphysics XII.10; ps.-Alexander 714-21. Background: Movement of Animals 3-4,10; Nicomachean Ethics I.1-2, Politics I.1-2, III.6-17, VII.1-3,8-9

Horn,‘The unity of the world-order according to Metaphysics Λ 10’ (in Horn)

Sedley, ‘Metaphysics Λ 10’ (in Frede and Charles)


13. CONCLUDING CRITICAL ASSESSMENT

Quodlibetal


© Christopher Shields 2014