Despite the fact that the theory of Forms is regarded as the hallmark of Plato’s philosophy, it has remained remarkably elusive, because it is more hinted at than explained in his dialogues. Given the uncertainty concerning the nature and extension of the Forms, this article makes no pretense to coming up with solutions to all problems that have occupied scholars since antiquity. It aims to elucidate only two aspects of that theory: the indication in certain dialogues that the Forms are what in modern parlance are called functions or purposes, and the indication in other dialogues that such functions rely on harmonious structures.
This paper discusses the metaphysical status of artefacts and their forms in the ancient commentators on Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Specifically, it examines the Peripatetic tradition and Alexander of Aphrodisias to then turn to the commentaries of the late Neoplatonist Asclepius of Tralles, and the Byzantine commentator Michael of Ephesus. It argues that Alexander is the pioneer of the interpretation of artefactual forms as qualities and artefacts as accidental beings. The fortune of this solution goes through Asclepius and Michael to influence Thomas Aquinas.
Some philosophers of biology state that the metaphysical status of biological species is context determined by the use different branches of biology make of their corresponding proper names, so that one and the same biological species can be both an individual and a natural kind. In this paper, I aim to undermine the idea, often associated with the present thesis, according to which the debate about the metaphysical status of biological species should be deflated, since it would be possible to translate every sentence from natural-kind talk to individual-talk and vice versa. I offer a charitable interpretation of the principle grounding such an idea and show how it is in tension with independent theoretical biological notions.
In fragments of the lost Protrepticus, preserved in Iamblichus, Aristotle responds to Isocrates’ worries about the excessive demandingness of theoretical philosophy. Contrary to Isocrates, Aristotle holds that such philosophy is generally feasible for human beings. In defense of this claim, Aristotle offers the progress argument, which appeals to early Greek philosophers’ rapid success in attaining exact understanding. In this paper, I explore and evaluate this argument. After making clarificatory exegetical points, I examine the argument’s premises in light of pressing worries that the argument reasonably faces in its immediate intellectual context, the dispute between Isocrates and Aristotle. I also relate the argument to modern concerns about philosophical progress. I contend that the argument withstands these worries, and thereby constitutes a reasonable Aristotelian response to the Isocratean challenge.