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Aristotle's Concept of Chance

Accidents, Cause, Necessity, and Determinism

John Dudley

Publication Year: 2011

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 order in the universe, the origins of life, even 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 which 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, and in a number of his other works as well. Important complementary considerations such as Aristotle’s criticism of Presocratic philosophers, particularly Empedocles and Democritus, Plato’s concept of chance, the chronology of Aristotle’s works, and the relevance of Aristotle’s work to evolution and quantum theory are also covered in depth. This is an essential book for scholars and students of Western philosophy.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii

It is my great pleasure to acknowledge an immense debt of thanks to Prof. Dr. G.J.Y. Debrock. His wisdom and virtue, of which I have been the beneficiary for many years, can receive no adequate expression here. I would like to express my gratitude in particular...

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pp. 1-16

The topic of chance is one with which all human beings are confronted in day-to-day life. Everyone knows how it feels to have good luck and bad luck, and everyone attributes certain unexpected outcomes to chance. Chance is the spice of the plots of innumerable...

Part I: Chance in the Physics of Aristotle: The Metaphysics of Chance

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pp. 17-196

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1. The Doctrine of Phys. II, IV-VI

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pp. 19-57

Aristotle’s main discussion of chance is that found in Book II of the Physics, which may be described as an investigation into causes, as is apparent from the first sentence of chapters 1, 3, 4, 7 and 8.1 Chance must be examined...

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2. The Structure of Phys. II, IV-VI

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pp. 58-71

In this chapter the structure of Phys. II, iv-vi will be examined. I hope to show that this structure can only be explained by means of a development in Aristotle’s concept of chance. I shall argue that Aristotle originally wrote...

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3. Dating Phys. II, IV-VI

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pp. 72-100

In the last chapter an attempt was made to show that Phys. II, iv-v was written at a different stage of the development of Aristotle’s thought to Phys. II, vi. In Phys. II, iv-v, in its original form, the term...

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4. Necessity and Chance

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pp. 101-162

In this chapter Aristotle’s concept of necessity will be investigated, and the important question will be treated of the extent to which Aristotle made room for contingency.1 The chapter will not provide an exhaustive treatment of logical...

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5. The Causes of That Which Occurs by Chance

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pp. 163-196

In this chapter the aim will be to examine the kinds of cause at work in chance events and chance substances. Chance events will be dealt with in section (a). The two kinds of chance substance are monsters and spontaneously generated...

Part II: Chance in the Ethics of Aristotle

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pp. 197-267

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6. Chance as the Source of External Prosperity

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pp. 199-235

In Part I of this volume the doctrine of chance in Aristotle’s physical works was examined. In Part II the function of chance in the ethical works will be treated. It will be seen that in EE and MM Aristotle develops a doctrine of chance...

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7. Chance and Intuition

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pp. 236-257

In the last chapter it was seen that external prosperity, which is a requirement of happiness, is dependent upon chance. The extent to which Aristotle makes happiness dependent upon external prosperity, and accordingly upon chance...

Additional Note on the Chronology of Aristotle's Ethical Works

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pp. 258-259

Appendix I: Chance in the Lists of Sources of Happiness in NE and EE

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pp. 260-263

Appendix II: Differences in the Role of Chance in NE, EE, and MM

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pp. 280-267

Part III: Implications of Aristotle's Concept of Chance

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pp. 269-374

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8. Chance and Aristotle's Rejection of Determinism

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pp. 271-324

In Part III of this volume some of the more striking implications of Aristotle’s doctrine of chance will be examined. In Chapter 8 an inquiry will be undertaken into Aristotle’s rejection of determinism. It will be seen that Aristotle based...

Additional Note on Determinist Interpretations of Aristotle's Philosophy of Nature

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pp. 325

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9.Aristotle's Concept of Chance and Related Contemporary Questions

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pp. 326-358

The aim of this chapter is not to study any questions relating to science and philosophy in extenso or in their own right – since this would require a separate volume for each question – but only as related to Aristotle’s concept...

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pp. 359-374

The present volume is the first full account of chance in Aristotle. No previous treatment of chance has brought together the concept of chance in the physical and ethical works of Aristotle. As chance is a topic of importance in physics...


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pp. 375-404

Index Locorum

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pp. 405-427

Index Nominum / Index Rerum

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pp. 429-437

E-ISBN-13: 9781438432281
E-ISBN-10: 1438432283
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438432274
Print-ISBN-10: 1438432275

Page Count: 416
Illustrations: 1 figure
Publication Year: 2011