Along with Plato, Aristotle laid the foundations of Western thought. Due to his influence upon St. Thomas Aquinas, he has also greatly influenced Christian thought. Yet where should one begin with Aristotle? This course offers a starting point, and will introduce you to Aristotle’s philosophical method through studying his Ethics and Metaphysics.
Learning Aristotle’s method through these texts will be a bit like studying a new language’s grammar whilst also speaking it. New languages require grammatical knowledge, and philosophy, being self-reflexive nature, is always a new language, so its grammar and method cannot be neglected. Yet languages are always best learnt by speaking them in conversation, which is exactly what we will do as we study Aristotle’s Ethics and Metaphysics.
Ethics, to Aristotle, has to do with character and virtue, and their relation to human well-being or happiness. Yet to speak of “human” well-being, we must discuss our nature as humans. How do we distinguish that which is natural in humanity from that which is merely cultural or conventional? These questions then pose the question of our political nature and the question of justice. What is justice? What is it to be just? Is there a difference between “social justice” and justice per se? Put differently, Ethics inquires into the nature of the good – for for individuals and the community.
Metaphysics inquires into being itself. What it is for something to exist and be what it is? Such an inquiry is twofold, however: what are asking after, and what would constitute an answer? Metaphysics is thus both methodological and ontological – there is no possibility of getting answers to our greatest questions if we do not pay attention to what we are doing in asking them.
The class will be part lecture, part discussion seminar, depending on the particular subject matter and the disposition of the class and instructor.
Colin Redemer is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Saint Mary’s College of California and a Fellow of the Davenant Institute. He loves teaching on the intersection between History, Philosophy, Literature, and Christianity. His writing has appeared in the Englewood Review of Books, Evansville Review, Sojourners Magazine, The Federalist, and The Tampa Review.