Edited by Tony Fitzpatrick
Chapter 16: The nature of nature: Aristotle versus Epicurus
Aristotelianism has revived in popularity and influence since the 1950s (see Cassirer 1944: 18-21, 70-71) and there can be few philosophers who do not welcome these recent contributions. Within philosophy, there is an important stand-off between teleological and non-teleological approaches which has unfortunately not been prominent in those debates. For centuries, people understood the division in classical Greek thought between teleologists and non-teleologists, with Aristotelianism often representing the former and Epicureanism the latter. Yet because the revival of interest in Aristotelianism has not accompanied a corresponding revival of interest in Epicureanism, we are in danger of losing a solid appreciation of those earlier disputes. This would be unfortunate if, as some believe, Aristotelianism should wield more influence within social policy (Spicker 2011; Fitzpatrick 2011) and environmentalism (MacIntyre 1999). Looming above debates about social policy and environmental policy are some very large ethical questions that pertain to teleology. If we claim that social reforms should recognize the extent to which humans are woven into and interdependent with the rest of nature then we should presumably try to understand what we mean by nature. If our aim should be to enable people to live good lives in a good society, then we should presumably try to understand what we mean by the good.
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