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Thursday, March 3

March 3, 2016

WWTWWT: Today we continued our discussion of Aristotle — specifically, how his Four Causes affected his views about the soul and the existence of God, and about his “Golden Mean.” Key points covered:

  1. Aristotle saw everything as made up of both matter and form. You can’t have matter without form — even if it’s a blob of matter, that is still a form. The form that each thing takes is what he called its “first actuality” —  its soul. That sounds weird because we’re used to thinking of souls as, essentially, ghosts that live inside our bodies. (If we think about them at all.)
  2. But Aristotle certainly wasn’t implying that a chair has a “soul” in that sense. Substitute “essence” for “soul” and it’ll probably make more sense. (Put another way: what makes a chair a chair? Its form. Therefore, its form is its essence.)
  3. This blend of matter and form became a theory called hylomorphism — which just combines the Greek words for matter and form.
  4. Aristotle saw every object in the world as a blend of actuality and potentiality. Actuality is what a thing is at the moment: a rubber ball, or a tree. Potentiality is all the things that this object could become: a melted-down puddle of rubber, or a pile of firewood.
  5. This potential that every object contains is unlocked by another agent. For example, a rubber ball has the potential to become a gooey mass of rubber. But it can’t unlock that potential unless heat is applied. Change, then, is always caused by some other agent. (Even when you walk across the room, your potential to do so is unlocked by a series of events: the brain causing neurons to fire, which initiate muscles acting, etc.)
  6. Aristotle thus wondered, if these causes could be traced back to the beginning, what would initiate them. Using logic, he came to the conclusion that only a being that was pure actuality — that had no unrealized potential — could initiate the original change. This being is sometimes referred to as the “Unmoved Mover” — but we would probably call it God.
  7. Aristotle believed that the telos — or purpose — of human beings is happiness. We qualified that further: happiness, he believed, meant being being virtuous (or just plain “good”). And the good life, he thought, was one spent pursuing the thing that makes us human: the capacity for rational thought. So telos = happiness. Happiness = virtue. And virtue = thinking/gaining knowledge.
  8. That led us to an explanation of his concept of the “Golden Mean.” This is, simply, a path between two extremes that will lead to virtue. For example, take the emotion fear. If you have too little, you’re reckless (a vice). If you have too much, that’s also a vice, cowardice. But if you have “just enough,” you’ll be courageous (but sensible). Here’s a chart:

A fair amount of Aristotle’s work survives, but only in the form of lecture notes. (The books based on those notes are gone.) The notes are pretty dry stuff, but we’re lucky to have them at all — after the fall of the Roman Empire, Arab scholars preserved and translated Aristotle’s works, which were then re-introduced to Europeans in the 12th and 13th centuries.

No assignment for Tuesday, but we are gearing up for a quiz next Thursday on Plato and Aristotle.

Book History: Today was a very interesting day! First of all, thanks to everyone for your excellent behavior and enthusiasm on the field trip. I was really impressed by all of the questions you asked, especially at Sapling.

The schedule for the next month was laid out:

Tuesday, 3/8: Read the scroll (The Book as a Physical Object). There may be a quiz and we will be discussing it in class.

Thursday, 3/10: Illumination day. Your Book of Hours pages are due (all of them) and we will be illuminating in class. Pages will be distributed – if you are going to be absent for some reason, please get your pages to class somehow!

Tuesday, 3/15 & Thursday, 3/17: Bookbinding project #1. There will be two tracks, one for advanced people and one for beginners.

Tuesday, 3/29: Regular class, TBA.

Thursday, 3/31: Reading day. I will not be here – you will have time to work on the Gutenberg book reading assignment.

Tuesday, 4/5: ALL of the Gutenberg book must be read by this date. You received the first 60 pages today. Two more packets will be given out, likely next week. Start reading now! It’s a 270 page book altogether.

In class today, you were each given the name of a famous manuscript to research. Some of you shared at the end of class; anyone who didn’t get to go today will go at the beginning of class on Tuesday.

Siren: We worked on this election story. Nice job, everyone!

What we did today is how reporting has to happen, especially when you’re doing the whole thing yourself. You have to start organizing quotes mentally, figuring out what your lead should be, thinking about how you can group similar quotes and how you can transition between them. It’s a tricky process, but good reporters learn to do it on a daily basis — and maybe even learn to love it.

Prompt:  Notebooks were checked, we had our in-class reading, and then you all contributed songs to a playlist and used the music as inspiration to write. Here’s the playlist, if you want to get any of the song info:

Survey: CNF: I returned quizzes, and we talked more about libel — people seemed to do pretty well on that part of the quiz. I gave you a few examples, and had you read the chapter “Truth or Fact?” in the Lee Gutkind book You Can’t Make This Stuff Up.

We’ll come back to “D’Agata”ing very soon!

Survey: Screenwriting: Today your silent screenplays were due. In class we went over a host of issues and you marked them on your hard copies. You have until Tuesday, March 8 to hand in your final version of this. Make sure to fix all of the issues you identified in class! Also, if you feel like you just need to rewrite some of it, you are more than welcome to do that as well. USE THE SQUIRREL SCREENPLAY AS A MODEL. If your screenplay doesn’t resemble it, something is probably not right.

The rest of class was spent on an in-class scene writing assignment that was collected at the end of the block. If you were absent, you do not need to make this up.

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