Arnold Brooks

Arnold Brooks
Assistant Instructional Professor, MAPH Liaison (2023-24)
Stuart Hall, Room 226
Office Hours: Autumn Quarter:
PhD, University of Chicago, 2021; MA, University of Chicago, 2009; BA, Philosophy, Penn State University, 2006
Teaching at UChicago since 2021
Research Interests: Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy, Kant, Metaphysics, History and Philosophy of Science

Arnold Brooks joined the faculty in Autumn 2021 as an Assistant Instructional Professor. He received his BA in philosophy from Pennsylvania State University and his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Chicago in 2021. He specializes in ancient Greek physics and metaphysics. His current research centers on a book-length study of Aristotle’s Physics book six, his theory of the continuum, and his account of natural continua such as time, change, and body. Brooks is also pursuing a parallel project in Kant’s early and critical philosophy, through Kant’s approach to the quantification of qualities and causes, and forces. He is the departmental faculty liaison to the Masters of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH) in 2023-24.

Recent Courses

PHIL 25908/35908 Aristotle on Knowledge and Understanding

This course will consist of a focused reading of Aristotle’s Prior and Posterior Analytics. Our aim will be to understand Aristotle’s theory of knowledge, the significance of experience, and the nature of reasoning. Readings will include some of the Platonic antecedents of Aristotle’s work, including the Theaetetus and Sophist. (B)

2024-2025 Spring

PHIL 26101/36101 Interpretation and Philosophy

We discuss the nature and philosophical implications of the practice of interpretation, focusing especially on the interpretation of philosophy. We will address questions such as: what is interpretation, and at what does it aim? What counts as success or failure? Is the interpretation of philosophy itself a form of philosophy? What is the ethical significance of interpretation? This course will involve a practical element. In addition to reading texts on the theory of interpretation, we will spend time in and out of class developing interpretations of selected philosophical texts. (B)

2024-2025 Spring

PHIL 26710/36710 First Philosophy

Aristotle said that “first philosophy” is the branch of knowledge that is both most general—having to do with everything—and the most foundational. In this course we will explore various attempts in the history of philosophy to describe and produce such a science, beginning with Plato and Aristotle’s attempts to describe being and ending with Wittgenstein’s skepticism about such a project. We will try to produce a generalization about what first philosophy is and about its possibility and limitations. (B)

2024-2025 Winter

PHIL 25000 History of Philosophy I: Ancient Philosophy

(CLCV 22700)

An examination of ancient Greek philosophical texts that are foundational for Western philosophy, especially the work of Plato and Aristotle. Topics will include: the nature and possibility of knowledge and its role in human life; the nature of the soul; virtue; happiness and the human good.

Completion of the general education requirement in humanities.

2024-2025 Autumn
Category
Ancient Philosophy

PHIL 23001 Paradoxes

Paradoxes are conflicts in our own thought. Many of the most fundamental, frustrating, disturbing, and exciting concerns in philosophy and the sciences are to be found where paradoxes arise. In this course we will investigate paradoxes in logic, in metaphysics, in ethics, in action theory, in epistemology, and elsewhere. We will also try to understand the nature and sources of paradox—since the very possibility of paradoxes is, itself, a paradox. (B)

2023-2024 Spring

PHIL 21730/31730 Aristotle’s Metaphysics

Aristotle’s Metaphysics is one of the most difficult and rewarding texts in the philosophical tradition. It attempts to lay out the goals, methods, and primary results of a science Aristotle calls “first philosophy.” First philosophy is the study of beings just insofar as they are beings (as opposed to physics, which studies beings insofar as they come to be, pass away, or change), and if completed it would stand as the most fundamental and general science. Our aim will be to understand: if and how such a science is possible, what the principles of such a science are, what being is, which beings are primary, and what are the causes of being qua being. We will discuss the Metaphysics as a whole, but focus on A-B, Γ, Z, Η, Θ, and Λ. Our approach will be “forest,” rather than “tree” oriented, preferring in most cases a coherent overview to close reading. (B)

A background in ancient Greek philosophy (especially PHIL 25000: History of Philosophy I: Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy) is recommended but not required.

2023-2024 Spring
Category
Ancient Philosophy
Metaphysics

PHIL 28504/38504 Matter and Form

This course will investigate the metaphysical concept of “hylomorphism.” Hylomorphism is the idea that the unity and intelligibility of something can be understood principally through an analysis into form and matter, or into the actualization of a potentiality. The aim of the course will be to understand what philosophical questions and problems hylomorphism tries to answer, from its origins in Aristotle’s physics to Kant’s use of the concept in his discussions of cognition and action. (B)

2023-2024 Winter

PHIL 25605/35605 Life and A Life

(HIPS 25605, CHSS 35605)

This course is about the aims of human life. We address the question through two contrasting conceptions of life: 1) life in the sense of an ongoing activity—and its associated values of pleasure, enlightenment, and happiness, and 2) life in the sense of a biographical story—and its associated values of achievement, glory, meaning, and purpose. We will attempt to understand how these two conceptions of life are compatible, and if one or the other is prior. Readings include: Aristotle, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, William James, Bernard Williams, Iris Murdoch, and Jonathan Lear. (A)

2023-2024 Autumn

PHIL 21708/31708 Being And Thought in Aristotle

“You cannot know what is not—that is impossible—nor utter it; for to be thought and to be are the same.” Beginning with Parmenides, a deep but poorly understood current in ancient Greek philosophy is the idea that, in some sense, a being and the thought of that being are identical. This class will examine the identity of thought and being in Aristotle’s metaphysical and psychological texts. We will focus on three main issues: the law of non-contradiction as both a law of being and of thought (Metaphysics Γ), the possibility of knowledge as grounds for the identity of being and thought (Metaphysics Z, De Anima 3), and the notion that thought itself is a primary kind of being (Metaphysics Λ). (B)

A background in ancient Greek philosophy (especially PHIL 25000 History of Philosophy I: Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy) is recommended but not required.

2022-2023 Spring
Category
Ancient Philosophy

PHIL 25701/35701 Theaetetus, Sophist, Statesman

Theaetetus, Sophist, and Statesman constitute a trilogy which describe Socrates’ last days before his fatal trial. These dialogues represent some of Plato’s most mature and sophisticated reflection on knowledge, sense-experience, his theory of forms, and the nature of philosophy. We will read all three dialogues in their entirety, focusing on questions of overall structure and argument, rather than on close readings of individual passages. (B) (III)

PHIL 25000: History of Philosophy I: Ancient Philosophy

2022-2023 Spring

PHIL 23113/33113 Causation and Contact in Ancient Greek Physics

We will survey ancient theories of causation, and the associated relationships of contact, mixture, and interpenetration. Our aim is also to understand how these theories guided the development of physics, metaphysics, and ethics more broadly. We will focus in particular on the works of Plato, Aristotle, Chrysippus and Epicurus. Towards the end of the course, we will examine how the ancient conversation about causation and contact set the stage for the development of early modern physics and philosophy, with particular attention to the development of Hume’s famous critique of causation as an empty concept. (B) (III)

 

2022-2023 Winter

PHIL 25000 History of Philosophy I: Ancient Philosophy

(CLCV 22700)

An examination of ancient Greek philosophical texts that are foundational for Western philosophy, especially the work of Plato and Aristotle. Topics will include: the nature and possibility of knowledge and its role in human life; the nature of the soul; virtue; happiness and the human good.

Completion of the general education requirement in humanities.

2022-2023 Autumn
Category
Ancient Philosophy

PHIL 29617/39617 Force

The concept of a force is fundamental to post-Newtonian physics. But what is a force, and how did we come to think of natural phenomena in terms of forces? This course will investigate the philosophical development of the concept of force from its origins in early modern philosophy (Suarez, Leibniz) to its maturity in the philosophy and science of the 18th and 19th centuries (Kant, Newton, Hegel). In particular we will investigate Leibniz’s suggestion that “physical forces are nothing but the entelechies of the ancients,”—the idea that forces play the conceptual role of Aristotelian forms, in ancient and medieval physics. Central to our project will be the question of how the qualitative features of reality can be quantified.

2021-2022 Spring
Category
Early Modern Philosophy (including Kant)
Metaphysics

PHIL 29902 Senior Seminar II

Students writing senior essays register once for PHIL 29901, in the Autumn Quarter, and once for PHIL 29902, in the Winter Quarter. The Senior Seminar meets for two quarters, and students writing essays are required to attend throughout.

Consent of Director of Undergraduate Studies. Required and only open to fourth-year students who have been accepted into the BA essay program.

PHIL 21730/31730 Aristotle's Metaphysics

Aristotle’s Metaphysics is one of the most difficult and rewarding texts in the philosophical tradition. It attempts to lay out the goals, methods, and primary results of a science Aristotle calls “first philosophy.” First philosophy is the study of beings just insofar as they are beings (as opposed to physics, which studies beings insofar as they come to be, pass away, or change), and if completed it would stand as the most fundamental and general science. Our aim will be to understand: if and how such a science is possible, what the principles of such a science are, what being is, which beings are primary, and what are the causes of being qua being. We will discuss the Metaphysics as a whole, but focus on A, Γ, Η, Ζ, Θ, and Λ. Our approach will be “forest,” rather than “tree” oriented, preferring in most cases a coherent overview to close reading.

 

2021-2022 Winter
Category
Ancient Philosophy
Metaphysics

PHIL 25000 History of Philosophy I: Ancient Philosophy

(CLCV 22700)

An examination of ancient Greek philosophical texts that are foundational for Western philosophy, especially the work of Plato and Aristotle. Topics will include: the nature and possibility of knowledge and its role in human life; the nature of the soul; virtue; happiness and the human good.

Completion of the general education requirement in humanities.

2021-2022 Autumn
Category
Ancient Philosophy

PHIL 29901 Senior Seminar I

Students writing senior essays register once for PHIL 29901, in the Autumn Quarter, and once for PHIL 29902, in the Winter Quarter. The Senior Seminar meets for two quarters, and students writing essays are required to attend throughout.

Consent of Director of Undergraduate Studies. Required and only open to fourth-year students who have been accepted into the BA essay program.