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Aristotle’s Contribution to Neuroscience Advancements

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The following will analyze Aristotle’s Categories 9a4-9a13 in which Aristotle shares his definitions of habit and disposition. This paper will show how even though Aristotle’s The Categories was written in 350 BCE, his definitions of dispositions and habits are still referenced in science to better understand the human person.

Aristotle informs readers of differences between habits and dispositions to clearly emphasize that the words are not and should not be used interchangeably. He begins by saying that, “it is clear, men incline to denominate ‘habits,’ which are by their nature more lasting and are the harder to displace,”[1]. Habits have been defined by a man that they are “lasting” and “hard to displace” meaning that they are difficult to break or change and they carry through more than just a couple of situations, they are persistently present. Aristotle gives the example that a person who can not master knowledge but has a changeable temper is rarely regarded as maintaining the ‘habit’ of knowing. Contradicting the common belief of the people that their minds are inclined towards knowledge.[2] A knowledgeable person should be described as being disposed towards knowledge and not by saying that they have a habit of knowing. It is invalid to use habit in this context because no one is a master of all knowledge as identified by Aristotle. Next, Aristotle informs readers of a direct difference between habit and disposition that always applies, “thus is habit unlike disposition; the former is lasting and stable, the latter soon changes,”[3]. Disposition is “the latter” which “changes”, they are not constant and can change easily. Habit is “the former is lasting and stable”. Change is harder to obtain and often does not occur resulting in them remaining constant most of the time. Aristotle makes the clear statement that “habits are also dispositions; dispositions are not always habits,”[4] to differentiate the two. This comparison is similar to how in elementary school when learning shapes, students are taught that all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares. In the same way, all habits are dispositions, not all dispositions are habits meaning habits have all the characteristics of a disposition in that it explains why a person acts in a particular way. A disposition can’t always be a habit because habits are “lasting and stable” unlike dispositions which “change”. This sentence in Aristotle’s paragraph shows that the words are related but have very clear differences. Lastly, Aristotle states that “while those who have habits are disposed of in some manner or other in consequence, those who are some way disposed of have by no means in each case a habit.”[5] This concluding sentence of the paragraph tells readers that habits can cause consequences and be dangerous to hold and that those who are disposed of don’t always necessarily have a habit. Habits and dispositions can be easily mistaken for one another due to their similar definitions that only differ in that habits are more stable, is harder to change, and lasts longer while dispositions that change frequently. Aristotle recognized that these two words are often confused and he uses this paragraph to break down their differences and explain how they are also related.

Marjolein Oele wrote a paper concerning affection and disposition entitled, Passive Dispositions: On the Relationship between Affection and Disposition in Aristotle. He writes about how Aristotle’s beliefs on affection and dives into how someone can be passively affected causing them to be influenced to generate a passive or affective moral disposition. Oil makes the argument that natural affections cause affective temperaments which connect to our developed passive moral dispositions and also, that passive moral dispositions are more connected to qualitative change brought into place by more consistent habitual exposure.[6] This article brings a more clear understanding as to what are clear examples of dispositions. Oele says that “once dispositions have been established, they express themselves actively through our affections. For instance, once the disposition of gentleness has been formed, we will allow ourselves to be angry in the proper circumstances.”[7] Dispositions, although not habits, still are represented in every human and shown to “express themselves” through “affections” which are always present in day to day life according to Aristotle because they are identified as one of his qualities. [8] Therefore, the example that is given is that a “disposition of gentleness” is formed when people will allow themselves to have the affection of being angry in proper circumstances because they have the knowledge and demeanor of being gentle. If this disposition were to be developed, and enforced, a habit could be formed because Aristotle says that habit is “lasting and stable” so if a disposition is developed to the point where it can be said that it is both stable and lasting then the disposition would become a habit.[9] The example that Oele gave concerning gentleness as a disposition falls under the category of a disposition put forth by Aristotle as undergoing change that again shows the connection of the transition that can occur from deposition to habit. It is also stated that dispositions are, “conditions that are ‘either good or bad in which we are about the affection, which also clearly establishes that there is an important connection between our (temporary) affections and our (stable) dispositions.”[10] Ole reads into Aristotle’s definition of dispositions are a result of affections that are either “‘good or bad’” meaning affections affect the way humans act in the future because they could result in new dispositions that would later form habits down the line. The connection between affections and dispositions is emphasized and drawn to our attention in this article proving that Aristotle thought deeply into how he would define his qualities, how they affected one another, and how readers would take the information and use it in their life.

Today, Aristotle’s definition of a habit is useful towards advancements in neuroscience. In Javier Bernacer and Jose Murillo’s study The Aristotelian Conception of Habit and its Contribution to Human Neuroscience we learn that “for Aristotle, a habit is an acquired disposition to perform certain types of action. If this disposition involves an enhanced cognitive control of actions, it can be considered a ‘habit-as-learning’. The current view of habit in neuroscience, which lacks cognitive control and we term ‘habit-as-routine’, is also covered by the Aristotelian conception.”[11] The current view of habit, which lacks cognitive control, in neuroscience is a “‘habit-as-routine’” which is similar to “‘habit-as-learning’” which was the original Aristotelian conception. The traces of Aristotelian conception in neuroscience shows how influential Aristotle’s definitions of habit and disposition are in that they are still referred to and used today because they so perfectly explain every piece of the words to understand their purpose in life. Bernauer and Murillo’s main goal of the paper is to, “propose new areas of research where this ‘novel’ conception of habit could serve as a framework concept, from the cognitive enrichment of actions to the role of habits in pathological conditions. In all, this contribution may shed light on the understanding of habits as an important feature of human action. Habits, viewed as a cognitive enrichment of behavior, are a crucial resource for understanding human learning and behavioral plasticity.”[12] Bernauer and Murillo use Aristotle’s definition of habit to lay the groundwork for a new picture on how, “the cognitive enrichment of actions to the role of habits in pathological conditions” or how the cognitive understanding of actions connects to how people develop habits. The importance of habit is also emphasized in that it is a “crucial resource” for understanding how humans learn and behave. Also, specifically, “the Aristotelian view on habits allows us to understand the classification into good and bad habits, as well as to explain habits-as-routines (the notion of habit currently used in neuroscience) as a subtype of habits-as-learning,” is a way that Aristotle’s definition is being used.[13] Good habits are viewed as improving cognitive control and bad habits are strict behaviors that are almost impossible to be cognitively regulated.[14] Aristotle’s definition of the habit being “lasting and stable” and that “habits are disposed of in some manner or other in consequence” shows how habits can be good or bad and therefore contribute to influencing either good or bad behavior from an individual. The readers were informed that not all habits are consequence-free that habits can cause harm to oneself or another which evolved the distinguishing of good and bad habits by the neuroscience community. These scientists today can connect how good habits were determined to improve cognitive control and that bad habits are strict behaviors that are almost impossible to be cognitively regulated. Aristotle’s breakdown of disposition and habit allowed for scientists to make major developments on neurological human function.

Aristotle takes the time in The Categories to break down the definition of habit and disposition and make it known and clear that without a doubt the words are not interchangeable, although they are similar some differences make them non-synonymous. A habit is lasting and stable it takes longer to form a habit and longer to break it while a disposition is quicker to form but can also undergo change frequently, be removed, or be enhanced into a habit. Habits also have the ability to dispose of consequences, not all habits are good. This definition allows authors like Oele to draw connections between dispositions and affections by sharing with readers that affections play a huge role in the formation and dismantling of dispositions in an individual, an idea that was not expressed by Aristotle. The definitions of habit and disposition are continuously used in society today, as shown through the way neurologists use Aristotle’s work to how the brain holds good and bad habits but to be able to research that they had to know that it was possible to have good and bad habits which were proven and shared by Aristotle. Without Aristotle’s works advancements in science would have come later, his straightforward and clear definitions provide the community with ideas they can rely on and expand upon as the neurologists did with Aristotle’s definition of habit.

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Aristotle’s Contribution To Neuroscience Advancements. (2021, May 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 3, 2021, from
“Aristotle’s Contribution To Neuroscience Advancements.” GradesFixer, 31 May 2021,
Aristotle’s Contribution To Neuroscience Advancements. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 Dec. 2021].
Aristotle’s Contribution To Neuroscience Advancements [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 May 31 [cited 2021 Dec 3]. Available from:
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