Doing and Being: An Interpretation of Aristotles Metaphysics Theta

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Although Aristotle never says so, it is tempting to suppose that these categories are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive of the things there are. They include substance, quality, quantity, and relation, among others. Of these categories of beings, it is the first, substance ousia , to which Aristotle gives a privileged position. Substances are unique in being independent things; the items in the other categories all depend somehow on substances.

That is, qualities are the qualities of substances; quantities are the amounts and sizes that substances come in; relations are the way substances stand to one another. Each member of a non-substance category thus stands in this inherence relation as it is frequently called to some substance or other—color is always found in bodies, knowledge in the soul. Neither whiteness nor a piece of grammatical knowledge, for example, is capable of existing on its own.

Doing and Being. An Interpretation of Aristotle's Metaphysics Theta

Each requires for its existence that there be some substance in which it inheres. In addition to this fundamental inherence relation across categories, Aristotle also points out another fundamental relation that obtains between items within a single category. So the genus e. The same holds in non-substance categories. There has been considerable scholarly dispute about these particulars in nonsubstance categories.

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Cite Citation. There are then potentialities as well as actualities in the world. Interpreters have highlighted Aristotle's claim that soul is the active cause of the coming-to-be and persistence of living beings. Thomas Kjeller Johansen. The Dialectic of Essence. Keywords: Aristotle , material substance , heat , matter , material persistence , vital heat , connate pneuma , form , body , soul. Leibniz was also one of the main inspirations for the important movement in philosophy known as German Idealism , and within this movement and schools influenced by it entelechy may denote a force propelling one to self-fulfillment.

For more detail, see the supplementary document:. Each category thus has the structure of an upside-down tree. The individuals in the category of substance play a special role in this scheme. Indeed, Aristotle offers an argument 2a35—2b7 to establish the primary substances as the fundamental entities in this ontology. For these secondary substances are just the ways in which the primary substances are fundamentally classified within the category of substance.

Potentiality and actuality - Wikipedia

As for the members of non-substance categories, they too depend for their existence on primary substances. A universal in a non-substance category, e. Similarly, particulars in non-substance categories although there is not general agreement among scholars about what such particulars might be cannot exist on their own.

The Categories leads us to expect that the study of being in general being qua being will crucially involve the study of substance, and when we turn to the Metaphysics we are not disappointed. As we noted above, metaphysics or, first philosophy is the science which studies being qua being. In this respect it is unlike the specialized or departmental sciences, which study only part of being only some of the things that exist or study beings only in a specialized way e. Consider an analogy. There are dining tables, and there are tide tables. A dining table is a table in the sense of a smooth flat slab fixed on legs; a tide table is a table in the sense of a systematic arrangement of data in rows and columns.

Hence it would be foolish to expect that there is a single science of tables, in general, that would include among its objects both dining tables and tide tables. Not all of these are healthy in the same sense. Exercise is healthy in the sense of being productive of health; a clear complexion is healthy in the sense of being symptomatic of health; a person is healthy in the sense of having good health.

Other things are considered healthy only in so far as they are appropriately related to things that are healthy in this primary sense. The beings in the primary sense are substances; the beings in other senses are the qualities, quantities, etc. An animal, e.

But a horse is a being in the primary sense—it is a substance—whereas the color white a quality is a being only because it qualifies some substance. An account of the being of anything that is, therefore, will ultimately have to make some reference to substance. Hence, the science of being qua being will involve an account of the central case of beings—substances.

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This, Aristotle says, is the most certain of all principles, and it is not just a hypothesis. It cannot, however, be proved, since it is employed, implicitly, in all proofs, no matter what the subject matter. It is a first principle, and hence is not derived from anything more basic. What, then, can the science of first philosophy say about the PNC? Those who would claim to deny the PNC cannot, if they have any beliefs at all, believe that it is false.

For one who has a belief must, if he is to express this belief to himself or to others, say something—he must make an assertion. He must, as Aristotle says, signify something. But the very act of signifying something is possible only if the PNC is accepted. Without accepting the PNC, one would have no reason to think that his words have any signification at all—they could not mean one thing rather than another.

So anyone who makes any assertion has already committed himself to the PNC. One might have thought that this question had already been answered in the Categories. This would seem to provide us with both examples of, and criteria for being, primary substances. He does not seem to doubt that the clearest examples of substances are perceptible ones, but leaves open the question whether there are others as well. But even if we know that something is a substance, we must still say what makes it a substance—what the cause is of its being a substance.

Aristotle's Metaphysics Book VII

This is the question to which Aristotle next turns. To answer it is to identify, as Aristotle puts it, the substance of that thing. Presumably, this means that if x is a substance, then the substance of x might be either i the essence of x , or ii some universal predicated of x , or iii a genus that x belongs to, or iv a subject of which x is predicated. This characterization of a subject is reminiscent of the language of the Categories , which tells us that a primary substance is not predicated of anything else, whereas other things are predicated of it.

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Candidate iv thus seems to reiterate the Categories criterion for being a substance. But there are two reasons to be wary of drawing this conclusion. First, whereas the subject criterion of the Categories told us that substances were the ultimate subjects of predication, the subject criterion envisaged here is supposed to tell us what the substance of something is. So what it would tell us is that if x is a substance, then the substance of x —that which makes x a substance—is a subject that x is predicated of.

Second, as his next comment makes clear, Aristotle has in mind something other than this Categories idea. For the subject that he here envisages, he says, is either matter or form or the compound of matter and form. To appreciate the issues Aristotle is raising here, we must briefly compare his treatment of the notion of a subject in the Physics with that in the Categories. In the Categories , Aristotle was concerned with subjects of predication: what are the things we talk about, and ascribe properties to?

In the Physics , his concern is with subjects of change: what is it that bears at different times contrary predicates and persists through a process of change? But there is an obvious connection between these conceptions of a subject, since a subject of change must have one predicate belonging to it at one time that does not belong to it at another time.

Subjects of change, that is, are also subjects of predication. The converse is not true: numbers are subjects of predication—six is even, seven is prime—but not of change. In the Categories , individual substances a man, a horse were treated as fundamental subjects of predication.

They were also understood, indirectly, as subjects of change. These are changes in which substances move, or alter, or grow. What the Categories did not explore, however, are changes in which substances are generated or destroyed. But the theory of change Aristotle develops in the Physics requires some other subject for changes such as these—a subject of which substance is predicated—and it identifies matter as the fundamental subject of change a31— Change is seen in the Physics as a process in which matter either takes on or loses form.

The concepts of matter and form, as we noted, are absent from the Categories. Individual substances—this man or that horse—apart from their accidental characteristics—the qualities, etc. Although there is metaphysical structure to the fact that, e. This horse is a primary substance, and horse , the species to which it belongs, is a secondary substance.

But there is no predicative complex corresponding to the fact that this is a horse in the way that there is such a complex corresponding to the fact that this horse is white. But from the point of view of the Physics , substantial individuals are seen as predicative complexes cf.

Matthen b ; they are hylomorphic compounds—compounds of matter and form—and the subject criterion looks rather different from the hylomorphic perspective. Matter, form, and the compound of matter and form may all be considered subjects, Aristotle tells us, a2—4 , but which of them is substance? The subject criterion by itself leads to the answer that the substance of x is an entirely indeterminate matter of which x is composed a For form is predicated of matter as subject, and one can always analyze a hylomorphic compound into its predicates and the subject of which they are predicated.

And when all predicates have been removed in thought , the subject that remains is nothing at all in its own right—an entity all of whose properties are accidental to it a12— The resulting subject is matter from which all form has been expunged.

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So the subject criterion leads to the answer that the substance of x is the formless matter of which it is ultimately composed. Precisely what the requirement amounts to is a matter of considerable scholarly debate, however. A plausible interpretation runs as follows.

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Being separate has to do with being able to exist independently x is separate from y if x is capable of existing independently of y , and being some this means being a determinate individual. So a substance must be a determinate individual that is capable of existing on its own. The matter of which a substance is composed may exist independently of that substance think of the wood of which a desk is composed, which existed before the desk was made and may survive the disassembly of the desk , but it is not as such any definite individual—it is just a quantity of a certain kind of matter.

Of course, the matter may be construed as constituting a definite individual substance the wood just is , one might say, the particular desk it composes , but it is in that sense not separate from the form or shape that makes it that substance the wood cannot be that particular desk unless it is a desk. So although matter is in a sense separate and in a sense some this, it cannot be both separate and some this.

It thus does not qualify as the substance of the thing whose matter it is. This phrase so boggled his Roman translators that they coined the word essentia to render the entire phrase, and it is from this Latin word that ours derives. It is important to remember that for Aristotle, one defines things, not words.

2. The Categories

Doing and Being confronts the problem of how to understand two central concepts of Aristotle's philosophy: energeia and dunamis. While these terms seem. PDF | On Jan 1, , ANNA MARMODORO and others published Doing and Being: An Interpretation of Aristotle's Metaphysics Theta by.

That is, items in all the categories are definable, so items in all the categories have essences—just as there is an essence of man, there is also an essence of white and an essence of musical.