This is a survey of Aristotle's development of the concept of substance in the Categories and Book VII (Zeta) of the Metaphysics. We begin with the Categories conception of a primary substance as that which is not "in a subject" -- i.e., not ontologically dependent on anything else -- and also not "said of a subject" -- i.e., not predicated of any item beneath it in its categorial tree. This gives us the idea of primary substances as ontologically basic individuals, (...) the fundamental subjects of predication and of change. We then examine the conception of substance in Metaphysics Zeta, where Aristotle is interested not just in the question of what the primary substances are, but in the question of what makes them substances, or, as he would put it, what the "substance OF something" is. The conception of substance that Aristotle ends up with seems (as has been frequently noted) to be threatened with inconsistency, in that Aristotle seems to want to maintain, simultaneously, that (i) substance is form, (ii) form is universal, and (iii) no universal is a substance. Two main approaches toward resolving this inconsistency are considered, and a sketch is provided of how one of these approaches might be fleshed out. On the line I propose, the substantial form of a material compound is predicated accidentally and universally of the matter of that compound, but it is not the substance of the matter of which it is predicated. Rather, it is the substance of itself; but since it is the cause of the compound's being essentially the kind of thing that it is, the substantial form is, in a derivative way, the substance of the compound as well. (shrink)
The first major work in the history of philosophy to bear the title "Metaphysics" was the treatise by Aristotle that we have come to know by that name. But Aristotle himself did not use that title or even describe his field of study as 'metaphysics'; the name was evidently coined by the first century C.E. editor who assembled the treatise we know as Aristotle's Metaphysics out of various smaller selections of Aristotle's works. The title 'metaphysics' -- literally, 'after the Physics' (...) -- very likely indicated the place the topics discussed therein were intended to occupy in the philosophical curriculum. They were to be studied after the treatises dealing with nature (ta phusika). In this entry, we discuss the ideas that are developed in Aristotle's treatise. (shrink)
This is an investigation of Aristotle's conception of accidental compounds (or "kooky objects," as Gareth Matthews has called them)—entities such as the pale man and the musical man. I begin with Matthews's pioneering work into kooky objects, and argue that they are not so far removed from our ordinary thinking as is commonly supposed. I go on to assess their utility in solving some familiar puzzles involving substitutivity in epistemic contexts, and compare the kooky object approach to more modern approaches (...) involving the notion of referential opacity. I conclude by proposing that Aristotle provides an implicit role for kooky objects in such metaphysical contexts as the Categories and Metaphysics. (shrink)
The historian of philosophy often encounters arguments that are enthymematic: they have conclusions that follow from their explicit premises only by the addition of "tacit" or "suppressed" premises. It is a standard practice of interpretation to supply these missing premises, even where the enthymeme is "real," that is, where there is no other context in which the philosopher in question asserts the missing premises. To do so is to follow a principle of charity: other things being equal, one interpretation is (...) better than another just to the extent that the one produces a better argument than the other. We show that this principle leads to paradoxical conclusions, including the following: there is no objectively correct interpretation of any real enthymeme found in the text of a major philosopher; an interpreter will not regard a real enthymeme of a major philosopher as adequately interpreted until he has found a way of reading it that makes it into a good argument; every classical philosopher is infallible and omniscient; major philosophers never disagree. These conclusions are preposterous, but there are indications that they are in fact being reached, as we show by means of a case study of recent scholarship on Plato's Third Man Argument. To avoid the overinterpretation and anachronism that result from the unrestrained use of the principle of charity, one must employ a counterbalancing principle of parsimony: to seek the simplest explanation for the text under discussion. We study the role of the principle of parsimony by means of a mathematical case study, involving the suppressed premises in Euclid's Elements. Here the principle of parsimony plays a larger role than it does in the interpretation of philosophical texts, leading to a sharper distinction between Euclid's geometry and Euclidean geometry than we find between Plato and Platonism. We conclude by comparing two models of interpretation, which we call prospective and retrospective. Although the prospective model of interpretation leads to Platonism rather than to Plato, we argue that it still has a place in Platonic scholarship. (shrink)
It is traditionally maintained that according to Aristotle, matter provides a principle of individuation. Objections of several sorts have been raised against this interpretation. One objection holds that for Aristotle it is form, rather than matter, that individuates. A more radical objection is that Aristotle does not propose any principle of individuation at all. Any adequate discussion of this issue must make clear precisely what problems such a principle is meant to address. This in turn requires that several important distinctions (...) be observed: (1) principles of individuation vs. principles of unity; (2) metaphysical vs. epistemological principles; (3) synchronic vs. diachronic unity and individuation; numerical vs. qualitative identity. After examining the objections in the light of these distinctions, I conclude that the objections cannot be sustained, and that, with appropriate qualifications, the traditional interpretation gives us the right idea about Aristotle. (shrink)
Quine, in an influential passage, characterizes a certain kind of metaphysical view as "Aristotelian essentialism." Recent work on Aristotle suggests that he may not have been an essentialist in Quine's sense. This paper examines the question whether, and to what extent, Aristotle is committed to the kind of essentialism Quine discusses. Various promising areas of Aristotle's thought (alteration vs. coming-to-be and passing-away, kath' hauto predication) are examined and found wanting as sources of essentialism. Instead, Aristotle is found to be committed (...) to essentialism in the hylomorphic conception of substance featured in the late books of the Metaphysics, despite the superficially anti-essentialistic appearance of the conception of matter as the ultimate subject of predication. Essentialism is part and parcel of Aristotle's conception of substances as the basic individuals. (shrink)
Aristotle's claim in Metaphysics Z.6 that "each substance is the same as its essence" has long puzzled commentators. For it seems to conflict with two other Aristotelian theses: (1) primary substances are individuals (e.g., Socrates and Callias), and (2) essences are universals (e.g., Man and Horse). Three traditional solutions to this difficulty are considered and rejected. Instead, to make the Z.6 equation consistent with (1) and (2), I propose that it be interpreted to be making something other than a straightforward (...) identity claim. Callias is the same as his essence in the sense that to be identical to Callias is to be the same man as Callias (where Man is the essence of Callias). In general, x is identical to y if, and only if, x and y are the same E (where E specifies the "what it is to be" for x, i.e., the essence of x). So each of Socrates and Callias is the same as his essence, and Man is that essence, but Socrates and Callias are not identical, for they are not the same man. (shrink)
The central argument in the Euthyphro is the one Socrates advances against the definition of piety as "what all the gods love." The argument turns on establishing that a loved thing (philoumenon) is 1) a loved thing because it is loved (phileitai), not 2) loved because it is a loved thing. I suggest that this claim can be understood and found acceptable if we take "because" to be used equivocally in it. Despite the equivocation, Socrates' argument is valid, showing that (...) Euthyphro cannot offer this definition consistently with his view that the gods have as a reason for loving pious things that they are pious things. (shrink)
The main lines of interpretation offered to date of the Third Man Argument in Plato's Parmenides (132a1-b2) are considered and rejected. A new, set-theoretic, reconstruction of the argument is offered. It is concluded that the philosophical point of the argument is different from what it has been generally supposed to be: Plato is pointing out the logical shortcomings in his earlier formulated principle of One-Over-Many.
We discuss Aristotle's "Categories" as an answer to Plato's One-over-Many argument. For Plato, F-ness is something "over against" particular F things; to predicate "F" of these things is to assert that they all stand in a certain relation to F-ness. Aristotle answers that predication is classification; and there being a classification of a certain sort is a fact correlative with there being things classifiable in the way the classification in question would classify them.
Anthony Kenny says it is impossible to want what one already has and knows one has. We present a counter-example and then suggest that Kenny may have been misled by the fact that wanting expresses itself in goal-directed behavior. From the truism that one's behavior cannot be directed toward a goal that one knows one has already attained, Kenny may have been led to suppose that behavior directed toward an as yet unattained goal cannot express one's desire for what one (...) has and knows one has. (shrink)