Multiplicity and unity of being in Aristotle

Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 101 (2):185–207 (2001)
I. In analytic philosophy, so-called 'univocalism' is the prevailing interpretation of the meaning of terms such as 'being' or 'existence', i.e. the thesis that these terms have only one meaning (see Russell, White, Quine, van Inwagen). But some analytical philosophers, inspired by Aristotle, maintain that 'being' has many senses (Austin, Ryle). II. Aristotle develops an argument in favour of this last thesis, observing that 'being' and 'one' cannot be a single genus, because they are predicated of their differences (Metaph. B 3). III. But 'being' for Aristotle has also a unity, i.e. 'focal meaning', which coincides with substance (Metaph. Γ 2), and substance has not only an ontological priority, but also a logical priority, in respect to the other beings, as was shown by G. E. L. Owen. IV. This 'focal meaning' cannot be identified with primary substance, i.e. with the unmovable mover, as some interpreters pretend, because this latter has only an ontological, not a logical, priority in respect to the world. V. The impossibility of this interpretation results from Aristotle's rejection of an essence and a substance of being (Metaph. B 4), i.e. the rejection of what the Christian philosophers called esse ipsum subsistens
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DOI 10.1111/j.0066-7372.2003.00027.x
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