Aristotle's Theory of Substance

Oxford University Press UK (2000)

Michael Wedin
University of California, Davis
Aristotle's views on the fundamental nature of reality are usually taken to be inconsistent. The two main sources for these views are the Categories and the central books of the Metaphysics, particularly book Zeta. In the early theory of the Categories the basic entities of the world are concrete objects such as Socrates: Aristotle calls them 'primary substances'. But the later theory awards this title to the forms of concrete objects. Michael Wedin proposes a compatibilist solution to this long-standing puzzle, arguing that Aristotle is engaged in quite different projects in the two works. The theory of Metaphysics Zeta is meant to explain central features of the standing doctrine of the Categories, and so presupposes the essential truth of the early theory. The Categories offers a theory of underlying ontological configurations, while book Zeta gives form the status of primary substance because it is primarily the form of a concrete object that explains its nature, and this form is the substance of the object. So when the late theory identifies primary substance with form, it appeals to an explanatory primacy that is quite distinct from the ontological primacy that dominates the Categories. Wedin's new interpretation thus allows us to see the two treatises as complementing each other: they are parts of a unified history of substance.
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Reprint years 2002
ISBN(s) 9780198238553   9780199253081
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Chapters BETA

Wedin's main point in this book is that the question of Metaphysics Zeta, ‘what is substance?’, should be understood as the question, ‘what is the substance of c‐substances?’. In other words, in virtue of what are the substances of the Categories the sort of things they are—in virtue of wh... see more

Tales of the Two Treatises

Wedin considers the problem of the compatibility of the Categories account of primary substance with the theory of substantial form of the Metaphysics. Wedin collects from the secondary literature the most important arguments for incompatibilism, and offers some proposals for restoring the... see more

The Structure and Substance of Substance

In the Metaphysics, Aristotle often says that ‘form is substance’: in this chapter, Wedin argues that ‘substance’ in this context means the ‘substance‐of’ c‐substances. Wedin begins by examining Aristotle's use, and retention, of the framework of the Categories in Metaphysics Zeta (Z.1), b... see more

Form as Essence

Wedin argues that Aristotle makes form the substance of c‐substances because it is the essence of the c‐substance. Much of this chapter consists of a careful examination of a passage in Metaphysics Zeta 4, which Wedin calls the ‘New Primacy Passage’ (Z.4, 1030a2–17), that is crucial to Wed... see more

Zeta 6 on the Immediacy of Form

Wedin discusses Aristotle's claims in Metaphysics Zeta 6 that the essence of a thing is to be sought among its per se attributes, and that each thing that is primary and spoken of per se, e.g. primary substance, is the same as its essence. Wedin argues that the Zeta 6 Thesis, i.e. that the... see more

The Purification of Form

Chapters 10 and 11 are critical to the argument of Metaphysics Zeta: these chapters are concerned with the purification of form. Z.10 introduces the apparatus of part and whole and consists of an argument to the end that form and its parts have priority over the other internal structural c... see more

Generality and Compositionality: Z.13's Worries About Form

Wedin offers an interpretation of Metaphysics Zeta 13, a very important and difficult chapter, where Aristotle apparently denies that substance is a universal, having, on most accounts, already claimed that form is substance, and that form is a universal. This interpretation of the argumen... see more

Form and Explanation

Aristotle claims in Metaphysics Z.17 that form is both a cause and principle of c‐substances. In this chapter, Wedin argues that the explanatory, or causal, role of form is in the background of the entire discussion, and indeed directs much of the argumentation of Metaphysics Zeta. Form is... see more

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Citations of this work BETA

Aristotle as a Nonclassical Trope Theorist.Samuel Kampa & Shane Wilkins - 2018 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 35 (2):117-136.

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