And, if we are committed to this project, it is far from clear that we can carry it out any better than Aristotle has done or that there is nothing that we can learn from the ambitious programme at the heart of the Metaphysics. I have attempted to say something about the central strand of argument in the Metaphysics. It is very far indeed from being the only position that the text adopts.
It is not for nothing that the work has been hailed as the foundation of an entire branch of philosophy, and it could be claimed that there is no major problem of traditional metaphysics that is not to some extent covered in its pages. For all that, however, it is not a mere encyclopedia of metaphysics.
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It does have a structure, albeit submerged beneath its surface encrustations, and the huge range of issues that it covers is presented, however remotely, from the perspective of substance. We might say that substance is the sun in the solar system of the Metaphysics and the other issues the planets, comets, asteroids and meteors. While it is not possible to look in detail at all the issues in the work, it might be helpful to offer an account of how the presentation of them coheres. In doing this we can also confront and assess the highly plausible claim that the work is in one way or another a compilation, perhaps by Aristotle himself, perhaps by his contemporary assistants, perhaps by his immediate philosophical heirs and perhaps by editors of a much later age, of some of themost important metaphysical writings circulating in the Lyceum at the height of its creative phase.
The Metaphysics is, by any account, an unusual book. Not only is its content strange and difficult, but its very structure has often struck its readers as baffling and many questions suggest themselves in connection with the process by which it was brought into being. For all that, I do not believe that the structural coherence of the work is as questionable as has often been made out.
We can begin with the title. Almost everyone who has had much dealing with academic philosophy, and absolutely everyone who has had any dealing with Academic philosophy, will know the celebrated anecdote about how this work received its title, which it was then to bequeath to the whole branch of philosophy that it founds, from some chance entry note made for it in a catalogue in an unknown collection or library. The point of the note, the anecdote variously vouchsafes, was either that the work in some sense continues the agenda of the perhaps more digestible and therefore no doubt more familiar Physics or, more banally, that a copy simply arrived just after a copy of the Physics in some job lot delivery of manuscripts.
The anecdote, we may say, has both a type and a token variant. It is quite impossible to say whether there is any truth in this hoariest of chestnuts. If you think that the work descended to its first editor Andronicus of Rhodes in the first century more or less as a kind of scrapbook, then the anecdote makes sense. If, on the other hand, you feel that the work was put together in something fairly like its present form either by Aristotle himself or during or at least pretty soon after his lifetime, then you will probably be disposed to ascribe a deeper significance to the title than that plausibly licensed by either variant of the anecdote.
In any case, all sides to the dispute can at least agree on its supreme inconsequence. It is clear that the work is indeed intended to cover issues that arise after the central claims of the Physics have been absorbed. For readers unfamiliar with Aristotle and especially for those who are familiar with Plato , it would be as well to add a few remarks on the texture of the work. The text of this treatise, as of all the extant treatises of Aristotle, might be described, with lavish generosity, as grainy. We follow the Greeks in calling such works esoteric, in contrast to those directed to a wider, lay audience, which are exoteric.
The literary output of school members was no doubt standardly divided into these two kinds of work. Certainly, we know that Aristotle wrote exoteric treatises, and Plato himself may very well have written esoteric ones. The whole nature of the two kinds of text was determined by their different purposes, more thoroughly, perhaps, than is the case with the comparable distinction today.
Exoteric texts were intended above all to capture the imagination and interest of the reader, esoteric ones above all to carry on the business of philosophical research. Of course, this has always coloured perception of the two thinkers. The contrast between our acquaintance with the thought of one and of the other can perhaps be compared to that between acquaintance with a city through its thriving harbour or buzzing financial quarter and acquaintance with it through the grandiose boulevards and majestic prospekts of its imperial administrative and ceremonial centre.
Of course, it is harder to read and enjoy Aristotle at first sight. The esoteric texts are often described as lecture notes, and there is every reason to think that they were used for that purpose. But the description probably only half describes their role in the school. We have to imagine a world in which writing materials were both scarce and inconvenient — paper was an invention of the Hellenistic Age and remained so rare that an unused side was a luxurious waste of resources until well into the modern era.
There was no telephone, fax, e-mail and computer memory, on which the modern academic industry depends. The progress of philosophical research, when it has reached the technical level achieved by both the Academy and the Lyceum, is inevitably to a large extent by accretion, by footnote, reference and apostil as much as by full-blooded treatise and substantive article. The substitute, I believe, was the school library, whose texts were not static and immutable records of finished bodies of work but more like diaries or cahiers, on to which the latest developments and refinements would be encrusted.
It is this sort of text that has come down to us under the name of Aristotle. The provenance lends itself to three peculiarities: ellipse, disorder and interpolation. All three features can be found in rich abundance on almost every page of the Metaphysics.
So marked are they that it is likely to occur to any reader that the text is a hotchpotch collage of different hands at different times. It is remarkable that this possibility, which has been exhaustively canvassed in the twentieth century, was almost entirely ignored no doubt partly for institutional reasons in earlier ages of the study of Aristotle. It is certainly possible to adopt an extreme deconstructionist approach to the text of the Metaphysics.
This account gives us, if not quite a social Aristotle, at least an institutional Aristotle. It is, as I say, perfectly on the cards that some such account is more or less right. But, of course, this is far from being proven, and the current tide of opinion is perhaps moving away from the deconstruction of Aristotle. It is impossible to discuss this issue further in the course of this introduction, but I think it is worth pointing out that nobody who is coming to the text for the first time need feel that it is crucial to have a view on the Entstehungsgeschichte of the work he or she has in their hands.
The Metaphysics can be read as though it flows from a single pen — there will be problems enough, even on this assumption, for the new reader. If, then, we work on the assumption that the treatise is the product of a single architect, we can notice at once that the design is ample and impressive. The fourteen books corresponding to the amounts of material that it was convenient to fit on a single scroll and so only rather loosely equivalent to modern chapters are arranged as follows. Then three books setting out the general nature of the subject, providing a budget of definitions of key terms and dealing with an aspect of the subject which, though important, is secondary to our present interests.
There then follows a book consisting of recapitulations of material both from earlier books of the Metaphysics and from the Physics book Kappa , and finally there are three books that deal with two major corollaries of the central position, one covering Aristotelian theology and two on the philosophy of mathematics in relation to the Theory of Forms. This arrangement is orderly and convincing: we move from preliminaries to the general presentation of the subject and then to the detailed presentation of the position adopted, followed by a treatment of the major areas on which the position has an impact.
It is only book Kappa that spoils this pattern, since there is no discernible purpose to its standing where it does in the text. There are interesting divergences between Kappa and the texts that it recapitulates, and it is plausible to look on it as a mass of material available for possible replacement of the standing version of various passages. In our time, it would no doubt have been published separately as notebooks or posthumous papers. The treatise, then, is well ordered in terms of its large-scale structure, and this is the more impressive if one bears in mind that it comes very early in the history of the scientific treatise as a literary form.
Indeed, it could be said that with the Metaphysics and the Nicomachean Ethics the treatise as a genre comes of age.
A minor possible distraction can be briefly dealt with. Whereas the books of other works of ancient philosophy and literature, including the other treatises of Aristotle, are conventionally referred to by Roman numerals, the books of the Metaphysics have Greek letters as their conventional titles. The reason for this is that there are two book Alphas, the greater and the lesser, and therefore, since the letters of all the other books do not correspond to their appropriate numerals, they are retained and have come by and large to supplant the numerals. Numerals are, however, still sometimes used.
The text is also referred to in terms of the pages of the first full edition of the entire corpus by the nineteenth-century German scholar Immanuel Becker. I shall now comment very briefly on the content of each of the books. In the bibliography I indicate points of departure for anyone planning a voyage into the interior of the huge literature that now surrounds them.
In book Alpha, Aristotle gives the historical background to his inquiry. His arresting opening sentence, ascribing a natural desire for knowledge to all men, is not intended as a specious piece of anthology fodder but a commonplace remark in empirical zoology.
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Given that we are thus doomed by nature to seek enlightenment, Aristotle tells us that the highest form in which we can have it is sophia wisdom , the object of philosophia the love of wisdom. And the highest form of philosophia — this we are not quite told in so many words — is the study which is the subject of the present inquiry. This study, which, for convenience, we may call metaphysics, is, like all sciences, a study of causes and principles. It is distinctive in that it is the study of the primary or fundamental principles and causes.
There are in fact four such irreducible principles of fundamental causation, as we have already been told in the Physics. All causation, and by the same token all explanation, is in terms either of matter or of form or of the initiation of a process or of purpose. This tetrachotomy was presented dogmatically in the Physics. It is now shown, by a historical excursus, to be the inevitable outcome of the serious investigation of nature.
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After the narrative, the final three chapters present a kind of critical response. Needless to say, this way of doing the history of philosophy has not met with universal approval. Since Aristotle is so important a source for the views of others, it matters how objective he is in reporting them. The bibliography signposts the ensuing discussion. Book Alpha the Lesser is the shortest book of the treatise. Truth, we are told, is a kind of supreme cause of the being of things. The search for causes and the search for truth are not ultimately to be distinguished. This equation is then buttressed by an argument demonstrating that the number of causes is necessarily finite, and the book concludes with some further methodological prescriptions.
By the end of it, we have reached a clearer understanding both of what we are looking for and of how we may hope to find it. Book Beta concludes the preliminary section of the treatise in a remarkable way. It has aptly been said that philosophy cannot be described but only done, and Aristotle shows his sympathy with this view by forgoing all further setting up of his inquiry and plunging directly into the presentation of fifteen central metaphysical problems.
It is as though he is replying to our question as to what metaphysics is really about, a question that remains open after the first two books, not by describing it in yet more conflations of terminology but by showing us. We are thrown into the deep end of the metaphysical pool in the hope that this will encourage in us the desire to be taught how to swim.
With book Gamma the direct presentation of the inquiry of metaphysics starts, based on the preliminaries of the books Alpha and especially on the problematic of book Beta. Aristotle starts with what has often been taken to be his working definition of metaphysics, as the study of being qua being. Its use is ubiquitous in Aristotle. It is very clearly illustrated by the present passage, in which the study of being qua being is contrasted with the study of being qua various other things. It falls to metaphysics to study being, so to speak, in its own right.
We shall see that the core of metaphysics is rather more restricted, but we are approaching the topic from the outside and we are first given an overview of the whole terrain before we come to concentrate on the strategic commanding heights. Gamma continues by examining the notion of being and the closely connected notion of unity. It then insists, in the third chapter, that the study of metaphysics cannot be complete without an examination of the fundamental principles of logic. These in turn depend upon one sovereign principle, that of non-contradiction, the principle that nothing can both have and not have the same property in the same regard at the same time.
It has often been thought — and Aristotle concedes the plausibility of the thought — that the principle is too fundamental to be treated as anything other than a kind of axiom. It cannot be supported by any argument that does not already depend on it. Aristotle, however, embarks on an extraordinary attempt to defend the principle not by a direct justification but by a kind of reductio ad absurdum of anyone who seeks to deny it. Both the form and the upshot of this argument have been extensively discussed, and it remains a classic early contribution to philosophical logic. It is clear on the most cursory inspection that it is not specifically integrated into the text of this particular treatise.
Nor are the definitions and discussions that it contains a very secure guide to the use of the terms to which they apply later in the work. However, this in itself is no more evidence that the treatise is a compilation of some later editor than that Aristotle never had the opportunity adequately and definitively to polish his production. Given the enormous workload that we may presume him to have taken on as the first head of the Lyceum, and the general difficulty of editing and revising texts in the material conditions of antiquity, it seems surprising that this possibility is not more generally allowed than it is.
Although Epsilon is a short book, it has an important structural role, and a great deal goes on in it. The book begins by identifying the study of being with the study of God, and this identification confirms the value and worth of the subject in the most effective possible way. We are now reminded again of the multiplicity of being.
Things are said to be in many ways, but, as modern scholars have put it, the ways in which they are said to be are focused on one particular way. That way of being, as we have already seen, is substance, and substance is, of course, the central topic of the treatise, to be discussed in the next book, Zeta. Book Epsilon first deals with two less central ways in which things are, with the being of accidental properties and with being as truth and not-being as falsity. Neither discussion requires extensive treatment, though for different reasons. Being as truth is by no means unimportant for Aristotle, but it has already been exhaustively discussed in book Gamma, and Aristotle is anxious not to dull our appetites before we proceed to the very heart of the study of being.
The stage is thus fully set for the entry of the hero, substance. Aristotle begins book Zeta with a very clear statement that the central question in the entire history of philosophy, what being is, is really the question of what substance is. If he has been successful in the arguments of the previous books, this should strike us as a mere summary of an already established position rather than a bold and striking claim.
The task of the Metaphysics so far has been to show the centrality of substance. It is now time to turn to the examination of the centre itself. I have already tried to indicate how book Zeta arrives at its remarkable conclusion that the substance of something is to be equated with its definable essence and thus with its form and the species to which it belongs.
It has sometimes been regretted that the final chapter should seem rather incongruously to embark on a new discussion, but this should rather be welcomed as an indication of the extent to which the reasoning of books Zeta and Eta forms a whole for all the diversity of the conclusions of the two books. The shift to the particular that we find in Eta is also a shift towards the sensible and the material.
It is the individual composites of form and matter that the book will in the end vindicate as primary substances, in a sophisticated return to the position of the Categories. It is accordingly appropriate that a considerable amount of the book should be devoted to clarifying the different roles of form and matter within the composite, a subject that inevitably connects with the contrast between actuality and potentiality that is noticeably more prominent in this book than in Zeta and which will form the central topic of the next book, Theta. The position eventually reached in Eta is that particulars can, for all their susceptibility to change, still be substances, because the persisting matter that survives both their coming into, and their going out of, being is only potentially present in them during the period of their life — and thus is not a candidate to be their substance — and the metaphysical buck can stop with the whole composite.
It seems fair to say that Eta would have been impossible without Zeta or something like it. This, however, makes it all the harder to decide what the relation is between these two clearly closely connected but doctrinally contradictory books. It is obviously possible, to take a developmentalist approach, to hold that Eta simply represents a recantation on the part of Aristotle of what must always have struck him as a rather extraordinary position.
It would therefore be true to say that he could not have reached the new account of particular substance without first holding that of special substance, but it would not be true to say that he had to present the doctrine of special substance in order to make palatable his eventual position. This, of course, could be the case whatever the actual timetable of discovery of the positions defended. The latter view is, of course, more attractive to anyone who wishes to see the work as a solid construction, an organism rather than a heap.
Light is also thrown on the structure of the treatise by book Theta, which deals with the subject of actuality and potentiality directly. A treatment of this topic is required by the agenda set in Gamma, since one of the ways in which things can be simply by virtue of being is by being either potentially or actually. But we are also owed a detailed treatment in view of the significance that the distinction has come to acquire for the account of substance itself.
Thus what might have been a merely taxonomic continuation of the survey of being comes to have an important role in supporting the central concerns of the entire treatise. In chapter 8, Aristotle defends his celebrated thesis that actuality precedes potentiality. This doctrine constitutes a kind of bridge between the general treatment of substance that we have just completed and the treatment of immaterial substance that is to come.
The book is also divided between discussing the study of the actualization of a process and that of the actuality, in the sense of fullest being, of a substance. This is a suggestive distinction, but unfortunately not one that Aristotle draws either with great clarity or with great consistency, and it has accordingly been extensively discussed in the literature. The connection of Iota with the general course of the treatise is perhaps less immediate than that of Theta, but it too deals with a topic which is both on the agenda set in Gamma and of increased significance because of the discussion in Zeta—Eta.
Iota deals with the subject of unity, or the one, and diversity. This had been a central topic of philosophy for the Academy and before that for the Pythagoreans, and it was to become so again for the long Neoplatonist era. Thus the material in Iota would in any case be relevant to the scope of the treatise, as well as being a clear indication of its largeness of view.
But, in addition to that, the subject of unity has become a very important one in the light of the stress laid in Zeta on the need to make sense of the idea that a definition and its object are both irreducible unities in some way, despite the fact that they are clearly composed of parts of another unity.
It is true that the contents of Iota are not targeted as directly as they might be on the concept of unity as it relates to the problem of the unity of the definition, but here too one might argue that Aristotle would have sharpened up the relevance of the book had he had time to give it the necessary consideration. We have already seen that book Kappa is a problem book. Perhaps all that need be added here is that, given the availability of reworkings of important passages from both the Metaphysics and the Physics, it makes as much sense to locate them where they are as anywhere else in either work.
It is reasonably clear that, whereas book Iota concludes that section of the treatise concerned with the central issue of substance in general, book Lambda starts the discussion of two major but in a sense departmental problems about substance, those of divine and of mathematical substance. Lambda itself is one of the most intensively studied of all the books of the treatise. It is here that Aristotle presents his famous conception of God as an Unmoved First Mover, as an originator of all processes who Himself stands outside all change.
The conception has fascinated both theologians and philosophers, but it is worth observing that it grows organically enough from the discussions both of substance and, especially, of actuality in the central books of the treatise. Lambda can also be read, partly for this reason, relatively independently of the rest of the treatise. It is in many ways a good place to start reading the Metaphysics, since in some ways it presents the most remarkable fruits of what has gone before it.
The last subject that must be covered in a full course of metaphysics is that of the metaphysical status of mathematics. It is not therefore surprising that Aristotle combines his discussion, in books Mu and Nu, of the status of the entities studied in arithmetic with a recast version of the attack on Platonism in book Alpha. Interest in the details of the rather baffling accounts of mathematical entities offered by both Plato and Aristotle has always tended to be rather less intense, though there has been a revival to some extent through the important work of Julia Annas.
From this whistle-stop tour through the work I hope it will have emerged that we have on our hands an impressive and spacious construction and one which sticks to a clearly defined course of exegesis. We have historical background, then methodology and appetite-whetting puzzles, followed by a general account of being, supplemented by a glossary, which then issues in a survey of the range of ways in which things have being that is clearly focused on the central case of substance.
With the exception of book Kappa, I believe that there is no part of the treatise whose relevance to the overall design cannot be defended. It is, therefore, prima facie at least as reasonable to suppose the designer was Aristotle as that it was anybody else. To say this is not to claim that the treatise is in any sense a finished production. It is quite clear that this is a work that has been put together from pre-existing materials and that the process of welding has been interrupted at a relatively early stage.
In my view, given the position of the work in the history of philosophy and of scientific writing more generally, it would be amazing if a work of unprecedented ambition, complexity and difficulty had proved any easier than it evidently did to bring to birth. If the Metaphysics is a building, it is still covered in scaffolding, with gaps in its plaster and decoration and even with key structural elements tottering insecurely on makeshift supports.
But, for all that, it is still more like a palace or a cathedral than the workshop or warehouse as which it has so often been treated. No single translation of, any more than any single commentary on, a major work of Aristotle can aspire to be definitive or even to meet the needs of more than a specific limited range of readers.
Work on Aristotle, perhaps more than that on any other philosopher, necessarily falls into layers. It is evident in the case of a commentary that some readers benefit from a presentation which for others is superficial, and it is no less the case with a translation that, in the inevitable trade-off between greater readability and greater literal precision, there will be readers who will derive benefit from either end of the spectrum.
Whatever may be thought of the present translation, its purpose is clear.
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It has been written with one overriding intention, that of making accessible to readers at a relatively early stage of their philosophical development a masterpiece of philosophy which, by reason of its length, complexity, difficulty and stylistic aridity, has often been thought to lie beyond the reach of all but advanced students. If it achieves any measure of success in this objective, its provider will be content. Indeed, I would like to consider this version to be an introductory, or even preliminary, translation. It will ideally be useful to readers at the start of their acquaintance with the text and then decline in relevance as that acquaintance blossoms into familiarity and perhaps even friendship.
The purpose is to help people work their way into the treatise, not to give them at a stroke everything that they need to know about the suggestions and nuances of the Greek. It is a distinctive fact about the tradition of studying Aristotle that for many centuries this study was carried on in three forms, that of the translation, that of the commentary and that of the paraphrase.
It is not obviously a good thing that the last of these has declined as an institution of the study of Aristotle and perhaps the philosophy of remote cultures more generally , although it survives in large numbers of secondary works of exegesis that continue to be produced with no sign of abatement. While I would not like the present translation to be thought of as a paraphrase, I do consider that it serves something of the purpose of the traditional paraphrase in providing the new reader with the opportunity to read reasonably large sections of the text at a time with as much continuity as their nature permits.
I now propose to say a little about what makes it so difficult to read and therefore to translate Aristotle and how I have tried to deal with these difficulties within the scope of the overall objective set out above. I take there to be four main areas of difficulty. Here the difficulties are, in turn, of three kinds.
The first is the sheer complexity and richness of the theoretical vocabulary which, together with a certain inconsistency in its use, requires the exercise of considerable control across the entire text. The second problem is that, as we have already seen, Aristotle frequently uses a phrase where we would expect an abstract noun.
The third trouble is of rather a different kind. It is simply that almost all the key terms of Aristotle-speak have entered into the abstract vernacular of the modern European languages, including English. In so entering, they have, of course, acquired nuances and connotations which take them a long way from their original meaning, and these associations constitute a kind of minefield through which the translator of Aristotle has to pick a path with care.
The second of the four main difficulties is that Aristotle is no master of syntax. He lived in what is arguably the most golden of all the golden ages of prose, and we know that he himself enjoyed a reputation as a stylist. His extant, esoteric treatises are, with the exception of a few well-known passages, flat in sentence construction and without the relief of syntactic contours. This, over a sustained period, can lead to an oppressive sense of monotony, tolerance of which is not well conducive to the enticement of new readers. The third, related difficulty is that the text is highly elliptical.
As is the way with preachers to the converted, Aristotle frequently omits premises and stages of arguments which, from our perspective, by no means deserve to be left tacit. Often, indeed, it is hard to see where one argument ends and another begins, and there are cases of the insertion of one argument into the course of another. In addition to this fondness, which verges on addiction, for the enthymeme, Aristotle is also disdainful of even the routine padding of formal prose.
It is evident that he was not paid by the inch for his copy. Something must be done to offset this stylistic anorexia, but any remedy is likely to involve implications and commitments which go to some extent beyond what is absolutely licensed by the text that we have. The final difficulty is that Aristotle is insouciant about a distinction which has become of paramount importance in modern philosophical writing, that between use and mention.
This, of course, reflects the central role played in modern philosophy by the problems of linguistic reference. For Aristotle such problems are by no means central though not as little considered as is sometimes argued , and the distinction is correspondingly less momentous. He therefore frequently talks about an entity in a way in which we would talk about the meaning of a term. In my view, this is unwarranted and gives the translated text a feel quite different from that of the original.
In the cases where it has not seemed possible to get round the difficulty by some kind of periphrasis, I have made use of italicization to indicate that a term is not being used in the straightforward manner of merely picking out an object. I hope that my attempts to resolve these four areas of difficulty have produced a readable English text, though it is certainly possible that I have been pushed by one pressure or another outside the bandwidth of comfortable intelligibility.
In any case, I am doubtful that there is a useful via media, given the objectives of this translation, between the approach that I have adopted and that of Montgomery Furth in his version of books Zeta—Iota. This is, of course, appropriate for established students, but it is hardly right for neophytes.
One way of looking on the present version is as a preparation for reading Eek. After these remarks about the general difficulties of translating the mature philosophical prose of Aristotle, I would like to survey the way I have dealt with certain key elements of the jargon. By and large, I have kept, where possible, to the conventional translations of individual terms, while feeling relatively free to adjust the syntax of the sentences in which they occur. The intention is that it should always be easy for the reader to locate a passage against the background of the secondary debate.
The most important of such derivatives is the ubiquitous abstract noun logos. It is also the case that it corresponds equally to the English notions of cause and reason. It does not, unless qualified, suggest temporal priority. It is a form of the verb which can equally easily be taken to suggest either actual separation or the potentiality for it.
In the Metaphysics, it is primarily used to refer to the supposed transcendence of Platonic Forms. Nevertheless, disambiguation is usually relatively easy in each context. This list is, of course, far from being exhaustive. I have merely tried to indicate my policy on at least some of the key terms of the treatise.
I have not made use of subscripts, flagging or textual features other than italics. These undoubtedly have their role, but they inevitably diminish readability and, in the spirit of my overall objective, I have refrained from indulging in them. The translation, then, is in every way intended to be a vade mecum to only the first faltering steps of a journey of discovery into Aristotle. The ideal reader will progress through dissatisfaction with its many shortcomings to a sympathy for the extraordinary difficulty of producing anything that can render tolerable, within the constraints of reasonable fidelity, a sustained reading of this most enigmatically pregnant of texts.
Book Alpha. His writings, which were of extraordinary range, profoundly affected the whole course of ancient and medieval philosophy and are still eagerly studied and debated by philosophers today. Notes Includes bibliography p. Translated from the ancient Greek. Includes bibliographical references p. View online Borrow Buy Freely available Show 0 more links Set up My libraries How do I set up "My libraries"? Australian Catholic University Library. Australian National University Library. Open to the public. Canterbury Bankstown Library Service. City of Canada Bay Library Service.
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He argued instead that the reality or substance of things lies in their concrete forms, and in so doing he probed some of the deepest questions of philosophy: What is existence? How is change possible? And are there certain things that must exist for anything else to exist at all? The seminal notions discussed in The Metaphysics - of substance and associated concepts of matter and form, essence and accident, potentiality and actuality - have had a profound and enduring influence, and laid the foundations for one of the central branches of Western philosophy. Hugh Lawson-Tancred s lucid translation is accompanied by a stimulating introduction in which he highlights the central themes of one of philosophy s supreme masterpieces.
Aristotle BC studied at the Academy of Plato for 20 years and then established his own school and research institute, The Lyceum. His writings, which were of extraordinary range, profoundly affected the whole course of ancient and medieval philosophy and are still eagerly studied and debated by philosophers today. Aristotle — B. Judged solely in terms of his philosophical influence, only Plato is his peer: Aristotles works shaped centuries of philosophy from Late Antiquity through the Renaissance, and even today continue to be studied with keen, non-antiquarian interest.
A prodigious researcher and writer, Aristotle left a great body of work, perhaps numbering as many as two-hundred treatises, from which approximately thirty-one survive. His extant writings span a wide range of disciplines, from logic, metaphysics and philosophy of mind, through ethics, political theory, aesthetics and rhetoric, and into such primarily non-philosophical fields as empirical biology, where he excelled at detailed plant and animal observation and taxonomy.
In all these areas, Aristotles theories have provided illumination, met with resistance, sparked debate, and generally stimulated the sustained interest of an abiding readership. Because of its wide range and its remoteness in time, Aristotles philosophy defies easy encapsulation.