The purpose of their gatherings is to read and interpret line by line a short, but important chapter of Aristotle's works. In this way, attention is focused on key texts of particular exegetic and theoretical interest. Each session starts with the presentation of a translation and a first analysis of the main problems; these then become the subject of an intense debate which illustrates the different schools of thought and methodological approaches.
Over the years, the confrontation of these different points of view has had a beneficiary effect on scholarship and has stimulated research activity worldwide. On the occasion of the Vitznau meeting in , it was decided for the first time to publish the results of the meeting in order to make them accessible to a wider public of scholars and students. The present volume is the fruit of this common effort. Physics 7. Aristotle discusses change in various parts of his writings, and seems to provide quite a broad range of notions: movement and change of place, alteration in aspect and form, temporal change, variation in the way a given being is perceived, the change in relationship between beings, qualitative and accidental alterations.
The present volume sets out to provide the reader with some new insights in those subjects. It opens with Robert Wardy's introduction, in which the problem of "change" is inserted in the context of the great debate surrounding the entire Book 7 of Aristotle's Physics. Ross Oxford, which we slightly modified. The main part of the book contains an "Analysis and Commentary" consisting of 1. Preliminary Remarks by Benjamin Morison and Gerhard Seel concerning the place of chapter 3 in Book 7, the structure of the chapter and its main problems; and 2.
Commentaries on the Six Sections of the Chapter. These six contributions do not represent a simple reproduction of the conference papers; on the contrary, they are the result of a process of meticulous revision which took into account both the conference discussions and the subsequent correspondence between the participants. Finally there are two appendices: 1.
Oliver Primavesi, "Aristotle, Physics 7. Anyone seriously interested in Aristotle's account of alterations and processes must read this first rate publication. However, Aristotle has no conception of "logic," but of two different disciplines, analytics Prior and Posterior , and dialectic the Topics , taken as including the Sophistical Refutations ; the Categories and De Interpretatione seem designed to support the Topics rather than the Analytics.
We have spoken above of dialectic, the practice of regimented discussion in which a questioner seeks to refute a respondent's thesis by a series of yes-no questions. The end of the Sophistical Refutations is summing up not the entire Organon but only the Topics , which has for the first time made dialectic a teachable art and has shown how to discover syllogisms to deduce the contradictory of the respondent's thesis.
These arguments, unlike rhetorical arguments, can proceed only from premises the respondent will grant, and by steps he must accept as valid. Dialectic must proceed from plausible endoxa premises, since these are just those premises that a respondent will concede if he does not see that they favor or hurt his thesis. It is a mistake to turn dialectic into "argument from prereflective intuitions," detached from the context of refutation, and to give it a foundational role in philosophy.
Aristotle does say that dialectic gives a path to the principles of the sciences, but these principles are, especially, definitions, and, as in Socratic dialogue, dialectic is chiefly devoted to testing and refuting proposed definitions. The structure of the Topics brings this out: successive books give rules for testing claims that P belongs to S , that P is or contains the genus of S , and that P is proper idion to S i.
Aristotle also gives advice on how to order your questions, how to proceed as respondent, and background knowledge the dialectician should have. The Categories and De interpretatione , as well as Topics I, seem to give such background knowledge; the most recent edition of the Categories prefers the alternative ancient title The Before the Topics , in part because the text is not just about categories.
First, Aristotle distinguishes simple from complex expressions; then, what is signified by a simple expression is signified either synonymously univocally or homonymously equivocally or paronymously denominatively. Only synonymous things, not homonymous or paronymous, can be given genus-differentia definitions "just" is neither a species of animal nor a species of virtue.
Synonymous things that are in a subject like justice fall under one of the nine categories of accidents; synonymous things that are not in a subject are substances. Substances can be "said of" something, but cannot be "in" something: horse is said of Bucephalus, since Bucephalus is said to be a horse, but there is not a horse in Bucephalus. Aristotle gives tests for when a thing falls under each category, which are needed to apply the rules of the Topics thus if P is the genus of S, S and P must belong to the same category, but we need tests to determine to which category they belong.
Likewise, after the categories proper, Aristotle gives accounts of the different kinds of opposition, priority and simultaneity, motion and having, which serve similar functions in dialectic.
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Sometimes a dialectical questioner poses a series of questions that appear to necessitate the contradictory of the respondent's thesis, but which contain some hidden fallacy; the respondent must avoid assenting to what does not follow, and must be able to explain why it does not follow, in order to avoid appearing, to the spectators and perhaps even to himself, to have been refuted. The Sophistical Refutations , which may be considered as a final book of the Topics , is devoted to classifying such "sophisms," or "sophistical refutations," explaining how each type arises, and advising the respondent on how to recognize and to "solve" or "resolve" each such sophism as it comes at him in questioning.
Sophisms are not intrinsically dishonest: They are puzzles demanding solution. We should imagine, not an arms race between sophists devising offensive weapons and philosophers improving defenses, but a single intellectual community exploring sophisms and discussing the merits of different possible solutions.
Often the most philosophically interesting sophisms are "sophisms of figure of speech ," arising when the grammatical form of a term misrepresents its logical form: these include the family of sophisms concluding that "there is a third man" beyond mortal individuals and the Platonic Form, which turn on treating "man" as "signifying some this.
Each sophism challenges the Platonists: "dismantle my sophistical argument without at the same time dismantling your own allegedly probative arguments for the Forms. A syllogism or deduction is "a discourse in which, some things being supposed, something different results of necessity through their being so. What the Analytics invents is a method for analyzing them: that is, for classifying them and then, by giving a few primitive argument forms and derivation rules for generating more complicated forms, explaining why syllogism comes about.
In every case, syllogism depends on two premises sharing a common term the syllogism will be in different "figures," depending on whether the shared term is subject of one premise and predicate of the other, predicate of both, or subject of both; some "moods" will be valid and others not, depending on whether the premises are affirmative or negative, particular or universal, assertoric or modal. Aristotle's analysis depends on the realization that the necessity or validity of an argument, once all premises are made explicit, depends only on its form, so that the same analysis applies whether the premises are true or false; this realization presumably arose from the deliberate exploration, in dialectic, of the consequences of false hypotheses.
It seems surprising that mere arguments, without direct contact with the object, can give such knowledge, and Aristotle tries to analyze the conditions under which this can happen. The premises must be true, necessary, and better known than the conclusion; they must also express the causes that explain why the conclusion is true. We can of course come to know an object by reasoning from effects to causes, but properly scientific and explanatory knowledge must reason from causes to effects; the logical structure of the argument will mirror the causal structure of the world.
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Apart from some topic-neutral principles of reasoning "axioms" , these will be either "hypotheses" that the objects of each science exist, or "definitions" of those objects; we accept without demonstration both the existence and definitions of the simple objects of the science e. Dialectic can reach these preliminary definitions, but we can give properly scientific definitions of complex objects only once we demonstrate their existence from simple causes thus not "thunder is noise in the clouds" but "thunder is noise of extinction of fire in the clouds". We cannot give justificatory explanations of how we know the first principles of the sciences, but only causal explanations of how the human mind, primed by experience, comes to grasp them by nous ; Aristotle's account is compressed enough that it has been read both as an empiricist account of induction and as a friendly revision of Plato's theory of recollection.
Aristotle's account of science is clearly modeled on geometry. But he tries to show that physics too can be a science, beginning from a grasp of the forms of natural things.
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Aristotle's project in physics is a response to Platonic challenges both to the narrative method and to the content of pre-Socratic physics. Anaxagoras's physics — to take a typical pre-Socratic example — narrates the origin of everything from a cosmogonic vortex, whose rotation and centrifugal force explain the separation of heaven from earth, the rotation of the heavens, the motion of heavy bodies down and light bodies up and the sorting of like bodies to like, and then the formation of the first plants and animals and humans out of seeds present in the precosmic mixture.
Plato thinks such narrative can never be scientific; science must be concerned not with how things come to be but with what they are, beginning from their forms as grasped by definitions, and proceeding to demonstration. Plato also complains that pre-Socratics explain the emergence of the cosmos by reference not to a rational plan or to some good to be accomplished, but through violence; if things are where they are because of a vortex i.
In the Timaeus , Plato addresses the second objection by sketching an alternative teleological physics; but this too follows a narrative method, and even a reformed physics cannot be science but only a likely story. Aristotle tries to address both objections and to produce a genuinely scientific physics, explaining the physicists' traditional explananda rotating heavens, fall of heavy bodies, lightning, earthquakes, animals … not in a narrative sequence but in a causal or explanatory sequence, beginning from the form or nature of each body, which is the object of a properly physical definition.
Aristotle broadly accepts the Timaeus 's picture of the cosmos: a spherical earth is at rest at the center of a single spherical cosmos. The cosmos is made of earth, water, air, and fire intertransformed and combined, teleologically organized to support living things, and surrounded by heavenly bodies that are themselves living and divine; these move in several uniform circular motions, which combine to produce complex astronomical phenomena, and they are ultimately governed by an incorporeal god or gods.
But Aristotle's method contrasts with the Timaeus , and leads him to challenge particular claims of the Timaeus as well as of the pre-Socratics. Aristotle's particular physical treatises — the De caelo, On Generation and Corruption, Meteorology , and psychological-zoological writings — follow roughly what had been the traditional narrative sequence of the explananda. Thus the De caelo treats the rotation of the heavens and the motions of heavy and light bodies, traditionally explained through a cosmogonic vortex. But Aristotle rejects explanations through vortices or any other violent cause.
What happens to a thing violently, contrary to its own nature, cannot happen always or for the most part, but only as a temporary interruption of a thing's natural behavior e. Physics, as a science, seeks to explain what happens always or for the most part, and must therefore start by grasping the nature of each thing, where "nature" means "principle of natural motion"; so the nature of heavy bodies is to move toward the center of the cosmos, and thus teleology is built into each nature.
Thus physical definitions necessarily involve motion, and the forms they describe cannot exist separately from matter, as the Form described by a Platonic dialectical definition is supposed to. And fire and so on must be defined physically by their motions, rather than mathematically by their shapes as in Democritus and the Timaeus. Aristotle draws the conclusion that the heavens cannot be made of the four standard elements; since these naturally move in straight lines toward or away from the center, the heavens would have to be constrained to circular motion by violence whether by a vortex or by a providential soul as in the Timaeus , and such motion could not be regular or permanent.
Consequently, the heavens are made out of a fifth element sometimes called "aether" whose natural motion is around the center. The aether is free of the accidents that obstruct natural motion in the sublunar world, so it rotates eternally without interruption or irregularity. Because this motion arises eternally from the nature of the thing, Aristotle rejects the claim of the pre-Socratics and the Timaeus that the rotation of the heavens and the separation of the elements into an ordered cosmos arose by what could only be a violent process from a precosmic chaos; the ordered world and its more-or-less regular phenomena have always existed, and a narrative explanation is excluded, since there is no precosmic situation from which a narrative could begin.
Rather, the phenomena must be explained by the influence of the naturally rotating heavens on naturally moving sublunar elements. The On Generation and Corruption and Meteorology continue this program.
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If it were not for the rotation of the heavens, the four sublunar elements would separate out into concentric spheres of heavier and lighter elements, with no intertransformation or combination, and therefore no living things. But the regular daily rotation of the heavens, combined with the regular rotation of the sun through the inclined circle of the ecliptic, bring it about that the sun is above the horizon more of the time in the summer than in the winter, causing regular cycles of heating and cooling, and thus of evaporation and condensation.
Aristotle sees evaporation as a genuine transformation of water into air, and likewise of earth into fire; when a heavy element is transformed into a light element, it begins to rise and when a light element is condensed, it falls , and this cycle keeps the elements from separating and gives rise to combinations. But properly the light elements are not "air" and "fire" but "moist exhalation" and "dry exhalation"; air is a mixture of both, and the portion of the dry exhalation that gathers above the air and beneath the sphere of the moon is not actually fire, but is a fuel that easily becomes inflamed, as it does in comets and shooting stars.
Since Tycho Brahe proved that comets and novae are supralunar, Aristotle's account has been regarded as a desperate attempt to save his theory of immutable heavens by moving all changes in the heavens to a fictional sublunar fire-sphere governed by a fantastic exhalation process. Historically this is the wrong attitude. Aristotle's explanation of comets is among the most traditional parts of his physics: Heraclitus explains even the sun through a continuous process of exhalations rising from the sea and becoming inflamed. Aristotle's innovation is to separate out from meteorological phenomena genuinely astronomical things like the sun, which are not dependent on the sublunar world but are governed only by themselves and by unchangeable incorporeal things, and therefore have eternally constant motions and can be objects of precise mathematical science; it is only because these things are perfectly regular that they can impose even an approximate regularity on the sublunar world.
The Physics in the narrower sense is a deliberately non-cosmological prolegomenon to the physical works, describing the principles from which all natural things arise and the necessary conditions above all, motion for anything to arise from these principles, and using a definition of "nature" to delimit the physicist's domain and methods and the causes or explanations that he must invoke in tracing natural things back to their principles.
Aristotle begins, traditionally enough, with the archai , the principles or starting points of natural things — whatever must exist before each natural thing comes to be, and can be used in explaining it.
Aristotle on Mind and the Senses: Proceedings of the Seventh Symposium Aristotelicum
For narrative physics these would be whatever existed before the cosmos, e. We will infer to the archai by analyzing the characteristic effect that arises from them, which is, most generally, motion or change — not only change of place locomotion but also change of quality alteration , change of quantity growth and diminution , and the coming to be and passing away of substances generation and corruption. Aristotle argues that whenever some new F comes to be, in any category, there must be some persisting substratum that was not F and comes to be F ; this analysis shifts F to predicate position.
But the Timaeus seems to infer that the change is not really substantial, that all sensible things are just accidental modifications of this single persisting substance. Aristotle argues that there is real substantial change, that the substance of a natural thing is not the matter that persists through the thing's generation and corruption, but the form that comes to be in the matter.
Both form and matter are archai of natural things, and while the matter is potentially this or that substance, the form, as what makes each substance actually that substance, is substance in a stronger sense. How do we tell when a form acquired through change is a new substance, and when it is merely a new accident of a persisting substance?
The shape of an artifact is merely an accident, but the nature of a natural thing, that is, the distinctive "principle of motion and rest" within it that is responsible for its carrying out its characteristic activities, is a substance. Physics II argues that the nature of a natural thing is more properly its form than its matter, and therefore that the physicist must study form as well as matter; thus, as we have seen, physics must define and not merely narrate, giving definitions that, unlike Platonic dialectical definitions, are inseparable from motion and thus from matter — natures are like "snubness," which is neither the matter "nose" nor the form "concave," but a form that cannot be defined without reference to its appropriate matter, the nose.
A natural thing acts for the sake of actualizing the characteristic potentialities of its nature, and so the physicist will give explanations not only through the material and formal causes and through the mover or efficient cause, but also through the final cause. Aristotle thus, like Plato in Laws X, argues against many pre-Socratic physicists that purposive activity is prior to chance and violence, but he does this while preserving what is specific to nature, and without reducing natural things to artifacts of a designing soul.
Nothing will arise from matter and form without motion; motion depends on time and place and some people think on void; also a motion, to be a single motion, must be continuous, and continuity implies infinite divisibility. All these concepts are problematic, and Aristotle tries to define, and to resolve aporiai about, motion, place, and time, and to show that the infinite and the void do not exist except in specially qualified senses.
Physics V — VI give non-causal considerations that would apply equally to natural and violent motion, notably about when a motion is a single motion, about when two motions or a motion and a rest are contrary, and about the continuity of motion, place, and time; they seem to be there chiefly to supply premises for the causal argument of Physics VIII.
Physics VIII, relying only on the abstract concepts of the Physics and not on empirical cosmology, gives an elaborate argument from the natural motions of corruptible things, first to the eternity of motion as such, then to self-moved movers empirically, animals and unmoved movers their souls , then to an eternally continuous motion the motion of the heavens , and finally to an eternally unmoved cause outside the cosmos.
Narrative physics typically ends with the production of plants and of animals, including humans, before turning to human societies and conventions, which Aristotle treats under practical philosophy. Aristotle devotes a large part of his writing to animals, complemented by Theophrastus's studies of plants. But his program of denarrativizing physics, and of physical teleology and physical definition, entail major differences from earlier accounts of animals; Aristotle also integrates an account of soul into his study of animals, though not as fully as we might expect.
The crucial methodological texts are Parts of Animals Book I, which serves as an introduction to the zoological works generally, and De anima I, 1. A narrative physicist believes he has accounted for the elephant once he has taken the cosmogonic narrative far enough to generate the first elephant. This means that he puts his "Generation of Animals" before his "Parts of Animals.
Such a physicist will also be more concerned with the hard problem of the "spontaneous" nonsexual generation of the first elephant than with the easier problem of how to get more elephants out of the elephants there already are. For Aristotle, however, the whole cosmos with all its species has existed from eternity, so there is no reason to believe elephants were ever generated spontaneously. We never see elephants generated spontaneously anymore, and while nature might have had greater generative force at some past time when it was undergoing more violent motions see Physical Problems X, 13 , when we understand the extremely complex arrangement of parts required for a functioning, self-sustaining elephant, it becomes incredible that the crude natural powers of the pre-elephantine era could have combined to produce it.
Plato might say that God intervened to produce the first elephant, but Aristotle thinks that God acted no more or less then than now, and that his activity simply sustains the regular activities of natures. While Aristotle is now notorious for defending spontaneous generation, he actually allows less scope to spontaneous generation than any other Greek philosopher, restricting it to lower life-forms. Thus when Aristotle studies the generation of living things, he is chiefly studying their generation out of already existing members of the same species.
And we can understand this process not in narrative sequence but only backward, starting from the arrangement of parts that the generative process is for the sake of producing; so methodologically the Parts of Animals must precede the Generation of Animals.
And the parts themselves must be explained teleologically, not through the generative process but through their function in the animal. Different species of animals will have different strategies for survival and reproduction, thus different characteristic activities, requiring different characteristic parts; the scientist will define each animal species by describing its characteristic parts, defining each part as an "organ" or instrument of some activity and deducing its shape and matter from its function.
Aristotle describes the parts, and the whole animal, as organs of the soul , that is, instruments through which the soul's powers are exercised. Because they cannot be defined without reference to the soul, it belongs to the natural scientist to study soul, or at least those powers of soul that are exercised through bodily instruments — all powers except, possibly, intellect nous. Aristotle is trying here both to reform physics by making it include the soul, and also to make the study of soul scientific by bringing it under physics.
However, he also makes the study of soul further from physics as usually conceived, by denying that the soul is moved, either in moving the body or in sensing and thinking. In De anima I he says that earlier philosophers have approached the soul either from its capacity to originate motion in the body, concluding that it is a self-moving source of motion; or from its ability to represent all things, concluding that it is composed of the elementary constituents of all knowable objects; or from its "bodilessness," identifying it either with fire or air or with something entirely incorporeal.
The Timaeus combines all of these approaches but, Aristotle thinks, in a mistaken way, representing the soul as a magical quasi-body interwoven with visible bodies, moved in the same way that bodies are, and moving bodies and being moved by them in the same way that bodies move each other. In De anima II, Aristotle instead defines the soul by its relation to its energeiai , the activities it carries out through the body.
Soul is the dunamis power, potentiality, capacity for these energeiai , or it is that which, added to a potentially living thing a seed or embryo , makes it an actually living thing, where to be an actually living thing is to have the potentiality to carry out an appropriate range of the vital activities nourishment, growth, reproduction, sensation, memory, imagination, desire, locomotion, intellection.
In Aristotle's formula, soul is "the first actuality [ entelecheia ] of a potentially living body," the second actuality being the vital activities; soul stands to these activities as a hexis of science stands to the exercise of that science in contemplation, or as a productive art stands to its exercise in production. Aristotle spells out his definition by saying that soul is "the first actuality of a natural organic body.
But the hammer is an artificial organic body, while the living body is a natural one, meaning by the definition of the Physics that it has an internal principle of motion and rest. So while the art of carpentry moves the hammer from outside by inhabiting the body of the carpenter , the soul is a nature moving the body in a quasi-artistic way from inside, in producing and maintaining its natural instrument nutrition, growth, reproduction and in further using that instrument sensation and the higher activities.
The arts give us a model for how the soul can move its body without itself being moved unlike a body pushing or pulling another body : though the carpenter's hand is moved when he moves the hammer, his art of carpentry is not. The arts also give a model for the cognitive powers, since an art contains the "formula," the definition or perhaps recipe, of its objects, without containing their matter; and arts can recognize individual objects through cognitive instruments the art of measuring might use scales , as well as moving them through instruments of action.
The vegetative powers powers shared even by plants and the sensitive powers powers shared by irrational animals are "not without" their appropriate bodily instruments, as snubness is "not without" nose. So souls of plants and irrational animals cannot exist when separated from their bodies. The question whether any soul can so exist, and thus whether any soul is immortal besides the souls of the heavens, which have immortal bodies , depends on whether all psychic powers are similarly dependent on bodily instruments.
Sensation is not without its instruments, and imagination is not without sensation, so these are inseparable. Some passages in De anima III suggest that intellection is not without imagination, so that it too is inseparable; other passages suggest that a special kind of intellection, of special matterless objects, is separable. Fragments of Aristotle's "exoteric" works also argue that soul is immortal; perhaps Aristotle changed his mind from these early texts to the De anima , perhaps the texts can be reconciled, or perhaps the "exoteric" texts should be regarded as a popular approximation to a more precise truth.
De anima III, 5 says that "the passive nous is corruptible," and that only the active or productive nous is immortal. But what is this productive nous and what does it do? Since it is eternally and essentially intellectually cognizing, it seems that it must not be a part of the human soul, but rather a separate immaterial divine thing that acts on the "passive nous " in the soul. This recalls Platonic texts on nous here best translated as "reason" or "rationality" as a separately existing virtue in which souls participate, the nous apparently personified as the divine craftsman of the Timaeus.
For Aristotle, we can fully understand soul only by understanding its specific powers, their activities, and the objects and instruments of those activities; the De anima gives a general abstract account, which is filled in by the Parva naturalia , which treats of the actions and passions "common to soul and body" — and almost all the soul's actions and passions are in common with the body — and by the accounts of the instruments and activities of different animal species in the zoological works.
But the neat sequence of "psychological works" De anima and Parva naturalia followed by "zoological" or "biological" works the History, Parts, Movement, Progression , and Generation of Animals , as presented in Bekker and other modern editions, is probably an illusion. The texts themselves frequently refer to what has preceded or what will follow, but they seem to indicate two different sequences. Some texts, especially the Parts and Generation of Animals , imply a sequence in which the Parts would lead immediately into the Generation both presupposing the History , as giving the facts for which they will supply the causes ; the De anima and Parva naturalia would be a separate sequence, if anything more likely to come after than before Aristotle refers to a lost part of the Parva naturalia , on the principles of health and disease, as the end point of natural philosophy.
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But other texts imply a different order. It seems most likely that Aristotle began with the Parts-Generation sequence, and later inserted the other texts between the Parts and Generation , treating reproduction, like sensation and breathing, as an activity involving soul as well as body. No evidence supports putting the De anima before the Parts of Animals ; one option is to regard biology as beginning with the body, turning to the soul, and then exploring how they act together.
In the Metaphysics , Aristotle tries to provide a new discipline to bring us to this virtue, because he thinks that the existing disciplines with a claim to yield theoretical wisdom — physics, mathematics, and dialectic — are insufficient. The awkward title, literally "The [books or things] after the physical [books or things]," first attested in Nicolaus of Damascus 1st century CE , reflects the difficulty of fitting the treatise into the standard scheme of disciplines: it belongs to theoretical philosophy, and draws on physics, but does not belong to physics, because the divine things it considers unlike the heavens, also divine exist separately from matter and motion.
The unity of the treatise is problematic. It is clear that Aristotle intended to write a long treatise on sophia , and that most of the books of the Metaphysics were intended as materials for such a treatise. Aristotle says different things in different parts of the Metaphysics about the object of wisdom or "first philosophy," as he says when distinguishing it from physics; once he calls it "theology". Jaeger took these as evidence of different chronological strata: Aristotle would first have conceived the project of wisdom as searching for divine substances to replace the Platonic Forms, then reconceived it as a general study of being.
But usually, and rightly, Aristotle's descriptions of wisdom are thought to be compatible. They are best taken as part of a developing strategy in the Metaphysics to narrow down and finally to acquire sophia. It is perhaps most often thought that Aristotle aims at a universal science; that this project faces a difficulty, because "being" is said in different ways of things in different categories; that Aristotle proposes to solve this by discovering things that are in the primary way these things, whatever they are, will be called substances, and once we understand their mode of being, we can understand the derivative modes of being of other things ; that there are different and sometimes conflicting criteria for something to be in the primary way; that forms meet these different criteria better than matter or matter-form composites, but that the forms of corruptible things do so only imperfectly because they are not separable except by reason ; and that Aristotle therefore turns to divine forms forms existing separately from matter , which will allow us to understand the derivative modes of being of other forms, other substances, and non-substances.
This would explain why Aristotle can say that wisdom is about being, that it is about substance, and that it is about divine things. However, the Metaphysics does not actually follow this program, and Aristotle nowhere calls divine things "forms," and nowhere says that they are beings or substances in any stronger sense than ordinary form-matter composites are still less does he use them to understand the inferior modes of being of other things.
Instead, Aristotle begins with an ethical characterization of wisdom, infers that wisdom will be a science of the archai the "principles," or first of all things and of first causes, then specifies these as causes of being , then reaches an account of divine things as archai and first causes of being, not as instances of a special sense of being. Theology is not a means to ontology; rather, ontology is a means to theology, or more precisely to "archeology" knowledge of the archai might still count as wisdom even if there were nothing divine to know.
Indeed, all philosophers who believe in theoretical wisdom claim knowledge of some archai ; for pre-Socratic physicists, these are whatever existed from eternity before the ordered world arose out of them; for Platonic dialecticians, the Forms, especially maximally universal forms like being and unity; for Pythagorizing mathematicians, the one and the two or the infinite. We cannot directly observe any of these claimed archai , but must infer them as causes of more manifest things.
Aristotle asks how each philosopher uses his archai as causes — that is, how the things he posits at the beginning of his account function in explaining the things he describes as arising later. The best earlier philosophers, Anaxagoras and Empedocles and Plato, agree that among the archai is a Good and cause of goodness to the world. Aristotle's main point is not that earlier philosophers have been discovering the four causes of his Physics , but that no one has yet used the Good as a final cause, thus no one has made it a cause whose goodness is explanatory.
He thus hopes to vindicate a key aspiration of Platonism, which Plato had undermined in his lecture on the Good by reinterpreting the Good as mathematical unity. If some X a genus or a number, or being or unity is not a substance, but is merely an attribute of some other underlying nature, then X is posterior to that nature and cannot be among the archai that wisdom seeks.
Now while we know that the archai will be first causes, this does not tell us how to find them, since there are different kinds of causes, and different effects we might seek to explain. It is sufficient to study the causes of being to substances , since the being of accidents is dependent on that of substances. Aristotle speaks interchangeably of "the cause of substance to X " and "the substance of X. There are several ways we might answer this question, notably by giving the subject of X i.
The ousia of X taken the first way is its material cause; the ousia of X taken the second way is its formal cause. A philosopher might hope to reach archai , eternal and prior to sensible things, by starting with some sensible substance and asking "what is it? Plato might argue that, if the composite X came to be, there must already have been a form or essence of X for the process of coming-to-be to aim at; Aristotle agrees, but argues that this is not a separate eternal form, but a form existing in a generator of the same species e.
Aristotle also argues that if the parts of the essence mentioned in the definition of X like three lines in the definition of triangle, or like the four elements in Empedocles' definition of blood as "earth, water, air, and fire in equal proportions," or like animal and biped in the definition of man were archai existing in actuality prior to X, X would not be one thing but many things thus, as a reductio ad absurdum of Plato, there would not be one Form, Man, but two Forms, Animal and Biped.
This argument might seem to make definition impossible, since the definientia are supposed to be prior to the definiendum ; but Aristotle argues that they can be definitionally prior without being capable of separate existence. There is no Animal that is just animal, prior to the differentiae of animals: an actual animal is always a biped animal or a quadruped animal or the like, and the genus "animal" is merely a potentiality for these differentiae.
Likewise, actual matter is always hot or cold, wet or dry, and the common matter that underlies all sensible changes is only a potentiality, not something actually existing prior to all sensible things. A power or potentiality dunamis , whether an active power to produce X or a passive power to undergo or become X , is a cause of X 's existing potentially dunamei. Most of the archai of the physicists would be potentialities or potential causes. Thus the "seeds" in Anaxagoras's precosmic mixture can become plants and animals and their functional parts; Anaxagoras's nous , or the demiurge of the Timaeus , prior to the cosmos, can act to produce order, but are not yet doing so.
Aristotle tries, both to extract general concepts of dunamis and energeia , and to argue that energeia is prior to dunamis : seeds are not prior to mature living things since a seed exists dependently on a previous mature member of the species , and the archai in the strict sense, the first of all things, are not dunameis or potential causes, but energeiai or actual causes. Thus against say Anaxagoras's conception of the archai as temporally and narratively prior to the cosmos, the archai must from all eternity have been acting to produce the cosmos, so the cosmos too must have existed from eternity.
There is no single separately existing matter of all changeable things, nor a single form even for all things in the same species. But Aristotle argues drawing on Physics VIII that the eternal continuance and approximate periodicity of sublunar generation require a further cause: not simply the sublunar generators, but something eternal and perfectly regular — namely, the rotations of the heavens — that sets the precise time lengths that sublunar cycles aim to approximate.
Especially the daily and yearly motions of the sun, yielding the cycle of the seasons, serve to regulate cycles of generation. Furthermore, these eternally unchanging motions require eternally unchanging substances as their efficient causes. Aristotle accepts Anaxagoras's and Plato's description of the mover of at least the first motion, the daily rotation of the whole heaven, as nous. Notably, nous must always move the heavens in the same way, and it must not move them in such a way as to be reciprocally affected by them. When the heaven desires its mover, what does it desire to do, and how does this explain its motion?
It should, like humans, order its actions toward contemplating God; and presumably its eternally unchanging motion is the best available imitation of God's eternally unchanging energeia. The premise that this nous is pure energeia also allows Aristotle drawing on De anima III on "active nous " to "purify" earlier accounts of how it thinks and what it thinks. It is not a cognitive ability that could be applied to many objects, but a single eternal act of cognition of a single eternal object — the best object, or "good-itself.
Aristotle's immediate influence came through the Peripatetic school, led after Aristotle's death by his student Theophrastus; other important students were Eudemus, Aristoxenus, and Dicaearchus. But the Peripatetic school declined after this perhaps in part because of the reaction against Demetrius at Athens ; for most of the Hellenistic period — 30 BCE , the dominant schools were the Academics, Stoics, and Epicureans.
Peripatetics turn up more at Alexandria than at Athens, and more in biography and literary scholarship than in scientific philosophy. However, there was a revival of Aristotle, as well as of Plato, in the first centuries BCE — CE, and attention turned from the "exoteric" texts to the "acroamatic" texts as offering a systematic teaching in all philosophical disciplines. Teaching would take place, by oral exposition of the texts of Aristotle, in whatever was thought to be the correct sequence, accompanied by refutations of more recent schools and solutions to new aporiai.
This oral teaching is reflected in written commentaries, of which the most important are those of Alexander of Aphrodisias c. Besides the Peripatetics, late ancient Platonists make use of Aristotelian concepts in trying to extract a systematically teachable technical philosophy out of Plato's dialogues, and often wind up incorporating Aristotelian doctrines. In particular, they share Aristotle's concern to avoid inappropriately assimilating soul or nous or other divine realities to lower things, notably by attributing to them extension or change or dunamis.