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Halper, E. - The Origin of Aristotle Metaphysical aporiai

Halper, E. - The Origin of Aristotle Metaphysical aporiai

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APEIRON
a
journal of
ancient
philosophy
and
SCIence
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. 
APEIRON
Volume
XXI
No. 1
1988
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,
[
,i
j
The
Origin
of
Aristotle'sMetaphysicalunopiat
Edwa.rdHalper
)
...
,
"
,,.
.'
,
.
.
,
"
,
-
,
.
That the
fifteen u1topim
1
to
whose
exposition Aristotle devotes all of
Metaphysics
B
originate from
Platonism
is widely accepted. However,the text provides no account of
how
Aristotle constructed these unopim,
and
the exact
path
by which they
developed remains
shroudedbyour
lack of knowledge of Aristotle's contemporaries
and
of the discussions
in
Plato's Academy. Book
B
has been
a focal
point
for various conflicting accounts of Aristotle's development, for scholars
assume
that the
u1topiut
presentedhere
are problems
that
troubled Aristotle
and
re
mained
unsolved
when
he wrote
Metaphysics
B.2
In
this
paper
I shall
1 Aristotle lists the
{!1tOp(U1
in B
1,
and
he
discusses each in detail in B
2-6.
K1-2 contains a briefer exposition.
The
order
and
number of
tl1topiUl
differslightly in the three presentations. My numbering follows B
2-6,
the fullestdiscussion. The fourth
and
fifth anopia! of B
2-6
appear in B 1 as the fifth
and
fourth a1topial, respectively. W.D. Ross,
Aristotle's
Metaphysics,
Vol. I (Oxford:
Oarendon
Press 1924),
226,
uses
the
numbering of B
1.
He counts fourteen
a1topiUl
in both presentations because
he
does not
number
1002b12-32, aproblem
he
takes as akin to the
ninth
and
fourth
(his fifth)
a1topiUl
(I
249).
P.
Natorp,
Themaund
Disposition
der
aristotelischen Metaphysik,'
Philosophische
Monatshefte
24
(1888), 559, takes this passage to be
an
amplification of
the
twelfth (Ross's fourteenth)
Q.1topia
whose discussion immediatelyprecedes it. Natorp finds sixteen
a1topiUl
in
book B because
he
does
not
thinkthat the questions asked at 995b20-5
and
at .996all are mentioned in B
2-6.
I
p
-.
.
concur with the
usual
view that these questions are appendises to the
anopial
raised at
.995b18-20
and
996aU, respectively. I take 1002b12
c
32
to be a distincta1topia.· G.Reale,
The
Concept
of
First
Philosophy and the
Unity of
the Metaphysics
of Aristotle,
ed.
and
.trans. J.R. Catan (Albany: SUNY Press 1979), 66-83, alsofollows the numbering
of
B
2-6
and
.counts fifteen anopia\.... 2
W.
Jaeger,
Aristotle:
Fundamentals
.of
the
History
of
his Development,
trans.
R.
Robinson,
2ndedn
(London: Oxford University Press 1%7),
196,
claims that
.
,
APEIRON a journal for ancient philosophy
and
science
()()()'<J;'<0I1111>!1?101
l_?R
q;1
m
OAr~rlp".,;r
Prinnn",
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Pllhl;~h;n'"
 
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-
..
-
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--
---
-
2
Ed
w
ard
Halper
present
an
alternative acco\lnt of
the
origin of Aristotle's
anopim.
Regr
et
tably,
my
treatment can claim no greater textual authority
than
other treatments:in
all
likelihood
the
details of
the
origin will alwaysbeamatterofspeculation. However, the origin seems to me to be a worthwhilesubject forspeculationfor two reasons. First, most discus sions ofthe
anopia!
take
them
to be more
or
less arbitrary:
theyex-
press problems that
happened
to
disturb
Aristotle at
the
point in hiscareer
when
he wrote book B,problems that arise from objections that
happened
to be raised against Platonism or against Aristotle's
own
earlyphilosophy,
or
problems that
(if
G.E.L.
Owen
is
right) ultimately resultfrom the clashof observedfactswith
the
opinions that
happened
tobe
he
ld in
common
by a particular linguistic
community.'
But Aristotle regards
Cl7tOpiCll
as intrinsic constituentsof
any
science,
and
wewould expectthe particular metaphysical
anOpiCll
of book B to
be
in
herent
in the subject-matterof
the
science of metaphysics. That thisissoseems to be part
of
what
induces Aristotle to insist (in
the
opening lines of book
B)
on the
necessity ofgoing
through the
anopia! formaking'progress in metaphysics (995024-5). Are
the
anopia! necessary
most
of
the
anopim
'arise
out
of
the crisis
tn
Plato
'S
doctrin
e,
and
consistinefforts torehabilitate the assertion
of
supersensiblereality
.'
He thinks that theobjectionsdisturbed Aristotle because
he
wasstill aPlatonist
when
he
wrotebookB.On theother
hand
,G.E.L.
Owen
,'LogicandMetaphysicS
in
Some
Ear
lierWorks ofAristotle: in
1.
During and G.E.L.
Owen,eds.
Aristotle
andPint
o
ill
the Mid-Fourth
Century
(Gothenborg19(0),178,
contends
that the
tl
nopiclI
signalAristotle'sreturn to Platonism.
Speaking
of
the
first
few
~
ll'tOp(ClI,
he claims
that
the
'conclusions
of the
Allalytics
reappear in the
Me
taphy
siCS
as
problems
which
mu
st
be
resolved
if
any generalscience
of
"to
6\'
is to
be
possible.'
3'
Titli
ellai
laPh
ail1omen
a
,'
in
S.
Mansion,
ed
.,
Ari
stofe
et
les
problbnes
de
me
thode
(Lo
uvain:PublicationsUni\'ersitaires
1%1)83-103.
Martha Nussbaum denies
th
at
the
facts
pl
ay
anyrole
in
the
generationof
the
altopiQI
,'SavingAristotle's
Appearances
,'
in
Malcolm Schofield and MarthaCravenNussbaum,eds.,
Lat!-
g
uageand
Logos
:
Studies
in
Ancient
GreekPhiloS{lphy
Presented
to
G.
E.L.
Owen
(Cambridge:
Ca
mbridge University Press 1983) 267·93.
She
maintains that
they
arise onlyfrom
conflicts
in
common
opinions.
Her
criticismof
Owen
isjustified,but theconsequence
of
her
view
is that the
ltTCopial
are
even
more ar·bit
ra
ry.They
woulddepend
entirely
on
the
opinions
held
by
the particularcommunity ofwhichAristotle
happened
to find himseU
a part.Shealso
sug-
geststhat bookB
catalo
gues
Aristotle
's
personal difficulties:
'His
imagery
of
bondageand freedom indicates
that
he
foundthe experience
of
dilemma any
thing
but
delightful'
(276,
Nussbaum's
italics).
._
TheOrigin
of
Aristotle's
Metaphysical
anopia!
3for metaphysics because
they
reflect
the current
state of
the
science
and
its current controversies,
or
are they necessary because suchproblems would necessarily arise in
any
thorough inquiry into first principles
and
highestcauses?
If
the latter,
the
anopim
resemble
the
problems
addressed by
Euclidean geometry, problems
that
arise in
herently
from
the
character of the subject-matter. In comparison,
the
former alternative makes
the
unopim relatively arbitrary
and
subjective,
dependent
on
a particular era
and
particular circumstances. Since
many
of the
anopim
concern Platonism
and
Presocratic philosophy,it
is
natural to
suppose that
they are arbitrary
and
subjective in thissense.A nice feature of
Owen's
view is that it provides a sense in whichAristotle'sdifficulties with
his
predecessors could be described as neces
sary
constituents of
the
science of metaphysiCS.
If
,
on
the
other
hand
,I can provide an alternative account of
why
these difficulties are neces
sary
constituents,
an
account which
shows them
to be necessary in
the strong
sense
in
which the
problems of
geometry
are necessary,Ishall have
undercut some
ofthe motivation for
Owen's
view of the
anopia!
and
for developmental views as well..A
second
reason for speculating
on the
origin of the metaphysicalanopia!isthat it affords
us
insight into
the
problems Aristotle presentsin book B
and
addresses elsewhere in
the
Metaphysics.
Aristotle's point
that
we
need
to
understand
the
problems before wecangrasp
the
solutions is a truism too little
heeded
by scholars. Theanalysisof
the
originof
the
anopia! that I shall propose here
throws
the
Metaphysics
intoa
somewhat unusual
light. Thus, even
thoughmy
interpretation
is
noless speculative
than any other
analysis,
it
has advantages
for
our
un
derstanding
of the
Metaphysics
and
the
discipline it treats.
I
Theparadigm
of the
procedure that
I think Aristotle uses to
generate
the
anopia! appears
in the
first book of
the
Physics
.
There(A2,185a20-b25), Aristotle
undertakes
an
assessment
of the Eleatic claim
that
all is
one. However
,before
he
can
determine
its truth,
he
needs
to decide
what
it could
mean.
The problem is that'o
ne'
is
said in
many
ways. Aristotle
mentions
(1)
the
continuous,
(2)
the
indivisible,
and
(3)
the one
in formula as types of
one that
the Eleatics could have
had
in
mind
(b7-9).
(MetaphysiCS
/!,.
6
and
I 1 contain richer descriptions of
the
things that arecalled 'one.')
To
refute
the
Eleatic thesis, Aristotle
needs
to refute eachof
the
three possible interpretations: all is con-

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