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Aristotle’s Critique of Platonist Mathematical Objects: Two Test Cases from Metaphysics M 21
Abstract: Books M and N of Aristotle’s Metaphysics receive relatively little careful attention. Even the scholars who do give detailed analyses of the arguments in M-N dismiss many of them as hopelessly flawed and biased, and find Aristotle’s critique to be riddled with mistakes and question-begging. This assessment of the quality of Aristotle’s critique of his predecessors (and of the Platonists in particular), is quite widespread. The series of arguments in M 2 (1077a14–b11) that targets separate mathematical objects is the subject of particularly strong criticism by Annas and Ross. Two related arguments in this series (1077a14–20 and 1077a24–31) will serve as cases in point. The principal charges made against these arguments (that Aristotle misunderstands or misrepresents his opponents’ views, and that he engages in question-begging because he presupposes his own metaphysical views) are frequently made against Aristotle’s critique of Platonist positions more generally. Thus if, as I argue, these charges are false for our two test case arguments, then there is good reason to think that they might also be false when they are leveled against the other arguments in this M 2 series. And, although presenting an argument for this is beyond the scope of this paper, I would suggest that these two charges are more often than not false when applied to Aristotle’s critique of Platonist mathematical views in M-N and beyond. Keywords: Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book M, Book 13, Mathematics
Emily Katz: Department of Philosophy, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, email@example.com
1 I am very grateful to Ron Polansky and Jim Lennox for reading and providing comments on the earliest version of this work, and to Charlotte Witt and Christiana Olfert for their detailed comments on a later version prepared for the first biennial workshop of the Mentoring Project for Pre-Tenure Women Faculty in Philosophy (University of Massachusetts at Amherst, June 2011). I would also like to thank the workshop participants, Marie Jayasekera and Melissa Frankel, and the workshop organizers, Louise Antony and Ann Cudd. Likewise, I am grateful to the organizers of and participants in the 35th Annual Workshop in Ancient Philosophy (University of Texas at Austin, March 2012), for providing me with the opportunity to present this work and some very useful feedback.
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2 Emily Katz
While much has been written about the Metaphysics, Books M and N (henceforth denoted by M-N) have received relatively little careful attention. This is understandable – the text of M-N is exceedingly dense, and many of its arguments are obscure. It is often difficult to see why Aristotle has chosen to make the arguments presented in these books, and to determine whether they work. For some arguments, it is even difficult to identify Aristotle’s opponent. According to Julia Annas (1976), scholars generally view M-N as ‘a pettifogging discussion of mystical nonsense’ (1). Yet even the few scholars who give detailed analyses of the arguments in M-N dismiss many of them as hopelessly flawed and biased, and find Aristotle’s critique to be riddled with mistakes and question-begging.2 This assessment of the quality of Aristotle’s critique of his predecessors (and of the Platonists in particular), is quite widespread.3 The series of arguments in M 2 (1077a14–b11) that targets separate mathematical objects is the subject of particularly strong criticism by Annas and Ross. According to Annas, the arguments in this series ‘presuppose an acceptance of Aristotle’s own philosophical ideas.’ Specifically, they presuppose Aristotle’s view that sensible objects, rather than abstract entities, comprise what are primarily and essentially real. Moreover, these arguments ‘misconceive the platonist position in some respects’ (139). Two related arguments in this series (1077a14–20 and 1077a24–31) will serve as cases in point. I have chosen these two arguments because they are the objects of the most serious complaints coming from Annas and Ross, and because these very same complaints are made against other arguments in the M 2 series as well as against many other arguments in M-N.4 In fact, the principal charges made
2 Most noteworthy of these are Julia Annas and David Ross. John Cleary (1988) does not consider the arguments in detail, but recognizes that in some of them, Aristotle tries to show that the Platonists’ view conflicts with ‘commonsense assumptions about the nature of reality’ (86). 3 For example, when assessing Aristotle’s critique of the Platonists’ mathematical views, Leonardo Tarán (1981) claims that Aristotle is so convinced of his own conception of numbers that he mistakenly imposes it on Plato, thus failing to understand Plato’s actual view (15–18). Of this same critique, Léon Robin (1908/1963) complains that Aristotle demonstrates a total lack of understanding of the principles of the theory he attacks (427–428). A. E. Taylor (1907/1959) proposes that Aristotle misunderstands due to his ‘thoroughly non-mathematical cast of mind’ (37). Speaking more generally of Aristotle’s critique of his predecessors, Harold Cherniss (1945) claims that Aristotle misunderstands his predecessors, because he is blinded by his conviction that all of them tried to express the very ideas he himself holds (348, 356). In a similar vein, J.B. McDiarmid (1953, 1959) complains that Aristotle is so anxious to read his own ideas into those of his predecessors that he often fails to grasp their views. 4 See, e.g., Paul Natorp (1903/2004) 384 (against the first argument in the M 2 series) as well as Annas (1976) 141 (the first argument) and 143 (the third argument). Against the fifth to ninth arguments, Annas writes: ‘The weakness of these arguments lies partly in the fact that so
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although presenting an argument for this is beyond the scope of this paper. J.123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM .5 Thus if. as I argue.. 5 See note 3 above.g. The context and target of the M 2 series. what is the status of the twos and threes used in arithmetic and calculation. 1076a17)? In other words. I would suggest that these two charges are. Robin (1908/1963) 432–441. 1090a35–7). Authenticated | 68. Tarán (1981) 15-19. e. both of these must be unqualifiedly true. n. false when applied to Aristotle’s critique of Platonist mathematical views in M-N and beyond. then there is good reason to think that they might also be false when they are leveled against the other arguments in this M 2 series. Crombie (1963) 448. mathematical axioms and theorems are not unqualifiedly true of sensible things. more often than not. Findlay (1974) 436. R. I. and what Aristotle means by ‘separate’ In M 1 of the Metaphysics. 444–9 and 473. and what is the status of the circles and triangles used in geometry? He and his opponents agree that mathematical axioms are not true of sensible things as such.N. 1076a1819). and that he engages in question-begging because he presupposes his own metaphysical views) are frequently made against Aristotle’s critique of Platonist positions more generally. Natorp (1903/2004) 392. but partly also to the fact that Aristotle seems to misidentify his opposition’ (144). Moreover. because such axioms do not apply perfectly to sensible things (N 3. 2) 427. See. For example. however. Crombie (1963) 448. science must have immutable objects. e. Ross (1951) 180 and (1924.. the rule that a tangent line will touch a circle at exactly one point is not true of any sensible line and sensible circle (see B 2. 997b35–8a4). these charges are false for our two test case arguments. E. Therefore. Claims that Aristotle misunderstands his opponents and presupposes his own views can also be found in commentators’ analyses of the arguments in M 6–9.149. but what exactly are these mathematical objects (τὰ μαθηματικά. many of Aristotle’s own ideas are presupposed that sometimes the questions are begged by the terms f the debate. Allen (1970) 32– 33.Aristotle’s Critique of Platonist Mathematical Objects 3 against these arguments (that Aristotle misunderstands or misrepresents his opponents’ views. and Ian Mueller (1984) 257. It is clear that they are the objects of mathematics. These same complaints are also made against Aristotle’s critique of his opponents’ first principles (M 8–10 and Book N). but sensible things are changeable and perishable. See. 33. Aristotle asks about the nature of numbers and lines and ‘things of this sort’ (ἀριθμοὺς καὶ γραμμὰς καὶ τὰ συγγενῆ τούτοις. M.178. Ross (1951) 204 and (1924 Vol. Cherniss (1944) 513–517 and (1945) 34–37. 1) 446.g. Furthermore. Vol.
Aristotle aims to refute all alternative conceptions of the objects of mathematics. 1090b3–5).149. Republic 510e3–11a1. which I will call the Platonic view. Aristotle’s target is discussed in more detail below. The Pythagoreans see that the attributes of numbers do. What distinguishes mathematical study from the investigations of the natural scientist is that the mathematician studies sensible objects not as sensible but rather as lengths. However. one key problem for this view. see Burnyeat (1987) 232. Furthermore. According to Aristotle. Aristotle notes that in a musical scale the attributes of number do apply to sensible things (N 3. the Pythagoreans – like the Platonists – are partly right and partly wrong. we need not posit a separate ‘female’ or ‘male’ apart from animals. 6 For a discussion of this point. For this reason. nor must we posit a separate ‘length’ or ‘plane’ apart from sensible things (M 3. 1028b19–21. Mathematical objects are simply sensible objects treated as numbers and as geometrical objects. As many have noted. and so on.8 The solution. 7 This is not to say that this is necessarily Plato’s view. but they go too far by making sensible things consist of numbers. because objects with weight (sensible things) cannot be produced from weightless things (numbers). Authenticated | 68. Ross). their attributes apply to perceptible things. 8 He helpfully contrasts this view with the Pythagorean view.’ For example.6 it follows that they must be true of something other than sensible things as such. in order to leave his own position as the only remaining possibility. apply to sensible things. 524c13–6a7.7 is that it cannot explain ‘why. in fact. rather than ‘Plato’s view’. Some of Aristotle’s predecessors and contemporaries conclude that mathematical objects are separate from sensible things (1076a34–5). the substance of sensible bodies’ (Metaphysics Z 2. only not as sensible. In M 2. 1077b17–8a9). he gives a series of arguments against the Platonist view that mathematical objects are separate from sensible things (1076b11–7b11). Aristotle tells us that ‘Plato posited two kinds of substance – the Forms and the objects of mathematics – as well as a third kind. Plato does draw a distinction between sensible numbers and figures and ‘the numbers themselves’ or ‘the square as such’ and ‘the diagonal as such’ (see. Thus. as planes.123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM . it is not clear whether or not Plato himself thinks that mathematical objects are separate from sensible objects. Aristotle suggests. trans. 1090a20–5. as figures. if numbers are in no way present in perceptible things.178. Thus.. Aristotle explains that just as there are properties peculiar to animals in virtue of their being male or female. viz. so there are properties that are true of things as lengths or as planes. is to adopt his own position: sensible things are the objects of the mathematical sciences.4 Emily Katz Since (for the Greeks) to be true is to be true of something. Theaetetus 195e1–6b2. e.g. Philebus 56d4–7a4). After first making short work of the ‘fanciful’ view that mathematical objects are substances that exist in sensible things (1076a38–b11). I call the view Aristotle critiques here ‘Platonic’. Sensible things cannot be made up of numbers.
who also defines separation in this way. together. 12 I call one view ‘weak separateness’ and the other ‘strong separateness’. but also for the separateness of X from Y: (i) X can ‘be without’ Y and (ii) Y cannot ‘be without’ X. there do not seem to be any additional conditions for separateness and priority in ousia. different scholars take ‘ontological independence’ to mean quite different things.178. Michail Peramatzis (2008) and Phil Corkum (2008) have argued convincingly that ontological Authenticated | 68. because one view makes separateness weaker than priority in ousia. then they should be individually necessary for separateness and priority in ousia. I will not continue to add ‘in the technical sense’. Certainly. Witt (1989.Aristotle’s Critique of Platonist Mathematical Objects 5 Before we proceed. 154.149. but the other cannot be without it.9 I take it that separateness and priority in ousia are mutually entailing. 13 However. and of their relationship to one another. it should be noted that in these arguments (and in certain other contexts). When Aristotle uses ‘separate’ in this technical way. 1994). 11 See Irwin (1977). is controversial. and that the following two conditions are jointly sufficient (and likely individually necessary)10 not just for the priority in ousia of X to Y. it also means quite a bit more. to be contrasted below with ‘weak separateness’. Aristotle uses the word ‘separate’ (χωρίς or χωριστός) in a rather technical sense. the precise nature of separation and priority in ousia.123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM . Here ‘separate’ means (at least) ‘distinct from’ and ‘not present in’. More recently. Cleary (1988) seems to share this view. It is widely understood that the capacity to ‘be without’ another is ontological independence from the other. at the same time. according to which (i) alone is sufficient for separateness (though not for priority in ousia).. can make something separate and prior in ousia. 10 While it is true that the fact that (i) and (ii) are jointly sufficient for something does not entail that either (i) or (ii) is necessary for that something.g.11 We may call this ‘strong separateness’. He explicitly attributes this view not just to the Platonists.13 Thus. and the inability to ‘be without’ another is ontological dependence on the other. In Metaphysics Δ 11 Aristotle explains that something is prior in ousia to another if it can be without the other thing (εἶναι ἐνδέχεται ἄνευ). Many take it to be the capacity for independent existence (see. he is connecting it with the concept of priority in ousia (τῇ οὐσίᾳ). though this should be understood. If (i) and (ii) are the only conditions that. and Makin (2003)).12 In order to see how ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ separateness differ. but he also argues that ‘the independence of things must be defined in terms of their completeness’ (87). we should begin by analyzing the concept of priority in ousia. we can say that X is prior in ousia to Y if both: 9 In the rest of my discussion of separateness. but to Plato himself (1019a2–4). e. Fine (1984). while the other does not.
is quite widely accepted.b) for the dissenting view that separation is rather numerical distinctness. 35–36. Irwin (1977) 154.14 Based on this view. although he suggests that it might very well be when he claims that the priority of individual substances implies that they are separate from universal substances. since on this view priority in ousia requires something more than separation. 33.16 On this view. 17 See Fine (1984) 38 and (1985) 159. my emphasis). See Morrison (1985a. Corkum stops short of claiming that (i) is a necessary condition for priority in ousia..g. independence cannot be capacity for independent existence. e. The stronger concept – priority in ousia – should imply separation if.17 If this ‘weak’ view of separateness is correct. They maintain that: (a) X is separate from Y if (i) X is ontologically independent of X15 and (b) X is prior in ousia to Y if both (i) X is ontologically independent of Y and (ii) Y is ontologically dependent upon X. this should be reflected in the relationship between priority in ousia and separateness. and so separate from. who argues that Aristotle does not always define priority in ousia in terms of ontological independence. some take separateness to be a weaker concept than priority in ousia. (i) and (ii) are jointly sufficient for priority in ousia. Annas (1976) 136–137. while (i) and (ii) are jointly sufficient for priority in ousia (and each is likely a necessary condition for such priority).149. As noted above. Panayides 1999. 35–38. (i) is a necessary condition for priority in ousia. Witt (1994) 216–217 note 2. rather than with spatial separation or numerical distinctness. and Corkum (2008) 66–71. while the converse is not the case’ (189). e.g..6 Emily Katz (i) X is ontologically independent of Y and (ii) Y is ontologically dependent upon X. Polansky (1983) 62. It turns out that the M 2 critique of Platonic mathematical objects is an ideal piece of textual evidence for Aristotle’s view of the relationship between separation and priority in ousia. (1989) 51–52. (‘Aristotle clearly holds in the Categories that individual substances are prior to. Fine (1984) 33. See. because this critique utilises both of these concepts.178. 16 See Fine (1984). But there are no grounds for having the weaker concept separation imply priority in ousia. 14 This is not entirely uncontroversial. Peramatzis claims that ‘A is ontologically prior to B if and only if A can be what it is independently of B being what it is. Corkum argues that ontological independence is ‘having claim to the ontological status of a being’ independently of being either (or both) ‘said of’ or ‘present in’ another thing (as subject) (77). (i) alone is sufficient for separateness. as is likely. See. and especially 36 note 19. universal substances’ (70.) Authenticated | 68. Cleary (1988) 87. 15 The view that separation terminology in Aristotle (when it is unqualified) has to do with some kind of ontological independence.123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM . and Corkum (2008) 69 and note 3. and each is likely a necessary condition for such priority.
who argues that Aristotle takes priority in ousia to be a consequence of separation. though this seems to be a possible interpretation of the evidence. Authenticated | 68. but not in ousia (1077b1–9). and if X is not prior in ousia to Y. Aristotle writes: ‘Because they exist in this way [i. Aristotle explains that something is prior in ousia to another if it surpasses the other in being separate (τῆ μὲν γὰρ οὐσίᾳ πρότερα ὅσα χωριζόμενα τῶ εἶναι ὑπερβάλλει). but it does follow easily from ‘strong separateness’. 1035b22–24. Given that mathematical objects cannot be prior in ousia to sensible objects. he has shown that ‘it is not possible for objects of this kind [i. I will not argue that the two terms are. Thus..123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM . mathematical objects] to exist in separation’ (1076b11–12). this is the announced aim of the series to which this argument belongs. If separateness in M 2 is the strong concept I have described above. While both the prior and the separable are equivocals. wonder why Aristotle thinks that anyone takes mathematical objects to be ‘separate’ from sensibles in this way. therefore identical. as both the ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ views of separateness suggest.178. I take him to mean both (i) and (ii) above.. it is clear that he means priority in ousia. if X is separate from Y. then X cannot be separate from Y.149. 19 The upshot of the M 2 evidence is that priority in ousia and separateness are mutually entailing. when Aristotle uses the term ‘separate’ in M 2. their primary senses converge. we have good reason to prefer ‘strong separateness’. This argument provides strong textual evidence that for Aristotle. it may be prior to ‘pale human’ in account. Speaking of the Platonists’ mathematical objects at 1077a17– 18.’18 Aristotle then goes on to show that mathematical objects cannot be prior in ousia to sensible objects. by arguing that since an attribute such as ‘pale’ cannot be separate from the compound entity ‘pale human’ (its substance). What does help is the fact that M 2 also offers us good reason for supposing that Aristotle takes separation to imply priority in ousia. but it does not help us decide which should be preferred between ‘strong separateness’ and ‘weak separateness’. At 1077b2–3. see also Cleary (1988) 87. Ronald Polansky (1983) argues that ‘the prior means nearly the same as the separable.19 Since priority in ousia does not follow from ‘weak separateness’. it emerges that. and 1038b27–29 (62). then X must be prior in ousia to Y. priority in ousia implies separateness. He then appears to make separateness a necessary condition for priority in ousia.e.’ For passages that support the claim that priority in ousia ‘links up with the separable’. The fact that Aristotle takes priority in ousia to imply separateness is interesting. he points to Metaphysics 1077b2–3. at this point. One might.e. then Aristotle is not just attacking the view that there exist mathematical objects that are distinct from 18 At 1077a19. as separate entities] they have to be prior to sensible objects.Aristotle’s Critique of Platonist Mathematical Objects 7 In the course of the critique.
the individual thing is destroyed as well (i. planes. See Cleary (1988) 46 for a useful discussion of the B 5 passage. then a body is less of a substance than are the planes and lines that define it (1002a4–8). Since they exist in this way. Again in N 3. lines. Plato) regarding the criteria for separateness. 20 While Aristotle may agree with these thinkers (and. we find Aristotle explaining that if the limits of (sensible) bodies can be without bodies. Aristotle also attacks those who make ‘limits and extremes’ (e. and bodies cannot be without these limits (that is. if one takes mathematical objects to exist in this way. again. as is the case with lifeless and living (1077a14–20. They should be taken together. because both turn on the point that what is separate ought to be prior in ousia. because when these limits are destroyed.149. Aristotle writes: (v) In general. he is attacking the view that (i) mathematical objects are ontologically independent of sensibles. Aristotle seems to have in mind these same thinkers when. conclusions result which contradict truth and ordinary beliefs. Authenticated | 68. The most likely targets for Aristotle’s critique are certain Platonist thinkers who attribute separate existence to ‘limits and extremes’. Aristotle attempts to prove that mathematical objects cannot be separate by showing that they are. Aristotle is targeting recent Platonist thinkers who take ‘limits and extremes’ to have separate existence in his M 2 attack on separate mathematical objects. The arguments at 1077a14–20 and 24–31 The two arguments we will examine are the fifth and seventh in the M 2 series that attacks separate mathematical objects. or including. in fact. posterior in ousia to sensible objects. slightly modified). they have to be prior to sensible magnitudes.8 Emily Katz sensible objects.g.. He adds that this notion (that limits are separate from what they limit) is what motivates certain recent thinkers to believe that numbers are the first principles (1002a9–13). We can see this by returning to one of the aporiai of Metaphysics B 5. while (ii) sensibles are ontologically dependent upon mathematical objects. There. because condition (ii) is fulfilled).20 These passages suggest to me that..178. In both arguments.e. trans. Rather.123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM . and points) substances. he explains that some call the limits of individual things ‘substances’. in Δ 8. since incomplete magnitude – while prior in generation – is posterior in ousia. making it clear that he objects to the separation of these limits and extremes (1090b5–13). if these limits are separate from bodies in the strong sense such that conditions (i) and (ii) are fulfilled). Annas. as separate entities. and that at least condition (i) is not fulfilled. he believes that planes are ontologically dependent on bodies. but in fact they are posterior.
therefore. the priority relation between these entities is just the opposite. The two arguments prove that mathematical objects cannot be separate by a simple modus tollens: If mathematical objects are separate from sensible objects. In the next section. First length is generated. in the course of his arguments. They are also indicative of the strength that typifies Aristotle’s criticisms of Platonist metaphysics in books M-N. which have length. Mathematical objects cannot be prior in ousia to sensible objects. then breadth. the process of generation is ‘complete’. I consider the strongest objections to these arguments. Aristotle attributes to the Platonists the view that sensible things lack being. and are. (vii) Besides. Four major criticisms of the arguments I will consider the following four criticisms of the arguments at 1077a14–20 and 24–31: (1) Annas objects that. Length is generated first. mathematical objects cannot be separate from sensible bodies. the point is clear from the way they are generated. How could there be an animate line or plane? The supposition would be beyond our senses (1077a24–31. prior in generation to sensible spatial magnitudes.149. Annas. because mathematical planes. finally depth. others find these arguments to be seriously flawed. they will have to be prior to sensible spatial magnitudes.123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM . However. when in fact the Plato- Authenticated | 68. It is more complete and whole in the following way also – it becomes animate. and points are less complete than sensible bodies. and then it is complete. then breadth. such as planes and lines. but posterior in ousia – just as the inanimate is prior in generation but posterior in ousia to the animate. and then depth.178. Thus bodies. Therefore. I find these arguments to be quite successful against the targeted view.Aristotle’s Critique of Platonist Mathematical Objects 9 Here Aristotle is arguing that if one takes mathematical objects to be separate entities. are prior in ousia to mathematical entities. then according to the Platonists’ principles. because mathematical spatial magnitudes are ‘incomplete’. body should be prior to plane and to length. So if what is posterior in generation is prior in ousia. trans. Yet. slightly modified). Bodies are also more complete because they can become animate. in truth. at this point. then they ought to be prior in ousia to sensible objects. because they are more complete and are posterior in generation. lines. He says that this is clear from the way mathematical spatial magnitudes are generated. Here Aristotle is explaining why mathematical spatial magnitudes are incomplete and posterior in ousia relative to sensible spatial magnitudes (bodies). whereas this is impossible for lines and planes. breadth and depth.
and (3) that mathematical objects cannot have separate existence (1077b12–14). mathematical construction and natural generation. Annas objects that Aristotle ‘misses the point of platonism rather strikingly’ by arguing that sensible bodies are prior in being to mathematical objects (144). it remains unclear whether or not he believes that Platonists hold positions opposed to his first two points. If he explicitly attributes to his opponents the views that mathematical objects are substances more than bodies are. ideal numbers and spatial magnitudes have to exist in order to ‘guarantee the truth of theorems. This would also mean that arguments (v) and (vii) are directed against a theory that is dubiously Platonic. because he later makes the very point that Annas claims he misses: ‘those who make number separate assume that it exists and is separate because the axioms would not be true of sensible things. namely.123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM . Aristotle cannot have simply misunderstood the Platonists. and that they are prior in ousia to sensible objects. but rather only that they cannot be the objects of mathematics (146). (2) She also argues that Aristotle confuses mathematical solids with sensible bodies. According to Annas. Ross). However. Aristotle may or may not think that certain Platonists claim that mathematical objects are prior in ousia to sensible objects. (4) Finally. However. but rather only that ideal mathematical objects are necessary for mathematics. or he is arguing against others who exaggerate what the Platonists say about sensible objects (144). then he may have misunderstood the Platonic view of mathematical objects in the way that Annas suggests. the Platonists do not wish to say that sensible objects lack being (or ousia). (2) that they are not ontologically prior to sensible objects. Annas objects that Aristotle presupposes his own view that the complete is prior in ousia to the incomplete. That is. while mathematical statements are true’ (N 3 1090a35–b1. trans. However. not to be exalted entities’ (144). Aristotle does say that one of his aims in this series of arguments is to show that sensible objects are prior in ousia to mathematical objects.10 Emily Katz nists only maintain that they are unsuitable as objects of mathematics. his purpose in the Authenticated | 68. because no sensible object can be a perfect instantiation of a mathematical notion.178. (3) Both Annas and Ross charge Aristotle with equating two different kinds of generation. (1) Let us begin with the first charge. There appears to be some support for Annas’ objection. he summarizes the following accomplishments: (1) demonstrating that mathematical objects are not substantial beings more than bodies are. Thus.149. It is clear that Aristotle intends this last point to be a critique of what he believes to be the Platonic view. They never argue that mathematical objects are prior in ousia to sensible objects. Aristotle either misunderstands his opponents. At the end of the series.
if mathematical entities are eternal. The point is simply that something that is separate is prior in ousia to something that is not. he confines himself to drawing out the consequences of his opponents’ view that the limits of bodies are separable (‘lines and points are substances more than bodies’ 1002a15–16). In fact even in B 5. 1988. but a body cannot exist without these’ (1002a4–7). It is against this view that Aristotle’s critiques are directed.Aristotle’s Critique of Platonist Mathematical Objects 11 entire section from 1076b11–7b14 is not to counter this view. he does not say these thinkers claim that mathematical objects are prior in ousia to sensible things. and they are thought to be capable of existing without body. or that sensible things somehow lack ousia. he never attributes the consequent to anyone. We should also note that what Aristotle says here is just as much about the priority of lines over planes and points over lines as it is about the priority of all mathematical objects over sensible ‘bodies’. Even here. Aristotle says nothing here about the status of mathematical solids. The relative priority of mathematical and sensible objects is merely one of the difficult consequences of this view.22 This neither exalts ideal numbers. Authenticated | 68. and points that define them.123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM . Aristotle rejects the antecedent. Moreover. Aristotle tells us that ‘some say’ mathematical objects (he mentions planes. Instead. it is clear that mathematical objects are prior in ousia to sensible objects. but accepts the implication. This means that if mathematical objects can exist separately from sensible things.21 The way by which he introduces the idea that mathematical objects are prior to sensible objects makes this quite clear: ‘Because they exist in this way they have to be prior to sensible magnitudes’ (my emphasis). Instead. He begins with the consequent of the implication: ‘a body is surely less of a substance than a surface. In short. lines.178. 85–88. He does say that the mathematical objects he has mentioned limit all things.149. although he does maintain that it follows naturally from the view that the limits of an entity are separable from that entity. and numbers) are substances. here. and a line less than a unit and a point. then according to the Platonists’ own assumptions. This seems to me to be primarily a claim about separability. rather. It is not a position that Aristotle explicitly attributes to the Platonists. and a surface less than a line. where he does speak about relative substantiality. he does not actually attribute to anyone the view that bodies are less likely to be substances than planes (nor does he say there that sensible bodies lack being). 22 See also Cleary. but the latter cannot exist without the planes. Notice that. He says nothing here about whether or not mathematical solids are prior to sensible bodies. he makes a claim about the implications of taking limits to be separate. then it would seem they must be prior in ou- 21 In Δ 8. Perhaps because it is not clear from what his opponents say how mathematical solids would be separable from sensible bodies. lines. and only by implication a claim about priority in ousia. to establish that mathematical objects cannot exist as separate substantial beings. however.’ He then gives us the basis for this speculation (the antecedent of the implication): ‘For a body is bounded by these. nor does it imply that sensible objects do not really exist. and that without them nothing exists.
149.8.24 Once Aristotle has shown that the separability of mathematical objects implies that they are prior in ousia to sensible objects. Clearly. they must be prior in generation.178. is that certain objects that Platonists make separate cannot in fact be separate. and the incomplete is ontologically dependent on the complete. In (v) and (vii). but posterior in ousia to complete. he means that the complete is ontologically independent of the incomplete. Thus. in which Aristotle states that ‘what is posterior in generation is prior in being’. Metaphysics A 9 and M 4.g. and that ‘what is posterior in generation’ is ‘more complete and whole’ (1077a26–9). but posterior in being to sensible objects in the same way that the lifeless or inanimate is prior in generation. if they are posterior in ousia to them. after all. we may note that one of Aristotle’s basic critical points.23 In other words. when he is addressing Platonic views. In Δ 11. then they cannot be separate from sensible things. Aristotle’s aim in arguments (v) and (vii) is to show that mathematical objects cannot be separate.123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM . sensible objects.12 Emily Katz sia to perishable. See. but posterior in being to the living or animate being As noted above. it is against the Platonic position that mathematical objects have separate existence – and not against their view of sensible objects – that arguments (v) and (vii) are directed. Thus. what Aristotle had announced as the topic of discussion at 1076b11–12. 1019a2–4). it only appears that Aristotle has misunderstood the Platonists if we assume that arguments (v) and (vii) are really directed against the view that sensible objects lack being or ousia. e. when he began this series of arguments (ἀλλὰ μὴν οὐδὲ κεχωρισμένας γ’ εἶναι φύσεις τοιαύτας δυνατόν). he tells us that Plato himself held that those things ‘which can be without other things. he explains that since mathematical objects such as lines and planes are incomplete magnitudes. because the Platonists wish to say that mathematical entities are separate and imperishable. He gives a quick analogy at the end of (v) in order to clarify his point: lines and planes (‘incomplete magnitude’) are prior in generation.. in which he argues against separate forms. In fact. 1050b6–7. while other things cannot be without them’ are prior in ousia (and nature. then ex hypothesi. He proceeds by arguing that they have insufficient being for the separate existence that the Platonists believe them to have. 23 See Θ. The idea that the complete is prior in ousia to the incomplete is repeated in (vii). Authenticated | 68. he is now able to show why this is problematic. sensible entities. This is. 24 In support of my claim that separation is the real issue in Aristotle’s critique of Platonic mathematical objects. when Aristotle says that the complete is prior in ousia to the incomplete. if such beings exist. they will have to be prior in ousia to sensible objects.
confused mathematical solids with sensible bodies (145. What is prior in generation is less complete and posterior in ousia.27 25 Of course. Authenticated | 68.26 He makes this same point at Metaphysics 989a15–17. such as the development of an adult human being from a seed. At 1077a28–31 he states that bodies can be animate. therefore.178. However.149. but prior in ousia (relative to the undeveloped). thus providing another reason why they are more complete than mathematical objects such as lines and planes. 27 Annas maintains that this same confusion of sensible bodies with mathematical solids also weakens the eighth and ninth arguments in the M 2 series (146–147). he argues that bodies (three-dimensional objects) are posterior in generation to planes. This means that Aristotle conflates natural generation with mathematical construction when he argues here that bodies are prior in ousia to planes and lines.25 Therefore. it is not unreasonable for him to conflate these two kinds of generation here. (2) This claim that bodies are posterior in generation to lines and planes is the source of the second and third objections listed above.Aristotle’s Critique of Platonist Mathematical Objects 13 An important question remains: In what sense are mathematical objects ‘incomplete’. While one would be justified in stating that lines and planes are prior in generation (and hence posterior in ousia) to mathematical solids. 146). because they are less complete than bodies. the lines and planes from which a body is generated are ‘incomplete’ relative to the fully three-dimensional object. because they are prior in ‘generation’. one cannot claim that they are prior in generation (and posterior in ousia) to sensible bodies. Thus. and that Aristotle has. 26 See for example Metaphysics 1050a4–7. just as the seed from which a human is generated is ‘incomplete’ relative to the fullyformed human being. At Physics 261a13–14. he explains that that which is prior in the order of generation is ‘imperfect’ (ἀτελές) relative to that which is prior in the order of nature (or ousia). She concludes that the Platonists would never say that sensible bodies consist of planes in the way that mathematical solids do. At 1077a24–8. where he gives two reasons for attributing completeness to sensible objects and incompleteness to mathematical objects. when we consider the likely target of Aristotle’s critique. this is only true of natural generations. I argue below (in the discussion of the third objection) that. and planes to lines. As for the second objection: Annas argues that sensible objects are not composed of lines and planes in the same way that mathematical objects are. where he says that that which is ‘developed and combined’ (πεπεμμένον καὶ συγκεκριμένον) is posterior in generation.123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM . planes and lines cannot be animate. and in what sense are sensible objects ‘complete?’ Aristotle clarifies this in argument (vii).
55a2– 3) and ‘body’ (e. earth.149. Regardless of Plato’s intention in this text. τὸ δεύτερον σῶμα. air an octahedron. In this passage. If sensible bodies are so composed. and weightless if points are weightless.178. As is well documented in the literature.14 Emily Katz This objection rests on the assumption that because it is true that sensible bodies are different from mathematical solids. Thus. and water are generated from certain kinds of triangles. we can see that at least one Platonist (and a rather important one at that) has described a process of generation that moves from planes to solid figures to elementary bodies to sensible bodies. When these elementary bodies are bulked together. Yet in a familiar passage from the Timaeus. then clearly planes must be composed of lines and lines of points. it is likely that when Aristotle discusses the generation of sensible bodies from lines and planes in our two M 2 arguments.g. he has the Timaeus in mind. they become perceptible (56b7–c3). and every surface bounded by straight lines is composed of triangles. He further explains that earth is a cube. in turn. since he has Timaeus refer to it sometimes simply as a ‘likely story’ (τὸν εἰκότα μῦθον. since bodies have depth. he explains that if (as some maintain) bodies are composed of planes. depth is bounded by surface. would not say that they are composed of lines and planes in the way the former are. and planes will have to apply to sensible bodies as well. These triangles are the ‘originating principles of fire and of the other bodies’. ‘the first solid form’. air and water) each have one of the first four structures just described (the fifth is the structure of the whole universe). Plato shows how the five ‘solid forms’ (the regular solids) are built up from triangles. This is further supported by the fact that he mentions this dialogue by name in De Caelo III 1. earth. This passage is relevant to the discussion of our two M 2 arguments for yet another reason – one which indicates that when Aristotle blurs the line between the mathematical and the sensible Authenticated | 68.g. 29d2). but correct’ (τὸν ὀρθὸν λόγον καὶ … τὸν εἰκότα. in the course of another critique of the view that sensible bodies can be generated from planes.. hence. however. the Platonists would not treat them like mathematical solids and. air. he writes that the elementary bodies (τὰ σώματα) that include fire.. Plato has Timaeus present a view according to which sensible bodies are generated from solid figures that. 56b4). Sensible bodies become indivisible if lines are indivisible. then what applies to points. At 53c4–4b5. At 54d3–5c6. πρώτον εἶδος στερεόν.123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM . are generated from planes. and water an icosahedron (55d6–6b6). fire a tetrahedron. it is not clear how seriously committed Plato is to this view. He then explains that the four elementary bodies (fire. he uses ‘solid’ (e. This causes many problems. 55a7) interchangeably. Here. There. and sometimes has him specify that what he says is ‘not only likely. his discussion clearly and explicitly involves the construction of sensible bodies from planes. lines. ‘the second body’.
This is especially puzzling because just a few lines later.178. then the standard whereby the latter must judge what is generally accepted or not. this is simply a consequence of the view that sensible objects consist of planes. This suggests that. and must grant or refuse to grant the point asked.28 As such. Obviously he himself cannot believe both that sensible bodies are generated from lines and planes (1077a24–8) and that points. slightly modified). but only by the answerer.’ then just as in all dialectical discussion. 30–32. it is very unlikely that Aristotle simply made a mistake when he says that planes and lines are prior in generation to sensible bodies. 100b21–3. in fact. endoxa that are more widely held carry more weight than endoxa that are held (only) by the wise. trans. is himself’ (trans. planes (and lines) cannot generate anything (1077a34–5).123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM . see also Cleary (1985). this is not because he is confused about the distinction between the two realms. 29 Endoxa are opinions that are ‘accepted by everyone or by the majority or by the philosophers – by all. Pickard-Cambridge. This explains why Aristotle can use ‘ordinary beliefs’ to refute the Platonic view of separate mathematical ob- Authenticated | 68. Later in Book I (I 10. Pickard-Cambridge). or by the majority. he uses the fact that ‘nothing is seen to be capable of being put together out of planes or points’ (1077a34–5) in order to show that mathematical objects are not substances. if it is παράδοξος). Robert Bolton (1990) explains that when the questioner’s target is ‘the position of some particular individual who is to be examined from his own point of view. Aristotle adds that even if an opinion is held by a wise and notable person. he may engage in the special kind of dialectical argument that he describes in Topics VIII 5. or by the most notable and illustrious of them’ (Topics I 1.29 What makes this a special case is that this kind 28 For a discussion of this issue as it appears in De Caelo III 1.149. When he critiques the view of a particular opponent (either an individual or a group of individuals who hold a particular set of principles). It will be useful here to make a brief point about the method Aristotle employs in the arguments we are considering. It may not even be because he believes that most (or any) of the Platonists are confused in this way. Rather. At 159b25–7. it will nevertheless be unsuitable as a dialectical premise if it conflicts with what people generally believe (that is. Whether or not Aristotle does. In his discussion of this passage. both answerer and questioner are building their arguments from endoxa (received or accepted opinions). he explains that ‘if the view laid down be one that is not generally accepted (endoxon) or rejected (adoxon). 104a8–10).Aristotle’s Critique of Platonist Mathematical Objects 15 and then transfers mathematical problems to the sensible realm in the course of his critique. we might still ask why he uses this false premise in his argument. recognize that sensible bodies cannot be constructed from lines and planes in the way that mathematical solids can. in the realm of dialectical argument.
He is performing the role of questioner.16 Emily Katz of dialectical discussion is rooted in the principles that are accepted as endoxa by this particular answerer. In this reductio. where he explains: Sometimes. and is examining the position of a particular group from that group’s own point of view. when his aim is only to examine and refute a particular opponent’s view. 30 For another interesting example of this kind of argument. Pickard-Cambridge). Aristotle says that lines and planes are prior in generation to sensible objects. we should not take him to be assuming this to be true.178. also when a false proposition is put forward. such as the one described in the Timaeus. although a dialectical argument should generally be considered fallacious if any of its premises are false. Aristotle seems to have this kind of dialectical discussion in mind in Topics VIII 11. it seems that in this kind of situation. see the first argument in the M 2 series (1076b12–33). that is. and the latter because it is held by wise and notable people). but rather only from what his opponent believes to be true – which may turn out to be false. Moreover. In the M 2 series to which our two arguments belong. trans. in order to show that their view is ultimately untenable. even though both are endoxa (the former because they are widely held. it will be easier to persuade or help him (161a24–33. This means that. in this kind of dialectical argumentation. the questioner may legitimately argue from the answerer’s own false premises. Aristotle is describing a situation. it has to be demolished by means of false propositions: for it is possible for a given man to believe what is not the fact more firmly than the truth. Rather. Thus when. are not to be taken seriously. which may or may not be endoxa without qualification.123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM . the questioner might need to argue from premises that he himself does not hold to be true. the questioner need not argue from what he himself believes to be true. His opponents could claim that generations. Accordingly. in which a questioner makes an argument for the sake of testing rather than for the sake of instruction.149.30 His purpose is to test and refute a view that competes with his own ideas about the status of mathematical objects. where he explains what he takes to be the correct view. if the argument be made to depend on something that he holds. or that is a consequence of a view that they accept. he is simply starting his argument from a faulty premise that either some of his opponents might reasonably be thought to accept. His aim turns instructive in M 3. and reject the premise that sensible objects can be gener jects. in our two arguments. Aristotle finds himself in just this situation. rather than determine what the correct view might be. Aristotle uses his opponents’ premises (which he himself does not hold) in order to produce an absurd accumulation of ideal objects. Authenticated | 68. In such cases.
What we have is a natural generation of sorts.178.g. This is not the kind of generation involved in the drawing of geometrical objects. However. However. and proceed in stages towards the fully developed and complete entity. it is no mistake to conclude that what is prior in generation is posterior in ousia. is to show that it resolves certain aporiai while remaining consistent with key en- Authenticated | 68. when he aims to support one of his own views. Does argument (vii) really turn on the equivocation of these two kinds of γένεσις? It certainly seems that way. thus. mathematical construction and natural generation. just as with all such generations. or that is a consequence of a view his opponents maintain. sensible objects come to be from points. The first kind of generation is what the geometer brings about when. then this is a natural generation. g. At this point. (3) This brings us to the third objection.Aristotle’s Critique of Platonist Mathematical Objects 17 ated from planes. The statement ‘what is prior in generation is posterior in ousia’ is only true of generations that begin with something that is undeveloped and incomplete. because natural generations are teleological processes. e..123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM . This means that it is only true of natural generations. here again. and this teleological context is what grounds the priority relations between the various developmental stages of a natural generation (e. if natural. However. she constructs a plane figure by drawing lines. Yet I do not agree with Ross that this equivocation of two kinds of γένεσις ‘deprives the argument of whatever value it might otherwise have possessed’ (414). However. in which the incomplete (seed) becomes complete (man. we should consider Aristotle’s methodology before assessing the quality of his arguments. Aristotle is arguing from a false premise that his opponents could reasonably be expected to maintain. seed and man). again. it might be objected that even the idea that earlier stages in a natural generation are less complete and less perfect than later stages is an Aristotelian assumption.149.. Aristotle himself does not believe that natural. This would mean that Aristotle assumes – without proof – that what is prior in a natural generation is posterior in ousia. namely. lines. It is a mistake to claim that the lines a geometrician draws are posterior in ousia to the planes he draws. because these drawn lines are not prior in ‘natural’ generation to drawn planes. Here again. and planes. lines and planes. There is general agreement that one of Aristotle’s preferred dialectical strategies. if this is assumed to be true – and this is the premise from which he argues – then it is clear that we are no longer in the realm of geometrical drawings. Annas and Ross both claim that argument (vii) conflates two different kinds of generation. I do not see evidence here that Aristotle himself has failed to understand the difference between mathematical solids and sensible bodies. The second is a developing series in nature. tree). sensible objects come from points.
123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM . This widespread. here. but rather on widely held. he writes that if (as his opponents do) one posits separate mathematical objects. D. and if not. see W.g. and the man is the completion or perfection of the series earth-seed-boy-man. it will have been clarified well enough’ (trans. At the start of the first of the two arguments.178. 33 Annas notes this as well (144). e. 34 For discussions of the Greek view that life can be generated spontaneously (ἀπὸ ταὐτομάτου) from lifeless matter. Aristotle means something like the ‘common things’ (koina) he discusses in Sophistical Refutations 11. Aristotle signals to readers that in what follows. he will be trying to show that separate mathematical objects are impossible because they conflict with certain truths and customary beliefs. 214–17. When Aristotle states that the incomplete is prior in generation but posterior in ousia to the complete. M. and boy are all incomplete relative to the man. if we can. I place particular emphasis upon these expectations in order to show that Aristotle’s arguments here do not presuppose his own views. Nicomachean Ethics VII 1 (1145b2–7).18 Emily Katz doxa. Guthrie (1957) 39–42. thus display. it would have been simple common sense to think that developing series in nature move from the lifeless to the living. see Bolton (1990). all the views people hold (endoxa) about these ways of being affected. 32 I take it that by ‘ordinary beliefs’ here. Here is how these expectations play out. C. and a strong argument that Aristotle means ‘known by everyone’ (rather than ‘common to all subject matters’). in the series from earth to seed to boy to man. seed. and James Lennox (1982). and that the earlier stages are incomplete relative to the fully developed being. Authenticated | 68. For a discussion of koina as it is used in Sophistical Refutations 11 (and certain passages of the Rhetoric and Topics). where Aristotle writes: ‘As in other cases.32 Here. he argues that the Platonists’ position cannot be correct because it conflicts with key endoxa. it is true that for Aristotle’s contemporaries. K. Rowe). and not something proprietary to Aristotle’s system. intuitive view (that in natural series. This means that we should not expect him to be relying on beliefs that are proprietary to his own system. and.33 In addition.. In responding to the third and fourth objections to our two M 2 arguments. for if one can both resolve the difficult issues about a subject and leave people’s views (endoxa) on it undisturbed. the whole is more complete and perfect than its earlier stages) would not have required an acceptance or 31 See. we must set out what appears true about our subjects. the earth. Aristotle employs a correlative tactic (one well suited for critiquing an opponent’s view). Balme (1962) 96–104.34 For example.149. customary beliefs. we should expect that this is an ‘ordinary belief’.31 In the two arguments we are considering. such ‘common things’ are known by everyone – even by non-scientists. then ‘conclusions result which contradict truth and ordinary beliefs’ (ὅλως δὲ τοὐναντίον συμβαίνει καὶ τοῦ ἀληθοῦς καὶ τοῦ εἰωθότος ὑπολαμβάνεσθαι). the larger part of them. and the most authoritative. having first raised the problems.
only the former can be animate. then it is prior in ousia to the other. according to which living.. body alone is complete because it alone extends in every direction. because it has being in all the ways possible for a magnitude.123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM . Since the body is determined by all three dimensions.36 The putative presupposition in this case is the characterization of animate beings as most complete and. he does so in order to prevent this identification of solids with sensible objects. τὸ τέλειον) really have the same meaning. 144. (4) This naturally raises the following question: Does Aristotle presuppose his own views when he claims that the capacity to become animate is a criterion of completeness? This is the source of the fourth objection to our two M 2 arguments. complete. Yet the claim that animate beings are more complete than inanimate beings follows just as easily 35 At the beginning of De Caelo. and not that they are prior in this way to all mathematical objects.178. lines and points. among other things. nevertheless. Mathematical solids cannot be animate because. This second reason is also independent of his view that sensible substance is what is primarily real and does not necessarily rely on a developing series that begins with points and ends with bodies. He concludes that the magnitude determined by all three dimensions (i. Authenticated | 68. they prove that bodies are prior to lines and planes. 36 See Annas. Moreover. Although both sensible objects and mathematical solids are bodies.35 Thus.149. τὸ πᾶν. being applies to them in the original sense). the simple fact that the man is more complete and perfect than the boy is an ordinary belief.e. body) is most complete and perfect (τὸ τέλειον). while it is true for Aristotle that the reason the man is more complete and perfect relative to the boy involves his notions of form and final cause. when Aristotle gives the second criterion for completeness at 1077a28–9. prior in ousia to all others. sensible beings comprise what are actually ‘real’ (i. That is. However. Aristotle gives another reason for thinking that bodies are more perfect and complete than planes.. and ‘complete’ (τὰ πάντα. He explains that among magnitudes. ‘all’.Aristotle’s Critique of Platonist Mathematical Objects 19 even an understanding of Aristotle’s other views.e.. i. Aristotle explains that ‘every’. it is an ‘all’. and not just in one or two. and because it is the first number to which the term ‘all’ is applied. ideal mathematical objects are supposed to be unchanging and unmoving. it is difficult to find anything objectionable in the further claim that if something is more complete and perfect than another. perhaps sensible objects are not prior in ousia to mathematical solids.e. the capacity to be animate. The worry is that this characterization is dependent upon Aristotle’s own view of substance. He also argues that the number three is complete. One might still object that Aristotle’s arguments only show that sensible objects are prior in ousia to planes and lines. because the Pythagoreans thought that it determined the universe. namely. but since both sensible objects and mathematical solids are bodies. hence.
Since it turns out that our two much-maligned arguments escape these charges. and the seed becomes a man (which is animate).178. we have good reason to suspect that the same applies to many other arguments in M-N. (W. Annas. 65 (2) (1970): 30–4. are incorrect.P Hardie and R. and are. quite serious and acute. then it follows that animate beings are more complete than inanimate things (and also that something that has the capacity to become animate is more complete than something that does not). “The Generation of Numbers in Plato’s Parmenides.149. Aristotle’s Metaphysics Books M and N.123 Download Date | 8/29/12 1:56 AM . Trans. Bibliography Allen.K Gaye. living things develop from lifeless things (e. Oxford: Clarendon Press.g. I see no pressing reason for assuming that he relies on his own principles. and to many other arguments in Books M-N. Trans. We have seen that. As we have just seen. Princeton: Princeton University Press. in such series the earlier stages are less complete than the later stages. Two important criticisms of these arguments made by scholars.” Classical Philology. Pickard-Cambridge. although Aristotle’s own principles do produce the same result as ‘ordinary beliefs’. the arguments at 1077a14–20 and 1077a24–31 help make a strong case against the view that the objects of mathematics are separate.20 Emily Katz from the abovementioned ‘ordinary belief’ about developing series in nature. As Aristotle explains in Θ 7. The charges against these arguments are made against several others in the M 2 series to which they belong. that Aristotle misunderstands his opponents and engages in question-begging arguments. in fact. Aristotle. (1) “Physics. edited by Jonathan Barnes.” (R. taken together.. man from seed from earth). Julia. strictly speaking. rather than on ordinary beliefs in order to support the claim that the animate is more complete than (and hence prior in ousia to) the inanimate.) In The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation. Authenticated | 68. Reginald E.A.37 Here again. What we should now notice is that in these series. Princeton: Princeton University Press. (2) Topics. If a lifeless or inanimate thing is the earliest stage of the series.) In The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation. and a living or animate thing is the final stage. edited by Jonathan Barnes. it is only the seed (and not the earth) that has the capacity to become animate. although the earth does become a seed. 37 This raises a question about whether or not the earth has the capacity to become animate in the same way that the seed does (in which case the seed might not be ‘more complete’ than the earth). 1976.
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