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A) THE CONCEPT OF BEING IN OCCIDENTAL THOUGHT 1) THE CONCEPT OF BEING IN LINGUISTICS "Any linguistic study of the Greek verb be is essentially conditioned, and perhaps ultimately motivated, by the philosophic career of this word. We know what an extraordinary career it has been. It seems fair to say, with Benveniste, that the systematic development of a concept of Being in Greek philosophy from Parmenides to Aristotle, and then in a more mechanical way from the Stoics to Plotinus, relies upon the pre-existing disposition of the language to make a very general and diversified use of the verb einai. Furthermore, insofar as the notions expressed by on, einai, and ousia in Greek underlie the doctrines of Being, substance, essence, and existence in Latin, in Arabic, and in modern philosophy from Descartes to Heidegger and perhaps to Quine, we may say that the usage of the Greek verb be studied here forms the historical basis for the ontological tradition of the West, as the very term "ontology" suggests. At the same time it is generally recognized that this wide range of uses for the single verb eimi in Greek reflects a state of affairs which is "peculiar to Indo-European languages, and by no means a universal situation or a necessary condition." (1) The present monograph series on "the verb 'be' and its synonyms" shows just how far the languages of the earth may differ from one another in their expression for existence, for predication with nouns or with adjectives, for locative predication, and so forth. The topic of be can itself scarcely be defined except by reference to Indo-European verbs representing the root *es-. The question naturally arises whether an historical peculiarity of this kind can be of any fundamental importance for general linguistics and, even more pressing, whether a concept reflecting the Indo-European use of *es- can be of any general significance in philosophy." (1) Émile Benveniste - "Catégories de pensée et catégories de langue" (1958) - in: Problèmes de linguistique générale - (Paris , 1966) p. 73 From: Charles H. Kahn - The verb 'Be' in ancient Greek - Dordrecht, Reidel (1973) p. 1 (Reprinted Indianapolis, Hackett, 2003 with a new introduction) 2) THE CONCEPT OF BEING IN OCCIDENTAL PHILOSOPHY (BEFORE HEIDEGGER) "When the early Greek thinkers initiated philosophical speculation, the very first question they asked themselves was: What stuff is reality made of? Taken in itself, this question was strikingly indicative of the most fundamental need of the human mind. To understand something is for us to conceive it as identical in nature with something else that we already know. To know the nature of reality at large is therefore for us to understand that each and every one of the innumerable things which make up the universe is, at bottom, identical in nature with each and every other thing. Prompted by this unshakable conviction, unshakable because rooted in the very essence of human understanding, the early Greek thinkers successively attempted to reduce nature in general to water, then to air, then to fire, until one of them at last hit upon the right answer to the question, by saying that the primary stuff which reality is made of is being. The answer was obviously correct, for it is not at once evident that, in the last analysis, air and fire are nothing else than water, or that, conversely, water itself is nothing else than either air or fire; but it cannot be doubted that, whatever else they may be, water, air and fire have in common at least this property, that they are. Each of them is a being, and, since the same can be said of everything else, we cannot avoid the conclusion that being is the only property certainly shared in common by all that which is. Being, then, is the fundamental and ultimate element of reality. When he made this discovery, Parmenides of Elea at once carried metaphysical speculation to what was always to remain one of its ultimate limits; but, at the same time, he entangled himself in what still is for us one of the worst metaphysical difficulties. It had been possible for Parmenides' predecessors to identify nature with water, fire or
air, without going to the trouble of defining the meaning of those terms. If I say that everything is water, everybody will understand what I mean, but if I say that everything is being, I can safely expect to be asked: what is being? For indeed we all know many beings, but what being itself is, or what it is to be, is an extremely obscure and intricate question. Parmenides could hardly avoid telling us what sort of reality being itself is. In point of fact, he was bold enough to raise the problem and clear-sighted enough to give it an answer which still deserves to hold our attention." From: Étienne Gilson - Being and some philosophers - Toronto, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies - Second edition, 1952, pp. 6-7 In a first acceptation, the word being is a noun. As such, it signifies either d being (that is, the substance, nature, and essence of anything existent), or being itself, a property common to all that which can rightly be said to be. In a second acceptation, the same word is the present participle of the verb 'to be.' As a verb, it no longer signifies something that is, nor even existence in general, but rather the very act whereby any given reality actually is, or exists. Let us call this act a 'to be,' in contradistinction to what is commonly called 'a being.' It appears at once that, at least to the mind, the relation of 'to be' to 'being' is not a reciprocal one. 'Being' is conceivable, 'to be' is not. We cannot possibly conceive an 'is' except as belonging to some thing that is, or exists. But the reverse is not true. Being is quite conceivable apart from actual existence; so much so that the very first and the most universal of all the distinctions in the realm of being is that which divides it into two classes, that of the real and that of the possible. Now what is it to conceive a being as merely possible, if not to conceive it apart from actual existence? A 'possible' is a being which has not yet received, or which has already lost, its own to be. Since being is thinkable apart from actual existence, whereas actual existence is not thinkable apart from being, philosophers will simply yield to one of the fundamental facilities of the human mind by positing being minus actual existence as the first principle of metaphysics." From: Étienne Gilson - Being and some philosophers - Toronto, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies - Second edition, 1952, pp. 2-3 3) THE CONCEPT OF BEING ACCORDING TO HEIDEGGER "If for us Being is just an empty word and an evanescent meaning, then we must at least try to grasp fully this last remnant of a connection. So we ask, to begin with: 1. What sort of word is this anyway --Being -- as regards its formal character as a word? 2. What does linguistics tell us about the originary meaning of this word?To put this in scholarly terms, we are asking 1) about the grammar and 2) about the etymology of the word Being. The grammatical analysis of words is neither exclusively nor primarily concerned with their written or spoken form. It takes these formal elements as clues to definite directions and differences in direction in the possible meanings of words; these directions dictate how the words can be used within a sentence or within a larger discursive structure. (...)We can easily see that un the formation of the word Being, the decisive precursor is the infinitive 'to be.' This form of the verb is transformed into a substantive. The character of our word Being, as a word, is determined, accordingly, by three grammatical forms: verb, infinitive, and substantive. Thus our first task is to understand the meaning of these grammatical forms. Of the three we have named, verb and substantive are among those that were first recognized at the start of Western grammar and that even today are taken as the fundamental forms of words and of language in general. And so, with the question about the essence of the substantive and of the verb, we find ourselves in the midst of the question about the essence of language. For the question of whether the primordial form of the word is the noun (substantive) or the verb coincides with the question of the originary character of speech and speaking. In turn, this question entails the question of the origin of language. We cannot start by immediately going into this question. We are forced onto a detour. We will restrict ourselves in what follows to that grammatical form which provides the transitional phase in the development of the verbal substantive: the infinitive (to go, to come, to fall, to sing, to hope, to be, etc.). What does "infinitive" mean? This term is an abbreviation of the complete one: modus infinitivus, the mode of
unboundedness, of indeterminateness, regarding the manner in which a verb exercises and indicates the function and direction of its meaning. (...). Above all we must consider the fact that the definitive differentiation of the fundamental forms of words (noun and verb) in the Greek form of onoma and rhema was worked out and first established in the most immediate and intimate connection with the conception and interpretation of Being that has been definitive for the entire West. This inner bond between these two happenings is accessible to us unimpaired and is carried out in full clarity in Plato's Sophist. The terms onoma and rhema were already known before Plato, of course. But at that time, and still in Plato, they were understood as terms denoting the use of words as a whole. Onoma means the linguistic name as distinguished from the named person or thing, and it also means the speaking of a word, which was later conceived grammatically as rhema. And rhema in turn means the spoken word, speech; the rhetor is the speaker, the orator, who uses not only verbs but also onomata in the narrower meaning of the substantive. The fact that both terms originally governed an equally wide domain is important for our later point that the muchdiscussed question in linguistics of whether the noun or the verb represents the primordial form of the word is not a genuine question. This pseudo-question first arose in the context of a developed grammar rather than from a vision of the essence of language, an essence not yet dissected by grammar." From: Martin Heidegger - Introduction to metaphysics - New translation by Gregory Fried and Richard Polt - New Haven, Yale University Press, 2000, pp. 55-60 (notes omitted).
B) THE HISTORY OF THE CONCEPT OF BEING 1) HEBREW LANGUAGE: THE VERB "BE" "On the other hand, by means of the so-called noun clause the Hebrew language is much better able to express the 'static' or 'that which is' in its logical sense than the Greek and our modern languages permit with their copula and their verbs of inaction. We shall define the noun clause in agreement with Gesenius-Kautzsch, in order to be able to understand the 'being' expressed in it:Every sentence, the subject as well as the predicate of which is a noun or noun equivalent is called a noun clause, while in a verbal clause the predicate is a finite verb. This distinction is indispensable for more subtle understanding of Hebrew syntax (as of Semitics in general) because it is not merely a matter of an external, formal distinction in meaning but of one that goes to the depths of the language. The noun clause, the predicate of which is a substantive, offers something fixed, not active, in short, a 'being'; the verbal clause on the other hand asserts something moving and in flux, an event and an action. The noun clause with a participial predicate can also assert something moving and in flux, except that here the event and action is fixed as something not active and enduring, as opposed to the verbal clause. For our purpose, it is not necessary to discuss all the various kinds of noun classes, and in particular not those with participial predicates which should logically be considered as verbal clauses." (1) Friedrich Heinrich Wilhelm Gesenius (1786-1842) and Emil Friedrich Kautzsch (1841-1910) - Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar. Edited and enlarged by E. Kautzsch Translated and revised from German 28th edition by Arthur Ernest Cowley. 2nd edition, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910 - § 140 [Reprinted by Oxford University Press in 1995] From: Thorleif Boman - Hebrew thought compared with Greek - English updated translation by Jules Moreau Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1960; reprinted by W. W. Norton & Company, 2002 pp. 35-36. (some notes omitted). Original edition: Das hebräische Denken im Vergleich mit dem griechischen - Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1952 (second revised edition 1954) "What is the basic fact of 'being' for the Israelites will result from the analysis of the verb hayah that follows. A) The verb hayah: We must devote special attention to this verb not only because it occurs most frequently but also because the verbal problems discussed above are concentrated in this verb and appear in it in their most difficult form. (...) The most important meanings and uses of our verb 'to be' (and its equivalents in other Indo-
European languages) are: (1) to express being or existence; (2) to serve as a copula. Now, as we have shown above, Hebrew and the other Semitic languages do not need a copula because of the noun clause. As a general rule, therefore, it may be said that hayah is not used as a copula; real or supposed exceptions to this rule will be cited later. The characteristic mark of hayah, in distinction from our verb 'to be', is that it is a true verb with full verbal force. The majority of formal considerations as well as the actual ones lead to this conclusion: I. The peculiarity of emphasizing the verbal idea by use of the infinitive absolute before finite verbs; II. the occurrence of the passive form Niph'al; III. its frequent occurrence in parallel with other verbs whose verbal force is beyond doubt; this is so frequent an occurrence that a few examples will suffice: Jahveh hurled a great wind, and a mighty tempest was ( Jonah 1.4); God created (made, spoke) and the corresponding thing was ( Gen. 1.3, 9, 11); its parallel use with qûm = 'be realized' (Isa. 7.7; 14.24); the messengers of the king command the prophet Micaiah to prophesy safety and victory, 'Let thy word be as the word of one of them (i.e. the prophets of good fortune)', ( I Kings 22.13). The meaning of hayah is apparently manifold; hayah has thus been considered to some extent a general word which can mean everything possible and therefore designates nothing characteristic. Closer examination reveals, however, that this is not the case. It is therefore necessary to establish the many meanings and shades of meaning of hayah and to find their inner connexion. We shall use first the results of Ratschow (1) who has examined the occurrences of hayah in the Old Testament with a thoroughness hardly to be excelled and in whose work is to be found extensive evidence. He found three principal meanings: 'to become', 'to be', and 'to effect'; but these are related internally and form a unity. In the main this will be right, and it agrees with our understanding of Hebrew thought; we must object, however, to details." (1) Carl H. Ratschow - Werden und Wirken, Eine Untersuchung des wortes hajah als Beitrag zur Wirklichkeitserfassung des Alten Testaments ("Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft", 70) - Berlin, A. Töpelmann, 1941. From: Thorleif Boman - Hebrew thought compared with Greek - English updated translation by Jules Moreau Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1960; reprinted by W. W. Norton & Company, 2002 pp. 38-39. (notes omitted). Original edition: Das hebräische Denken im Vergleich mit dem griechischen - Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1952 (second revised edition 1954). "In modern biblical theology it is commonly held that the Israelites were not interested in 'existence' as distinct from active existence, action or life; and correspondingly that the language has no means of expressing mere existence. The same seems to be the opinion of Boman, who several times says that a static being is a nothing to the Israelites. It was mentioned earlier that 'the verb 'to be' as copula or existential was one of the subjects of the questionnaire circulated by Basson and O'Connor and reported on in their article. On this question they got an answer, and they report as follows: 'Semitic languages have in general no copula, but Hebrew and Assyrian both have a special word for "exists" '.1 Does this contradict the opinion I have just described?There are at least three linguistic phenomena which are relevant to the discussion of 'to be' in Hebrew:(a) The ordinary type of sentence where the copula 'is' is used in English, such as 'David is the king', 'he is the man', has no verb as copula in Hebrew. Hebrew uses the nominal sentence, which is a mere juxtaposition of the two elements 'David' and 'the king'. The nominal sentence is a very well-established feature of Semitic syntax. A common addition is the pronoun 'he' or 'she' introduced after the subject, giving the sentence 'David-he-the-king'. Since this pronoun is not indispensable and is indeed very frequently not so inserted, I think it can be neglected in a discussion of the copula. (b) The verb hayah 'to be'. This is discussed at length by Boman, and I shall later make some remarks about his treatment of it. For the present we have to make clear only the most important fact for the co-ordination of hayah with other terms corresponding to English 'to be': it is only at certain points that this verb coincides in function with 'to be as copula or existential'. In a very large number of its occurrences it will be well translated by 'come to be' or 'come to pass'. Or, conversely, English sentences using 'is' in the present tense either as copula or as
existential will seldom be rendered into Hebrew with hayah; they will much more normally use the nominal sentence, or the particle yel 'there is'. We are not on the other hand justified in removing hayah altogether from the sphere of what is relevant to English 'is' and making it equivalent (say) to English 'become'. For example, a statement like 'the earth is waste' will have the nominal sentence, and no verb; but if we put it in the past and say 'the earth was waste (and is no longer so)', then the verb hayahis used, as in Gen. I: 2. It would be quite perverse to insist on the meaning 'became' here, and so a certain overlap with 'be' has to be observed. In fact the sense of 'come to he' or 'come to pass' is not to be explained by going over to 'become' as the basic sense, but by noticing that very frequent uses have an ingressive element which with a verb meaning 'be' will lead to a sense roughly of 'come to be' or 'come to pass'. (c) The word yeš; 'there is' and the opposite 'ayin or 'en 'there is not'. This is of course the 'special word for exists ' mentioned in the report above. Boman in his discussion of 'being' does not mention this frequent and important word at all. Moreover, a considerable complication is introduced into the discussion by this word. Basson and O'Connor (1) are right in saying that it is a 'special word for 'exists', in the sense that it is not normally used as a copula in sentences like 'David is the king'. You use it in sentences like 'There is a dish on the table' or 'There is a God in heaven'. The complication to which I refer is that this word, which we might describe rather vaguely as a particle, is certainly not a verb, has some of the characteristics of the noun and may be translated 'being, existence' in a rather over-literal rendering. (...) "Now another point of some importance can be illustrated from this word. The point I wish to make is that the question whether the Israelites laid any emphasis on 'mere' existence as distinct from active existence of some kind is a different one from the question whether their language had words that could express 'mere' existence. The word yeÅ¡ can be well translated by 'there is', and as in English 'there is' we press too far if we try to find in it the expression of 'mere' existence. In fact many cases which use it have also some locality indicated: 'There is bread in my house', 'There is Yahweh in this place'. This is no doubt the 'existential' sense of 'is' as against the 'copula' type. Nevertheless 'exists' would not be a good translation in these sentences, since we would not normally say 'Bread exists in my house' or 'There exists a dish on the table'. In other words, the 'existential' use of the word 'is' does not coincide semantically with 'exists' and does not raise the problem of 'mere' existence, especially when a locality is indicated." (1) A. H. Basson, and D. J. O'Connor - Language and philosophy: some suggestions for an empirical approach Philosophy, XXII (1947) p. 59. From: James Barr - The semantics of biblical language - Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1961 - pp. 58-61 (some notes omitted). 2) GREEK LANGUAGE: ON THE MEANING OF "EINAI" AND "TO ON" "einai: to be, to exist; to on: that which is, the real; ousia: being, essence. This verb caused great philosophical difficulty to the Greeks and consequential difficulties for us. Much of the trouble arises from the fact that one can say Platôn esti - Plato exists - or Platôn esti philosophos -- Plato is a philosopher - making use of the same verb, whereas in English `Plato is' is at best an unidiomatic way of saying that he exists. This double use led some earlier Greek philosophers to think that a sentence beginning Platôn ouk esti... must deny the existence of Plato even if the next word is barbaros. This leads to translation difficulties for us, as for instance with the sentence ei ti phaneiê hoion hama on to kai mê on, to toiouton metaxu keisthai tou eilikrinôs ontos kai tou pantôs mê ontos(Plato Rep. 478d), which might be translated either as 'if something should appear such as both to have and not to have a certain predicate [we said that] such a thing would lie between being clearly of that sort and not being so at all' or as `if something should appear such that it simultaneously exists and does not exist [we said that] such a thing would lie between clearly existing and not existing at all'. It was presumably these difficulties that led Parmenides
to say such things as khrê to legein to noein t'eon emmenai esti gar einai, mêden d'ouk estin - that of which one can speak and think must be: for it is possible for it, but not for nothing, to be (Parmenides in Simplicius, Physics 117.4). In an impersonal use esti frequently means `it is possible' as in estin adikounta mêpô adikon einai - it is possible to do what is unjust without being an unjust person (Aristotle N.E. 1134a 17), and in the quotation from Parmenides above. There are also adverbial expressions such as estin hote, sometimes, and estin hôs, in some ways.". "on: to on,in the widest sense, is everything that is and, as such, is contrasted with to mê on, that which is not; in a narrower use to on, sometimes called for clarity to ontôs on, the really real, is unchanging and imperishable and eternal, and is contrasted with the gignomenon that is changing and perishable. In the dispute between Parmenides and the atomists it is hard to doubt that to mê on as the non-existent is confused with empty space: oute gar an gnoiês to ge mê on: ou gar anuston -- you cannot know that which is not; it is impossible (Parmenides, fr. 2); ouden gar estin ê estai allo parex tou eontos -- nothing other than what is either is or will be (Parmenides, fr. 8). But Simplicius reports Leucippus as saying ouden mallon to on ê to mê on huparkhein -- there is that which is no more than that which is not (Simplicius, Physics 28.12); here to mê on seems to be the kenon, void; cf. the den of Democritus. In the narrower use, to men pantelôs on pantelôs gnôston -- the completely real is completely knowable (Plato Rep. 477a); ei gar panta to onta tou agathou ephietai, dêlon hoti to prôtôs agathon epekeina esti tôn ontôn -- for if everything that is aims at the good, it is clear that the primary good transcends things that are (Proclus, Elements of Theology 8); to gar houtôs on proteron têi phusei tou gignomenou esti - that which is in this [narrow] way is prior in its nature to the becoming (Simplicius, Physics 1337.4)." From: James Opie Urmson - The Greek philosophical vocabulary - London, Duckworth 1990 pp. 49-50 and 117. "on ónta (pl.): being, beings. 1. The question of the nature of being first arose in the context of Parmenides' series of logical dichotomies between being and nonbeing (me on): that which is, cannot not be; that which is not, cannot be, i.e., a denial of passage from being to nonbeing or genesis (q.v.; fr. 2) , and its corollary, a denial of change and motion (fr. 8, lines 26-33, 42-50; for the theological correlatives of this, see nous 2). Secondly, being is one and not many (fr. 8, lines 22-25) . And finally, the epistemological premiss: only being can be known or named; nonbeing cannot (fr. 3; fr. 8, line 34); see doxa. Being, in short, is a sphere (fr. 8, lines 42-4g) . Most of the later pre-Socratics denied this latter premiss (cf. stoicheion and atomon), as did Plato for whom the really real (to ontos on) were the plural eide, and who directed the latter half of the Parmenides (137b-166c) against it. 2. The solution to the nonbeing dilemma (for its epistemological solution, see doxa and heteron) and the key to the analysis of genesis began with Plato's positing of space (see hypodoche) in which genesis takes place, and which stands midway between true being and nonbeing (Tim. 52a-c). For Plato, as for Parmenides, absolute nonbeing is nonsense (Sophist 238c), but there is a relative grade illustrated not only by the Receptacle cited above, but by sensible things (aistheta) as well (Sophist 240b; Timaeus. 35a, 52c). Among the Platonic hierarchy of Forms, there is aneidos of being; indeed it is one of the most important Forms that pervade all the rest (Sophist 254b-d; compare this with the peculiar nature of on in Aristotle, Metaphysics 1003a) . Further, Plato distinguishes real beings (ontos onta) from those that have genesis, and in Timaeus 28a he works out an epistemological-ontological correlation: onta are known by thought (noesis) accompanied by a rational account (logos); generated beings are grasped by opinion (or judgment, see doxa) based on sensation (aisthesis). 3. Since being is the object of the science of metaphysics (Metaphysics 1031a) Aristotle's treatment of on is much more elaborate. The first distinction is between "being qua being" (to on he on), which is the object of metaphysics, and individual beings (onta), which are the objects of the other sciences. This is the view in Metaphysics 1003a, but Aristotle is not consistent on the point: elsewhere (see Metaphysics 1026a; Physics 192a, 194b; De an. 403b) he states that metaphysics studies being that is separate and unmoving (see theologia). Again, 'being' is peculiar in that it is defined not univocally or generically, but analogously through all the categories (Metaphysics 1003a) , and in this it is like 'one' (hen) (Metaphysics 1053b ) and 'good' (agathon) ( ibid.
Nichomachean Ethics I, 1096b ) ; see katholou. There follows a basic distinction (ibid. 1017a-b): something 'is' either accidentally, or essentially, or epistemologically, or in the dichotomy act (energeia) / potency (dynamis). The epistemological 'being' (see doxa) is dealt with elsewhere ( see Metaphysics 1027b-1028a, 1051a-1152a), as is potency/act (see Metaphysics Theta passim), so Aristotle here concentrates his attention on what 'is' essentially. It is something that falls within the ten kategoriai (Metaphysics 1017a) and is, primarily, substance (ousia; ibid. 1028a-b). A somewhat different point of view emerges from Aristotle's breakdown of the various senses of nonbeing (me on) in Metaphysics 1069b and 1089a: something is not either as a negative proposition, i.e., a denial of one of the predicates, or as a false proposition, or finally, kata dynamin, i.e., by being something else only potentially but not actually. It is from this latter that genesis comes about ( see also dynamis, energeia, steresis) . 4. In the Plotinian universe the One (hen) is beyond being (Enneads V, 9, 3; compare Plato's description of the Good beyond Being in Republic 509b and see hyperousia). The realm of being begins on the level of nous since both being and nous are contained in nous (ibid. V, 5, 2; V, 9, 7). Nonbeing is treated in much the Platonic and Aristotelian fashion: matter (hyle) that is only a replica (eikon) of being is only quasi-being ( Enneads I, 8, 3). Philo, with his strongly developed feeling of divine transcendence (see hyperousia), restricts true being to God alone (Quod deterius potiori insidiari soleat. 44., 160) , arid introduces into the discussion the metaphysical interpretation of the famous phrase in Exodus 3, 14: 'I am who am'; see hypodoche, hyle, genesis." From: Francis Edwards Peters - Greek philosophical terms. A historical lexicon - New York, New York University Press, 1967 pp. 141-142. "There can be no doubt that Parmenides' Goddess's philosophy course is concerned with 'being.' But saying this is not saying anything. In Greek, as in Spanish [or English], 'to be' is a verb and, like any verb it can be used as a noun, and then we can speak of 'being' (used as a noun). But this verbal noun is essentially different in Greek than it is in other languages, and so we cannot ignore the problem. This specificity is one of the results of the flexibility of the Greek language, which permits all kinds of juggling. E. Benveniste wrote that "the linguistic structure of Greek created the predisposition for the notion 'to be' to have a philosophical vocation." (1) Indeed, the use of the verb 'to be' as a noun absolutely does not mean what Philosophers call 'being' (the noun). To use an infinitive as a noun in Spanish it must be preceded by an article, in this case 'el' ['the']. Then the infinitive 'ser"'['to be'] becomes 'el ser' ['the being'] used as a noun, in Greek 'tò eînai.' However, this formula never figured among the concerns of the Greek philosophers. No Greek philosopher who inquired into what today we might call 'the being of things,' or even 'certain types of beings,' including the supreme being, ever asked 'what is tò eînai?' literally 'what is being?' As we know, especially since the Aristotelian systemization, the formula used by all Greek philosophers to ask the question of being is tí esti tò ón (to eon in Parmenides), 'What is being?' 'Tò eon' is the present participle of the verb to be, used as a noun. The difficulty of grasping the scope of this neuter present participle (since there is also a masculine and a feminine present participle) has always given rise to all kinds of misunderstandings, since its use as a noun, represented by the neuter article 'tó,' is deceptive, and so Parmenides avoids it whenever he can. Indeed, just as verbal-noun infinitives always have a dynamic character, something similar occurs with the participle tò on, which as a present participle means that which is being,' that which engages in the act of being now. In all that I have said up till now, philosophy is absent: I have only summarized, perhaps too superficially, what Benveniste calls 'un fait de langue,"' (2) a fact about Greek simply as a language. It is upon this linguistic fact that Parmenides reflects. In Greek the word for 'things' is ónta. Even in current everyday language, things are 'beings,' 'something(s) that is (are),' 'that which is being.' Philosophy has not yet come into it: that's the way the Greek language is. But why do we call something that is a 'being'? Because the fact of being manifests itself in that which is; if there is that which is, then the fact of being is assumed. Without the fact of being, there would not be things that are. This sort of platitude will constitute the nucleus of Parmenides' philosophy. And that is the reason why his thinking starts from an analysis of the notion of the fact of being, arrived at from the evidence that 'is' is occurring. If there is something undeniable for anyone who is, it is 'is.' If Greek syntax allowed the formula, we could say, with R. Regvald, that the basic question would be 'tí esti ésti,'
'What is 'is'?" (1) Emile Benveniste, Problèmes de linguistique générale - Paris, Gallimard, 1959 p. 73 (2) ibid. p. 71 note 1. From: Néstor-Luis Cordero - By Being, It Is. The thesis of Parmenides - Las Vegas, Parmenides Publishing, 2004 pp. 59-60 (some note omitted). "It is an understatement to claim that `being' is one of the central concepts of ancient Greek metaphysics. Unfortunately, there is a split between contemporary commentators as to what is under discussion when being is the topic. On one side are those who think that these discussions are basically about existence; what exists, the various sorts of existence, what can be inferred from the fact that something exists, etc. On the other side are those who believe that these discussions are investigations into the nature of predication; of being something or other, the various ways a thing can be what it is, what can be inferred from the fact that a thing is something or other, etc. Obviously these are two quite different topics. For example, on the existence interpretation, as I shall call it, one of Parmenides' main points is that we cannot (meaningfully) speak of what does not exist. His mistake is to think that words and phrases which purport to refer but which do not refer are meaningless. On the predication approach, Parmenides is correctly pointing out that we cannot speak about nothing (what is not anything at all) and still be speaking. His mistake is to confuse not being something or other with not being anything at all. (1) On the existence interpretation, it is perhaps fair to say that Plato's distinction between real being and a lesser sort is a distinction between kinds of existence. On the predication approach, it is a distinction between really being this or that and being in a way or qualifiedly this or that. One's view of Greek metaphysics is going to be strongly influenced by which approach one takes. A little can be said about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two approaches without getting into the details where, as we all know, the devil dwells. In philosophical discussions of being we frequently find the Greek, 'èsti', occurring without a completion. On the predication approach, sentences of the form, 'x is', are understood as meaning much the same as, 'x is something or other', in the way that, 'x sees', means much the same as, 'x sees something or other'. Furthermore, 'x is something or other', is understood as different in meaning from, 'x exists'. For example, Centaurs do not exist but they are mythical creatures, discussed, thought of and sometimes believed in. Thus, they are something or other though they do not exist. The problem for the predication approach is that there is no unambiguous use of, 'x is', to mean, 'x is something or other', in ordinary Greek. Such sentences can, however, mean, 'x exists'. This is a significant point in favor of the existence reading. This would probably be the end of the story were it not for the fact that in the metaphysical texts in question examples are given or inferences are drawn which make it clear that predication is in some way involved. For example, in the Theaetetus, 152 a ff., Socrates introduces Protagoras' relativism as follows: "Man is the measure of all things - of the things that are that they are and of the things that are not that they are not." Though an existential reading is perfectly natural, it is all but contradicted by what follows. Socrates illustrates the quoted dictum by pointing out that a wind may be chilly to one person and not chilly to another, i. e., that a thing may be thus and so to one person and not be that to another. Existence seems not to be in question. The strength of the predication approach stems from the fact that frequently the philosophical texts in question require us to somehow understand the verb,'ésti', as the copula. (1) Mohan Matthen, "Greek Ontology and the 'Is' of Truth", presents and defends what is perhaps the most detailed and well worked out existence approach in the literature.(2) After pointing out that Greek philosophers sometimes use the verb, 'einai', in such a way that it seems to express both existence and predication, he presents an interesting account of this phenomenon which allows us to read absolute occurrences of the verb as neither the copula nor as (con)fused but as meaning simply, 'exists'. The assimilation of these occurrences to the copula is achieved by arguing that speakers of ancient Greek were committed to the existence of a type of entity which is unfamiliar to us and which he calls a 'predicative complex'. (3) (1) Richard J. Ketchum "Parmenides in What There Is", Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 20/2 (1990), 167-190. (2) "Greek Ontology and the 'Is' of Truth", Phronesis, 28/2 (1983), 113-135.
(3) Matthen sometimes writes as if his thesis is restricted to philosophical Ancient Greek as opposed to Ancient Greek generally. For example, the task he sets for himself is to explain why Greek Ontologists accepted some principles which he in turn uses to account for the apparent ambiguity (p. 116). I shall assume here, however, that this thesis is intended to cover Ancient Greek generally. Greek ontologists other than Aristotle were at least sometimes writing for the general public. If the principles in question were accepted only by the ontologists, the various uses of 'shat' would have been as confusing to the ancient Greek as they are to us. If we restricted the thesis to ontologists, we would also need some explanation as to why the ontologists assumed principles of which the ordinary Greek was unaware. From: Richard J. Ketchum "Being and existence in Geek ontology" Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 80, (1998) p. 321-322 3) FROM GREEK TO LATIN: SENECA'S EPISTLE 58 ("THE LETTER ON BEING") "How scant of words our language is, nay, how poverty-stricken, I have not fully understood until today. We happened to be speaking of Plato, and a thousand subjects came up for discussion, which needed names and yet possessed none; and there were certain others which once possessed, but have since lost, their words because we were too nice about their use. (...) You will say, I suppose: 'What is the purpose and meaning of this preamble?' I shall not keep you in the dark; I desire, if possible, to say the word essentia to you and obtain a favourable hearing. If I cannot do. this, I shall risk it even though it put you out of humour. I have Cicero as authority for the use of this word, and I regard him as a powerful authority. If you desire testimony of a later date, I shall cite Fabianus, careful of speech, cultivated, and so polished in style that lie will suit even our nice tastes. For what can we do, my dear Lucilius? How otherwise call we find a word for that, which the Greeks call ousia, something that is indispensable, something that is the natural substratum of everything? I beg you accordingly to allow me to use this word essentia. I shall nevertheless take pains to exercise the privilege, which you have granted me, with as sparing a hand as possible; perhaps I shall be content with the mere right. Yet what good will your indulgence do me, if, lo and behold, I can in no wise express in Latin the meaning of the word which gave me the opportunity to rail at the poverty of our language? And you will condemn our narrow Roman limits even more, when you find out that there is a word of one syllable which I cannot translate. 'What is this ?' you ask. It is the word on. You think me lacking in facility; you believe that the word is ready to hand, that it might be translated by quod est. I notice, however, a great difference; you are forcing me to render a noun by a verb. But if I must do so, I shall render it by quod est. There are six ways in which Plato expresses this idea, according to a friend of ours, a man of great learning, who mentioned the fact today. And I shall explain all of them to you, if I may first point out that there is something called genus and something called species." From: Seneca - Ad Lucilium. Epistulae morales - With an English translation by Richard M. Gummere - London William Heinemann, 1953 ( Loeb Classical Library) pp. 387; 389-391).
RELATED PAGES Selected bibliography on the concept of Being Aristotle and the Science of Being qua Being The Vocabulary of Ontology: Introductory remarks Substance Truth
Aristotle and the Science of Being qua Being Ancient and modern interpretations Selected bibliography
INTRODUCTION Aristotle gives four definitions of what is now called metaphysics: wisdom, first philosophy, theology and science of being qua being. The purpose of this page is to present some of the most important interpretations, ancient and contemporary, of the definition of a science of being qua being. The main points that will be developed are the following: A panorama of current interpretations; A discussion of the authenticity of the Book Kappa (XI) of Aristotle's Metaphysics; Citations from the most important Greek and Latin Commentators about Aristotle's definition of a science of Being qua Being; A brief presentation of the theory of reduplication (qua-theory): An annotated bibliography of contemporary research. "The books of Aristotle's Metaphysics are standardly referred to by their Greek numbering, i.e. by the letters of the Greek alphabet, because of the anomaly that after book I there comes a short book labeled, as it were, not `I' but 'i'. Translators have often called this 'book II', so that the following book is then called 'book III' in English, though in the Greek it is unambiguously entitled `B', which means `II'. This creates confusion, which is avoided by using the Greek numbering throughout. For those unfamiliar with the Greek alphabet, here are the relevant letters, and the confusing `translation' of them into Roman numerals, which is found in translations of the Metaphysics but nowhere else: Α α Β Γ Δ Ε Ζ Η Θ Ι Κ Λ M Ν I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X XI XII XIII XIV This peculiar numbering reflects a more important fact about the books themselves, namely that they do not form a single and well organized whole, and one should not think of them as intended for publication as they stand. Aristotle clearly did mean there to be a connected series of books which we could call his 'Metaphysics' but the writings that have come down to us under that title contain much that would have been either abandoned or reformed in a final version. For example, book a, which is an alternative introduction, would surely have found no place at all; book A would certainly have been pruned of the material in the first half of chapter 9 (which reappears almost unchanged in chapters 4-5 of book M), and probably of other material in consequence. There is no book of the existing Metaphysics of which one can confidently say that it would have figured in the final version just as it now is." From: Aristotle Metaphysics. Books Z and H - Translated with a commentary by David Bostock - Oxford, Clarendon Press 1994 p. IX.
ARISTOTLE'S TEXTS ON BEING QUA BEING The sentence ὂν ἢ ὀν (Being qua Being) is used only in the books IV, VI and XI of the Metaphysics. References are made to: Aristotle - Metaphysics - Text and Commentary - Edited and translated by W. D. Ross Oxford University Press 1924, corrected edition 1953.
ARISTOTLE'S METAPHYSICS IN A NUTSHELL "What were Aristotle's metaphysical contentions, and what is Aristotle's Metaphysics? The latter question is the easier. The work, as . we now have it, divides into fourteen books of unequal length and complexity. Book Alpha is introductory: it articulates the notion of a science of the first principles or causes of things, and it offers a partial history of the subject. The second book, known as "Little Alpha," is a second introduction, largely methodological in content. Book Beta is a long sequence of puzzles or aporiai: possible answers are lightly sketched, but the book is programmatic rather than definitive. Book Gamma appears to start on the subject itself: it characterizes something which it calls "the science of being qua being" -- and it then engages in a discussion of the principle of non-contradiction. Next, in book Delta, comes Aristotle's "philosophical lexicon": some forty philosophical terms are explained and their different senses shortly set out and illustrated. Book Epsilon is brief: it returns to the science of being qua being, and also passes some remarks on truth. Books Zeta, Eta and Theta hang together, and together they form the core of the Metaphysics. Their general topic is substance: its identification, its relation to matter and form, to actuality and to potentiality, to change and generation. The argument is tortuous in the extreme, and it is far from clear what Aristotle's final views on the subject are -- if indeed he had any final views. The following book, Iota, concerns itself with the notions of unity ('oneness') and identity. Book Kappa consists of a resumé of Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon and of parts of the Physics. In book Lambda, we return to the study of beings and of first principles: the book contains Aristotle's theology, his account of the 'unmoved movers', which are in some sense the supreme entities in his universe. Finally, Books XIII and XIV turn to the philosophy of mathematics, discussing in particular the ontological status of numbers." From: Jonathan Barnes (ed.) - Cambridge Companion to Aristotle - Cambridge, Cambridge University Press 1995.Chapter 3 - Metaphysics - by Jonathan Barnes - pp. 66-67. "Aristotle can fairly be said to be the founder of metaphysics as a separate discipline, as well as one of the most influential theorists of metaphysics. (...) Aristotle was not the first philosopher to concern himself with metaphysical issues, but he was the first to study metaphysics systematically and to lay out a rigorous account of ontology. (...) In the Metaphysics Aristotle subjects to scrutiny his own metaphysical principles. Our word 'metaphysics' itself derives form the expedient of early editors of Aristotle who, not knowing what to call his books on first principles, called them META TA PHYSIKA, the material after the physical enquiries. Whether the fourteenth books of the Metaphysics are a unity or a collection of disparate treatises is a matter of serious debate. Aristotle clearly recognizes a special study corresponding to metaphysics which he calls variously wisdom, first philosophy, and theology. But the books of the Metaphysics seem to present different conception of what metaphysics is. In Book I Aristotle identifies wisdom with knowledge of the ultimate causes and principles, which he identifies as the four causes. Book IV makes metaphysics an enquiry into the causes of being qua being, an enquiry made possible by the fact that all senses of being are related to a single central notion, the notion of substance. Book VI argues that the highest science must study the highest genus of substance, which is the divine, and hence this science must be theology. Of course, it is not surprising that metaphysics should take in studies of causation, of ontology (the study of the basic entities in the world), and what was later called special metaphysics (the study of special kinds of beings, e.g. God and the soul); but precisely how these enquiries were related in Aristotle's mind remain obscure." From: Hans Burkhardt & Barry Smith (eds.) - Handbook of Metaphysics and Ontology - Philosophia Verlag GMBH - Munchen 1991 - Aristotle - by Daniel W. Graham - in: vol. I - pp. 50-52
NEW HYPOTHESIS ABOUT THE TITLE METAPHYSICS In an essay published in 1954 (see bibliography), Hans Reiner proposed a new interpretation of the origins of the title of Aristotle's book. His hypothesis is summarized by Takatura Ando in: Metaphysics. A critical survey of its meaning - The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff. pp. 4-5.
"According to Reiner, it would have been a quite arbitrary procedure to christen the science, which Aristotle himself called the first philosophy, and Theophrastus the first theology, with a name derived by chance from the mere editorial sequence of the work. The interpretations of this book by Alexander of Aphrodisias and by Asclepius, on which modern scholars like Brandis, Zeller, and Bonitz base the above mentioned hypothesis [that the title is due to Andronicus of Rhodes], tell us in reality that the book was called ta meta ta fisika, because it came after the physical sciences. Rather then mentioning anything about its origin from Andronicus' arbitrary arrangement, Alexander and Asclepius said that the order was taxix proz hmaz. Anyone who has learned a little about Aristotle's philosophy must know that prox emax usteron is the contradictory opposite of prox emax proteron, which on its side, is the contrary of fusei proteron. Metaphysics is posterior to physical sciences in the order in which we learn things, and this is consistent with calling metaphysics prote filosofia, first philosophy, i.e. prior in the order of being. (...) The name metaphysica , Rainer proceeds, cannot be found even in Diogenes Laertius, the oldest catalogue of Aristotle's works. The first person to use this title if Nicolaus of Damascus, who lived in the latter half of the first century B.C. In a commentary on Theophrastus metaphysics -- this book had also originally another name -- we find that Nicolaus of Damascus wrote a book on Aristotle's meta ta fusica. (...) Though as we have already said we cannot find it [metaphysics] in the list of Diogenes Laertius, it seems very probable that it was included in an earlier list -- that of Hermippus (ca. 200 B.C.) -- and was by some chance dropped from the list of Diogenes. According to Howald, Ariston of Ceus who was master of the Peripatetic school fro 228-5 B.C. made a list of philosophical works before Hermippus and Diogenes presumably used this when he made his list. The origin of the name metaphysics, thus traced back to one century after Aristotle's death, might be safely conjectured to reflect the sequence which Aristotle himself followed. (...) Eudemus, Aristotle's immediate disciple, the author of the History of Theology, and the first editor of his teacher's works, is supposed by Reiner to have invented the name ta meta ta fusica."
N.B. The bibliographical references of the works cited can be found in the second part: Selected bibliography THE DEBATE ABOUT THE EVOLUTION OF ARISTOTLE'S THOUGHT "For most of this century, Aristotelian scholarship was dominated by a single question: how might Aristotle's intellectual development be used to shed light on his philosophical doctrines? Opinions differed widely as to how this growth might be charted; eventually, a reaction to the whole enterprise set in. The past thirty years have seen the question lose its prominence as scholars returned to studying the corpus without Aristotle's development as a primary concern. Recently, the question of the Aristotle's philosophical development has been reopened. Two books in particular, Daniel Graham's Aristotle's Two Systems (Oxford, 1987) and John Rist's The Mind of Aristotle: A Study in Philosophic Growth (Toronto, 1989), have advanced comprehensive developmental accounts of the whole of Aristotle's thought. Together they may signal a renewed interest in developmentalism, and offer philosophers an opportunity to assess the problems and prospects facing any such revival. (...) For fifty years after it was first raised, to little notice by Oxford professor Thomas Case (Case 1910), then resoundingly by Werner Jaeger in a groundbreaking study two years later (Jaeger 1912), scholars devoted themselves to the question of Aristotle's growth as a thinker. Jaeger's 1912 study concentrated on the development of Aristotle's Metaphysics; in 1923, he furnished a comprehensive account of the whole of Aristotle's growth, which revolutionized the study of the philosopher (Jaeger 1923; all references are to the 1948 second English edition except as noted). The main points of his thesis are familiar (though perhaps no longer familiar enough: see Code 1996). Aristotle began his philosophical career as a follower of Plato and only later, after a long transitional period, emerged into philosophical maturity as the opponent of Platonic forms and the investigator of empirical nature and living things. Much of Jaeger's evidence for the early Aristotle came from fragments of the literary remains, many of which had been regarded as spurious before his work. He then turned to works often regarded as assemblages of independent
lectures or smaller pieces (the Metaphysics and Politics in particular) and to the three ethical treatises that have come down to us under Aristotle's name. Using these works he constructed a picture of Aristotle's development in which Aristotle moved toward an increasing independence from Plato. He then sought parallels with doctrines in other works not held to be internally inconsistent. So, for instance, his contention that Aristotle's empiricism came late in his career led to his assigning the biological works to the Lyceum period. Almost immediately, the genetic question came to dominate Aristotelian scholarship (see Chroust 1963, also A. Mansion 1927). (...) Cherniss (1944) argued forcefully that, given Aristotle's constant revision of his lectures until the end of his life and the clear programmatic connections between many of them, interpreters are compelled to take his doctrines as a unified whole. Others sought to dismiss Jaeger's approach as being simply the product of positivist or historicist dogmas popular in Germany at the turn of the century. Gradually, Jaeger found himself with fewer and fewer supporters for his version of the developmental thesis. Probably the decisive challenges came in the work of Düring and Owen. During (1956, 1966a, 1966b) argued that Aristotle was from the beginning opposed to Plato and his transcendental view of reality. His growing interest in natural science developed, in turn, under the influence of Aristotle's own gifted pupil and eventual successor, Theophrastus. Owen's analysis (.1960, 1965) was yet more influential. Owen argued that early in his career Aristotle issued an uncompromising rejection of Platonic metaphysics and the corresponding master science of dialectic. Later, a pivotal insight into how we refer to one thing by means of another -- the now famous doctrine of 'pros hen equivocity" of 'focal meaning' -- prompted him to make room for a universal science of Being after all. In effect 'the Platonism of Aristotle' was more complex that Jaeger had pictured it (and perhaps more so than Owen thought -- see Code 1996)." From: William Wians (ed.) - Aristotle's philosophical development: problems and prospects - Lanham, Rowman Littelfield Publishers, Inc. 1996. - Introduction by William Wians, pp. IX-XI. "Turning to Aristotle's own works, we immediately light upon a surprise: Aristotle began his extant scientific works during Plato's lifetime. By a curious coincidence, in two different works he mentions two different events as contemporary with the time of writing, one in 357 and the other in 356. In the Politics (V 10, 1312b10), he mentions as now (nun) Dion's expedition to Sicily, which occurred in 357. In the Meteorologica (III 1, 371a30), he mentions as now (nun) the burning of the temple at Ephesus, which occurred in 356. To save his hypothesis of late composition, Zeller resorts to the vagueness of the word "now" (nun). But Aristotle is graphically describing isolated events and could hardly speak of events of 357 and 356 as happening "now" in or near 335. Moreover, these two works contain further proofs that they were both begun earlier than this date. The Politics (II 20) mentions as having happened lately (neosti) the expedition of Phalaecus to Crete, which occurred towards the end of the Sacred War in 346. The Meteorologica (III 7) mentions the comet of 341. It is true that the Politics also mentions much later events, e.g., the assassination of Philip, which took place in 336 (V 10, 1311b1-3). Indeed, the whole truth about this great work is that it remained unfinished at Aristotle's death. But what of that? The logical conclusion is that Aristotle began writing it as early as 357, and continued writing it in 346, in 336, and so on till he died. Similarly, he began the Meteorologica as early as 356 and was still writing it in 341. Both books were commenced some years before Plato's death; both were works of many years; both were destined to form parts of the Aristotelian system of philosophy. It follows that Aristotle, from early manhood, not only wrote dialogues and didactic works, surviving only in fragments, but also began some of the philosophical works that are still parts of his extant writings. He continued these and no doubt began others during the prime of his life. Having thus slowly matured his separate writings, he was the better able to combine them more and more into a system, in his last years. No doubt, however, he went on writing and rewriting well into the last period of his life; for example, the recently discovered Athenaion Politeia mentions on the one hand (c. 54) the archonship of Cephisophon (329-328), on the other hand (c. 46) triremes and quadriremes but without quinqueremes, which first appeared at Athens in 325-324; and as it mentions nothing later it probably received its final touches between 329 and 324. But it may have been begun long before and received additions and changes. However early Aristotle began a book, so long as
he kept the manuscript, he could always change it. Finally, he died without completing some of his works, such as the Politics, and notably that work of his whole philosophic career and foundation of his whole philosophy -- the Metaphysics -- which, projected in his early criticism of Plato's philosophy of universal forms, gradually developed into his positive philosophy of individual substances, but remained unfinished after all. On the whole, then, Aristotle was writing his extant works very gradually for some thirty-five years (357-322), like Herodotus (IV 30) contemplated additions, continued writing them more or less together, not so much successively as simultaneously, and had not finished writing at his death. There is a curious characteristic connected with this gradual composition. An Aristotelian treatise frequently has the appearance of being a collection of smaller discourses (logoi), as, for example, K. L. Michelet has remarked. This is obvious enough in the Metaphysics: it has two openings (Books Α and α); then comes a nearly consecutive theory of being (Β, Γ, Ε, Ζ, Η, Θ), but interrupted by a philosophical lexicon Δ; afterwards follows a theory of unity (Ι); then a summary of previous books and of doctrines from the Physics (Κ); next a new beginning about being and, what is wanted to complete the system, a theory of God in relation to the world (Λ); finally, a criticism of mathematical metaphysics (Μ, Ν), in which the argument against Plato (Α 9) is repeated almost word for word (Μ 4-5). The Metaphysics is clearly a compilation formed from essays or discourses; and it illustrates another characteristic of Aristotle's gradual method of composition. It refers back to passages "in the first discourses" (en tois protois logois) -- an expression not uncommon in Aristotelian writings. Sometimes the reference is to the beginning of the whole treatise; e.g., Metaph. B 2, 997b3-5, referring back to Α 6 and 9 about Platonic forms. Sometimes, on the other hand, the reference only goes back to a previous part of a given topic, e.g., Metaph. Θ 1, 1045b27-32, referring back to Ζ 1, or at the earliest to Γ 2. On either alternative, however, 'the first discourses' mentioned may have originally been a separate discourse; for Book Γ begins quite fresh with the definition of the science of being, long afterwards called 'Metaphysics,' and Book Ζ begins Aristotle's fundamental doctrine of substance." From: Thomas Case - Aristotle - Encyclopedia Britannica (1910) vol. 2 p. 506-507 [Reprinted In Wians (ed.) Aristotle's philosophical development: problems and prospects - Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield, 1996]. "This book, being at once treatise and monograph, demands a brief word of explanation. It does not seek to give a systematic account, but to analyse Aristotle's writings so as to discover in them the half obliterated traces of his mental progress. Its biographical framework is intended merely to make more palpable the fact that his previously undifferentiated mass of compositions falls into three distinct periods of evolution. Owing to the meagerness of the material the picture that we thus obtain is of course fragmentary; yet its outlines constitute a distinctly clearer view of Aristotle's intellectual nature and of the forces that inspired his thinking. Primarily, this is a gain to the history of philosophical problems and origins. The author's intention is, however, not to make a contribution to systematic philosophy, but to throw light on the portion of the history of the Greek mind that is designated by the name of Aristotle. Since 1916 I have repeatedly given the results of these researches as lectures at the universities of Kiel and Berlin; even the literary form, with the exception of the conclusion, was established in essentials at that time. The literature that has since appeared is not very important for Aristotle himself anyhow, and I have noticed it only so far as I have learnt something from it or am obliged to contradict it. The reader will look in vain for the results even of earlier researches so far as they concern merely unimportant changes of opinion or of form; such matters have nothing to do with development. Still less has my purpose been to analyse all Aristotle's writings for their own sake and to complete a microscopic examination of all their stages. The aim was solely to elucidate in its concrete significance, by means of evident examples, the phenomenon of his intellectual development as such." From: Werner Jaeger - Aristotle. Fundamentals of the history of his development - Oxford, Clarendon Press 1948. Preface to the German edition (1923): "It can be shown, however, that even the earlier version of the introduction (Κ 1-8) is not the original form of the
Metaphysics. We have seen that in Κ 1-8 metaphysics is described as the science of that which is unmoved and eternal and transcendent. We also find there, however, the definition of it as the science of being as such (Î¿Î1/2 á1/4 á1/2?Î1/2), though not developed, as it is in the later version, into a science of the manifold meanings of being including the perceptible being of movable nature. This combination of the two definitions in K 1-8 is a serious difficulty, and becomes only too painfully obvious in the later version of E, which in its present revised form is meant to introduce the science of the manifold meanings of being. Since the earlier and the later versions do not differ in this respect, but only in the extension that they assign to the notion of being, we shall not fall into error if we use them both together in what follows. In E 1 ( = K 7 ) Aristotle explains what he understands by a science of being as such. All sciences inquire into certain causes and principles of things. As examples he mentions medicine and gymnastics, and-to take one with a more developed method mathematics, i.e. the examples usual in Plato's theory of science and method. Each of these sciences marks off systematically a definite sphere of reality and a definite genus and studies the resulting limited complex of facts. None of them discusses the being of its object; they all either presuppose it on the ground of experience, as do natural science and medicine; or, like mathematics with its axioms, they start from particular definitions. Their demonstrations, which differ from each other only in degree of accuracy, deal solely with the properties and functions following from these definitions or from facts evident to sense. The metaphysician, on the other hand, inquires about being precisely as being. He examines the presuppositions of these sciences, of which they themselves are neither willing nor able to give an account. Aristotle supplements this explanation at the beginning of Book E 1 ( = K 3), where he brings out even more fully and clearly the distinction between first philosophy as universal science and the special sciences, between being as such and its particular realms. Here he treats being not as a sort of object separate and distinct from others, but as the common point of reference for all states, properties, and relations, that are connected with the problem of reality. As the mathematician, according to him, looks at all things solely from the point of view of quantity, so the philosopher studies everything that belongs to being as such, whereas the physicist, for example, considers it only as in motion. Many things 'are' only because they are the affection or the state or the motion or the relation of some one being they derive from something that ' is' simply. (...) To Plato dialectic was as such ontology. To Aristotle it was rather a practical and historical question whether this whole logic of being was under all circumstances to be included in first philosophy. His original metaphysics was theology, the doctrine of the most perfect being; it was hard to combine abstract dialectic with this once the Ideas were gone. But he tried to link them up by means of their common relation to being as such." From: Werner Jaeger - Aristotle. Fundamentals of the history of his development - Translated by Richard Robinson . Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1948 - pp. 214-216. "According to Werner Jaeger, the ὂν ἢ ὀν has two different meanings, depending on whether it is considered as found in the more ancient books or in parts which would have been added to the collection of the Stagirite's Metaphysics in the last-period. In 'the last' stage the theory of the ὂν ἢ ὀν, according to Jaeger, would signify a sort of 'ontological phenomenology,' that is, 'an enumeration and description of the various meanings of being' in which a place would be found for all the forms of being, while transcendent being will not hence forward be the center of interest itself. Thus understood, the ὂν ἢ ὀν permits Aristotle to unify the two preceding conceptions of Book Κ Λ Ε 1; one in which the predominant interest concerns the supersensible and transcendent substance, the other, Books Ζ Θ, in which the interest in sensible substance and immanent entelechy or immanent form predominates. In fact the ὂν ἢ ὀν comprehends both the pure energeia of divine thought and the αἰσθητη ουσια of the physical world which is subject to generation and corruption insofar as both are 'being.'. This conception of the ὂν ἢ ὀν, as we said, would be contained only in the last additions, insertions, and articulations, chiefly in the second, the third, and the fourth chapters of Book Ε. In Book Κ, where according to Jaeger the object of first philosophy is indicated in 'a clear way and without exception' as being the immobile and
eternal realities, the ὂν ἢ ὀν also appears close to this perspective, but here the ὂν ἢ ὀν is not developed yet, as it is in the later version, into a science of the manifold meanings of being, including the perceptible being of movable nature. The same ought to be said of the meaning of ὂν ἢ ὀν in Books Γ and Ε 1 , which, on this account, are not even distinguished from Book Κ by means of 'the different scope with which it treats the concept of being. 'By excluding the doctrine of ὂν ἢ ὀν from Κ , Γ, and Ε 1 as having the meaning of an ontological phenomenology, as it will, on the contrary, be present in Ε 2-4, Jaeger only explains rather vaguely what it does signify in that first group of writings. With respect to Book Γ he writes: 'Here he treats being not as a sort of object separate and distinct from others, but as the common point of reference for all states, properties, and relations that are connected with the problem of reality. It would seem, therefore, that Jaeger considers it as a kind of general ontology, in the sense of a universal theory of being.' (Jaeger, - Aristoteles - p. 289, Robinson trans. p. 215)". From: Giovanni Reale - The concept of First Philosophy and the unity of the Metaphysics of Aristotle - Albany, State University of New York Press, 1980, pp. 138-139 (notes omitted).
CONTEMPORARY INTERPRETATIONS METAPHYSICS AS GENERAL ONTOLOGY. The general science of causes is general ontology. Gamma 1 begins with the assertion that there is a science that studies `that which is' qua `thing which is' and what belongs to `that which is' intrinsically, or per se. (1) By virtue of its generality this science is contrasted with the departmental sciences that cut off merely some part of `that which is' and study the properties that are unique to that part. To study `that which is' qua `thing that is' is not to study some special object called `that which is qua thing that is'. The `qua' locution is here used to indicate the respect in which this science studies its subject matter, and indicates that it deals with those ubiquitous truths that apply to each `thing that is'. The metaphysician must both state the general (propositional) principles that apply to `that which is' as such and treat of their properties or features. An example of a metaphysical principle that belongs to beings as such is the principle of noncontradiction (PNC). To study what belongs to `that which is' per se also involves a study of the terms that apply to `things that are' as such (for instance, `same' and `one'), and to investigate truths about them. This concept of general ontology is further clarified by the way in which Aristotle proceeds to deal with issues raised by four puzzles stated in B 1 about the nature of the metaphysical enterprise itself. These are four of the first five items on the list, and they concern the characterization of the universal science that deals in the most general way possible with the causes and starting points of all things. The second puzzle (995b6-10), for instance, assumes that this science will at the very least deal with the principles of substance, and inquires whether it will also deal with the common axioms those principles `from which everybody makes proofs'. Does it, for instance, study the PNC? Gamma 3 solves this puzzle by showing that the science of substance is the science that studies the common axioms. Gamma also provides answers to at least portions of the other puzzles, though without explicitly referring back to them. For instance, after Book B has queried whether the science of substance also studies the per se accidents of substances, it goes on to ask whether it will study in addition to these accidents such terms as `same', `other', `similar', `dissimilar', `contrariety', `prior' and `posterior', and then concludes by asking whether it will also study even the per se accidents of these last mentioned items. This is to ask whether in addition to investigating the definitions of the per se accidents of substance, it will also study such issues as whether each contrary has a single contrary. Gamma 2 is in part devoted to answering these last two questions in the affirmative." (pp. 57-58). (1) 'That which is qua thing that is' translates 'to on hêi on', an expression often rendered as 'being qua being'. From: Alan Code - Aristotle's logic and metaphysics - in: Routledge history of philosophy. From the beginning to Plato - vol. I - Edited by. C.C. W. Taylor - London, Routledge, 1997. "One of the most difficult problems of interpretation set by the Metaphysics lies in the fact that in book IV the `sought-for science' is characterized very precisely as the science of `being qua being' ( ὂν ἢ ὀν).(1) Unlike the
particular sciences, it does not deal with a particular area of being, but rather investigates everything that is, in its most general structural elements and principles. This description fulfils the expectations the reader has derived from books I and III, which repeatedly aim at insights of the highest generality. But, on the other hand, and startlingly, we also discover that in Metaphysics VI 1 - only a few pages further on, if we exclude book V as not part of the collection Aristotle seems first to accept this opinion and then, immediately afterwards, to embrace its exact opposite. For in VI 1 we again find an analysis of the sciences designed to establish the proper place of `first philosophy'. Here, however, Aristotle does not, as he did in book IV, distinguish the `sought-for science' from all other sciences by its greater generality. First he divides philosophy into three parts: theoretical, practical, and productive; and then he splits theoretical philosophy into three disciplines. To each of these disciplines he entrusts well-defined areas as objects of research. The `sought-for science', referred to in IV as the `science of being qua being', he now calls `first philosophy', and defines it as the science of what is `changeless and self-subsistent (akinêton kai chôriston)'. He explicitly gives it the title of `theology'. Physics and mathematics stand beside it as the two neighboring disciplines in the field of theoretical philosophy. Such an unexpected conclusion to so extended an introduction to `first philosophy' must seem strange to the reader. It is understandable that an author should see the fundamental philosophical science as universal ontology. We can also accept that a philosopher should elevate theology above all other sciences because of the importance of its object. But that Aristotle should attempt to undertake both enterprises in a single work surely violates `the greatest duty of a philosopher', which, according to Kant, consists in `being consistent'.(2)That Aristotle here contradicts himself has been the dominant view in textbooks and commentaries since the middle of the last century. When faced by such difficulties of interpretation, it is customary to seek help from philology. It seemed necessary to saddle Aristotle with an internal inconsistency; and yet scholars were unwilling to credit him with one. Might not philology show that Aristotle's text did not, after all, contain such an inconsistency? In this way, the problem has submitted to what might be called therapeutic surgery at the hands first of Paul Natorp  and then, more recently, of Werner Jaeger (, pp. 214-21). Natorp resorted to the classical remedy of the nineteenth century, the obelus. Jaeger replaced this by its modern and more lenient counterpart, stratification. The two attempts are, curiously, almost mirror images of each other: Natorp saw the `theologising tendency' of VI 1 as the result of interpolations by a later hand into Aristotle's text. By making excisions in the text and by giving a somewhat violent interpretation to what was left, he attempted to obliterate this tendency. Jaeger, on the other hand, regards the problematical line of thought which culminates in the description of `first philosophy' as theology not as the amateurish addition of anonymous epigoni but as the remains of an earlier theologising stage in Aristotle's own development. The following discussion attempts to prove three points: I. Both Natorp's and Jaeger's solutions,(3) which may be seen as the two end points of a whole spectrum of related solutions,' are contradicted by the text of the Metaphysics itself. II. As opposed to these radical solutions, we find that a conservative treatment, based on a detailed analysis of the text is possible. III. This interpretation, which defuses the supposed contradiction, reveals a characteristically Aristotelian mode of thought and argument -- a mode which can be discovered in other parts of the corpus too, and which merits the attention of anyone concerned to give an accurate portrayal of Aristotle's intellectual 'development'." (1) Met. IV 1, 1003a21; 24; 31. (2) Critique of Practical Reason (1787), p. 44. (3) Thus Reidemeister in his important article 'Das System des Aristotele's' (now in K. Reiderneister, Das exakte Denken der Criechen, 1949, pp. 67-87) speaks of a certain `refractoriness' which `appears in Aristotle's thought as a double inclination that he could not overcome but is explicitly aware of' (p. 70). Reidemeister rejects, on good grounds, both the separate ascription of these inclinations to Aristotle's youth and to his maturity, and the early dating of books I-VI. And he has informed me by word of mouth that he does not regard the `refractoriness' as a
contradiction. From: Günther Patzig - Theology and ontology in Aristotle's Metaphysics - in: Jonathan Barnes, Malcolm Schofield. Richard Sorabji (eds.) - Articles on Aristotle - vol. 3 - Metaphysics - London, Duckworth, 1979 (Originally published in German in: Kant-Studien, 52, 1960/61 pp. 185-205. (Translated by Jennifer and Jonathan Barnes). RELATED PAGES Selected bibliography Aristotle's Theory of Categories The Concept of Being in Philosophy and Linguistics The Vocabulary of Ontology: Substance INTRODUCTION "The traditional conception of Substance. The term 'substance' is one of the most confusing terms in philosophy. For Aristotle, at least some of the time, the paradigm cases of substances were, as he put it, `this man, this horse', i.e. particular things of that kind. For complicated historical reasons, however, substance has sometimes come to be equated with what Aristotle called `matter'; thus iron and sulphur, and other stuffs, have come to be called `substances'. For further complicated historical reasons substance came to be regarded by e.g. Locke as the underlying something or other which is supposed to give support to the properties that inhere in it. Indeed the Latin etymology of the term `substance' will suggest to anyone having a sensitivity to it that notion of something standing beneath the properties. Locke thus called it a `something I know not what' -- a suggestion that is not conveyed by either of the other two usages. The situation is complicated still further by the fact that the Latin etymology is relevant only to those modern discussions which rely on the term `substance'. The Greek word which Aristotle used -- `ousia' -- and which is traditionally translated `substance' has none of the suggestions that the Latin etymology of 'substance' provides, but has additional suggestions of its own, particularly a connexion with being. (The feminine present participle of the verb `to be' in Greek is ousia; ousia has the form of an abstract noun and is for that reason naturally to be translated `being' or `beingness', but Aristotle often uses the word with an article to indicate a particular kind of being, a particular kind of thing.)" From: David Hamlyn - Metaphysics - Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1984 p. 60. "For Aristotle, 'substances' are the things which exist in their own right, both the logically ultimate subjects of predication and the ultimate objects of scientific inquiry. They are the unified material objects, as well as the natural stuffs, identifiable in sense-experience, each taken to be a member of a natural species with its 'form' and functional essence. Entities in other categories -- qualities, actions, relations and so forth -- are treated as dependent on, if not just abstracted aspects of, these independent realities. With the rise of mechanistic physics in the seventeenth century, the Aristotelian multiplicity of substances was reduced to universal matter mechanically differentiated. This move sharpened the issue of the relation of mind to the physical world. The consequent variety of ways in which the notion of substance was manipulated by materialists, dualists, immaterialists and antidogmatists encouraged later scepticism about the distinction between independent realities and human abstractions, and so idealism. Twentieth-century conceptualism, like some earlier versions of idealism, rejects the distinction altogether, commonly ascribing the logical priority of material things in natural language to the utility of a folk physics, as if they were the theoretical entities of everyday life. As such, their identity and existence are determined only through applications of a theory outdated by modern science. Yet this 'top-down', holistic philosophy of language is belied by the detailed insights of traditional logic, which point clearly to a 'bottom-up' account of classification and identity, that is an account which recognizes the possibility of perceptually picking out material objects prior to knowledge of their kind of nature, and of subsequently classifying them. The idea that
material things are theoretical entities, and that their individuation is accordingly kind-dependent, is a hangover from an atomistic approach to perception which calls on theory to tie sensory information together. A more accurate understanding of sensation as the already integrated presentation of bodies in spatial relations to one another and to the perceiver is consonant with the possibility denied by the idealist - namely, that, with respect of its primitive referents, language and thought are shaped around reality itself, the independent objects given in active sense-experience. That the coherence or discrete unity of material objects has a physical explanation does not mean that physics explains it away." From: Edward Craig (ed.) - Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy - London, Routledge, 1998 - article Substance by Michael R. Ayers p. 205. The Theory of Predication in Aristotle's Categories Aristotle's Theory of Categories - Selected Bibliography INTRODUCTION "There is a theory called the theory of categories which in a more or less developed form, with minor or major modifications, made its appearance first in a large number of Aristotelian writings and then, under the influence of these writings, came to be a standard part of traditional logic, a place it maintained with more or less success into the early part of this century, when it met the same fate as certain other parts of traditional logic. There are lots of questions one may ask about this theory. Presumably not the most interesting question, but certainly one for which one would want to have an answer if one took an interest in the theory at all, is the following: What are categories? It turns out that this is a rather large and difficult question. And hence I want to restrict myself to the narrower and more modest question, What are categories in Aristotle?, hoping that a clarification of this question ultimately will help to clarify the more general questions. But even this narrower question turns out to be so complicated and controversial that I will be content if I can shed some light on the simple questions: What does the word "category" mean in Aristotle? What does Aristotle have in mind when he talks of "categories"? Presumably it is generally agreed that Aristotle's doctrine of categories involves the assumption that there is some scheme of classification such that all there is, all entities, can be divided into a limited number of ultimate classes. But there is no agreement as to the basis and nature of this classification, nor is there an agreement as to how the categories themselves are related to these classes of entities. There is a general tendency among commentators to talk as if the categories just were these classes, but there is also the view that, though for each category there is a corresponding ultimate class of entities, the categories themselves are not to be identified with these classes. And there are various ways in which it could be true that the categories only correspond to, but are not identical with, these classes of entities. It might, e.g., be the case that the categories are not classes of entities but rather classes of expressions of a certain kind, expressions which we—following tradition—may call "categorematic." On this interpretation these categorematic expressions signify the various entities we classify under such headings as "substance," "quality," or "quantity." And in this case we have to ask whether the entities are classified according to a classification of the categorematic expressions by which they are signified, or whether, the other way round, the expressions are classified according to the classification of the entities they signify. Or it might be thought that the categories are classes of only some categorematic expressions, namely, those which can occur as predicateexpressions. Or it might be the case that the categories themselves are not classes at all, neither of entities nor of expressions, but rather headings or labels or predicates which collect, or apply to, either entities or expressions, i.e., the category itself, strictly speaking would be a term like "substance" or "substance word." Or it might be the case that categories are neither classes nor terms but concepts. All these views have had their ardent supporters." pp. 1-2
From: Michael Frede - Categories in Aristotle. In Studies in Aristotle. Edited by O'Meara Dominic. Washington: Catholic University Press 1981. pp. 1-25 Reprinted in: M. Frede - Essays in Ancient Philosophy - Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, pp. 29-48.
"The precise position to be assigned to the Categories in the Aristotelian system has always been somewhat of a puzzle. On the one hand, they seem to be worked into the warp of its texture, as in the classification of change, and Aristotle can argue from the premiss that they constitute an exhaustive division of the kinds of Being (A. Pst. I 22, 83b15). On the other hand, both in the completed scheme of his logic and in his constructive metaphysic they retire into the background, giving place to other notions, such as causation, change, actuality and potentiality. Investigation, has, moreover, been hampered, especially in Germany, by attempts to correlate them with the Kantian Categories, with which they have obvious points of contact. But Kant's formal a priori concepts by which the mind makes for itself a world, to use Mr Bosanquet's phrase, imply an attitude to knowledge and reality so utterly opposed to the Aristotelian that the comparison has tended to confusion rather than elucidation. Scholars now realise better that the Aristotelian Categories can only be understood in connexion with the problems of Aristotle's own age. The best general account of the Categories known to me is that given by Maier, who accepts the interpretation of Apelt in its main lines, correcting it in some important points. (1) It is the great merit of Apelt to have firmly grasped the principle that, whatever the applications to which Aristotle put the scheme of the Categories, it is primarily connected with the use of linguistic thought to make assertions about reality and hence with the proposition, the judgment as expressed in language. In details, I think, he is misled by the associations of postKantian logic, which prevent him from entering fully into the attitude adopted by the early Greek logic towards the fact of assertion. In view of the undoubted fact that the scheme of the Categories follows the lines of Socratic-Platonic thought, Gercke's suggestion (2) is tempting that it originated in the Academy. Gercke, whose own view of the Categories is strongly coloured by Kantianism, relies almost entirely on the greater point given to the arguments in the Ethics against the Idea of the Good if we suppose them to accuse Plato of inconsistency with his own doctrine of the Categories. Except as supplementing strong independent evidence an argument of this kind carries no weight. The case is certainly weakened if it can be shown that Aristotle uses the Categories to solve a philosophical problem in explicit opposition to the solution offered by the Academy. This can be done, I think. In Meta. XIV 2, 1088b18 he sets the Categories against Platonist doctrine. He is criticising the indefinite dyad, and traces the origin of this conception to 'their old-fashioned way of setting problems': the Platonists found it necessary to attack the Parmenidean dictum and establish the existence of 'what is not' (cf. Plato, Sophist 237A, 256D). But how will this account for the plurality of being (for being means sometimes substance, sometimes that it is of a certain quality, and at other times the other categories: 1089a7)? In the corresponding passage of the Physics (I 2, 184b15 sqq.) Aristotle solves the Parmenidean difficulty through the multiplicity of the Categories (186a25), and alludes to the inadequacy of the Academic solution (187a1). The inference to be drawn from these passages, in conjunction with the chapter in the Ethics on which Gercke relies, is the negative one that Plato and his successors in the Academy did not apply the scheme of the Categories to the fundamental philosophical questions of Being and Good. Positive evidence must be sought in another aspect of the doctrine. Now the Topics exhibits the Categories in intimate association with dialectical logic. The work itself purports to codify methods in regular use but not hitherto systematically treated. That these methods were employed in the Academy is amply attested by the Platonic dialogues. (3) Further, as the Topics and particularly the Sophistici Elenchi show, they were developed in close connexion with the eristic logic of Antisthenes and the Megarians. This fact at once establishes a contact with the treatment of the problem 'one thing, many names' in Plato's Sophist (251A). This difficulty was removed by drawing a distinction between different kinds of being, and Aristotle himself regards it as finally disposed of by the doctrine of the Categories. That some of the kinds of being
included in the scheme were already recognised in the Academy is plain. In the Topics relatives have a number of their own topoi and the varieties of relatives enumerated in the Categories follow closely on the lines of division in the Charmides. (4) Much of the matter of the Topics must have been common to Academy and Lyceum. But this is not to say that the Categories as a complete and exhaustive scheme belonged to the Academy. Eudemus tells us that Plato solved the difficulties of Lycophron and others by a dual distinction of being. I shall accordingly assume in what follows that the scheme of the Categories was evolved in the course of efforts to establish a doctrine of judgment which should settle the difficulties raised by Megarian and other critics; that the application to the solution of the larger metaphysical problems was a later development; that the foundations of the scheme were laid in the Socratic tradition of the Academy; that the completed scheme is probably Aristotle's own; and that the original working out of the scheme did not contemplate extension beyond the metaphysics implied in predication to the more fundamental metaphysics of the First Philosophy. Hence we must look to the analysis of empirical propositions for the origin of the scheme. Now if we examine the scheme itself, we find three aspects of it to have special significance: (a) The first is the distinction between accidental predication (kata sumbebékos) and essential predication (kath' hauto). (5) What is musical may be literate, but only 'in virtue of something else' (kat' allo), viz.: qua Callias; Callias is literate essentially (kath' hauton). This distinction provides the first condition of scientific predication, and is regarded as of fundamental importance by Aristotle, who prefaces his accounts of such notions as unity and being with references to the accidental uses of these terms (Meta. V 6, 1015b16; 7, 1017a7). (b) Closely connected with the previous distinction is the doctrine that all the Categories (including substance as predicate) imply a subject (hupokeimenon), which is the point of real connexion between the predicates, and provides the basis of their coexistence. The Categories classify the many 'names' which we apply to the individual (e.g. a man, Sophist 251A), and give expression to the fact that he does not lose his unity in the process. (c) Furthermore, all direct relations of implication and incompatibility lie within the Categories severally. They are, so to say, independent variables. The relation of genus to species is everywhere confined within the limits of a category and so is the relation of contrary opposition. This suggests a close connexion with the Platonic division, which, as we know from the Sophist and the Politicus and from Aristotle, was so prominent in the Platonic conception of scientific method." pp. 75-77. 1. Heinrich Maier, Die Syllogistik des Aristoteles, 3 volumes, Tübingen, 1896-1900, vol. II, pp.277 ff.; Otto Apelt, Beitrage zur Geschichte der griechischen Philosophie, Leipzig, 1891, pp.106 ff. 2. Alfred Gercke, Ursprung der aristotelischen Kategorien, Archiv fur Geschichte der Philosophie 4, 1891, pp.424 ff. 3. Analysis of the arguments in the Charmides shows that nearly all make use of topoi dealt with by Aristotle in the Topics. 4. Cf. with Cat. 6a36 sqq., Charmides, 168A. The list in Rep. 437B is the same and in the same order. 5. See the distinction of 'being kata sumbébekos' and `being kath' hauto' (Meta. V 7, 1017a7 ff.). Apelt's equation of `being kath' hauto' with 'being said in virtue of no combination' (op. cit. 117) is manifestly wrong. Kath' ho or kath' hauto means that the determination attaches to the subject in respect of the subject itself and not in respect of the determination. See kath' ho and kath' hauto, Meta. V 18, 1022a14 ff. Charles Melville Gillespie - The Aristotelian Categories - The Classical Quarterly 19, 1925, pp. 79-84. Reprinted in: J. Barnes, M. Schofield, R. Sorabji (eds.) - Articles on Aristotle - Vol. 3 - Metaphysics - London, Duckworth, 1979, pp. 1-12
THE PROBLEM OF THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE CATEGORIES
"The little treatise of Aristotle which stands at the head of the Organon has caused a great deal of difficulty to students, both ancient and modern. The bulk of the discussion has centred about the question of its place in the Organon and in Aristotle's system, and the character of the ten categories to which the greater part of the book is devoted. But there have been found also critics who expressed a doubt as to the authenticity of all or part of the treatise in question. To say nothing of the ancient commentators of Aristotle, the earliest attempt in modern times to cast a doubt on the genuineness of the work seems to be that of Spengel in Münchener Gelehrte Anzeigen (Vol. XX , No. 5, pp. 41 sq.). He was followed by Prantl in Zeitschrift für Altertumswissenschaft (1846, p. 646), and in his Geschichte der Logik (I, p. go, n. 5), also by Valentinus Rose in De Aristotelis librorum ordine et auctoritate (p. 234 et seq.). Zeller, on the other hand (Philosophie den Griechen, 2nd ed., II, pt. a, p. 67, n. 1), decides in favour of the genuineness of the first part of the work, the Categories proper, and against the so--called Postpredicamenta from Chapter X to the end. (...) When we pass over to matters of doctrine, it si surprising how many points of contact there are between the two works [Categories and Topics]. I shall follow the Categories and point out the paralles in the Topics. The homonyms, which are given a definition and an illustration in the beginning of the Categories, have a whole chapter devoted to them in the Topics, the fifteenth of the first book, where they are also called pollachos legomena. Of particular significance is 107a 18-20, for in 20 we seem to have a direct allusion to the definition in the Categories. We must see, Aristotle says, if the genera designated by the given name are different and not subordinate to one another, (...) (which is therefore a homonym), for the definition of these genera as connected by the name is different (...). The greater space given to homonyms in the Topics is not due so much to a development in doctrine as to the necessities of the subject. The object of the Topics is a purely practical one, to provide the disputant with ready arguments properly pigeon-holed, and a single general definition of homonyms is not adapted to such use. We must needs go farther and show in what different special ways homonyms can be detected. The Categories have more the appearance of materials gathered in the shape of preliminary definitions of necessary concepts. Synonyms are referred to in the Topics 109b 7, 123a 27, 127b 5, 148a 24, and 162b 37. Of these, the first is the most important, since it states that the genera are predicated synonymously of their species; for the latter admit both the name and the definition of the former (...), assuming it as established that this condition constitutes synonymity. This is neither more nor less than a silent reference to the definition in the Categories (1a 6) [When things have the name in common and the definition of being which corresponds to the name is the same, they are called synonymous]. Moreover we have almost the very words of the Topics in another place in the Categories, 3b 2, [And the primary substances admit the definition of the species and of the genera, and the species admits that of the genus; for everything said of what is predicated will be said of the subject also.] 148a 24 also gives the same definition of synonyms merely in passing. Aristotle is dealing with the definition, and makes a statement that if the opponent makes use of one definition for homonyms it cannot be a correct definition, for it is synonyms and not homonyms that have one definition connoted by the name (...). He speaks of the definition as already known. (...). Paronyms also are made use of in the Topics, 109b 3-12, in a way which shows the definition in the Categories is not purely grammatical, as it may seem at first sight, but has a logical significance quite as important as that of the former two. Paronymous predication is predication per accidens, as contrasted with synonymous, which may be per se (cf. also Trendelenburg, Geschichte der Kategorienlehre, p.27 et seq. and 30). Here also paronyms are not defined. It is assumed that the reader knows what they are. (...) Categories 3, p. 1b 10-15 expresses very much the same thought as Topics IV, 1, p. 121a 20-6. The former states that whatever is true of the species is true of the individuals under the species (...), the latter that to whatever the species applies the genus does also (...). They both involve the logical hierarchy of genus, species and individual, and the two principles are: (1) The genus applies not only to the species but also to the individual ; (2) to the individual belongs not only the species but also the genus. What is especially important to notice is that, in the Topics, the principle is stated as already known and is applied to the particular case, thus assuming the existence of
another treatise where these principles are stated and proved for the first time. The treatment of the difference develops gradually in the Topics in the following passages: 107b 19 sq., 144b 12 sq., and 153b 6. The first of these is word for word the same with the statement in the Categories, 1b 16 sq., and they were both quoted above. Moreover the way in which the passage in the Topics is introduced, (...) makes it a direct reference to the Categories. Aristotle's doctrine concerning the difference so far is that of different genera which are not subordinated one to the other: the differences are different in species. In the second passage quoted above, 144b 12, Aristotle corrects this view by adding that the differences in the given case need not be different unless the different genera cannot be put under a common higher genus. In the third passage, 153b 6, Aristotle adds some more qualifications which make it clear that in the preceding statements the word etéron, in the phrase etéron ghenon, must be understood as including contrary genera (enantía). For there the case is different. If the contrary genera belong to higher contrary genera, their differences may be all the same. The preceding examination seems to show very clearly that the Topics build upon the basis laid down in the Categories and carry the structure higher and broader. It would be a very absurd alternative to suppose that a later writer, making use of the Topics, found nothing else on the subject of logical difference than the first passage, which he copied verbatim in his treatise, where,' besides, it has no particular reason for existence. As a thought tentatively suggested, with the view of further elaboration and insertion as a proper link in a chain, the passage in the Categories assumes a different meaning, and its lack of connection with the preceding and following ceases to cause us serious difficulty. If the view of the Categories taken here is justified by the preceding arguments and by what is still to come, it might even be a legitimate procedure to make use of the Topics in determining a disputed reading in the Categories. And we have one at hand in the passage quoted above on the difference." pp. 97-103 From: Isaac Husik - The Categories of Aristotle - in: Philosophical essays, ancient, mediaeval, and modern Edited by Milton C. Nahm and Leo Strauss, Oxford, Blackwell, 1952, pp. 96-112. (Greek citations omitted). The recent critical edition by Richard Bodéüs (Aristote. [Catégories] - Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2001) contains a detailed status questionis at pp. XC-CX. The conclusion is: "Malgré ses doutes sur l'authenticité de l'ouvrage, l'éditeur, nous semble-t-il, reste donc autorisé à imprimer celui-ci sous l'autorité traditionnelle d'Aristote." p. CX.
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