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The Structure and Subject of "Metaphysics "

Author(s): Helen S. Lang

Source: Phronesis, Vol. 38, No. 3 (1993), pp. 257-280
Published by: BRILL
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The Structureand Subjectof MetaphysicsA


Metaphysics A has long puzzled its readers not only in the particularsof its
arguments, but in its very subject: what is Metaphysics A about? Indeed,
perhaps A deals with several topics; we should not immediately assume that
it concerns only one. Ross claims that it is theology, a proof of a first
mover, god, culminating in a vision of divine life.' Along with this claim,
he argues both that in relation to the rest of the Metaphysics, A "must be
considered an entirely independent treatise" and that "Book A is rightly
regarded as the coping-stone of the Metaphysics."2 More recently, Graham
follows Ross, asserting without argument that Metaphysics A is indeed
But Owens has argued that Metaphysics A is "a study of Entity [o',oaL],
first in sensible Entity and then in immobile Entity".4 On this view, theology disappears, replaced by a science of first sensible and then separate
Entity, which includes god.' His claims, like Ross', appear to rest on the
particular arguments of Metaphysics A. (Although we shall not take them
up here, the same case can be made for claims about the chronology of the
particulararguments, the best known being Jaeger's claim that Metaphysics
A, 8 is a late insertion breaking the continuous argument that begins in 7
and is completed in 9.)6 So Owens points to the sections of Metaphysics A
' W. D. Ross, Aristotle's Metaphysics: A Revised Text with Introductionand Commentaryvol. I, (Oxford:ClarendonPress, 1953), pp. xxix, cxxx-cliv.
2 Ross, pp. xxix, cxxx.
- D. Graham,Aristotle's Two Systems (Oxford:Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 266.
4 J. Owens, The Doctrine of Being in the Aristotelian Metaphysics, 3rd ed. (Toronto:
Pontifical Instituteof Medieval Studies, 1978), p. 453.
s Ibid. 453-54.
6 WernerJaeger,Aristotle: Fundamentalsof the History of His Developmenttrans. with
the author'scorrectionsand additionsby RichardRobinson.2nd ed. (Oxford:Clarendon
Press, 1948) p. 346.
Phronesis 1993. Vol. XXXVIII13
(AcceptedApril 1993)


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that deal with "sensible Entity" and "immobile Entity", while Ross points
to arguments about god.
But in fact, these claims about the logos as a whole do not derive from its
particulararguments but are prior to and determinative of these arguments.
For example, the claim that it is theology presupposes that the arguments
concerning god in Chapters 6-8 somehow dominate the book while those
concerning sensible things, Chapters 1-5, prepare for, lead to, or are completed by these arguments. The topic of Chapters 9 and 10 must be understood as god, even though god is never mentioned in them. Likewise,
Owens' claim that A concerns first sensible and then separate substance
divides the logos in half (with little sense of how, or if, the halves are
related) and so, produces two quite independent arguments within A as a
whole. In both these cases, the logical structure assumed (without specific
evidence or argument) for the whole is reflected in the force and domain
assigned to particulararguments within that whole.
I shall assume that Metaphysics A should be examined as a unified piece
of reasoning. As I shall argue, Aristotle announces the subject of the logos
immediately and unambiguously: an investigation of substance. He then
divides it into two parts, sensible substance and unmoved substance, and
examines them in order. Within each part, as with the larger whole, the
main topic is announced immediately and is then followed by its analysis.
The main topic, substance, and its rubrication raise two further problems
that are not addressed until after the analysis of substance is complete. But
their solution is crucial to the investigation of substance and Aristotle's
return to them provides further evidence for the overall structureof Metaphysics A.
Indeed, these problems conclude the investigation of substance. The first
concerns voig and the second how nature as a whole contains the good and
the best. The relation of these problems, especially vovs, to the investigation of substance is problematic. Traditionally, the argumentabout vovf; (A,
9) is understood as a returnto the account of god in A, 7 - an argument that
has been interruptedby the separate (and out of place) argumentconcerning
how many gods there are (A, 8). I shall argue that A 8 continues, indeed
completes, the analysis of god begun in 7; hence A, 8 is in the right place.
A, 9 begins "there are some problems concerning mind"; hence it does not
consider specifically god's mind, but broader problems concerning voi;
raised by but left unanalyzed in the argument in A, 7. The final problem,
how nature contains the good and the best, completes the account of substance by returning to a problem raised at the outset of the logos before
substance was rubricatedinto sensible and separate substance. This view of
A makes better sense of it as a logical whole and makes better sense of its

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particulararguments than do traditional readings.7

Two brief points before turning to Metaphysics A. (1) Although the issue
itself lies beyond the bounds of this paper, the claim that Aristotle announces his topic immediately is supported by oft repeated speculations that these
writings are, or are based on, teaching texts. Within an oral setting, announcing the main topic first provides a mnemonic device for remembering
what follows.8 (2) The claim that Metaphysics A possesses substance as its
primary topic does not deny that arguments about god, and hence theology,
appear in the logos. Such a denial would be absurd in the face of the text.
But it does deny that the main purpose of the argument is to prove the
necessity and nature of god and divine life; rather, god appears within a
larger investigation of substance. So, the investigation of substance and
what such an investigation entails is at stake in the question of the structure
and subject of Metaphysics A.
A. The Topic of Metaphysics A
The opening words of Metaphysics A announce: "The inquiry concerns
substance; for the principles and causes we seek are of substances." JrlHQiL
41]TOvT'g o0'utWg f OEwQ(a- TIWVyaQ oboCdv Ca excRiXCTtCa 'TLUL
TM] (Metaphysics A, 1, 1069al8). Without pause, Aristotle indicates the
importance of the subject. Philosophically, the investigation is important
because whether "the all" (To ru&v)is some sort of whole or a succession
[of parts], substance must be first.9 Even though contemporaries rank universals as substance, the ancients bear witness, Aristotle claims, to the
importance of substance. Hence the most respected opinions confirm his
view of the importance of this investigation. And with his next words he
goes to work on his announced subject: "oCoIal be TQ Lg, .. ." In short,
the introduction is over, the investigation begins.
Aristotle, master of efficiency, has done considerable work in just over
ten lines. He announces his subject and its importance: substance because
7 Although a full developmentof the point clearly lies beyond the bounds of this paper,
Dr Sharples has suggested that the concerns of Theophrastus'Metaphysicsmake better
sense with this interpretationof A thanthat of others. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Sharplesfor his thoughtfuland constructivecriticisms of this paper.
' For a full account of this thesis, cf. John P. Lynch, Aristotle's School: A Study of a
Greek Educational Institution(Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1972), pp. 75-86 and I. During, "Notes on the Historyof the Transmission
of Aristotle's Writings" Aristotle and His Influence. Two Studies (New York and London: Garland,1987), pp. 37-70.
9 Aristotle,MetaphysicsA, 1, 1069al9-20.


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however"the all" is constituted,substancemustbe first. But hereinlies a

question."The all" remainsunknown- is it some sortof whole [4); bXov
TnTo Tav] or a succession[T
fj;pEt] of parts?No indicationof Aristotle's answerappearshere, perhapsbecausein eithercase substancemustbe
first and the importanceof this investigationrests on the priorityof substance.Hencean answerto this questionis not requiredin orderto proceed
with the investigation.But the meaningof "first" and hence our understandingof substanceas priorto all else cannotbe completewithoutknowing the constructionof "the all"; at the same time, the constructionof "the
all" cannotbe known withoutknowing substance,which is first. In this
sense, an investigationof substanceand the natureof "the all" are inseparableand bothare announcedin the openinglines of A.
Aristotledemarcateshis topic and affirmsits importancewhen he notes
- they (probably
its priorityfor the ancients.Criticalof his contemporaries
Plato or his followers) rank universalsas substance-, his link with the
ancientsemphasizesthe superiorityof his own view. This referenceto the
ancientsserves almostas a punctuationmark:it declaresthe importanceof
the subject with the force of a tradition(with which Aristotleexplicitly
connectshimself)thatestablishesthe worthinessof an examinationof substance.So concludesthe announcementof the topic at hand.The first momentof the logos is complete.
B. The Rubric of the Analysis

Turningto substance,Aristotleimmediatelysubdividesit into threekinds,

two sensible and one unmoved.'0This division presentsthe rubricwithin
which substancewill be treated.As such, it presentsnot the primarytopic
of the logos, but a first step in the argument.However,althoughthe topic
properlyspeakingof MetaphysicsA is establishedas obia( priorto this
division,the immediacyof this divisionimpliesboththatthereis no oioGCt
apartfrom or in additionto sensible and unmovedsubstanceand that an
investigationof substancemust set out fromthese three"kinds", i.e. from
beings ratherthansome genericcategoryapartfromor priorto these kinds
and the beings thatthey present.
But this division of substanceinto threekinds raises a second question
and Aristotle turns to it directly. Sensible substancesare the subject of
physics becausethey involve motion,while unmovedsubstancebelongsto
a differenttheoria,if this substancehas no commonprinciplewith the two

Aristotle,MetaphysicsA, 1, 1069a30-33.


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sensible substances." Is there such a common principle? Again, Aristotle

gives no indication of his view - either of what this first principle might be
or even if there is one. Rather, the examination of the immediate topic at
hand, sensible substance ('H 6' acdCOriTio0io(ta tcaT3XpkT),begins without pause.12
The methodological question concerning sensible and unmoved substances - whether they belong to the same theoria - rests upon a metaphysical question - whether they possess a common principle. And in this
question we see what is at stake in defining the larger structureof the logos.
If Metaphysics A considers first sensible and then unmoved substance, a
division between these different kinds of substance is presupposed at the
outset and the need for a common principle is muted - the three kinds seem
grouped loosely together and so the examination of them is sequential, first
sensible and then unmoved. But if, as I am arguing, the subject of the
inquiry is substance, a topic recognized even by the ancients, then the
division of substances into kinds is the first step in implementing the inquiry into substance. Consequently, these three kinds must possess a common principle sufficient to include them within a single investigation, i.e.
the investigation of substance announced in the opening lines.
The problem posed here by A appears as an explicit topic in other books
of the Metaphysics. So Metaphysics E mentions mathematics, physics and
theology as separate sciences bearing on different objects and specifies "the
first science" as that which concerns immovable and separate things.'3 Furthermore, Aristotle continues, if there is a science of immovable substance,
this science will investigate being qua being and the things that belong to it
quabeing [xai iTci oIOV6VTOgj OVTcUOTln] Ev' OE awpOcCL,
XcalT tOTL
XcLi Tlt fAdovra
fi 6v. (MetaphysicsE, 1, 1026a31-2; cf. also K, 7,
1064a28-bl3)]. The mention of being qua being and its possible identification with theology, cannot but in its turn recall us to Metaphysics F."4 Is
Metaphysics A the science of immovable substance, theology, mentioned in
Metaphysics E and so, by implication, the science of being qua being described in Metaphysics F? Aristotle himself never addresses this question,
but his readers find it irresistible. And the topic and rubrication of Metaphysics A provide food for speculation. A investigates both sensible and
immovable substance as well as answering an importantquestion about the
" Aristotle,MetaphysicsA, 1, 1069a36-1069b2.
We may note here that the chapter division does not altogether coincide with the
division of the argument.Chapter2 begins some five lines into the argumentconcerning
sensible substance.
3 Aristotle, MetaphysicsE 1, 1026al5-20.
'4 Aristotle, MetaphysicsF 1, 1003a21.


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construction of "the all". Hence, insofar as the "theology" mentioned in E

seems restricted to an investigation of separate and immovable things,
Metaphysics A cannot be this theology. It certainly contains theology, but it
is not just theology. Metaphysics A presents an investigation of substance,
first sensible and then immovable.
But what of the science of being qua being in Metaphysics f? Setting
aside the problematic relation between E and F, we can ask how the topic
and rubricationof A relate to the account of the science of being qua being
in Metaphysics r. There Aristotle argues that being falls immediately into
kinds and therefore the sciences follow these kinds [ibrd&Q%ty&e EOiV;
Ey'vr {xov no fv [xcd t6 Ev]J 6L xai at EOTiiJT aL dxoXovUO1ouoL
(Metaphysics r 2, 1004a5-6)]. Thus he accounts for the so-called
special sciences, i.e. each takes up some "part" of being (Metaphysics F 1,
1003a24-25). But there is another science, the science of being qua being
that investigates being as such (Metaphysics r 1, 1003a21). He declares
unambiguously that all beings are related - and so insofar as they are
related presumably fall under one science - because there is one central
point, a tQo Ev, for all (Metaphysics r 2, 1003a31-b18). Whatever this
relation entails, it reappears, as we shall see, at the end of Metaphysics A.'5
Here we may note that the methodological point of F, i.e. there is a science
of being qua being even though all beings fall immediately into kinds,
reflects the procedure of A which declares an investigation of obmoWt,
immediately divides it into kinds and concludes by referring all things together as
tQo; tv.
In Metaphysics A, I the question of a common principle among substances returns us to "the all". If it is some sort of whole, then there must
be a common principle among the three kinds of substance because substance is "first" in its constitution; but if "the all" is a succession of parts,
then either there is no common principle or only a very weak one. As with
the question of "the all" and of how substance is first, an immediate
answer to the question of whether there is a principle common to all substance may be unnecessary because the argument can (and should) proceed
without it. However, if the theoria of Metaphysics A concerns otoC(a, the
unity of this logos and the coherence of its analysis rests squarely on the
answer to this question. Consequently, the integrity of Metaphysics A requires that it be addressed at some point within the logos. And, as we shall
see, it is addressed when Aristotle concludes this book with the claim that
all things in the world are indeed related "7rQboEv".'6
'5 Aristotle,MetaphysicsA 10, 1075a18.

Aristotle,MetaphysicsA 10, 1075a18-20.


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Here the second moment of the logos is complete. Aristotle has subdivided the topic announced in the introduction and so presented the rubric
of the upcoming analysis. Oboia is divided into three kinds, two sensible
and one unmoved. They are now considered in order.
C. Sensible Substance
The examination of sensible substances now begins, and like the logos as a
whole, begins immediately with the topic at hand. "Sensible substance is
changeable," Aristotle begins, and his analysis establishes first that the
causes and principles of sensible substance are three, namely form, matter,
and privation and, second, that neither matter nor form comes to be, but
only their combination. With these terms he analyses sensible substance as
changeable and in so doing establishes and spells out the claim with which
the argument begins.
When the analysis of sensible substance as changeable is complete, one
might expect this section of the logos to conclude. But before concluding,
Aristotle raises a broader question: in what way are the causes and principles of different things different and in what way are they the same? In
order to answer this question, he characterizes substances generally - and
this characterizationis telling: "Since some things can be apartwhile others
cannot, the former are substances. And because of this the same thing is a
cause of all things because without substances, affections and motions will
not be." ['EJTFAb' TI Ta [LEVXwQ^ToaTC b' oib XWQLCTcL,



3Td01 xl

, 6TUL

at xLvrw;Lg. (Metaphysics A, 5, 1070b36-1071a2)]. In this sense,

he concludes, the principles of things are the same by analogy, for example,
form is always actuality and matter potency.17 This is not to say that these
things, i.e. form and matter, are universally, (for example some one form
"man" causing all men, as Plato would have it) because an individual is a
source of individuals.'8 Rather, within individuals actuality and potency
always operate analogously and in this sense are the same.
Although the immediate topic of this part of A is sensible substance this
question and its answer return to the two problems raised but left unresolved at the outset of the logos. (1) Is there something common to all substances? Yes. They can all be apart. Furthermore,in all substances actuality
and potency are the same by analogy. (2) In what sense is "the all" one?
Analysis of sensible substance shows that because substances can be apart,

Aristotle, Metaphysics A 5, 1071a4-5.

Aristotle,MetaphysicsA 5, 1071a 19-20.


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affectionsandmotionsdependuponthem.Consequently,everythingis one
insofaras everythingdependsuponsubstanceandin this sense, substanceis

As we noted, because these issues are entailedboth by the announced

subject,substance,and by the rubricationof the argumentinto an analysis
of first sensibleand then unmovedsubstance,they mustbe addressedif the
largeranalysisis to be coherent.The completionof the accountof sensible
substanceas changeablepresentsthe first set of substantiveconclusions
withinthe logos. And these conclusionsreturnthe accountimmediatelyto
the broaderissues concemingsubstanceandthe natureof "the all". As we
shall see, these issues will be addressedagainin termsof the resultsof the
analysisof unmovedsubstanceand finallyas a conclusionto the logos as a
whole. In short,the conclusionsof "local" argumentswithinMetaphysics
A are consistentlyreturnedto the topic raisedat the outset of the logos:
substance.And this fact supportsthe claimthatas a unifiedpiece of reasoning MetaphysicsA concernssubstance.
Now, at the end of MetaphysicsA, 5 the argumentaboutsensible substance(along with the implicationsof this analysisfor the inquiryconcernwhatandhow manythe &QXCct
ing substance)concludesunambiguously:
sensiblethingsare, how the same andhow different,has been stated.'9The
thirdsection of the logos, the analysisof sensible substanceas changeable
as well as the implicationsof this analysis for substanceas first and the
constructof "the all", is complete.
D. Unmoved Substance

Aristotleturnsimmediatelyto the remainingkind of substanceestablished

by his divisionof substanceinto threekinds.Again,he begins by asserting
the topic of the upcominganalysis:since there are three o&o(uiL,two of
them naturaland one unmoved,concerningthe unmovedwe must say that
theremust be some eternalunmovedsubstance.['Eti 6' iGoav TQEg o0b6XEXTE0V 6TL
JLCL,biio IE'V at qAJOLXaiCiaL 6 i etXL'V1TO5, 7tEQL TlUTlg
A, 6,
1071b3-5)].And he now establishes
by showing
substancemustbe and then whatits naturemustbe.
An analysis of motion, i.e. actualizationalways occurringin sensible
substance,revealsboththattheremustbe an unmovedmoverandthe nature
of this substance.Its substancemust be actualitybecauseit causes eternal
'9 Aristotle,MetaphysicsA 5, 1071b-2.


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motion in sensible substance while something else (the first heaven) causes
differences; these two together cause eternal variety.20 Why, then, seek
other causes?2'
Here we see that the order of the arguments in A is not arbitrary.Because
the principle of sensible substance as changeable and the analogical unity of
potency and act is established first, motion in sensible things may be treated
as an effect of unmoved substance. Given that such a cause must be, Aristotle identifies the nature of this cause: pure actuality that causes as an
object of thought and desire. "Since then, there is some mover being itself
unmoved, being actuality, this mover is in no way able to be other than it
is" [?tEAL&eUOTLTLXLVO1V ctnTo &XLiVfTOV6v, tVEQYELa 6v, TOUTOobVx
O0168%t6. (Metaphysics A, 7, 1072b7-8)]. There-

fore, it is necessary and, insofar as it is necessary, it is good and in this

sense a first principle [t &viyxr;g &iQC
(Metaphysics A, 7, 1072b10-1 1)].
xcaLob-Twg Q
As with the logos as a whole and the analysis of sensible substance, the
opening assertion establishes the immediate topic of analysis: that there
must be a first mover and what its nature must be. Following the account of
sensible substance as changeable, this account rests on the dependence of
motion in sensible things upon a prior cause. Given Aristotle's definition of
motion, this dependence shows both that there must be a first mover and
that this mover must be pure actuality acting as an object of thought or
desire. And the analysis continues with just these points. "And on such a
T diQa &Q)xn;
principle depend the heavens and nature" [Ix TOUWtfl
IQT1qVL 6 obQavog xac f cpiVoi. (Metaphysics A, 7, 1072b13-14)]. That
is, because unmoved substance causes motion, both kinds of movable substances depend upon it. This point echoes the conclusion of the analysis of
sensible substance: without substance, affections and motions will not be
and in this sense they depend upon substance.
In short, substance must be first and all things must share a common
principle, unmoved substance. This conclusion appears here as an immediate implication of the analysis of unmoved substance. It articulates the
opening claim that there must be such a substance and leads to the closely
related question: what is the nature of unmoved substance?
This substance is life at its best, actuality fully actualized, thought which
thinks itself [1 &e vO6i]ot f XcL0'acbTTV TOr xaO' ATO &dQioToU, xaXl
[aULctLX TO' [uaktWLa. (Metaphysics A, 7, 1072bl8)]. An account of this
thought now follows and at its conclusion it is identified as god. Each

Aristotle,MetaphysicsA 6, 1072al5-17.
Aristotle, MetaphysicsA 6, 1072bI0- 1.


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momentin the developmentof this accountis definedby the topic at hand,

unmovedsubstance.Aristotlefirst shows thatit mustbe - it is requiredby
motionin sensiblesubstance- andwhatits naturemustbe. The forceof the
analysisis to establisha full characterization
of unmovedsubstance.Therefore, characteristicssuch as "life at its best" and "thought thinking
thought" appearas predicatesrevealed by an analysis of unmovedsubstance,god. For example,thoughtthinkingthoughtis active when it possesses its object and so possessionratherthanreceptivityseems to be the
divine elementof thought(MetaphysicsA, 7, 1072b22-23).And the analysis retumsimmediatelyto god becausegod is the propersubjecthere:if god
is always well, as we are sometimes, we must marvel .. . (Metaphysics A,

7, 1072b24-25).Finally,Aristotleconcludes,"Therefore,we say thatgod is

living, eternal,best, so thatlife andduration,continuousandeternalbelong
to god; for this is god" [a(Ev b6i T'OVOEOV Evai lJov &t6lOV 6QLoTOV,
(oTe 4wi1 xati ctbWvouVcxiTg xai dtLbLogftaQXt& T( OF^UoUTO yaQ 6
0O6; (Metaphysics A, 7, 1072b28-30; cf. N. Ethics X, 8, 1178b21-23)].

After this characterization,

Aristotlecriticizes Pythagorasand Speusippus:theirviews are inferiorbecausethey thinkthat"the mostbeautifuland
best are not in the firstprinciple"[TO6XcLXXLOTOVxait tQLOTOV[d tV &QX11
EtvaL (Metaphysics A, 7, 1072b31)]. He then summarizes his arguments.

This summaryreturnsus to the claim with which the analysisof unmoved

substancebegan. "It is clear from what has been said that there must be
some substanceeternaland unmovedand separatefrom sensiblethings.. .
And it is clear 'why' unmoved substance must be in this way."

[6TL [ItV

OVV {OTLV O1bOLa TLg etLbLo Xa

atcoOrT6Ov,qxLvEQOvtx T6)V dQ?SVOV
...T.C. uTa pEV OWV6iXCa 6LOT
(MetaphysicsA, 7, 1073a3-5; 1073a13)I.22

But a question remains about unmoved substance, god, and Aristotle

raises it now: is it one or many and if many, how many (Metaphysics A, 8,
1073al4-15)? We need not consider the chronology of Aristotle's writings
in order to consider the proper topic of this argument: 1-lTEQov bE [ILLV
OETEoVT'iV ToLaUTrivoboiav f 3TXE?oUg,
xacf JToCtg, b86 [dl kavOdvELv

. . . "Such substance",i.e. unmoved,is his topic and insofaras this argumentconcernsunmovedsubstanceit continuesthe analysisdevelopedthus
far.23Aristotleconcludes that the primarytbO t' iV ELVaL does not have
22 We may note that in Ross' translationthis sentence appearsas the opening sentence
of A 8, even though in his Greek edition (cf. note 29) it is the closing sentence of A, 7.
Jaegeralso makes it the closing line of A 7 in the OCT.
23 Speaking of A, 8, Owens concludes that "the necessary connection of the passage
with the immediatelyprecedingargumentseems very apparent",The Doctrine of Being,
p. 448.


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matter but is fulfillment; therefore the first mover, being unmoved, must be
one in both definition and number [Ev dQa xatLkoyw xati dQL0[aCto
XLVOUV LV1ITOV 6v (Metaphysics A, 8, 1074a36-38)].
With this conclusion, Aristotle tums to the ancients and their treatmentof
this problem. In a suddenly expansive style, he explains that the most ancient of our elders have handed down in the form of a myth the view that
there are gods and that the divine surrounds the whole of nature (Metaphysics A, 8, 1074b-4). If, Aristotle argues, we separate their view from
later (inferior) additions, we can see that it is inspired and so has been
preserved. And the ancient truth here becomes clear in the light of this
account of substance (Metaphysics A, 8 1074b4-14). And, of course, it
thereby attests to Aristotle's own (superior) position.
What is the function of this fourteen line encomium to the ancient past?
Obviously it adds further weight to Aristotle's view, especially in contrast
to his opponents. But it does more: like the earlier reference to the ancients,
it provides a punctuation mark indicating the completion of a major segment of the logos. ThroughoutMetaphysics A, Aristotle frequently refers to
various philosophers, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Plato, but never in this expansive style. And these lines refer neither to a Presocratic nor a contemporary; they cast back to the most ancient and noble opinion - one that both
accords with and can be interpretedby Aristotle's position.
Aristotle underscores the virtues of his position by turning to the light of
eternal truthknown first (however intuitively) by the ancients. And in doing
so, he implies that the argument concerning unmoved substance is complete. Indeed we know both that there must be such substance, and what its
nature must be (pure actuality, thinking about thinking, life at its best,
activity) and that it must be one in both number and definition. The topic
announced at the beginning of this section of Metaphysics A, i.e. unmoved
substance, has been analyzed. This section of the logos is now complete.
In the rubrication of his analysis, Aristotle divides substance into three
kinds, two sensible and one unmoved. Since all three kinds have been
examined, it would seem that the analysis of substance is now complete.
The excursion into noble ancient opinion appears as a punctuation not only
of the analysis of unmoved substance but also of the analysis of substance
as such. It is complete.
E. Metaphysics A, 9: Mind or God?
But the logos is not complete. Two chapters, Metaphysics A 9 and 10,
remain. Here we reach the most problematic part of the logos, especially 9.
How we construe the overall topic of the logos is crucial not only for the

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particulars of these arguments, but even for defining their topics. We can
consider A, 9 and its topic first. There are two views of this argument.
(1) If we think that the unmoved mover, god, is the topic of Meiaphysics
A, two consequences follow for these particulararguments. First, the argument concerning mind and its object is out of place - it picks up and
develops the account of A, 7, where god is characterized as thought thinking itself.24Or alternately, A, 8, the discussion of whether the first mover is
one or many, is out of place; indeed, on this view A 8 is largely eliminated
from any meaningful role in the logos - and as there is no other "obvious"
place for it, it can be dismissed altogether as early and immature.
Second, the subject of the argument is at stake here. For if the proper
subject of the argument is god, thought thinking thought, then the introduction of mind and its relation to its object in effect furthers the analysis of
divine being, namely god's mind and the relation of divine mind to its
object. Because god stands as the subject of this argument and divine
thought is thought at its best, this account of mind provides a model for
what thinking is at its best and hence for what all thinking should be.25
When we turn to the analysis itself, we shall encounter a startling example
of the interpretive force of this view.
(2) If, however, with the conclusion that there must be separate substance, a first mover unmoved and one, the argument about unmoved substance, god, is complete, and with it the analysis of first sensible and then
unmoved substance - a completion "marked" by the reference to the ancients - then this argument concems a different (albeit related) topic. Indeed, we saw that in the analysis of unmoved substance, "thinking about
thinking" appears as a predicate but is not analyzed apart from its immediate implications for god. Indeed, it cannot be analyzed because the argument presents a characterizationof god. In effect, the strict definition of the
analysis of unmoved substance - it is solely about god - leaves Aristotle
with unfinished business. On the one hand, god has been described as
"thought thinking thought" and so the topic of mind in relation to its object
has been raised and its immediate implications for god developed; on the
other hand, furtherproblems involved in mind could not be pursued earlier
because that argument concerns unmoved substance (god) and such pursuit
would change the subject. But with the analysis of unmoved substance (and
substance) complete, Aristotle can consider, as a subject, a topic, vovs,
raised by that analysis. In so doing, he will complete the unfinished busi24

W. Jaeger, p. 346.

2S Ibid. Owens seems to assume this view, moving from A 7 to 9 withoutcomment. Cf.
Doctrine of Being, p. 444, n. 33.


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ness raised by, but not formally a part of, the analysis of unmoved substance. And he turns to this subject immediately after praising the ancients.
On this view, different conclusions follow. Because voig presents a topic
raised but left unexamined by the analysis of unmoved substance, it is in the
right place - properly presented within the logos, but postponed until after
the account of unmoved substance, is complete. Co-relatively A, 8 is also in
the right place because it continues and completes the account of unmoved
substance by asking if it is one or many.
Furthermore,if the analysis of unmoved substance is complete at the end
of A, 8, then A, 9 cannot, strictly speaking, develop further the account of
divine being and cannot present an account of god's mind as a model for all
thinking. Rather, divine mind raises some general problems concerning
mind. By considering mind and the relations obtaining between mind and
its object, the special case of divine mind can also be considered. In short,
divine mind on this view is not a model for all thinking, but a special case
of thinking.
On both views, A, 9 furthers the development of the analysis of god;
consequently, on both views it belongs to the larger account of Metaphysics
A. But on the first view it does so by developing a new step and further
conclusions for the argument begun in A, 7; that is, the subject of A 9 is
divine mind, i.e. god. On the second view, A 9 resolves a problem involved
in and raised by what has already been established in A 7 - god is a
thinking on thinking; but it reaches this resolution by presenting an analysis
of voi,; - now taken as a topic in its own right - that includes divine mind
as a special case.
Here we can see quite clearly how decisions about the topic of Metaphysics A as a whole effect decisions about the topic and status of particular
arguments within that whole. How can we decide what the argument of
Metaphysics A 9 is about? We have already seen some evidence: (1) the
coherence and efficiency of the argument concerning unmoved substance
from its announcement in A 6 to its conclusion in A 8 that the first mover
must be one in both definition and number and (2) the larger structure
beginning with the claim that the investigation concems substance, the immediate division of substance into its kinds, the completion of the analysis
of each kind and the encomium to the ancients as a closing "punctuation
mark" to the argument as it has proceeded thus far.
To this we may add as furtherevidence the opening sentence of A 9. The
first words after the excursion to the ancients announce the topic at hand:
4EL TnVog aToQL'Ctg-8oXEl [V
Ta 6E JEP T'OVvo'v
yaQ ,vLL TOV
QaLVoEvWv OE6OTaov. .. "There are some problems concerning mind for it seems to be the most divine of things observed" (Metaphysics A, 9,

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1074b15-16).Aristotledoes not say thatthereare some problemsconcerning unmovedsubstance,or god; rather,he says there are some problems
concerningmind. And he is entitled to be taken at his word. Therefore,
voug now constitutesthe topic of analysis.
But if vovs;is now the topic, we face a new problem:whatis the relation
of this topic, vovsg,to substanceand why should a discussionof vovs; be
includedwithin an investigationof substancethat has been divided into
sensible and unmoved?As I shall now argue,the analysisof mind and its
relationto its object appearshere as a topic because it has been raisedby
of god and involves difficultiesthatremainunresolved
the characterization
within that analysis. Consequently,A, 9 takes up a predicateestablished
withinthe analysisof the unmovedsubstance(A, 6-8), considersit in andof
itself, andnarrowsthe analysisof thinkingto the specialcase of immaterial
Hereinlies the sense in whichMetaphysicsA, 9 belongsto the investigation of substanceeven though it does not develop a furtherstep in the
analysisof unmovedsubstance- an analysisthathas been completed.A 9
of god as the actualityof
takes up a problemraisedby the characterization
thought,namely the relationbetween mind and its object. This problem
could not be consideredearlier (A 7 and 8) because the topic there is
unmovedsubstanceand as its topic unmovedsubstancestrictlydefinesthat
analysis.With its close, Aristotlecan take up a problemraisedby it and
considerthis problemin itself. Finally,the solutionto the problemof the
relationof mindto its objectis appliedto eternalthinkingas a specialcase.
Let us brieflyconsiderMetaphysicsA 9.
Severalquestionsarenow raisedconcerningwhatmindthinksaboutand,
althoughneitherunmovedsubstancenorgod arementioned,thesequestions
clearly seem to bear upon the special case of thinkingat its best. In this
sense, they reviewandamplifythe accountof minddevelopedto characterize god. Does it think about nothing?If so, where is the dignity in such
thought, for it resembles someone who is asleep (MetaphysicsA, 9,
1074b17-18)?What does it think about?For if it thinksaboutsomething
else, then it dependson thatobjectfor its activityand so cannotbe the best
(MetaphysicsA, 9, 1074bl8-20)? Does it matterwhat it thinksaboutor if
the objectof its thoughtchanges(MetaphysicsA, 9, 1074b21-24)?Answering these questions,Aristotleconcludes "therefore,it thinksitself, if it is
the most excellent thing, and this thinkingis a thinkingaboutthinking"
f v6joatsvoijoEW;
toi xT
to rtXCUTov,xaiL?QTLV
[t5bTOvdia vo'i, EticEQ
vO6qMg (MetaphysicsA, 9, 1074b33-35)].
We seem here to be exactly where we were in A, 7. So why is this
argumentnot a returnto MetaphysicsA, 7 and its argumentconcerning

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god? A, 7 is partof an analysisof unmovedsubstance- an argumentthat

begins in 6 and ends in 8 - and as such it reachesconclusionsaboutunmoved substance.MetaphysicsA, 9, as Aristotleannouncesat the outset,is
aboutmind, i.e. the problemsof the relationof mind to its object.Hence,
neither unmoved substancenor god are mentionedin 9. Insofaras both
unmovedsubstanceand mind at its best turnsout to be a thinkingabout
thinkingthe argumentsclearly go togetherand the argumentabout mind
belongs within MetaphysicsA, i.e. an investigationof substance.Nevertheless,the topicsbeing analyzedin A, 7 andA, 9 aredifferent:whatcomes
out in the analysisof unmovedsubstanceas a necessarypredicate,thinking
about thinking,now forms a topic of analysis in its own right, mind in
relationto its object. And the conclusionsreachedby an analysis of the
problemsconcerningmind do not develop furtherthe argumentaboutgod;
rather,they resolveproblemsinvolvedin a predicateof unmovedsubstance.
Hence A, 9 possesses a differenttopic, mind, thandoes A, 7, which concerns unmovedsubstance,but both are includedwithin an investigationof
substancebecause mind, the subject of A, 9, is a predicateof god, the
subjectof A, 7.
The problemsconcerningmindand its relationto its objectare seriousin
partbecausethey involve not just thinkingaboutthinking,but all formsof
thinking.In the next sentenceAristotle'slanguageshows how broadlyhe
casts these problems.The differentkinds of thinking involved here are
emphasizedby the repetitionof the conjunction"and" - a rhetoricaldevice
called polysyndetonthat lengthens and slows the pace of the sentence:
"But, it seems, knowledgeand sensationand opinion and thoughtare always of anotherand of themselves only indirectly" [tcqxivTcaL6' &d('L
o ftJTLCT'[tTIxcii f CifoOfloCLxCaift 866a xL h &6LVOWa,
tv tctQE`Qy (MetaphysicsA, 9, 1074b35-36)].Generally,to thinkand to

be thoughtare not the same;in virtueof whichdoes "goodness" belongto

mind [Ett F d ko 10 vosiv xaL TO voELoOcu, xacTct m6TTEQov (naTy To E?t
ftcnQx?L; 06?

yCpQ 'tct0rr



A, 9, 1074b36-38)]?In some cases, e.g. the productivesciences,the knowledge is the object [ij ?r' tVLwV f t 1JTLCTijn] TO 7rQy&Lca,tTIL[tEV TJV
'T i~v alvaL ... (Metaphysics A, 9,
1074b38-1075a2)]. But in the case of the theoretical sciences, the act of
thinking is the object of thought; in short, thinking and the object of thought
do not differ when matter is absent and, therefore, such thinking is one with
the object of thought [tni 6E TOV OwQTITLXOwV6 kXdo0gT0oaQ&yic xciitf
xai toi5 VoU, 6ota [i1
xcii f v6rToTL
iXknV9y(c1, T6oCdTo go-TctL,
TqOVOO'U[Vp [iAa.(Metaphysics
A, 9, 1075a2-5)].


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This analysis is not about god in any obvious sense. It concerns what is
announced at the outset of A 9: an aporia concerning mind, namely the
problem of its relation to its object. And as such it is cast quite generally.
Indeed, although a full examination lies beyond the scope of this paper, the
analysis of mind in A, 9 most obviously compares with the analysis of vov'g
in De Anima F. Thinking here includes perception and opinion - fonns of
thinking that cannot possibly apply to immaterial divine mind.26Only within a general account of thinking, do we arrive at science, both productive
and theoretical. Although science is a more specialized form of thinking
than the very broad formnsincluding perception and opinion, nevertheless it
is a human activity and as such proves that we have not yet arrived at the
narrowest case of thinking, uniquely divine activity; thus, the brief characterization of science is narrower than the class of all thinking but still does
not apply exclusively to god.
These sciences bring us to the special case of thinking in which there is
no matter (or in which thinking may exclude matter as such). Since unmoved substance, god, is a thinking on thinking that also cannot involve
matter, we reach here the kind of thinking appearing within and requiredby
the earlier account of unmoved substance. And one sentence concludes the
argument: when there is no matter, thought and the object of thought will
not be different, in this case thinking will be one with its object [ob)x
xalO1J v, boct [t'U Iv PXEL,To
rnlTo 90Tiza, xal f V6Oriot TO VOOtU[EVp [RCC.(MetaphysicsA, 9,

Although unmoved substance or god is not mentioned, this case certainly
seems to return us to this substance - or the subset within all thinking of
which this substance is a member - and the account of god as a thinking on
thinking. If we are to account for Metaphysics A as an investigation of
substance, then we must be able to explain both why there is no mention of
unmoved substance, god, and why we seem to be back to it. God is not
mentioned because, properly speaking, the subject of this argument is mind,
voV5. We seem clearly back to god because god is thought thinking
26 Cf. De Anima F, 3, 427b7-26 where perception[a'LcGOr(cJL
is comparedand contrasted with opinion [b66Ej, knowledge [I LQPlIj, thought [&6voLC] and imagination


It seems impossible not to comparethis line to the accountof mind at De Anima F 4,

430a2-6: "And mind itself is among things that are thought. For in the case of things
that are withoutmatter,the thinkingand the thing thoughtare the same. For theoretical
knowledge and the thing thusly known are the same." xCf rnrlr6;g& voI]T6q t0TLV
6&MEQ Pi voiTd. tni tFEvyYQ T7V &VFV VXilg T0 OT6to?TL To VOOVV XaLiTo


(AQ 2tOT?UTf




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thought: the predicate appearing in the analysis of unmoved substance, god,

is identical with the special case of mind to which this argument narrows.
Hence, this argument both concerns a different topic (vovs; rather than
obki(ct)and completes business left unfinished within the analysis of obiMLta.
By considering problems involved in vovs, Aristotle can complete the argument concerning substance. For this reason, the argument of A 9 is both
properly postponed until after the account of unmoved substance in 6-8 and
included within A, which as a whole concerns substance.
A further tnoQicaabout the object of thought [in these cases] remains,
and Aristotle with his next words turns to it: is it composite? (MT bl
6iFLrrETaC 6CROQAtc, &t


(MetaphysicsA, 9,

1075a5-6).28Because it is without matter, such an object of thought must be

indivisible - "just as human vovs; (or the vov5gof composite things) is in
some time" (Metaphysics A, 9, 1075a7-8). Thus too is "the thought having
itself [as its object] for all time" [oDiTwg 6' EXEL
wbTi1 CtiT'c ij vOTCtg ToV
&TnaVTa atLWva;] (Metaphysics A, 9, 1075alO). Here the argument clearly
concludes (as does the chapter); the next line begins a different topic (and
opens A, 10).
Again this &tJoQLa- Is the object of thought [when there is no matter]
composite? - does not seem to be exclusively about unmoved substance,
god. First, the principle cited in support of the solution, absence of matter
makes a thing indivisible, applies to all cases in which there is no matter.
Secondly, the concluding sentence reflects both on human mind and its
object of thought as well as eternal thought having itself as its object.
Indeed, these two look very much alike - eternity being the only difference
cited. Aristotle does not call this eternal thought substance, or god; rather,
he extends the point about thinking and the object of thought to the case in
which the activity is thinking and the object of thought to the case in which
the activity is eternal. Structurally,this argument too seems to be a general
account of thinking when there is no matter present narrowing to a special
case, i.e. when such thinking is eternal. That is, the proper subject is thinking and the special case to which the account narrows is unmoved substance
and this special case reveals why this topic (yoV) appears in Metaphysics
In short, Metaphysics A 9 does not possess unmoved substance as its
topic and is not a returnto the account of god in Metaphysics A, 7. Rather,
the topic here is exactly that announced at the beginning of Metaphysics A,

'ET!be regularlyintroducesnew moments in the argument.Cf. Physics A, 1, 208a34,

b8, 209aI8, 23. 'ETi also introduces lists of arguments by itself, cf. Physics A, 8,
215al4, 19, 22, 24.


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9: problems concerning vovs. Problems concerning mind follow the completed argument about unmoved substance because they have been raised
by that account but could not be treated within it (without changing the
topic). And the analysis of these problems narrows to the special case of
eternal immaterial thinking. Indeed, they appear after the account of substance is complete precisely because, although they do not concern substance per se, they are occasioned by that analysis and are intimately linked
to its conclusions.
Before turning to Metaphysics A, 10, I would like to consider a striking
example of what is at stake in these decisions about the subject of the
argument and ultimately Metaphysics A as a piece of reasoning. Ross argues that A, 9 continues the argument of 7: "Aristotle now turns to the
consideration of 6 voV5;,i.e. of the supreme intellect, which has in ch. 7
been shown to be implied as the cause of the movement of the heavens."29
The identification of 6 voV5 with "the supreme intellect" is absolute for
Ross. So when Aristotle begins "Tat be rQiL TOV VOUV 9XtELTLVQ dLtoQeit" Ross translates (the Oxford translation) "The nature of divine
thought involves certain problems" (Metaphysics A, 9, 1074b15). Indeed,
because he identifies vovsg with god so absolutely, Ross finds the next
words ("for it seems to be the most divine of observable things")
"strange" because divine reason is presumably not found among observable things; perhaps, he suggests, the phrase "observable things" could
also apply to things examined by reason."
Again, when Aristotle concludes that in the absence of matter, thought
and the object of thought are one, the text reads: oiix TlEQOUo1&v6VTo;
XaL TOU Wov, boa IAf iIXkIV 9yEL, To a?Tho 9OTC, xaC 9
VO6loiL Ti VOOu[tFiVW [da.

But Ross translates:"Since, then, thoughtand

the object of thought are not different in the case of things that have not
matter, the divine thought and its object will be the same, i.e. the thinking
will be one with the object of its thought." But the word "divine" does not
appear here.
Finally, when Aristotle asks if the object of thought is composite, Ross
XELJtEnaL 3To(La, EctC5V0OETV 10 voov[tevov" as "A
furtherquestion is left - whether the object of the divine thought is composite". Again, there is no reference to the divine here. Indeed, as we have just
seen, the duTopia and its solution could hardly be cast more generally.
How can we account for this extraordinarytranslation? Ross introduces

translates"eTT 6I

29 W. D. Ross, Aristotle's Metaphysics: A Revised Text with Introductionand Commentaryvol II, (Oxford, ClarendonPress, 1953), p. 397.
30 Cf. his comment on MetaphysicsA, 9, 1074bl6, p. 397.


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words(indeeda subject)not foundin Aristotlebecausehe identifies6 vovs

so radicallywith "supreme intellect." And he makes this identification
becausehe presupposesthatMetaphysicsA 9 continuesthe argumentof A
7. But Aristotledoes not introducegod or divinethoughthereandthe Greek
cannoton any accountbe translatedas Ross proposes.
Ross, like Jaeger,(andmorerecentlyGraham)assumesthatMetaphysics
A is theology.3'Becauseas theologythe logos possesses god as its subject,
particularargumentsmust be interpretedrelativeto this subject.And when
the particularsdo not fit the largerwhole, as Ross defines it, they must be
changed.And these changesinclude(1) rearrangingthe orderof the argumentsby largelyeliminatingA 8 fromthe treatise,(2) expandingthe translationso thatthe text discusseswhatis requiredof it, i.e. divinemindrather
than mind, and (3) interpretingaway difficultiesthat remain,e.g. how divine mindcan be foundamongobservablethings.Virtuallyno aspectof the
logos is untouched.Primafacie such a view can only be suspect.Finally,
the origin of the difficulties that generatesuch changes lies in a misfit
between the presupposed topic of Metaphysics A - the logos is theology

culminatingin the accountof god in chapter7 - andthe logos itself, which

announcesan investigationof obo(tC.
The oppositeresultsobtainfromidentifyingthe subjectof the logos as an
investigationof substance.(1) The argumentsare in the right order,i.e.
MetaphysicsA, 8 continuesand completesthe analysis of unmovedsubstance,(2) the text readsas it stands,i.e. withoutintroducing"divine", and
(3) the argumentsform a consistentpattern,a generalproblemof thinking
narrowedto the requisitespecial case. I shall suggest in conclusionthaton
this construalthe logos is remarkablycoherentand well-ordered.
F. How The World Contains The Good And The Best

MetaphysicsA, 10 raises a final problem:"Let us consideralso in which

way the natureof the whole containsthe good and the best, whetheras
somethingseparate,namelyitself in virtueof itself or as the order.Or [is it]
both ways, as does an army?"['E7aLdXETTnEOV
8E' xai 7totEQw;
gXF-L i TOi?
Xov (ptUCoLTO &vycO6v xC T6 dQLOTOV,


Tt X

xct0' act6, i 'iv TdIev. I &totK wgOrg

4DoJ?Q tTia;
(Metaphysics A, 10, 1075a 1-13)]. The good, Aristotleconcludeshere, is found

both in the orderand in the general,althoughmorein the latterbecausethe

orderdependson the generalbut not the converse.All things, e.g. fishes,
3' W. D. Ross, Aristotle's Metaphysics: A Revised Text with Introductionand Commentaryvol I, (Oxford, ClarendonPress, 1953), pp. cxxx-cliv.


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fowls and plants,are somehoworderedtogether,all thingsare nQoQg

This fifteen line argumentcompletesAristotle'sanalysis.The remainder
of the chapter,exceptthe last line, consistsexclusivelyof criticismsof other
views. Hence, these fifteen lines raise and solve the final problemof the
logos: in some sense all thingsare orderedtogether.
In one sense, this problemparallelsthatof mind:the problemof the good
of unmovedsubstance
and the best has been raisedby the characterization
direct examinationof
but, as
substance.Thus it too presents unfinishedbusiness, the completion of
which is closely tied to the accountof god in MetaphysicsA, 7. But in a
moreimportantsense, this problemaloneformsa suitableconclusionto the
investigationof substance:it returnsus to the natureof "the all", - an issue
raisedbeforesubstancewas subdividedinto sensibleandunmoved- and to
the relatedquestionof whetherthe threekindsof substancehave a common

Howeverone interpretsthe metaphorof the generaland the army(followed by anotherconcerningthe householderandthe household),the main
point is clear: all things are orderedtogether,connected, rQogtv. The
natureof the whole is notjust a successionof parts;it mustbe unifiedin a
But thereis no mentionhereeitherof substanceor of god. The readerand
the readeralone must connect this accountto the precedinganalysis:the
general is presumablythe unmovedmover, god, while the other things
mentioned,fishes, fowls and plants, are sensible substances.And on the
follows directly.Althoughthe
basis of this identificationan interpretation
threekinds of substanceare not derivedfrom some one, and so cannotbe
known by an examinationof it, nonethelessin the one to which they all
relate,all thingspossess a firstprinciple.In this sense, "the all" is one and
thereis a commonprinciplefor all substances.
These fifteen lines providea conclusionto the whole of MetaphysicsA
by returningus to the problemsand subjectof the opening lines of the
logos. The analysisthatfollows uponthe divisionof oOocLtinto its kindsis
formallycompleteat A 8. Problemsconcerningmindthatare raisedby the
analysis of unmovedsubstance,namely the relationof mind to its object
andthe natureof thatobjectare solved in A 9. The metaphorof the general
and the army(andthe householderandthe household)shows the good and
the best as relatedto "the all". Again,a predicateappearingin the analysis
of unmoved substanceappearsas a topic in its own right. This identity
founds the conclusion that this argumentcompletes the account of substance and presentsthe relationbetweenunmovedand sensible substance
andthe whole as orderedto a commonprinciple.Hencethis argumentboth

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reflects on the highest characteristicof god and providesa fitting conclusion to the constructiveanalysisof the logos as a whole.
Again, the relatedargumentof MetaphysicsF 2 seems irresistible.There
lv they fall underone
Aristotlearguesthat when things are related pQo6;
science. Such a science deals with what is primary,because other things
dependuponthese andeven derivetheirnamesthence.32"If thereforesubstanceis this, then the philosophermustgraspthe principlesandthe causes
f oboCC, TGv otaLO'v 6Wv&OL T-ag
of substances" [1 oiv TOI,T' ?(oTiLV
&QXagxacl TaS cdTiag 9xELvTOV qtlkOOoPOV (MetaphysicsF, 2, 1003bl719)]. And in MetaphysicsA we seem to do that by graspingthe "primary
instance",namelythe general,and, so, if we identifythe generalwith god,
Here we face the question of the topic of MetaphysicsA in its most
extremeform: if it is primarilyabout god, then why not understandit as
theology?Theology(a wordapparentlycoinedby Plato)meansthe studyof
god.33Aristotleuses the relatedword 0?oEk0YoX only twice and in both
cases considersthreekindsof theoreticalscience,physics,mathematics,and
theology.34And these texts agree:if naturalsubstanceis the only substance,
then physics will be the first science; but if there is an immovablesubstance, then the science of this will be first.35But MetaphysicsA is not,
strictlyspeaking,the science of immovablesubstance.It announcesan investigation of substance and, as we have seen, includes both sensible and
immovable substance.
At the opening of A, 1, the primacy of substance immediately raises the
problem of "the all". And however one interprets its details, the intent of
describing things in Metaphysics A 10 as JTQo;tv is to establish a science
of many different (and different kinds of) things, sensible as well as immov-

able. Herewe see whatis at stakein determiningthe subjectof Metaphysics

A: theology gives us god and a science of separate substance, but a rQpO;
relation gives us both the one and the world, "the all", as ordered to it. And
the problem that opens Metaphysics A 1, the problem addressed by the
metaphors of the general and his army, the householder and the household,
is a problem that concerns both the primacy of substance and the structure
Aristotle,MetaphysicsF, 2, 1003b16-17.
Cf. Plato, Republic II, 379a5.
Aristotle,MetaphysicsE 1, 1026a19 and K 7, 1064b2; cf. also Physics B 2, 193b25194al 1 for a parallel account of mathematicsand physics but no mention of theology.
We may note that althoughAristotle refersto "the theologians" [ot Oox6yot] twice in
MetaphysicsA (6, 1071b27 and 10, 1075b26) no other form of this word occurs in A.
The word Ocokoy(a occurs only once in Aristotleaccordingto Bonitz, Meteorologica B,
1, 353a35.
35 Aristotle,MetaphysicsE 1, 1026a28-31; MetaphysicsK 7, 1064b9-13.




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of "the all". Indeed,as an investigationof substancethatbegins and ends

with this problem,MetaphysicsA appearsto be not the science of separate
substance,theology,but the science indicatedin MetaphysicsF 2, the science of being qua being.
In the remainderof MetaphysicsA, 10 Aristotlecriticizes alternative,
inferiorviews, especiallythose of Platoand the Platonists.Insofaras these
views differ from his own, they lead (Aristotletells us) to impossibilities
(68vvaTa) and paradoxes(dToAa).36 And pathologiesof these problems
In its last line, the logos ends grandlywith a quotationnot from the
Presocraticsor Plato,butfromthe most ancientandreveredauthor,Homer.
Homer, expressing an eternal truth, confirins Aristotle's own position:
"The rule of many is not good; one ruler let there be" ["oibx &ya0ov
ctg xoiQavoS 90TOr." (MetaphysicsA, 10, 1076a4)].As
Aristotlerefersto the ancientsat the end of his introductionandat the close
of the analysis of the three kinds of substance,so too - and in this case
without furtherado - an ancient returnsus to and completes Aristotle's
view of substanceas first andprovidinga commonprinciplefor the all.

The overalllogical structureof the logos may be brieflysummarized.Arisand confirmsits importance- and
totle announceshis subjectfirst, oboCra,
his view in makingit important- by referenceto the ancients.The priority
of substanceleaves open the questionof the structureof the all; however
the all is structured,substancemust be first and the analysisof substance
can proceed. With this subject in place, Aristotle subdividesobiCrainto
threekinds,two sensibleand one unmoved.Again, a questionarisesbut is
left unanswered:do these threekinds sharea commonprincipleand so fall
undera single investigation?The answerto this questionwill determinethe
coherenceof the logos, since it is an investigationof substance.
The examinationof firstsensiblesubstancesandthenunmovedsubstance
follows directly.Withinthe analysisof sensiblesubstance(A 2-5) Aristotle
also announceshis subjectfirst and concludesby returningto the general
problemof substance.An examinationof unmovedsubstance(A 6-8) begins with an announcementof its subjectand ends with an extendedexcursion to most ancient opinion. As in the introduction,ancientopinion,
confirmingAristotle'sview, closes the argument.

36. Aristotle,MetaphysicsA, 10, 1075a25-27.


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Analysis of two topics raised within but different from the analysis of
unmoved substance concludes the logos. The first concerns mind and its
relation to its object. This analysis takes up as its subject a predicate (thinking about thinking) that appears in the analysis of unmoved substance.
Several conclusions follow about the relation of mind to the object of
thought and the nature of that object. These conclusions apply both to
theoretical science and to eternal immaterial thinking that has itself as its
object. Neither substance nor god is explicitly mentioned in this analysis.
Finally, in A, 10 Aristotle considers how the nature of the whole contains
the good and the best. Since unmoved substance has been characterized as
"life at its best", this topic seems to return us to substance as first and the
constitution of "the all". The metaphors of the general and the army, the
householder and the household, address the ambiguity raised in the opening
line of the logos. Again, unmoved substance, or god, is not mentioned in
this chapter; so when Aristotle concludes that the good is found both (and
more) in the general, because he does not depend upon anything else, and in
the order of the parts that depend upon him, the reader must provide the
connection to unmoved substance and ultimately the problem of the all with
which the logos begins. With the primacy of the general (and the householder) it would seem that all things do relate to a one, to some common
principle. Herein lies not only the coherence of the world but also the
coherence of the logos as an investigation of substance. Having thus completed his own account, Aristotle criticizes opposing views and the logos,
like its most importantparts, closes with a quotation from an ancient, in this
case the most noble of all - Homer.
This proposed structureraises two questions that must be answered if this
analysis is to be persuasive. (1) What, finally, is Metaphysics A about? (2)
How can we understand the order and unity of the logos, especially if it
includes two arguments (A 9 and 10) that do not even mention substance
and (on my account) concern different topics?
(1) What is Metaphysics A about? Although it contains a discussion, i.e.
A 7, in which unmoved substance is identified as god, it is about substance
(ouo(a) properly speaking. Metaphysics A is an investigation of substance
as first, however "the all" is constituted. While it is true that substance
cannot be examined except as three kinds of substance (two sensible and
one unmoved), nevertheless the subdivision of substance into these kinds
comes after the identification of the subject of the theoria. Hence, this
division and its resulting kinds constitutes not the subject of the logos but
the first step in its analysis. Finally, the conclusions about substance (first as
sensible and then as unmoved) are consistently referred back to the problem
of substance as first and its relation to "the all".

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(2) How can we understandthe orderand unity of the logos as a fully

developedformalargument?The investigationof substanceunifies the logos. It is announcedin the opening line and subdividedinto two parts,
whichare takenup in order.Eachpartannouncesits "local topic", i.e. first
sensible and then unmovedsubstance,analyses this topic, and refers its
conclusionsbackto the broadestproblemsassociatedwith substance.Metaphysics A, 8 furtherdevelopsthe argumentstartedin A 6 and continuedin
7; at the end of 8 andonly at the end of 8 do we find the conclusionof the
argumentabout unmovedsubstanceand the conclusionof the analysisof
Within the analysis of unmoved substance, two predicates appear,
"thinkingaboutthinking"and "life at its best". However,each of these is
also a topic in its own right; "thinkingabout thinking"raises problems
concerningthe relationbetweenvovsgand its objectwhile "life at its best"
raises the issue of the independenceof what is best and the relationof the
best to the all. These topics and the problemsentailed by them present
unfinishedbusiness, unresolvedambiguities,for the investigationof substance.Hencethey are raisedandanalyzedin theirown rightas soon as the
accountof substanceis complete.Althoughneitherunmovedsubstancenor
god appearsin eitherof thesearguments,the fact thatpredicatesestablished
in the analysisof unmovedsubstanceappearhere as subjectsatteststo the
role of these argumentsin the logos. They functionsolely withinand as a
completionof the investigationannouncedin the openingline: the investigationof substance.
Hereinlies the order,the unity, indeedthe remarkableefficiencyof this
logos. It is dominatedthe topic announcedin the openingline. Even when
the examinationof substanceleads to topics that must be treatedin their
own right,the analysisof these topics is radicallyrestrictedby the requirementsof an examinationof substance.Indeed,for this reasonMetaphysics
A may be offeredas a perfectexampleof an investigationof substance.
Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut


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