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Aristotle: Lecture Three

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  1. Aristotle: Lecture Three Categories.

  2. Aristotle’s Theory of Change • Parmenides’ mistake according to Aristotle. “The first people to philosophize about the nature and truth of things…got..driven off course by inexperience…and said that nothing comes to be or passes away.” Physics I.8 191a24 N.B. Aristotle’s approach: You know something has gone wrong whenever an argument leads to a conclusion that contradicts, a) common sense, b) most science and c) experience.

  3. Parmenides’ paradox (N.B. ancient meaning of the word paradox.) Parmenides said “that nothing comes to be or passes away, because whatever comes to be must do so either out of something which is, or out of something which is not, and neither is possible. What is cannot come to be since it is already, and nothing can come to be out of what is not…” Aristotle, Phys I.8 191a 27-32

  4. Either something is or it is not • Nothing can come to be (pass into existence) from nothing) things come to be for a reason. • For change to happen, something must come into existence. • If something (B) comes to be from something existing (A), either B is new in which case insofar s it is new it came from nothing (which by 2 is impossible) or it is not new in which case it is like A and is A, and not new. • Therefore, (by 1, 2, 3 & 4) nothing new can come from something existing. • Therefore change is impossible.

  5. “there must be something underlying”. There is something that lies under (and perdures) through the process of change. What? Hypokeimenon (the lying under thing)from the verb hypo-keisthai (to underly). N.B. this is often translated as ‘subject’ and English noun which derives from the Latin verb to lie under. The trouble is that in English ‘subject’ has other meanings especially a grammatical term. The Subject of the sentence: Man is mortal. Often this hypokeimenon is called the subject, but it is better thought of as a substrate, or some underlying thing.

  6. Aristotle’s theory of change makes use of the thesis that, in any process of change there is something underlying. And his distinction between potentiality (dynamis) and actuality (energeia). Ar. Change is possible because something exists before the change that has the potential to become what emerges in the change. Change is the actualizing of potential being as such. Phys III.1 201a16-18. S. Waterlow ch.3: J Lear ch.3.

  7. Aristotle’s Categories In the categories Aristotle puts forward his early theory of substance. A “category” is a predicate. S is p. Socrates is mortal. The horse is white. N.B. But not a linguistic predicate of a linguistic subject: it is a material thing that is predicated of another thing. ( More like a property) So the categories is a list of the kinds of thing there are, or a catalog of the general kinds of entities into which reality divides up.

  8. Aristotle’s question in the Categories: What is ontologically basic? Aristotle’s answer in the Categoreis: Particulars are primary substances. (See J. Lear, p. 270) • Primary Substance is a subject for predication, but is not predicable of anything further. • Particulars are not predicable of anything further. • Particulars are also subjects of predication. • Therefore to be a primary substance is to be a particular. E.g. Socrates. Or this horse (say, Arkle).

  9. Chapter 4 opens with a list of 10 categories.1b25 • Substance (e.g., man, horse) • Quantity (e.g., four-foot, five-foot) • Quality (e.g., white, grammatical) • Relation (e.g., double, half) • Place (e.g., in the Lyceum, in the market-place) • Date (e.g., yesterday, last year) • Posture (e.g., is lying, is sitting) • State (e.g., has shoes on, has armor on) • Action (e.g., cutting, burning) • Passion (e.g., being cut, being burned)

  10. How did Aristotle arrive at such a (to us) weird and somewhat ad hoc list? • Ackrill a) by distinguishing the different questions that could be asked about something (in Greek). • E.g. 1. What? 2. How big? 3. Of what kind? 4. Related to what? 5. Where? 6. when? 7.How situated? 8. Having (wearing) what? 9.What does it do? 10. What is done to it? • b) By taking the various answers to appropriate wuestions that could be asked of any substance – e.g. the horse – Socrates, and ascending upward through species and genus until some limit is reached. As in Topics 1.9

  11. Aristotle’s classification of beings (τἃ ὄντα) : Chapter 2 Among the things that are (tōn ontōn) All beings are either i) “said of” something as subject (kath’ hypokeimou legetai) or ii) “present in” something as subject (en hypokeimenōi) Meaning of “said of”.Ackrill p. 75: “What is said of an individual, X, is what could be mentioned in answer to the question ‘What is X?’ living being (Genus) animal Species) man (Individual) Socrates

  12. Meaning of “in”. Ackrill p. 74: A is in B iff • one could naturally say in ordinary language that A is in B (or something similar) • A is not part of B • A is inseparable from B e.g. Socrates’s pallor (the colour of his skin) or knowledge. But not man or animal.

  13. This gives rise to a fourfold classification a) said of and not in. (like ‘man’ in: Socrates is a man. b) in a subject but not said of it. (Socrates’s pallor.) c) said of and in a subject. (knowledge/whiteness). d) not said of and not in. (This man. Socrates. This horse.) Ackrill’s gloss • species and genera in the category of substance. • Individuals in categories other than substance. • Species and genera in categories other than substance. • Individuals in the category of substance

  14. Ackrill’s gloss a) species and genera in the category of substance. b) Individuals in categories other than substance. c) species and genera in categories other than substance. d) individuals in the category of substance Studtmann’s gloss “said of” = universals “not said of” = particulars; “in a subject” = accident; “not in a subject = non-accidental. a) accidental universals; b) essential universals; c) Accidental particulars; d) non-accidental particulars.

  15. In any case d) has pride of place and supplies the answer to his question, what is ontologically basic or what are primary substances. The answer seems to be that concrete particulars that are members of natural kinds are paradigmatic. This of course is deeply anti-Platonic. Compare Plato’s theory of forms – What is ontologically basic are the forms – universals. However, Aristotle’s theory of substance in the categories raises two difficulties.

  16. Aristotle’s doctrine of substance in the Categories precedes his development of form and matter. Once he has that distinction he need no longer claim that Socrates depends on nothing but himself and therefore is ontologically basic. Socrates is a composite of a living body (mattter) and a soul (form). Now ask does Socrates depend on his form or his matter for his exsitence? If the answer is “yes” Socrates is not a primary substance.

  17. The ultimate subject of predication with regard to each thing is the particular. • Primary being (substance) consists in the particular. • The essence with regard to each thing is the universal. • The ultimate subject of predication of each thing is not the essence of that thing. • Primary being with regard to each thing is not the essence of that thing. (Vasilis Politis p 117.)