PH354 Aristotle Change (1): Change and the Definition of Change
Introduction • Change and commonsense metaphysics • The character of Aristotle’s vindication of commonsense metaphysics • Change is central in Aristotle’s metaphysics. • But there are questions about exactly what Aristotle thought change was, as well as questions about how the account of change coheres with other aspects of his philosophy. • A terminological note: I will translate ‘kinesis’, with Lear (1988) as ‘change’. Note that it is also standard to translate this term as ‘motion’.
Lecture Plan • Aristotle’s arguments for the reality of change and his views about what change is. • The ‘refutation of Parmenides’ • The definition of change in PhysicsBook III, and the question of how to understand Aristotle’s this definition of change. • While it is clear what Aristotle thought change was, there remain difficulties in understanding how his famous definition picks it out.
Physics Book I • “(I)n all cases of coming to be, if they are looked at as I suggest, this may be taken as definite, that there must always be something underlying which is the coming to-be thing, and this, even if it is one in number, is not one in form. (By ‘in form’ I mean the same as ‘in account’.) The being of a man is not the same as being ignorant of music. And the one remains and the other does not. That which is not opposed remains—the man remains—but the not knowing music and the ignorant of music do not remain, and neither does the compound of the two, the ignorant of music man.” (190a, 13-22)
Physics Book I: The Ingredients of Change • ‘Opposites’ (e.g. being not red and being red, being immature, being mature). • ‘Something underlying’(the thing which has those properties; that which was first not red and then was red)
Physics Book 1: Qualitative Change • In the change becoming a musician (coming to be a musician), a man (who ‘underlies’ the change) goes from being ignorant of music to knowing music. • There is a difference between the opposites being ignorant of music and knowing music. • There is the sameness of the man who has the first property at one time and the second at a later time; the thing ‘that underlies’.
Physics Book 1: Substantial Change • “But that realities too, and whatever things simply are, come to be out of something underlying, will, if you look attentively, become plain. There is always something which underlies, out of which the thing comes to be, as plants and animals come to be out of seed. The things which simply come to be do so some of them by a change of shape, like a statue, some by addition, like things which grow, some by subtraction, as a Hermes comes to be out of the stone, some by composition, like a house, some by alteration, like things which change with respect to their matter. All things which come to be like this plainly come to be out of underlying things.” (190b, 1- 9)
Physics Book 1 • In the case of each of these kinds of change we can refer to the change as one from not being to being (i.e. from not musical to musical, or from not statue formed to statue formed). • But in doing so, there is an aspect of change elided by the description; that there is a change from a being which is not some way to a being which is another
Against the impossibility of change • The first people to philosophize about the nature and truth of things got so to speak side-tracked or driven off course by inexperience, and 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, since there must be something underlying. And thus inflating the consequences of this, they deny a plurality of things altogether, and say that there is nothing but ‘what is, itself’. (191a23- 33)
Against the impossibility of change • If there is such a thing as coming to be, then something must come to be from something or come to be from nothing. • If something comes to be from something then that thing already exists and cannot come to be. • Something cannot come to be from nothing. (Principle of Sufficient Reason) • Therefore there can be no such thing as coming to be.
Against the Impossibility of Change • Aristotle agrees that 1 and 3 are true but rejects 2. • As discussed in the previous section, we can pick out a change ‘as if’ something came from nothing. Being F can come from not-F. But this is just because something that is not-F comes to be something that is F.
Why Change Matters for Aristotle • The notion of nature can only be understood in terms of the notion of change • The distinction between an essence and accidental qualities can only be understood in terms of change • The idea of a distinction between form and matter is grounded in change • Aristotle also wants to use the notion of change to understand the notion of time.
The Analysis of Change in Physics Book III • Aristotle’s account of change concedes that something being F can come from something not being F. The second horn of Parmenides’ dilemma is motivated by the thought that for something to come from nothing would be inexplicable. But is it any advance to maintain something being F can come from not being F? • Aristotle argues that an object does not change from being merely not F to being F. Objects which become F have a potentiality (dunamis) to be F.
The Analysis of Change in Physics Book III • A potentiality to be F is a power or capacity to be F. Powers or capacities are real features of objects that have to be understood in terms of what they are powers for. (They can’t be understood merely as static arrangements of atoms, things which can’t be understood as being ‘for’ or ‘directed at’ anything). • The potentiality to know music might involve, amongst other things, the ability to hear, and to respond to rhythm, to hear melodies at the correct pitch, etc.
The Analysis of Change in Physics Book III • Corresponding to the notion of potentiality is the notion of actuality. • For something to exist in actuality is for it to be actual; for it to exist. • For knowing music to exist in actuality is for the potentiality for knowing music to be made actual.
The Definition of Change in Physics Book III • “(I)t is manifest that the actuality of the potential, qua potential, is change.” 201b 3-4 • “For example: the actuality of what admits of qualitative change, qua admitting of qualitative change, qua admitting of qualitative change, is qualitative change; of what admits of increase and decrease (there is no common term to cover both), it is increase and decrease, of what admits of coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be, it is coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be; of what admits of locomotion, it is locomotion…
The Definition of Change in Physics Book III • …That this is change is clear from the following: when that which is buildable is in actuality, in the respect in which we call it such, it is being built, and this is the process of building; and similarly with learning and healing and jumping and maturing and growing old.” (201b 11-19)
Change is the Actualization of a Potential for Being (See Kastman (1987); Ross (1936), (1949)) • “(M)otion is ‘the actualization of that which is potentially, as such.’ I.e if there is something which is actually x and potentially y, motion is the making actual of its y-ness” (W.D. Ross (1949, 81)) • “”Entelechia” must here (i.e. in the definition of motion) mean ‘actualization’ not ‘actuality’: it is the passage from potentiality to actuality that is kinesis.” (W.D. Ross (1936: 537)
Change is the Actualization of a Potential for Being (See Kastman (1987); Ross (1936), (1949)) • Positive: • Singles out process not product • Negative: • Coope(2009) and Kosman (1969) allege it is circular and vacuous • ‘Entelecheia’ never means actualization or actualizing (the process of becoming actual) elsewhere in Aristotle; it always just means ‘actuality’. • The ‘qua’ potential in the definitionis redundant
Change is the Actuality of a Potential to be Changing (See Heineman (1994)) • The potential that is relevant to the definition of change is the potential to be changing. • For this potentiality to be an actuality is for the agent of change to be changing.
Change is the Actuality of a Potential to be Changing (See Heineman (1994)) • Positive: • (i) This account singles out the process rather than the product. • (ii) There is textual support for this view given that Aristotle often appears to describe the potential the actuality of which is in question in terms of change. (“Alteration is the actuality of what is alterable qua alterable” 201a11-12)
Change is the Actuality of a Potential to be Changing (See Heineman (1994)) • Negative: • (i) Coope (2009) charges that this account, like the view that actuality means ‘actualizing’ is circular. The notion of a potential to be changing is just the notion of a potential to change, so presupposes what change is. • (ii) The approach cannot explain why Aristotle says that change is something ‘incomplete’. To say that change is something incomplete is to say that it is something that is not yet whole, or from which something is missing. • (“(B)esides change does seem to be a kind of operation but an incomplete one—the reason being the potential, of which it is the potential, is incomplete.” (201b 31-2)
Change is the Actuality of a Potential to be Changing (See Heineman (1994)) • …But if the actuality in question is of a potential to be changing, then surely such an actuality is complete. • (iii) There is also a worry about whether there is an explanation of the ‘qua potential’. The first part of the definition (the actuality of a potential to be changing) singles out change by itself. The ‘qua’ is redundant.
Change as the Incomplete Actuality of a Potential to be in a New State • (See Kosman (1969), Waterlow (1982) and Coope (2009)) • “When Aristotle says that change is the actuality of what is potentially F, qua potentially F, the point of the qua clause is partly to emphasize that the actuality in question is the actuality of something insofar as it is merely potentially F. A things’ potential to be F is most fully actual as a potential. When the thing is not yet F.” (Coope (2009: 283)
Change as the Incomplete Actuality of a Potential to be in a New State • “(T)he actuality of the buildable, qua buildable, is the process of building. For the actuality is either the process of building or the house, but when the house is, the buildable no longer is.” (201b9-11)
Change as the Incomplete Actuality of a Potential to be in a New State • “When I am in Philadelphia, I am potentially in Berkeley. But that potentiality to be in Berkeley lies dormant, so to speak, until I quit Philadelphia; it becomes manifest, becomes, we might say, actual, only as I embark upon a journey to Berkeley. There is then a sense (so odd that only a philosopher would want to use it) in which situate in Philadelphia I am only potentially a potential inhabitant of Berkeley, ..
Change as the Incomplete Actuality of a Potential to be in a New State • whereas motoring through Council Bluffs on a pilgrimage from Philadelphia to Berkeley, I am actually a potential inhabitant of Berkeley. And so my journey to Berkeley is the constitutive actuality of my potentiality to be in Berkeley, or of myself qua potentially in Berkeley.” (L. A. Kosman (1969: 53)
Change as the Incomplete Actuality of a Potential to be in a New State • The potential in question is the potential to be in a new state (e.g. for something immature, to be mature). • So, the actuality in question is the actuality of a capacity to be in a new state. • But there are different ways that this potentiality can be actual. One is for the thing to be in the new state. But the relevant actuality that is singled out in Aristotle’s definition of change is the actuality of the potentiality as incomplete. • The potential to be in the new state is not fully complete. This is how we should understand change.
Change as the Incomplete Actuality of a Potential to be in a New State • Positive: • The account identifies the process—the change—rather than the product. • Coope(2009) maintains that this account is not circular. It does not presuppose the notion of change, she argues. Neither is the account trivially or analytically true. (cf. Kosman (1969) on Ross (1936)). • Coope(2009) and Kosman (1969) both emphasize that on this account we get a perspicuous account of the “qua potential” in the definition.
Physics VIII: Eternal Motion • “(T)hough there may be countless instances of the perishing of movers unmoved, and though many things that move themselves perish and are succeeded by others that come into being, and though one thing that is unmoved moves one thing while another moves another, nevertheless there is something that comprehends them all,…
Physics VIII: Eternal Motion • and that as something apart from each one of them, and this it is that is the cause of the fact that some things are and others are not and of the continuous process of change; and this causes the motion of the other movers, while they are causes of the motion of other things. Motion, then, being eternal, the first mover, if there is but one, will be eternal also; if there are more than one, there will be a plurality of such eternal movers.”(258b33- 259a8)
Physics VIII: Eternal Motion • But, since the movement is eternal, it does not appear that there is an end-point at which the movement will culminate (and at which the potential to be in some new state is fully complete). • So, it appears that there is a kind of motion or change that doesn’t fit the account offered in Physics Books I and II.
The Notion of Energeia • “Since of the actions which have a limit none is an end but all are relative to the end, e.g. the process of making thin is of this sort, and the things themselves which one is making them thin are in movement in this way (i.e. without being already that it which the movement aims), this is not an action or at least not a complete one (for it is not an end); but that in which the end is present is an action.
The Notion of Energeia • E.g. at the same time we are seeing and have seen, are understanding and have understood, are thinking and have thought: but it is not true that at the same time we are learning and have learnt, or are being cured and have been cured…. Of these processes, then, we must call the one set movements (kinesis), and the other actualities (energeia).” (1048b17- 28)
A Second Worry • Suppose a structured series of 10 classes in mathematics, in each of which students learn how to perform part of a mathematical operation, M. • After each lesson, students get closer and closer to being able to perform the operation. After the 10th class, students can perform M. • It seems that the state that one is in after having attended the fifth class could be thought of as an actuality of the potentiality to be in the state of knowing how to perform M, which was just the notion that was alleged to define change.
A Second Worry • But such a state is not, of course, change. • But if that is the case, then does that show that the account of change offered by Kosman (1969), Coope (2009), and Waterlow (1982) is not sufficient to explain change? • Is it possible to provide an explanation of why such a state does not satisfy the definition of change, as understood according to account (3)?
Lecture Summary • Aristotle maintains that change involves transition between opposites and an underlying subject. • Aristotle’s discernment of structure in the objects of change provides a way of responding to the Parmenideanargument about the impossibility of change. • We examined different proposals about how to understand the Physics Book III definition of change.
Lecture Summary • There are problems for the Ross (1936) and Heineman (1994) accounts that are not faced on the approach adopted by Ursula Coope, AryehKosman and others. • But that account itself faces challenges.