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Back to Unedited Philosophy Quotes and Ramblings about Intequinism.

The Metaphysics

Author:          ARISTOTLE

Time:             384-322 BC


Publisher:       PENGUIN BOOKS

Place:             London, England

Date:              This translation first published 1998, reprinted with an updated Bibliography 2004.

ISBN-13:       978-0-140-44619-7


8 Aug 2013

'ALPHA 1 …



[981a] …

<p.5> "For the experienced know the 'that' but not the 'because', whereas the skilled have a grasp of the 'because', the cause.

            That is why in each field designers are thought more prestigious and to have more knowledge than craftsmen and to be wiser, [981b] in that they know the causes for what is being done. The assumption is that it is not being practical that makes them wiser but their possession of an account and their grasp of the causes. And in general the ability to teach is a distinguishing mark between the knowledgeable and the ignorant man, and that is why we think that skill is rather a form of knowledge than experience. For the skilled can, whereas the merely experienced cannot, teach.

            Furthermore, we do not think that any of the senses is wisdom, even those that are the most important forms of cognition at the level of particulars. They do not, though, give the reason for anything, e.g. as why fire is hot, but merely indicate that it is hot. And so it would not <p.6> be surprising if the first man to discover some skill or other, beyond the common senses, was admired by other men not only because of the utility of some of what he discovered but as being wise and above the herd. For when several skills had been discovered, some having to do with necessity and some with indulgence, it is reasonable that the practitioners of the latter were always more admired than those of the former because of the uselessness of their knowledge. Hence, indeed, it was that when all such arts had been discovered, those arts were discovered which had to do neither with pleasure nor with necessities, and this happened first in those places where men had leisure. That is why it was in Egypt that the mathematical sciences were first developed, for their leisure was available to the priestly caste. And so, as we said above, the man of experience is thought to be wiser than the man who has just any perception of a subject, the craftsman wiser than the man of experience, the designer wiser than the artisan and the theoretical sciences wiser than the productive ones.

            [982a] It is clear, then, that wisdom is knowledge having to do with certain principles and causes."


<self: See the comment later, which Aristotle made about the business of templates (p195) being not of value.>


10 May 2013



[Aristotle:] Of those, then, who assert that the universe is one and a single nature, and that this is bodily and has magnitude, it is clear that they are wrong in many respects. For it is only of bodies that they posit the elements and not of the unbodily things. And when they try to give the causes for generation and destruction, and give a comprehensive physical account, they miss the cause of movement.

<p.30> Well, the so-called Pythagoreans use pretty strange principles and elements for the study of nature (and the reason is that they have not taken them from sensible things; for the mathematicals are entities without change except for those connected with astronomy), and yet they discuss and work about nature as a whole.

<p.31> For Plato says that there is another, and yet even he thinks that these things too are numbers and the causes of these things, but that some of them are intellectual and some of them sensible.'


25 June 2013





'XXVII. Mutilated


A feature of quantities which must be divisible into parts as well as being wholes.

            Thus two, for instance, is not mutilated when one of the two ones is subtracted—in no cases is the extent of the mutilation equal to what is left—and this goes for number in general. This is because another requirement is that the substance be left: if a cup is mutilated, it must still be a cup, but a number will not be the same after mutilation.

            <p.147> …

            … Bald men, accordingly, have not been mutilated.'



[1024b] …

'XXIX. False


(i) Used of a false thing. On the one hand, either because it has not been assembled or because it would be impossible for it to be assembled. Examples: the claim the diagonal is commensurable or the claim that you are seated. For of these one is always, the other sometimes, false. And it is in this way that these things do not have being.

            On the other hand, all things as do have being but are by nature such that they appear either not to be of the sort of which they are or to be things that do not have being. Examples: a sketch or dreams. These certainly are something but not those things that they induce us to imagine.

            Things, then, are said in this way to be false either by dint of their themselves having being or by dint of the fact that the appearance induced by them is of something that does not have being. <p.149>

(ii) A false account, qua false, is an account of things that do not have being. Accordingly, every account is false of something other than that of which it is a true account. The account, for instance, of a circle is false of a triangle.

            And in a way there is but one account of the particular, that of the what-it-was-to-be-that-thing, whereas in another way there are many. This is because the particular itself and the particular as under some affection (e.g. Socrates and the musical Socrates) are in a way the same. And a false account is not an account of anything simpliciter. This, in fact, is why the view of Antisthenes is simplistic. He held that nothing is to be spoken of except under its propriety account, there being one such for each object. The conclusion drawn was that it was impossible to speak falsely. However, it is possible to speak of the particular not only under its own account but also under that of something else. Now, of course, this can by all means be a case of falsehood, but there is also a way in which such a statement can be true. For instance, eight can be said to be a double number under the account of two.

(iii) Also, a man, if he is adept at, and prone to, such accounts, [1025a] not for some other reason but for the falsity itself. Also the man who is disposed to induce such accounts in others, which is like the way in which we say that things are false if they induce a false appearance. Hence, indeed, the deceptiveness of the argument in the Hippias to the effect that the same man is both false and true. This argument makes two assumptions: (a) that the man who is able to speak false is false (and this, of course, is the man of knowledge and good sense) and (b) that the man who willingly does wicked things is the better man. But this second assumption is falsely derived by induction, for instance from the fact that the man who willingly limps (i.e., in the context, who imitates a limp) is better off than the man who does so unwillingly, given that, if the man was willingly lame (and not just pretending), he would presumably be worse off in this way, as also would the corresponding man in the moral case.'


17 July 2013




[1032a] …

'ZETA 7 …

Things that are produced differ in that some of them are produced by nature, some by skill and some by spontaneity. …

<p.190> Now the other sort of productions are called makings. And all makings are either from skill, from ability or from thinking. In fact there can be cases of making owing to spontaneity and to chance in a manner that pretty much mirrors similar cases in things produced from nature. …

Now, things are produced from skill if the form of them is in the mind [1032b] (and by form I mean the what-it-was-to-be-that-thing for each thing and the primary substance). …

<p.191> A part, then, of productive processes is called thinking and another part is called making. That which is from the principle and form is called thinking and that from the last stage of the thinking process is called making. And in fact each of the intermediate stages in the process is produced in the same way.'


'[1033a] …



<p.194> To produce a this-thing-here, after all, is to produce a this-thing-here from, generally speaking, the substrate. What I am driving at is that producing a bronze ball is not producing the ball or sphere but rather another thing, which is as this form in something else. For if there is production here, [1033b] it must ex hypothesi be production from something. Fir instance, a bronze sphere is produced, but this is in such a way that this-thing-here, which is a sphere, is produced from this-thing-here, which is bronze. If however, this itself is the output of a production, then this production will take place in the same way and this will clearly generate an infinite regress. <self: i do not currently see the infinite regress Aristotle is talking about, it probably is referred to by Kant as noumenon thing in itself>

            What all this shows is that:


(i)         the form (shape in object of perception – call it what you will) is not produced,

(ii)       there is no production of it, and

(iii)      neither does the what-it-was-to-be-that-thing (it is this that is realized in something else, by dint of skill, nature or ability).


However, that there is a bronze sphere is an output of production. The production is from bronze and sphere – the form is imported into this stuff and the result is a bronze sphere. But then, quite generally, if to be in sphere form is itself the output of a production, then this will be a case of something being produced from something. The rule cannot here be suspended that all outputs of production can be split up, with this component and that component, and I am saying that the one is matter and the other form.

            But this would mean that, if we take sphere to be:


(a)       a figure at all points equally remote from

(b)       its midpoint,


then one of these must be the component in which the other is produced and the other the component which is produced in the other. And the two together will be the output of production, on a parallel with the way the bronze sphere is such an output. But this only goes to show still more clearly that the component that is spoken of as form or substance is not produced, whereas the composite entity that is named after it is an output of production, and that matter is present in every output of production, that such things are both a this and a that.

            But then the question is this: is there some sphere over and above over and above the ones we see around us, or is there a house over and above its bricks? Would that not just be to deny that anything is produced as a this-thing-here? Surely, it is rather the case that the form indicates a such-and-such. It is a this-sort-of-thing-here. So a full this-thing-here, a Callias or a Socrates, is in the same boat as the bronze sphere on the table, whereas the man and animal are in the position of bronze sphere in general.

            But this refutes the claim that the Formed cause (and we have here in mind a certain well-known way of introducing the Forms, in which they are definite things over and above particulars) is in any way relevant to productions and substances. There is no reason in all this for the Forms to be substances in themselves. In fact there are cases in which the producing agent, while indeed the same sort of thing as the output of production, is quite evidently not the same as it, nor one in number but only one in form. Patent examples are furnished by the natural entities (remember 'man begets man'), and the exceptions involve something non-natural occurring, as when a horse produces a mule. (In fact there is nothing very disturbing about such cases: the kind that is common to horse and ass and which most nearly comprises them happens not to have a name, [1034a] but can safely be presumed to be both, i.e. the horse-ass or 'mule'.)

            So we can do away with the business of Forms Being Established As Templates. After all, if there were such Forms they would surely apply <p.196> to natural entities, which are the ones that are substances in the fullest way. Rather, all we need is that it is the producer that does the making and, in the matter, is the cause of the form. And the full output, this sort of form in this very flesh and bones is Callias or is Socrates. They differ materially (their matter is different), but they are formally the same (indivisibility of the form).




            The foregoing also makes it clear that in a way everything is produced either (i) form a bearer of the same name, as in the case of things produced naturally – an example of this among artefacts is a building, which is produced from a building to the extent that it is produced by thought, in that the skill is the form of the building – or (ii) from a part with the same name or (iii) from the possessor of some such part, ruling out, that is, mere cases of accidental production. …

            Natural compositions do not differ radically from this. For, on the one hand, the productive effect of the seed is not different from that from skill, given that the seed possesses the form potentially and that <p.199> that from which it comes shares its name, in a way, [1034b] with the product.'



In ZETA 9 – ZETA 17 (p.197-230) somewhere Aristotle wrote that humans were made out of earth and fire (partly?).


9 November 2013

Kenny quoted Aristotle as follows: " 'What comes into existence must always be devisible, and there must be two identifiable components, one matter and the other form. ... (Kenny's periods) it is clear from what has been said that the part which is called form or substance does not come into existence; what comes into existence is the composite entity which bears its name. (Z 8. 1033b16-19)'

            He goes on to draw an anti-Platonic conclusion: if everyday enmattered forms do not come into existence at all, there is not need to invoke separate, Ideal, Forms to explain how forms come into existence. (Z 8. 1033b26)"[1]


28 July 2013




<p.264> The explanation of this is that non-rational potentialities are all such that there is a one-to-one correlation of potentiality and effect, whereas with the rational potentialities each potentiality is correlated with a pair of effects. So if the potentiality was, in the rational cases, automatically triggered, it would yield simultaneous contrary effects, which is clearly not possible.

            And from this it follows that the triggering of such potentialities must be under the control of something else, and in saying this I have in mind desire or rational preference.'



When i read this it meant to me that Aristotle distinguished non-rational as immanent cause and effect for example when a racket hits a tennis ball at an angle, which affects the ball in a non-rational (racket and ball) manner. The rational side Aristotle identifies, are two ways that rational beings can react to immanent effects on them. Aristotle thus saw desiring as a rational decision and choosing rationally was also a rational decision. The distinction between 'rational' preference and desire however, kind of, excludes desiring from 'rational' because rational is divided into rational and desire.


14 Augustus 2013



… [1074a] …

<p.380> From old – and indeed extremely ancient – times [1074b] there has been handed down to our later age intimations of a mythical character to the effect that the stars are gods and that the divine embraces the whole of nature. The further details were subsequently added in the manner of myth. Their purpose was the persuasion of the masses and general legislative and political expediency. For instance, the myths tell us that these gods are anthropomorphic or resemble some of the other animals and give us other, comparable extrapolations of the basic picture. If, then, we discard these accretions and consider the central feature, that they held the primary substances to be gods, we might well believe the claim to have been directly inspired. We might also conclude that, while it is highly probable that all possible arts and doctrines have <p.381> been many times discovered and lost, these ancient cosmologies have been preserved, like holy relics, right up to the present day. It is these, and these alone, that we can know clearly of the ancestral – indeed primordial – beliefs.'


20 August 2013


"[1074b] … <p.382>


There are, however, certain difficulties with our account of divine thought.

(a)   On the one hand, it is readily agreed that thinking is the most godlike of things in our experience, but there are some problems involved in showing exactly what state it must be in to be of this kind. Where then would be its grandeur? It is in that state that it would be in if it were (sic) asleep. Alternatively, suppose that it thinks, but that its doing so is under the control of some other factor, so that what is its substance is not, now, the activation of thought but merely the potential for it. In <p.383> that case, its substance would fall short of supreme excellence, since it is thinking that confers its merit on it.

(b)  … Does it then make any difference, or none at all, whether it thinks of the good or any arbitrary object whatever?

(c)   Also, are there not some objects about which it is absurd that it should rationate?

… there would clearly then be something something else of higher merit than the thinking, to wit the object of thought.

… That is just why it must think itself, if it is to retain supremacy, and absolute thinking is the thinking of thinking."

List of References

KENNY, A.  2010.  A new history of Western philosophy in four parts.  (Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 2012 paperback edition)

[1]           Kenny, A. 2010. A new history, 176.