The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology


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To ask at the outset of the discussion for more by way of understanding, Being and Substance 13 or by way of justifcation for appealing to the notion of substance, is to be a victim of the same misunderstanding as in the case we imagined with regard to the soul. Once again, however, we have been reminded of the ancillary nature of the analysis of substance; ultimately, our discussion of ontology must lead back whether in fact or merely virtually to being.

The primacy of substance within the categorical range of being only underlines this fact of substances noblesse oblige; at the end of the day, we will want something by way of an answer to the question of how substance ex- plains being. The Senses of Substance For now, we can note that it is primarily in the central books of the Metaphysics above all Books 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 12 that the theory of sub- stance and the explanation of how it illuminates being are developed.

But it will be helpful for us to look frst at the description of substance in Book 5 of the Metaphysics. In Book 5, Aristotle provides what is essentially a lexicon of the most important philosophical terms and their range of meaning. Although the chapter on substance is not obviously connected with the main thread of argument in the Metaphysics, it afords a view of the most rudimentary senses of substance, and it is, I will suggest, helpful in understanding how that argument goes.

Here is Aristotles account of substance in Book 5, chapter 8. I have added numerals to the text in order to keep track of its parts. We call substance, frst, [1] the simple bodies, that is, earth and fre and water and the like, and in general bodies and the things com- posed of them, both animals and heavenly bodies, and their parts. All of these are called substance because they are not said of a sub- ject, but all other things are said of them. Then there are [3] those constituent parts which by being present in such things defne them and designate each of them as some determinate thing, and which, if they were taken away, 14 T he Ac t i v i t y of Be i ng the thing would be entirely taken away, like surface in relation to body, as some people say, or line to surface.

And more generally, number seems to some to be of this sort: they say that if it were taken away, there would be nothing, and it defnes all things. It follows then that substance is said in two senses: [I] the ultimate subject, which is not said further of anything else, and [II] what ever, being some determinate thing, is also separable.

And such is the shape and form of each thing. Metaphysics 5. Aristotle proposes four diferent ways in which the term substance is used. The term is applied 1 to simple be- ings that are not said of subjects that is, not predicated of them but of which other things are said as of a subject.

It is also applied 2 to what- ever is the cause of these things not being said of subjects although other things are said of them as subjects and 3 to what accounts for these things being determinate things and defnes them. Last, 4 somethings being what it is, whose formula is a defnition that represents things as what they are, is termed substance. He then suggests that there are basi- cally two senses of the term: being a substance involves I being an ulti- mate subject and II being some determinate thing.

It is not dif cult to understand the frst and second of the four uses Aristotle proposes in relation to the two senses at the end of the chap- ter. Substance is frst used 1 to designate things that are characterized by the frst of these two senses: animals, for example, and other similar things that are the ultimate subjects of predication.

These are the things that are said to be substances the ousiai. The use marked in 2 ap- plies to what we might think of as the substance the ousia of these substances; it refers, in other words, to that which makes substances in sense 1 substances.

PHILOSOPHY - Aristotle

Readers do not always understand the text this way. One commenta- tor, for instance, paraphrases 2 with these words: the internal cause of being in such things e. But neither of these is correct. That is, substance in this second sense is the explanatory cause of things that are ultimate subjects being ultimate subjects; I have indicated this fact by rendering ot:tov :o: etvot by the cause of their being so.

Thus b al- though the soul may indeed be an example of the sense of substance to which Aristotle is here drawing attention, it is not in that capacity that it is here introduced. It is introduced rather as part of an analogy, as we can see from the phrase like the soul in relation to an animalotov j y:j :o oo. Thus: as the soul is to an animal, namely, the cause of its being an animal, so is substance in this sense to those things that we have just marked out as substance in another sense: the cause, in other words, of their being substance.

This suggests that there is another sense of substance left unsaid: that of being a par tic u lar defned something, of which the third use registers the causal principle, as the second does of the frst. This sense emerges in the fnal sentences of the chapter as the second of the two senses with which Aristotle summarizes. The fourth use continues and amplifes the sense of the third, explic- itly referring to that whose formula constitutes the very defnition by which things are defned: being a something, a what.

If we recall the con- nection that we have already noted in the opening lines of Metaphysics 7. The second, third, and fourth of Aristotles entries, therefore, refer us not to things that are said to be substance, but to the explanatory prin- ciple of this fact about them: the explanatory principle of things said to be substance by virtue in one case of their being subjects and in another of their having a determinate identity. Here is an analogy that might help us understand what Aristotle is here saying.

Think of asking the 16 T he Ac t i v i t y of Be i ng question, what do we mean by weight? The relation in that answer reproduces the relation between uses 1 and 2 , and between the missing use exhibited in sense II and uses 3 and 4 : weights and their weight, and analogously, substances and their substance. So there are two categorically diferent distinctions that Aristotle is drawing. On the one hand there is a distinction between those things that are substances and the internal constitution by virtue of which they are substances: substances and their substance.

On the other hand, there is a distinction between two related criteria in terms of which we think of substances and their substance: as a subject of predication and as some determinate thing defned by an essence. It will become important that we recognize the full and complex im- port of the latter criterion and of what it means to be some determinate thinga :ooe :t. The simplest way to understand Aristotle is that he here wishes to identify substances with particulars, and that implicit in this identifcation is a connection between the two criteria I have identi- fed; only particulars are fully qualifed to serve as the ultimate subjects of predication.

But the situation is more complex than such a view would indicate. For particulars in general can be understood as subjects only in relation to what is identifed by Aristotle as a fully substantial par tic u lar. The reason for this is that not everything and I mean here not every thing is unqualifedly a determinate thinga :ooe :t. Not every par tic u lar, that is to say, represents an instance of somethings being what it is in the unqualifed way in which Aristotle thinks that substances do.

This fact suggests that the important connection in Aristotles think- ing is between being a subject of predication and being an instance of a what, that is, exemplifying the mode of being that Aristotle refers to as what something is:o :t e o:t and here marks by the connected though, as we will see, not identical concept of somethings being what it is:o :t jv etvot. Being and Substance 17 So in this early discussion, substance may be seen as indicating on the one hand things that are determinate things and thus subjects and on the other hand the mode of being by which something is what it is, which is the being exemplifed in such determinate things as are the ultimate subjects of predication, and which enables them to serve as subjects.

Because, as we will see, substances are what they are, they are separable, that is, in de pen dent individuals, not subject to being over- whelmed by the attributes that may accidentally qualify them at any given moment, and therefore capable of being the ultimate subjects of predication. The Inquiry into Substance The discussion in the Metaphysics moves forward in its consideration of the nature of substance on these two parallel tracks. On the one hand, A our attention is always implicitly directed to the things that are called substances in the sense of constituting ultimate subjects: the things of which all else is predicated but that are themselves said of no in de pen dent subject.

On the other hand, B we are asked to attend to the mode of being by virtue of which such things can constitute ulti- mate subjects. Aristotle provides, at the beginning of the passage we have just read, an informal list of those things A that are the obvious candidates for ultimate subjects: the simple bodies, that is, earth and fre and water and the like, and in general bodies and the things composed of them, both animals and heavenly bodies, and their parts Metaphysics 5. He ofers a similar list in Metaphysics 7. Meta- physics 7. I put the matter this wayas instances of the being in question to draw attention to Aristotles locution in introducing the list: substance is said to belonguJpavrceinto certain kinds of things.

Here the paradig- matic sense of the term substance refers to the kind of being characteriz- ing those individuals that we call, now in a subordinate sense of the term, substances. We may think of this mode of being as simply the cor- relate of the extension of that class of objects called substances: hence the second usage of Metaphysics 5. But it is also, as I will continue to urge, identifed by Aristotle with that mode of being by virtue of which things are what they are, the mode of being that he consistently identifes with what he calls the tiv ejstin what something is.

Thus the parallel track B on which our inquiry into substance con- tinues is attention to the mode of being that defnes those things identi- fed as primary subjects. Such attention is above all to the mode of being that is somethings being what it is, for it is this being that enables a sub- ject to be a subject. These parallel tracks on which the argument of the Metaphysics proceeds determine its dual concern, in the analysis of sub- stance and being, with subject and essence and with their relationship.

These concerns are perhaps most subtly developed in Books 7 and 8 of the Metaphysics. It is here that we see the two diferent but related marks of the being we call substance elaborated in Aristotles discus- sion. And it is here that we see them connected in turn with the technical notions of matter and form, notions that emerge, in the course of that discussion, as signifcant for his analysis of substance and of being in general. I do not propose here to engage with the particulars of that discus- sion, about which a great deal has already been written, but merely to rehearse the outlines of its larger argument.

Book 7 ends with an apparent impasse in the analysis that was to have revealed the nature of substance and in its light the nature of being in general. Being and Substance 19 That impasse concerns the question of the unity of substance, and how we can understand this unity against the background of the roles played by matter and form in this analysis. It is, as I will suggest, this question of the unity of substance to which Aristotles analysis of activ- ity is a response. The issue of the unity of substance arises out of the original charac- terization of substance that we have observed in Book 5.

In the early chapters of Book 7, Aristotle attempts to answer the question, what is substance? These attempts, however, all fail, and they fail for importantly related reasons. Substratum and Essence At the beginning of Metaphysics 7. Chapter 2 ofers an array of paradigmatic substances; chapter 3 opens Aristotles refection on the question of what might constitute their substance. We speak of substance, if not in more ways, at least in these four main ways; for [1] being what it is :o :t jv ctvot , and [2] the uni- versal :o xo0o!

Aristotle immediately sets out to work considering these four modes of being that might lead us to identify something as a substance. In light 20 T he Ac t i v i t y of Be i ng of his intuition that he straightaway states according to which the pri- mary subject is above all thought to be substance, Aristotle frst consid- ers the fourth of these modes of being Metaphysics 7. He con- siders the consequences of the recognition, frst registered in the lexical account of Metaphysics 5.

But the sense of subject developed is that of substratum as pure receptivity receptivity in that it is the site of determination by some predicate or other, pure in that it is marked by no identifying characteristics. But this attempt fails, and it is not dif cult to see why. Suppose the claim is that substance is in itself that which is uJpokeivme- non, underlying subject. And suppose we want to say something more about what such underlying subject is, something about the nature of substance thus understood. Unfortunately, any predicate that we might ofer as a characteristic of substance will generate the response that sub- stance must be the subject of that predicate not identical with it, but the logical substrate that is qualifed by it.

It follows, by such reasoning, that substance itself must be propertyless.


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If, then, we infer from the fact that substance plays the role of ultimate subject of predication the belief that it is what is, as it were, left over when we take away all predicates, substance can be characterized by no par tic u lar nature. We will then be left, as characteristic of substance, only with matter, in the sense in which matter is that which in itself is said to be neither any kind nor any quantity nor any other of the modes by which being is determined Metaphysics 7.

This is a view that we may recognize; in diferent contexts and often for diferent purposes, later phi los o phers were led to roughly analogous views. Here, for instance, is Locke: Being and Substance 21 So that if any one will examine himself concerning his notion of pure substance in general, he will fnd he has no other idea of it at all, but only a supposition of he knows not what support of such qualities which are capable of producing simple ideas in us; which qualities are commonly called accidents.

In a sense, this repudiation is dialectical and temporary, for the refusal to accept an account of substance as substratum or indeed as matter is linked to an immature understanding of substratum and matter, and this understanding is qualifed before the end of Book 9. But it is neverthe- less an important repudiation, for it marks a core element in Aristotles account of substance and of being throughout the Metaphysics, an ele- ment already apparent in the Categories: determinate being is the condi- tion of the openness to further determination, an openness that enables something to serve as logical or ontic subject.

Substance is, as Aristotle puts the point time and again in his discussion, both a this and a what; and here the important point is that its being a this is what enables it to serve as subject, and its being a what is a condition of the possibility of its being a this. Any account of substance, therefore, that attends merely to a the fact that the being of substance is that of subject without attend- ing to b the essential determinacy of substance that is a condition of that fact any such account will be defcient. If we think of Aristotles argument in chapter 3 in these terms if we realize that a proper theory of substance as substratum must account for the necessity of substances being what they are and thus recognize that essence is a condition of a substances capacity to serve as subject the direction of the argument in the next chapters of Book 7 will seem natu- ral to us.

For in chapter 4 Aristotle turns to a discussion of what we saw 22 T he Ac t i v i t y of Be i ng in Metaphysics 5. This move to a discussion of essence is not merely a move to another item on a list a list of those as- pects of substances that might explain their being substances as though such a list were merely an arbitrary collection of possible candidates that might do the job. It is the natural step in an argument whose dialectical progression leads from being a this to being a what, that is, from subject to essence or as we might say in inkhorn style, from haecceity to quiddity.

But the attempt in chapters 4 through 6 to give an account of sub- stance strictly in terms of quiddity, important as it may be in revealing features of essence and its relation to other modes of being, proves unsat- isfactory precisely because of this dialectical relationship, precisely be- cause of its failure to account suf ciently for the individuality of sub- stance.

1. The Naturalness Argument: The Debate

The relation that develops in these chapters between what may be thought of as the dialectical poles of Aristotles argument between substance as substratum and substance as essence has, as I suggested, another face in Aristotles ontology. It is more generally expressed in the relation between subject and predicate in the structure of being: the rela- tion, in other words, between something that is a being and the being that that something is. This relationship, central to Aristotles surface theory of predicational or combinatorial being, is in turn refected in a more focused and thematized fashion in the relationship, pervasive in his technical expression, between matter and form.

In order to recognize that refection correctly, however, we will need to think of matter and form in terms broader than we might be used to. We will need to avoid thinking of them solely in terms of change and becom- ing, that is, in terms of motion. For although there is a straightforward and readily understandable account to give of matter and form if we at- tend to contexts of motion or change, the more revealing account for our purposes concerns the role of matter and form in the analysis of being. Matter and Form as Principles of Change and of Being The account of matter and form in relation to motion or change is roughly this: the matter of something say, of a threshold is what it is made out of or comes to be out of, the material ex quo of the threshold.

Being and Substance 23 The form of something, on the other hand, is the principle by virtue of which through the agency of an ef cient cause the material that the thing is made out of, the wood, for example, out of which the threshold was formed, comes to be or is made into specifcally that thing, in this instance into a threshold. This is the account Aristotle likes to give in the Physics which is, after all, about nature as matrix and principle of motion or change and in the early introductions of matter and form in the dia- lectical argument of the Metaphysics.

It is with the logically prior context of being, and for this concern, a somewhat diferent account is appropriate.


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  • The matter of something again, say, of a threshold is what the thing is made up of; it is what is the threshold materially, or as we might say in order to bring out conti- nuity with the previous account, that of which the threshold consists. The form, on the other hand, is the principle by virtue of which that which is something in this material sense the wood, say, of a threshold is spe- cifcally that thing: the principle by virtue of which the thresholds matter makes up a threshold. These are the meanings that we see, for example, in the discussion of the varieties of form in Metaphysics 8.

    The matter of a threshold, to continue the example, is the wooden beam that is, as we might put it, at work being the threshold, while its form, that by virtue of which it is a threshold rather than a lintel or a rafter or anything else, is the functional position in the house in which the wooden beam has been placed. Similarly, the matter of dinner is the food that is eaten at that meal; its form, on the other hand, that by virtue of which that food is dinner rather than breakfast, is the time at which it is eaten Metaphysics 8.

    Here, then, are two related but diferent concepts of matter and of form in Aristotles ontology. The diference between them depends upon whether we take becoming or being as our primary context. Matter may, on the one hand, be thought of as an entitys material ex quo, as the separate from- which of change and generation, and on the other, as the proximate underlying subject of its being, that of which it consists.

    No- tice that these are often although not always only notionally distinct, that is, only diferent descriptions of the same thing. It is the same wooden beam out of which a threshold is made and which is as a result at 24 T he Ac t i v i t y of Be i ng work making up a threshold. In this respect matter and form alike refer to things taken a certain way. Both terms designate ways of thinking about the entities of the world relative to an explanatory or descriptive or analytical context.

    Like substance, therefore, matter and form are prin- ciples of being and not categories of thing; the world cannot be divided up, as it were, into instances of matter and instances of form. To say that a wooden beam is matter can therefore be misleading. For when we consider the wooden beam as matter, it is in a sense the thresh- old that is being considered, either a materially, that is, in terms of what it is made of, or b as the end term in a pro cess of change of which the wooden beam, as material in another sense, is the frst term.

    In a manner of speaking, then, a wooden beam is never matter; for when it is still a wooden beam, it is not yet matter, and when it is matter, it is no longer a wooden beam, but a threshold. We might put it this way: in Aristotles view, in keeping with his assertion that a box is not wood but wooden, a threshold is not a wooden beam, but is, so to speak, wooden beamy. Matter is a principle of indeterminacy relative to some being. When we speak, therefore, of wooden beams or of bronze or of bricks and stones as matter, we are speaking of things that may be thought of in terms of such indeterminacy relative to other determinate things; we are speaking of things that can serve as matter, but that are not in themselves matter.

    This is not to deny the appropriateness of the simple assertion that bronze, for example, is the matter of a statue. It is only to stress the fact that in so be- ing considered, bronze loses the determinate being it has qua bronze, and comes to be thought of as indeterminate relative to another being, comes to be thought of, that is, as the matter of a statue.

    The determination that it had as bronze becomes part of the determination of the statue. It is a brazen statue, just as the box made of wood is a wooden box. Corresponding to these distinct ways of thinking of matter, there are distinct ways in which we may think of form. Form may be thought of, on the one hand, as that which explains the coming to be or production of a being out of some matter. But it may, on the other hand, be understood as Being and Substance 25 a determining principle of being: the principle, in other words, that de- termines why some matter constitutes this rather than that being.

    It is when we think of the relation between matter and form in the context of being that we are able, as I suggested, to recognize its af nity to the relation between subject and predicate or substratum and being the relation, that is, between something that is a being and the being that that something is. For in this sense the distinction between matter and form parallels the distinction between the thing that is, in the instance we considered a moment ago, a threshold, and its being, again in this instance, its lying in such and such a position.

    For the thing lying in such a position is an element in its being a threshold: something is a thresh- old because it lies in such and such a position, and its being means lying in that position Metaphysics 8. The science of thresholds, of course, is not a science that studies even accidentally substances.

    For thresholds are importantly not sub- stances; being a threshold, that is, is not an instance of the kind of being Aristotle calls substance. Aristotle turns to these things in the Metaphysics not as examples of sub- stance, but because they are beings in which it is easier to abstract matter and form and examine them as separate principles. This means that he turns to them precisely because they are not instances of substance, not instances of that mode of being for which, as we will see presently, mat- ter and form are one and the same thing.

    Their scrutiny, however, makes possible the articulation of important truths a about substance and b about the relation of subjects to their predicational being in terms of matter and form. In its concern with the relation between matter and form in the analy- sis of substance, Book 7 fgures the larger concern of the Metaphysics, a concern, on the one hand, with understanding the relation between a subject and its being and, on the other, with situating the concept of sub- stance with respect to these two poles.

    In Book 7, I have suggested, Aris- totle leads us carefully through both the arguments that recommend an account of the being of substance in terms of subject or substratum and those that recommend an account in terms of the essential being of a sub- ject. But as Book 7 progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that these accounts, which are parallel to accounts of substance as matter and form, 26 T he Ac t i v i t y of Be i ng must surrender to the more obvious fact that substance must involve a product of these two principles.

    It cannot be fully explained by either, and each is somehow necessary to the project of explanation. It seems that substance must therefore be somehow understood as a combination of matter and form. Why Substance Is Not a Combination of Matter and Form Here our account of Aristotles theory might end with a recognition of matter and form as coordinate principles in the explanation of sub- stance, substance best envisioned as a combination of matter and form. And here indeed accounts often do end, with descriptions of Aristotles hylomorphism according to which substance consists of matter and form.

    For form is precisely something other than a beings elements, some- thing that is the source of the fact that those elements constitute just that being. If then we think of form as an element in the being of substance, Aristotle argues in that fnal chapter of Book 7, we will need yet a further formal principle to explain why these elements constitute that being. A simple analogy makes Aristotles point: A syllable is not merely its elements, the vowel and the consonant, but something else as well, and fesh is not merely fre and earth or the hot and the cold, but something else as well; but if this some- thing else must be an element the same argument will apply, for fesh will consist of this and fre and earth and yet another thing, and this will go on to infnity.

    More critically, we need to ask how it could be a combination and still be primary being; for if something is a combina- tion of elements, then those elements or the principle of their unity or both will be primary. We need, in other words, to inquire not simply into the nature of substances unity, but into its very possibility.

    These are the questions to which the Metaphysics turns at the end of Book 7, and they are the questions that inform the argument of the next two books. In one sense they are technical questions in the elaboration of a theory of substance, but in another they may be considered to lie at the very center of Aristotles inquiry into substance and being. Theories of Being At the heart of that inquiry is the project of rescuing substance from collapsing into either of the poles explored dialectically in Book 7, and these poles, which I have been describing as developments of our intu- itions concerning substance, are also central characters in versions of the major competing theory of being that Aristotle addresses.

    The proj- ect therefore concerns not merely the nature of substance, but the nature of being in general. According to this competing theory, which we might call platonist, things in the world of nature are instances of a relation between a subject and its being. We might insist that being belongs instead most properly to subjects, because it is a subject that is what ever it is.

    This is essentially the strategy of atomists and other materialists, and it is the strategy that Aristotle considers in the dialectical moment in Metaphysics 7. Aristotles more typical re- sponse to this theory, however, and his earliest response above all in 28 T he Ac t i v i t y of Be i ng the treatise on the categories, but wherever is found the early doctrine of the categories as modes of predicative being is characteristically gener- ous and variegated.

    Being is granted to a broad variety of candidates, but in diferent modes. Certain things are instances of substance being in a primary sense, while what they are also qualifes as substance, though in a secondary sense. But most generally, it is the relation among these that is being, the predicative being signaled by our predication of :t xo:o :tvo: our saying this is that. In the more mature ontological project of the Metaphysics, however, Aristotle develops, beyond the gentle criticism of platonism in the Cate- gories, a more radical critique of the platonist model of relational being.

    He accepts a relational theory as an account of the nature of accidental being being xo:o o:aejxo one thing accidentally happening ac- cidens to be another. For here there is a relational unity the nature of which we will later explore between 1 an in de pen dent subject and 2 a predicative being dependent upon that subject but something it merely happens to be. The other categories provide the types of predicative be- ing while substance signifes the subject.

    But Aristotle reveals this model as misleading with respect to the be- ing of substance itself. For in the being identifed as substance there is no relation of some predicative being to a subject that can be defned and identifed in de pen dently of that being. Such a relation is precisely the mark of accidental being. It is a human who is laughing or who is pale or who has just left the outskirts of Anaheim, and in each of these cases some being is said of that individual human as of a subject.

    But the being that constitutes that subject that human as what it is is not in turn an instance of something being human said of an in de pen dently identif- able subject said xo0:aoxetaevo:. For what is said to be human is nothing other than the human who is being human, and it is that human being human that is the primary being, the substance, described as some par tic u lar humano :t ov0ooao, that is, some par tic u lar in- stance though of course no instance in par tic u lar of being human.

    This fact, that substance being is not predicated of an in de pen dent subject, was already recognized in the Categories, but it was there con- fned to so- called primary substances: substance in the strictest, pri- Being and Substance 29 mary, and most appropriate sense of the word is that which is neither said of some subject nor present in some subject Categories 5, 2a11 What the Metaphysics accomplishes is a theory that recognizes the ap- plicability of this fact to what the Categories thinks of as secondary sub- stance.

    We might think of this theory as the realization of how important it is that even in the Categories primary substances are introduced by their being: the examples Aristotle gives are of par tic u lar instances of being this par tic u lar human, for exampleo :t ov0ooao and this par tic u lar horseo :t taao, and not just some par tic u lar: Raskin, say, or Lady Sufolk.

    What some par tic u lar human being like Raskin is, after all, is some par tic u lar human being, and it is just that that is human. It is important to see this point. What is introduced is not some par tic u lar kind of thing human being or horse but an instance of that kind a par tic u lar human being or a par tic u lar horse.

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    But no par tic u lar instance is introduced not Raskin, not Lady Sufolk; the introduction of Raskin or Lady Sufolk would blunt the force of the fact that it is qua human be- ing that a substance like Raskin or Socrates is a substance, and qua horse that Lady Sufolk is.

    We are accustomed to thinking of Socrates as a para- digm instance of substance. That may be true, but it is not the way Aris- totle characteristically thinks of this fact. For it is not qua being Socrates that the human being named Socrates is an instance of substance, but qua being a par tic u lar instance of human being.

    The reason that substance is said by Aristotle not to be predicable of a subject is thus not the reason often given. It is not because one cannot form the proposition This is a Socrates; it is rather because of the fact that in the proposition Socrates is a human being, human being is not said of something as of an in de pen dent subject. There is not something that is what it is in de pen dently of being that which human being is predicated of that is said to be human. It is just a human being Socrates, as it happens who is said to be human. Here is how to phrase this fact in terms of matter and form.

    The wooden beam that is a threshold is something that can be removed from its posi- tion, and it is that very wooden beam which, in the proper position, will be a threshold. This does not allow us to say that a wooden beam is what a threshold is. A threshold is made out of a wooden beam; it is, as we said earlier, wooden beamy, in the sense in which the beam may be said to be 30 T he Ac t i v i t y of Be i ng wooden. But in this case, that which is a threshold has a being in de pen- dent of its being a threshold.

    The matter of the threshold is something other than a threshold, and it is this something else that constitutes the matter relative to the positional form that constitutes it as a threshold. With humans, it is diferent; there is nothing that is, there is no in- de pen dent thing that is the matter of a human, for the fesh and bones of a human are themselves human. Alternatively we might also say that it is above all mat- ter. Be the first to ask a question about The Activity of Being. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details.

    All Languages. More filters. Sort order. Joshua rated it it was amazing Jul 02, Peter Wilhelm rated it really liked it Jul 17, Ellery Beard rated it it was amazing Nov 03, Arash rated it it was amazing Jul 13, Rodi rated it it was amazing May 02, Johnny marked it as to-read Apr 12, Valisa Iskandar marked it as to-read Jun 22, Frank Spencer marked it as to-read Dec 14, Ebnarabi marked it as to-read Feb 19, Jane Horton marked it as to-read Apr 05, Ahmed marked it as to-read Oct 01, Octavian Gabor is currently reading it Oct 29, David O'Dwyer marked it as to-read Mar 02, The Oneness of Being I said that Aristotle thinks of ontology as concerned not with specifc instances of being not with being this or being that but with being as such, with what he calls o]n h o[n: being qua being.

    He makes clear that this is the nature of his project in the opening lines of Book 4 of the Meta- physics, with which the central argument of that work may be thought to begin. This is the same as none of what are called the divisional sciences; for none of these others deal in gen- eral with being qua being, but they separate of some division of being and consider what happens to belong to it, as for example the mathematical sciences do. Metaphysics 4. But the study of what it is to be a plane fgure is not the study of being as such, any more than Abramss interest in baseball would make her a physicist because it involves, among other things, thinking about objects in motion.

    You have to think about things in motion insofar as they are 4 T he Ac t i v i t y of Be i ng in motion qua moving, as Aristotle would say in order to be studying kinetics. Similarly, you have to think about instances of being insofar as they are instances of being in order to be studying ontology. This contrast between thinking of some A qua A, which is to think of the A in itself or per se , and thinking of it qua B, which is to think of the A only accidentally per accidens, as it was traditionally expressed thinking of it, but not thinking of it specifcally as A is a contrast that we will encounter again.

    In this context, it is used by Aristotle to make clear that his concern with being is a concern neither with some par tic u- lar instance of being nor with some mysterious thing over and above these instances of being. It is a general concern with all such instances of being, as I mentioned earlier: the windows being open, my being seated, Lady Sufolks being a horse and gray, Abramss being human, the eve nings being quiet ber allen Gipfeln a concern with instances of being generally but only insofar as they constitute instances of being.

    It is an interest in being in general, but in being as such. In the discussion of being later in the central books of the Metaphys- ics, specifcally in Book 7, Aristotle makes two assertions that, because they express central features of his theory of being, might seem odd when considered alongside this characterization of ontology at the begin- ning of Book 4.

    One assertion is the claim of the opening lines of chapter 1 of Book 7: being is said in many senses :o ov! The second is the claim made at the end of that chapter: and indeed the question that has, both in ancient times and now, always been asked and always been the source of perplexity, the question, what is being :t :o ov? Metaphysics 7. The frst of these assertions that being is said in many senses is an epitome of the theory introduced in the Categories, the theory that there is no simple generic uniformity to the being of things that can be said to be.

    Beings, according to this theory, are homonymous; that is, they are said to be in senses radically diferent from one another, senses whose diference is inscribed in the list of categories that we encounter in the work of that name. Aristotle opens that work, the Categories, with a de- scription of things whose predicative structure is marked by such radical diference. Being and Substance 5 Things are said to be homonymous for which only a name is com- mon, whereas the account of being!

    For these, only the name is common, whereas the account of being corresponding to the name difers; for if someone were to defne what it is for each of these things to be animate :t co:tv o::ov cxo:coo :o oo ctvot , he would give in each case an account peculiar to that case. Categories 1, 1a1 5 6 Two things are homonymous in this sense if they share a name but there is no predicate common to them signifed by the name. Thus it may be true to say of each: it is P, but what it means to be P is diferent for each.

    The example that Aristotle gives is of a human and a drawing; each may be said to be animateoovbut they are not said to be animate in the same sense. It may be the case, as is usually supposed, that in contrasting a man and a drawing, Aristotle has in mind the fact that the drawing of an animal has what the scholastics would term the objective being of an animal. This is the fact that the drawing is of an animal, that it represents an animal. It may be for this reason that it is said to be animate.

    I fnd this explanation im- plausible for two reasons. First, the term oov is commonly used to de- scribe pictures that are not of animals. Herodotus, for example, speaks of pictures which he calls oo of the bridges on the Bosporus Herodotus, The Histories 4. Second, the account that one would give to explain why the drawing of an animal was of an animal would be dependent upon what it is to be an animal, and Aristotles point would be undermined.

    What seems more likely is that the term is used to cap- ture a formal feature of pictures, the fact that they are so real as almost to seem alive. We similarly use the term animated in describing art and particularly in describing cartoon flms. Think of Disneys Pinocchio; Pinocchio indeed is a double paradigm of metonymic animation, ani- mated in several respects both before and after he is an animal. So the contrast is between what is said to be animate because it is a living ani- mal and what is said to be animate because it is so lively as to seem alive, two cases in which what it means to be animate difer.

    For a human and an ox are in common termed animate, and the account of being is the same; for if someone were to give an account in each case, defning what it is for each of these things to be animate, he would give the same account. Categories 1, 1a6 12 Animate is a term that is not merely common to descriptions of a human and of an ox; it furthermore signifes a predicate that is univocally shared by them.

    Although being animate expresses itself diferently in the case of a human and an ox such that what it is to be a human and what it is to be an ox are diferent, what it is to be animate is the same for both; each, in other words, is animate in the same sense. Aristotle introduces this distinction in the beginning chapter of the Categories in anticipation of his discussion in chapter 4 of the diferent senses of being that are marked by the categories. The reason he does so is that a central claim of the Categories is that being is homonymous in the sense we have seen articulated in the opening chapter of that work.

    To say that being is homonymous in this sense is to say, for example, that the being of qualities and of quantities being pale, for example, and be- ing fve feet tall are not instances of being in the same sense. Categori- cally diferent predicates constitute categorically diferent modes of being; they are called being, one might alternatively say, in diferent senses. These diferent modes or senses of being are marked by the categories: substance, quantity, quality, relation, and so on. In general, therefore, the distinction anticipates the view that we have seen expressed in the opening lines of Book 7 of the Metaphysics: being is said in many senses,.

    The second assertion that I earlier marked Aristotle as making in the central books of the Metaphysics the assertion that the question of be- Being and Substance 7 ing is the question of substance suggests, in light of the homonymy of being, that the Metaphysics will concern itself with only one of the various senses of being, the sense represented by substance.

    The Question Concerning Technê: Heidegger’s Aristotle

    It is now not dif cult to understand the sense of oddness that I suggested might be occasioned by Aristotles project in the Metaphysics as I have so far described it. It is a sense that can in fact be allayed, but it is one that is worth considering for the light that will be shed on Aristotles understanding of frst philosophy. We saw that in Book 4 Aristotle promises to embark upon an investiga- tion of being as such, being qua being, as he puts it.

    If there is not, as the argument of the Categories suggests, one single and univocal sense of being, since each of the difer- ent categories represents a diferent sense in which a subject may be said to be one thing or another, then how can there be a single and univocal sense of being available to be the subject matter of a science that claims to be the science of being as such? For it is not being as such that Aristotle turns his attention to, but just as the second assertion promises a par tic u lar and specifc mode of being, that of substance.

    Perhaps substance could be said to be the most basic mode of being, but it is still only one among several difer- ent modes.

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    So although he promises a general ontology, in fact Aristotle ofers only a special ontology, an ontology of substance. Knowledgeable readers of the Metaphysics will recognize that the sense of oddness I described is founded on a misreading of the second assertion. For when Aristotle suggests that the question, what is being? It is a strategy that Aristotle means to announce, not a resignation. The strategy is based on an important theory elaborated by Aristotle in Meta- physics 4.

    Recall that several things are said to be homonymous relative to some predicate A if each can be said to be A, but what it is for one of them to be A is diferent from what it is for another to be A. This sense is then explanatorily prior to any other sense; what it is for anything else to be A must be un- derstood in light of what it is for something to be A in this cardinal sense.

    An example Aristotle gives in Metaphysics 4. Urine, exercise, and medicine may all be said to be healthy, but they are not all healthy in the same sense. What it is for urine to be healthy, for example, is quite diferent from what it is for exercise to be healthy, and so they are said to be healthy in difer- ent senses. But if we explicate why this is so, we will see that urine and exercise and medicine are not merely homonymously said to be healthy; they are not homonymous, for example, in the way that the east shore of the Ohio River and Wells Fargo may both be said to be banks.

    Urine is said to be healthy because it is indicative of an animals health, that is, of an animals being healthy; exercise, on the other hand, is said to be healthy because it contributes to and maintains an animals health, and medi- cine because it produces or restores an animals health. Thus although these three are healthy in diferent senses, these diferent senses are gov- erned by a cardinal sense of being healthy, that in which an animal is said to be healthy, and they must therefore be understood in terms of that sense.

    Although the example that Aristotle here gives is of somethings being healthy and subsequently of somethings being an instance of medical Being and Substance 9 art , it is clear that his ultimate aim is to explicate the unity of being it- self; it is to demonstrate that the categories of being are not merely hom- onymous in relation to one another, as might appear from the Categories.

    The claim that the categorically diferent modes of being are said in ref- erence to one senseaoo ev! That sense is the sense specifed by what it is for something to be a substance. The opening chapter of Book 7 of the Metaphysics makes clear that the theory of things said in reference to a single sense is intended by Aristotle to illuminate the nature of being itself. For after the opening we have noted in which he asserts the apparent homonymy of being, Aristotle continues: while being is said in these various senses, it is clear that of these, the primary sense of being is what something is, which signifes substance Metaphysics 7.

    Given the theory of Metaphysics 4. Aristotle ofers this fact as a justifcation for his exclusive attention in these books to substance. Although the oddness that I have imagined may thus be explained, it is, as I suggested, worthwhile to consider, for it reminds us of the full import of Aristotles describing frst philosophy as an inquiry into being qua being. Aristotles theory of substance must be recognized as ancil- lary to his theory of being his ousiology, as it were, in the ser vice of his ontology.

    Indeed the reason that there is no oddness is just this fact, a fact that we may sometimes forget as Aristotle himself may sometimes have forgotten in the presence of his rather dazzling analysis of sub- stance. When we are tempted to read the Metaphysics as reaching its cli- max and culminating in the discussion of substance in the central books, it may be salutary to recall that the question of the Metaphysics is the question, what is being?

    The Priority of Substance So we are invited to look to substance for the answer to the question concerning being, and the nature of this invitation should settle the dif- fculty I imagined. But if that dif culty is to be settled by the unity that being enjoys, we will need to understand why the move to an examina- tion of substance warrants that unity.

    Is it the case, as some readers of Aristotle have thought, that the reason an understanding of substance enables the understanding of being qua being is because being qua be- ing is identical with substance or with some paradigmatic instance of substance? Describing the enterprise of frst philosophy as the study of being qua being, Aristotle announces at the same time his inten- tion to study being in general, insofar as it is being.

    If he were to identify substance with being qua being, it would be like his identifying sub- stance with being in general, and that would then call into question the very feature of being with which the Metaphysics begins: the radical di- versity of being in its several categorical modes.

    More to the point, the identifcation is an impossible one. For there is no par tic u lar being that is designated by the phrase being qua being such that we could identify substance or any par tic u lar substance with it. To suppose that there might be is to misunderstand the grammar and the logic of the expression being qua being. Here is an analogy. Most mam- mals are land dwellers, but some are not; we might express this fact that the mode of animal being exhibited by mammals is not restricted to life on land by saying that the mammal qua mammal is not a land dweller. But we would not then have introduced a new animal, the mammal qua mammal, which inhabits the seas or heavens, nor would it be open to someone to speculate whether the mammal qua mammal that is not a land dweller is more likely to be dolphin or bat.

    There is no animal that is the mammal qua mammal, even though one may attend to the mam- mal qua mammal by attending to what it is for any given mammal to be a mammal, simply insofar as it is one. Just so, when Aristotle says that we are to consider being qua being, he does not mean that we are to consider a par tic u lar instance or kind of Being and Substance 11 being designated by that phrase, substantial, divine, or otherwise, or a par tic u lar sense of being.

    He means that we are to consider the nature of being, but simply insofar as it is being: what it is for Abrams to be hu- man, or to be in the Lyceum, or to be short, in de pen dent of the nature of the par tic u lar predicate involved and simply insofar as Abrams is any of these things. The object in Abrams considers being qua being is simply being; the additional qua being specifes the respect in which being is to be considered. Successfully avoiding the identifcation of substance with being as such, however, may leave us uncertain as to what substances role in ex- plaining being is.

    If we claim that the study of substance is the key to a universal ontology, we need to know why this is the case. What is there about substance being that enables it to clarify being in general? Perhaps the key is ontic. Perhaps substances are the only beings capa- ble of separate and in de pen dent existence, existentially prior, as it were, to instances of the other categorical modes of being, all of which are de- pendent upon some substance for their existence.

    Quantities, qualities, positions, and so on are all the quantities, qualities, and positions of some substance or other, and their existence is possible only by virtue of the existence of substances. Could it be for this reason that the study of substance is the key to a universal ontology?

    Note that such an observation, although it avoids the mistaken identif- cation of substance and being, leaves Aristotles strategy in the Metaphysics opaque. Why should the ontic priority of substance justify turning to it for an account of other modes of being, treating it, in other words, as enjoying a conceptual priority? Supposing without explanation that it does is like supposing that the history of the populations of Eu rope must be in- scribed in the deeds of the great, capable of being read out of the adven- tures of kings and other nobles.

    It seems to me unlikely that Aristotle has in mind such a substitution- ary ontology, unlikely, in other words, that he thinks it suf cient that we understand the nature of substance and that no more is required for our being able to say that we understand being. The structure of the Meta- physics and its undivided attention to substance may tempt us in the di- rection of such a view, but the echo of the opening remarks of Books 4 and 7 is always in our ear. It is indeed to substance and its nature that we 12 T he Ac t i v i t y of Be i ng must pay heed, knowing that substance is our key to understanding be- ing.

    But we are left with the question why priority of substance enables the understanding of being, why it is that for Aristotle, xot oj xot :o ao! There may be another sense in which this metaquestion might strike us as illegitimate, or at least premature. Imagine someones objecting to Aristotles inquiry into the nature of soul as providing a philosophical explanation of animal life on the grounds that it is an open question whether soul in fact is the principle of animal life: maybe its all chemis- try, or maybe animals are only complex machines.

    That objection over- looks the semantic transparency of soul. What ever turns out to be the appropriate scientifc and philosophical story to tell about living things a story that for Aristotle involves telling about their characteristic pow- ers and activities , that story will be at least a good part of what makes up the analysis of soul.

    In this sense, the psychic could be virtually ex- hausted by chemical and mechanical principles. For souly:jjust means the principle by virtue of which living things things that are besouledeac:o are alive: the form of animals. To object to Aristot- les inquiring into the nature of soul by way of explaining living things would be like our objecting to someones inquiring into the nature of life to explain living things. We know this not because we have some understanding of the nature of substance that allows us to recognize it as primary, but because that is the meaning of the word that we translate as substance: substanceousiais to being rather as soul y:jis to being alive.

    To ask at the outset of the discussion for more by way of understanding, Being and Substance 13 or by way of justifcation for appealing to the notion of substance, is to be a victim of the same misunderstanding as in the case we imagined with regard to the soul. Once again, however, we have been reminded of the ancillary nature of the analysis of substance; ultimately, our discussion of ontology must lead back whether in fact or merely virtually to being. The primacy of substance within the categorical range of being only underlines this fact of substances noblesse oblige; at the end of the day, we will want something by way of an answer to the question of how substance ex- plains being.

    The Senses of Substance For now, we can note that it is primarily in the central books of the Metaphysics above all Books 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 12 that the theory of sub- stance and the explanation of how it illuminates being are developed. But it will be helpful for us to look frst at the description of substance in Book 5 of the Metaphysics.

    In Book 5, Aristotle provides what is essentially a lexicon of the most important philosophical terms and their range of meaning. Although the chapter on substance is not obviously connected with the main thread of argument in the Metaphysics, it afords a view of the most rudimentary senses of substance, and it is, I will suggest, helpful in understanding how that argument goes. Here is Aristotles account of substance in Book 5, chapter 8.

    I have added numerals to the text in order to keep track of its parts. We call substance, frst, [1] the simple bodies, that is, earth and fre and water and the like, and in general bodies and the things com- posed of them, both animals and heavenly bodies, and their parts. All of these are called substance because they are not said of a sub- ject, but all other things are said of them. Then there are [3] those constituent parts which by being present in such things defne them and designate each of them as some determinate thing, and which, if they were taken away, 14 T he Ac t i v i t y of Be i ng the thing would be entirely taken away, like surface in relation to body, as some people say, or line to surface.

    And more generally, number seems to some to be of this sort: they say that if it were taken away, there would be nothing, and it defnes all things. It follows then that substance is said in two senses: [I] the ultimate subject, which is not said further of anything else, and [II] what ever, being some determinate thing, is also separable. And such is the shape and form of each thing. Metaphysics 5. Aristotle proposes four diferent ways in which the term substance is used. The term is applied 1 to simple be- ings that are not said of subjects that is, not predicated of them but of which other things are said as of a subject.

    It is also applied 2 to what- ever is the cause of these things not being said of subjects although other things are said of them as subjects and 3 to what accounts for these things being determinate things and defnes them. Last, 4 somethings being what it is, whose formula is a defnition that represents things as what they are, is termed substance. He then suggests that there are basi- cally two senses of the term: being a substance involves I being an ulti- mate subject and II being some determinate thing.

    It is not dif cult to understand the frst and second of the four uses Aristotle proposes in relation to the two senses at the end of the chap- ter. Substance is frst used 1 to designate things that are characterized by the frst of these two senses: animals, for example, and other similar things that are the ultimate subjects of predication. These are the things that are said to be substances the ousiai. The use marked in 2 ap- plies to what we might think of as the substance the ousia of these substances; it refers, in other words, to that which makes substances in sense 1 substances.

    Readers do not always understand the text this way. One commenta- tor, for instance, paraphrases 2 with these words: the internal cause of being in such things e. But neither of these is correct. That is, substance in this second sense is the explanatory cause of things that are ultimate subjects being ultimate subjects; I have indicated this fact by rendering ot:tov :o: etvot by the cause of their being so.

    Thus b al- though the soul may indeed be an example of the sense of substance to which Aristotle is here drawing attention, it is not in that capacity that it is here introduced. It is introduced rather as part of an analogy, as we can see from the phrase like the soul in relation to an animalotov j y:j :o oo. Thus: as the soul is to an animal, namely, the cause of its being an animal, so is substance in this sense to those things that we have just marked out as substance in another sense: the cause, in other words, of their being substance.

    This suggests that there is another sense of substance left unsaid: that of being a par tic u lar defned something, of which the third use registers the causal principle, as the second does of the frst. This sense emerges in the fnal sentences of the chapter as the second of the two senses with which Aristotle summarizes. The fourth use continues and amplifes the sense of the third, explic- itly referring to that whose formula constitutes the very defnition by which things are defned: being a something, a what. If we recall the con- nection that we have already noted in the opening lines of Metaphysics 7.

    The second, third, and fourth of Aristotles entries, therefore, refer us not to things that are said to be substance, but to the explanatory prin- ciple of this fact about them: the explanatory principle of things said to be substance by virtue in one case of their being subjects and in another of their having a determinate identity. Here is an analogy that might help us understand what Aristotle is here saying. Think of asking the 16 T he Ac t i v i t y of Be i ng question, what do we mean by weight?

    The relation in that answer reproduces the relation between uses 1 and 2 , and between the missing use exhibited in sense II and uses 3 and 4 : weights and their weight, and analogously, substances and their substance. So there are two categorically diferent distinctions that Aristotle is drawing. On the one hand there is a distinction between those things that are substances and the internal constitution by virtue of which they are substances: substances and their substance.

    On the other hand, there is a distinction between two related criteria in terms of which we think of substances and their substance: as a subject of predication and as some determinate thing defned by an essence. It will become important that we recognize the full and complex im- port of the latter criterion and of what it means to be some determinate thinga :ooe :t. The simplest way to understand Aristotle is that he here wishes to identify substances with particulars, and that implicit in this identifcation is a connection between the two criteria I have identi- fed; only particulars are fully qualifed to serve as the ultimate subjects of predication.

    But the situation is more complex than such a view would indicate. For particulars in general can be understood as subjects only in relation to what is identifed by Aristotle as a fully substantial par tic u lar. The reason for this is that not everything and I mean here not every thing is unqualifedly a determinate thinga :ooe :t. Not every par tic u lar, that is to say, represents an instance of somethings being what it is in the unqualifed way in which Aristotle thinks that substances do.

    This fact suggests that the important connection in Aristotles think- ing is between being a subject of predication and being an instance of a what, that is, exemplifying the mode of being that Aristotle refers to as what something is:o :t e o:t and here marks by the connected though, as we will see, not identical concept of somethings being what it is:o :t jv etvot. Being and Substance 17 So in this early discussion, substance may be seen as indicating on the one hand things that are determinate things and thus subjects and on the other hand the mode of being by which something is what it is, which is the being exemplifed in such determinate things as are the ultimate subjects of predication, and which enables them to serve as subjects.

    Because, as we will see, substances are what they are, they are separable, that is, in de pen dent individuals, not subject to being over- whelmed by the attributes that may accidentally qualify them at any given moment, and therefore capable of being the ultimate subjects of predication. The Inquiry into Substance The discussion in the Metaphysics moves forward in its consideration of the nature of substance on these two parallel tracks.

    On the one hand, A our attention is always implicitly directed to the things that are called substances in the sense of constituting ultimate subjects: the things of which all else is predicated but that are themselves said of no in de pen dent subject. On the other hand, B we are asked to attend to the mode of being by virtue of which such things can constitute ulti- mate subjects. Aristotle provides, at the beginning of the passage we have just read, an informal list of those things A that are the obvious candidates for ultimate subjects: the simple bodies, that is, earth and fre and water and the like, and in general bodies and the things composed of them, both animals and heavenly bodies, and their parts Metaphysics 5.

    He ofers a similar list in Metaphysics 7. Meta- physics 7. I put the matter this wayas instances of the being in question to draw attention to Aristotles locution in introducing the list: substance is said to belonguJpavrceinto certain kinds of things. Here the paradig- matic sense of the term substance refers to the kind of being characteriz- ing those individuals that we call, now in a subordinate sense of the term, substances. We may think of this mode of being as simply the cor- relate of the extension of that class of objects called substances: hence the second usage of Metaphysics 5.

    But it is also, as I will continue to urge, identifed by Aristotle with that mode of being by virtue of which things are what they are, the mode of being that he consistently identifes with what he calls the tiv ejstin what something is. Thus the parallel track B on which our inquiry into substance con- tinues is attention to the mode of being that defnes those things identi- fed as primary subjects. Such attention is above all to the mode of being that is somethings being what it is, for it is this being that enables a sub- ject to be a subject.

    These parallel tracks on which the argument of the Metaphysics proceeds determine its dual concern, in the analysis of sub- stance and being, with subject and essence and with their relationship. These concerns are perhaps most subtly developed in Books 7 and 8 of the Metaphysics. It is here that we see the two diferent but related marks of the being we call substance elaborated in Aristotles discus- sion. And it is here that we see them connected in turn with the technical notions of matter and form, notions that emerge, in the course of that discussion, as signifcant for his analysis of substance and of being in general.

    I do not propose here to engage with the particulars of that discus- sion, about which a great deal has already been written, but merely to rehearse the outlines of its larger argument. Book 7 ends with an apparent impasse in the analysis that was to have revealed the nature of substance and in its light the nature of being in general. Being and Substance 19 That impasse concerns the question of the unity of substance, and how we can understand this unity against the background of the roles played by matter and form in this analysis. It is, as I will suggest, this question of the unity of substance to which Aristotles analysis of activ- ity is a response.

    The issue of the unity of substance arises out of the original charac- terization of substance that we have observed in Book 5. In the early chapters of Book 7, Aristotle attempts to answer the question, what is substance? These attempts, however, all fail, and they fail for importantly related reasons. Substratum and Essence At the beginning of Metaphysics 7. Chapter 2 ofers an array of paradigmatic substances; chapter 3 opens Aristotles refection on the question of what might constitute their substance.

    We speak of substance, if not in more ways, at least in these four main ways; for [1] being what it is :o :t jv ctvot , and [2] the uni- versal :o xo0o! Aristotle immediately sets out to work considering these four modes of being that might lead us to identify something as a substance. In light 20 T he Ac t i v i t y of Be i ng of his intuition that he straightaway states according to which the pri- mary subject is above all thought to be substance, Aristotle frst consid- ers the fourth of these modes of being Metaphysics 7.

    He con- siders the consequences of the recognition, frst registered in the lexical account of Metaphysics 5. But the sense of subject developed is that of substratum as pure receptivity receptivity in that it is the site of determination by some predicate or other, pure in that it is marked by no identifying characteristics. But this attempt fails, and it is not dif cult to see why. Suppose the claim is that substance is in itself that which is uJpokeivme- non, underlying subject.

    And suppose we want to say something more about what such underlying subject is, something about the nature of substance thus understood. Unfortunately, any predicate that we might ofer as a characteristic of substance will generate the response that sub- stance must be the subject of that predicate not identical with it, but the logical substrate that is qualifed by it. It follows, by such reasoning, that substance itself must be propertyless. If, then, we infer from the fact that substance plays the role of ultimate subject of predication the belief that it is what is, as it were, left over when we take away all predicates, substance can be characterized by no par tic u lar nature.

    The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology
    The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology
    The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology
    The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology
    The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology
    The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology
    The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology
    The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology
    The Activity of Being: An Essay on Aristotles Ontology

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