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Unformatted text preview: Aristotle on Substance, Matter, and Form
Metaphysics Γ: the study of being qua being
Aristotle often describes the topic of the Metaphysics as “first philosophy.” In Book
IV.1 (Γ.1) he calls it “a science that studies being in so far as it is being” (1003a21).
(This is sometimes translated “being qua being.”) What does this mean?
“S studies x qua y” means that x is the subject matter of science S, and y is the aspect of
x under which S studies it.
Thus, physics studies natural objects—things that are subject to change. These are
things that come into being and go out of being. So physics studies certain beings
(the natural ones), and it studies them in so far as they are subject to change.
Metaphysics, on the other hand, studies beings in general (not just changeable ones)
and it studies them “qua being”—in so far as they are beings.
But in Γ.2 Aristotle reminds us (as he frequently says elsewhere) that “being is said in
many ways”. (There were intimations of this in the Categories, where we learned about
the ten categories of being.) But this does not mean that the term being is
“homonymous” (i.e., equivocal or ambiguous). Rather, the term is applied to one
central case, and all other uses of the term are explicated with reference to the central
case. G. E. L. Owen has given the label focal meaning to this kind of multivocity.
Take the term healthy. Many different things can be called healthy: a person, a diet,
a complexion, etc. But they aren’t all healthy in the same sense. A person is healthy
because he has health; a diet is healthy because it leads to health; a...
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This note was uploaded on 01/31/2011 for the course PHYSICS 110 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '09 term at UC Davis.
- Spring '09