The Metaphysics | Study Guide


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Year Written

c. 350 BCE





At a Glance

The Metaphysics is a profoundly challenging but richly rewarding work, one that beginners can best approach piecemeal with the help of a good modern translation. Its contents range from logic to mathematics to theology. At its core The Metaphysics addresses three closely interrelated questions: (1) What is existence? (2) How can a theory of existence account for the change and impermanence witnessed in nature? (3) How can the study of existence itself be used as a basis for understanding the world at large? In contemplating these questions, Aristotle considers, critiques, and rejects the teachings of his mentor Plato (428/27–348/47 BCE) before posing some striking answers of his own.

In structure The Metaphysics consists of 14 books subdivided into numerous short chapters. The text for The Metaphysics is, in the words of translator C.D.C. Reeve, "derived—via manuscripts copied in the Byzantine period [roughly 730–1453 CE] ... —from manuscripts that derive in turn from the edition of Aristotle's works produced ... in the first century BC[E]." The arrangement of sections and the assignment of book names are somewhat arbitrary, having been created over time by translators and editors. Some books have chapters; some chapters repeat information in previous chapters. Book 3 (Beta) is ordered by puzzles, while Book 5 (Delta) is a glossary of terms. For these reasons this study guide does not attempt to cover every subsection. For books with individual chapters, when multiple ideas are found in a particular chapter, this study guide identifies the location of the chapter at the first point.

About the Title

Metaphysics literally means "after the physics." This title was not used by Aristotle but was added by a later commentator who, it is widely believed, compiled the work from shorter essays sometime in the 1st century CE. This commentator evidently saw The Metaphysics as something to be studied after Aristotle's Physics, which deals with the natural world in arguably more accessible terms.


This study guide for Aristotle's The Metaphysics offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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