The Underlying Argument of Aristotle’s Metaphysics Z.3

in Phronesis
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This paper argues that Aristotle’s Metaphysics Z.3 deploys a reductio against the claim that ‘substances underlie by being the subjects of predication’, in order to demonstrate the need for a new explanation of how substances underlie. Z.13 and H.1 corroborate this reading: both allude to an argument originally contained in Z.3, but now lost from our text, that form, matter and compound ‘underlie’ in different ways. This helps explain some of Z’s peculiarities—and it avoids committing Aristotle to self-contradiction about whether matter is substance, a claim denied in the reductio but endorsed elsewhere.

Phronesis

A Journal for Ancient Philosophy

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References

BostockD. Aristotle: Metaphysics Books Z and H 1994 Oxford

BurnyeatM. A Map of Metaphysics Zeta 2001 Pittsburgh

CharltonW. Aristotle: Physics Books i and ii 1970 Oxford

CharltonW. ‘Prime Matter: A Rejoinder’ Phronesis 1983 28 197 211

DancyR. ‘On Some of Aristotle’s Second Thoughts about Substances: Matter’ The Philosophical Review 1978 87 372 413

DevereuxD. ‘The Relationship between Books Zeta and Eta of Aristotle’s Metaphysics Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 2003 15 159 211

FredeM.PatzigG. Aristoteles, Metaphysik Z: Text, Übersetzung und Kommentar 1988 Munich

GillM. L. Aristotle on Substance: The Paradox of Unity 1989 Princeton

GillM. L. ‘Commentary on Lewis’ Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 2000 15 129 135

GrahamD. W. Aristotle’s Two Systems 1985 Oxford

IrwinT. Aristotle’s First Principles 1988 Oxford

KingH. R. ‘Aristotle without Prima Materia’ Journal of the History of Ideas 1956 17 370 389

KungJ. ‘Can Substance be Predicated of Matter?’ Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 1978 60 140 159

LaceyA. R. ‘Οὐσία and Form in Aristotle’ Phronesis 1965 10 54 69

LewisF. Substance and Predication in Aristotle 1991 Cambridge

LewisF. ScaltsasT.CharlesD. ‘Aristotle on the Relation between a Thing and its Matter’ Unity, Identity, and Explanation in Aristotle’s Metaphysics 1994 Oxford 247 277

LewisF. ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Metaphysics Zeta Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 2000 15 101 128

LouxM. Primary Ousia: An Essay on Aristotle’s Metaphysics Z and H 1991 Ithaca, NY

OwensJ. McCullenE. ‘Matter and Predication in Aristotle’ The Concept of Matter 1963 Notre Dame 99 115

PageC. ‘Predicating Forms of Matter in Aristotle’s Metaphysics The Review of Metaphysics 1985 39 57 82

RobinsonH. M. ‘Prime Matter in Aristotle’ Phronesis 1974 19 168 188

RossD. Aristotle’s Metaphysics 1924 Oxford

SchofieldM. Metaph. Z 3: Some Suggestions’ Phronesis 1972 62 97 101

StahlD. ‘Stripped Away: Some contemporary obscurities surrounding Metaphysics Z 3 (1029a10-26)’ Phronesis 1981 26 177 180

WedinM. Aristotle’s Theory of Substance: The Categories and Metaphysics Zeta 2000 Oxford

3

Cf. Bostock 1994, 74; Devereux 2003, 163; Frede & Patzig 1988, 33; Wedin 2000, 157.

5

See Burnyeat 2001, 17-18.

7

See Burnyeat 2001, 6-8.

8

Gill 1989, 30 and Schofield 1972 both argue that the upshot of Z.3 is that matter must be the sort of thing which does not have any predicates, and therefore is not really anything at all. The main textual evidence for their view is the line that says: ‘when the others are taken off, there does not appear to be anything remaining’ (περιαιρουµένων γὰρ τῶν ἄλλων οὐ φαίνεται οὐδὲν ὑποµένον, 1029a11-12). The Greek here does not compel their reading: ‘the others’ is not equivalent to ‘all others’, and ‘nothing remaining’ could mean ‘nothing else remaining’. Moreover, the conception of matter they defend would fail to satisfy asymmetrical predication, and so does not fit the logic of the argument. This is because Aristotle’s argument is: ‘matter is the primary subject, but this is a problem on independent grounds,’ not: ‘substances are primary subjects, but there are no primary subjects, and hence no substances at all.’

9

For the physical reading, see Bostock 1994, 77-8; Dancy 1978, 395-8; Devereux 2003, 173; Frede & Patzig 1988 ad loc.; Irwin 1988, 208-9; Schofield 1972, passim. For the conceptual reading, see Gill 1989, 20; Lewis 1991, 277; Stahl 1981, passim.

10

See Bostock 1994, 77-8; Dancy 1978, 395; Devereux 2003, 173; Irwin 1988, 208; Lewis 1991, 282-94; Wedin 2000, 179, 188-9. Against this reading is Loux 1991, 12.

11

Dancy 1978, 398.

12

Cf. Lewis 1991, 287 n. 33.

16

Cf. Schofield 1972, 98-100—although as noted above I do not agree with his inference from ‘whatever survives the removal of the relevant properties has none of the relevant predicates’ to ‘whatever survives the removal of the relevant properties is nothing at all’.

17

Cf. Gill 1989, 23-6; Loux 1991, 57.

18

Cf. Charlton 1970, 138; 1983, 205; Gill 1989, 29; Owens 1963, 116; pace Frede & Patzig 1988 ad loc. and Schofield 1972, 100.

19

Cf. Wedin 2000, 185.

20

Cf. Gill 1989, 26.

21

Cf. Lewis 1991, 275-7.

24

Cf. Charlton 1970, 138.

28

Cf. Burnyeat 2001, 19.

29

See Burnyeat 2001, 16, 65; Irwin 1988, 206-10; Kung 1978, 149.

30

See Bostock 1994, 80-1, 248-50; Devereux 2003, 195-210.

32

Bostock 1994, 80-1; Devereux 2001, 195-202.

34

On which see Burnyeat 2001, 140-9.

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