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The Metaphysics presents Aristotle's mature rejection of both the Platonic theory that what we perceive is just a pale reflection of reality and the hardheaded view that all processes are ultimately material. He argued instead that the reality or substance of things lies in their concrete forms, and in so doing he probed some of the deepest questions of philosophy: What is The Metaphysics presents Aristotle's mature rejection of both the Platonic theory that what we perceive is just a pale reflection of reality and the hardheaded view that all processes are ultimately material. He argued instead that the reality or substance of things lies in their concrete forms, and in so doing he probed some of the deepest questions of philosophy: What is existence? How is change possible? And are there certain things that must exist for anything else to exist at all? The seminal notions discussed in The Metaphysics - of 'substance' and associated concepts of matter and form, essence and accident, potentiality and actuality - have had a profound and enduring influence, and laid the foundations for one of the central branches of Western philosophy.


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The Metaphysics presents Aristotle's mature rejection of both the Platonic theory that what we perceive is just a pale reflection of reality and the hardheaded view that all processes are ultimately material. He argued instead that the reality or substance of things lies in their concrete forms, and in so doing he probed some of the deepest questions of philosophy: What is The Metaphysics presents Aristotle's mature rejection of both the Platonic theory that what we perceive is just a pale reflection of reality and the hardheaded view that all processes are ultimately material. He argued instead that the reality or substance of things lies in their concrete forms, and in so doing he probed some of the deepest questions of philosophy: What is existence? How is change possible? And are there certain things that must exist for anything else to exist at all? The seminal notions discussed in The Metaphysics - of 'substance' and associated concepts of matter and form, essence and accident, potentiality and actuality - have had a profound and enduring influence, and laid the foundations for one of the central branches of Western philosophy.

30 review for The Metaphysics (Penguin Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nina Misson

    "When he to whom one speaks does not understand, and he who speaks himself does not understand, that is metaphysics." -Voltaire

  2. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    I have very mixed feelings about Aristotle. On the one hand, he's so tedious and uninspiring. This is only partially his fault: everything we have of his are lecture notes, and so it is no surprise that they are stylistically wanting. Many scholars think that Metaphysics contains many sections written at different times and for different purposes, which Aristotle never intended to be read together. There is even one section which may not have been written by him at all. This makes his work I have very mixed feelings about Aristotle. On the one hand, he's so tedious and uninspiring. This is only partially his fault: everything we have of his are lecture notes, and so it is no surprise that they are stylistically wanting. Many scholars think that Metaphysics contains many sections written at different times and for different purposes, which Aristotle never intended to be read together. There is even one section which may not have been written by him at all. This makes his work (particularly this book) often difficult and confusing. That being said, his ideas are not poetic either. His Ethics contains ingredients to live a well-balanced life, but a life curiously devoid of great passion or excitement. His Rhetoric reads like a handbook for lawyers. His interest in biology pervades his thinking: he loves to catalog, to systematize masses of details. He was the original stamp collector. On top of this, Aristotle's ideas often take the form of common sense pedantically expressed (to paraphrase Bertrand Russell). His temper was the opposite of Plato's, who seemed to deliberately try to draw counter-intuitive conclusions. One often gets the feeling that Aristotle found Plato a bit excitable, and longed to make philosophy into a more respectable, hard-headed enterprise. When engaging with his mentor's ideas, Aristotle is either (1) opposing them, or (2) trying to reconcile them with common sense. The result of the latter is a strange admixture of the mundane and the mystic. But his positive qualities are equally compelling. Compare Aristotle's careful claims, his scrupulous definitions, and systematic procedure to Plato's more artistic style. Plato was the master of the straw man. Compelling as the dialogue form is, it allowed Plato to caricature his opponents' positions and get away with some pretty sloppy thinking. Aristotle will have none of this. Plato sought to banish all poets from his Republic, and maybe he himself would have been barred entry. Aristotle would have waltzed right in. It is hard to evaluate the argument of this book, if only because it is so disorganized and wordy. Aristotle does do a good job in pointing out the logical absurdities of Plato's theory of Ideas. However, his own theory of Form and Substance is curiously similar, and is liable to some of the same criticisms. To me, this shows just how much Aristotle was under the influence of his old teacher—even though he tried to wrest himself free, he gets sucked back in. [An Afterthought: Plato and Aristotle are perfect antidotes for different places and times. When emotion, superstition, fanaticism, and sophism reign, Aristotle is where it's at. But, for me, our world is sometimes too systematic, too commonsensical, and too averse to abstract argument. Plato is like a glass of cool water.]

  3. 5 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    The Plan I had been able to bring together my notes/thoughts for the earlier parts of this reading. Those can be found here: Book 1: A Preliminary Outline of Philosophy Book 2: An Introduction to Philosophical Problems Book 3: The Basic Instruments Of Philosophy From Book 4 onwards, it becomes slightly harder to talk about the books in isolation. Also, A became easier to follow - so I stopped using so many supplementary resources. I will try to put up a review here incorporating my reading notes, The Plan I had been able to bring together my notes/thoughts for the earlier parts of this reading. Those can be found here: Book 1: A Preliminary Outline of Philosophy Book 2: An Introduction to Philosophical Problems Book 3: The Basic Instruments Of Philosophy From Book 4 onwards, it becomes slightly harder to talk about the books in isolation. Also, A became easier to follow - so I stopped using so many supplementary resources. I will try to put up a review here incorporating my reading notes, additional thoughts, criticisms, doubts, ideas and a few unwarranted digs at Aristotle as soon as I can. Meanwhile, I am planning to now move into The Organon and Physics next. The original plan was to progress in an orderly fashion through the great philosophical works before reading the modern ones (all first-hand) but Sartre has thrown a spanner into that plan by being so irresistible. So now the new plan is to read in parallel the moderns and the ancients - and to meet somewhere in the middle, some day...

  4. 5 out of 5

    AC

    An awful text -- use Ross' Greek text. The story goes thus: Jaeger was working on a text of the Metaphysics, when W.D. Ross published (with Oxford) his magnificent two-volume text with commentary in 1924. Of course, Jaeger, who had already done a lot of work, had to scrap his project. He did, however, then publish two long articles (in German) on the text and manuscripts of the Metaphysics, discussing various textual crux' in a series of lemmata. These are reprinted in his Scripta Minora. They An awful text -- use Ross' Greek text. The story goes thus: Jaeger was working on a text of the Metaphysics, when W.D. Ross published (with Oxford) his magnificent two-volume text with commentary in 1924. Of course, Jaeger, who had already done a lot of work, had to scrap his project. He did, however, then publish two long articles (in German) on the text and manuscripts of the Metaphysics, discussing various textual crux' in a series of lemmata. These are reprinted in his Scripta Minora. They are an utter embarrassment. Illogical, confused, they show that Jaeger had no grasp at all of technical philosophy, and (what is worse!) no grasp of Aristotle. And even less sense of what textual criticism is all about. By the time the OCT decided to put out a Metaphysics in the 1950's, someone there decided to give old Jaeger (who was now living in the U.S. -- having conveniently 'forgotten' his Dritte Humanismus of the 1930's...) a chance to salvage some of his old work. So Jaeger -- and I have this on good authority -- took out Ross text, pulled out his old notes, and a red pen, and started making changes. Of course, this is not how a scientific text is put together -- one doesn't just add or subtract words based on mood or on 'how it strikes you' -- it has to be done in a thoroughly scientific manner based on the rules of textual criticism (which is based on stemmatics, etc.) -- conjecture being only the move of last resort. Well..., Jaeger was not daunted by scruples of this sort, and produced a text that is an absolute mess -- unrecognizable in nearly every sentence. He turns Ross' elegant Aristotle into gibberish -- adding clauses, deleting clauses, rearranging not just words, but clauses and sections -- all based on... his (Jaeger's) own surmises..., surmises that are themselves based on a very poor understanding of what Aristotle was all about. Anyway -- avoid. (BTW -- even Jaeger's "developmental" interpretation of Aristotle was not original, but was based on the obscure work of a man named Case from an article in the famous 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    What is the being of that thing which underlies any phenomenon? The central question of metaphysics is an intriguing one, and it must be said for the benefit of all the atheists on here who might think that this is a religious question, it is a perfectly scientific query, for it is in fact the question of, how can we say a person is the same person even though all of her organs have been shed and renewed, or, in the case of an artefact, how is a house the same house after it has been renovated? What is the being of that thing which underlies any phenomenon? The central question of metaphysics is an intriguing one, and it must be said for the benefit of all the atheists on here who might think that this is a religious question, it is a perfectly scientific query, for it is in fact the question of, how can we say a person is the same person even though all of her organs have been shed and renewed, or, in the case of an artefact, how is a house the same house after it has been renovated? Now Aristotle's foray into the fog beyond the flux is one of the most fascinating of intellectual mountains to climb - however, you must bring an oxygen pack (that is, you must take many mulling walks, or, my preference, many sips of coffee). Substance is that thing which is the unqualified subject of the categories (quantity, quality, relation, place, time, position, state, activity, passivity) but it is also the bearer of form - in fact, species-form. So substance must be the essence, or the what-it-was-to-be-that-thing (the literal translation from the Greek of essence); but substance isn't a universal (atheists applaud) for it is possessed of thisness (this-thing-here in Greek), and so it is ontologically separate and independent; yet, it must not just carry form and matter, it must actually be form, specifically of a species. An outstanding ambiguity of this account is, is the form that is the soul for a person an individual, in which case there are as many forms as there are particulars, or is the form something intermediate between universal and particular? Nussbaum thinks the former; Lear thinks the latter. Now Aristotle explicitly says, "Substance isn't a universal", so there are no substantial universals (by the way, Russell, who was an atheist, believed in substantial universals, so will you please stop thinking about God! We will get to God, but it is not yet) but if thisness, which is a quality of substance, means particular, as Nussbaum thinks, then Aristotle is open to the charge that, if no two things have the same form, which follows on this account, then form cannot be identified with the "what-it-was-to-be-that-thing" - but form is to be identified with essence, because matter is just potential, it can potentially have form, but in itself, matter is nothing. So there is that problem. Another problem is, Aristotle says that only the universal can be cognized - if so, then we can't know the essence, because if the essence is substance, and substance isn't universal, then it is unintelligible. These problems are left unsolved in the text. Species-form is obviously a variety of universals, yet one can argue that universals are dependent upon particulars, but species-form informs both as an ontologically independent reality; this seems more compelling than the particularists, but it entails believing in the same thing that Plato believed in - that there are separate forms informing particulars. So either Aristotle just restated what Plato said in new terminology, sprinkled with "common-sense prejudices pedantically expressed" as Russell so aptly put it, or he falls into contradictions everywhere. Good God! Well, I guess that's why Aristotle believes in God. Every effect has a distinct cause in nature, so to stop the infinite regress, there must be a God. But God is pure form, unchangeable. Yet, it was stated in the Physics that to change is to be changed - not so for God! How? Well, God inspires love. OH! Yeah, so every form in matter is striving to actualize itself further in a teleological process of development of the whole of nature, and so each part, and God as pure form just makes everyone go nuts, like he's doing some heavy metal solo and every metalhead with form is just banging their heads away - that's like the universe. And how do we know that God is totally shredding, inspiring everyone and everything with respect to form/actuality? Well, you will admit that change is everywhere. Yes. So, like, don't you think change has always been? I mean, hold on, let me take a drag, mmmm.... so, wow. So, man, there's been change for eternity. Wow. And if change then time... time's eternal too man. But like, the world's always been here. Aw man... but that's like impossible if change is for eternity cause then the world would be just like, not... it'd be like, changed, you know? Yeah. But think of it this way. Change and time are just a part of the universe, and if there is at least one eternal thing as a part of the universe, then there must be an eternal thing that is the whole universe. Therefore, God exists. QED maaan. Cool. But God doesn't love you. What? God can't love you, because he is perfect and thinking about himself, cause when you're perfect, who ya gonna think about? Something less perfect? That would be funny. No man, God's thinking about God for eternity. So we have to love God in order to actualize our form which is our essence - how do we do that? By doing what God does - contemplating form (himself). How do we contemplate form man? By studying Aristotle (Aristotle was apparently the world's first master of academic self-promotion).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    This was fascinating. I summarized the whole thing after I finished, as I am wont to do with books of this nature. I just don't feel like reproducing the summary. There is so much to go over, it is ridiculously intense. Getting a glimpse inside Aristotle's mind is fascinating. Everything is a cycle. And everything is explained/touched upon. I look forward to reading Ptolemy's additions to his cosmology and Proclus' comments on this book in his Commentary on Euclid. Five stars, because although This was fascinating. I summarized the whole thing after I finished, as I am wont to do with books of this nature. I just don't feel like reproducing the summary. There is so much to go over, it is ridiculously intense. Getting a glimpse inside Aristotle's mind is fascinating. Everything is a cycle. And everything is explained/touched upon. I look forward to reading Ptolemy's additions to his cosmology and Proclus' comments on this book in his Commentary on Euclid. Five stars, because although there were some contradictions here and there, overall I thought it was a solid piece of literature that expanded my view of the universe and mathematics.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dean the Phantasy Guru

    Considered by many academics to be the most challenging work throughout all of literature, Aristotle's "Metaphysics" is more than just fancy words and non-sensical theorems. It deals with the most important theme possible: being/existence - both generally and specifically. For the Greek philosopher, nothing takes precedence over being because without being, there would be nothing. In other words, Aristotle deals with First Principles of knowledge by determining what composes the fabrics of our Considered by many academics to be the most challenging work throughout all of literature, Aristotle's "Metaphysics" is more than just fancy words and non-sensical theorems. It deals with the most important theme possible: being/existence - both generally and specifically. For the Greek philosopher, nothing takes precedence over being because without being, there would be nothing. In other words, Aristotle deals with First Principles of knowledge by determining what composes the fabrics of our very existence. Ultimately, he concludes that substance, essence, form and matter and the unity established between them is - out of necessity - the so-called fabrics of not just being but nearly everything, with a few exceptions. The most difficult challenge in reading a work of this intellectual magnitude is understanding the difference between substance, essence, form and matter and how they apply differently to becoming (a potentiality, therefore a non-actualized state of being) and being (the state after becoming is actualized - like ourselves). Moreover, Aristotle's treatise on being is not devoid of faith for he will demonstrate in the final books that the so-called "Unmoved Mover" (i.e. God) is responsible for setting all actions into motion which allows everything that is in a potential state to be actualized (being). Without sparking controversy, many scholars claim that Aristotle's interpretation of God as the Unmoved Mover - being the first philosophy to conceive of a single, omnipotent God - greatly influenced "The Holy Bible" and the way God is portrayed throughout its holy pages. On a final note, I fear that this read would be too difficult for most readers which is why I highly recommend taking a course (like I did) or read additional guides to aid you in your endeavour in conquering this intimidating book. Read it for its genius, read it for its impact on Western culture but most of all, read it for a personal challenge and feel proud that Aristotle was indeed mortal and human like ourselves, even though his timeless wisdom suggests otherwise.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alan Johnson

    This translation of Aristotle's Metaphysics by Hippocrates G. Apostle is apparently now out of print. When I read it in 1969, I was impressed with the accuracy of the translation as well as with Hippocrates Apostle's Glossary and editorial commentary. Equally serviceable translations are doubtlessly available today, though I have not consulted them. The term "metaphysics" should not mislead the twenty-first-century reader. Unlike Plato, Aristotle exhibited no trace of mysticism in his surviving This translation of Aristotle's Metaphysics by Hippocrates G. Apostle is apparently now out of print. When I read it in 1969, I was impressed with the accuracy of the translation as well as with Hippocrates Apostle's Glossary and editorial commentary. Equally serviceable translations are doubtlessly available today, though I have not consulted them. The term "metaphysics" should not mislead the twenty-first-century reader. Unlike Plato, Aristotle exhibited no trace of mysticism in his surviving works, including this one. In this treatise Aristotle explored the fundamentals of being and of the logic of being. He approached these questions from a philosophical rather than from what we would now call a scientific perspective. Aristotle addressed scientific matters in many other treatises, including his Physics (which is properly translated as "physical nature" rather than that branch of science that is now called "physics"). Metaphysics, for Aristotle, was the study of first principles, of being qua being. Although modern science makes Aristotle's concepts unfamiliar to us, this work sets forth some of the architectonic principles of scientific thinking, including Aristotle's famous principle of contradiction (or noncontradiction): A thing cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect. 7/5/2018 Note: I have now concluded that the following is a more accurate translation: Aristotle's "Metaphysics", trans. and ed. Joe Sachs (Santa Fe, NM: Green Lion Press, 2002).

  9. 4 out of 5

    Erick

    Aristotle is painfully pedantic. It was very hard to keep my mind focused on the endless digressions he took in order to refute other philosophers in mind numbing detail. He spent very little time actually laying out his own system in much needed detail. Specifics on his own system were lacking in this work. One element that was noticeably absent was his approach to time. If time is uncreated, then his first mover is in a dualistic relationship with time; if it is created, then he faces the Aristotle is painfully pedantic. It was very hard to keep my mind focused on the endless digressions he took in order to refute other philosophers in mind numbing detail. He spent very little time actually laying out his own system in much needed detail. Specifics on his own system were lacking in this work. One element that was noticeably absent was his approach to time. If time is uncreated, then his first mover is in a dualistic relationship with time; if it is created, then he faces the consequence that time itself is an ideal form; and all of his digressions in order to point out the contradictions of idealist philosophers become moot at that point. Time must be eternal, if the contradictions of ideal forms in regards to time, be valid. If time is eternal, there are many problems Aristotle has to address that are just as contradictory as those he points out in the idealist philosophers. This work didn't cover any of that. Maybe his other works do. I will have to read more of him later, but it won't be anytime soon. I admit I tried to read through this quickly. I will read his Physics next, whenever I get around to it. There are too many questions I have that this book didn't address. It more or less was a refutation of other Greek philosophers and little else. I am not a fan of Aristotle. Reading this work hasn't changed that. I do think there is some good exercises in logic in this book, but I see very little value in anything else here. His system is flawed I believe. I still remain more of a Platonist.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Faris

    Aristotle's “first act of divine motion” in his Physics is a set of logical implications and applying his scientific method-rightfully so given he invented it. He justifies what he calls the “first mover” or "Divinity" by continuing the Aristotelian narrative of placing the mind or intellect as the ultimate objective; surpassing the soul. This would be an example of Aristotelian privilege. Here Aristotle doesn't need to explain his divine inception into what God is, he asserts it, and by asserting Aristotle's “first act of divine motion” in his Physics is a set of logical implications and applying his scientific method-rightfully so given he invented it. He justifies what he calls the “first mover” or "Divinity" by continuing the Aristotelian narrative of placing the mind or intellect as the ultimate objective; surpassing the soul. This would be an example of Aristotelian privilege. Here Aristotle doesn't need to explain his divine inception into what God is, he asserts it, and by asserting it he had made the mistake of being corrected-ironically from himself. Duality and as well as sub having different functions. An example of having duality in thoughts is when a person is drinking coffee with a friend, he’s simultaneously enjoying the coffee and the conversation. Moreover, he uses a multiplicity to try to escape the idea of dual thinking and initiates only a first To elaborate, Aristotle's Divine mover or God in his physics is unchanging, yet influences change in substances. The problem here is his assertion on a beginning. Here he arrives at multiple paradoxes; if his divine is in a state of self-contemplation, how did we access it, and find it? Why should his first mover be unique and exempt from anything?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Don't even think you can understand this by reading it on your own. Perhaps the greatest work in philosophy of all-time.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kyle van Oosterum

    Oh my god, finally. It is extremely difficult to review this book because on the one hand, Aristotle pioneered a branch of philosophy which is still discussed today and on the other hand, he basically jumpstarted the dark ages in philosophical thought. It wasn't until the Enlightenment, more than 2000 years later that Aristotle's philosophy became a little bit less relevant. Still, in terms of 'logical hygiene' Aristotle does quite well. In terms of writing style, it leaves much to be desired. Oh my god, finally. It is extremely difficult to review this book because on the one hand, Aristotle pioneered a branch of philosophy which is still discussed today and on the other hand, he basically jumpstarted the dark ages in philosophical thought. It wasn't until the Enlightenment, more than 2000 years later that Aristotle's philosophy became a little bit less relevant. Still, in terms of 'logical hygiene' Aristotle does quite well. In terms of writing style, it leaves much to be desired. Also, the entire book is a series of lecture notes from confused students, so he was actually a boring speaker first, a philosopher second. He comes under scrutiny, but at the time he was reconciling conflicting theories, always trying to compromise and salvage ideas from antagonistic philosophies. The essence of it all is "plato is wrong" and "substance rules", which after 450 pages I still have no idea what the hell substance is. I like the movement he started, I just don't like how far it was taken.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    First, I want to thank LibriVox for making this book freely available in an audio edition. This is the only 3 star book where I would recommend it to everyone. My start of reading primary philosophy started with Heidegger, that led me to Hegel and then Kant. There's no doubt I should have suffered through this book first, because those authors rely on Aristotle in many ways and not just to tear him apart but to add to how Aristotle approached the topic of metaphysics. I've learned to no longer First, I want to thank LibriVox for making this book freely available in an audio edition. This is the only 3 star book where I would recommend it to everyone. My start of reading primary philosophy started with Heidegger, that led me to Hegel and then Kant. There's no doubt I should have suffered through this book first, because those authors rely on Aristotle in many ways and not just to tear him apart but to add to how Aristotle approached the topic of metaphysics. I've learned to no longer trust commentaries of the great works of philosophy. The summaries just seem to get it wrong. One must go to the primary source to understand what was really said. Most of the time people comment on the Metaphysics they emphasis the four causes (form, matter, efficiency, and final cause). While they are right they are in the book, they are missing the heart of the matter. Metaphysics is really defined by this book. Ontology, the science of being, the what is there, or the what is the furniture that makes up the room and what is that furniture really made up of are discussed in this book. Also, the foundation, the primary structure, the first causes of the world is looked at. Aristotle values both the empirical and the rational, the world of the physical and the abstract. Also, the nature of science is analyzed. Aristotle speaks logic. He beats into the reader the meaning of mutually exclusive (something has to either be or not be at the same time and place) and contradiction (something can't be and not be at the same time and place). At his best, Aristotle puts reality back in to the dialectics. From Heraclitus' a person can't cross the river because they and the river are always changing, or Parmenides change is impossible because there is no such thing as the void (don't completely dismiss that because Einstein's block universe leads to that too). Aristotle uses his logic to demolish those beliefs. I've tried reading it before but never got out of Book 1. I now know why. Aristotle is verbose in his prose. The substance of the universe are not numbers. It only took me one one sentence to dismiss that notion. It takes Aristotle all of book 13 to say that with multiple chapters and what seems like run on sentences before he lays out his excruciating arguments. I hate recommending this book because it is painfully written, but it has real insights which are painfully and slowly drawn out, and it's clear that this book has influenced many later day philosophers who I have recently read. (Kant systematically destroys most of Aristotle's conclusion, Heidegger obviously worshiped the occurentness (a Dreyfus neologism) of Aristotle, and Hegel follows Aristotle's soul, identity, and essence (to me, the most dangerous concept in science!).

  14. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    "The word metaphysics, when heard by most people, is apt to raise a smile of the sort reserved for innocent souls who are harmlessly deluded." So begins Joe Sachs, by way of introduction to his translation. Aristotle is not for "most people," it's true, but Sachs' translation makes it a little easier for the remainder to rest confidently in harmless delusion. Many years ago I struggled through Hippocrates Apostle's translations of Aristotle and the frustration I experienced can be exemplified in "The word metaphysics, when heard by most people, is apt to raise a smile of the sort reserved for innocent souls who are harmlessly deluded." So begins Joe Sachs, by way of introduction to his translation. Aristotle is not for "most people," it's true, but Sachs' translation makes it a little easier for the remainder to rest confidently in harmless delusion. Many years ago I struggled through Hippocrates Apostle's translations of Aristotle and the frustration I experienced can be exemplified in one word: substance. Ousia, traditionally translated "substance," is an independent thing that has attributes, but which is not an attribute of anything. It's sort of like the fundamental placeholder for a way of being that is prior to a thing's size or quantity or relation to other things. It is how a thing is before it is anything in particular. This is almost the opposite of the term "substance" which usually indicates something that has determinate qualities. To avoid this implication, Sachs employs the wonky term "thinghood." Sachs does a similar thing with the term "actuality" (entelechia, a "three-ring circus of a word" coined by Aristotle himself), which he translates as 'being-at-work-staying-itself." The glossary provides a full explanation of this and other troublesome terms. Sachs does the reader a huge service by turning these princes of medieval scholasticism -- substance, actuality, essence -- back into the humble frogs of classical philosophy. It doesn't make the Metaphysics an easy book to understand or interpret, but it opens the door a bit wider to understanding. The Green Lion Press edition is also worthy of note -- large type, wide margins, and a sturdy binding that has so far withstood a considerable beating in my book bag.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    I'll admit. This wasn't my favorite. It's not that I didn't understand it, it's just that its importance never "clicked" for me. But that's more about me than the book. “The science of substance must be of the nature of Wisdom” (996b). The problem to be addressed: why are some things perishable and others are not if they consist of the same principles (Book III, 1000a)? A substance is that which is not predicated of a stratum, but of which all else is predicated (Book VII: 3). The essence of each I'll admit.  This wasn't my favorite.  It's not that I didn't understand it, it's just that its importance never "clicked" for me.  But that's more about me than the book. “The science of substance must be of the nature of Wisdom” (996b). The problem to be addressed: why are some things perishable and others are not if they consist of the same principles (Book III, 1000a)? A substance is that which is not predicated of a stratum, but of which all else is predicated (Book VII: 3).  The essence of each thing is that which is propter se. Substratum Essence Compound of 1 and 2 Universals A substance is that which is not predicable of a subject. Back to the thesis:  beings in the primary sense are substances; beings in the secondary sense are qualities et al.  Yet we still haven’t answered the main question: what causes a thing to be a substance?

  16. 5 out of 5

    Xander

    Wow. I finished my study of Aristotle. Admittedly, I watched a lot of lectures in conjunction with reading his original works, which is - I must emphasize this - necessary to understand what he's talking about. Aristotle's works are not readable (at all) and most works are characterized by their unfinished, unorganized structure. Metaphysics is the illustration par excellence of this problem. The work consists of 13 books, which sometimes are coherent wholes, but more usually parts of longer Wow. I finished my study of Aristotle. Admittedly, I watched a lot of lectures in conjunction with reading his original works, which is - I must emphasize this - necessary to understand what he's talking about. Aristotle's works are not readable (at all) and most works are characterized by their unfinished, unorganized structure. Metaphysics is the illustration par excellence of this problem. The work consists of 13 books, which sometimes are coherent wholes, but more usually parts of longer lines of thoughts - spanning multiple books. This makes the book impossible to summarize properly, so I won't even attempt it. Suffice to say that in Metaphysics Aristotle is occupied with First Philosophy (his term) - the study of the first principles and causes of Being. All sciences spring from this one foundational science, which looks for the ways in which things in this universe 'are'. There are some central doctrines within Aristotle's conception of First Philosophy that outline his approach: 1. The doctrine of four causes (cause meaning explanation). All things are explained in terms of four causes - matter, form, efficiency (our modern notion of 'cause') and end/purpose. 2. The doctrine of hylemorphism. All things are a composition of form and matter. Form does not exist independently from matter - contra Plato! 3. The doctrine of actuality and potentitality. Matter has multiple potentialities, form actualizes one characteristic potentiality, giving the matter its unique essence. 4. All things in the universe have effective causes, meaning that everything is created/destroyed, altered in number, changed quantitatively or displaced due to some other thing effecting this change. 5. All things in the universe have final causes, i.e. a specific purpose or end. This means that the whole world is purposeful, and that all things are ensouled by a form which gives the thing its essence so that it can fulfil its purpose. 6. How can a composite thing be a unity? This is due to the identification of efficient and final cause. The efficient cause imposes the essential form on the particular matter, in order to give it its unique purpose. These are the core ideas that make up the essence of Aristotle's metaphysical framework. There are two major implications of this way of viewing the world. 1. There is a threefold distinction within science, which is based on three types of substance. Substance can be either perceptible or purely intelligible (ideal). Perceptible substance can either be changing or eternal. Perceptible changing things are placed in the sublunar world: everything that happens on Earth. Everything in the sublunar world is made of earth, water, air and fire; this is the study of the earth and life sciences (to use an anachronistic term). Perceptible eternal things are placed in the heavenly spheres: the Sun, Moon, planets and the starry heaven. These bodies move in eternal paths and are made of a perfect type of matter (ether); this is the study of astronomy. Intelligible substance occurs outside of the universe and is unchanging and eternal, it cannot be perceived by us and is only intellectually knowable. This is the study of theology (and - maybe - of logic and mathematics?) 2. Why is the study of the unchanging and eternal called theology? Because Aristotle claims the unchanging and eternal is the final purpose of the universe as a whole. It is the unmoved mover, which inspires wonder, desire and love in the stars to become as perfect as the unmoved mover, and this sets in motion the heavenly sphere. This sphere subsequently sets in motion the planetary spheres, which in turn cause all the change on Earth. It is important to notice that the unmoved mover is not an efficient cause, this would mean that this entity acts and hence is not perfect - Aristotle calls this universal principle of the cosmos 'pure actuality' - a thing which is fully realized - and with an anthropomorphic touch he claims that it is leading the best possible life. Since all practice is imperfection (i.e. actualizing potentiality), it is only contemplating. About what? About itself contemplating - the best possible life is thus a God which does not create or destroy, does not crave affection or wonder in any sense, does not occupy itself with anything at all, besides thinking about his thinking about himself. Talk about a narcissist... Later on, Aristotle claims on the basis of astronomical and logical evidence, that there are, in effect, 47 or even 55 of such unmoved movers, after which he immediately claims that multiplicity is impossible so there is one Unmoved Mover after all... The last two books deal with an important corollary of all the above: What is the status of mathematical objects and Forms? Since Aristotle claims that the metaphysical foundation of the world is substance and substance only (making metaphysics the study of substance), it is logically impossible that mathematical objects exist as entities. This would make them substances - which would imply that mathematical objects (like numbers or ratios) are principles and causes of the things in this world. Aristotle then proceeds to show how numbers are not formal, material or efficient causes. He goes to greater length to dispel the claim that numbers might be formal causes, since this would imply Plato's theory of Forms to be true - in one way or another. Plato claimed that perfect Forms exist as ideal entitites in a realm beyond this world - all perceptible things in the world participate in their respective perfect Forms and hence acquire a status of imperfect derivatives. Occupying oneself with the study of worldly things thus gets relegated in favour of the contemplation of the perfect Forms. But Aristotle claims throughout the work that it is entirely unclear how Platonic Forms cause things to exist, just like the harmonies and ratios of the Pythagoreans don't explain how things are caused by numbers. Both participation and imitation are literally senseless concepts and don't explain anything. According to Aristotle, mathematics treats normal objects in a special way: the mathematician treats physical objects as being not physical objects. He seems to mean that we induce certain concepts from sense-perception, placing both mathematics and logic in the realm of human psychology. We first experience things through our senses, we store these experiences in our memory, we organize these experience into unified classes, and subsequently intuit the essences of species of things. This would mean that numbers are nothing but psychological constructs - a debate which continues until this day: Do numbers exist as entities? Are they psychological constructs? Or are they something else entirely, and if so, what? In my opinion, the Metaphysics cannot be appropriately understood if one doesn't grasp both Aristotle's natural philosophy (Physics and De Anima) as well as his logic (Categories, On Interpretation, Posterior Analytics) - once you understand these fields, the Metaphysics will tie all of these different domains together in a very beautiful way. Also, his ethics (Ethica Nicomachea) and theology spring logically from his metaphysical framework - both cannot be understood in the right way if one is unfamiliar with the Aristotelean metaphysical doctrines. After finishing Aristotle, I feel baffled. I have read much about his philosophical doctrines - mostly from a physical perspective - but the conception I formed based on these second-hand sources was wholly a misrepresentation. Having read his original works and followed a lecture course on his philosophy, I feel enlightened and (very) satisfied. Truly an amazing philosopher and perhaps one of the most original and complete thinkers that ever lived... (Don't mind my ratings of his works - they have more to do with style and difficulty rating ancient works than with the quality of Aristotle's philosophy.)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Hippocrates G. Apostle, the translator of this text, taught at Grinnell while I attended college there and some of my friends worked with him. Other than teaching, he and his wife also maintained a Personal column in the town newspaper, a column with notices such as the following: "M.E. Nalus reports the return of wife, Helen, from Turkish tour." I, having insufficient Greek, never more than glancingly met the fellow. Aristotle's Metaphysics is of uncertain origin. We don't know when it was Hippocrates G. Apostle, the translator of this text, taught at Grinnell while I attended college there and some of my friends worked with him. Other than teaching, he and his wife also maintained a Personal column in the town newspaper, a column with notices such as the following: "M.E. Nalus reports the return of wife, Helen, from Turkish tour." I, having insufficient Greek, never more than glancingly met the fellow. Aristotle's Metaphysics is of uncertain origin. We don't know when it was written or even if its putative author penned anything like it. We don't know much of its redaction history. We don't know how to order its sections. Aristotle's work, most of it, comes down to us through intermediaries. Consequently, some of its obscurities may have more to do with the incomprehension of students and/or editors than with confusion on the part of the philosopher. Unless many more early versions are found it's unlikely that we shall ever be as certain of having appropriated a "true" text as we are of, say, the gospels. (To give a sense of the magnitude of difference: We have approximately 15,000 holographs--handwritten mss.--of the texts of the Christian Scriptures, but only six holographs of Aeschylus.) I've appended as the description of this book a clear and simple explanation borrowed from Wikipedia which puts The Metaphysics in context. The importance of what Aristotle did is to have created a "system" and a terminology which caught on enough to form a common parlance for subsequent science, natural and philosophical. Note: Although Peter Maxwell, a Loyola University philosophy professor, got me to read this text, Denise Griebler actually purchased it, presenting it as a gift.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    An incredibly lucid text, though admittedly a brain-twister, Aristotle here examines First Philosophy and finds Plato's Forms wholly deficient of a real existence. He concludes that there is a prime mover, and refutes the sophistic reasoning of almost all of his contemporaries. Aristotle leaves metaphysics an open issue, generally, perhaps recalling, despite, no doubt, being an atheist, that to deny metaphysics is just as arrogant as to detail it. Read after his Organon.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Samrat Singh

    We all would indefinitely want to walk the distance through space and time. While this walk, the world happens same to those who have stopped walking or those who have finished the walk. After this, there is no space and no time. Just the essence of it. In truth, we can never kill a thought of being present, we can only kill man's pretense at revealing a thought to himself.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    I went to school where Joe Sachs teaches, and his translations are excellently faithful, even if that does mean a little initial adjustment on the part of the reader; compound Greek words are often translated as hyphenated English phrases, ie, "entelecheia" is "being-at-work-staying-itself," if I recall.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Arkar Kyaw

    "Lunch is God and I am the universe."

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cain S.

    Much more difficult than Hegel, really.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    You have to love the old unmoved mover. "It's like a Coke machine. It doesn't move, but it causes you to move toward it because you want a Coke."

  24. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Rivers

    I am reading the translation of W. D. Ross in the second volume of the Revised Oxford "The Complete Works of Aristotle". I can not read Classical Attic Greek and therefore have no opinion about the translation's accuracy; but the English is very good--lucid, sober, and felicitous. I have read enough of Aristotle to recognise his great intellect but disagree with many of his basic opinions. My dissent is the reason for not giving him five stars. (I hope this will suffice without getting I am reading the translation of W. D. Ross in the second volume of the Revised Oxford "The Complete Works of Aristotle". I can not read Classical Attic Greek and therefore have no opinion about the translation's accuracy; but the English is very good--lucid, sober, and felicitous. I have read enough of Aristotle to recognise his great intellect but disagree with many of his basic opinions. My dissent is the reason for not giving him five stars. (I hope this will suffice without getting particular.) He was a universal genius and his "Metaphysics" demonstrates this clearly. The work is an essential foundation for all metaphysics afterwards. Even with its (in my opinion) logical fallacies and other inhibitions it remains one of the most important (being seminal) works on the nature of existence and an essential apology for the study of first principles. I would recommend studying the "Metaphysics" as an introduction to metaphysics in general. It is worth reading, despite its shortcomings--which all philosophers have.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    Fantastic. Essential reading to see how a lot of Western thought was shapped by it both positively and negatively, clear and even relevant to common issues such as delimiting what the sciences study, the nature of things and the limits of certain philosophical systems (i.e. Platonic ideas).

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kevin K

    The Metaphysics itself is one of the timeless classics of Western philosophy. It certainly rates five stars and needs no introduction from me. This review only pertains to the Penguin edition of the Metaphysics translated by Hugh Lawson-Tancred. The edition rates one star. Generally I trust the quality of Penguin books, but this particular translation is shockingly bad. Almost comically so at times. First, Lawson-Tancred has an irritating tendency of peppering his writing with inappropriate The Metaphysics itself is one of the timeless classics of Western philosophy. It certainly rates five stars and needs no introduction from me. This review only pertains to the Penguin edition of the Metaphysics translated by Hugh Lawson-Tancred. The edition rates one star. Generally I trust the quality of Penguin books, but this particular translation is shockingly bad. Almost comically so at times. First, Lawson-Tancred has an irritating tendency of peppering his writing with inappropriate words like "OK." The last paragraph of the book begins with the two sentences: "OK. OK." At points, he starts sentences with "Well, well" or "Ergo, ergo" or "Conclusions, conclusions." He also uses many word choices and idioms that don't belong in a translation of Aristotle, e.g.: Hooey!, delicatessen, shadow boxing, kick off, "buffoons of the same kidney, "plain as a pikestaff," "idiocy of this buffoonery," "fairly serious-scale chunk of common sense," "off its own bat," rotatory orbit, nonsense on stilts, "we may spurn taking esoteric umbrage," you-know-who, Exocet (as in the guided missile), "just to bang the table a little", Pfaw! He consistently uses the term "what-it-was-to-be-that-thing" rather than the conventional "essence" to render Aristotle's to ti en einai. This leads to some terribly verbose and clunky writing, like you might expect if we were to write about circles using the term "the-locus-of-points-equidistant-from-some-point" instead of the word "circle." Lawson-Tancred also has a love affair with pointlessly obscure words such as banausic, galingale, besom, apteric, illuded, inconcinnities, proprement dit, and quondam. Here are some selections comparing the Penguin edition to corresponding sections of The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation, Vol. 2: "An apophthegm is also found among the obiter dicta of Anaxagoras." (Γ5, Penguin) "A saying of Anaxagoras to some of his friends is also related…" (Oxford) "Finally, if we move to perceptibles, we get all these problems and a whole host more in spades. But all this is poppycock. There are no Forms of perceptibles, pace you know who." (Z14, Penguin) "Further, in the case of sensible things both these consequences and others still more absurd follow. If, then, these consequences are impossible, clearly there are not Forms of sensible things in the sense in which some maintain their existence." (Oxford) "Conclusions: NO UNIVERSAL PREDICABLE A SUBSTANCE… NO SUBSTANCE COMPOSED OF SUBSTANCES…" (Z16, Penguin, all caps in original) "Clearly, then, no universal term is the name of a substance, and no substance is composed of substances." (Oxford) "Fine, but the question is what would they be a number of. Well, of colours, stupid. And unity would be some one in particular, say white. Beziehungsweise, if the things that are were melodies..." (I2, Penguin) "Therefore if all existent things were colours, existent things would have been a number, indeed, but of what? Clearly of colours; and the ‘one’ would have been a particular ‘one’, e.g. white. And similarly if all existent things were tunes…" (Oxford) "Their Grundpinzip was that 'all things would Be One, the Existent Itself', unless somebody crack and/or facedown Parminedes Exocet: Ne'er shal thys dicta be fast: what is not is." (N2, Penguin) "For they thought that all things that are would be one—viz. Being itself, if one did not join issue with and refute the saying of Parmenides: For never will this be proved, that things that are not are." (Oxford) In sum, the translation is awful. Nevertheless, the Penguin edition is cheap, complete and highly portable, and there aren't any other current editions with those virtues (at least that I know of). The translation is bad but serviceable in most places. So this book does have its place. Just be sure to have another translation to check against (which is a good idea for reading any of Aristotle's works).

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Hennegen

    This collection (while dense and at times seemingly semantically exhausting) is exceptional. Be prepared to contend with the rich strife in Aristotle’s fastidious discernment and terminology, his almost unabashedly effortful nature of his undertaking, but herein lies the value of his contemplation. Our individual nature is, by definition, one of seeking. This innate thirst serves not only as the genesis of our intellectual undertakings, but also as our basis for all experience, for where else This collection (while dense and at times seemingly semantically exhausting) is exceptional. Be prepared to contend with the rich strife in Aristotle’s fastidious discernment and terminology, his almost unabashedly effortful nature of his undertaking, but herein lies the value of his contemplation. Our individual nature is, by definition, one of seeking. This innate thirst serves not only as the genesis of our intellectual undertakings, but also as our basis for all experience, for where else does one start to know but by one’s own senses, perception, and history? This activity has empowered us to develop knowledge of the world and how to operate within it but such knowledge is not the end goal. Though we begin with the individual and the particular, it is not sufficient to cease here. As Aristotle embarks on his first philosophy, a study of the universal principles of being and existence, he takes great care to establish his focus on that which endeavors beyond the material and the perceptible. Just as “he who invented any art” must have “[gone] beyond the common perceptions” Aristotle must continue this push beyond (2). After identifying the foundational elements that comprise our experience, he delves into the self that is experiencing – the self not as a physical form, but as possibility, capacity, actuality. Contending with “Wisdom” that might address “the first causes and the principles of things” (3). Or, more simply: what might it mean to be a thing capable of reflecting on its own ability to reflect? Experiencing its own experience? These questions could come off as clever linguistic play, something intellectually haughty and therefore inaccessible, but to truly savor the purity of the questioning, to appreciate the context and time in which Aristotle questioned, is to discover the delightful paradoxes at the core of being human. Surely, it is not enough to study that we exist, but why and how and in what manner we exist. It is the effort to transcend the immediacy of experience – that, as it were, the fire is hot – and to delve deeper, ask more, seek more expansively.

  28. 5 out of 5

    A.J.

    In the English-speaking world, philosophy went through a ‘linguistic turn’ at the beginning of the 20th century, where it became concerned with the senses of language with a special emphasis on adjudicating and producing linguistic clarity. But these advances, as Anthony Kenny has noted, were anticipated by the Medievals, who, even in the popular caricature, exerted immense intellectual effort in creating distinctions, understanding reason, and studying the processes of logic. The medieval In the English-speaking world, philosophy went through a ‘linguistic turn’ at the beginning of the 20th century, where it became concerned with the senses of language with a special emphasis on adjudicating and producing linguistic clarity. But these advances, as Anthony Kenny has noted, were anticipated by the Medievals, who, even in the popular caricature, exerted immense intellectual effort in creating distinctions, understanding reason, and studying the processes of logic. The medieval preoccupation with logic was due, of course, to the prodigious efforts of Aristotle (as they took up his project), who undertook the task of a collective accounting of language and Being, or how language reflects (or is a reflection) of the reality is describes. Aristotle wields a scalpel to incise language and produce the sharpest of semantic distinctions, to give us a sense of the ‘senses’ of linguistic difference; how things can posses the ‘same’ meaning through the analogous functions language, or as certain proportional resemblances. In other words, he shows how slippery our concepts are, and how an understanding of them must be formulated or attempted before we can begin to do anything else (why for Aristotle this is the ‘first philosophy’). In Bk. B, Aristotle does not so much invent the disciplines (roughly) as we know them today as much as the notion of disciplines themselves, of contained-yet-connected areas of knowledge that speak to certain parts of the world or experience, that themselves must be recounted with others, especially under the ‘meta’ discipline which recursively classifies all the other disciplines. For ‘Metaphysics’ is not for Aristotle a study of ‘spiritual’ things–in the sense of the ‘non-physical’ (as the word is used today)–but in the sense of the physical in its most abstract sense: of quality, quantity, predicate, form, number and, most of all, substance. Aristotle, still, has much to teach us.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is, of course, one of the foundational texts of western philosophical thought. It contains many fundamental doctrines and questions/explorations (including the inaugural presentation of the Law of Non-Contradiction). However, the translation was pretty painful, and for more complex, mind-bending investigations, there are many other volumes that get much more of a rise out of me. This is kind of like if you need to brush up on your Calculus and you start by going all the way back to This is, of course, one of the foundational texts of western philosophical thought. It contains many fundamental doctrines and questions/explorations (including the inaugural presentation of the Law of Non-Contradiction). However, the translation was pretty painful, and for more complex, mind-bending investigations, there are many other volumes that get much more of a rise out of me. This is kind of like if you need to brush up on your Calculus and you start by going all the way back to multipication tables. I'm glad to have it under my belt, but I probably won't even bother to reread it unless something points me to a specific passage, or if I find myself held at literary-sophic gunpoint in some sort of existentialist hostage crisis of Being.

  30. 5 out of 5

    ZaRi

    "For those who wish to make good progress must start well; for subsequent progress depends on the resolution of the first puzzles, and one cannot solve these without knowing the difficulty and the confusion of our minds. So we must first set out all the difficulties, both for these reasons and also because those who inquire without first setting out the difficulties are like those who do not know in which direction they should walk, and in addition do not even know whether they would recognize "For those who wish to make good progress must start well; for subsequent progress depends on the resolution of the first puzzles, and one cannot solve these without knowing the difficulty and the confusion of our minds. So we must first set out all the difficulties, both for these reasons and also because those who inquire without first setting out the difficulties are like those who do not know in which direction they should walk, and in addition do not even know whether they would recognize that which they are looking for. For the end is not clear to these, but it is for those who have begun with the puzzles. And also from the point of view of judging that man is better off who has heard, as it were, all the rival and opposed positions."

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