Should science focus on the elemental or the universal?by Aristotle
Wisdom is a science of first principles is evident from the introductory chapters, in which we have raised objections to the statements of others about the first principles; but one might ask the question whether Wisdom is to be conceived as one science or as several.
If as one, it may be objected that one science always deals with contraries, but the first principles are not contrary. If it is not one, what sort of sciences are those with which it is to be identified?
Is it the business of one science, or of more than one, to examine the first principles of demonstration? If of one, why of this rather than of any other? If of more, what sort of sciences must these be said to be?
Does Wisdom investigate all substances or not? If not all, it is hard to say which; but if, being one, it investigates them all, it is doubtful how the same science can embrace several subject-matters.
Does it deal with substances only or also with their attributes? If in the case of attributes demonstration is possible, in that of substances it is not. But if the two sciences are different, what is each of them and which is Wisdom? If we think of it as demonstrative, the science of the attributes is Wisdom, but if as dealing with what is primary, the science of substances claims the tide.
The science we are looking for must not be supposed to deal with the causes which have been mentioned in the Physics.
It does not deal with the final cause (for that is the nature of the good, and this is found in the field of action and movement; and it is the first mover-for that is the nature of the end-but in the case of things unmovable there is nothing that moved them first
In general it is hard to say whether perchance the science we are now looking for deals with perceptible substances or not with them, but with certain others. If with others, it must deal either with the Forms or with the objects of mathematics.
The Forms do not exist. Even if one suppose them to exist, why in the world the same is not true of the other things of which there are Forms, as of the objects of mathematics.
Those thinkers place the objects of mathematics between the Forms and perceptible things, as a kind of third set of things apart both from the Forms and from the things in this world. But there is not a third man or horse besides the ideal and the individuals.
If on the other hand it is not as they say, with what sort of things must the mathematician be supposed to deal?
Certainly not with the things in this world; for none of these is the sort of thing which the mathematical sciences demand.
The science which we are seeking does not treat of the objects of mathematics. None of them can exist separately. But again it does not deal with perceptible substances; for they are perishable.
What kind of science can discuss the difficulties on the objects of mathematics?
Physics cannot do this because the physicist’s inquiry is about the principle in things and movement
Should this science deal with the principles called elements? Everyone suppose these elements to be present in composite things.
Or should this science treat rather of universals? Every definition and every science is of universals and not of infimae species, so that as far as this goes it would deal with the highest genera.
These would turn out to be being and unity; for these might most of all be supposed to contain all things that are, and to be most like principles because they are by nature; for if they perish all other things are destroyed with them; for everything is and is one. But inasmuch as, if one is to suppose them to be genera, they must be predicable of their differentiae, and no genus is predicable of any of its differentiae, in this way it would seem that we should not make them genera nor principles.
Further, if the simpler is more of a principle than the less simple, and the ultimate members of the genus are simpler than the genera (for they are indivisible, but the genera are divided into many and differing species), the species might seem to be the principles, rather than the genera. But inasmuch as the species are involved in the destruction of the genera, the genera are more like principles; for that which involves another in its destruction is a principle of it. These and others of the kind are the subjects that involve difficulties.