Part 4 of the Simplified Metaphysics by Aristotle

Part 4

September 27, 2015

Even the mathematician uses the common axioms only in a special application.

This is why first philosophy should also examine the principles of mathematics.

That when equals are taken from equals the remainders are equal, is common to all quantities, but mathematics studies a part of its proper matter which it has detached, e.g. lines or angles or numbers or some other kind of quantity-not, however, qua being but in so far as each of them is continuous in one or two or three dimensions;

but philosophy does not inquire about particular subjects in so far as each of them has some attribute or other, but speculates about being, in so far as each particular thing is.

Physics is in the same position as mathematics; for physics studies the attributes and the principles of the things that are, qua moving and not qua being (whereas the primary science, we have said, deals with these, only in so far as the underlying subjects are existent, and not in virtue of any other character); and so both physics and mathematics must be classed as parts of Wisdom.

Part 5

“There is a principle in things, about which we cannot be deceived, but must always, on the contrary recognize the truth,-viz. that the same thing cannot at one and the same time be and not be, or admit any other similar pair of opposites. About such matters there is no proof in the full sense, though there is proof ad hominem. For it is not possible to infer this truth itself from a more certain principle, yet this is necessary if there is to be completed proof of it in the full sense.

But he who wants to prove to the asserter of opposites that he is wrong must get from him an admission which shall be identical with the principle that the same thing cannot be and not be at one and the same time, but shall not seem to be identical; for thus alone can his thesis be demonstrated to the man who asserts that opposite statements can be truly made about the same subject.

Those, then, who are to join in argument with one another must to some extent understand one another; for if this does not happen how are they to join in argument with one another?

Therefore every word must be intelligible and indicate something, and not many things but only one; and if it signifies more than one thing, it must be made plain to which of these the word is being applied. He, then, who says ’this is and is not’ denies what he affirms, so that what the word signifies, he says it does not signify; and this is impossible. Therefore if ’this is’ signifies something, one cannot truly assert its contradictory.

If the word signifies something and this is asserted truly, this connexion must be necessary; and it is not possible that that which necessarily is should ever not be; it is not possible therefore to make the opposed affirmations and negations truly of the same subject.

Further, if the affirmation is no more true than the negation, he who says ‘man’ will be no more right than he who says ’not-man’.

In saying the man is not a horse one would be either more or not less right than in saying he is not a man, so that one will also be right in saying that the same person is a horse; for it was assumed to be possible to make opposite statements equally truly. It follows then that the same person is a man and a horse, or any other animal.

There is no proof of these things in the full sense, but there is a proof which may suffice against one who will make these suppositions.

If one had questioned Heraclitus himself in this way one might have forced him to confess that opposite statements can never be true of the same subjects. But, as it is, he adopted this opinion without understanding what his statement involves. But in any case if what is said by him is true, not even this itself will be true-viz. that the same thing can at one and the same time both be and not be.

For as, when the statements are separated, the affirmation is no more true than the negation, in the same way-the combined and complex statement being like a single affirmation-the whole taken as an affirmation will be no more true than the negation.

Further, if it is not possible to affirm anything truly, this itself will be false-the assertion that there is no true affirmation. But if a true affirmation exists, this appears to refute what is said by those who raise such objections and utterly destroy rational discourse.

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