Part 2b of the Simplified Metaphysics by Aristotle

Questions 4 to 5 Icon

September 1, 2015
  1. Does our investigation deal with substances alone or also with their attributes?

If the solid is a substance and so are lines and planes, is it the business of the same science to know these and to know the attributes of each of these classes (the attributes about which the mathematical sciences offer proofs), or of a different science? If of the same, the science of substance also must be a demonstrative science, but it is thought that there is no demonstration of the essence of things.

If of another, what will be the science that investigates the attributes of substance? This is a very difficult question.

  1. Further, must we say that sensible substances alone exist, or that there are others besides these?

Are substances of one kind or are there in fact several kinds of substances, as those say who assert the existence both of the Forms and of the intermediates, with which they say the mathematical sciences deal?

The sense in which we say the Forms are both causes and self-dependent substances has been explained in our first remarks about them; while the theory presents difficulties in many ways, the most paradoxical thing of all is the statement that there are certain things besides those in the material universe, and that these are the same as sensible things except that they are eternal while the latter are perishable. For they say there is a man-himself and a horse-itself and health-itself, with no further qualification,-a procedure like that of the people who said there are gods, but in human form. For they were positing nothing but eternal men, nor are the Platonists making the Forms anything other than eternal sensible things.

If we are to posit besides the Forms and the sensibles the intermediates between them, we shall have many difficulties.

For clearly on the same principle there will be lines besides the lines-themselves and the sensible lines, and so with each of the other classes of things; so that since astronomy is one of these mathematical sciences there will also be a heaven besides the sensible heaven, and a sun and a moon (and so with the other heavenly bodies) besides the sensible. Yet how are we to believe in these things? It is not reasonable even to suppose such a body immovable, but to suppose it moving is quite impossible.-

And similarly with the things of which optics and mathematical harmonics treat; for these also cannot exist apart from the sensible things, for the same reasons. For if there are sensible things and sensations intermediate between Form and individual, evidently there will also be animals intermediate between animals-themselves and the perishable animals.-We might also raise the question, with reference to which kind of existing things we must look for these sciences of intermediates.

If geometry is to differ from mensuration only in this, that the latter deals with things that we perceive, and the former with things that are not perceptible, evidently there will also be a science other than medicine, intermediate between medical-science-itself and this individual medical science, and so with each of the other sciences.

Yet how is this possible?

There would have to be also healthy things besides the perceptible healthy things and the healthy-itself.–And at the same time not even this is true, that mensuration deals with perceptible and perishable magnitudes; for then it would have perished when they perished.

But on the other hand astronomy cannot be dealing with perceptible magnitudes nor with this heaven above us.

For neither are perceptible lines such lines as the geometer speaks of (for no perceptible thing is straight or round in the way in which he defines ‘straight’ and ‘round’; for a hoop touches a straight edge not at a point, but as Protagoras used to say it did, in his refutation of the geometers), nor are the movements and spiral orbits in the heavens like those of which astronomy treats, nor have geometrical points the same nature as the actual stars.-Now there are some who say that these so-called intermediates between the Forms and the perceptible things exist, not apart from the perceptible things, however, but in these; the impossible results of this view would take too long to enumerate, but it is enough to consider even such points as the following:-

It is not reasonable that this should be so only in the case of these intermediates, but clearly the Forms also might be in the perceptible things; for both statements are parts of the same theory. Further, it follows from this theory that there are two solids in the same place, and that the intermediates are not immovable, since they are in the moving perceptible things. And in general to what purpose would one suppose them to exist indeed, but to exist in perceptible things?

For the same paradoxical results will follow which we have already mentioned; there will be a heaven besides the heaven, only it will be not apart but in the same place; which is still more impossible.

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