The Causes of Beingby Aristotle
What are the principles and causes of the things that are of being?
There is a cause of health and of good condition. The objects of mathematics have first principles and elements and causes, and in general every science which is ratiocinative or at all involves reasoning deals with causes and principles, more or less precise, all these sciences mark off some particular being-some genus, and inquire into this, but not into being simply nor qua being, nor do they offer any discussion of the essence of the things of which they treat;
But starting from the essence-some making it plain to the senses, others assuming it as a hypothesis-they then demonstrate, more or less cogently, the essential attributes of the genus with which they deal.
Such an induction yields no demonstration of substance or of the essence, but some other way of exhibiting it. And similarly the sciences omit the question whether the genus with which they deal exists or does not exist, because it belongs to the same kind of thinking to show what it is and that it is.
Since natural science, like other sciences, is in fact about one class of being, i.e. to that sort of substance which has the principle of its movement and rest present in itself, evidently it is neither practical nor productive. For in the case of things made the principle is in the maker-it is either reason or art or some faculty, while in the case of things done it is in the doer-viz. will, for that which is done and that which is willed are the same.
Therefore, if all thought is either practical or productive or theoretical, physics must be a theoretical science, but it will theorize about such being as admits of being moved, and about substance-as-defined for the most part only as not separable from matter. Now, we must not fail to notice the mode of being of the essence and of its definition, for, without this, inquiry is but idle. Of things defined, i.e. of ‘whats’, some are like ‘snub’, and some like ‘concave’.
These differ because ‘snub’ is bound up with matter (for what is snub is a concave nose), while concavity is independent of perceptible matter. If then all natural things are a analogous to the snub in their nature; e.g. nose, eye, face, flesh, bone, and, in general, animal; leaf, root, bark, and, in general, plant (for none of these can be defined without reference to movement-they always have matter), it is clear how we must seek and define the ‘what’ in the case of natural objects, and also that it belongs to the student of nature to study even soul in a certain sense, i.e. so much of it as is not independent of matter.
Physics and Mathematics, then, are theoretical sciences. But it is not clear whether its objects are immovable and separable from matter. Some mathematical theorems consider them qua immovable and qua separable from matter.
But if there is something which is eternal and immovable and separable, clearly the knowledge of it belongs to a theoretical science,-not, however, to physics (for physics deals with certain movable things) nor to mathematics, but to a science prior to both.
For physics deals with things which exist separately but are not immovable, and some parts of mathematics deal with things which are immovable but presumably do not exist separately, but as embodied in matter; while the first science deals with things which both exist separately and are immovable. Now all causes must be eternal, but especially these; for they are the causes that operate on so much of the divine as appears to us.
There must, then, be 3 theoretical philosophies:
If the divine is present anywhere, it is present in theological things. The highest science must deal with the highest genus. Thus:
- the theoretical sciences are more desired than the other sciences
- Theology is more desired than the other theoretical sciences
Is first philosophy universal, dealing with one genus as one kind of being?
Not even the mathematical sciences are all alike in this respect. Geometry and astronomy deal with a particular kind of thing, while universal mathematics applies alike to all.
We answer that if there is no Substance other than those which are formed by nature, natural science will be the first science.
But if there is an immovable substance, the science of this must be prior and must be first philosophy, and universal in this way, because it is first.
And it will belong to this to consider being qua being-both what it is and the attributes which belong to it qua being.