Part 8

How Aristotle Misunderstands Forms

by Aristotle Icon

Anything which is produced is produced by something (the starting-point of the production).

I make a brazen sphere from a mold with a sphere shape. The mold is my form and substratum. It is different from the brass. We must then make the mold out of something else. Then we need to make that something else. This leads to infinity.

If follows that the form or shape of the thing is not produced. If it isn’t produced then its essence is not produced.

But if the essence of spheres in general is to be produced, then the spheres must be produced out of something. The product will always be divisible. One part of it is matter, the other part is form.

A sphere is ’the shape whose circumference is at all points equidistant from the centre’. Thus, this definition will be a part of the medium in which product exists in. The other part will be the brass in that sphere-medium. The whole will be the brazen sphere produced.

It follows that the metaphysical sphere-form or substance is not produced. Instead it is the visible sphere-shape is produced, which gets its name from this real shere. It also means that:

  • matter is present in everything which is created
  • one part of the thing is matter
  • the other part is the visible form.

Is there a visible sphere-shape that is different from the individual visible spheres? Or a house that is different from the bricks that make a house?

The visible sphere-shape or form is just an example of the actual physical sphere.

But the artist makes examples or copies out of actual works. The entire example of the material bronze (Callias) or spherical form (Socrates), is analogous to the actual brazen sphere. But to unphilosophical humans, it is brazen spheres in general. Thus, the cause of the Forms is useless with regards to substances and potential production or works-in-progress. The Forms are not self-supporting existences or substances.

In some cases, the maker is of the same kind or form as the product. For example, a human makes a human. We do not need to set up Form as a pattern.

The maker can make the product and converting form-mold into matter. When we have both form and matter. They are different in their matter but the same in form as philosophers, for their form is indivisible.

Part 9

Why are some things are produced spontaneously, such as health, as well as by art?

This is because matter is needed to produce things. In those cases the necessary matter is present.

Some matter can move themselves (like fire), others cannot (like stones). The latter needs something else to move them. Many activities, such as dancing, can start moving by themselves.

Therefore, some things need someone to make them or move them.

In a sense, every product of art is produced from:

  • a thing which shares its name (a house is produced from shapes of houses), or
  • a part of itself which shares its name (the art of building shapes the house)
  • from something which contains an art of it, if we exclude things produced by accident

The heat in the movement caused heat in the body. This is either health, or a part of health, or is followed by a part of health or by health itself. And so it is said to cause health, because it causes that to which health attaches as a consequence.

Therefore, as in syllogisms, substance is the starting-point of everything. It is from ‘what a thing is’ that syllogisms start; and from it also we now find processes of production to start.

Things which are formed by nature are in the same case as these products of art.

For the seed is productive in the same way as the things that work by art; for it has the form potentially, and that from which the seed comes has in a sense the same name as the offspring only in a sense, for we must not expect parent and offspring always to have exactly the same name, as in the production of ‘human being’ from ‘human’ for a ‘woman’ also can be produced by a ‘man’-unless the offspring be an imperfect form; which is the reason why the parent of a mule is not a mule.

The natural things which (like the artificial objects previously considered) can be produced spontaneously are those whose matter can be moved even by itself in the way in which the seed usually moves it; those things which have not such matter cannot be produced except from the parent animals themselves.

But not only regarding substance does our argument prove that its form does not come to be, but the argument applies to all the primary classes alike, i.e. quantity, quality, and the other categories.

For as the brazen sphere comes to be, but not the sphere nor the brass.

And so too in the case of brass itself, if it comes to be, it is its concrete unity that comes to be (for the matter and the form must always exist before), so is it both in the case of substance and in that of quality and quantity and the other categories likewise; for the quality does not come to be, but the wood of that quality, and the quantity does not come to be, but the wood or the animal of that size.

But we may learn from these instances a peculiarity of substance, that there must exist beforehand in complete reality another substance which produces it, e.g. an animal if an animal is produced; but it is not necessary that a quality or quantity should pre-exist otherwise than potentially.


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