previous next
[1060a] [1] because that which involves the destruction of something else is a principle. These and other similar points are those which cause us perplexity.

Again, ought we to assume the existence of something else besides particular things, or are they the objects of the science which we are seeking?1 It is true that they are infinite in number; but then the things which exist besides particulars are genera or species, and neither of these is the object of the science which we are now seeking. We have explained2 why this is impossible.Indeed, in general it is a difficult question whether we should suppose that there is some substance which exists separately besides sensible substances (i.e. the substances of our world), or that the latter constitute reality, and that it is with them that Wisdom is concerned. It seems that we are looking for some other kind of substance, and that this is the object of our undertaking: I mean, to see whether there is anything which exists separately and independently, and does not appertain to any sensible thing.But again, if there is another kind of substance besides sensible substances, to what kind of sensible things are we to suppose that it corresponds? Why should we suppose that it corresponds to men or horses rather than to other animals, or even to inanimate objects in general? And yet to manufacture a set of eternal substances equal in number to those which are sensible and perishable would seem to fall outside the bounds of plausibility.Yet if the principle which we are now seeking does not exist in separation from bodies, [20] what can we suppose it to be if not matter? Yes, but matter does not exist actually, but only potentially. It might seem rather that a more appropriate principle would be form or shape; but this is perishable3; and so in general there is no eternal substance which exists separately and independently.But this is absurd, because it seems natural that there should be a substance and principle of this kind, and it is sought for as existing by nearly all the most enlightened thinkers. For how can there be any order in the universe if there is not something eternal and separate and permanent?

Again, if there is a substance and principle of such a nature as that which we are now seeking, and if it is one for all things, i.e. the same for both eternal and perishable things, it is a difficult question as to why, when the principle is the same, some of the things which come under that principle are eternal, and others not; for this is paradoxical.4 But if there is one principle of perishable things, and another of eternal things, if the principle of perishable things is also eternal, we shall still have the same difficulty; because if the principle is eternal, why are not the things which come under that principle eternal? And if it is perishable, it must have another principle behind it, and that principle must have another behind it; and the process will go on to infinity.

On the other hand, if we posit the principles which seem most unchangeable, Being and Unity,5(a) unless each of them denotes a particular thing and a substance,

1 Cf. Aristot. Met. 3.1.11, Aristot. Met. 3.4.1-8.

2 Aristot. Met. 11.1.11-13

3 Forms which are induced in matter are perishable, although not subject to the process of destruction; they are at one time and are not at another (cf. Aristot. Met. 7.15.1). The only pure form (i.e., the only form which is independent of matter in any and every sense) is the prime mover (Aristot. Met. 12.7).

4 Cf. Aristot. Met. 3.1.12, Aristot. Met. 3.4.11-23.

5 Cf. Aristot. Met. 3.1.13, Aristot. Met. 3.4.24-34.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (1924)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (8 total)
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (8):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: