previous next
[1026b] [1] and further besides all these the potential and actual : since the term "being" has various senses, it must first be said of what "is" accidentally, that there can be no speculation about it.This is shown by the fact that no science, whether practical, productive or speculative, concerns itself with it. The man who produces a house does not produce all the attributes which are accidental to the house in its construction; for they are infinite in number. There is no reason why the house so produced should not be agreeable to some, injurious to others, and beneficial to others, and different perhaps from every other existing thing; but the act of building is productive of none of these results.In the same way the geometrician does not study the accidental attributes of his figures, nor whether a triangle is different from a triangle the sum of whose angles is equal to two right angles. And this accords with what we should reasonably expect, because "accident" is only, as it were, a sort of name. Hence in a way Plato1 was not far wrong in making sophistry deal with what is nonexistent;because the sophists discuss the accident more, perhaps, than any other people—whether "cultured" and "grammatical,"2 and "cultured Coriscus" and "Coriscus,"3 are the same or different; and whether everything that is, but has not always been, has come into being, so that if a man who is cultured has become grammatical, [20] he has also, being grammatical, become cultured4; and all other such discussions. Indeed it seems that the accidental is something closely akin to the nonexistent.This is clear too from such considerations as the following: of things which are in other senses there is generation and destruction, but of things which are accidentally there is not.5 Nevertheless we must state further, so far as it is possible, with regard to the accidental, what its nature is and through what cause it exists. At the same time it will doubtless also appear why there is no science of it.

Since, then, there are among existing things some which are invariable and of necessity (not necessity in the sense of compulsion,6 but that by which we mean that it cannot be otherwise7), and some which are not necessarily so, nor always, but usually: this is the principle and this the cause of the accidental. For whatever is neither always nor usually so, we call an accident.E.g., if in the dog-days8 we have storm and cold, we call it an accident; but not if we have stifling and intense heat, because the latter always or usually comes at this time, but not the former. It is accidental for a man to be white (since this is neither always nor usually so), but it is not accidental for him to be an animal.

1 Cf. Plat. Soph. 254a.

2 i.e. able to read and write. The sophistic argument is given by Alexander as follows: A is grammatical; therefore grammatical A=A. A is cultured; therefore cultured A=A. Therefore grammatical=cultured, and he who is grammatical must be cultured. But B, though grammatical, is not cultured. Therefore the grammatical is not the same as the cultured.

3 If Coriscus is the same as cultured Coriscus, he is the same as cultured cultured Coriscus, and soad infinitum. Cf. Soph. Elench. 173a 34.

4 If A, being cultured, has become grammatical, then being cultured he is grammatical. Then being grammatical he is cultured. But he has not always, being grammatical, been cultured. So if that which is but has not always been must have come to be, then being grammatical he has become cultured; i.e., he must have been both grammatical before he was cultured and cultured before he was grammatical; which is absurd ( Ross).

5 i.e., the process of becoming or change takes place in the subject—the man , who is accidentally cultured, becomes grammatical, and when the process is complete "the cultured" is accidentally grammatical; but it does not become so.

6 Cf. Aristot. Met. 5.5.2.

7 Aristot. Met. 5.5.3

8 The period from July 3 to August 11, during which the dog-star Sirius rises and sets with the sun.

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 (3 total)
  • Cross-references in notes to this page (1):
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (2):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: