previous next
[1041b] [1] e.g. when we inquire what man is; because the expression is a simple one not analyzed into subject and attributes. We must make the question articulate before we ask it; otherwise we get something which shares the nature of a pointless and of a definite question.Now since we must know that the fact actually exists, it is surely clear that the question is "why is the matter so-and-so?" e.g. "why are these materials a house?" Because the essence of house is present in them. And this matter, or the body containing this particular form, is man. Thus what we are seeking is the cause (i.e. the form) in virtue of which the matter is a definite thing; and this is the substance of the thing.

Clearly then in the case of simple entities1 inquiry and explanation are impossible; in such cases there is a different mode of inquiry.

Now since that which is composed of something in such a way that the whole is a unity; not as an aggregate is a unity, but as a syllable is2—the syllable is not the letters, nor is BA the same as B and A; nor is flesh fire and earth; because after dissolution the compounds, e.g. flesh or the syllable, no longer exist; but the letters exist, and so do fire and earth.Therefore the syllable is some particular thing; not merely the letters, vowel and consonant, but something else besides. And flesh is not merely fire and earth, or hot and cold, but something else besides.Since then this something else must be either an element or composed of elements, [20] (a) if it is an element, the same argument applies again; for flesh will be composed of this and fire and earth, and again of another element, so that there will be an infinite regression. And (b) if it is composed of elements, clearly it is composed not of one (otherwise it will itself be that element) but of several; so that we shall use the same argument in this case as about the flesh or the syllable.It would seem, however, that this "something else" is something that is not an element, but is the cause that this matter is flesh and that matter a syllable, and similarly in other cases.And this is the substance of each thing, for it is the primary cause of its existence. And since, although some things are not substances, all substances are constituted in accordance with and by nature, substance would seem to be this "nature," which is not an element but a principle.3 An element is that which is present as matter in a thing, and into which the thing is divided; e.g., A and B are the elements of the syllable.

1 Pure forms which contain no matter; in their case the method just described obviously will not apply. They can only be apprehended intuitively (cf. Aristot. Met. 9.10.).

2 This sentence is not finished; the parenthesis which follows lasts until the end of the chapter.

3 i.e. the formal cause. Cf. Aristot. Met. 5.4.4-6.

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