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[1001a] [1] But they swallow down the difficulty which we raised first1 as though they took it to be trifling.2

But the hardest question of all to investigate and also the most important with a view to the discovery of the truth, is whether after all Being and Unity are substances of existing things, and each of them is nothing else than Being and Unity respectively, or whether we should inquire what exactly Being and Unity are, there being some other nature underlying them.Some take the former, others the latter view of the nature of Being and Unity. Plato and the Pythagoreans hold that neither Being nor Unity is anything else than itself, and that this is their nature, their essence being simply Being and Unity.But the physicists, e.g. Empedocles, explain what Unity is by reducing it to something, as it were, more intelligible—or it would seem that by Love Empedocles means Unity; at any rate Love is the cause of Unity in all things. Others identify fire and others air with this Unity and Being of which things consist and from which they have been generated.Those who posit more numerous elements also hold the same view; for they too must identify Unity and Being with all the principles which they recognize. [20] And it follows that unless one assumes Unity and Being to be substance in some sense, no other universal term can be substance; for Unity and Being are the most universal of all terms,and if there is no absolute Unity or absolute Being, no other concept can well exist apart from the so-called particulars. Further, if Unity is not substance, clearly number cannot be a separate characteristic of things; for number is units, and the unit is simply a particular kind of one.

On the other hand, if there is absolute Unity and Being, their substance must be Unity and Being; for no other term is predicated universally of Unity and Being, but only these terms themselves. Again, if there is to be absolute Being and absolute Unity, it is very hard to see how there can be anything else besides these; I mean, how things can be more than one.For that which is other than what is, is not; and so by Parmenides' argument3 it must follow that all things are one, i.e. Being.

1 i.e., whether all things have the same principles.

2 For Aristotle's views about the principles of perishable and imperishable things see Aristot. Met. 7.7-10, Aristot. Met. 12.1-7.

3 By τὸ ὄν Parmenides meant "what is," i.e. the real universe, which he proved to be one thing because anything else must be "what is not," or non-existent. The Platonists meant by it "being" in the abstract. Aristotle ignores this distinction.

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