Aristotle: Metaphysics Theta: Translated with an Introduction and Commentary (Clarendon Aristotle Series)
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Stephen Makin presents a clear and accurate new translation of an influential and much-discussed part of Aristotle's philosophical system, accompanied by an analytical and critical commentary focusing on philosophical issues. In Book Theta of the Metaphysics Aristotle introduces the concepts of actuality and potentiality--which were to remain central to philosophical analysis into the modern era--and explores the distinction between the actual and the potential.
. The discussion at 1047b 16–26 is opaque. There are four problems to note: (i) The subject of ‘but that was impossible’ at 1047b 20 is plainly B, picked up from the preceding sentence. Use of the past tense suggests a back reference to some earlier assumption of the impossibility of B. But there is no sign in what precedes of the assumption that B is impossible. (ii) (i) is not a narrowly textual point. The best interpretation of Aristotle’s argument is that it involves a reductio ad absurdum
turning it into an F (Θ7, 1049a 2–4, 8, 9–11; see Commentary, Chapter 7, §§3–6 for further details). Further, the fact that an active capacity to φ issues in φ-ing unless it is prevented from doing so contributes to the conclusion of Θ8, that actuality is prior to potentiality (see especially the discussion of priority in substance at Θ8, 1050a 4–1050b 6). Just as something hot will produce heating unless something gets in the way, so too a fertilized egg (something potentially human) will 117
potentiality are simple notions, and that no simple notions can be deﬁned (Comm. in Met. §1826). In contrast, Ross suggests that actuality and potentiality are metaphysical notions, and metaphysics deals with being in general, which is not a genus; whereas deﬁnition is by genus and differentia (Ross 1924: ii. 251). 129 metaphysics 6 Aristotle ﬁrst offers three examples at 1048 30–5 (§3 below). Then he recommends attention to the analogies between a further ﬁve pairs of examples (1048a
But it has been objected that, according to the present–perfect test, walking should not count as a change (see especially Ackrill 1965). It is often true, for example, as she patrols the grounds, both that Candy is walking and that Candy has walked. And this is not an isolated example. The dye is colouring and has coloured my pullover; the ice cubes are cooling and have cooled my drink. Aristotle has a reply available. He could say that the changes in question need to be identiﬁed more
would simply have bafﬂed commentators such as pseudo-Alexander and Aquinas, who did not have the passage in their texts. (iii) In the face of (i) and (ii), why should anyone try to assign a central role in the interpretation of Met. Θ to the 1048b 18–35 notion of a complete actuality? Some background is useful in answering this question. At An. 2.5, 417a 21–417b 6, Aristotle describes a distinction between two types of (what we can neutrally call) transitions (see Burnyeat 2002 for a thorough