Metaphysics Summary

Aristotle

Metaphysics

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Metaphysics Summary

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Metaphysics is a major work of philosophy by the Classical Greek writer and philosopher Aristotle, considered one of his principal works and the first major work of philosophy within the field. The principal subject is the nature of being itself, and what can be asserted about any being by its nature, rather than any special qualities it has. It also looks at questions of causation, form and matter, the existence of mathematical objects, and Aristotle’s concept of God as a prime mover in the universe. It primarily tries to answer three questions. First, what is existence, and what sort of things exist in the world? Second, how can things continue to exist, and undergo change at the same time? Finally, how can this world be understood? These are the primary themes of Metaphysics. Considered one of the greatest philosophical works, it is believed to have influenced later Greek philosophers, Muslim philosophers, and later European philosophers such as Dante. Still widely read and taught by those who study philosophy, Metaphysics is one of the oldest philosophical works to survive to this day, and has been translated into multiple languages in Europe and the Middle East.

Metaphysics is divided into fourteen books, named after the Greek alphabet. Book one or Alpha explores the concept of “first philosophy,”or a knowledge of the causes of things. Aristotle argues that the wise are able to teach because they know the why of things, rather than believing things simply are a certain way, and that makes them better suited to command rather than obey. It also looks at earlier philosophers like Plato. Book two, or Little Alpha, addresses a possible objection to Aristotle’s take on first principles, that there must be a first cause which is not itself caused. This is the foundation for Aristotle’s concept of God. Book three, or Beta, looks at the main puzzles to be solved by philosophy. Book four, or Gamma, serves as a defense of the principle of contradiction, which argues that something cannot be both the case and not the case, and that there can’t be an intermediary between contradictory statements. Book five, or Delta, explores and defines a list of terms that include cause, nature, one, and many. Book six, or Epsilon, first explores a hierarchy of the sciences. These include productive, practical, and theoretical examples. Aristotle argues that the study of First Philosophy, the study of being itself, is superior because it concerns the ultimate cause of all reality. It also looks at why the study of coincidence and accident does not qualify as a science, because it is a better fit for Sophists.

The middle books are generally considered the core of Metaphysics. Book seven, or Zeta, explores the concept of Being. This is the longest chapter, and allows Aristotle to delve into the many senses of being. This chapter explores the very concept of substance, and what makes up the universal or the genus. Aristotle argues that matter cannot be substance. He considers four candidates for substance. The first is the essence, or what it means to be a thing. The second is the platonic universal. The third is the genus to which a substance belongs. Finally, the fourth is the matter which underlies all properties of a thing. Ultimately, Aristotle argues that substance is itself a cause, not an end. Chapter eight, or Eta, is a simple summary of what has been said so far, and also explores details of difference and unity between similar types of matter. Chapter nine, or Theta, looks at the definitions of potentiality and actuality. The first part of this chapter discusses the meaning of potential, and the later parts define actuality as the completed state of something that had the potential to be completed. The relationship between actuality and potentiality is described as the relationship between form and matter, but with the added element of time. Books ten through fourteen contain briefer discussions of subjects within the greater framework of the issues Aristotle is discussing. Book ten, or Iota, looks at the concept of unity, and the ideas of sameness and difference. Book eleven, or Kappa, concisely summarizes much of what has been explored before. Book twelve, or Lambda, further explores the concept of beings in general, as well as the idea of God or Gods. This also contains Aristotle’s famous description of the unmoved mover, or prime mover, which Aristotle describes as the genesis of all things in the universe. Books thirteen and fourteen, also known as Mu and Nu, contain Aristotle’s philosophy of Mathematics, including the nature of numbers and their place in the nature of existence.

Aristotle was an ancient Greek philosopher and scientist who is considered one of the most significant philosophers and writers of the ancient world. A student of Plato’s Academy in Athens, he wrote works covering subjects including biology, logic, ethics, poetry, physics, politics, and language, as well as pioneering the study of metaphysics. His works are considered the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy. Thanks to his role as the private tutor of Alexander the Great, he was able to establish a private library in the Lyceum in Athens, where his hundreds of scrolls were stored. He is considered one of the most influential Ancient Greek philosophers and his surviving works are still widely studied today.