Aristotle's Theory of Substance: The Categories and Metaphysics Zeta

Aristotle's Theory of Substance: The Categories and Metaphysics Zeta

Aristotle's Theory of Substance: The Categories and Metaphysics Zeta

Aristotle's Theory of Substance: The Categories and Metaphysics Zeta

Synopsis

Michael Wedin argues against the prevailing notion that Aristotle's views on the nature of reality are fundamentally inconsistent. According to Wedin's new interpretation, the difference between the early theory of the Categories and the later theory of the Metaphysics reflects the fact that Aristotle is engaged in quite different projects in the two works--the earlier focusing on ontology, and the later on explanation.

Excerpt

More than a quarter of a century ago I first encountered book Zeta of Aristotle's Metaphysics. Like Coleridge's wedding guest, I was stopped in my tracks. Page after page of intricate argument sat waiting to be unraveled and in the unraveling seemed to lie the promise of enlightenment. I was hooked, and not least of all by the challenge of matching its message with that of the Categories. But the delights of decipherment yielded to deepening puzzlement and then to the suspicion that Zeta's message was in fact a secret, or at least a message that was insensitive to the schedule of a mere dissertation writer. So I changed course for the simpler pleasures of book Gamma. This was followed by work on Aristotle's semantics and logic and, later, by considerable attention to his psychology and philosophy of mind. Then, about a decade ago, I found myself back in the clutches of the central books of the Metaphysics.

Several things are responsible for such unabashed recidivism. First, I had not stopped thinking about Zeta. Indeed, the main thesis of this essay, that the theories of the Categories and Metaphysics Z are in a certain way compatible, emerged in the course of preparing undergraduate Aristotle lectures. Plus, with Alan Code at Berkeley, John Driscoll in San Francisco, and my colleague John Malcolm at Davis, there was no lack of discussion on topics friendly to Zeta. Second, this time around there was help. Since I had quit the field, other hands had taken up the cause, and with great effectiveness. Code, Michael Frede, Mary Louise Gill, Frank Lewis, and many others had produced informed and penetrating accounts of Zeta and its parts. It seemed, after all, that sense might be made of the book. Third, Gill invited me to review Frede and Patzig's two-volume commentary on Metaphysics Z and this led, in turn, to a series of Wednesday meetings with Malcolm that lasted for more than two years. By this time I was fully ensnared. Like any good academic, I responded by giving seminars on the topic.

It is largely in these seminars that the details of my interpretation have taken shape. So I must register my gratitude and sympathy to those who attended the sessions—gratitude for their refusal to accept the first version of anything I said and sympathy for their having to endure a second, and sometimes third, version. Although some individual acknowledgments will be found among the notes, I no longer recall the

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