Authors: Richard Mckeon
i. e. produce the movements of the heavenly bodies.
With ch. 1 Cf. iii. 955
15–25, xi. 7.
Cf. v. 7.
237 A, 254 A.
Cf. xii. 6–8.
Cf. ix. 10.
With chs. 2–4 Cf. xi. 1064
There are several senses in which a thing may be said to ‘be’,
as we pointed out previously in our book on the various senses of words;
for in one sense the ‘being’ meant is ‘what a thing is’ or a ‘this’, and in another sense it means a quality or quantity or one of the other things that are predicated as these are. While ‘being’ has all these senses, obviously that which ‘is’ primarily is the ‘what’, which indicates the substance of the thing. For when we say of what quality a thing is,
we say that it is good or bad, not that it is three cubits long or that it is a man; but when we say
it is, we do not say ‘white’ or ‘hot’ or ‘three cubits long’, but ‘a man’ or ‘a god’. And all other things are said to be because they are, some of them, quantities of that which
in this primary sense, others qualities of it, others affections of it, and others some other determination of it. And so one might even raise the question whether the words ‘to walk’,
‘to be healthy’, ‘to sit’ imply that each of these things is existent, and similarly in any other case of this sort; for none of them is either self-subsistent or capable of being separated from substance, but rather, if anything, it is that which walks or sits or is healthy that is an existent thing.
Now these are seen to be more real because there is something definite which underlies them (i. e. the substance or individual), which is implied in such a predicate; for we never use the word ‘good’ or ‘sitting’ without implying this. Clearly then it is in virtue of this category that each of the others also
. Therefore that which is primarily, i. e. not in a qualified sense but without qualification, must be substance.
Now there are several senses in which a thing is said to be first; yet substance is first in every sense—(1) in definition, (2) in order of knowledge, (3) in time. For (3) of the other categories none can exist independently, but only substance. And (1) in definition also this is first; for in the definition of each term the definition of its substance must be present.
And (2) we think we know each thing most fully, when we know what it is, e. g. what man is or what fire is, rather than when we know its quality, its quantity, or its place; since we know each of these predicates also, only when we know
the quantity or the quality
And indeed the question which was raised of old and is raised now
and always, and is always the subject of doubt, viz. what being is, is just the question, what is substance? For it is this that some
assert to be one,
others more than one, and that some
assert to be limited in number, others
unlimited. And so we also must consider chiefly and primarily and almost exclusively what that is which
Substance is thought to belong most obviously to bodies; and so we say that not only animals and plants and their parts are substances,
but also natural bodies such as fire and water and earth and everything of the sort, and all things that are either parts of these or composed of these (either of parts or of the whole bodies), e. g. the physical universe and its parts, stars and moon and sun. But whether these alone are substances, or there are also others, or only some of these,
or others as well, or none of these but only some other things, are substances, must be considered. Some
think the limits of body, i. e. surface, line, point, and unit, are substances, and more so than body or the solid.
Further, some do not think there is anything substantial besides sensible things, but others think there are eternal substances which are more in number and more real; e. g. Plato posited two kinds of substance—the Forms and the objects of mathematics—as well as a third kind,
viz. the substance of sensible bodies. And Speusippus made still more kinds of substance, beginning with the One, and assuming principles for each kind of substance, one for numbers, another for spatial magnitudes, and then another for the soul; and by going on in this way he multiplies the kinds of substance.
say Forms and numbers have the same nature, and the other things come after them—lines and planes—until we come to the substance of the material universe and to sensible bodies.
Regarding these matters, then, we must inquire which of the common statements are right and which are not right, and what substances there are, and whether there are or are not any besides sensible substances,
and how sensible substances exist, and whether there is a substance capable of separate existence (and if so why and how) or no such substance, apart from sensible substances; and we must first sketch the nature of substance.
The word ‘substance’ is applied, if not in more senses, still at least to four main objects; for both the essence and the universal and the genus are thought to be the substance of each thing,
and fourthly the
substratum. Now the substratum is that of which everything else is predicated, while it is itself not predicated of anything else. And so we must first determine the nature of this; for that which underlies a thing primarily is thought to be in the truest sense its substance.
And in one sense matter is said to be of the nature of substratum, in another, shape, and in a third, the compound of these. (By the matter I mean, for instance, the bronze, by the shape the pattern of its form, and by the compound of these the statue,
the concrete whole.) Therefore if the form is prior to the matter and more real, it will be prior also to the compound of both, for the same reason.
We have now outlined the nature of substance, showing that it is that which is not predicated of a stratum, but of which all else is predicated. But we must not merely state the matter thus; for this is not enough. The statement itself is obscure, and further, on this view,
becomes substance. For if this is not substance,
it baffles us to say what else is. When all else is stripped off evidently nothing but matter remains. For while the rest are affections, products, and potencies of bodies, length, breadth, and depth are quantities and not substances (for a quantity is not a substance),
but the substance is rather that to which these belong primarily. But when length and breadth and depth are taken away we see nothing left unless there is something that is bounded by these; so that to those who consider the question thus matter alone must seem to be substance. By matter I mean that which in itself is neither a particular thing nor of a certain quantity nor assigned to any other of the categories by which being is determined.
For there is something of which each of these is predicated, whose being is different from that of each of the predicates (for the predicates other than substance are predicated of substance, while substance is predicated of matter). Therefore the ultimate substratum is of itself neither a particular thing nor of a particular quantity nor otherwise positively characterized; nor yet is it the negations of these,
for negations also will belong to it only by accident.
If we adopt this point of view, then, it follows that matter is substance. But this is impossible; for both separability and ‘thisness’ are thought to belong chiefly to substance. And so form and the compound of form and matter would be thought to be substance,
rather than matter. The substance compounded of both, i. e. of matter and shape, may be dismissed; for it is posterior and its nature is obvious. And matter also is in a sense manifest. But we must inquire into the third kind of substance; for this is the most perplexing.
Some of the sensible substances are generally admitted to be substances, so that we must look first among these. For it is an advantage
to advance to that which is more knowable.
For learning proceeds for all in this way—through that which is less knowable by nature to that which is more knowable; and just as in conduct our task is to start from what is good for each and make what is without qualification good good for each,
so it is our task to start from what is more knowable to oneself and make what is knowable by nature knowable to oneself. Now what is knowable and primary for particular sets of people is often knowable to a very small extent, and has little or nothing of reality.
But yet one must start from that which is barely knowable but knowable to oneself, and try to know what is knowable without qualification, passing, as has been said, by way of those very things which one does know.
Since at the start
we distinguished the various marks by which we determine substance,
and one of these was thought to be the essence,
we must investigate this. And first let us make some linguistic remarks about it. The essence of each thing is what it is said to be
For being you is not being musical, since you are not by your very nature musical.
What, then, you are by your very nature is your essence.
Nor yet is the whole of this the essence of a thing; not that which is
as white is to a surface, because being a surface is not
with being white. But again the combination of both—‘being a white surface’—is not the essence of surface, because ‘surface’ itself is added. The formula, therefore, in which the term itself is not present but its meaning is expressed,
this is the formula of the essence of each thing. Therefore if to be a white surface is to be a smooth surface,
to be white and to be smooth are one and the same.
But since there are also compounds answering to the other categories (for there is a substratum for each category,
e. g. for quality, quantity, time, place, and motion), we must inquire whether there is a formula of the essence of each of them, i. e. whether to these compounds also there belongs an essence, e. g. to ‘white man’. Let the compound be denoted by ‘cloak’. What is the essence of cloak? But, it may be said, this also is not a
expression. We reply that there are just two ways in which a predicate may fail to be true of a subject
and one of these results from the addition, and the other from the omission, of a determinant.
kind of predicate is not
because the term that is being defined is combined with another determinant, e. g. if in defining the essence of white one were to state the formula of white
because in the subject another determinant is combined with that which is expressed in the formula, e. g. if ‘cloak’ meant ‘white man’, and one were to define cloak as white; white man is white indeed, but its essence is not to be white.
But is being-a-cloak an essence at all? Probably not. For the essence is precisely what something
; but when an attribute is asserted of a subject other than itself, the complex is not precisely what some ‘this’
, e. g. white man is not precisely what some ‘this’
since thisness belongs only to substances. Therefore there is an essence only of those things whose formula is a definition. But we have a definition not where we have a word and a formula identical in meaning (for in that case all formulae or sets of words would be definitions; for there will be some name for any set of words whatever, so that even the
will be a definition
), but where there is a formula of something primary; and primary things are those which do not imply the predication of one element in them of another element.
Nothing, then, which is not a species of a genus will have an
—only species will have it, for these are thought to imply not merely that the subject participates in the attribute and has it as an affection, or has it by accident; but for everything else as well, if it has a name, there will be a
formula of its meaning
—viz. that this attribute belongs to this subject; or instead of a simple formula we shall be able to give a more accurate one; but there will be no definition nor essence.
Or has ‘definition’, like ‘what a thing is’, several meanings? ‘What a thing is’ in one sense means substance and the ‘this’, in another one or other of the predicates, quantity, quality, and the like. For as ‘is’ belongs to all things,
not however in the same sense, but to one sort of thing primarily and to others in a secondary way, so too ‘what a thing is’ belongs in the simple sense to substance, but in a limited sense to the other categories. For even of a quality we might ask what it is, so that quality also is a ‘what a thing is’—not in the simple sense, however,
but just as, in the case of that which is not, some say,
emphasizing the linguistic form, that that which is not
nonexistent; so too with quality.
We must no doubt inquire how we should express ourselves on each point, but certainly not more than how the facts actually stand. And
so now also, since it is evident what language we use, essence will belong, just as ‘what a thing is’ does, primarily and in the simple sense to substance,
and in a secondary way to the other categories also—not essence in the simple sense, but the essence of a quality or of a quantity. For it must be either by an equivocation that we say these
, or by adding to and taking from the meaning of ‘are’ (in the way in which that which is not known may be said to be known
)—the truth being that we use the word neither ambiguously nor in the same sense,
but just as we apply the word ‘medical’ by virtue of a
to one and the same thing, not
one and the same thing, nor yet speaking ambiguously; for a patient and an operation and an instrument are called medical neither by an ambiguity nor with a single meaning, but with reference to a common end.
But it does not matter at all in which of the two ways one likes to describe the facts; this is evident,
that definition and essence in the primary and simple sense belong to substances. Still they belong to other things as well, only not in the primary sense. For if we suppose this it does not follow that there is a definition of every word which means the same as any formula; it must mean the same as a particular kind of formula; and this condition is satisfied if it is a formula of something which is one, not by continuity like the
or the things that are one by being bound together,
but in one of the main senses of ‘one’, which answer to the senses of ‘is’; now ‘that which is’ in one sense denotes a ‘this’, in another a quantity, in another a quality. And so there can be a formula or definition even of white man, but not in the sense in which there is a definition either of white or of a substance.