Of things said without
each signifies either: (i) a substance (ousia); (ii) a quantity;
a quality; (iv) a relative; (v) where; (vi) when; (vii) being in a
position; (viii) having; (ix) acting upon; or (x) a being
- §6. Category Theory
- The multivocity of "being" at the end of §5 is important
for Aristotle's category theory.
- what does the philosophical category theorist categorize?
- his examples make reasonably clear that he means to
the basic kinds of beings there may be.
- he starts the Categories
speaking of things said "in combination" and things said
combination": it looks as if he is talking about language:
- A thing said "in combination":
- things said ‘without combination’:
- But he is not speaking about language (at least so I think,
- ‘Man runs’ is truth-evaluable, whereas neither ‘man’ nor
- Things said without combination signify entities:
- sufficiently complex to be what makes the sentence ‘Man
true, that is a man and is running
- below the level of truth-making, so, e.g., an entity man,
taken by itself, and an action running, taken by itself, are
not true or false by themselves
- If that is correct, the entities categorized by the
categories are the sorts of basic beings that fall below the
truth-makers, or facts.
- Such beings evidently contribute, so to speak, to the
facticity of facts, just as, in their linguistic analogues,
verbs, things said ‘without combination’, contribute to the
truth-evaluability of simple assertions.
- If it is a fact that Socrates is pale, then the basic
beings in view are Socrates and being pale.
- the first is a substance
and the second is a quality,
- these beings may be basic without being absolutely simple.
After all, Socrates is made up of all manner of parts—arms
organs and bones, molecules and atoms, and so on down. He is
not absolutely simple.
- The theory of categories in total recognizes ten sorts of
extra-linguistic basic beings:
| being cut,
- Surely meant to be exhaustive and irreducible:
- exhaustive: there are no further sorts of basic entities
- irreducible: none of these can be eliminated as being
part of another
- BUT Aristotle offers no discussion of whether they really
exhaustive and irreducible
- Aristotle has slightly different lists of what look like
categories here and there outside of the Categories.
- Kant praised A. for category theory, but criticized him
essentially brain-storming it instead of building and
systematically (Critique of Pure Reason, A81/B107).
According to Kant,
Aristotle's categories are groundless.
- Aristotle himself mainly tends to justify the theory of
categories by putting it to work in his various
investigations. It is not so much explicitly defended as
functionally defended: it works...
- Example: time:
- Aristotle poses a simple question: does time exist?
- Yes, ‘time is the measure of motion with respect to
before and after’ (Phys. 219b1–2).
- time does exist, because it is an entity in the
category of quantity
- like all items in any non-substance category, it
in a dependent sort of way:
- just as if there were no lines there would be no
- so if there were no change there would be no time.
- questions of existence are, at root, questions
about category membership.
- If we ask whether qualities or quantities exist,
Aristotle will answer in the affirmative, but then
point out also that
as dependent entities they do not exist in the
independent manner of
- Aristotle contends that all other things are either
primary substances, which
are their subjects, or are in
them as subjects.
- If there were no primary substances, it would be
impossible for anything else to exist. (Cat. 2b5–6)
- the theory of categories spans his entire career and serves
a kind of scaffolding for much of his philosophical
from metaphysics and philosophy of nature to psychology and
- but it is not entirely in harmony with everything he says:
he may have developed his ideas over time. Categories
is often considered early, with no great basis.
One way in which cause is
is that out of which a thing comes to be and which persists, e.g.
bronze of the statue, the silver of the bowl, and the genera of
the bronze and the silver are species.
- §7. The Four Causal Account of Explanatory Adequacy
- Aristotle expects the explanations he seeks to meet certain
criteria of adequacy. He takes care to state his criteria
In another way cause is spoken of
the form or the pattern, i.e. what is mentioned in the account
belonging to the essence and its genera, e.g. the cause of an
a ratio of 2:1, or number more generally, as well as the parts
mentioned in the account (logos).
Further, the primary source of the
change and rest is spoken of as a cause, e.g. the man who
is a cause, the father is the cause of the child, and generally
maker is the cause of what is made and what brings about change is
cause of what is changed.
Further, the end (telos) is spoken
as a cause. This is that for the sake of which (hou heneka) a
done, e.g. health is the cause of walking about. ‘Why is he
about?’ We say: ‘To be healthy’— and, having said that, we think
have indicated the cause.
- example he proposes in Physics ii 3:
- A bronze statue:
- what is it?
- what is it made of?
- what brought it about?
- what is it for?
- in asking these questions we are seeking knowledge of
statue's four causes (aitia):
- when we have identified these four causes, we have
satisfied a reasonable demand for explanatory adequacy.
- In Physics ii 3, Aristotle makes twin claims about this
four-causal schema: (i) that citing all four causes is
adequacy in explanation; and (ii) that these four causes are
for adequacy in explanation.
- Why necessary?
- not all phenomena admit of all four causes.
- coincidences lack final causes
- If a debtor is on his way to the market to buy milk
she runs into her creditor, who is on his way to the
same market to buy
bread, then she may agree to pay the money owed
resulting in a wanted outcome, their meeting was not
for the sake of
settling the debt; nor indeed was their meeting for
the sake of anything at all.
It was a simple co-incidence. Hence, it lacks a final
- mathematical abstractions lack material causes
- a triangle existing as an object of thought
of any material realization will trivially lack a
- thus all four are not always necessary, but ordinarily,
leaving one out leaves out a necessary part of an adequate
so it's a sort of default to have all 4 rather than really
- The sufficiency claim is exceptionless
- But one might specify the material cause more or less
proximately, by specifying the character of the matter
more or less
- my arm is flesh and bone and sinew, but it is also
carbon and hydrogen, but it is also electrons and
protons: the flesh and bones and sinews are more
proximately my arm.
- Not just any level of generality suffices.
- He means to insist that there is no fifth kind of cause:
challenges his readers to identify a kind of cause which
qualifies as a
sort distinct from the four mentioned. (Phys. 195a4–5).
- He thinks he can argue forcefully for the four causes as
explanatory factors, that is, as features which must be
merely because they make for satisfying explanations, but
are genuinely operative causal factors, the omission of
any putative explanation objectively incomplete and so
- some scholars have come to understand them more as
than as causes—that is, as explanations rather than as
- such judgments reflect an antecedent commitment to one
another view of causation and explanation—that causation
rather than propositions; that explanations are
causation is extensional and explanation intensional; that
must adhere to some manner of nomic-deductive model,
need not; or that causes must be prior in time to their
explanations, especially intentional explanations, may
appeal to states
of affairs posterior in time to the actions they explain.
- Generally, Aristotle does not respect these sorts of
commitments: his approach to aitia may be regarded as
canons of causation and explanation. It is not clear how
aware he is of that, whether he would consider it a
problem, or how he would respond.
- §8. Hylomorphism
- matter (hulê) and form (eidos or morphê).
- Hylomorphism =df
ordinary objects are composites
of matter and form.
- "=df" means "is defined as"
- "ordinary objects" refers to such things as statues and
houses, horses and humans.
- Hylomorphism holds that no such object is metaphysically
simple, but rather comprises two distinct metaphysical
formal and one material.
- formulated originally to handle various puzzles about
- A. insists all change involves at least two factors:
something persisting and something gained or lost.
- Thus, when Socrates goes to the beach and comes away
sun-tanned, something continues to exist, namely
Socrates, even while
something is lost, his pallor, and something else
gained, his tan.
- This is a change in the category of quality, whence
common locution ‘qualitative change’.
- in whatever category a change occurs, something is
and something gained within that category, even while
something else, a
substance, remains in existence, as the subject of that
- substances too can come into or go out of existence;
these are changes in the category of substance.
- in the case of the generation of a statue, the
persists, but it comes to acquire a new form, a
substantial rather than
- matter and form come to be paired by Aristotle with another
distinction, that between potentiality
- the bronze is potentially a statue, but it is an actual
statue when and only when it is informed with the form of a
- before being made into a statue, the bronze was
many things, but it was not potentially butter or a beach
- form =df that which makes some matter which is potentially
- matter =df that which persists and which is, for some
of Fs, potentially F
- in Physics i 7 and 8, we have the following simple argument
matter and form:
- (1) a necessary condition of there being change is the
existence of matter and form;
- (2) there is change;
- hence (3) there are matter and form.
- The second premise is a phainomenon accepted without
- The first premise is justified by the thought that since
there is no generation ex nihilo, in every instance of
persists while something else is gained or lost. In
generation or destruction, a substantial form is gained or
mere accidental change, the form gained or lost is itself
Since these two ways of changing exhaust the kinds of change
in every instance of change there are two factors present.
matter and form.
- matter and form are mind-independent features of the world
must, therefore, be mentioned in any full explanation of its
For these [viz. teeth and all
parts of natural beings] and all other natural things come about
they do either always or for the most part, whereas nothing which
about due to chance or spontaneity comes about always or for the
part. … If, then, these are either the result of coincidence or
sake of something, and they cannot be the result of coincidence or
spontaneity, it follows that they must be for the sake of
Moreover, even those making these sorts of claims [viz. that
comes to be by necessity] will agree that such things are natural.
Therefore, that for the sake of which is present among things
come to be and exist by nature. (Phys. 198b32–199a8)
- §9. Aristotelian Teleology
- "teleology" is the idea that things have purposes, goals,
ends that they are moving towards unless blocked
- The efficient cause requires a word or two first: Aristotle
that nothing potential can bring itself into actuality without
agency of an actually operative efficient cause. Since what is
potential is always in potentiality relative to some range of
actualities, and nothing becomes actual of its own accord—no
bricks, for instance, spontaneously organizes itself into a
house or a
wall—an actually operative agent is required for every
change. This is the efficient cause. These sorts of
incline Aristotle to speak of the priority of actuality over
potentiality: potentialities are made actual by actualities,
are always potentialities for some actuality or other. The
some actuality upon some potentiality is an instance of
- The final cause, the one that is invoked by "teleology," is
quite controversial and difficult.
- easy cases: computers and can-openers are devices
to the execution of certain tasks, and both their formal and
features will be explained by appeal to their
functions. we give
them their functions. their functions are their purposes.
they exist and are what they are only if they perform their
function. All tools are functionally defined.
- more difficult: nature exhibits teleology without design.
living organisms not only have parts which require
explanation— for instance, kidneys are for purifying the
teeth are for tearing and chewing food—but whole organisms,
beings and other animals, also have final causes.
- organisms have final causes, but were not designed. He
denies that a necessary condition of x's having a final
cause is x's
- most (not all) objections to Aristotle's final cause are
number of mind-numbing examples exist
- in the 19th century, German scholar Zeller was able to say
with perfect accuracy that ‘The most important feature of
Aristotelian teleology is the fact that it is neither
nor is it due to the actions of a creator existing outside
the world or
even of a mere arranger of the world, but is always thought
immanent in nature’ (1883, §48).
- Aristotle offers two sorts of defenses of non-intentional
teleology in nature, the first of which is replete with
claims in Physics ii 8:
- The argument here seems problematic.
- Aristotle seems to introduce as a phainomenon that
exhibits regularity: humans tend to have teeth arranged in
predictable sort of way, with incisors in the front and
molars in the
- He then seems to contend, as an exhaustive and
disjunction, that things happen either by chance or for
the sake of
- Aristotle is himself aware of one sort of counterexample
this view and is indeed keen to point it out himself:
- bile is regularly and predictably yellow, its being
yellow is neither due simply to chance nor for the sake
Aristotle in fact mentions many such counterexamples
676b16–677b10, Gen. An. 778a29-b6).
- It seems to follow, then, short of ascribing a straight
contradiction to him, either that he is not correctly
represented as we
have interpreted this argument or that he simply changed
his mind about
the grounds of teleology. Taking up the first alternative,
possibility is that Aristotle is not really trying to
teleology from the ground up in Physics ii 8, but is
taking it as
already established that there are teleological causes,
himself to observing that many natural phenomena, namely
occur always or for the most part, are good candidates for
- this is a bit more detailed than is usual at this
stage in our exploration of Aristotle, but it is useful,
because it illustrates that Aristotle often needs our
charity. We can catch him out in an apparent mistake,
but if we think about it, and help him a little, he may
have a very good point that is not a mistake at all...
- Perhaps he has a broader sort of motivation for teleology
- animals other than man make things using neither craft
on the basis of inquiry nor by deliberation. This is in
fact a source
of puzzlement for those who wonder whether it is by reason
or by some
other faculty that these creatures work—spiders, ants and
Advancing bit by bit in this same direction it becomes
even in plants features conducive to an end occur—leaves,
grow in order to provide shade for the fruit. If then it
is both by
nature and for an end that the swallow makes its nest and
its web, and plants grow leaves for the sake of the fruit
their roots down rather than up for the sake of
nourishment, it is
plain that this kind of cause is operative in things which
come to be
and are by nature.
- Since nature is twofold, as matter and as form, the form
the end, and since all other things are for sake of the
end, the form
must be the cause in the sense of that for the sake of
- But perhaps all that talk of spiders and ants and plants
doing things for some end is just imprecise and lax. We
demand that all such language be assiduously reduced to
non-teleological idiom when we are being scientifically
- we would first need to survey the explanatory costs and
benefits of our attempting to do so. Aristotle considers
some views hostile to teleology in Physics ii 8 and
- §10. Substance
- Aristotle insists upon the primacy of primary substance in
- star instances of primary substance are familiar living
like Socrates or an individual horse (Cat. 2a11014).
- with the advent of hylomorphism, these primary substances
revealed to be metaphysical complexes
- now we have three potential candidates for primary
form, matter, and the compound of matter and form.
- which is the primary substance?
- The compound: we say that Socrates lives in Athens, not
his matter lives in Athens.
- The matter: it underlies the compound and in this way
more basic subject than the compound, at least in the sense
that it can
exist before and after it does.
- The form: the matter is nothing definite at all until
enformed; so, perhaps form, as determining what the compound
the best claim on substantiality.
- Aristotle settles on form (Met. vii 17).
- He expects a substance to be, as he says, some particular
thing (tode ti), but also to be something knowable,
some essence or
- These criteria seem to pull in different directions:
- the first in favor of particular substances, as the
substances of the Categories had been particulars
- the second in favor of universals as substances, because
they alone are knowable.
- many scholars have concluded that Aristotle adopts a
way forward: form is both knowable and particular. This
however, remains very acutely disputed.
- Aristotle prefers form in virtue of its role in generation
and diachronic persistence.
- When a statue is generated, or when a new animal comes
being, something persists, namely the matter, which comes
the substantial form in question.
- But the matter does not by itself provide the identity
conditions for the new substance.
- the matter is merely potentially some F until such
as it is made actually F by the presence of an F form.
- the matter can be replenished, and is replenished in
case of all organisms, and so seems to be form-dependent
for its own
diachronic identity conditions.
- For these reasons, Aristotle thinks of the form as
to the matter, and thus more fundamental.
- Further, in Metaphysics vii 17 Aristotle offers a
argument to the effect that matter alone cannot be
- Let the various bits of matter belonging to Socrates be
labeled as a, b, c, …, n.
- Consistent with the non-existence of Socrates is the
existence of a, b, c, …, n, since these elements exist
when they are
spread from here to Alpha Centauri,
- but if that happens, of course, Socrates no longer
- Heading in the other direction, Socrates can exist
just these elements, since he may exist when some one of
a, b, c, …, n
is replaced or goes out of existence.
- So, in addition to his material elements, insists
Aristotle, Socrates is also something else, something
more (heteron ti;
- This something more is form, which is ‘not an
a primary cause of a thing's being what it is’ (Met.
- The cause of a thing's being the actual thing it is,
we have seen, is form.
- Hence, concludes Aristotle, as the source of being and
unity, form is substance.
- Feel free to entertain the following question: suppose
your form is made up of formal parts A, B, C, ..., N:
would you exist without some of them? Maybe: in that
case, form as the cause of a thing's being a thing (in
this case you being you) is vulnerable to the same
objections as matter. So Aristotle needs to explain why
parts of a form are not like material parts, or somehow
meet this objection in another way.
- many questions remain. For example, is form best
as universal or particular? (that is, is there a form of you
that is peculiar to you and shared by no other human, or is
your human form the same as every other human's form)
However that issue is to be resolved, what
is the relation of form to the compound and to matter? If
substance, then what is the fate of these other two
they also substances, to a lesser degree? It seems odd
that they are nothing at all, or that the compound in
nothing in actuality; yet it is difficult to contend that
belong to some category other than substance.