The Metaphysics , Aristotle
The Metaphysics
Aristotle
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Metaphysics (Greek: τὰ μετὰ τὰ φυσικά; Latin: Metaphysica, lit: "the beyond the physical") is one of the principal works of Aristotle and the first major work of the branch of philosophy with the same name. he principal subject is "being qua being," or being insofar as it is being. It examines what can be asserted about any being insofar as it is and not because of any special qualities it has. Also covered are different kinds of causation, form and matter, the existence of mathematical objects, and a prime-mover God.

Metaphysics

by
Aristotle


Plato (left) and Aristotle in Raphael’s 1509 fresco, The School of Athens

Book I

Chapter I

All men by nature are actuated with the desire of knowledge, and an indication of this is the love of the senses; for even, irrespective of their utility, are they loved for their own sakes; and pre-eminently above the rest, the sense of sight. For not only for practical purposes, but also when not intent on doing anything, we choose the power of vision in preference, so to say, to all the rest of the senses. And a cause of this is the following, — that this one of the senses particularly enables us to apprehend? whatever knowledge it is the inlet of, and that it makes many distinctive? qualities manifest.

By nature then, indeed, are animals formed endowed with sense; but in some of them memory is not innate from sense, and in others it is. And for this reason are these possessed of more foresight, as well as a greater aptitude for discipline, than those which are wanting in this faculty of memory. Those furnished with foresight, indeed, are yet without the capability of receiving instruction, whatever amongst them are unable to understand the sounds they hear; as, for instance, bees, and other similar tribes of animals; but those are capable of receiving instruction as many as, in addition to memory, are provided with this sense also.

The rest, indeed, subsist then through impressions and the operations of memory, but share experience in a slight degree; whereas the human race exists by means of art also and the powers of reasoning.

Now, experience accrues to men from memory for repeated acts of memory about the same thing done constitute the force of a single experience: and experience seems to be a thing almost similar to science and art.

But science and art result unto men by means of experience for experience, indeed, as Polus saith, and correctly so,’ has produced art, but inexperience, chance. But an art comes into being when, out of many conceptions of experience, one universal opinion is evolved with respect to similar cases. For, indeed, to entertain the opinion that this particular remedy has been of service to Callias, while labouring under this particular disease, as well as to Socrates, and so individually to many, this is an inference of experience; but that it has been conducive to the health of all, — such as have been defined according to one species, — while labouring under this disease, as, for instance, to the phlegmatic, or the choleric, or those sick of a burning fever, this belongs to the province of art.

As regards, indeed, practical purposes, therefore, experience seems in no wise to differ from art; nay, even we see the experienced compassing their objects more effectually than those who possess a theory without the experience. But a cause of this is the following — that experience, indeed, is a knowledge of singulars, whereas art, of universals; but all things in the doing, and all generations, are concerned about the singular: for he whose profession it is to practise medicine, does not restore man to health save by accident, but Callias, or Socrates, or any of the rest so designated, to whom it happens to be a man. If, therefore, any one without the experience is furnished with the principle, and is acquainted with the universal, but is ignorant of the singular that is involved therein, he will frequently fall into error in the case of his medical treatment; for that which is capable of cure is rather the singular.

But, nevertheless, we are of opinion that, at least, knowledge and understanding appertain to art rather than experience; and we reckon artists more wise than the experienced, inasmuch as wisdom is the concomitant of all philosophers rather in proportion to their knowledge.

But this is so because some, indeed, are aware of the cause, and some are not. For the experienced, indeed, know that a thing is so, but they do not know wherefore it is so; but others — I mean the scientific — are acquainted with the wherefore and the cause. Therefore, also, we reckon the chief artificers in each ease to be entitled to more dignity, and to the reputation of superior knowledge, and to be more wise than the handicraftsmen, because the former are acquainted with the causes of the things that are being constructed; whereas the latter produce things, as certain inanimate things do, indeed; yet these perform their functions unconsciously, — as the fire when it burns. Things indeed, therefore, that are inanimate, by a certain constitution of nature, perform each of these their functions, but the handicraftsmen through habit; inasmuch as it is not according as men are practical that they are more wise, but according as they possess the reason of a thing, and understand causes.

And, upon the whole, a proof of a person’s having knowledge is even the ability to teach; and for this reason we consider art, rather than experience, to be a science; for artists can, whereas the handicraftsmen cannot, convey instruction.

And further, we regard none of the senses to be wisdom, although, at least, these are the most decisive sources of knowledge about singulars; but they make no affirmation of the wherefore in regard of anything, — as, for example, why fire is hot, but only the fact that it is hot.

Therefore, indeed, is it natural for the person who first discovers any art whatsoever, beyond the ordinary power of the senses, to be the object of human admiration, not only on account of something of the things that have been discovered being useful, but as one that is wise and superior to the rest of men. But when more arts are being discovered — both some, indeed, in relation to things that are necessary, and others for pastime — we invariably regard such more wise than those,’ on account of their sciences not being for bare utility. Whence all things of such a sort having been already, procured, those sciences have been invented which were pursued neither for purposes of pleasure nor necessity, and first in those places where the inhabitants enjoyed leisure: wherefore, in the neighbourhood of Egypt the mathematical arts were first established; for there leisure was spared unto the sacerdotal caste. It has then, indeed, been declared in the Ethicswhat is the difference between an art and a science, and the rest of the things of the same description.

But, at present, the reason of our producing this treatise is the fact, that all consider what is termed wisdom to be conversant about first causes and principles; so that — as has been said on a former occasion — the experienced seem to be more wise than those possessing any sense whatsoever, and the artificer than the experienced, and the master-artist than the handicraftsman, and the speculative rather than those that are productive. That, indeed, wisdom, therefore, is a science conversant about certain causes and first principles is obvious.


Chapter II

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