Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Aristotle
Pages of Metaphysics

Previous | Next


some of them, quantities of that which is 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 is. Therefore that which is primarily,
i.e. not in a qualified sense but without qualification, must be
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 what the quantity or the quality is.
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 is
in this sense.

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 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. And some 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.

Previous | Next
Site Search