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

Previous | Next


also, like 'odd number', will not be definable (but this escapes our
notice because our formulae are not accurate.). But if these also
are definable, either it is in some other way or, as we definition and
essence must be said to have more than one sense. Therefore in one
sense nothing will have a definition and nothing will have an essence,
except substances, but in another sense other things will have them.
Clearly, then, definition is the formula of the essence, and essence
belongs to substances either alone or chiefly and primarily and in the
unqualified sense.

We must inquire whether each thing and its essence are the same or
different. This is of some use for the inquiry concerning substance;
for each thing is thought to be not different from its substance,
and the essence is said to be the substance of each thing.
Now in the case of accidental unities the two would be generally
thought to be different, e.g. white man would be thought to be
different from the essence of white man. For if they are the same, the
essence of man and that of white man are also the same; for a man
and a white man are the same thing, as people say, so that the essence
of white man and that of man would be also the same. But perhaps it
does not follow that the essence of accidental unities should be the
same as that of the simple terms. For the extreme terms are not in the
same way identical with the middle term. But perhaps this might be
thought to follow, that the extreme terms, the accidents, should
turn out to be the same, e.g. the essence of white and that of
musical; but this is not actually thought to be the case.
But in the case of so-called self-subsistent things, is a thing
necessarily the same as its essence? E.g. if there are some substances
which have no other substances nor entities prior to them-substances
such as some assert the Ideas to be?-If the essence of good is to be
different from good-itself, and the essence of animal from
animal-itself, and the essence of being from being-itself, there will,
firstly, be other substances and entities and Ideas besides those
which are asserted, and, secondly, these others will be prior
substances, if essence is substance. And if the posterior substances
and the prior are severed from each other, (a) there will be no
knowledge of the former, and (b) the latter will have no being. (By
'severed' I mean, if the good-itself has not the essence of good,
and the latter has not the property of being good.) For (a) there is
knowledge of each thing only when we know its essence. And (b) the
case is the same for other things as for the good; so that if the
essence of good is not good, neither is the essence of reality real,
nor the essence of unity one. And all essences alike exist or none
of them does; so that if the essence of reality is not real, neither
is any of the others. Again, that to which the essence of good does
not belong is not good.-The good, then, must be one with the essence
of good, and the beautiful with the essence of beauty, and so with all
things which do not depend on something else but are self-subsistent
and primary. For it is enough if they are this, even if they are not
Forms; or rather, perhaps, even if they are Forms. (At the same time
it is clear that if there are Ideas such as some people say there are,
it will not be substratum that is substance; for these must be
substances, but not predicable of a substratum; for if they were
they would exist only by being participated in.)
Each thing itself, then, and its essence are one and the same in
no merely accidental way, as is evident both from the preceding
arguments and because to know each thing, at least, is just to know
its essence, so that even by the exhibition of instances it becomes
clear that both must be one.
(But of an accidental term, e.g.'the musical' or 'the white',
since it has two meanings, it is not true to say that it itself is
identical with its essence; for both that to which the accidental
quality belongs, and the accidental quality, are white, so that in a

Previous | Next
Site Search