21 April 2006

Perceptible Substances All Have Matter

"But now let us resume the discussion of the generally recognized substances. These are the perceptible substances, and perceptible substances all have matter."

nu~n de\ peri\ tw~n o(mologoume/nwn ou)siw~n e0pe/lqwmen. au{tai d' ei0si\n ai9 ai0sqhtai/: ai9 d' ai0sqhtai\ ou)si/ai pa~sai u3lhn e1xousin.:
Thus H 1 1042a24.

might mean 'let us start with' (as Burnyeat wishes to take it: Map 63). But it can alternatively mean 'return to' (cf. NE 1172b8), as Ross seems to understand it. Suppose it does and that we read this in conjuction with the methodological passage at the opening of Z 4 (transposed now typically to the end of Z3):
Some of the perceptible 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.
Then it would be natural to take the above to be saying: we need to consider each of the marks we have mentioned (hypkeimenon, to ti en einai, katholou, genos), with a view, first, to how they work as regard perceptible substances. But these have matter. Thus we must consider how they work as regards things with matter.

That is, the above methodological passage gives Aristotle's reason for introducing the form-matter distinction. It answers the question: Why does Aristotle introduce the form-matter distinction in Z? And it does so consistently with what we should antecedently expect.

And then, as I remarked in an earlier post, chs. 7-9 do not appear to be out of place. They are the commensensical deployment of the form-matter distinction to perceptible substances insofar as they come about by art, nature, or spontaneously.