12 April 2006

A Sentence of Distinction

I'm curious about the famous opening lines of Z 3, and what they reveal about the purpose of the chapter. I also want eventually to discuss Devereux's comments on the passage:

le/getai d' h( ou)si/a, ei) mh\ pleonaxw=j, a)ll' e)n te/ttarsi/ ge ma/lista: kai\ ga\r to\ ti/ h)=n ei)=nai kai\ to\ kaqo/lou kai\ to\ ge/noj ou)si/a dokei= ei)=nai e(ka/stou, kai\ te/tarton tou/twn to\ u(pokei/menon. to\ d' u(pokei/meno/n e)sti kaq' ou(= ta\ a)/lla le/getai, e)kei=no de\ au)to\ mhke/ti kat' a)/llou: dio\ prw=ton peri\ tou/tou dioriste/on
Here is the translation Devereux gives of the first part of it:

Substance is spoken of, if not in more, at least in four principal ways: for the essence and the universal and the genus are held to be the substance of a thing, and fourth is the underlying subject. (1028b33-6)
One might have thought that 'in more' is too weak for pleonaxw=j, which is a technical term for Aristotle. (Aristotle is showing a surprising unwillingness here to say that ou)si/a is pleonaxw=j le/getai. We might speculate as to why: he's already used the category of substance to unify the multiple senses of 'exists'. It would be inconvenient if 'substance' in turn has no unitary sense.) Note also that tou/twn goes untranslated--which is perhaps not unimportant.

But my concern is rather with the last sentence of the passage: dio\ prw=ton peri\ tou/tou dioriste/on. What does it mean? Some candidates:
"And so we must first determine the nature of this." (Ross)
"Hence we must first determine its nature." (Tredennick)
I prefer:
"That is why--first thing--a distinction needs to be drawn about this." (Pakaluk)
And why is this the better way? For two reasons, one mundane and the other 'hermeneutic'. The mundane reason is that Aristotle immediately goes on to draw a distinction! Thus:

ma/lista ga\r dokei= ei)=nai ou)si/a to\ u(pokei/menon prw=ton. toiou=ton de\ tro/pon me/n tina h( u(/lh le/getai, a)/llon de\ tro/pon h( morfh/, tri/ton de\ to\ e)k tou/twn (le/gw de\ th\n me\n u(/lhn oi(=on to\n xalko/n, th\n de\ morfh\n to\ sxh=ma th=j i)de/aj, to\ d' e)k tou/twn to\n a)ndria/nta to\ su/nolon),

For the primary substrate is considered to be in the truest sense substance.Now in one sense we call the matter the substrate; in another, the shape ; and in a third, the combination of the two. By matter I mean, for instance, bronze; by shape, the arrangement of the form; and by the combination of the two, the concrete thing: the statue. (Tredennick)
And compare with this, for a similar use of dioriste/on, from Physics 204a2 (but there are many such passages):

prw~ton ou}n dioriste/on posaxw~j le/getai to_ a1peiron. e3na me\n dh_ tro&pon to_ a)du&naton dielqei=n tw|~ mh_ pefuke/nai diie/nai, w3sper h( fwnh_ a)o&ratoj: a1llwj de\ to_ die/codon e1xon a)teleu&thton, h2 o4 mo&gij, h2 o4 pefuko_j e1xein mh_ e1xei die/codon h2 pe/raj.

But the hermeneutic reason for understanding the sentence in this way is that, in my view, the sentence, so understood, states the purpose of Z 3, which is precisely to clarify this distinction!

I'll explain more about this, tomorrow.