11 April 2006

A Substantial Point

I asked yesterday about the translation of the highlighted line in the following passage from Aristotle, Metaphysics Z 3:

le/gw d' u(/lhn h(\ kaq' au(th\n mh/te ti\ mh/te poso\n mh/te a)/llo mhde\n le/getai oi(=j w(/ristai to\ o)/n. e)/sti ga/r ti kaq' ou(= kathgorei=tai tou/twn e(/kaston, w(=| to\ ei)=nai e(/teron kai\ tw=n kathgoriw=n e(ka/sth| (ta\ me\n ga\r a)/lla th=j ou)si/aj kathgorei=tai, au(/th de\ th=j u(/lhj), w(/ste to\ e)/sxaton kaq' au(to\ ou)/te ti\ ou)/te poso\n ou)/te a)/llo ou)de/n e)stin: ou)de\ dh\ ai( a)pofa/seij, kai\ ga\r au(=tai u(pa/rcousi kata\ sumbebhko/j.
Dan Devereux, in a recent discussion, follows other translators in rendering it:
Matter is that which in itself is neither a particular thing nor a quantity ... for there is something of which each of these is predicated, but whose being is different from the being of any of them; for while the other things are predicated of substances, this is predicated of the matter ... nor is it the negations of these, for these will belong [to it] incidentally.
A reader wrote in and stated my concern exactly:
I'll be interested to hear your complaint(s) about the translations of Z.3. My main complaint about all the translations you posted is the translation of "ti" as "particular thing." I think "ti" labels a substantial sort (a Categories secondary substance), as "poson" labels so much, etc. Aristotle is talking about a subject from which all categorial being has been removed, something whose being is different from the being of any categorial predicate (1029a22-23). It's a bare subject. One of Aristotle's grounds for rejecting this matter as substance (or at rate as primary substance) is that it is not a tode ti. I'd say it is a tode (a particular) but not ti--it has no substantial being in its own right (kath' hauto. ).
This reader then added something I hadn't noticed: "Devereux should have translated "lego."" This is an interesting point, that raises issues of its own, which I may mention in a later post.

But to continue with the point about ti. Typically Aristotle indicates the first category with ti esti, but sometimes he simply puts ti. (The reason for this, I believe, is that we are meant to understand 'esti' after each term for a category: 'poson' is really 'poson esti', etc. ti on its own, then, is the analogue of poson, poion, etc.)

Here are some examples:

De generatione et corruptione 318a line 15.

1Exei d' a)pori/an i9kanh_n kai\ ti/ to_ ai1tion tou~ sunei/rein th_n ge/nesin, ei1per to_ fqeiro&menon ei0j to_ mh_ o2n a)pe/rxetai, to_ de\ mh_ o2n mhde/n e0stin: ou1te ga_r ti\ ou1te poio_n ou1te (15) poso_n ou1te pou~ to_ mh_ o1n.

Metaphysica. 1026a line 36.

0All' e0pei\ to_ o2n to_ a(plw~j lego&menon le/getai pollaxw~j, w{n e4n me\n h}n to_ kata_ sumbebhko&j, e3teron de\ to_ w(j a)lhqe/j, kai\ to_ mh_ o2n w(j to_ yeu~doj, para_ tau~ta d' (35) e0sti\ ta_ sxh&mata th~j kathgori/aj (oi[on to_ me\n ti/, to_ de\ poio&n, to_ de\ poso&n, to_ de\ pou&, to_ de\ pote/, kai\ ei1 ti a1llo (1026b.) shmai/nei to_n tro&pon tou~ton), e1ti para_ tau~ta pa&nta to_ duna&mei kai\ e0nergei/a|:

What's the significance of all this? It has to do with how Devereux wishes to understand this passage in Z 3. He argues that Aristotle is supposing there that a concrete particular may be predicated of its matter. (This is one of the most striking claims in Devereux's paper.) According to Devereux, Aristotle's argument is something like this:

  1. A substance is that of which other things are predicated but is not predicated of anything else.
  2. Everything other than substance is predicated of the concrete particular.
  3. A concrete particular is predicated of the underlying matter.
  4. If X is predicated of Y, and Y is predicated of Z, then X is predicated of Z.
  5. Thus, everything is predicated of the underlying matter--which is not predicated of anything else.
  6. Thus, only the underlying matter is a substance.

The translation of ti as 'particular thing' in the above passage supports this argument as apparently supporting 3. But if, by ti, Aristotle is indicating, rather, predicates in the category of substance (e.g. 'man', 'animal'), then it's not so clear that the argument is as Devereux claims.