18 April 2006

A Summary Objection

Over the next couple of days, I aim to post a few follow-up comments to my discussion of Dan Devereux's essay and Met. Z 3.

Here's a small point about H 1 . As I've mentioned and you know, that chapter begins with a summary. From the character of its first couple of lines, it is perhaps even meant to be a capsule summary of the entire argument of the Metaphysics up to that point.

Devereux takes it to be a summary of Z, and he thinks that what that summary leaves out tells us something definite about a supposed early draft of Z, written at roughly the same time as H. (This is his 'redaction criticism' of books Z and H.) In this post I'll simply quote the relevant comments from Devereux. In a subsequent post, I'll say why his view seems puzzling to me. Frankly, I can't understand the demand that Devereux wishes to place on this summary. To me it seems unreasonable. Here are his comments:

At the beginning of H 1 Aristotle pauses again to take stock: he mentions the four candidates [sc. for substance], and goes on to say that three of them, the essence, the universal, and the genus, have been discussed (1042a12-22). Surprisingly, there is no mention of a discussion of the underlying subject. ... If the purpose of the summary is to remind the reader of the main points covered so far, it would seem important to include a brief reference to the earlier discussion of this candidate. The absence of Z 3's discussion of the underlying subject from the summary in H 1 is no less puzzling than the absence of Z 17. (OSAP XXV, Winter 2003, pp. 195-6)

The absence of Z 3's discussion of the underlying subject from the summary in H 1, combined with the fact that, immediately following the summary, Aristotle embarks on a discussion of the underlying subject without any indication that the topic has been discussed before, suggests the possibility that the Z 3 argument was not part of the original version of Z, i.e. the version which was written at the same time as H. (199)

The impression one gets from H 1, one the other hand, is that the investigation launched in Z 3 has not been completed: the summary of the preceding chapters does not mention a discussion of substance as underlying subject ... (206).
It's this idea that H 1 should be expected to 'mention the discussion' of the underlying subject, and yet it doesn't, which puzzles me. The summary does, after all, mention the hypokeimenon criterion; and it does not 'mention the discussion' of the other criteria. I'll say more about this later.

And perhaps this isn't a 'small point'. That is, it is a small point from the point of view of understanding the Metaphysics; on the other hand, much of Devereux's interpretation rests on the position he adopts on this point, as can be seen from the quotations above.