14 April 2006

The Translation 'Matters'

I want to return to the question of translation of the relevant Greek in Z 3, because if the translation I proposed is accepted, or something like it, then this I think proves devastating for Devereux's interpretation, and here I shall explain why.

Recall that the passage under discussion, Devereux's translation, and my alternative proposal, were as follows:

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.
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 substance, this is predicated of the matter ... nor is it the negations of these, for these will belong [to it] incidentally. (Devereux)

I refer to as 'matter' that as regards which, in itself, no claim saying what it is, or how much, or applying any other predicate by which existence is determined, is true. For there is something as regards which each of these is predicated, but for which its being is different, even (kai/), from that of anything so predicated. For although the other sorts of predicates are predicated of the substance, this is predicated of the matter. The upshot is that there is no 'what' or 'how much' or any other thing that the ultimate [sc. substratum] is in itself. (Neither, then, are the negations of these predicated of it : these of course will belong to it incidentally.) (Pakaluk)
If the proposed alternative translation is accepted, then both remaining grounds are removed, on which Devereux claims that here Aristotle is affirming that the concrete substance is predicated of the ultimate matter.

These grounds are given in the following paragraph. (Strange that, as you will note, this text in passing has a fuller and different translation from what Devereux elsewhere in his article proposes explicitly as the translation of that passage.)
We have already noticed one feature of the argument that seems to favour understanding 'substance' as the composite. ... Aristotle clearly invokes the doctrine of the categories of being when he says 'I mean by matter that which in itself is neither a particular thing [ti/] nor a quantity nor any of the others by which being is determined'. The statement ... that 'the others are predicated of substance' therefore means that entities in other categories besides substance are predicated of entities in the category of substance. Now when Aristotle gives examples of entities in the category of substance, they are typically concrete substances rather than forms: e.g. 'man' or 'animal', rather than 'soul'. His appeal to the doctrine of the categories thus provides some support for taking 'substance' ... to refer to a concrete substance rather than to a form. (177)
The first ground is that 'ti' , rendered 'particular thing' by Devereux, means a concrete substance. On the translation I proposed, this simply stands for any predicate which purports to express what a thing is. 'ti' does not stand for or invoke concrete substances.

The second ground is that, in saying that 'the others are predicated of substance', Aristotle means by 'substance' a concrete substance which then gets predicated of something else. But on the translation I proposed, Aristotle's thought becomes something like this.

To say that 'the others are predicated of substance' is to say (obviously and uncontroversially) that we construct sentences of the form 'a man is pale' (anthropos leukos), where we use a term indicating what (ti) a thing is to pick out something, of which we say what quality (poion) it is. (When we construct sentences of this form, both predicates are predicated of the same thing, but the term indicating 'what' picks out that thing in a prior and primary way, Aristotle thinks.)

But then (again obviously and uncontroversially), in our construction of such a sentence, the term indicating what (ti) a thing is, is thereby predicated of something also, which we may call the 'matter': that is, 'and this is predicated of the matter'. --No suggestion here that concrete substances are getting predicated of anything.

Aristotle's argument, then, turns on some simple and uncontroversial observations about our construction of simple sentences, in which we use predicates from the various categories, thereby predicating each of something else. (Which he had reminded us of just recently--by the way--at the opening of Z, 1028a15-18.) Nothing in the passage, so understood, implies or requires us to understand that concrete substances themselves are predicated of something else.

You may then wonder: "If this is so, then how is Aristotle's argument successful? Wasn't it meant to show that, on the Hypokeimenon Criterion, matter is the only substance? Yet, on your interpretation, he has done nothing to show that concrete substances are not substances."

Indeed he hasn't-- since, as I said, the proper interpretation of Z 3 requires that, first thing, we draw the distinction that Aristotle wishes us to draw. I haven't yet said exactly what this is. But I will in a later post.