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Aristotle METAPHYSICA Book 13 Part 1

On whether there are any other than sensible substances

1. We have stated what is the substance of sensible things, dealing in the treatise on physics with matter, and later with the substance which has actual existence. Now since our inquiry is whether there is or is not besides the sensible substances any which is immovable and eternal, and, if there is, what it is, we must first consider what is said by others, so that, if there is anything which they say wrongly, we may not be liable to the same objections, while, if there is any opinion common to them and us, we shall have no private grievance against ourselves on that account; for one must be content to state some points better than one's predecessors, and others no worse.

2. Two opinions are held on this subject; it is said that the objects of mathematics - i.e. numbers and lines and the like - are substances, and again that the Ideas are substances. And (1) since some recognize these as two different classes - the Ideas and the mathematical numbers, and (2) some recognize both as having one nature, while (3) some others say that the mathematical substances are the only substances, we must consider first the objects of mathematics, not qualifying them by any other characteristic - not asking, for instance, whether they are in fact Ideas or not, or whether they are the principles and substances of existing things or not, but only whether as objects of mathematics they exist or not, and if they exist, how they exist. Then after this we must separately consider the Ideas themselves in a general way, and only as far as the accepted mode of treatment demands; for most of the points have been repeatedly made even by the discussions outside our school, and, further, the greater part of our account must finish by throwing light on that inquiry, viz. when we examine whether the substances and the principles of existing things are numbers and Ideas; for after the discussion of the Ideas this remans as a third inquiry.

3. If the objects of mathematics exist, they must exist either in sensible objects, as some say, or separate from sensible objects (and this also is said by some); or if they exist in neither of these ways, either they do not exist, or they exist only in some special sense. So that the subject of our discussion will be not whether they exist but how they exist.


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