Aristotle METAPHYSICA Book 5 Part 7


1. Things are said to 'be' (1) in an accidental sense, (2) by their own nature.

2. (1) In an accidental sense, e.g. we say 'the righteous doer is musical', and 'the man is musical', and 'the musician is a man', just as we say 'the musician builds', because the builder happens to be musical or the musician to be a builder; for here 'one thing is another' means 'one is an accident of another'. So in the cases we have mentioned; for when we say 'the man is musical' and 'the musician is a man', or 'he who is pale is musical' or 'the musician is pale', the last two mean that both attributes are accidents of the same thing; the first that the attribute is an accident of that which is, while 'the musical is a man' means that 'musical' is an accident of a man. (In this sense, too, the not-pale is said to be, because that of which it is an accident is.) Thus when one thing is said in an accidental sense to be another, this is either because both belong to the same thing, and this is, or because that to which the attribute belongs is, or because the subject which has as an attribute that of which it is itself predicated, itself is.

3. (2) The kinds of essential being are precisely those that are indicated by the figures of predication; for the senses of 'being' are just as many as these figures. Since, then, some predicates indicate what the subject is, others its quality, others quantity, others relation, others activity or passivity, others its 'where', others its 'when', 'being' has a meaning answering to each of these. For there is no difference between 'the man is recovering' and 'the man recovers', nor between 'the man is walking or cutting' and 'the man walks' or 'cuts'; and similarly in all other cases.

4. (3) Again, 'being' and 'is' mean that a statement is true, 'not being' that it is not true but false - and this alike in the case of affirmation and of negation; e.g. 'Socrates is musical' means that this is true, or 'Socrates is not-pale' means that this is true; but 'the diagonal of the square is not commensurate with the side' means that it is false to say it is.

5. (4) Again, 'being' and 'that which is' mean that some of the things we have mentioned 'are' potentially, others in complete reality. For we say both of that which sees potentially and of that which sees actually, that it is 'seeing', and both of that which can actualize its knowledge and of that which is actualizing it, that it knows, and both of that to which rest is already present and of that which can rest, that it rests. And similarly in the case of substances; we say the Hermes is in the stone, and the half of the line is in the line, and we say of that which is not yet ripe that it is corn. When a thing is potential and when it is not yet potential must be explained elsewhere.

UPHOME HTML edition © RBJ created 1996/11/25 modified 2009/04/26