Aristotle METAPHYSICA Book 5 Part 22


1. We speak of 'privation': -

2. (1) if something has not one of the attributes which a thing might naturally have, even if this thing itself would not naturally have it; e.g. a plant is said to be 'deprived' of eyes. - (2) If, though either the thing itself or its genus would naturally have an attribute, it has it not; e.g. a blind man and a mole are in different senses 'deprived' of sight; the latter in contrast with its genus, the former in contrast with his own normal nature.

3. (3) If, though it would naturally have the attribute, and when it would naturally have it, it has it not; for blindness is a privation, but one is not 'blind' at any and every age, but only if one has not sight at the age at which one would naturally have it. Similarly a thing is called blind if it has not sight in the medium in which, and in respect of the organ in respect of which, and with reference to the object with reference to which, and in the circumstances in which, it would naturally have it.

4. (4) The violent taking away of anything is called privation.

5. Indeed there are just as many kinds of privations as there are of words with negative prefixes; for a thing is called unequal because it has not equality though it would naturally have it, and invisible either because it has no colour at all or because it has a poor colour, and apodous either because it has no feet at all or because it has imperfect feet. Again, a privative term may be used because the thing has little of the attribute (and this means having it in a sense imperfectly), e.g. 'kernel-less'; or because it has it not easily or not well (e.g. we call a thing uncuttable not only if it cannot be cut but also if it cannot be cut easily or well); or because it has not the attribute at all; for it is not the one-eyed man but he who is sightless in both eyes that is called blind. This is why not every man is 'good' or 'bad', 'just' or 'unjust', but there is also an intermediate state.

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