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Aristotle METAPHYSICA Book 9 Part 4

Capability, some modal reasoning

1. If what we have described is identical with the capable or convertible with it, evidently it cannot be true to say 'this is capable of being but will not be', which would imply that the things incapable of being would on this showing vanish. Suppose, for instance, that a man - one who did not take account of that which is incapable of being - were to say that the diagonal of the square is capable of being measured but will not be measured, because a thing may well be capable of being or coming to be, and yet not be or be about to be. But from the premisses this necessarily follows, that if we actually supposed that which is not, but is capable of being, to be or to have come to be, there will be nothing impossible in this; but the result will be impossible, for the measuring of the diagonal is impossible. For the false and the impossible are not the same; that you are standing now is false, but that you should be standing is not impossible.

2. At the same time it is clear that if, when A is real, B must be real, then, when A is possible, B also must be possible. For if B need not be possible, there is nothing to prevent its not being possible. Now let A be supposed possible. Then, when A was possible, we agreed that nothing impossible followed if A were supposed to be real; and then B must of course be real. But we supposed B to be impossible. Let it be impossible then. If, then, B is impossible, A also must be so. But the first was supposed impossible; therefore the second also is impossible. If, then, A is possible, B also will be possible, if they were so related that if A,is real, B must be real. If, then, A and B being thus related, B is not possible on this condition, and B will not be related as was supposed. And if when A is possible, B must be possible, then if A is real, B also must be real. For to say that B must be possible, if A is possible, means this, that if A is real both at the time when and in the way in which it was supposed capable of being real, B also must then and in that way be real.


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