Agent and Patient

Sarah Waterlow

in Nature, Change, and Agency in Aristotle's Physics

Published in print April 1982 | ISBN: 9780198246534
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191680984 | DOI:
Agent and Patient

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This chapter turns to the most puzzling part of Aristotle's theory of change, the topic of agent and patient. It is difficult to determine his position on this matter, and difficult to see its philosophical sense. Yet these problems have a special claim on the attention of anyone concerned with his notion of change, because, for Aristotle, ‘agent-patient’, more than any other concept, is bound up with his account of change itself. The connection is so close that his analysis of change can hardly escape the reach of any charges of confusion and obscurity that might be levelled against his views on agency and patiency. No one would dispute the relevance of these to change, any more than that of space, time, infinity, and the problems of the vacuum. But Aristotle does not deal with agency and patiency as he does with these, devoting to each a methodical discussion whose beginning and end are clearly marked. This procedure means that the original definition of change in III.1 enjoys a certain measure of immunity from difficulties arising independently in connection with these separate studies. But his remarks concerning agent and patient in III.1–3 are so embedded in the discussion of change itself that it is hard to resist the impression that, for him, the two notions stand and fall together.

Keywords: Aristotle; change; agent; patient

Chapter.  18679 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy ; Metaphysics

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