Some remarks on substance and essence in Aristotle’s <i>Metaphysics</i> Z.6

David Charles

in Episteme, etc.

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199696482
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738036 | DOI:
Some remarks on substance and essence in Aristotle’s Metaphysics Z.6

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This essay examines Aristotle’s remarks on the relation between certain substances and their essences in Metaphysics Z.4–6. This relation has often been taken to be or to entail numerical identity. However, this interpretation has serious and undesirable consequences. I argue that while the substances discussed in Z.4–6 are to be defined in terms of their essences, this relation is not that of numerical identity. In Aristotle’s account, essences are causally prior to these substances, making them the substances that they are. Explicating what is (and what is not) involved in this relation is a major goal of this essay. In its first part, the passages in Z.4–6 generally taken to require the identity reading are considered, together with the (surprising) historical roots of this reading. In the second part, two more general issues—one exegetical and one philosophical—concerning Aristotle’s distinctive view of substances and essences are discussed.

Keywords: Aristotle; substance; essence; definition; identity

Chapter.  11162 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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