Part 2

“(1) First then with regard to what we mentioned first, does it belong to one or to more sciences to investigate all the kinds of causes? How could it belong to one science to recognize the principles if these are not contrary?

“Further, there are many things to which not all the principles pertain. For how can a principle of change or the nature of the good exist for unchangeable things, since everything that in itself and by its own nature is good is an end, and a cause in the sense that for its sake the other things both come to be and are, and since an end or purpose is the end of some action, and all actions imply change? So in the case of unchangeable things this principle could not exist, nor could there be a good itself. This is why in mathematics nothing is proved by means of this kind of cause, nor is there any demonstration of this kind-‘because it is better, or worse’; indeed no one even mentions anything of the kind. And so for this reason some of the Sophists, e.g. Aristippus, used to ridicule mathematics; for in the arts (he maintained), even in the industrial arts, e.g. in carpentry and cobbling, the reason always given is ‘because it is better, or worse,’ but the mathematical sciences take no account of goods and evils.

“But if there are several sciences of the causes, and a different science for each different principle, which of these sciences should be said to be that which we seek, or which of the people who possess them has the most scientific knowledge of the object in question? The same thing may have all the kinds of causes, e.g. the moving cause of a house is the art or the builder, the final cause is the function it fulfils, the matter is earth and stones, and the form is the definition. To judge from our previous discussion of the question which of the sciences should be called Wisdom, there is reason for applying the name to each of them. For inasmuch as it is most architectonic and authoritative and the other sciences, like slavewomen, may not even contradict it, the science of the end and of the good is of the nature of Wisdom (for the other things are for the sake of the end). But inasmuch as it was described’ as dealing with the first causes and that which is in the highest sense object of knowledge, the science of substance must be of the nature of Wisdom. For since men may know the same thing in many ways, we say that he who recognizes what a thing is by its being so and so knows more fully than he who recognizes it by its not being so and so, and in the former class itself one knows more fully than another, and he knows most fully who knows what a thing is, not he who knows its quantity or quality or what it can by nature do or have done to it. And further in all cases also we think that the knowledge of each even of the things of which demonstration is possible is present only when we know what the thing is, e.g. what squaring a rectangle is, viz. that it is the finding of a mean; and similarly in all other cases. And we know about becomings and actions and about every change when we know the source of the movement; and this is other than and opposed to the end. Therefore it would seem to belong to different sciences to investigate these causes severally.

“But (2), taking the starting-points of demonstration as well as the causes, it is a disputable question whether they are the object of one science or of more (by the starting-points of demonstration I mean the common beliefs, on which all men base their proofs); e.g. that everything must be either affirmed or denied, and that a thing cannot at the same time be and not be, and all other such premisses:-the question is whether the same science deals with them as with substance, or a different science, and if it is not one science, which of the two must be identified with that which we now seek.-It is not reasonable that these topics should be the object of one science; for why should it be peculiarly appropriate to geometry or to any other science to understand these matters? If then it belongs to every science alike, and cannot belong to all, it is not peculiar to the science which investigates substances, any more than to any other science, to know about these topics.-And, at the same time, in what way can there be a science of the first principles? For we are aware even now what each of them in fact is (at least even other sciences use them as familiar); but if there is a demonstrative science which deals with them, there will have to be an underlying kind, and some of them must be demonstrable attributes and others must be axioms (for it is impossible that there should be demonstration about all of them); for the demonstration must start from certain premisses and be about a certain subject and prove certain attributes. Therefore it follows that all attributes that are proved must belong to a single class; for all demonstrative sciences use the axioms.

“But if the science of substance and the science which deals with the axioms are different, which of them is by nature more authoritative and prior? The axioms are most universal and are principles of all things. And if it is not the business of the philosopher, to whom else will it belong to inquire what is true and what is untrue about them?

“(3) In general, do all substances fall under one science or under more than one? If the latter, to what sort of substance is the present science to be assigned?-On the other hand, it is not reasonable that one science should deal with all. For then there would be one demonstrative science dealing with all attributes. For ever demonstrative science investigates with regard to some subject its essential attributes, starting from the common beliefs. Therefore to investigate the essential attributes of one class of things, starting from one set of beliefs, is the business of one science. For the subject belongs to one science, and the premisses belong to one, whether to the same or to another; so that the attributes do so too, whether they are investigated by these sciences or by one compounded out of them.

“(5) Further, does our investigation deal with substances alone or also with their attributes? I mean for instance, if the solid is a substance and so are lines and planes, is it the business of the same science to know these and to know the attributes of each of these classes (the attributes about which the mathematical sciences offer proofs), or of a different science? If of the same, the science of substance also must be a demonstrative science, but it is thought that there is no demonstration of the essence of things. And if of another, what will be the science that investigates the attributes of substance? This is a very difficult question.

“(4) Further, must we say that sensible substances alone exist, or that there are others besides these? And are substances of one kind or are there in fact several kinds of substances, as those say who assert the existence both of the Forms and of the intermediates, with which they say the mathematical sciences deal?-The sense in which we say the Forms are both causes and self-dependent substances has been explained in our first remarks about them; while the theory presents difficulties in many ways, the most paradoxical thing of all is the statement that there are certain things besides those in the material universe, and that these are the same as sensible things except that they are eternal while the latter are perishable. For they say there is a man-himself and a horse-itself and health-itself, with no further qualification,-a procedure like that of the people who said there are gods, but in human form. For they were positing nothing but eternal men, nor are the Platonists making the Forms anything other than eternal sensible things.

“Further, if we are to posit besides the Forms and the sensibles the intermediates between them, we shall have many difficulties. For clearly on the same principle there will be lines besides the lines-themselves and the sensible lines, and so with each of the other classes of things; so that since astronomy is one of these mathematical sciences there will also be a heaven besides the sensible heaven, and a sun and a moon (and so with the other heavenly bodies) besides the sensible. Yet how are we to believe in these things? It is not reasonable even to suppose such a body immovable, but to suppose it moving is quite impossible.-And similarly with the things of which optics and mathematical harmonics treat; for these also cannot exist apart from the sensible things, for the same reasons. For if there are sensible things and sensations intermediate between Form and individual, evidently there will also be animals intermediate between animals-themselves and the perishable animals.-We might also raise the question, with reference to which kind of existing things we must look for these sciences of intermediates. If geometry is to differ from mensuration only in this, that the latter deals with things that we perceive, and the former with things that are not perceptible, evidently there will also be a science other than medicine, intermediate between medical-science-itself and this individual medical science, and so with each of the other sciences. Yet how is this possible? There would have to be also healthy things besides the perceptible healthy things and the healthy-itself.–And at the same time not even this is true, that mensuration deals with perceptible and perishable magnitudes; for then it would have perished when they perished.

“But on the other hand astronomy cannot be dealing with perceptible magnitudes nor with this heaven above us. For neither are perceptible lines such lines as the geometer speaks of (for no perceptible thing is straight or round in the way in which he defines ‘straight’ and ’round’; for a hoop touches a straight edge not at a point, but as Protagoras used to say it did, in his refutation of the geometers), nor are the movements and spiral orbits in the heavens like those of which astronomy treats, nor have geometrical points the same nature as the actual stars.-Now there are some who say that these so-called intermediates between the Forms and the perceptible things exist, not apart from the perceptible things, however, but in these; the impossible results of this view would take too long to enumerate, but it is enough to consider even such points as the following:-It is not reasonable that this should be so only in the case of these intermediates, but clearly the Forms also might be in the perceptible things; for both statements are parts of the same theory. Further, it follows from this theory that there are two solids in the same place, and that the intermediates are not immovable, since they are in the moving perceptible things. And in general to what purpose would one suppose them to exist indeed, but to exist in perceptible things? For the same paradoxical results will follow which we have already mentioned; there will be a heaven besides the heaven, only it will be not apart but in the same place; which is still more impossible.

Metaphysics by Aristotle – Book III