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The Metaphysics | Paperback

Released on 29 October 1998

Author: Aristotle | Format: Paperback

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Always passionately interested in natural phenomena, Aristotle eventually dissented from Plato's idealist premise that what we perceive is just a pale reflection of the true reality. The Metaphysics is Aristotle's first mature statement of his own philosophical understanding of reality. An extraordinary synthesis; integrating the natural and rational aspens of the world, Aristotle's Metaphysics probes some of the deepest questions of philosophy: What is existence? How is change possible? What makes something the same thing at different times? Are there things that must exist for anything else to exist at all? Furthermore, with his notion of "substance" and his associated concepts of matter and form, essence and accident, and potentiality and actuality, Aristotle laid the foundations for Western speculative thought on the nature of reality. Hugh Lawson-Tancred's translation achieves a readability absent from earlier versions, and in a stimulating introductory essay he highlights the central themes of one of philosophy's supreme masterpieces.

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 An Ageless Masterpiece

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Aristotle certainly complements Plato as the second great philosophical master of the ancient world. The way he exemplified philosophy has deservedly passed him down to us as the greatest logician and systemiser of Western philosophy.

In Metaphysics, which is also the first major work of this particular branch of philosophy, Aristotle explores the `knowledge of immaterial being`, defining metaphysics as the first philosophy, as well as a `theological science`. The fourth century BC Greek polymath and philosopher examines some key themes such as the universal and the particular, the questions of substance and essence , time and change, employing logical cogitation to conclude that a particular substance is a combination of both matter and form. In this respect, we owe him the way we have come to perceive the material things that surround us , for his logical argumentation has deeply influenced Western philosophy. For instance, in terms of the relationship between matter and substance, Aristotle concludes that the matter of the substance is the substratum( or the stuff ) of which it is composed. To further clarify this particular point, we could think of the way we perceive and think about what surrounds us in our everyday life. If we were to apply this concept to a house, for instance, according to Aristotle the matter of the house would be bricks, stones, timbers etc., or whatever constitutes the `potential house` ( and so what makes us think of a house) , while the form of the substance (what we can see through our eyes), is in fact the actual house. It is through this formula that Aristotle justifies the presence of the material things that surround us, explaining how the two concepts are eternally bound to each other.

It would be worth mentioning, however, that most key concepts in this work, such as the relationship between subject matter and substance or the definition of change were introduced and defined in his previous work `Physics` and later developed in Metaphysics. Therefore, readers who are new to Aristotle might be better off reading Physics before this book in order to fully appreciate Aristotle`s philosophy.

It might be worth noticing that this edition, translated by Tancred Lawson, is also the first complete translation of Metaphysics into English since the 1924 translation by W.D. Ross. If, on the one hand, Lawson`s version presents Aristotle`s thought accurately, simplifying and expanding the often crabbed and elliptical style of Ross` version, on the other, there are a lot of omissions and changes of word order that make this edition a little less intelligible than the original one. Ideally, reading both versions might be a sound idea for the various introductory and textual essays by Lawson are excellent and explanatory. In this respect, the Lawson edition could be used as an alternative translation which is good to have as a backup, especially to clarify the matter when the Ross edition is much too obscure.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this work to everyone with an interest in philosophy and, in particular, in ancient world logical argumentation.

PublisherPenguin Books Ltd (United Kingdom)
FormatPaperback - 528 Pages