Info

Categories, lal2—15.

(where one term possesses the predicate properly and the other only by extension). But this is not a distinction Aristotle himself drew, and his definition of analogy as proportional metaphor confounds the scholastic distinction.36

Most notably for Aristotle 'being' itself is paronymous.

There are several senses in which a thing may be said to be, as we pointed out previously in our book on the various senses of words; for in one sense it means what a thing is or a 'this', and in another sense it means that a thing is of a certain quality or quantity or has some such predicate asserted of it. While 'being' has all these senses, obviously that which is primary is the 'what', which indicates the substance of a thing.37

The burden of Metaphysics is the elucidation of the relationship between the many and the primary with respect to the first philosophy, an examination of being qua being. For each substance is individual, and Aristotle writes that 'we seem to be seeking another kind of substance, and this is our problem, i.e., to see if there is something which can exist apart by itself and belongs to no sensible thing'.38 Through the paronymy of 'being'Aristotle attempts to map the semantic hierarchy onto an ontological hierarchy, 'the most unchangeable principles, being and unity',39 and there is a recognition that if this cannot be done, if this ordering cannot be established, then nothing can be known in anything but a particular and limited way. 'A further difficulty is raised by the fact that all knowledge is of the universal and of the "such", but substance does not belong to the universals, but it is rather a "this" and separable.'40 The intellectual wrestling is explicit. Aristotle will advert to his difficulties and, while advocating that there 'is a principle in things,' admits that 'About such matters there is no proof in the full sense ... For it is not possible to infer this truth itself from a more certain principle.'41

Several aporias reveal themselves: the aporia of the individual substance and the universal presents an aporia of the noetic and the ontological. Both these are further related to 'Another aporetic [which] exists between signification (with real reference) and predication (which tends to leave it

36 See G. Patzig's 'Theology and Ontology in Aristotle's Metaphysics', in Jonathan Barnes, Malcolm Schofield and Richard Sorabji eds., Articles on Aristotle, vol. 3, (London: Duckworth, 1979), pp. 48-9.

37 Metaphysics, 1028a10-15.

38 Ibid., 1060a10-12.

39 Ibid., 1060a37-8.

40 Ibid., 1060b20-2.

behind)'42 — between symbols and the things they symbolise. What does this add up to? One scholar concludes: 'Aristotle's reflections on substances promised that the aporia would be finally resolved, if only language could be made to circumvent its own disutilities.'43 But language cannot circumvent its own disutilities, it seems, despite Aristotle's constant return to signification and definition (1062a14—16). In fact, aporias are 'impressionis-tically linked through the facilities of language'.44 Analogies drawn from colour, letters of the alphabet, ensoulment of the body, medicine and mathematics replace demonstration. We find the same method employed earlier in Metaphysics when Aristotle attempts to distinguish between 'actuality' and 'potentiality' only to conclude that 'we must not seek a definition of everything but be content to grasp the analogy'.45 It now transpires that what began as an examination of the ontological order for the purpose of stabilising the logic of paronymy, suffers inversion. As one scholar notes: 'the logic of paronymy becomes indispensable; it is the clamp that prevents ontology from disintegrating'.46 And ultimately, this paradox is only resolved in the turn towards God as the principle of that 'which can exist apart and is immoveable',47 as the primary and prior source of all derivation.

The necessary relation between the noetic and the ontological, the solution to the universal knowability of the individual substance, rests, finally, upon the rhetorical and the theological. But the turn to God only opens the old debate between whether 'first philosophy' is ontology or theology. Because unless it can be demonstrated that ontology is theological for Aristotle — that is, God is the primary substance from which all other substances are derived — then a further aporia opens between being qua being and the divine. Earlier in Metaphysics (books VII—IX) it is unclear whether God as prime mover is also creator and cause of all that is: 'the connection between theology and ontology was abandoned'.48 On the other hand, Metaphysics XII 6—7 suggests an eternal unchanging substance different from the two natural substances. And the relationship between the two natural substances and the third unchanging one is paronymous. 1072b13—15 famously states: 'On such a principle, then, depend the heavens, and nature.' No doubt the debate on the relation of theology to ontology in Aristotle's thinking, and

42 Edward Booth, Aristotelian Aporetic Ontology in Islamic and Christian Thinkers (Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 17.

45 Metaphysics, 1048a36-7.

46 Patzig, Theology and Ontology, p. 39.

47 Metaphysics, 1064a29-1064b14.

48 Patzig, Theology and Ontology, p. 47.

whether this relation changed over the writing of the different section of Metaphysics, will continue. Ironically, if Aristotle systematically followed through a hierarchical relationship between primary, secondary (the terms are found in Categories, where Aristotle also denies that there are degrees of substance — 3b33f) and even tertiary substances, he would be affirming rather than rejecting the Platonic relationship between Matter and Form. For us the question of resolving the relationship between theology and ontology in Aristotle is significant, but not essential. What is essential is the extent to which substance can be substantial when so much depends upon the distinction between primary, secondary and tertiary, and yet, as Alexander of Aphrodisia (one of Aristotle's first commentators) notes, 'the principles [of substance] are not made known through axioms, as they are not demonstratable'.49 What remains when logic and the categories fail to produce knowledge (episteme)? Only, I suggest, the unstable nature of analogy itself — hovering between being a mode of argumentation that cannot, finally, be given ontological validation (and therefore constitute a form of knowledge as Aristotle understood knowledge) and a mode of rhetoric. Furthermore, analogy is located within a wider symbolics which responds via social consensus, use and convention to the larger temporal movements and erga which characterise the physical world as Aristotle conceives it. What remains is allegory.

In the light of this, what, then, is philosophy for Aristotle but a way of living among the names and things which constitute the world, ever evaluating, defining and interpreting them? This is the human ergon as a language-animal contextualised by a world governed by a principle of movement,50 situated within time. This ergon marks out the path of purposeful pedagogy. Analogy is part of this wider and ongoing pedagogical scheme in which identities can never be fixed and definitions only approximated. I use the word allegory with relation to this pedagogical path because specifically, as Paul de Man has pointed out, allegory constitutes a rhetoric of temporality. Allegory 'always corresponds to the unveiling of an authentically temporal destiny'.51 The moral philosopher and classicist Martha Nussbaum points up the ethics of this Aristotelian notion of dialectic as ongoing clarification within a 'therapeutic community', linking it quite specifically to the rela

49 Quoted by Booth, Aristotelian Aporetic Ontology, p. 28. Abstracts from Alexander of Aphrodisia's Commentary on Metaphysics can be found in W.D. Ross, Aristotelis Fragmenta Selecta (Oxford University Press, 1955).

50 Metaphysics, 1075b37.

51 Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism (London: Methuen, 1983), p. 206.

tionship between rhetoric and emotion. Emphasising that Aristotle's lectures 'do not claim finality'52 and that emotions have an intimate relation both to belief and judgement,53 Nussbaum argues that the purpose of rhetoric is to create, take away and modify emotions 'by discourse and argument'.54 In this way emotions, closely bound to judgement and therefore affected by modifications ofjudgement, are educated and 'brought into harmony with a correct view of the good human life'.55 Hence literature has an important part to play in providing examples in the Nicomachean Ethics, and Aristotelian mimesis concerns itself with the creation of dramatic unity (of action, time and place) and presenting universals as particulars.56 Thus the discourse of poets attempts a task Aristotle set himself to accomplish as a philosopher in Metaphysics — and possibly Sophocles fulfils the task much better.57 Praxis and poiesis draw close to one another. The latter can affect the former and the former is that which is imitated by the latter. They are not the same, but only to the extent that doing-as-becoming and making are distinct activities.58 They are the same as two dynamic responses to and participations within the cosmic movement. They are both expressions by which the soul may arrive at truth.59

By viewing the human being's work as a journey through a conceptual allegory that requires judgement and clarification (providing a role for philosophy as a critical discourse) I am not suggesting the world is appearance. We will leave that to some Platonists. The world is not appearance for Aristotle; the world is substance, we can trust our perceptions of this world and we develop notions of experience from repeated familiar perceptions of the sensuous and emotional. Intellectual activity abstracts from sensation, but the concrete particular which gives rise to sensation remains. The intellectual abstraction aims at grasping the universal in the concrete particular, and

52 Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics (Princeton University Press, 1994), p. 76.

53 Ibid., p. 80. See also Clark on perception, Aristotle's Man, pp. 69—83 and the work of the contemporary American neurologist, Antonio Damasio. In several works — including Descartes' 'Error': Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain (New York: HarperCollins, 1995) and Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain (New York: Harcourt, 2003) — Damasio demonstrates how profoundly the mind and the body are related.

54 Therapy of Desire, p. 83.

56 Poetics, 51a36-51b10.

57 See Gerald Else, Plato and Aristotle on Poetry (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), where he argues for the connections between poetic structure and the syllogistic form, pp. 110-12, 128-9.

58 For a more detailed discussion of the relationship between praxis and poiesis see my Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice (Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 6-8, 139-42, 165-8.

59 Nicomachean Ethics, VI.3.

however aporetic Aristotelian ontology and epistemology are at this very point, nevertheless with Aristotle there is an intense concentration upon the embodied. The embodied is transfigured when its universal form is understood. It is taken up into and receives its full significance through the universal. As such, substance always retains a certain permeability. Linguistic symbols are always symbols of this sensible permeability. Furthermore, as symbols they are interpretations of experience, 'symbols of affections'.60 Wisdom and the pursuit of the good life invoke a process of rational discrimination which structures, clarifies, interprets and evaluates these symbols, these interpretations of this permeable substance. Aristotle listens through the language to what the world announces about its structures, its balances, its movements, and the divinity of its end. Matter finds its fulfilment in receiving form and 'The Ultimate form it "hopes" to receive ... is the divine life of the Prime ... and it is insofar as we too receive that form that we can understand the world.'61 Both creation and creature have a vocation within the purview of this dynamic.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment