Translated with introduction and notes by A.E. Taylor

A Criticism of Plato← TOC→Appendix A:Universal Axioms and Experience



It is clear, then, even from the preceding review, that all philosophers seem to be investigating the forms of cause enumerated in our discourses on Physics, and that we can specify no further form of cause beside these. But their treatment of them was obscure, and though in one sense all the causes had been previously recognized, in another sense this had not been done at all. For at first, and in its beginnings, owing to its youth, the earliest philosophy resembled in its utterances on all topics the lisping speech of an infant. Thus even Empedocles says that the existence of bone depends on a ratio,165  but this ratio is, in fact, the essential nature or essence166 of the object. But it follows with equal necessity that there must also be a ratio for flesh, and every other individual thing, or for none at all. This, then, and not the matter, of which Empedocles speaks, viz., fire, and earth and water and air, will be the true ground of the existence of flesh and bone and everything else. If another had explained this he would have had no alternative but to admit it, but he did not express it clearly himself. These and similar points, then, have been explained above, but we may now return to the consideration of the difficulties which might be raised about these same topics. Perhaps a study of them may pave the way for an answer to our subsequent difficulties.

Taylor's Notes

(Taylor's footnotes have been converted to endnotes)


[165]. λόγος. The reference is to Empedocles, 199ff, where bone is said to consist of fixed proportions of the elementary bodies. The point is, simply, that Empedocles is recognizing that what a thing is depends primarily on its form or formal cause, or, as we should say, the law of its composition, and not merely on the nature of the stuff of which it is made.

[166]. τὸ τί ἦν εἶναι καὶ ἡ οὐσία

Created for Peithô's Web from Aristotle on his predecessors; being the first book of his Metaphysics; tr. from the text edition of W. Christ, with introd. and notes by A. E. Taylor. Chicago, Open Court, 1907.Taylor's footnotes have been converted to endnotes. Greek unicode text entered with Peithô's Younicoder.
Split-column page design by Larry Clark, with inspiration from Ethan Clark.