Translated with introduction and notes by A.E. Taylor

TOC→Life of Aristotle


The present little work makes no ambitious pretence to originality of any kind. Its object is simply to supply students and teachers of philosophy, especially on the American continent, with a faithful rendering of Aristotle's critical sketch of the history of Greek speculative thought down to his own time. Having experienced the need of such a work in connection with my own lectures at McGill University, I have thought that others of my colleagues may also be glad that the want should be, in however imperfect a manner, remedied. This cannot, I think, be done by the reissue of any translation, however meritorious in itself, dating from a period in which our knowledge both of the text of Aristotle and of the early history of Greek thought was more imperfect than is at present the case. Accordingly, I submit to the judgment of my colleagues the accompanying new version, originally made for the purposes of my own lectures, trusting that they also may find it of some service. The translation has been based upon W. Christ's text of the Metaphysics, published in the Teubner series (and edition, Leipzig, 1903), and in the very few cases in which I have found it necessary to depart from that text in favor of readings of other critics the fact has been carefully recorded in a foot note. I have also, except where the contrary is specified, followed the guidance of Christ in the indication of glosses, which are marked in my translation, as in his text, by square brackets.

The brief notes which I have appended to the translation do not in the least aim at providing anything like an editorial commentary. In general, their object is merely to supply either exact information as to the Greek terms represented by certain words in the translation, or to give references which appear indispensable to the comprehension of the author's meaning. Here and there in the pages which deal with the Platonic theory of Ideas I have, indeed, allowed myself to transgress these self-imposed limitations, and can only plead in excuse the abstract character of the topics treated of and the unfamiliar form of their presentation.

With regard to the style of the translation, I would only say that, while I have tried to reproduce as nearly as I can the effect upon my own mind of Aristotle's characteristic manner of exposition, and in particular to find some single stock translation for each technical expression of the Peripatetic system which occurs in our book, I have found it quite impossible to produce, in the rigid sense, a "word-for word" rendering. I have constantly been obliged, from the exigencies of readable English prose, to vary the English equivalents employed for certain Greek phrases and words of ambiguous signification. I may note in particular that I have preferred "entity," which, in general, in my version represents the Greek φύσις in its widest sense of "determinate object of discourse," also to the more customary "substance" as a translation of οὐσία in passages where the term appears to be used broadly as an equivalent for φύσις in the sense above explained, without reference to its more special significance in Aristotle's own philosophy, viz., that which is a subject of predicates, but not itself a predicate of any further subject. "Entities" I have also employed occasionally, as the most non-committal term I can find, to translate the substantive use of the Greek neuter adjective with the definite article. αἴτιον and αἰτία, again, which I commonly render by "cause," I have had once or twice for reasons of language to translate "reason" or "reason why." I have, however, striven to reduce the possibility of misunderstanding by giving, wherever it seemed necessary, the precise Greek original of any ambiguous term in the foot notes. I ought also to remark that I have, wherever possible, replaced the Greek prefix αὐτο when used with reference to the Platonic Ideas, by the adjective "Ideal." Readers accustomed to the terminology of modern exact Logic will perhaps object to my employment of "exists," "existence" as synonyms with "is," "Being," as renderings of ἐστί, εἶναι etc. This has, however, been done deliberately on the ground that the absence of distinction between existential and non existential propositions is a fundamental characteristic of Aristotelian thought.

The works upon which I have most constantly depended in preparing the translation are naturally three: (1) The Greek commentary of Alexander of Aphrodisias on the Metaphysics (latest edition by Hayduck in the collection of Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca, published by the Berlin Academy). (2) Bonitz's edition of the text of the Metaphysics with Latin Commentary (Bonn, 1848). (3) Bonitz's posthumously published German translation of the Metaphysics (Berlin, 1890). To the last, in particular, I am frequently indebted for the first suggestion of appropriate renderings.

It only remains to express my obligation to Dr. Paul Carus for his ready response to my suggestion that this volume should be included in the Philosophical Classics of the Religion of Science Library.

MONTREAL, May, 1906.

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.