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Aristotle and Existence Author(s): R. M. Dancy Source: Synthese, Vol. 54, No. 3, Philosophy of Language, Part II (Mar., 1983), pp. 409-442 Published by: Springer Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20115847 Accessed: 10-10-2015 18:32 UTC

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R.

M.

DANCY

ARISTOTLE

AND

EXISTENCE

Aristotle

tells

us

more

than

once

whatever

that means.

I had

better

little

in

course

(1960),

meaning"

denied

In

a

the

of

told

present

considering

paper

what

us

that, while

us t h a t , w h i l e

in

all

In his

its

to

this.

footnote

distinction

as

if

it

something'

Owen

enough

readings.

mind,

work2

around.

But

in

between

is

to

and

deny

"just

says,

of

to

that

that

say

'to be'

us

straight

what

mean,

held

is

off

said

that

in many

I can

ways,

very

in

the

ago

find

But

time

"a

those

to deny

tells

that means.

Owen,

that

was

it might

people

a

long

'being'

has

one

or

of

other

is not

some

single

who

"1

applications, to be was

view,

this

sentence,

and

elvct? ti

just

that:

'to be'."

course,

my

a great

"Aristotle

to be

Jie

elvai

the

added

something

"This

But

the

onrXus"

it certainly

translate

as

quoted,

first

few

have

But

has

sounds

'to be

but

not

dozen

had

in

recent

not

got

Greek

phrases

than

least

deal more

on

at

I have

the

remove

puzzlement

Eventually,

wrote

shown

I am

my

that

here

I came

initial

to think

puzzlement

I saw what

off

if

what

not

it had

to

no

means

all)

with

being.3

he might

stupidity.

Owen's,

at.

of

So

about

am

The

does

and

has

So

the message,

going

to

turned

some

out

think

been

I arrived to be Owen's:

state

out

(by

ways

then,

disagreement

the message

born

will

In any

be

event,

one

I found

his

what

myself

subsequent

with

on Aristotle's

pronouncements

an

follows

failed

is

interpretation

Owen,

of

that

it seems

misunderstanding.

that

of

it

to me

the

is

not

right

theory

only

outright

the

No

Owen

doubt

I

some,

to

it

if

including

understand.

Still,

Aristotle

will

we

theory

is not

I

us

Aristotle.

I

going

idea

outright

that

it that

it

he

this

to

is

it must

is not

admitted

hand

that

state

held

situation

the

from

he

help

suppose is underdetermined

anywhere

some

this

by

states.

he

to understand

that

he

to

by

held

readers

stating

things

the

theory.

the

So

evidence.

claim

think

fitting

about

I take

as

I

and

theory

unfamiliar

shall

begin

of Aristotle.

the

theory,

mistakes,

emerged it into Aristotle's

the Greek

of

word

that word

Aristotle's

essentialism.

The

'eivaC

reflections

This

is,

on Plato's

occupies

in the

first

on

section

instance,

1 below.

a

theory

whose

bearing

the English

translation,

'to be',

Synthese 54 (1983) 409-442.

Copyright

?

1983

by D.

Reidel

0039-7857/83/0543-0409

Publishing

Co.,

Dordrecht,

$03.40

Holland,

and

Boston,

U.S.A.

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410

R.

M.

DANCY

not

something

is

obvious.

to

But

us

I

think

about

Being

that,

Anglo-Saxon

(or

mutatis

even

after

mutandis,

and,

but

I

the

it

to

it does

ultimately,

do

not

theory,

bear

on

are

still with

and

us.

begins

providing

as

I can.

twitting

this

one

have

per

want

I

English.

try

to

to

I also

at

in (but

relevant

to

inter

10,

tell

being,

Sein:

haps,

commit

something

sacrilege).

things

the

I hope

to

a bit

this

not

point

be

At

and

On

about

Accordingly,

that

need

stating

to bring

that

benefits,

with

Owen

beyond

enemies

after

mutate

Here

mutation

irritate

about

that my

pursuing

any

rate,

is

on,

any Heideggerians

the

theory's

fringe

disagreement

this

I make

a

bit

to

of

a

some

I

7,

complain

about

I

footnotes).

it is probably

to

set

shall

disagreement

as many

Lastly,

gerians

help

pretatione

and

us.

one

'dictionary'.

subject

outline,

best.

although

so

this

it

I turn

occasion

famously

letdown

texts

with

brevity

the Heideg

theory

is

with

only

which

two:4

consider

conflicts

the

texts,

But

in De

11 that

a passage

on

in Categories

cursory

yield

that

in Metaphysics

Even

ultimately

and

A

these

allow.

chapter

I shall

'being'

least

this,

in Aristotle's

than

clarity

the

of

is perhaps

with

will

in a preliminary

be more

may

such

at

as

statement

1. WHAT

IT

IS

TO

BE

IN

GREEK

The

not

First-year

Greek

possess

that

separate

Plato

and

words,

Aristotle

as English

tell

depending

the

wrote

does,

student

and

for

that

probably

'to exist'

the

single

itmeans

spoke

and

word

does

'to be'.5

eanv

'exist'

or

rule',

tell of

its

Greek

accented

textbooks6

differently

orthographic

in ancient

ruled

is

just

to be

no

on whether

known

or

as

in what

'is', but

has

pronunciation

this

convention,

of Greek

'Hermann's

we

can

foundation

in the writing

to

times,

may

Greek

'to stand

have

word

out

its Latin

its Latin

and

no

foundation

before

e^iaraa^ai,

which,

in

from',

or

just

'to stand

and

into

to mean

French

'exist',

at

1801, when

sense

Hermann

it.7 The

from',

through

as

the

out', is destined thence to appear in English

'to be

separated

travel

cognate

used

'to exist',

is not

least,

not

in the

time

of

Plato

and Aristotle.

So,

for Plato

represented

by

and Aristotle,

a

sentence

(1)

Socrates

is.8

Now,

in fact,

the

sentence

the

shaped

claim

like

'Socrates

'Socrates

that

this

Socrates

one:

has

exists

exists'

a peculiar

would

ring

to

it.

be

It

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ARISTOTLE

AND

EXISTENCE

411

helps

existed,

portantly,

proper

enterprise.

resistance;

of

peculiar

attend

here

to

change

all."

tenses

the

and

extra

subjects:

words,

the

to

about

an

give

easier

will

to

involve

in

its more

exists'.

"So

Pr?ster

tense,

the

use

air

of

John

and,

of

realism

and

we

shall

really

after

one's

name

realism

English

to

the

Here

most

the

im

quasi

to

the

wind

some

rather

shall

stick

background

'Pr?ster

John'

for

starters,

the

theory

(1),

lacking

in

equivalent,

relevance

of

knowledge

help

it

is

itself

But

anyway,

ignore

us

normal

friction

but

So

in restoring

still

the

or

'Socrates

background

In particular,

I

knowledge.

with

(1).

In

subtlety.

this

and

It

subsequent

has

frequently

formulations

been

said

I am

that

prefix',

claims,

claim.

"So

"there

is

'x exists',

On

the

Pr?ster

(such

for

a NP

as)

of

take

a variety

hand,

really

I

existed,

other

John

x,"

reasons.91

is not

it that,

after

all"

on

deliberately

the

used

do

English

to make

not want

ignoring

one

'existential

existential

to deny

this

occasion,

the

sentences

and

"So

there

really

was

such

a person

 

as Pr?ster

John,

after

all"

are

interchangeable.

 

And

that

admittedly

floppy

equivalence

 

is enough

 

for

present

purposes:

our

focus

is not,

ultimately,

 

on

the English

verb

'exists'

anyway.

 

So

a

sentence

like

(1)

translates

the English

 

'Socrates

exists',

and

the Greek

word

in

it

that

corresponds

 

to

the word

'is'

is

the

same

word

that

appears

in the Greek

 

for

these:

 

(2)

(3)

Consider

Socrates

is pale.

 

Socrates

is

[a] man

[i.e.,

a human

being].

 
 

first

Plato's

response

 

to

this

situation;

Aristotle's

grows

out

of

it.

At

the

end

of

Republic

 

v,

Plato

tells

us

that,

whereas

 

the

form

named

'the

beautiful'

 

entirely

 

(iravrek?s,

 

477a3)

and

purely

(elkiKpivcoc,

468d6,

479d5)

is, ordinary

beautiful

things

both

are

and

are

not.

 

It

is

tempting

 

to

lend

a

semblance

of

naturalness

to

this

contrast

by

replacing

'is',

etc.,

with

'exists',

etc.

The

temptation

should

 

be

resisted,

at

least

at first,

 

not

because,

as

some10

think,

no

rational

man

 

(much

less

Plato)

would

ever

espouse

the

absurdity

of

degrees

 

of

existence

-

this

seems

to me

to

condemn

too

many

philosophers

 

too

quickly

to

the

asylums

-

but

because

that

replace

ment

severs

the

contrast

from

the

argument

for

it.What

condemns

the

region between what purely

fair Helen11

to being

tumbled

about

is and what

(Kvkiv?e?Tca,

is not

purely

479d4)12

is

the

fact

in the

that,

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412

R.

M.

DANCY

although

with

with

life,

Helen

extent

here

from

conclusion

That,

both

beautiful,

adulterated

beautiful,

We

the views

that, where

she

is beautiful

and R.

by

comparison

she

with

is not

an

a pot

beautiful

(cf. Hi.

by

Ma.

289a,

comparison

comparison

period

of

from

this

his

that

he

to

some

indeed,

goes

to

on

the

Helen

it

is

is

not

one

of

saying

the

Phd.

the

Plato

74a-c

goddess

had

v

479ab),

he

the

is

then,

and

but

is

by

and

could

-

we

is

Aphrodite.

Throughout

the

unfortunate

habit

and

is not

of

beautiful.13

but

not

gusto

Helen

is and

before

and

both

a

writing

further

and

is

is not.

between

Helen

and

much

the

as

beautiful,

she

both

is

of

it not

underlying

nonbeing,

beautiful.14

these

it sound

important

concluding

He

both

to kick

is beautiful

this

habit,

managed

for

the Republic:

twist,

indulges

in

conclusion

c o n c l u s i o n

that Helen

that Helen

it with

that

both

the

not,

the

any

contrast

in

form,

admixture

as

in no way

is

the

put

in terms

view

that make

have

a

true

is not

the

beautiful

beautiful:

is beautiful

and

un

it is simply

purely, in as much

that

as

is,

moves

-

or

rather,

philosophical

is P',

Plato

by

more

'S

predication

is regarding

predicate

have

prefer

possible

unsatisfactory

to

'P'

'S

put

as

is not

giving

a mode

P

purposes.

of

being

of

the

S

subject

lacks

S;

being.

even

put

see,

as

that

he

it

that

it

says

is,

but

So

being,

just what

the

and,

where

I should

it

is

we

P',

it differently,

is a mode

and

I

himself

in which

shall;

came

but

to

clearly,

to

this way

is

in the

an

there

and

happens

difficulty

each

see,

as Plato

for his

of

the

[of

in which

things]

Helen

in

this

to

that

this

for

thoroughly

Sophist,

indefinite

lots

contrast

to

are

the

I

of

the

am

And

of

the

is

of

For

"for

plurality

forms,

that

the

form,

And

dialogues

of which

there it is not"

is much

(Sph.

256e5-6).15

lacks

is

Sophist:16

became

the

as

false

follows.

modes

with

the beautiful,

that,

such

if we

indeed,

the

as

the Academy

theory.

abandon

formulation,

evaporates.

late

is one

contrast

pointing

is

acutely

depth

Plato

aware.

of modes

is,

in

it

leads

to Aristotle's

seen

austere

the

But

being

is better

a more

allowing

S

is P

Republic,

(E)

along

with

(NCE)

And

the

what

idea

inference:

is,

counterpart:

S

and

is not.

its negative

in each

-? S

its negative

S

is not P ^

makes

that

the

(E)

counterpart

case

is merely

plausible

to him

consequent

a

simplification

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ARISTOTLE

AND

EXISTENCE

413

the

antecedent,

just

as

in

(P)

For

Socrates

this

sort

must

this

of

is

a

pale

man-?

Socrates

to work,

the

significance

must

where

as,

be

is pale.17

residue

it had

just what

there

in

is

a

is

perhaps,

-?

Socrates

Socrates

should

not,

simplification

same

after

before:

is

gross

lousy,

the

its

sim

con

plification

but

sense

(L)

there

(G)

the

tribution to the unsimplified

to meet

the

have

original

left.

left. Failure

Failure

change

'good'

in

has

Geach

requirement

of

one

or

Socrates

are

subtler

Socrates

is obvious

word,

another

is

a

lousy

provider

Consider

cobbler-?

think,

failures.

is

a

and,

good

I

antecedent

is good.

say

that

'Good'

Here

we

need

not,

changed

sense

from

to consequent.

is what

once18

to

although

noun

called

supplied

an

'attributive'

will

adjective:

the

a noun

question

context

or

it may

noun

'a good

be

phrase

what?'

clear

be

that

answer

in

be

a

specific

supplied

conversational

is

'cobbler'

to

("The

cobblers

in Athens

needs

And,

that

are

the

all

terrible."?"No,

Socrates

is

good."),

we

are

talking

about

justified

patterns

so

to

'Socrates

no

longer

of

inference,

and

that means

we

carry

away

with

us.

But

once

is good',

the noun

we

should

supply

 

'cobbler',

but,

presumably,

'man'.

speak,

need

a

conclusion

have

we

can,

away

is

we

to complete

carried

the

sense

All

this

applies

to

(E)

(and

to

its

antecedent

must

be

the

same

particular,

there

can

be

no

shift

 

'is'

to an

alleged

existential

sense

of

the

next

section,

there

are

no

such

But

also

there

must

not

be

any

of

beset

(G). And

here,

as we

shall

going

to abandon

(E),

as

did

Plato,

do with

shifting

from

a predicative

Aristotle's

case,

it

is not

so much

restricting

its

range

of

operation

 

consequent

in

the

allowable

cases

(NCE)).

At

the

'is'

from

as

an

that

alleged

'is'. Since,

senses

of

as

the more

see,

but

to

trouble

in neither

an

existential

a matter

while

of

is

cedent,

But

degrees

and

still,

of

so

contains

the

same

company

them

'is'.

I must

existence

part

leads

with

to read

very

in

its

least,

the

'is'

in

In

of

in

consequent.

predicative

I shall

be

is not

problems

arise.

case

abandoning

the

sense

arguing

'is', this

subtle

may

a problem.

such

as

Aristotle

it have

idea

of

of

(E)

'is'.

as

that

the

distaste

I have

is

to

In

of

the

ante

for

said,

does

sense

preserv