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Aristotle's Two Systems.

A central exegetical problem in Aristotelian studies is deciding how best to deal with apparent inconsistencies in his writings. Early this century, Werner Jaeger (Aristoteles: Grundlegung einer Geschichte seiner Entwicklung, 1923), challenging unitarian approaches of the previous century, argued that conflicting views could be reconciled by relegating them to different stages of Aristotle's philosophical career. Although scholars have questioned some of Jaeger's specific proposals, genetic explanations of inconsistencies are still widely adopted.

Daniel Graham offers a provocative thesis within this tradition. He thinks that at different times Aristotle held two distinct philosophical systems, each of which provides its own set of doctrines in ontology, logic, and philosophy of science. The two systems are incommensurable with each other. The first system ([S.sub.1]) includes the works in the Organon (and Rhetoric). The second ([S.sub.2]) includes the rest of the corpus. Graham characterizes [S.sub.1] as beginning with an atomistic perception of reality and building a conception of the world that is static and constructive; [S.sub.2] is dynamic and analytic in outlook, aiming to explain the constitution of concrete substances and their generation and development. Graham locates the shift from [S.sub.1] to [S.sub.2] in Aristotle's account of substantial generation in Physics 1. Because [S.sub.1] is committed to "substantial atomism," the idea that "primary substances are ontologically indivisible particulars" (p. 35), Aristotle cannot account for substantial generation within this system. By introducing hylomorphic analysis in Physics 1.7--the analysis of concrete substances into matter and form--he can answer Parmenides' objection to change. Aristotle agrees with Parmenides that something cannot emerge from nothing. When a new substance is generated, it emerges from something else, and part of the preexisting object (the matter) survives in the product, and part (the form) is replaced. Graham thinks that Aristotle's hylomorphism revolutionizes his philosophical theory. Comparing Aristotle's hylomorphic turn to a Kuhnian paradigm switch, Graham contends that this single move alters Aristotle's entire world-view, demanding revisions in his logic and philosophy of science, as well as in his ontology.

Graham believes that Mataphysics 7 confirms his thesis. Aristotle was unaware that [S.sub.1] was incommensurable with [S.sub.2], and this text, which scholars have long struggled to understand, is testimony of Aristotle's confusion. Metaphysics 7 is logically incoherent, because the principles of the earlier system contaminate the later, resulting in inconsistencies.

If Graham is right, his thesis renders pointless not only further probing of Metaphysics 7, but current research in other vital areas as well, such as the application of Aristotle's philosophy of science in the Analytics to his biological investigations. This research is futile because Aristotle cannot consistently apply the methods of science from [S.sub.1] to his scientific enterprise in [S.sub.2]. Yet the exciting advances in this area indicate, pace Graham, that the Analytics and biology are consistent (see, for example, Philosophical Issues in Aristotle's Biology, ed. Allan Gotthelf and James G. Lennox, 1987). This research calls Graham's thesis into serious question.

Graham's project is well carried out, but it does not live up to the ambitious project it sets for itself. The argument for two incommensurable systems rests on an equivocation. The central principle of [S.sub.1] is substantial atomism, the principle that primary substances are indivisible particulars. This principle conflicts with hylomorphism, the central principle of [S.sub.2]. Graham contends that [S.sub.1] cannot be enriched by adding hylomorphism, because the system would then include an inconsistent set of propositions (p.91). But is [S.sub.1] committed to substantial atomism? If so, Graham has failed to show us. He points out that the Categories specifies primary substance--the individual man or individual horse--as [unkeyable] (indivisible) and one in number. In addition, he correctly says that individuals are indivisible because they cannot be divided into a plurality of instances, as species are divided into individuals or genera into species and individuals (p. 25). In Aristotle's terminology, the individuals are not "said of" anything further. (According to Michael Frede--whose paper, "Individuen bei Aristoteles," Antike und Abendland 24 [1978], Graham cites--individuals in the Categories are indivisible in the sense that they have no subjective parts, that is, nothing is a subject for them as they are for their species). This meaning of "indivisible," however, is not the one Graham then invokes in his statement of substantial atomism (p.35). The indivisibility required is one that says individuals cannot be analyzed into metaphysical components. Graham provides no evidence that Aristotle rejects such divisibility in the Organon. To be sure, no such analysis occurs in these treatises, but [S.sub.1] need not be saddled with a principle antithetical to it. Without this principle Graham has no argument (pp. 90-3) that [S.sub.1] and [S.sub.2] are incompatible systems. [S.sub.2] may simply be an extension of [S.sub.1].

Graham's proposal should be rejected. Even so, the book has considerable merit and deserves to be read. The thesis, though mistaken, is an interesting one, and his arguments for it are learned and well articulated. While the interpretations of individual texts are not particularly novel, the juxtaposition of those interpretations, which generate contradictions, is illuminating. By highlighting inconsistencies rather than minimizing them, Graham invites scholars to reexamine the set of beliefs they attribute to Aristotle. Such reassessment could prove highly constructive.
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Author:Gill, Mary Louise
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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