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Thursday, 6 June 2013

Aristotle and intensionality

I've been a bit taken by the wonders of Book Zeta while teaching about substance and gignomenon. Substances are generated out of other substances by phusis, or techné or by tautomaton. Tautomaton, to automaton, is of couse very interesting as a word. It relates to spontaneity, to chance and to the automatic. I thought of an ontology of the automaton - related to suneches and symbebekos. There is a dimension of the up for grabs that is automaton: spontaneously generated as opposed to being produced by something else. The automaton is not ruled from the outside, it is ungoverned, it is unchained. The automaton is causa sui in this sense: it is in the open. This, I believe, will grab more of my attention in this blog soon, I believe.

The main thrust of Zeta is, I take, his account of how forms are in rebus. A substance can be seen as a combination of matter and form (sinolos) and as a form. Well, Plato's account has that forms (or universals) are outside, they are extensional items. Aristotle's alternative amounts to an intensional ontology: things can be seen qua objects or qua forms. A property is not outside while participating in the object but rather in the object as an aspect of it: not only we can see the property (or the form) in the object but the property is there under some aspect. The first casualty is the principle of the indiscernibility of identicals. The same table is material and not material - material qua object and not material qua form. The trick is to turn Plato's duplication of the world into a duplication of the object - an intensional duplication. It is as if the objects has a mode of presentation in which it is a form. The property of being a table can be detected in the object, not because it relates to another thing (i.e. the Idea) but rather because the property is there, albeit not isolated from matter in all its aspects. His example (around 1035a) is that flesh is not a part (meros) of the concave, but it is part of the nose. Objects are indiscernible if their aspect is the same. There are parts of a thing under some aspects but not under some other aspects. It seems as if the difference between ante re and in rebus amounts to a difference between an extensional and an intensional realism about universals. Universals are separated from the sinolos (from the object) but only to the extent where they are in the object (as an aspect).

1 comment:

  1. Dynamos and Energeia are aspects in the sense that what is predicated of the substance is predicated either to it in act or in potentiality. Aristotle closes book H talking about the unity of substance in form and matter - only an efficient cause is needed to explain the connection of something in potentiality and something in act because act and potentiality are there in the substance, but in different aspects. What is there in the substance qua act is not in the substance qua potentiality.

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