Some Notes on Aristotle,
Σωκράτους δὲ περὶ μὲν τὰ ἠθικὰ πραγματευομένου περὶ δὲ τῆς ὅλης
φύσεως οὐθέν, ἐν μέντοι τούτοις τὸ καθόλου ζητοῦντος καὶ περὶ
ὁρισμῶν ἐπιστήσαντος πρώτου τὴν διάνοιαν, ἐκεῖνον ἀποδεξάμενος διὰ
τὸ τοιοῦτον ὑπέλαβεν ὡς περὶ ἑτέρων τοῦτο γιγνόμενον καὶ οὐ τῶν
αἰσθητῶν: ἀδύνατον γὰρ εἶναι τὸν κοινὸν ὅρον τῶν αἰσθητῶν τινός, ἀεί
γε μεταβαλλόντων. οὗτος οὖν τὰ μὲν τοιαῦτα τῶν ὄντων ἰδέας
προσηγόρευσε, τὰ δ᾽ αἰσθητὰ παρὰ ταῦτα καὶ κατὰ ταῦτα λέγεσθαι
πάντα: κατὰ μέθεξιν γὰρ εἶναι τὰ πολλὰ ὁμώνυμα τοῖς εἴδεσιν.
Now, when Socrates occupied himself with ethics, giving no heed to
Physis while seeking for what was universal therein and being the
first to consider definitions, he [Plato] not only supported that
approach but also favoured other existents rather than that
consideration of percipient things, since [for him] it is not
possible to have a standard for percipient things since they
undoubtedly are liable to change.
These other existents he termed Forms, saying that each and every
perceptible thing - being related to them - was so described because
of them. For the generality, similarly named, have their being by
participating in those Ideals.
physis. φύσις. The usual translation here is 'Nature' as if
'the natural world' - and the physical cosmos beyond - are meant.
According to my understanding of Aristotle, that is wrong. For,
given that in Book 5, 1014b-1015a [φύσις λέγεται ἕνα μὲν τρόπον ἡ
τῶν φυομένων γένεσις οἷον εἴ τις ἐπεκτείνας λέγοι τὸ υ ἕνα δὲ ἐξ οὗ
φύεται πρώτου τὸ φυόμενον ἐνυπάρχοντος...] Aristotle describes in
some detail the various meanings of physis, it is logical to assume
that he is here probably using the term ontologically as described
there. Hence a transliteration is preferable.
Thus, my understanding is that Aristotle is here critical of
Socrates and Plato because - in their pursuit of abstractive
definitions - they neglected physis: that is, neglected being and
the potentiality of being to 'change' as in and for example (a) the
motion (of 'things') and (b) the 'natural unfolding' or growth that
living beings demonstrate.
percipient (things). αἰσθητός. Usually translated 'sensible'
(things/entities), but qv. Book Three, 999b [εἰ μὲν οὖν μηδέν ἐστι
παρὰ τὰ καθ᾽ ἕκαστα οὐθὲν ἂν εἴη νοητὸν ἀλλὰ πάντα αἰσθητὰ καὶ exist
ἐπιστήμη οὐδενός εἰ μή τις εἶναι λέγει τὴν αἴσθησιν ἐπιστήμην] where
it is clear that Aristotle means percipient/perceiveration. [qv.
also Book One, 980a - πάντες ἄνθρωποι τοῦ εἰδέναι ὀρέγονται φύσει
σημεῖον δ᾽ ἡ τῶν αἰσθήσεων ἀγάπησις.]
The distinction - between percipient (a person who perceives) and
sensible (perceptible by the senses) - may be subtle, but in my view
is important for one relates to a person while the other relates to
'types of being' perceived. Hence why Aristotle goes on to mention
the reason for Plato conjecturing his 'theory of forms' - because,
according to Plato, individual percipients have changing and
variable perceiverations of 'sensible things'.
undoubtedly liable to change. ἀεί γε μεταβαλλόντων. For
ἀεί as the more subtle 'liable to', 'subject to' (change) - rather
than the bland 'always' - qv. Heraclitus Fragment 1 and Herodotus
Book 2, 98.
Forms. ἰδέα. Since Plato often used ἰδέα and εἶδος
interchangeably, 'idea'/'ideals' is also a suitable translation
here, whence εἶδος as used by Aristotle would be 'form' rather than
for the generality, similarly named, have their being by
participating in those Ideals. κατὰ μέθεξιν γὰρ εἶναι τὰ πολλὰ
ὁμώνυμα τοῖς εἴδεσιν.
A rather obscure passage, which Aristotle goes on to explain is
because Plato himself was rather vague in respect of what he meant
by 'participation' (μέθεξις).