Aristotle on Contrariety as a Principle of First Philosophy

University dissertation from Uppsala : Filosofiska institutionen

Abstract: This dissertation aims to reconstruct Aristotle’s theory of contrariety as a principle of first philosophy. According to Aristotle, any genus has one contrary opposition. It is the task of any science to study whatever contraries there are within the generic domain with which the science in question is concerned. First philosophy is conceived as the science of being. It has for its generic domain the existing things universally, that which is, and it studies the existing with respect to being. It will thus be a task of first philosophy to study whatever contraries there are within the domain of the existing, with respect to being. According to Aristotle, the primary contraries of the existing are that which is and that which is not, being and non-being. Contraries are principles; they are starting points of explanations. Contraries are factors in explanations of why there are intermediates between contraries. For example, hot and cold will be used to explain why there are intermediate temperatures, temperatures consisting of some ratio of (absolute) hot to (absolute) cold. Likewise in the domain of existing things, the contraries of being and non-being are supposed to explain how there are things which neither (absolutely) exist nor (absolutely) exist not, but which come to be, change while being, and pass away; in a word: change. Any principle must inhere essentially in some nature; there are no principles in abstracta. So in which natures do the principles of being and non-being essentially inhere? – This is the lead questions of the present dissertation. In attempting to answer it, I first situate the study of contrariety within the framework of a science that studies being (chap. 1-3), then explore Aristotle’s theory on the nature of contrariety (chap. 4), before finally venturing to identify the primary contraries of being (chap. 5).

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