Aristotle’s Metaphysics (Summary)

The central question of the Metaphysics is “what is substance?”. The categories gave the short answer, ‘individual things like Socrates and this ox there’.

Summary of Metaphysics by Aristotle

Plato, in his theory of formsseparates the sensible world (appearances) of the intelligible world (ideas) and the intelligible world was the only reality, the foundation of all truth. But in Aristotle’s Metaphysics, at the heart of his philosophy, such separation removes any intelligibility and meaning to the world. According to him, the intelligibility is present in every being and in every thing. The world consists of substances. The substance can be either matter or form, or a compound of both. The shape is that, in every being, is general, so intelligible. For example, the shape of a dog is what is common to all dogs. The matter is what is special, so unknowable.

There would be a hierarchy of beings, matter informally unknowable to the pure form perfectly intelligible (God). This hierarchy justifies what Aristotle calls slavery by nature.

In this hierarchy of beings correspond a hierarchy of worlds. The sublunary world, with the center the earth, would be the changing world of the compounds of matter and form, the world would the world supralunar almost immobile beings almost immaterial, with, at its periphery, God as pure form.

Aristotle defines “first philosophy” (the first of the sciences) as the science of being qua being. Being can be said in different classes of predicates: the substance (Socrates is a man), quality (Socrates is ugly), location (Socrates in the agora), etc.. In short, as all categories of which list we are never given. These are the categories to be addressed by the universal science, the science of forms, which will be called “metaphysical” by the editor of Aristotle.

Aristotle collects a list of ten basic categories: substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, position, possession, action, and passion.

Metaphysics: Book by Book analysis

Book I (A, Alpha, 980a-993a) First Causes and Principles

(1) Knowledge of sensation is to science. Wisdom (sophia) is the science of first causes and principles. (2) Wisdom is the universal science, first principles and its end is the Supreme Good. It is born of wonder and has no end other than itself. God has such wisdom.

Dialectic of earlier philosophers (3) Science of the primary causes can be divided into four like in Physics II, 3: 1. Substance (ousia) or quiddity (to ti en einai), 2. Material (Hule) or substrate (hupokeimenon) 3. Guiding principle 4. The purpose (telos). The pre-Socratic cosmologies physical causes sought in the matter. (4) First principles of Empedocles and Democritus as materialistic. (5) Pythagorean and Eleatic. (6) Plato knew only the formal cause of ideas and the material cause. (7) must be added the moving cause and final cause. The One with the Platonists and the Good are “causes” of Ideas. (8) Criticism of Presocratics. (9) Critique of the Theory of Ideas of Plato (“we, the Platonists”), the Third Man Argument. (10) The Four Causes seem to be complete.


Book II (α, “small alpha ‘, 993a-995a) Principles of Physics

(1) Philosophy is theoretical science of truth. (2) It is impossible that there is an infinity of causes and species. There must be a first principle of the generation that can not itself be destroyed. (3) Science can not all have the same rigor and Physics has no method of mathematics.

Book III (B, Beta, 995a-1003) The 14 Aporias

(1) 14 List of paradoxes (and answers). (2) first. Is there a single science of causes or more? (Γ, 1) second. Is science the principles of the demonstration? (Γ, 3) third. Is there a single science of all substances? (Γ, 2) fourth. Y is he non-sensitive substances? (Λ, 6-10) fifth. Is the science of accidents? (Γ, 2). (3) sixth. The principles of beings are they kind? (Z, 10) seventh. Are they kind or cash? (Z, 12). (4) 8th. Is there a separate form of the compound individual? (Z, 8; Λ, 6-10, M, 10) ninth. What is the unity and identity of the formal principles? (Z, 14; Λ, 4-5) 10th. The principles of corruptible beings are they the same as incorruptible beings? (Z, 7-10; Λ, 1-7) 11th. Being and the One they are the substance of things or do they depend on a substrate? (Z, 16, I, 2, M, 8) (6) 12th. The principles are of universal or individual? (L 13-15) 13th. The principles are in power or act? (Θ, 1-9) (5) 14th. Mathematical objects (numbers and figures) are they substances? (M-N).

Book IV (Γ, Gamma, 1003a-1012b) Being as being logical and Principles

(1) Science sought studied being as being (to on he (i)). (2) The being is said in several senses, but is not a mere homonym as defined relatively to a unit (pros hen). There is a primary philosophy of being and of the One, a single science of contraries.

Principle of contradiction (3) Philosophy must also consider the axioms and principles of demonstration. (4) The principle of contradiction can not be proved but it is possible to refute its negation. (5-6) Similarly, it is possible to refute the relativism of Protagoras. (7) proof of principle of the excluded middle. (8) Critique that everything is wrong or that everything is true.

Book V (Δ, Delta, 1012b-1025a) The Book of the different meanings

(1) Principle (arkhe). (2) Cause (aition). (3) element (stoikheïon). (4) Nature (physis). (5) Required (anagkaïon). (6) One (hen). (7) Being (being, to be) expressed in several senses. (8). Substance (ousia) (9). Even (tauto) Other (heteron) Different (diaphoron), similar (homoion) (10). Opposed (antikeimena), unlike (Enantia), specific otherness (Hetera tô eidei). (11). Anterior and posterior (proteron kai husteron). (12) Power (dynamis). (13) Quantity (Poson). (14) Quality (poion) (15) the Relative (pros ti) (16) Perfect (téléion) (17) limit (peras) (18) That by which (katho) (19) Disposition (diathesis). (20) way of being (hexis). (21) affection (pathos). (22) Deprivation (stérèsis). (23) Equity (ekhein). (24) from (ek tinos einai). (25) Party (bers) (26) Totality (holon) (27) Fragmented (kolobon) (28) Gender (genos) (29) False (pseudo) (30) Accident (sumbébèkos).

Book VI (E, Epsilon, 1025b, 1028a) Being, accident and  truth.

(1) Added to the Mathematics and Physics is a theoretical science Theology (philosophia theologikè), which examines the leading causes eternal. (2) The being is said to be as true or as categories (substance or meaning of accidents), or potential or actual. There is no science of accidents. (3) The accident quota, otherwise everything would be necessary.


Book VII (Z, Zeta, 1028a, 1041b) The Substance

(1) A being is said in the original sense as substance (ousia). (2) What is substance among sensitive individuals, elements, figures and ideas of the Platonists?

(3) The substance is either one. Quiddity (Z, 4-6, 10-12). 2. The universal (Z 13-14). 3. Gender. 4. The subject (or substrate, hupokeimenon). The subject is either matter or form, or the individual compound (sunolon). We must start sensitive substances.

(4) The quiddity (to ti en einai) is that each person is at home (kath’auto). Accidents and accidental attributes are out of the quiddity. Substances and accidents are beings and the substances have namesakes in the original sense of the definitions as the quiddity. (5) We can also define the nature of a substance composed of an accident. (6) Every person is identical to its quiddity.

(7) There are different kinds of generation: Generation by nature, by art and by chance. (8) The matter and form are not generated, there is that generation of the compound. (9) Similarly for changes according to categories other than substance, according to the quantity, quality …

(10) The parts of the form are parts of the definition. (11) The parts of the shape and parts of the compound. (12) Despite these parts of the definition, the unit has to be defined (An. Post. II, 3-10).

(13) The universal (“Animal”) is not a substance. (14) Idea (the animal itself) is not a substance.

(15) The individual and the idea is not definable. (16) The parties sensitive substances are not substances. The A and be are not substances. (17) The substance is the principle and reason: it is the quiddity of the logical point of view, which can be taken as formal causes, or final drive, but also the shape.

Book VIII (H, ETA, 1042a-1045A) Matter

(1) The matter also is substance. (2) The generation of the compound. (3) The definition and number in sensible things. (4) The four causes in substances and in an event (eclipse). (5) The substrate material is to the contrary. (6) There is a unity of the definition (Z, 12), despite the difference between form and matter, act and potency.

Book IX (Θ, Theta, 1045A-1052A) Being as power and Entelechy, being as true

(1) The power active and passive. (2) power with reason and without reason. (3) Critique of Megarics that reduce the power to act. (4) The possible and the impossible. (5) The power requires an act. (6) The act, examples of differences (infinity). (7) The transition of power to the entelechy. (8) The act is prior to potentiality. (9) Although the power and act.

(10) Being as truth (cf. E, 4).

Book X (I, Iota, 1052a-1059a) The One and the Many

(1) A is said in several senses: 1. the continuous, 2. All, 3. The digital unit, 4. The specific unit (Universal) (2) The One is a universal and not a substance, as being. (3) and A Multiple, Same and other. (4) An annoyance. (5) Equal. (6) The multiple. (7) The intermediaries in the conflict. (8) The specific otherness. (9) The specific difference. (10) The corruptible and incorruptible differ in kind.

Book XI (K, Kappa, 1059a-1069a) Summary of the being and becoming

Summary of B, Γ, E: (1-2) The aporia (B). (3-6) Unit of the science of being and logical principles (Γ). (7-8) theology and the science of being, being by accident and being as true (E).

Summary of Physics: (9) The movement (Phys. III, 1-3). (10) Infinity (Phys. III, 4-7). (11-12) change (Phys. V, 1).

Book XII (Λ, Lambda, 1059a-1076a) separated substances and the Prime Mover

(1) There are three kinds of substances: 1. Sensitive substances corruptible, 2. Mobile eternal substances, 3. The substance still. Physics studies the first two. (2) Substance means matter, form and privation. (3) The material and shape are not generated. Y is there separate forms? (4) There must be a moving cause of all beings. (5) The act and the power applied to all beings.

(6) There is a first unmoved mover. (7) God is as Good as the final cause of all things.

(8) There are many Intelligences of several spheres. (9) The Divine Intellect is Thought of Thought. (10) The Supreme Good is separated and order at all.

Book XIII (M, Mu, 1076a-1087a) Critique of Platonic Ideas

(1-3) mathematics Things are not substances. (4-5) Critique of Ideas. (6-9) Critical Ideas of Numbers. (10) The idea is not a substance.

Book XIV (N, Nu, 1087a, 1093b) Suite

(1) Principles, the One and the Many. (2-3) The numbers are not separated. (4) Numbers and Idea of ​​the Good. (5-6) the number is not a Cause.

Cite this article as: Tim, "Aristotle’s Metaphysics (Summary), November 25, 2021, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, November 25, 2021,

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