Sententia libri Metaphysicae
Commentary on the Metaphysics
Sicut docet Philosophus in Politicis suis, quando aliqua plura ordinantur ad unum, oportet unum eorum esse regulans, sive regens, et alia regulata, sive recta. Quod quidem patet in unione animae et corporis; nam anima naturaliter imperat, et corpus obedit. Similiter etiam inter animae vires: irascibilis enim et concupiscibilis naturali ordine per rationem reguntur. Omnes autem scientiae et artes ordinantur in unum, scilicet ad hominis perfectionem, quae est eius beatitudo. Unde necesse est, quod una earum sit aliarum omnium rectrix, quae nomen sapientiae recte vindicat. Nam sapientis est alios ordinare.
When several things are ordained to one thing, one of them must rule or govern and the rest be ruled or governed, as the Philosopher teaches in the Politics. This is evident in the union of soul and body, for the soul naturally commands and the body obeys. The same thing is true of the soul’s powers, for the concupiscible and irascible appetites are ruled in a natural order by reason. Now all the sciences and arts are ordained to one thing, namely, to man’s perfection, which is happiness. Hence one of these sciences and arts must be the mistress of all the others, and this rightly lays claim to the name of wisdom. For it is the office of the wise man to direct others.
Quae autem sit haec scientia, et circa qualia, considerari potest, si diligenter respiciatur quomodo est aliquis idoneus ad regendum. Sicut enim, ut in libro praedicto Philosophus dicit, homines intellectu vigentes, naturaliter aliorum rectores et domini sunt: homines vero qui sunt robusti corpore, intellectu vero deficientes, sunt naturaliter servi: ita scientia debet esse naturaliter aliarum regulatrix, quae maxime intellectualis est. Haec autem est, quae circa maxime intelligibilia versatur.
We can discover which science this is and the sort of things with which it deals by carefully examining the qualities of a good ruler. For just as men of superior intelligence are naturally the rulers and masters of others, whereas those of great physical strength and little intelligence are naturally slaves (as the Philosopher says in the aforementioned book), in a similar way, the science that is intellectual in the highest degree should be naturally the ruler of the others. This science is the one that treats of the most intelligible objects.
Maxime autem intelligibilia tripliciter accipere possumus.
Now “most intelligible objects” can be understood in three ways.
Primo quidem ex ordine intelligendi. Nam ex quibus intellectus certitudinem accipit, videntur esse intelligibilia magis. Unde, cum certitudo scientiae per intellectum acquiratur ex causis, causarum cognitio maxime intellectualis esse videtur. Unde et illa scientia, quae primas causas considerat, videtur esse maxime aliarum regulatrix.
First, from the viewpoint of the order of knowing: those things from which the intellect derives certitude seem to be more intelligible. Therefore, since the certitude of science is acquired by the intellect knowing causes, a knowledge of causes seems to be intellectual in the highest degree. Hence that science that considers first causes also seems to be the ruler of the others in the highest degree.
Secundo ex comparatione intellectus ad sensum. Nam, cum sensus sit cognitio particularium, intellectus per hoc ab ipso differre videtur, quod universalia comprehendit. Unde et illa scientia maxime est intellectualis, quae circa principia maxime universalia versatur. Quae quidem sunt ens, et ea quae consequuntur ens, ut unum et multa, potentia et actus.
Second, by comparing the intellect with the senses. While sensory perception is a knowledge of particulars, the intellect seems to differ from sense by reason of the fact that it comprehends universals. Hence that science is pre-eminently intellectual which deals with the most universal principles. These principles are being and those things that follow being, such as unity and plurality, potency and act.
Huiusmodi autem non debent omnino indeterminata remanere, cum sine his completa cognitio de his, quae sunt propria alicui generi vel speciei, haberi non possit. Nec iterum in una aliqua particulari scientia tractari debent: quia cum his unumquodque genus entium ad sui cognitionem indigeat, pari ratione in qualibet particulari scientia tractarentur. Unde restat quod in una communi scientia huiusmodi tractentur; quae cum maxime intellectualis sit, est aliarum regulatrix.
Now such principles should not remain entirely undetermined, since without them complete knowledge of the principles that are proper to any genus or species cannot be had. Nor again should they be dealt with in any one particular science, for, since a knowledge of each genus of beings stands in need of such principles, they would with equal reason be investigated in every particular science. It follows, then, that such principles should be treated by one common science, which, since it is intellectual in the highest degree, is the mistress of the others.
Tertio ex ipsa cognitione intellectus. Nam cum unaquaeque res ex hoc ipso vim intellectivam habeat, quod est a materia immunis, oportet illa esse maxime intelligibilia, quae sunt maxime a materia separata. Intelligibile enim et intellectum oportet proportionata esse, et unius generis, cum intellectus et intelligibile in actu sint unum. Ea vero sunt maxime a materia separata, quae non tantum a signata materia abstrahunt, sicut formae naturales in universali acceptae, de quibus tractat scientia naturalis, sed omnino a materia sensibili. Et non solum secundum rationem, sicut mathematica, sed etiam secundum esse, sicut Deus et intelligentiae. Unde scientia, quae de istis rebus considerat, maxime videtur esse intellectualis, et aliarum princeps sive domina.
Third, from the viewpoint of the intellect’s own knowledge. Since each thing has intellective power by virtue of being free from matter, those things that are altogether separate from matter must be intelligible in the highest degree. For the intellect and the intelligible object must be proportionate to each other and must belong to the same genus, since the intellect and the intelligible object are one in act. Now those things are separate from matter in the highest degree that abstract not only from signate matter, as the natural forms taken universally of which the philosophy of nature treats, but from sensible matter altogether. These are separate from matter not only in their intelligible constitution, as the objects of mathematics, but also in being, as God and the intelligences. Therefore, the science that considers such things seems to be the most intellectual and the ruler or mistress of the others.
Haec autem triplex consideratio, non diversis, sed uni scientiae attribui debet. Nam praedictae substantiae separatae sunt universales et primae causae essendi. Eiusdem autem scientiae est considerare causas proprias alicuius generis et genus ipsum: sicut naturalis considerat principia corporis naturalis. Unde oportet quod ad eamdem scientiam pertineat considerare substantias separatas, et ens commune, quod est genus, cuius sunt praedictae substantiae communes et universales causae.
Now this threefold consideration should be assigned to one and the same science and not to different sciences, because the aforementioned separate substances are the universal and first causes of being. Moreover, it pertains to one and the same science to consider both the proper causes of some genus and the genus itself. (For example, the philosophy of nature considers the principles of a natural body.) Therefore, it must be the office of one and the same science to consider the separate substances and being in general, which is the genus of which the aforementioned substances are the common and universal causes.
Ex quo apparet, quod quamvis ista scientia praedicta tria consideret, non tamen considerat quodlibet eorum ut subiectum, sed ipsum solum ens commune. Hoc enim est subiectum in scientia, cuius causas et passiones quaerimus, non autem ipsae causae alicuius generis quaesiti. Nam cognitio causarum alicuius generis, est finis ad quem consideratio scientiae pertingit. Quamvis autem subiectum huius scientiae sit ens commune, dicitur tamen tota de his quae sunt separata a materia secundum esse et rationem. Quia secundum esse et rationem separari dicuntur, non solum illa quae nunquam in materia esse possunt, sicut Deus et intellectuales substantiae, sed etiam illa quae possunt sine materia esse, sicut ens commune. Hoc tamen non contingeret, si a materia secundum esse dependerent.
From this it is evident that although this science studies the three things mentioned above, it does not investigate any one of them as its subject, but only being in general. For the subject of a science is the genus whose causes and properties we seek, and not the causes themselves of the particular genus studied; a knowledge of the causes of some genus is the goal to which the investigation of a science attains. Now, although the subject of this science is being in general, the whole of it is predicated of those things that are separate from matter both in their intelligible constitution and in being. For it is not only those things that can never exist in matter that are said to be separate from matter in their intelligible constitution and being, such as God and the intellectual substances, but also those that can exist without matter, as being in general. This could not be the case, however, if their existence depended on matter.
Secundum igitur tria praedicta, ex quibus perfectio huius scientiae attenditur, sortitur tria nomina. Dicitur enim scientia divina sive theologia, inquantum praedictas substantias considerat. Metaphysica, inquantum considerat ens et ea quae consequuntur ipsum. Haec enim transphysica inveniuntur in via resolutionis, sicut magis communia post minus communia. Dicitur autem prima philosophia, inquantum primas rerum causas considerat.
Therefore, in accordance with the three things mentioned above from which this science derives its perfection, three names arise. It is called “divine science” or “theology” inasmuch as it considers the aforementioned substances. It is called “metaphysics” inasmuch as it considers being and the attributes that naturally accompany being (for things that transcend the physical order are discovered by the process of analysis, as the more common are discovered after the less common). And it is called “first philosophy” inasmuch as it considers the first causes of things.
Sic igitur patet quid sit subiectum huius scientiae, et qualiter se habeat ad alias scientias, et quo nomine nominetur.
Therefore, it is evident what the subject of this science is, and how it is related to the other sciences, and by what names it is designated.
History of Metaphysical Inquiry
The dignity and object of this science
Omnes homines natura scire desiderant.
All men naturally desire to know.
Signum autem est sensuum dilectio. Praeter enim utilitatem, propter seipsos diliguntur, et maxime aliorum, qui est per oculos. Non enim solum ut agamus, sed et nihil agere debentes, ipsum videre prae omnibus (ut dicam) aliis eligimus. Causa autem est, quod hic maxime sensuum nos cognoscere facit, et multas diiferentias demonstrat.
A sign of this is the delight we take in the senses; for apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves, and most of all the sense that operates through the eyes. For not only that we may act, but even when we intend to do nothing, we prefer sight (as we may say) to all the other senses. The reason is that of all the senses this most enables us to know and reveals many differences between things.
Animalia quidem igitur natura sensum habentia fiunt.
Animals by nature, then, are born with sensory power.
Ex sensibus autem quibusdam quidem ipsorum memoria non fit, quibusdam vero fit. Et propter hoc alia quidem prudentia sunt, alia vero disciplinabiliora non possibilibus memorari. Prudentia quidem sunt sine addiscere, quaecumque sonos audire non potentia sunt, ut apes, et utique si aliquod aliud huiusmodi est animalium genus. Addiscunt autem quaecumque cum memoria et hunc habent sensum.
Now in some animals memory arises from the senses, but in others it does not; for this reason the former are prudent and more capable of being taught than those that are unable to remember. Those that cannot hear sounds are prudent but unable to learn, as the bee and any other similar type of animal there may be. But any that have this sense together with memory are able to learn.
Alia quidem igitur imaginationibus et memoriis vivunt, experimenti autem parum participant: hominum autem genus arte et rationibus.
Thus other animals live by imagination and memory and share little in experience, whereas the human race lives by art and reasoning.
Fit autem ex memoria hominibus experimentum. Eiusdem namque rei multae memoriae unius experientiae potentiam faciunt. Et fere videtur scientiae simile experimentum esse, et arti.
Now in men experience comes from memory, for many memories of the same thing produce the capacity of a single experience. And experience seems to be somewhat like science and art.
Hominibus autem scientia et ars per experientiam evenit. Experientia quidem enim artem fecit, sicut ait Polus recte dicens, sed inexperientia casum. Fit autem ars cum ex multis experimentalibus conceptionibus una fit universalis, velut de similibus, acceptio.
But in men science and art come from experience, for experience causes art and inexperience causes luck, as Polus rightly states. Art comes into being when from many conceptions acquired by experience a single universal judgment is formed about similar things.
Acceptionem quidem enim habere, quod Calliae et Socrati hac aegritudine laborantibus hoc contulit, et ita multis singularium, experimenti est: quod autem omnibus huiusmodi secundum unam speciem determinatis, hac aegritudine laborantibus contulit, ut phlegmaticis, aut cholericis, aut aestu febricitantibus, artis est.
For to judge that this [medicine] has been beneficial to Callias and Socrates and many other individuals who suffer from this disease is a matter of experience; but to judge that it has been beneficial to all individuals of a particular kind (such as the phlegmatic, the bilious, or the feverish) who suffer from this disease is a matter of art.
Ad agere quidem igitur experientia quidem nihil ab arte differre videtur. Sed expertos magis proficere videmus, sine experientia rationem habentibus. Causa autem est, quia experientia quidem singularium est cognitio: ars vero universalium. Actus autem et generationes omnes circa singularia sunt. Non enim medicus sanat hominem nisi secundum accidens: sed Calliam, aut Socratem, aut aliquem sic dictorum, cui esse hominem accidit. Si igitur sine experimento quis rationem habeat, et universale quidem cognoscat, in hoc autem singulare ignoret, multotiens quidem peccabit. Singulare namque magis curabile est.
In practical matters, then, experience seems to differ in no way from art. But we see that men of experience are more proficient than those who have theory without experience. The reason is that experience is a knowledge of singulars, whereas art is a knowledge of universals. But all actions and processes of generation are concerned with singulars. For the physician heals man only incidentally, but he heals Socrates, or Callias, or some individual that can be named, to whom the nature of man happens to belong. Therefore, if anyone has theory without experience, and knows the universal but not the singulars contained in this, he will very often make mistakes. For it is only the individual man who can be cured.
Sed tamen scire et obviare, magis arte quam experimento esse arbitramur: et artifices expertis sapientiores esse opinamur: tamquam magis sit scire sapientiam sequentem omnia.
Yet we think that to know and to refute objections belong to art rather than to experience, and we are of the opinion that those who are proficient in art are wiser than men of experience, as it is more to know if one’s wisdom pursues all things.
Hoc autem est quia hi quidem causam sciunt, illi vero non. Experti quidem enim ipsum sciunt quia, sed propter quid nesciunt; hi autem propter quid, et causam cognoscunt.
Now this is because the former know the cause whereas the latter do not. For those who have experience know that something is so but do not know why, whereas the others know the why and the cause.
Unde et architectores circa quodlibet quidem huiusmodi honorabiliores, et magis scire manu artificibus putamus, et sapientiores, quia factorum causas sciunt.
For this reason, too, we think that the architects in each art are more honorable, and that they know more and are wiser than the manual laborers, because they understand the causes of the things done.
Illi vero sicut quaedam inanimatorum faciunt quidem, non scientia autem faciunt quae faciunt, ut ignis quidem exurit. Inanimata quidem igitur natura quadam unumquodque faciunt horum, sed manu artifices propter consuetudinem faciunt, tamquam non secundum practicos esse sapientiores sint, sed secundum quod rationes habent ipsi, et causas cognoscunt.
Indeed, we think that the latter resemble certain inanimate things, which act but do not know what they do, like a fire which burns. Therefore, inanimate things perform each of their actions as a result of a certain natural disposition, whereas manual laborers perform theirs through habit, implying that some men are wiser not insofar as they are practical, but insofar as they themselves have the theories and know the causes.
Et omnino signum scientis est posse docere, et ob hoc magis artem experimento scientiam esse existimamus. Possunt enim hi docere, illi autem docere non possunt.
In general, a sign of scientific knowledge is the ability to teach, and for this reason we think that art rather than experience is science. For those who have an art are able to teach, whereas the others are not.
Amplius autem sensuum, nec unum sapientiam esse ponimus, cum et his singularium cognitiones maxime sint propriae. Sed propter quid de nullo dicunt: ut propter quid ignis calidus, sed quia calidus solum sit.
Furthermore, we do not hold that any one of the senses is wisdom, since the cognition of singular things belongs especially to the senses. However, these do not tell us why a thing is so; for example, they do not tell us why fire is hot but only that it is so.
Primum quidem igitur conveniens est quamlibet artem invenientem ultra communes sensus, ab hominibus mirari, non solum propter aliquam inventorum utilitatem, sed sicut sapientem, et ab aliis distinguentem. Pluribus autem repertis artibus, et aliis quidem ad necessaria, aliis vero ad introductionem existentibus: semper tales illis sapientiores esse arbitrandum est propter id, quod illorum scientiae ad usum non sunt.
It is only fitting, then, that the one who discovered any art whatsoever that went beyond the common perceptions of men should be admired by men, not only because of some usefulness of his discoveries, but as one who is wise and as distinguishing from others. And as more of the arts were discovered, some to supply the necessities of life, and others to introduce us [to the sciences], those who discovered the latter were always considered to be wiser than those who discovered the former, because their sciences were not for the sake of utility.
Unde omnibus talibus rebus iam partis, quae non ad voluptatem, nec ad necessitatem scientiarum repertae sunt. Et primum in his locis ubi vacabant. Unde circa Aegyptum mathematicae artes primum substiterunt. Ibi namque gens sacerdotum vacare dimissa est.
Hence, after all such arts had already been developed, those sciences were discovered which are pursued for the sake of neither pleasure nor necessity. This happened first in those places where men had leisure. Hence the mathematical arts originated in Egypt, for there the priestly class was permitted leisure.
In moralibus quidem igitur, quae sit artis et scientiae differentia et similium generum, dictum est.
(The difference between art and science and similar mental states has been stated in the Nicomachean Ethics.)
Cuius autem gratia nunc sermonem facimus, hoc est, quia denominatam sapientiam circa primas causas et principia existimant omnes versari. Quare sicut dictum est prius, expertus quidem quemcumque sensum habentibus sapientior esse videtur, artifex autem expertis, architector autem manu artifice, speculativi autem magis activis. Quod quidem igitur sapientia et circa quasdam causas et principia sit scientia, manifestum est.
Now the reason for undertaking this investigation is that all men think that the science that is called wisdom deals with the primary causes and principles of things. Hence, as we have said before (981a24–981a28), the man of experience is considered to be wiser than one who has any of the senses; the artist wiser than the man of experience; the architect wiser than the manual laborer; and speculative knowledge wiser than practical knowledge. It is quite evident, then, that wisdom is a science of certain causes and principles.