Aristotle's Metaphysics Summary

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In Book VII, Chapter 4 of the Metaphysics, Aristotle explores the concept of essence because it is one of those “things by which we define substance” and as such is worthy of study (154). The essence of a thing is “what the thing is said to be in its own right” (154). The essence of Usain Bolt is man, not runner. He is a man in his own right, but is not a runner in the same way. The example Aristotle gives is the musician, “For being you is not the same as being a musician, since you are not a musician in your own right” (154). Aristotle makes the distinction that one’s essence is not “all of what you are in your own right” (154). The essence of the pale man does not include the quality ‘pale’ although the pale man is pale in his own right. Man is the essence, not pale man, as the accidental qualities are not a part of a thing’s essence. A thing’s essence is not “the same as the combination of the thing and what belongs in its own right to it” (154).…show more content…
Accidental qualities to Aristotle are properties of the thing that have no necessary connection to the essence of the thing. A primary substance such as Martin may have accidental qualities such as pale skin, but this is not what Martin essentially is without qualification. Martin’s essence is man, an animal with a certain capacity for rational thought. Any other qualities such as his intelligence (of which there is little) are accidental and to Aristotle have no necessary connection to the essence of Martin. In this way a thing’s essence is similar to a thing’s species, as the essential qualities of the species are what distinguish it from other species. As Aristotle puts it, “essence will belong only to species of a genus” (155). Pale man is not a species, so there is not an essence in this composite in the same way as there is an essence of man. If pale man has an essence it is of a secondary

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