The Activity of Being
An Essay on Aristotle's OntologyeBook - 2013
Understanding “what something is” is a project that has long occupied philosophers. Perhaps no thinker in the Western tradition has had more influence on how we approach this question than Aristotle, whoseMetaphysics remains the locus classicus of rigorous examinations into the nature of being. Now, in an elegantly argued new study, Aryeh Kosman reinterprets Aristotle’s ontology and compels us to reexamine some of our most basic assumptions about the great philosopher’s thought.
For Aristotle, to ask “what something is” is to inquire into a specific mode of its being, something ordinarily regarded as its “substance.” But to understand substance, we need the concept ofenergeia—a Greek term usually translated as “actuality.” In a move of far-reaching consequence, Kosman explains that the correct translation ofenergeia is not “actuality” but “activity.” We have subtly misunderstood theMetaphysics on this crucial point, says Kosman. Aristotle conceives of substance as a kind of dynamic activity, not some inert quality. Substance is somethingactively being what it is.
Kosman demonstrates how this insight significantly alters our understanding of a number of important concepts in Aristotelian thought, from accounts of motion, consciousness, and essence to explanations of the nature of animal and divine being. Whether it is approached as an in-depth introduction to Aristotle’s metaphysics or as a highly original reassessment sure to spark debate, there can be no argument thatThe Activity of Being is a major contribution to our understanding of one of philosophy’s most important thinkers.
Understanding “what something is” has long occupied philosophers, and no Western thinker has had more influence on the nature of being than Aristotle. Focusing on a reinterpretation of the concept ofenergeia as “activity,” Aryeh Kosman reexamines Aristotle’s ontology and some of our most basic assumptions about the great philosopher’s thought.
In the course of collecting papers about Aristotle that he had written over the years and which were scattered in the literature, Kosman (emeritus, philosophy, Harvard U.) reread them and began to develop new and quite different ideas. This essay will spark debate. Those seeking an in-depth introduction to Aristotle's metaphysics will find conventional modes of interpretation reassessed in light of the author's stimulating new thinking. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)