Aristotle and Plotinus on being and unity by Geoffrey Scott Bowe

By Geoffrey Scott Bowe

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A single nature in the sense that they are associated a s a principle [ a p ~ q ]and a cause [arttov] are, and not as being denoted by the same definition [ E V L k o y o ] (although i t makes no difference but rather helps our argument if we understand them in the same sense) . . and unity is nothing distinct [ O U ~ E V~ r ~ p o vf rom ] being; and further if the substance [ouaial is one in no accidental sense, and similarly is of i t s very nature something which is - then there are just as many species of being as there are of unity.

It makes no sense to make that which is not substance an element in, and prior to substance, since those things which are predicated of substance are posterior to it. What Aristotle will need to make his theory of substance work is a distinction between actual and potential substance. An actual substance cannot be a part of another substance; a substance is not composed of other actual substances but only of potential substances. That is why Aristotle is careful to note that the relative c a m o t be potential or actual substance, since it will be part of Aristotle's reintegration of form and matter in substance, to insist that the matter stands in potency to a form; a similar relation exists between potential substance (s) and actual substance.

1 am also suggesting that Aristotle's own conceptual scheme of the convertibility of being and unity stands in contrast to Platonism in a very fundamental way. For Aristotle's Platoniçt, Unity is prior to being, and being is prior to particulars. For Aristotle, particulars corne first, and being and unity are "convertible terms," which stand in a non- 38 hierarchical relationship to one another, and are dependent on particular substances. We shall see that this has implications for the type of first principle(s) that Aristotle believes must head his cosmology, and for the types of things that his doctrine of substance entails.

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