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Chapter 4 - Kinēsis vs. energeia: a much-read passage in (but not of) Aristotle’s Metaphysics

from Part I - Ontology and epistemology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 March 2022

Myles Burnyeat
All Souls College, Oxford
Carol Atack
Newnham College, Cambridge
Malcolm Schofield
University of Cambridge
David Sedley
University of Cambridge
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A passage at 1048b18–35 in chapter six of Metaphysics Book Θ, forging a distinction between activities Aristotle classes as energeia, actuality, and those he calls kinesis, change, has become a favourite subject of discussion by analytic philosophers. This chapter argues that this now celebrated section does not fit into the overall programme of Θ, was not written for Θ, and should not be printed in the place we read it today. It is an isolated fragment of uncertain origin. Although there is good reason to accept that it is authentic Aristotle, its focus is rather different from what it is usually taken to be. Moreover, the distinction is unique in the corpus, and should not be imported into other Aristotelian contexts such as Nicomachean Ethics X or De Anima II.5. The chapter first documents the passage’s anomalous standing within the manuscript tradition. It then argues that Aristotle’s focus here is on verbal aspect, not tense. Next corruptions in the transmitted text are discussed, in light of the hypothesis that the passage was originally imported as a marginal annotation, and a revised text is proposed. Finally, the uniqueness of its philosophical content is established. It is a freak performance.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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Metaphysics: Modern editions; ancient, medieval, and modern commentaries; medieval and modern translations

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