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2.6 Aristotle

Aristotle, who lived in Greece in the years 384 – 322 before Christ, was, according to some, the greatest philosopher ever. If the sophists had shown the uncertainty of reasoning, he instead turned his thoughts to understand as clearly as possible how the objects of the world are made. He concluded that everything that exists is made of matter and form. It is easy to admit, for example, that a table is nothing but wood (material) shaped according to a certain form; every other thing that exists on this world is made the same way. However, according to Aristotle, the difference in form is an indication of another difference that is not seen, namely the difference of substance.
The word substance derives from the Latin sub, which means “below”, plus the addition of the verb “to stay”: sub-stance is “what stays below”, so what is there, but not seen, exepting in the difference that results in the visible form. Another word equivalent to “substance” is “hypostasis”: in Greek ‘υπό means “below”: so, hypo-stasis as well means “what stays below”. The substance can also be indicated by other similar terms: “essence” (as when we say “the true essence of a thing”), “nature” (“the true, intimate nature of a thing”). To give an example, the difference in form between a man and a horse, even if they are composed of same matter, that is, of flesh and bone, tells us that between the two there is also a difference of substance. Further proof of this hidden difference is given to us by differences in the abilities to behaviors. Aristotle spoke about these things in some books, which followed others in which he had dealt with the physics of things; therefore these subjects were later called “meta-physics”, since in Greek the word μετά means “after”: therefore “metaphysics” meant “the philosophical reflections written by Aristotle after those about physics”. Today the term can be considered with the meaning of “a phylosophy based on the existence of essences that are not seen” (ie the famous “substance”, about which we have spoken); also with regard to Plato it is possible to speak of “metaphysics”, since we have seen that he places the essence of things in a world that cannot be seen, that is, the world of ideas; but we must not forget, however, that this is our application of the term, because actually Plato never used the word “metaphysics”. Actually the meaning of metaphysics is more complex and varied, based on the different ways which different philosophers and even certain artists have considered it; we will limit ourselves here to keep in mind this meaning only: “metaphysics” = “a philosophy based on the existence of essences that are not seen, but which are recognized as the true nature of things”. In fact for Aristotle the true nature of man, compared to a horse, consists in this something that he called “humanity”, something that is not seen, but that proves to be real because it makes man behave differently from the horse; the nature of the horse, according to this reasoning, is called somewhat like “horsity”, and so on. Another important characteristic of metaphysics is trust in the existence of a world that is outside our mind and that is the source of the sensations we receive; as if to say: if we touch an object, we trust that it is not an illusion, a dream with open eyes, but an object that actually exists outside our body, outside our mind.
Aristotle’s philosophy is fascinating because it gives an impression of great clarity and order, in opposition to that of Heraclitus and the Sophists; therefore, those who follow the philosophy of Aristotle can also experience a sense of security, of comfort, since everything is defined in its being, in the place it occupies amid the great mosaic, perfectly ordered, of the nature of the world. Everything resembles a large castle in which every brick is in its place, like an arranged puzzle, in which no piece is missing; in this vision the world is ordered, complete, harmonious.

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