In studying Aristotle I have found that one of the trickiest elements of understanding Aristotle is getting past the loaded terms that are used by the translators. For example, the term substance and essence which are used interchangeably for translating οὐσία. For the last week and a half I have been going through Aristotle's Metaphysics and translating the sections that are relevant to the question of Being. Over the next couple of days I will be posting some of my findings, thoughts, and translations. Though I am able to interact with, and translate, the greek text, I am far from being an expert in Greek language studies, as such, I have probably made some errors that experts would laugh at. Please feel free to make suggestions, comments, or ask questions. This is part of my research for my doctoral work and, as such, I appreciate helpful interaction. I will be highlighting important terms, both in the greek and in the translations, so as to easily compare the translations of these important terms with the original greek text. In the footnotes I will posting my thoughts on the section under consideration, as well as observations about how to translate certain key words.
(1028a10-13) τὸ ὂν λέγεται πολλαχῶς, καθάπερ διειλόμεθα πρότερον ἐν τοῖς περὶ τοῦ ποσαχῶς: σημαίνει γὰρ τὸ μὲν τί ἐστι καὶ τόδε τι, τὸ δὲ ποιὸν ἢ ποσὸν ἢ τῶν ἄλλων ἕκαστον τῶν οὕτω κατηγορουμένων.
My Translation – The Being is said in many ways, just as we explained (exegeted) in the prior concerning the many types. For on the one hand, it points to the what-is, and also the what, as well as the kind (type, sort, quality) or the quantity or each one of the others that are in this way said of it [being].
Ross – “There are several sense in which a thing may be said to ‘be’, as we pointed out previously in our book on the various senses of words; for in one sense the ‘being’ meant is ‘what a thing is’ or a ‘this’, and in another sense it means a quality or quantity or one of the other things that are predicated as these are.”
Tredennick – “The term ‘being’ has several senses, which we have classified in our discussion of the number of senses in which terms are used. It denotes first the ‘what’ of a thing, i.e. the individuality; and then the quality or quantity or any other such category.”
Apostle – “The term ‘being’ is used in several senses, as we pointed out previously in our account of the various senses of terms. In one sens, it signifies whatness and a this; in another it signifies a quality or a quantity or one of the others which are predicated in this way.”
Tricot – « L’Être se prend en de multiples sens, suivant les distinctions que nous avons précédement faites dans le livre des Acceptions multiples : en un sens, il signifie ce qu’est la chose, la substance, et, en un autre sens, il signifie une qualité, ou une quantité, ou l’un des autres prédicats de cette sorte. »
In this section Aristotle distinguishes the “what-is” (τὸ…τί ἐστι) and the “what” (τι). Most translations seem to understand Aristotle to be referring to the “essence” of a thing (“what it is”), and to it’s individuality (“this”). If this is an appropriate translation, then Aristotle is talking about individual things and what they are (their essence?).
Tricot seems, in a slight variation of translation, to understand Aristotle to be referring to the ‘essence’ (“ce qu’est la chose”) and to the “substance”, the actually existing ‘whatness’.
It seems to me that Aristotle could be better understood as referring to (keeping in line with all of the observations that we see in the different translations) the individual being – “τὸ…τί ἐστι”, and the essence of the individual being – “τι”. Or, in other words, ‘the Be-ing’, and the ‘what-the-Be-ing-is” – it’s identity, essence, or whatness.
Aristotle, “Metaphysica”, in The Basic Works of Aristotle, trans. W. D. Ross, ed. Richard McKeon, 681-926 (New York: Random House, 1941). All translations attributed to Ross come from this edition and can be found using the standardized Aristotelian reference numbers.
Aristotle, Metaphysics, vols. 271 & 287 in Loeb Classical Library, trans. Hugh Tredennick, ed. Jeffrey Henderson (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1933 & 1935). All translations attributed to Tredennick come from this edition and can be found using the standardized Aristotelian reference numbers. The greek text for all quotes from the Metaphysics are taken from Tredennick’s edition and checked against the two following editions: Aristotle, Aristotle’s Metaphysics, ed. W. D. Ross (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924), and Aristotle, Aristotelis Metaphysica, ed. W. Jaeger (1957; repr., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010). There are slight variations between the three greek texts mentioned, in case of doubt I went with Jaeger’s excellent edition.
Aristotle, Aristotle’s Metaphysics, trans. Hippocrates G. Apostle (1966; repr., Grinnell, IA: The Peripatetic Press, 1979). All translations attributed to Apostle come from this edition and can be found using the standardized Aristotelian reference numbers.
Aristotle, La Métaphysique, 2 vols., trans. J. Tricot (Paris : Librairie Philosophique J. VRIN, 1991). All translations attributed to Tricot come from this edition and can be found using the standardized Aristotelian reference numbers.