This is the final line of the first chapter of Metaphysics Z, and, therefore, the final part of my series on translating, comparing translations, and interpreting Aristotle's Metaphysics Z chapter 1 (for the other parts see: Part 1, Part 2 - a discussion of the translation and meaning of οὐσία, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8.) In this line Aristotle sums up his purpose, and some of the answers that have already been given to the question, "What is Being?"
(1028b4-7) τοῦτο γὰρ οἱ μὲν ἓν εἶναί φασιν οἱ δὲ πλείω ἢ ἕν, καὶ οἱ μὲν πεπερασμένα οἱ δὲ ἄπειρα, διὸ καὶ ἡμῖν καὶ μάλιστα καὶ πρῶτον καὶ μόνον ὡς εἰπεῖν περὶ τοῦ οὕτως ὄντος θεωρητέον τί ἐστιν.
My Translation – For they report (explain) to Be in this, either greater than one or one, and these either the limited (finished), or the limitless. And therefore (in light of this), our declarations of the Be-ing concern chiefly, and first, and only, to contemplate what-is.
Ross – “For it is this that some assert to be one, others more than one, and that some assert to be limited in number, others unlimited. As so we also must consider chiefly and primarily and almost exclusively what that is which is in this sense.”
Tredennick – “Some say that it is one; others, more than one; some, finite; others, infinite. And so far us too our chief and primary and practically our only concern is to investigate the nature of ‘being’ in the sense of substance.”
Apostle – “For it is that some assert to be one, others more than one, and some say that it is finite, while others that it is infinite. And so we, too, must speculate most of all, and first of all, and exclusively, so to say, concerning being which is spoken of in this sense. What is Being?”
Tricot – “C’est cette Substance, en effet, dont les philosophes affirment, les uns, l’unité, et les autres, la pluralité, cette pluralité étant conçue, tantôt comme limitée en nombre, et tantôt comme infinie. C’est pourquoi, pour nous aussi, l’objet principal, premier, unique pour ainsi dire, de notre étude, ce doit être la nature de l’Être pris en ce sens.”
In this final section of the first chapter of Metaphysics Z Aristotle summarizes some of the ways in which those thinkers who preceded him dealt with the question of Being. Some of them said that Being was one (such as Parmenides, cf. Plato, Parmenides, trans. Mary Louis Gill and Paul Ryan (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1996).), an innumerable amount of others said that Being was many (For a more detailed account of how different philosophers prior to Aristotle dealt with the question of Being, see: Aristotle, Metaphysics A. Plato, Sophist, trans. Nicholas P. White (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1993). See also Heidegger's commentary on Plato's Sophist, Martin Heidegger, Plato's Sophist, trans. Richard Rojcewicz and André Schuwer (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997), and Stanley Rosen's excellent commentary on Plato's Sophist, Plato's Sophist: The Drama of Original & Image (1983; repr., South Bend, IN: St. Augustine's Press, 1999). For a contemporary treatment of some of these thinkers see: Patricia Curd, ed., A Presocratics Reader: Selected Fragments and Testimonia (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1996). Edward Hussey, The Presocratics (1972; repr., Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1995). A. H. Armstrong, An Introduction to Ancient Philosophy, 3rd ed. (1977; Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Allanheld, 1983). G. S. Kirk and J. E. Raven, The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1957; repr., Camridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973). Frederick Copleson, "Greece & Rome", vol. 1 in A History of Philosophy (1946; repr., New York: Image Books, 1962).).
Of these two first categories some said that Being was either limited or limitless. Aristotle is essentially saying that there have been many theories of Be-ing (it is assumed that we are already aware of the different views because they have already been covered), but they all looked at the things that are - beings, and not at Be-ing-ness (what it means to Be). As such the purpose of Aristotle’s investigations is to attempt to discuss what is Be-ing itself, not things that be.