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Aristotle's Theory of Metaphysics

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Aristotle is a respected figure in the various fields, but he is remembered primarily for his enormous contribution to the Western philosophy. He is referred to as an epitome to what being a philosopher is all about. He was born in Stageira in the year 348 BC to Nicomachus, who was King Amynta’s personal physician. He was educated and trained in the footsteps of his father since they both were aristocrats. To access the quality education, he moved to Athens and enrolled in the Plato’s Academy where he remained for close to two decades. He met the fellow thinkers in the Academy and got the opportunity to develop and improve his theories which relate to our world up to now. He was a good student of Plato and took up the challenge of being a great man finally succeeding by becoming the master of Alexander the Great and writing many texts on a wide variety of issues. He left Athens before Plato had died with theories suggesting that he wanted to avoid the surging anti-Macedonian sentiments. Some of his most famous works are the animal history, prior analytics, the poetics, metaphysics, the rhetoric, the physics, the nichomachean ethics and politics (Lewis, 1991. Pg. 7). This is besides all the work he did on theater, poetry, music, logic, linguistics, biology and zoology among many others. Aristotle is undeniably the most influential philosopher of all times and the founder of the modern science.

Aristotle refers to metaphysics as being the first philosophy. The present day scholars have tried to explain metaphysics in the simplest way, but the generally accepted definition is that it is a study and acquisition of knowledge of all the immaterial things that surround us in the space that we live in. It has been defined in other ways as just a theory of the substance of things. Metaphysics is the knowledge of the basic principles that are crucial in the organization of the universe. 

Interpretation of Aristotle's theory on metathysics

Aristotle’s theory on metaphysics is based on the interpretation that it is the knowledge of any matter that is immaterial and that which is in the highest level of being an abstract. He based his argument on three potentialities: substance, potentiality and actuality. He examined the presence of a substance having an essence that brought it to being in title VII of his Metaphysics books. His studies on matter led him to believe that everything that is termed as a substance has its origin in a combination of form and matter. To Aristotle, this study was fascinating to the extent that he went on ahead to learn matter further into his next book, Metaphysics VIII. In this book, his hand leads us to believe that he concluded that the matter that made up a substance was basically the substratum that joined together to make up the matter (Ackrill, 1965. Pg.29). The example is that the matter of a bridge is the blocks, cement and wood planks used together in combination to make the house. These are basically the things that according to Aristotle, contribute to the overall potential of the structure that is the bridge. The materials that contribute to the formation of the substance are in general any other differentia that pertains to the overall structure of the bridge. That leads to that the being of the components is the significance of the matter, and the formula that leads to the final differentia of a matter is the account of the form. Aristotle went ahead to differentiate the coming to be from what was previously wrongly perceived to be Kinesis and its causes (Ackrill, 1965. Pg.42) and is also outlined in Generation and Corruption 319b-320a. The differences are clearly brought out between the coming to be and Growth, which he says is just but the change in the quantity. An example would be the case of an orange tree that is perceived to be changing only that it is growing in height and the number of fruits it produces is also increasing. Diminution is the other extreme to growth and this is the change in quantity in the negative side of the scale. Locomotion refers to the changes in space in terms of displacement. According to Aristotle, the movement does not account as a form of coming to be since it only refers to the change in space. The third aspect that does not contribute to the coming to be is alteration which is basically the change in quality of a substance. Therefore, Aristotle concluded that coming to be is only possible if there was nothing in the beginning which in turn contributed to the substance. In conclusion, Aristotle summarized his findings by saying that all the matter needed to construct a bridge has the capability to become a bridge, but the form of the bridge including the finished bridge are just but actualities which are the potential end or final cause for the bridge to be. Aristotle was trying to show a man can be made one, through the definition of matter and form. He clearly demonstrates that the actuality comes before the potentiality in both aspects of the substantiality and time (Gill, 9).  

Difference between ideas of Plato and Aristotle 

Aristotle was Plato’s student in his academy in Athens. It is therefore right to assume that the student usually takes in the footsteps of the teacher; however, eventually this two went in totally different ways. Plato had put forth his idea that the universals came second to the particulars. He said that that which is already known about something has to be unchanging for us humans to understand it. He said that materials are all subject to the change and as such, there must be some other things that we probably are not aware of that do not change. These to Plato are the objects that deserve to be studied since they hold the genuine knowledge and are not just a matter of belief (Gill, 23). Aristotle on the other hand believed that for as long as something possessed some degree of quality, then it is present. To Aristotle once something has quality it is an entity on its own and does not require an additional independent thing to make it be. The green in the grass is present in all grass and therefore, green is not independent from the grass but is the part of the grass. It is the quality of being a universal entity that makes the green appear at the same time in many different areas that grass may be present. The difference in their opinion on a critical issue like this one demonstrates just how different they were in their thinking, perception of the ideas and understanding of the outcomes from their researches. It is clear that Plato believed that “the thing” was present in the forms that can only be known when they are seen in something specific (Gill, 3). Thus according to Plato, there was nothing like the existence of a “universal man”, since the change affects all men thus there was nothing vital to a particular subject. Aristotle, on the other hand, believed that the universe was actually present “in the thing”. This is because to him the universe consists of things within the substance. Aristotle in this instance is clearly able to take into consideration the idea that he put into the documentation in his first treatise on metaphysics.

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Plato argued that all things that existed had a universal form or were related to other things. For example, there is the universal form in which a banana exists, while there is a particular banana that can be placed together with an orange and stand out as a banana. He also argued that some forms can exist without having the particular identities like something can be termed as being good though there is nothing tangible to describe the good as a form of being. This is also referred to as the instantiated universal existence. Aristotle disagreed with his teacher on this idea. His argument is that all universals are instantiated, thus  all the existing things are attached to some form of universals. Aristotle believed that the mere fact that a universal is already in existence only goes to show that there was a past to that universal; there is a present and a future in relation to that particular universal. According to Aristotle, any form of universal that is not predicted to any existing object at any point in time, then it is safe and correct to the term that the universal as a non-existing entity.   

Both of the scholars disagreed on their perceived location of the universals. Aristotle often said that the universals are attached to individuals things which they have all along been predicted to co relate with. Plato on the other hand said that the universal forms exist in a world of the forms where they all exist. Thus according to Aristotle, the form of a banana exists within all bananas while for Plato; the banana would exist only where there are bananas. 

Aristotle took on a similar opinion of Rhetoric as Plato and took up the task of studying it deeply. Aristotle took to the purpose of amending the art of Rhetoric while Plato maintained that the rhetoric was not a true art form (Lewis, 12). According to Plato, there exists the animal and biped idea which begs to find the answer to the question as to whether there really is a common unity that binds all the forms that constitute to a man.          

The theories and the ideals expressed by the two philosophers set the pace for the study of the world that we live in. There have been numerous studies into the work of both Plato and Aristotle, since they are credited with beginning the world of thought to get to understand the world we live in and the matter that makes up the world and ourselves as humans. Though they may have some differences, the theories are similar in more ways than one, since they both push one to question the existence of the universals. Plato did believe in the hierarchy of forms and thought that some forms were more important than others. Aristotle is the epitome of what an ideal student is supposed to be like. He moved to Athens so he could attend the best school with Plato as his teacher and learned a lot from him. However, in the course of his studies he realized that he had different ideas from those he had learned from his teacher, Plato. He decided to move and start his own place where he could study his ideas. This is what eventually made him the iconic philosopher he is today. He was not afraid to follow his beliefs. As an individual, I tend to be more inclined to the beliefs, findings and conclusions made by Aristotle. Aristotle took a great interest in the things he had an interest in, therefore his line of thought is more realistic. Plato was more of an idealist who put the emphasis and interest in the ideas while Aristotle was a realist whose interest in ideas pushed him to study the real world, which is what inclines my admiration towards Aristotle.

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