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Being

(in Aristotelian thought). Differing from Plato's extreme idealistic view that only ideas are the true and ultimate reality and “of the nature of Being” (R. B. Winn in Runes, Dictionary of Philosophy), Aristotle held that though Being, “as the essence of things” (RBW) is in itself eternal, it could have no validity outside of things and minds. In other words, knowledge with any stability begins in sense-experience, in which individual existent things are revealed. Individuals are not to be deduced from ideas; on the contrary, abstract concepts devolve by induction from concrete instances.

Obviously Aristotle's method is to this extent empirical, and his parallel contribution to human thought of the distinction between percept and concept (object of sense-perception, object of abstract thought) and their interrelations has been most significant and helpful to later philosophers.

According to Aristotle the highest determinants of Being are actuality (or entelechy*) and potentiality (dynamis). The first has been called perfection—the realization of the fulness of Being, and the second imperfection—incompleteness with, however, perfectibility.

Inevitably the question of Aristotle's position relative to the later classic scholastic terms for Being, ens and esse, is raised. Ens occurs in classic Lat. only once as a participle but quite often as a noun. “As a participle it is an essential predicate only in regard to God, in whom existence and essence are one, or whose essence implies existence” R. Allers in Runes, Dictionary of Philosophy). Esse “usually means existence which is defined as the actus essendi, or the reality of some essence. Esse quid or essentia designates the specific nature of some being or thing” (R.A.).

Aristotle could not agree with those who held that, since being is, nonbeing cannot exist or even be thought of as existing and therefore doubted the validity of all sense perception of the external world. He held that sense experience is a true source of conceptual knowledge. Since his basic concepts differ from those of the scholastics, his metaphysical statements, formulae, and predications also differ. It might be said that his categories and methodology bridged the gap between being and becoming and furnished sharp intellectual tools for succeeding ages. AJB


Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
All rights reserved.

Content Reproduced with Permission

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