The “is” of predicating essence of an individual

Plato: The “is” of predication involves saying a substance of a non-substance, or what is truly ousia of what is only ousia by participation. When we say “Socrates is a man” we mean that man is the substance and “Socrates” (the individual) is a mere fleeting inherence in the flux of time and space.

When we say “Socrates is a man” the “is” might be taken as indicating that Socrates takes part in man in a particularly intimate or excellent way and that he is particularly good at causing us to think of man. But it would be better to say that grammar reflects the defective grasp we have of reality and so is not always a good guide as to what is, i.e. substance.

Aristotle: The substance predicated and the substance it is said of are the same, but they differ as “first” and “second”. The individual “Socrates” is the first substance, and the predicate is only a “second substance”. We can say the one of the other because first and second substance are the same thing. “Man” is “Socrates”, not because man can only be Socrates, but because it must be some person or another. It’s comparable to counting: “five” is the fifth one, though this is any of the five ones.

And grammar is a particularly good guide to what is a substance.



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