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Book Reviews Aristotle's Conception of Ontology. By Walter Leszl. Studia Aristotelica, No. 7. (Padova: Editrice Antenore, 1975. Pp. xi + 558) The purpose of this book is stated succinctly by its author: "Given that I admit the existence of an autonomous ontology in Aristotle and want to establish it, it is not my concern to establish how he understands theology.... The aim of my work is, in the main, precisely that of providing a contribution to the determination of the scope and structure of ontology in Aristotle" (p. 47). By the term "ontology" Leszl understands without more ado "a universal science of being" (p. 21), and by "autonomous" he means the contrast with an ontology "that is subordinated to theology" (p. 22). In accord with this contrast he describes ontology as "completely general" or "completely universal" (p. 527), quite obviously pinpointing it, against the background of the controversy with which he is chiefly concerned (cf. p. 528), to a science whose object is a universal notion of being in the sense of an object that is not completely identical with its highest and richest instance. Up to this point the concept of ontology is delineated quite as it has been understood in the traditional terms of the controversy. But Leszl approaches his task with a much more specifically recent view of the ontology he is trying to find in Aristotle, a view that is familiar today in the wake of the past thirty years of linguistic analysis. He projects it as "a clarification of certain conceptual structures of our intellectual apparatus (esp. of language) which are in principle acceptable to everybody" (p. 2; cf. p. 402). Philosophy "(a) itself constitutes part of the common ground on which specialists can communicate, and is (b) capable of determining the whole system of levels or inquiries etc. at which such communication is possible" (p. 3), as it is taken in its association by Aristotle with general culture or paideia. Ontology is recognizable "as a part (indeed, the central one) of such a general rrctt&Ec~" (p. 4; cf. p. 547). This distinctive conception of ontology is what gives Leszl's book its value as a new approach. The author endeavors to establish his conception of ontology in Aristotle through a painstaking and detailed study of the relevant texts in Metaphysics A, B, l", El, Z, M, N, A, with a look (pp. 63-93) at Aristotle's notions of science and dialectic in the Posterior Analytics and (pp. 494-526) at some pertinent themes in the Physics. He adds two short appendices. In the one (pp. 549-552) he undertakes to show the inauthenticity of several passages (1061a8-10; 1064a28-29; b6-8) in Metaphysics K that run counter to his thesis. In the other (pp. 553-556) he presents the central part of the Categories as "almost purely ontological" (p. 554), with the overall result that "there is not any serious reason for insulating the writing of the categories from the investigation of the Metaphysics, to which it is so naturally associated" (p. 556). How successful is he in finding his notion of ontology in the Aristotelian text? The text in fact proves rather stubborn. Towards the end Leszl comes to observe that Aristotle "reached an awareness of the peculiarity of ontology only gradually" and that the Stagirite himself "did not realize fully what he was getting at even in formulating his account of a science of being qua being" (p. 479). The science "turns out to be a sort of logic, taking this word in a rather wide sense" (p. 540). Hazy as this may seem, no greater precision should be looked for: "No doubt one should not expect complete clarity on Aristotle's part on these issues, thus on the peculiar character of ontology," for "he is only occasionally aware that this science is completely sui generis," even though his description of it "is of revolutionary import with relation to previous thought" (p. 543). In that setting, the result of Leszl's work "does not pretend to be more than tentative and introductory to a full account of this ontology.., because many of the logical and ontological problems concerning which I have...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 331-334
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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