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Reviewed by:
  • Metaphysics by Aristotle
  • Translated by Edward C. Halper
ARISTOTLE. Metaphysics. Translated with notes by C. D. C. Reeve. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 2016. liv + 652 pp. Cloth, $87.00; paper, $29.00

David Reeve's translation of Aristotle's Metaphysics is a welcome addition to his collection of fine translations of works of Plato and Aristotle. Of the 652 numbered pages in this edition, the last 400 contain 1644 numbered endnotes and a lengthy index of terms. Additionally, Reeve provides a thirty-page introduction to the Metaphysics. So this is far more than just a translation.

Let me consider the translation first and then distinguish two kinds of comments. There are two measures of translations of the Metaphysics, literalness and language. Ross's Oxford translation reads very well, but does not preserve Aristotle's technical terminology. In contrast, Montgomery Furth produced a translation on Metaphysics Z–H that is so literal that is gibberish. Of those who have tried to translate Aristotle's language consistently, most have kept the standard Latin expressions, like "substance," "actuality," and "essence." Some, like Joe Sachs, set aside Latin terms in favor of more concrete and direct English terms in order to allow readers to grapple with the text on their own. Reeve's translation falls into the middle on both measures. First, he tries to make the technical terms clear while still producing a readable text. Second, he uses some of the standard Latinized terms—"cause" "substance," "essence," "being qua being"—but he also adopts some more familiar English terms, such as, "starting point" for archê, "lack" for sterêsis, and "activity" for energeia. Because the Greek text is so sparse, all translators of the Metaphysics are forced to interpret it. For the famous first line of Metaphysics Γ, Reeve has: "There is a science that gets a theoretical grasp on being qua being and of the [coincidents] belonging intrinsically to it." Contrast this with Ross: "There is a science which investigates being as being and the attributes that belong to it in virtue of its own nature"; and with Sachs: "There is a kind of knowledge that contemplates what is insofar as it is and what belongs to it in its own right." Sachs is closest to the original and to its mystery; but "contemplates," though literal, falsely suggests the science is complete at this point and, anyway, Sachs uses "being as being" by the end of the chapter. Ross adds the word "attributes" and is a bit [End Page 131] loose about theorei. Reeve manages to capture that metaphysics is a theoretical science—he mentions E 1 in his notes—and he brackets "coincidents" to indicate that it is not in the Greek. Yet, is "coincidents" the right word? Among what belongs to being qua being are its causes and elements—they belong "not coincidentally but qua being" (1003a28-32)—the principle of noncontradiction, and the characters discussed in book Δ. Yes, a coincidental (sumbebekos) can be per se (that is, "belong … intrinsically"), but not in the sense that it is part of something's nature (1025a30; compare An. Po. 1.4.73a34–b1—this last a passage Reeve does not cite in his notes on Δ 30), a sense that should be available here. So, Reeve's translation here, and elsewhere, is not perfect, but the text is so challenging that it would be hard to do a better job. It is presumably such textual difficulties that justify Reeve's extensive notes. In many of them, Reeve cross-references pertinent passages from the Metaphysics and other works. These are enormously useful, especially since Reeve conveniently quotes the referernces. Most of these references and most of his textual choices are based on Ross's Greek text and commentary (Oxford University Press, 1924), a work that is not readily accessible to readers without Greek. However, many of Reeve's notes go well beyond determining and cross-referencing the text, and aim at interpreting arguments and doctrines. Of this second group of notes, some may be helpful, but many are much more controversial than most readers will realize. For example, commenting on the first sentence of Γ, Reeve distinguishes four "meanings" of the word "being," the...


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