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Définitions et traductions d’un concept clef dans la pensée antique et médiévale

Volume 18/19, 2020/2021
Ousia: Essence ou Substance?

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1. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Anca Vasiliu

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ousia chez platon et dans sa réception latine

2. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Francesco Aronadio

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The purpose of this paper is to highlight the basic meaning of ousia in Plato’s philosophical use of the term. “Basic” is not intended as “the strongest”, let alone “exclusive”, insofar as the semantics of ousia encompasses a variety of philosophical meanings. On the contrary, the basic meaning is proposed to be the elementary semantic component of ousia, which is present in the background of Plato’s quasi‑technical use of the term and marks the difference from its ordinary meaning. In view of this, a “genetic” aspect is firstly considered, that is, the connection with the Socratic question “What is X ?”. Thereafter, a brief mention to Plato’s conception of language and its relation to reality is made, focusing on the notion of eponymy. This because Plato’s coinage of the philosophical semantics of ousia gives this term the role of an eponym, in the sense that its prominent value is the reference to the Forms, but this does not exclude (on the contrary, includes) that it may refer to other types of entities. In the last two sections of the paper, a number of passages from Plato’s works are examined to show that the basic meaning of ousia ultimately is “determined existence”, inasmuch as it designates any thing existing with its own peculiar feature(s). For ousiai can be empirical things as well as Forms, which implies that the meaning of Plato’s ousia should not be understood in the light of an (Aristotelian) substance/accident relation.
3. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Elsa Grasso

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The Theatetus and the Sophist present in succession two “battles” regarding ousia. In so doing, ousia is placed at the heart of what is essential to both dialogues : in fact, ousia interconnects with the conditions of possibility, both physical and metaphysical, of logos and epistèmè.However, each dialogue brings differing conceptions of discourse and science into play, and both articulate a different train of thought regarding being. Ousia appears differently in the two dialogues and it is not the same thing as the notion of ousia, usually considered to be truly Platonic, presented in the central books of the Republic, which neither the Socrates of the Theatetus nor the Stranger of the Sophist put forward.Both present ways out of the battles, each has its own middle course. Against the thesis of the non‑immutability of ousia, the Theatetus establishes that there is not only motion. And, unlike the doctrine that reduces ousia to Forms excluding all motion, the Sophist shows that while there is not only motion, there is not only rest either. Such different orientations in the treatment of ousia, just below and just above doctrinal Platonism as it were, adjust to distinctions in the epistemological stakes : even if the Theatetus emphasizes that science proceeds from an activity of the soul bringing together “commons”, it is not yet a question, as it will be the following day, of systematically getting epistèmè to intellectually grasp a set of eidetic relationships, nor of making logos itself the elaboration of relationships. One needs to have left the field where those in favour of motion are challenged on their own ground, and in an albeit transformed field marked out by the partisans of eide which is not the field hierarchical metaphysics either, it will become possible to analyse the discourse itself as a relational framework that is consistent with the framework of ousia.
4. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Francesco Fronterotta

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This article examines the problem of the status of the different degrees of being that Plato, in the Timaeus, seems to attribute to the different kinds of reality that he distinguishes. In what sense and under what conditions is it possible to state that the intelligible forms, the sensible things and the spatial and material substratum of the chora “are” and “exist” ?
5. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Clara Auvray·Assayas

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Which Greek concept is translated by essentia ? The question is raised from a methodological perspective and aims at re‑examining the Latin texts on which philologists have based the history of essentia. Neither Cicero nor Seneca used the term, because they did not need it: its philosophical meaning is fully developed only when the theological discussions about the Trinity arise. The absence of essentia in the classical period gives some useful information about the way Plato was read at Rome: thus a critical history of the Latin philosophical lexicon should contribute to a better understanding of the reception of Greek philosophy in Rome.
6. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Béatrice Bakhouche

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Expressing ‘essence’ in the translation and commentary of Timaeus by Calcidius (4th c. p.D.) depends on Platonist terminology which is not completely stabilised. We will see how, in his translation, Calcidius translated Greek words as οὐσία or φύσις, but also how he used the word substantia whereas there was no expression of essence in the Greek text. The Latin commentator used both essentia and substantia, but the latter quite often. However, in doing so, he weakened the meaning of the word substantia. Lastly, Calcidius translated into Latin and used Greek no‑Platonist expressions with a very specific signification of ‘essence’.

sens de ousia chez aristote

7. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Annick Jaulin

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In Aristotle, substance, being specified in Z17 as cause and principle, is to be understood according to the analogical theory of principles and causes, namely form, matter and privation. These three causes involve potentiality and actuality, since form, privation, and the compound substance are in actuality, while matter is in potentiality. ≪What a substance is≫ depends on the connection between these three principles. In order to grasp the meaning of this connection, one has to put the analogical theory of principles back in its context, where previous theories on contraries (Plato’s theory included) are amended.The amendment of previous theories of principles relies on positing a third term, matter, between both opposites, i.e. form and privation. The implied distinction between matter and privation allows an understanding of generation which makes it compatible with substance. While generation removes privation, substance as form gives shape to matter, final matter and shape being identical to one another. Predication of matter by form supplies a relevant pattern for considering the relationship between matter, form and privation. At the same time, predication of matter by form provides both a renovated theory of opposites and a new theory of form as a cause, i.e. a theory of form as actuality.
8. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Fabienne Baghdassarian

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This paper deals with the Aristotelian notion of topical matter (ὕλη τοπική) mentioned in a few passages of the Metaphysics and ascribed to the celestial bodies. Taking into account the metaphysical context of each occurrence of this notion, it tries to determine for what metaphysical use this notion has been developed and what impact it has on the ousiological analysis of the celestial substances. It suggests that the notion of topical matter, although intended to provide a convenient tool that makes possible a metaphysical, i.e. universal study of sensible substances, by allowing to subordinate every sensible substance to similar principles, in fact prevents celestial substances from being defined as ordinary hylomorphic compounds and leads to conceive them as a particular type of substances.
9. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Cristina Viano

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Aristote est l’inventeur de la notion de matière et de cause matérielle. Mais les passages oú il parle d’une matière absolument première sont rares dans le corpus aristotélicien. Le problème, posé depuis longtemps par les interprètes modernes, est le suivant : Aristote croyait‑il à l’existence d’une matière imperceptible, sans forme et sans qualités, en tant que niveau autonome de la réalité, ou envisageait‑il plutôt la matière première comme un objet logique, un pur concept abstrait ?On se propose ici d’analyser le dossier des passages aristotéliciens les plus sensibles sur la question de la matière première et, après un rapide status quaestionis des interprétations antiques et modernes, on avancera une proposition interprétative selon la ligne «traditionnelle», à contre‑courant par rapport à la tendance actuelle.
10. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Silvia Fazzo

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The initial dilemma. I.1. The gradual rise of the Metaphysics. I.2. A bold contribution from textual history. I.3. A new perspective on late ancient commentaries. I.4. First philosophy or Metaphysics? I.5. Can tradition be ignored? II. ‘Being’ and οὐσία at the core of Aristotle’s theoretical research. II.1. Ontology as a science of ‘being’ in Aristotle: “What is X?” in the foreground. II.2. The first caveat: the copula function of Aristotle’s ‘being’. II.3. The definite article τό as quotation marks before the flexed forms of ‘be’: τὸ ὄν, τὸ εἶναι, τὸ ἔστιν. II.4. Further explanations about Aristotle’s ‘being’. III. Οὐσία, the core of Aristotle’s theoretical philosophy. III.1. οὐσία and the criterion of pre‑eminence as Plato’s legacy. III.2. The dialectical roots of ontology. III.3. οὐσία from Zeta to Lambda. III.4. οὐσία as essence and οὐσία as substance. III.5. οὐσία as a syntactical core; the word’s etymology. III.6. οὐσία as the first sense of being in Aristotle’s first philosophy. III.7. Ontology as science, science of the science. IV. Historicizing: the semantic gap. IV.1. Editorial tradition: ontology and οὐσία as a fil rouge in the order of Metaphysics books. IV.2. οὐσία in the first century B.C. IV.3. οὐσία by Alexander of Aphrodisias. IV.4. Metaphysics and its purpose: the role of the Lambda book. IV.5. Being and οὐσία: a relationship lost over time. IV.6. The Aristotelian tradition as a way to cooperation.
11. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Ilan Moradi

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In the Corpus Aristotelicum there are two different theories of substance which apply to the sublunary world. The first theory is found in the Categories and selects the individual concrete as a primary substance (πρώτη oὐσία). The second is found in the Metaphysics (mainly in book Z) and selects the Form (εἶδος) and the Essence (τὸ τί ἦν εἶναι) as a primary substance. Most of the interpretations of modern Aristotelian scholarship claim an inconsistency. They suggest that if at all Aristotle has a theory of substance, then it is either the substance theory of the Categories or the one of the Metaphysics but not both of them. The supposition of all these interpretations is that Aristotle’s theory of substance is unambiguous and that there can be only a single primary substance. These interpretations suppose that the theory of substance is applicable only to a single domain, namely to ontology.In my paper I argue that this supposition is false. I suggest that Aristotle’s theory of substance is applicable not only to ontology but also to the domain of determinology whose meaning is explained in the paper. The theory of substance of the Categories applies to ontology whereas the one of the Metaphysics applies to determinology. The two theories are consistent with each other in a way that there are two commensurate sorts of primary substance: the individual concrete as the ontological primary substance of the Categories and the Form‑Essence as the determinative primary substance of the Metaphysics.Furthermore, I claim that Aristotle’s concept of substance is manifold and flexible. The concept evolves and is expanded in the Metaphysics. It is manifold because his theory of substance has a certain structure which includes the following three criteria for selecting a primary substance: (1) subjecthood viz. being a subject (τὸ ὑποκείμενον), (2) independence (τὸ χωριστόν) and (3) (well) determined individuality (τὸ τόδε τι). Aristotle’s concept of substance is flexible because these criteria do not have an absolute signification per se but are general and relative. They get a final signification when they are applied either to the ontology in the Categories or to the determinology in the Metaphysics. Their application to a certain domain establishes a theory of substance according to the domain in question and selects a primary substance according to the same domain. Aristotle’s concept of substance is flexible also because in the Metaphysics he enlarges his first concept of substance expressed by the three criteria by adding a new sort of substancehood expressed by the idion criterion.

ousia dans l’aristotélisme arabo‑latin tardo‑antique et mediéval

12. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Renato de Filippis

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Dans la réflexion métaphysico‑théologique de Boece, fondée sur la condition préalable de l’unicité de la vérité, les termes «essentia» et «substantia» jouent un role fondamental. Avec le premier, le sénateur romain indique généralement «ce qui fait d’une chose ce qu’elle est» ; avec le second, il désigne dans la plupart des cas le sujet porteur d’accidents. Les contradictions apparentes et les échanges terminologiques (liés avant tout à la «substantia») ne remettent pas en cause la valeur de Boèce en tant que philosophe, ni celle de son système spéculatif.
13. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Kristell Trego

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This article aims to consider the permanence of the Greek term ousia, sometimes transcribed as usia, during the early Middle Ages, when the translation by substantia was imposed. We consider two figures of the Carolingian period, John Scottus Eriugena and Ratramnus of Corbia. We suggest that the word ousia/usia may express aspects of being that the Latin term substantia does not support.
14. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Olga L. Lizzini

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The idea that defines quiddity – independence or neutrality in relation to the modalities of existence – allows Avicenna not only to speak of a duality in the being of existing things, but also to use apparently logically incompatible notions to qualify quiddity: that of reality (or truth), on the one hand, and that of possibility (or falsity), on the other. The very conception of the independence of quiddity – which lets us consider quiddity as a separate element in the existing thing – can be recognized in the resolution of the doubt that concludes the Maqāla fī l‑tawḥīd of Yaḥyā ibn ‘Adī (d. 974). A comparison between Avicenna’s discussion of quiddity in his Metaphysics and the discourse of Yaḥyā ibn ‘Adī confirms the idea that this Christian philosopher and theologian who was active in Baghdad in the tenth century could have played an important formative role in the ontology of the great Persian philosopher.
15. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Enrico Berti

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The article shows that Thomas Aquinas in many of his works (De ente et essentia, Summa theologiae, Sententia in Aristotelis Metaphysicam) interprets the passage Aristot. Metaph. II 1, 993 19‑31, as expounding a theory of degrees of truth and of being, which is not the true Aristotelian doctrine. This is due to the fact that he interprets ≪the eternal things≫, mentioned by Aristotle in that passage, as the heavenly bodies, and their principles as the unmoved movers, while Aristotle is speaking of the eternal truths, i.e. the truths of scientific knowledge, and of their principles, which are the axioms. The origin of Thomas’ interpretation is the commentary by Alexander of Aphrodisias, which Thomas knew via Averroes.

autour de ousia. notions complémentaires dans le stoïcisme et l’aristotélisme

16. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Maria Protopapas·Marneli

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The Stoics try to demonstrate, in a theoretical context, more than any other philosophy, the link unifying the parts with the whole, in all areas of existence; namely, from man to divine reason, from god to nature – a tautological link in some cases – from matter to logos or creative pneuma. This unifying bond – hexis or continuity – guarantees the attachment between bodies which are in a state of sympathy (or interaction) which also constitutes their existence. It remains to seek the meaning of this notion; draw on its etymology: according to Bailly’s dictionary, the term hexis in Greek means among other meanings: action of possessing, possession. And according to the dictionary of L.‑S.‑J., hexis (proper noun) derives from the future of the verb ἕξω, from the verb ἔχω, (to have, to possess); in its intransitive form refers to a permanent condition, namely to an act, which results from practice.In order to make an attempt to define this concept or to orient its function, it seems appropriate for us to do some research – we could say historical –, consulting texts prior to Stoicism, examining its place and the nuances it takes in different contexts and finally, follow its interpretation where, according to philosophical approaches, it sometimes means disposition, habit, or situation. Nevertheless, the Stoics give this term an original meaning, different from the one that was granted to it until then. It is the hectic pneuma or the tension (tonos) prevalent in the universe. In this perspective, we will try to define its function and compare it with the notion of hexis in Aristotle, where it acquires the meaning of metaxy, in his Metaphysics, Δ, 1022b12.
17. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Maddalena Bonelli

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Porphyry’s Expositio per interrogationem et responsionem can help us to understand some obscure passages of chapter seven of Aristotle’s Categories, focused on the relative (πρός τι). The Porphyrian analysis of πρός τι presents indeed developments which are both useful for the understanding of the Aristotelian text and very innovative too. First, we can mention the general Porphyrian thesis according to which categories are predicates. This theory fits very well with πρός τι, which are predicates corresponding to properties that subjects only possess because of an observed reciprocal relationship. This brings us to the second novelty of Porphyry’s analysis, really important for modern developments of the notion of relation, namely the difference between σχέσις and πρός τι, which depends on it. Finally, we will mention the important Porphyry’s contribution to the understanding of a particularly obscure issue concerning the relationship between the two definitions of πρός τι that Aristotle provides. Porphyry points out the Platonic origin of the first definition, without dismissing it though: instead, he will just consider it too vast and encompassing the true πρός τι, object of the second definition.
18. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Cristina Cerami

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The present paper aims at presenting Averroes’ doctrine of act and potency in the framework of his general conception of metaphysics as a science. By tracing the origins of his doctrine back to Alexander of Aphrodisias, it shows that Averroes conceives act and potency as concomitant attributes of being qua being and as terms πρὸς ἕν and ἀφ’ ἑνός. According to this reading, the study of these two notions, considered as such, constitutes an essential step in Averroes’ metaphysical project, whose ultimate goal is to account for the essence of the first of all forms: God.
19. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Jean‑Baptiste Brenet

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This article examines Averroes’ interpretation, found in his Long Commentary on the De Anima, of a famous passage in Aristotle’s De An. III 5 (430a14‑15) which presents the intellect “producing all things, as a kind of positive state (hexis), like light”. Averroes, clearly heir to Alexander of Aphrodisias for whom hexis refers not to the intellect “agent” itself but to its product, defends nevertheless, via the comparison with light, the conception of the agent intellect (a substance purely in act by itself ) as an hexis, which leads us to the inevitable consequence that the agent intellect is the prime object of the material intellect, acting as a condition for all subsequent thoughts.

ousia dans la tradition platonicienne grecque et syriaque

20. Chôra: Volume > 18/19
Fabienne Jourdan

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Οὐσία in Numenius: a notion which is progressively elaborated: Analysis of the difficulties linked to οὐσία and ἰδέα in fragments 22 F, 24 F and 28 F (fr. 14, 16 et 20 dP). In the Περὶ τἀγαθοῦ, Numenius refines his definition of οὐσία step by step. He uses the word at first as a synonym of τὸ ὄν (15 F) and as another designation of being. Then, he associates it to the ἕξις when he refers to the specific οὐσία which possesses science (22 F): in all likelihood, this οὐσία is the intellect as the essence common to God and Man in the possession of science. Finally, Numenius gives οὐσία two aspects or sides which, in our opinion, represent two manners of conceiving the intelligible it constitutes: on the one hand, οὐσία comes from Being itself (the Good) and seems to represent the eidetic predicates or what we could name the “fundamental intelligibility”, a state in which the form is not determined yet, but which gives it the status of a real being ; on the other hand, οὐσία is the product of the second god and intellect and the determined aspect of the previous one, which makes it possible to distinguish the forms one from the other. In this last case, Numenius seems to name οὐσία more specifically ἰδέα, even if both words are elsewhere synonymous and used to refer to the two aspects previously mentioned according to the context in which they are employed. The paper presents the analysis of fragments 22 F, 24 F and 28 F from which we arrive at this interpretation. The distinction between two manners of conceiving οὐσία makes it possible then to discover two levels in the Being at the origin of each of them: Being itself (αὐτοόν which is the Good itself, αὐτοάγαθον) and the ≪second≫ or ≪just≫ Being, constituted by the good demiurge which is probably the “One who is good par excellence”. From there, two ways of conceiving ἰδέα also appear: on the one hand, ἰδέα is synonymous with οὐσία, then it refers to the second aspect of οὐσία, the determined one; on the other hand, it can also refer to the level of Being which is the Good when, in fragment 28 F, it is conceived as a form and probably as the Form par excellence identified with the intellect which this Good is itself.