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What's up with relational change?

Aristotle's Met. 10 and Physics 5.2

Lecture by Matthew Duncombe (Nottingham), organized by the Department of the History of Philosophy

In Phys. 5.2 and a parallel passage at Met. 9. 12, Aristotle argues that proper change takes place the categories of quality, quantity and place, while changes in the categories of substance, action/passion and relatives (ta pros ti) are merely ‘accidental’ (kata sumbebekos) changes. Commentators have not given an adequate account of either why Aristotle thinks that relational change is not proper change or why Aristotle thinks that such changes are merely accidental.

In this paper, I set out to answer both of these questions. First, I argue that relational change is not proper change because, according to Categories 7, a relative is constituted by relating to a correlative. A larger thing just is a thing larger than some smaller thing. So if a relative gains or loses its relation, it ceases to be. But ceasing to be is not a relational change, its an existential (sometimes called ‘substantial’) change. So even apparent change in the category of relatives turns out to be non-relational change. Second, I argue that relational change is accidental because it is a matter of a so-called ‘accidental unity’ gaining or losing a relative element. The referent of ‘Socrates’ is a bundle of accidents: a man, a philosopher, a snub-nose, a larger thing. But when Theaetetus changes (in quantity) to become larger than Socrates, one element, a larger thing, ceases to exist. So Socrates has undergone a change, but only by an accident of his ceasing to exist. Hence he undergoes merely accidental change.

When & where?

Wednesday, 21 Septemeber 2016, 3.15-5 pm
Faculty of Philosophy, room Omega

Last modified:15 September 2016 2.09 p.m.