TABLE OF CONTENTS
TITLE PAGE … … … … … i
CERTIFICATION … … … … ii
DEDICATION … … … … … … … iii
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS … … … … … iv
TABLE OF CONTENTS ... … … … … vi
1.0 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY … … … 1
1.1 Introduction … … … … … … 1
Statement of the Problem … … … … 3
Purpose of the Study … … … … … 5
Scope of the Study … … … … … 6
Methodology … … … … … … 6
EXPLICATION OF TERMS CUM HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES
AMONG ANCIENT PHILOSOPHERS … … … 8
2.1 The Reality and nature of change … … 8
The Reality and nature of Permanence … 16
Perspectives among ancient Philosophers… 24
Heraclitus – Omnia Flux … … … 25
Parmenides – Omnia Permanens … … 29
3.0 ARISTOTELIAN NOTION – A
UNIFICATION OF THE PARMENIDEAN AND HERACLITEAN POSITIONS… 35
3.1 Act and Potency … … … … … 36
Hylemorphic Theory … … … … 40
3.3 Categories – Substantial and Accidental changes… 44
General critique and Evaluation … … … 50
Conclusion … … … … … … … 59
BIBLIOGRAPHY … … … … … … 60
OF THE STUDY
The sense of wonder is the mark
of the philosophers. Thus, according to
Aristotle, “all men by nature desire to know”1. On the same note, philosophically and
otherwise, man has to give meaning to the mysteries befogging his finite
nature. Therefore it is not out of place
that we are dragged into the concepts and facts of change and permanence.
To the philosophers then, this
omnipresent fact of change and permanence offered a paradoxical challenge
stretching from the ancient Greek philosophy, through the medieval and modern,
down the contemporary period. Succinctly
put, the problem of change and permanence is as old as philosophy itself hence
according to Popkin, R.H:
Greek thinkers were impressed with the two
basic features of the world, the occurrence of natural change and the
continuance of certain apparently permanent conditions.
The earliest Greek thinkers attempted
to work out explanations of reality by asserting that underlying all the
apparent changes; there is real, unchangeable element. The motive behind this inquiry as highlighted
by Mullin E. was that,
…If the many could be seen in some way as instances of
one, it would then be sufficient to grasp the one.
reality is one thing, which however, appears in different guises at different
this background, some thinkers proceeded by way of action and reaction and
delved into formulating theories in view of the enigma of change and
permanence. The problem they grappled
with was prompted by fact of material change, and the principle they posited
were arrived at through observation and thought. “For Thales, reality was
water, for Anaximander, it was the ‘boundless’ or the infinite; and for
Anaximanes, it was air.” In the
history of Greek thought these earliest thinkers were called the pre-Socratics. Referring to them, Copleston observed that,
…We can already discern in them the notion of unity in
difference and of difference as entering into unity.
Heraclitus consolidated change at the expense of permanence while Parmenides argued
that, “absolute change is impossible and unthinkable and by nature things are
permanent.” So for Heraclitus, all
things flow; nothing abides, thus, “one cannot step twice in the same river”.
Whereas Parmenides states that change, becoming or motion is impossible,
because they would involve both non-being and being which being
contradictories, cannot both be. Thus,
according to Parmenides, “Being is; non-being is not.”
The position of these two champions gave rise to the great controversy on change
and permanence, which arose as to how things can change and yet remain the
same. It was in an attempt to solve this
‘excruciating’ problem in philosophy that Aristotle came up with his principles
of act and potency, Hylemorphism and categories (substance and Accidents).
change what takes place is neither annihilation nor creation but transition of
being from one state to another.
Wherever there is change, it presupposes the reality of that which
changes. Therefore, there is permanence
and there is change.
The philosophical debate as to
whether change or permanence will take the upper hand over the other is a
problem that cannot be over looked in philosophical discipline at all
times. Hence, the problem at stake here
is how true is it that what we call change really takes place? And why things
will remain the same despite the occurrence of change? This central question provoked many others,
thus how can one and the same entity turn into that which it previously was
not? If everything changes all the time, could there actually be any
permanence, real, unchanging feature of the universe? And if reality were
actually unchanging and unchangeable, how could it have any thing to do with
the apparent world of change and how could it explain the world of change.
on this, Egbeke Aja states that,
As early philosophers explored these problems, it
seemed to them that change and permanence were incompatible, and that reality
had to be one or the other, either ever changing or completely permanent.
originated because of the conflict between our sense perception and that made
by the intellect. The intellect sees
reality as one while the senses grasp reality as many and always in flux. But how can we reconcile this apparent
contradiction between our sense perception of reality and that given by our
In all, two
basic problems could be deduced from this topic, namely
Must we take seriously both multiplicity and the
oneness of being or can we affirm one aspect and dissolve the other as mere
appearance, illusion, or projection of the mind?
If we take both aspects seriously, how are they
co-possible? What kind of unity is involved? How can the unity and diversity be
with this philosophical problem of change, Aristotle posited his doctrine of
act and potency, Hylemorphism and categories as a solution. Thus, these doctrines arose as an attempt by
Aristotle to provide a lasting solution to the problem of change and
permanence, which had challenged philosophy for a century and a half. But did he actually succeed? This is actually
the problem that motivated this research.
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
It is the
answer to these arrays of thought provoking questions that this paper is geared
to find. It is the search for the most
fundamental truth about this world.
Truth about reality never completely manifests itself at an instance but
through a process of gradual unfolding.
This paper inquires into the origin of the problem of change and permanence,
and then will investigate the views offered by two great philosophers of
timeless repute, Heraclitus and Parmenides. Further, it studies in a more
detailed manner the solutions offered by one of the greatest genius, Aristotle. Lastly, the tremendous impact of his thought
on practical life will be viewed.
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
of Aristotle’s vast contribution and discussion in philosophy, the scope of
this study is based on his mediation on the problem of change and
permanence. His key concept to this
realization is the unification of the Parmenidean and Heraclitean
positions. His notion of Act and
potency, Hylemorphism and categories should be highlighted though in relation
to Parmenides and Heraclitus’ perspectives.
To make the study scholarly and easy to comprehend, the nature of change
and permanence are to be discussed.
The work is
expository and analytic. Heraclitus’ and Parmenides’ concept of change and
permanence shall be exposed with their views and reasons. Then, in the light of these expositions, the
notion of change and permanence in Aristotle’s perspective shall be
analyzed. In approaching this topic for
a better apprehension, it is divided into four chapters. Chapter one explicates the background, aim,
scope, problem and method of the study.
In chapter two, the concepts of change and permanence, which will focus
simply on the etymological derivation of the two terms and on their elucidation
and explication, will be discussed. The
historical perspective of Parmenides and Heraclitus who were extremists in
their treatment of the subjects of change and permanence will be viewed in the
same chapter. Chapter three deals with
Aristotle’s mediation between the two positions with his doctrine of Act and
Potency, matter and form (Hylemorphism), and substantial and accidental change
(Categories). In chapter four, the whole
exposition will be evaluated which will also touch on the influence the
resourcefulness of Aristotle’s philosophical mind had on the practical
life. This will be followed by a general
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