Volume 59, Issue 3, September 2019
Partial Truth in Aristotle’s Metaphysics
This paper explores the status of partial truths, i.e., statements that are partially true and partially false, in Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Contrary to what some scholars have suggested, it argues that partial truths are not confined to reputable opinions (endoxa) that have not yet been clarified and disambiguated. Rather, they have a more central role in Aristotle’s investigation. First, I propose that the fundamental question of being, namely, “What is substance?” is such that even our best attempts to answer it may never yield a full or complete truth. Second, at least in some instances, Aristotle does not seem interested in disambiguating the assertions of previous thinkers to attain propositions that are fully true or fully false. This is the case because our capacity to gain insights into the nature of things is mediated by our reflections on previous theories and on the problems that they incur. It may thus be desirable to retain some partial truths that, owing to their very ambiguity, force us to interrogate the nature of things more deeply.