Chapter Three

The Question of the Priority of φρόνησις or σοφία
as the Highest Mode of ἀληθεύειν (Met. I, 2, part 2;
Nic. Eth. VI, 7-1 0, X, 6-7)

§18. The divinity of σοφία and the questionableness of σοφία as a
possibility of man (Met. I, 2, part 2).
Σοφία as constant dwelling
with the
ἀεί. Human Dasein as "slave" ( δούλη) of ἀναγκαία and
ἄλλως ἔχοντα. The priority of σοφία with respect to Αληθευειν.

The question is whether σοφία can be a κτῆσις and ἕξις of man. Aristotle first raises this question by quoting Greek poetry.1 This citation says that σοφία is a θεῖον. Aristotle shows this explicitly in the Nicomachean Ethics (X, 7, 11 77b26ff.). Here, in the Metaphysics, Book I, 2, only natural Dasein expresses itself, and what it says is that the θεός alone would have the possibility of καθ᾽ αὑτὸν ἐπιστήμη (b31f.), i.e., of σοφία. It is reserved for the gods alone. What possibilities are the gods otherwise supposed to have? But, further, the poets say that the gods are jealous with regard to man, that they begrudge man σοφία. But, Aristotle says, let us not give too much weight to such claims of poets, because, as even a proverb has it, they mostly deceive.2 The gods cannot be jealous at all, and this is not because they are too good to be jealous, but because the mode of existence of the θεῖον excludes all πάθη, all affects. On the other hand, there is no higher kind of knowledge than σοφία. Aristotle shows this by saying cautiously that perhaps a god would most of all actually have σοφία and therefore one could justly speak of σοφία as a θεῖον; and a further reason would be that the object of σοφία is everlasting being,3 θεῖον. Aristotle initially lets the question stand at this point. Note that Aristotle, in ascribing σοφία to the θεῖον, is not asserting the proposition absolutely, and that for him σοφία is not a θεῖον factually but only potentially. He concludes the consideration by remarking that ἀναγκαιότεραι μὲν οὖν πᾶσαι ταύτης, ἀμείνων δ᾽ οὐδεμία (983a10f.), "for Dasein, all modes of knowing, in the broadest sense, are more necessary and more pressing than σοφία, but none is better."

1. 982b31: θεὸς ἂν μόνος τοῦτ᾽ ἔχοι γέρας. "Only a god is supposed to have this privilege." Semonides, Fragment 3, 5; in Anthologia lyrica sive lyricorum Graecorum veterum praeter Pindarum. Reliquiae potiores. Post Theodorum Bergkium quartum edidit Eduardus Hiller. Exemplar emendavit alque novis fragllentis auxit O. Crusius , Leipzig, 1913.

2. πολλὰ ψεύδονται ἀοιδοί (Met. I, 2, 983a4), "The poets lie a great deal."

3. Cf. Nic. Eth. VI, 7, 1141a24.