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Aristotle’s Metaphysics, one of the most influential works in Western thought, is a collection of fourteen treatises or books. The title is not by Aristotle and is due to a Hellenistic editor, traditionally identified with Andronicus of Rhodes (1st century BCE). Metaphysics (ta meta ta phusika) means “the things after the physical things” and may point to the position of the metaphysical books in the Hellenistic edition of Aristotle’s works (after the physical books) or possibly to the order in which metaphysical issues should be learned in an ideal curriculum (after the study of physics). Aristotle, however, is not responsible for assembling the books of the Metaphysics into a single work. The collection is most likely to have been put together by Andronicus or someone else on the basis of the thematic similarities among the individual treatises. Although the Metaphysics is not a unified work in our sense, it seems undeniable that the different treatises of the collection pursue a general philosophical project or discipline, which Aristotle variously refers to as “wisdom,” “first philosophy” or even “theology.” Such a discipline is described in the Metaphysics as a theoretical science, as opposed to practical and productive sciences, and is sharply distinguished from the other two theoretical sciences, physics and mathematics. In many ways it would not be incorrect to describe Aristotle’s project in the Metaphysics as metaphysics. Many of the issues Aristotle deals with—such as existence, essence, individuation, identity, Universals, the nature of material objects, just to mention a few—are certainly issues that we would comfortably describe as metaphysical. But in other respects, Aristotle’s conception of metaphysics is broader than ours, as it includes philosophical areas—such as rational theology, cosmology, philosophy of mathematics and logic—that do not obviously fall within metaphysics in our sense, though they may be closely related to it. Aristotle’s Metaphysics has been enormously influential in shaping Arabic and Latin medieval thought and has remained central to early modern philosophy as well. Over the last sixty years or so, the Metaphysics has been rediscovered by metaphysicians in the analytic philosophy tradition as a source of philosophical insights. This renewal of philosophical interest has been matched by a proliferation of sophisticated scholarly works on Aristotle’s writing. This article has the twofold aim of mapping out resources on the text of the Metaphysics and offering bibliographical guidance on the philosophical issues dealt with in Aristotle’s writing.
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In: Oxford Bibliographies - Classics