Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Conspectus of Aristotle’s Book Metaphysics

Written: 1915
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th Edition, Moscow, 1976, Volume 38, pp. 363-372
Publisher: Progress Publishers
First Published: 1930 in Lenin Miscellany XII. Published according to the manuscript
Translated: Clemence Dutt
Edited: Stewart Smith
Original Transcription & Markup: Kevin Goins (2008)
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Conspectus of Aristotle’s book “Metaphysics” is contained in a notebook directly following the fragment “On the Question of Dialectics.” The book was published by Schwegler in Greek with a German translation.
Note that this document has undergone special formating to ensure that Lenin’s sidenotes fit on the page, marking as best as possible where they were located in the original manuscript.




See above, quotation about “house.”[1]

A mass of extremely interesting, lively,
naïve (fresh) matter which introduces
philosophy and is replaced in the exposi-
tions by scholasticism, by the result without
movement, etc.

Clericalism killed what was living in
Aristotle and perpetuated what was dead.

“But man and horse, etc., exist as individ-
uals, a universal for itself does not exist
as an individual substance, but only as
a whole composed of a definite concept and

definite matter” (p. 125, Book 7, Chapter
10, 27-28).

Ibidem, p. 126, §§ 32-33:

...“Matter is in itself unknowable. Some
matter is sensible and some intelligible;
sensible, such as bronze and wood, in a
word, all movable matter; intelligible, that
which is present in sensible things not
qua sensible, e.g., the objects of mathe-

Philosophy is
often divert-
ed by the
definition of
, etc.
, all
categories are


Highly characteristic and profoundly in-
teresting (in the beginning of the Meta-
) are the polemic with Plato and
the “puzzling” questions, delightful for
their naïveté, and Bedenken[2] regarding
the nonsense of idealism. And all this
along with the most helpless confusion
about the fundamental, the concept and
the particular.

NB: At the beginning of The Metaphysics
the stubborn struggle against Her-
aclitus, against his idea of the identity of
Being and not-Being (the Greek philos-
ophers approached close to dialectics but
could not cope with it). Highly character-
istic in general, throughout the whole
book, passim,[3] are the living germs of
dialectics and inquiries about it....

In Aristotle, objective logic is every-
where confused
with subjective logic and,
moreover, in such a way that everywhere
objective logic is visible. There is no
doubt as to the objectivity of cognition.
There is a naïve faith in the power of
reason, in the force, power, objective truth
of cognition. And a naïve confusion, a
helplessly pitiful confusion in the dia-
of the universal and the par-
ticular—of the concept and the sensuously
perceptible reality of individual objects,
things, phenomena.

Scholasticism and clericalism took what
was dead in Aristotle, but not what was
living; the inquiries, the search-
ings, the labyrinth, in which man lost
his way.

Aristotle’s logic is an inquiry, a search-
ing, an approach to the logic of Hegel—
and it, the logic of Aristotle (who every-
, at every step, raises precisely
the question of dialectics), has been
made into a dead scholasticism by reject-
ing all the searchings, waverings and modes
of framing questions. What the Greeks
had was precisely modes of framing ques-
tions, as it were tentative systems, a naïve
discordance of views, excellently reflected
in Aristotle.


...“Hence it is clear that no universal
exists next to and in separation from its
particulars. The exponents of the Forms are
partly right in their account when they
make the Forms separate; for the Forms
are particular substances, but they are

wrong in considering the one-over-many

as form. The reason for this is that they
cannot explain what are the imperishable
substances of this kind which exist beside
and outside particular sensible substances;
so they make the forms the same in kind as


perishable things (for these we know); i.e.,

they make Ideal Man and Ideal Horse, add-
ing the word ‘Ideal’ to the names of sensible
things # (p. 136, Book 7, Ch. 16, § 8-12) #.


However, I presume that even if we had
never seen the stars, nonetheless there
would be eternal substances besides those

which we knew; and so in the present case
even if we cannot apprehend what they
are, still they must be in existence. It is

clear, then, both that no universal term
is particular substance and that no par-
ticular substance is composed of particular
substances (ούσία)” (— § 13 at the end of
the chapter).

Delightful! There are no doubts of the
reality of the external world. The man
gets into a muddle precisely over the
dialectics of the universal and the par-
ticular, of concept and sensation, etc.,
of essence and phenomenon, etc.

(P. 146, Book 8—can it have been
inserted afterwards?—Chapter 5, § 2-3).

...“There is a difficulty in the question
(άπορία) how the matter of the individual

is related to the contraries. For example,
if the body is potentially (δυνάμει) healthy,
and the contrary of health is disease, is
not the body potentially both healthy and


...“Further, is not the living man poten-
tially (δυνάμει) dead?”

(P. 481), Book 11, Chapter 1, § 12-14:

...“They” (the philosophers) “posit the
objects of mathematics as intermediate be-

tween the Forms and sensible things, as
a third class besides the Forms and the
things of our world. But there is no third
man or horse besides the Ideal one and
the particulars. If on the other hand it is
not as they make out, what sort of ob-
jects are we to suppose to be the concern
of the mathematician? Not surely the things
of our world; for none of these is of the
kind which the mathematical sciences in-


Ibidem, Chapter 2, § 21-23:

...“Again, is there anything besides the
concrete whole (I mean by this matter
and the material) or not? If not, all things
are perishable, at least everything mate-
rial is perishable; but if there is something,
it must be the form or shape. It is hard
to determine in what cases this is possible
and in what it is not....”

Pp. 185-186, Book 11, Chapter 3, § 12—
mathematics sets aside heat, weight and
other “sensible contrarieties,” and has in
mind “only quantity”... “it is the same
with regard to Being.”

Here we have the point of view of
dialectical materialism, but accidental-
ly, not consistently, not elaborated, in

Windelband in his sketch of the history
of ancient philosophy (Müller’s Handbuch
der klassisehen Altertums-wissensehaft
V, I, S. 265) (Reading room of the Bern Li-
brary) stresses that in Aristotle’s logic
(die Logik) “has as its most general pre-
mise the identity of the forms of thought
with those of Being,” and he quotes Metaph-
, V, 7: “δσαχώς λέγεται τοσαχώς
τό εϊναι σημαίνει.” That is § 4. Schwegler
translates it: “Denn so vielfach die Ka-
tegorien ausgesagt werden, so vielfach be-
zeichnen sie em Sein.”[4] A bad translation.

An approach to God:

Book 12, Chapter 6, § 10-11:

...“For how can there be motion if there
is no actual cause? Wood will not move
itself—carpentry must act upon it; nor
will the menses or the earth move them-
selves—the seeds must act upon the earth,
and the semen on the menses....”

Leucippus (idem, § 14) accepts eternal
motion, but he does not explain why
(§ 11).

Chapter 7, § 11-19—God (p. 213).
...“Eternal motion must be excited by
something ... eternal” (Chapter 8, § 4)...

Book 12, Chapter 10—again a
“re-examination” of the fundamental ques-
tions of philosophy; “interrogation marks,”
so to speak. A very fresh, naïve, doubting
exposition (often hints) of various points
of view.

In Book 13 Aristotle again returns
to a criticism of Pythagoras’ theory of
numbers (and Plato’s theory of ideas),
independent of sensible things.


[[ Primitive idealism: the universal (con-
cept, idea) is a particular being.
This appears wild, monstrously (more accu-
rately, childishly) stupid. But is not
modern idealism, Kant, Hegel, the idea
of God, of the same nature. (absolutely
of the same nature)? Tables, chairs and
the ideas of table and chair; the world
and the idea of the world (God); thing
and “noumen,” the unknowable “Thing-
in-itself”; the connection of the earth and
the sun, nature in general—and law, λόγος,[5]
God. The dichotomy of human knowledge
and the possibility of idealism (= religion)
are given already in the first, elemen-

“house” in general and particular houses

The approach of the (human) mind to
a particular thing, the taking of a copy
(= a concept) of it is not a simple,
immediate act, a dead mirroring, but one
which is complex, split into two, zig-zag-
like, which includes in it the possibility
of the flight of fantasy from life; more
than that: the possibility of the transfor-
(moreover, an unnoticeable trans-
formation, of which man is unaware) of
the abstract concept, idea, into a fantasy
(in letzter Instanz[6] = God). For even in
the simplest generalisation, in the most
elementary general idea (“table” in gen-
eral), there is a certain bit of fantasy.
(Vice versa: it would be stupid to deny
the role of fantasy, even in the strictest
science: cf. Pisarev on useful dreaming,
as an impulse to work, and on empty day-

Naïve expression of the “difficulties” of
the “philosophy of mathematics” (to use
modern language): Book 13, Chapter 2, § 23:
     ...“Further, body is a kind of substance,
since it already in some sense possesses
completeness; but in what sense are lines
substances? They could not be that, neither
as form or shape as, for instance, the soul,
nor as matter, like the body; for it does
not appear that anything can be composed
either of lines or of planes or of points....”
(p. 224)

Book 13, Chapter 3 solves these dif-
ficulties excellently, distinctly, clearly,
materialistically (mathematics and other
sciences abstract one of the aspects of
a body, phenomenon, life). But the au-
thor does not consistently maintain this
point of view.

Schwegler in his commentary (Vol. IV,
p. 303) says: Aristotle gives here a positive

exposition of “his view of the mathemat-
ical: the mathematical is the abstraction
from the sensuous.”


Book 13, Chapter 10 touches on the ques-
tion, which is better expounded by Schweg-
ler in the commentary (in connection with
Metaphysik VII, 13, 5): science is con-
cerned only with the universal (cf. Book 13,
Chapter 10, § 6), but only the particular
is actual (substantial). Does that mean that
there is a gulf between science and real-
ity? Does it mean that Being and thought
are incommensurable? “Is true knowledge
of reality impossible?” (Schwegler, Vol. IV,
p. 338.) Aristotle answers: potentially
knowledge is directed to the universal,
actually it is directed to the particular.

Schwegler (ibidem) describes as höchst

beachtenswert[8] F. Fischer’s work: Die
Metaphysik, von empirischem Standpunkte
aus dargestellt
[year of publication (1847)],
who speaks of Aristotle’s “realism.”


Book 14, Chapter 3, § 7: ...“why is it that
while the mathematical is in no way present
in sensible things, its attributes are pres-
ent in sensible things?”... (p. 254)

(The last sentence of the book, Book 14,
Chapter 6, § 21, has the same meaning.)

End of The Metaphysics.

Friedrich Fischer (1801-1853), Professor
of philosophy in Basle. An article about
him by Prantl (Allgemeine Deutsche Bio-
, Vol. 7, p. 67) gives a disparag-


ing account of him and says that “through
a complete rejection of subjective idealism
he nearly fell into the opposite extreme
of an un-ideal empiricism.”




[1] See p. 359 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] doubts—Ed.

[3] everywhere—Ed.

[4] “In as many ways as categories are stated, in so many ways do they denote being.”—Ed.

[5] logos—Ed.

[6] in the final analysis—Ed.

[7] Lenin is referring to the article “Blunders of Immature Thought” by D. I. Pisarev, well-known democratic writer and literary critic.

[8] most valuable—Ed.


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