In this passage: (Physics 189a7-9)

For that which is universal is more easily known in the former way, since accounts are of what is universal, and that which is particular in the latter, since perception is of particulars

What does Aristotle mean when he uses the word "accounts"? Is this passage trying to say that universals and particulars are identical since both can be "perceived/accounted"?

If my translation of this text is correct, then this seems to contradict his previous statement in Physics 1 Chapter 1 when he says

The natural course is to proceed from what is clearer and more knowable to us, to what is more knowable and clear by nature; for the two are not the same.

1 Answer 1


Same locus [translated by R.P. Hardie and R.K. Gaye, from The Complete Works of Aristotle. Volume 1, the Revised Oxford Translation, edited by Jonathan Barnes, 1984]:

The universal is knowable in the order of explanation, the particular in the order of sense; for explanation has to do with the universal, sense with the particular.

Thus, "empirical" knowledge, based on sense perception, is knowledge of the particular, while "rational" knowledge, i.e. explanation from first principles, is knowledge of the universal.

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