Seeking the Source of an Aristotle quotation



Long ago I came across a statement by Aristotle, 'True knowledge is identical with its object'. I never came across it again and now wonder where I found it.

Is there an Aristotle scholar here who knows where this statement appears?

Thanks if so.


Posted 2018-01-22T10:50:49.400




Aristotle, 'In the case of objects which involve no matter, what thinks and what is thought are identical' ('De Anima', III, 430a, 3-4). (J.A. Smith tr., Oxford.)

Geoffrey Thomas

Posted 2018-01-22T10:50:49.400

Reputation: 34 276

Many thanks. Geoffrey. This is helpful and I'll note it but it's not quite the quote I'm after. – None – 2018-01-23T10:33:48.870

1@PeterJ. Remember that we are dealing with translations. Only having the Greek would enable us to pinpoint the text. Might I suggest, though, (a) that 'what thinks' could be a mind informed by true knowledge and (b) that 'object' and 'what is thought' (the object of true knowledge) could be interchangeable expressions. That reading would give us something pretty close to 'True knowledge is identical with its object'. Another point : on Aristotle's theory of knowledge 'true' knowledge is obtainable only of 'objects which involve no matter'. Once matter is involved, knowledge becomes inexact. – Geoffrey Thomas – 2018-01-23T10:51:14.097

Thanks Geoffrey. My view on your a and b is a little different but it doesn't matter. Good point about translation but I think your quote is too different to be the same one. Perhaps I dreamed it. . – None – 2018-01-24T13:24:10.767

1@PeterJ. I think you remembered correctly but translation leaves wide scope for different renderings. Let's hope either that you find the translation in which your quote appears or that you can find the Gk original and we can see what varieties of meaning it is capable of. I've enjoyed the exchange. Thank you - Geoffrey – Geoffrey Thomas – 2018-01-24T14:09:31.660

Got it. It;s from 'On the Soul and reads 'Actual knowledge is identical with its object': – None – 2018-11-04T13:33:57.387


Long ago I came across a statement by Aristotle, 'True knowledge is identical with its object'. I never came across it again and now wonder where I found it.

Is there an Aristotle scholar here who knows where this statement appears?

It sounds like the following statement, to be found in Aristotle's On the Soul, Book III, Part 7 (Translated by J. A. Smith; p. 1242 in the Aristotle Organon and Other Works, translated under the editorship of W. D. Ross):

Actual knowledge is identical with its object: potential knowledge in the individual is in time prior to actual knowledge but in the universe it has no priority even in time; for all things that come into being arise from what actually is.

Of course I'm no Aristotle scholar but I tracked it down first by googling the phrase given in the question and finding it first here, thereafter searching Internet Archive for a slightly more original text.

I personally like my own peculiar way of saying it:

  • Actual knowledge resonates with its object.

And Aristotle is also quoted as saying something similar, in Aristotle de Anima (R. D. Hicks):

It is possible to have hearing and yet not hear; again, that which is resonant is not always sounding. But when that which is capable of hearing actually hears and that which is capable of sounding sounds, the actual hearing and the actual sound occur simultaneously.

I threw that in because the question immediately caused me to think of it, and the idea is very important to me personally because that is how I believe humans are capable of truly knowing God: through identification (what I call "resonance") with it.


Posted 2018-01-22T10:50:49.400

Reputation: 2 249


This whole Q&A is excellent and your answer is also excellent. I don't know if you have ever studied Hegel, but if you can keep all of this before you it will be helpful with Hegel too. I will add this too

– Gordon – 2018-11-03T22:47:21.307

@Gordon I welcome your recommendation, thank you! I have so much to learn, and now gratefully add Hegel to my list. – Bread – 2018-11-03T22:56:12.183

1@Gordon These are wonderful, I'm always pleased to discover more good books. – Bread – 2018-11-03T23:14:57.083

@Bread - Interesting answer, thanks. In the meantime I found the quote. It is from 'On the Soul' and reads 'Actual knowledge is identical with its object'. (This would suggest that a knowledge of God, if it is possible, is self-knowledge and not knowledge of something apart from ourselves.) . . – None – 2018-11-04T13:33:09.333

@PeterJ The truth is that God is not apart from ourselves, when we choose to resonate or identify ourselves with it. That is true knowledge of God. But when we choose only to focus on ourselves, that's all we know, and hence we feel separated from God. – Bread – 2018-11-04T14:05:26.380

1@Bread - It seems we share the same view. I like Simone Weil's comment that God plays hide and seek with us and is usually hiding behind the sofa. – None – 2018-11-04T14:08:15.243

@PeterJ That's a good one :) – Bread – 2018-11-04T14:11:00.883