A Critical Study of the Aristotlian concept ousia and the Ambiguity of Translations of this Term



The word “ousia”, derived from “eimi” (“to be”) is only of the most fundamental concepts in Aristotelian ontology. In spite of its importance, however, Aristotle’s texts regarding this concept and not uniform and, in addition, the equivalents which most translators have selected or coined are open to criticism. The first Latin translators chose essentia, which was a faithful translation in so far as it signifies ‘being’; however it was not long before this translation was replaced with substantia, which is a bad choice. The English form of the wrong choice, i.e. substance, was also accepted by most English translators and still prevails. However English speaking experts have taken to revising this translation and the word ‘entity’ has gradually gained acceptance. In Arabic speaking domains this problem remains and no measures of redress have been taken. None of the possible words, such as dhat, jawhar and Tabiah can perform the function of ousia. Needless to say, such a state of affairs has left a negative impact on the understanding of Aristotle`s ontology