The metra in Aristotle, Eth. Nic. V vii 5 1134b 35–1135a3
This essay analyses a passage in Aristotle, Eth. Nic. V vii 5, 1134b35-1135a3. This passage is usually understood to say that corn and wine measures are ‘larger in wholesale and smaller in retail markets’, or at any rate that ‘wholesale and retail measures differ’; and this is often explained as: ‘Dealers buying up corn or wine in large quantities compute by means of large units of measurement; but when they retail their stock they find it convenient to use smaller units — e.g., bottles instead of hogsheads’. This standard interpretation is rejected as false, and an alternative is suggested in which the measures are (A) prescribed by law, (B) differently in different states; and by which we can explain (C) Aristotle's curious concentration first on one side and then on the other of transactions all of which are essentially two-sided, and (D) how buyers as such can be thought of as preferring their measures to be μείζω [‘larger’], sellers as ἐλάττω [‘smaller’].
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