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Aristotle's Categories. Annotated Bibliography of the studies in English: I - O


  1. Irwin, Terence H. 1981. "Homonymy in Aristotle." Review of Metaphysics no. 34:523-544.

    "What, then, are Aristotle's conditions for homonymy and multivocity?

    It is often assumed that the conditions are different, but that they both reflect differences in the senses of words. 1 I will argue" that each of these assumptions is less than the whole truth; homonymy and multivocity are often the same, and neither is intended to mark different senses of words." (pp. 523-524, note omitted)


    [Aristotle] search for homonymy is not meant to encourage skepticism about the existence of essences for words to name, but to forestall skepticism that might result from the rejection of the Platonic attempt to see one essence for every name; Aristotle does not want to renounce the search for essences, but only to recognize different essences correlated with the same name. While the Wittgensteinian arguments about family resemblance are arguments against essentialism, Aristotle's arguments are a defence of essentialism. The difficulties in his doctrine of homonymy are difficulties in his general views about real essences." (p. 544)

  2. Jansen, Ludger. 2011. "Aristotle's Categories." Topoi no. 26:153-158.

    "We need reliable techniques of information retrieval: search engines, indices, and categorisation.

    Faced with such an urgent need for categorisation, a book on categories is more than welcome.

    Aristotle, a young philosopher from Athens in Greece with a Macedonian background, has now published a philosophical investigation on this topic.

    Such could be the beginning of a review of Aristotle’s Categories, were it published today. The aim of this essay as an ‘‘Untimely Review’’ is to speculate how such a review would continue. Such an exercise in counterfactual history is easier when we review some neglected and hitherto uninfluential text. For such a text can really have a fresh impact on contemporary philosophy, whereas a classic text, being neither neglected nor uninfluential, is, as a rule, already an active force that has shaped and continues to shape the philosophical landscape. This applies in particular in the case of Aristotle’s Categories, which has been for more than two millennia one of the most influential textbooks in philosophy." (p. 353)


    "How could such a review conclude? Maybe thus: Aristotle’ Categories can help to find our way around the internet. The first question of any retrieval technique that is more than a search for strings of characters should be: To which category does the thing that I am searching for belong? Aristotle’s little treatise suggests helpful changes in perspective that could benefit contemporary ontology, and especially the steadily growing field of applied ontology. They can give new impulses towards applications in biomedical, legal or business information sciences, but also inspire new work on the old question: What is being?" (p. 158)

  3. Jones, Barrington. 1972. "Individuals in Aristotle's Categories." Phronesis.A Journal for Ancient Philosophy:107-123.

    "With the publication of J. L. Ackrill's translation of the Categories(1) and G. E. L. Owen's paper "Inherence"(2) a dispute has arisen over what Aristotle means in that work by an individual where the individuals in question are not prime substances. The bulk of published opinion has favoured Ackrill's account of the matter,(3) an account which is also found in the writings of W. D. Ross and Miss Anscombe.(4) However, this account involves certain difficulties.

    The major difficulty is an internal one, the question of the interpretation of 2 a 34-b 6. This passage is described by Ackrill as "compressed and careless,"(5) while Owen claims that the matter "is put beyond question" in favour of his own view by the lines, and that "by themselves they settle the issue."(6) A second immediate difficulty is that such non-substantial individuals do not seem to reappear elsewhere in the Aristotelian corpus and are absent even from his discussion of the various categories in the Categories itself." (p. 107)


    "Accordingly, I wish to re-examine the issue. I shall try to show that what Aristotle means by a non-substantial individual is fully captured by neither of the two current accounts, that 2 a 34-b 6 has been misconstrued by both parties, that Aristotle's account is entirely

    reasonable, relying simply on an accurate observation of what is presupposed by the activity of counting, and, finally, that the account offered in the present paper enables us to understand aright his distinction between synonymy, homonymy and paronymy.(9)" (p. 108)

    (1) Aristotle's Categories and De Interpretatione (Oxford, 1963).

    (2) Phronesis, X (1965), pp. 97-105.

    (3) v. J. M. E. Moravcsik, "Aristotle on Predication," Philosophical Review, LXXVI (1967), pp. 80-96; G. B. Matthews and S. M. Cohen, "The One and the Many," Review of Metaphysics, XXI (1968), pp. 630-655; R. E. Allen, "Individual Properties in Aristotle's Categories," Phronesis, XIV (1969), pp. 31-39.

    (4) W. D. Ross, Aristotle (London, 1923), p. 24, n.1.; G. E. M. Anscombe and P. T. Geach, Three Philosophers (New York, 1961), pp. 7-10.

    (5) Ackrill, p. 83.

    (6) "Inherence," p. 100.

    (9) I shall suppose that the Categories is a genuine work of Aristotle's. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations from the Categories are those of Ackrill and all translations from elsewhere in the corpus are my own. The technical vocabulary of the Categories is used according to Ackrill's translation throughout.

  4. ———. 1975. "An Introduction to the First Five Chapters of Aristotle's Categories." Phronesis.A Journal for Ancient Philosophy no. 20:146-172.

    "In an earlier paper (1) I have argued that a satisfactory account of Aristotle's postulation of individuals, both substantial and nonsubstantial, in the Categories can be achieved by taking seriously his characterization of these individuals as things that are 'one in number' and by interpreting this characterization as 'a unit in a possible act of enumeration'. This approach to the Categories as important consequences for the interpretation of the remainder of the work.

    In this essay I wish to present an account of the first five chapters (bar chapter 4 which lays out the categories themselves) based on the former paper.

    In particular, I wish to examine the fourfold division of 'the things that are' in chapter 2 and the two relations of 'being said of' and 'being in' (or, rather, 'existing in') that are used to construct this fourfold division, and the nature of 'primary substance' (or, rather, 'primary being') and the basis for its distinction from 'secondary substance' (or, rather, 'secondary being'). The account that will be developed here is substantially and importantly different from any other that I am aware of, and, even if it does not secure conviction, its publication will hopefully make the dogma that the Categories is a 'common-sensical' work less readily tenable and force a re-thinking of the usual account of the work." (p. 146)

    (1) "Individuals in Aristotle's Categories," Phronesis, 17 (1972) 107-123.

  5. Jones, J. R. 1949. "Are the Qualities of Particular Things Universal or Particular?" The Philosophical Review no. 58:152-170.

    "There are some curious things in the opening chapters of Aristotle's Categoriae. One is the admission, which seems to justify Porphyry's inclusion of the species as a fifth predicable, that "man" can be predicated of "the individual man." Another is the hint of a sense in which the qualities of a particular thing share in its particularity.

    A distinction drawn in the second chapter between "presence in a subject" and "assertability of a subject" yields a division of fundamental entities in which the opposition of "man" to "this individual man" is paralleled by a similar opposition of "white" to "this individual white." This doctrine is nowhere else repeated in Aristotle' and may have little relevance to a study of the development of the Peripatetic philosophy. But it does seem to me to provide a significant alternative to the view that all that is adjectival to a thing, that is, every quality of it, is universal. I have become increasingly dissatisfied with this view and would like, in what follows, to examine the alternative to it which seems to be implied in the passage of Aristotle's to which I am referring." [Cat. 1a, 16-1b, 9.] (p. 152)


    "I submit that Aristotle pointed to the correct solution of his problem (but regrettably missed the significance of it) when he suggested that what is "present in" substance, namely, its accidents or attributes, can be "individual and one in number." For the moment

    it is thus recognized that characters may occur unrepeatably, the bare substantival "this" becomes clothed in the content of an adjectival or attributive "thisness" and its individual essence need no longer be sought in an empty material substratum.(34)

    The view that characters are necessarily universals has been held by philosophers who have insisted that recognition presupposes acquaintance with a bare "this." But I should have thought it selfevident that an object which we may know by merely confronting must have content, as well as an existence, that is irrecurrably its own." (p. 170)

    (34) 341t is sometimes claimed that Aristotle redeemed his doctrine of individual essence by suggesting that the individual may possess a distinct form as well as distinct matter, that is, content, as well as a substrate, that is irrecurrably its own. But, as Cook Wilson has seen, it is only in terms of a doctrine of particular qualities that this suggestion can be made good. Speaking of Aristotle's description of particularity as "matter which has the form," he points out that "form" here must be "the particular quality of the thing and not the universal; it is the particular definiteness of the thing" (S.I. ii, 713).

  6. Kahn, Charles H. 1978. "Questions and Categories. Aristotle's Doctrine of Categories in the Light of Modern Research." In Questions, edited by Hiz, Henry, 227-278. Dordrecht: Reidel.

    "The categories of Aristotle do not represent a complete logical inventory, a classification of all terms or concepts represented in language. They do attempt to classify all the terms of a basic object language, where these terms are specified by the questions that can be asked or answered concerning an individual subject. Hence the number of categories will be determined by the number of fundamentally distinct questions that can be raised concerning such a subject. As has often been pointed out, the full list of ten given in the Categories and in Topics 1.9 suggests that Aristotle must have taken a human being as his specimen subject, for only in this case would the two minor categories, Posture and Having (or Clothing) be natural topics of inquiry.

    There is, then, a factual connection between Aristotle's list of categories and the linguistic forms of question or inquiry. But what is the philosophical significance of this connection? Reflection on this matter may proceed along two quite distinct lines of thought, each of which could provide material for a study devoted to questions and categories. On the one hand, we might consider Aristotle's doctrine simply as an early example of the genre, and widen the concept of category to include modern theories of logical, conceptual, and grammatical categories. Our topic would then become: the connection between interrogative forms and categorial distinctions in general. On the other hand, we may keep our attention fixed on Aristotle's doctrine but generalize the remark about interrogative forms to include other grammatical or linguistic considerations. Our topic will then be: the significance of the connections between Aristotle's scheme of categories and certain facts of grammar, including the grammar of questions in Greek. It is this second topic that I propose to study here: I will discuss Aristotle's theory, not category theories in general." (pp. 227-228, notes omitted)


    "The doctrine of categories is not, after all, the central thesis in Aristotle’s ontology. It provides a kind of introduction to metaphysics and to theoretical philosophy in general, by sorting and circumscribing the domain of things that are beings per se, ‘in their own right’. When the categorial scheme is applied in connection with the focal meaning of being, it effects a preliminary unification and ordering of this domain in its ontological dependence on substance or ‘entity’. But in the final analysis the scheme does not tell us what is to count as an entity or how the structure of a substance is to be understood. The deeper analysis of substance itself and its relation to the dependent beings must be carried out by the use of different concepts, φυσικώς not λογκίώς as Aristotle will sometimes say, concepts derived not from the theory of predication but designed specifically for the analysis of natural motion and change: concepts like mover and goal (τέλος), matter and form, potency and act. Both physics and metaphysics culminate in the theory of the Unmoved Mover, the entity (or entities) whose being is actuality, the final cause of all motion and change, the ‘primary substance’ on which all other substances depend (Λ.7, 1072b 14; cf. Γ.2, 1003b16—17, E.1, 1026a27-31). In this ultimate perspective for ontology, which Aristotle himself never worked out in full detail, the preliminary contribution of the categories in distinguishing substance from the various kinds of dependent beings must seem quite modest and elementary. All the more reason, however, why the categorial scheme itself should be firmly rooted in humble, everyday questions like What is it? How big? Of what sort or quality? In relation to what? Where? and When?" (p. 266)

  7. Kapp, Ernst. 1942. Greek Foundations of Traditional Logic. New York: Columbia University Press.

    Contents: Preface V-VIII; I. The origin of logic as a science 5; II. Concepts, terms, definitions, ideas, categories 20; III. Judgments, subject and predicate 43; IV. Syllogisms 60; V. Induction: ancient and modern logic 75; Books cited 89; Index 91-95.

    On the categories see pp. 36-42.

    "There is no doubt that the book Categories is partly responsible for the contents of this first part of traditional logic, because it professes to deal with the significance of unconnected parts of sentences; but the Topics, our earliest document, not only of Aristotle's treatment of syllogisms but also of categories, shows that the doctrine of categories was originally a doctrine of sentence-predicates and was only later transformed by Aristotle himself into some scheme for pigeonholing whatever carries a single word as its name." (p. 23)


    "[Categories] contains, on the basis of a short but very interesting preparatory section (chaps. I-III), which one might call more·logical than ontological, a minute description of the first four categories (substance, quantity, relation, and quality), in which an ontological point of view seems to prevail. The doctrine here revealed is far from the flexible subtleties of Aristotle's fully developed metaphysics, but there are some striking coincidences with statements otherwise peculiar to the Topics; and the conclusion that the treatise Categories was a comparatively early work by Aris.totle himself is fairly safe.

    In any case, even without reference to the question of authorship and chronology it can be stated that nowhere else in Aristotle's writings is the source of the difficulties which are inherent in the later form of the doctrine so transparent as here." (p. 40)

  8. Kenny, Anthony John Patrick. 1983. "A Stylometric Comparison Between Five Disputed Works and the Remainder of the Aristotelian Corpus." In Zweifelhaftes im Corpus Aristotelicum. Studien zu einigen Dubia. Akten des 9. Symposium Aristotelicum, Berlin, 7-16 September 1981, edited by Moraux, Paul and Wiesner, Jürgen, 345-366. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

    [The five dubious works examined are: Categoriae, Meteorologica IV, De Motu Animalium, Metaphysica α, Metaphysica Κ.]

    "What can stylometric techniques tell us about the authenticity of the five possibly Aristotelian works which are the topic of this Symposion? In the present state of our knowledge it is not easy to give a precise answer to this question. There is no doubt, to my mind, that the statistical examination of literary style is a valuable auxiliary tool in the study of the questions which interest the philologist and the philosopher who approach an ancient text. But to decide whether a work is genuine or spurious is one of the most difficult tasks for stylometry." (p. 345)


    "A firm stylometric conclusion about the authenticity of the works which are the topic of this symposion would have to be based on a truly gigantic amount of investigation: investigation which would take a very long time even now when machine-readable texts of Aristotle are available and when computers will produce concordances, word counts, and statistical analyses with a modicum of effort. The present essay offers only a minute contribution to such an investigation. It studies the use of twenty-four common particles and connectives in the dubious works, comparing the four commonest of them with virtually the whole Aristotelian corpus, and the other twenty with a large sample of some three hundred thousand words, which constitute about thirty per cent of the round million words of the entire corpus. The essay will provide only tentative indications of the genuineness or spuriousness of the works in dispute; but it will illustrate the difficulties and pitfalls of the use of stylometric methods in authorship attribution studies.

    The four commonest particles in the Aristotelian corpus are καί, δέ, γάρ and μέν, in that order. Between them these four particles constitute around fourteen per cent of a typical Aristotelian text. Because of their frequency and topic-neutrality they provide suitable material for statistical study. We shall use them as a starting-point for a comparison between the dubious works and the rest of the Aristotelian corpus." (pp. 346-347)


    "The overall conclusion, then, of this study is as follows. We have discovered in our examination of twenty four particles no real evidence suggesting the spuriousness of Metaph. K or of Mot. Anim. But the frequencies of άλλά, δή, διό, ώσπερ and γε in Cat. and of καί, μέν, δέ, αν, γε, διό in Mete. IV are eccentric enough to be suspicious. And the overall picture of particle usage in Metaph. α appears to be quite different from that in other works of Aristotle." (pp. 365-366)

  9. Kohl, Markus. 2008. "Substancehood and Subjecthood in Aristotle's Categories." Phronesis.A Journal for Ancient Philosophy no. 53:172-179.

    Abstract: "I attempt to answer the question of what Aristotle’s criteria for ‘being a substance’ are in the Categories. On the basis of close textual analysis, I argue that subjecthood, conceived in a certain way, is the criterion that explains why both concrete objects and substance universals must be regarded as substances. It also explains the substantial primacy of concrete objects. But subjecthood can only function as such a criterion if both the subjecthood of concrete objects and the subjecthood of substance universals can be understood as philosophically significant phenomena. By drawing on Aristotle’s essentialism, I argue that such an understanding is possible: the subjecthood of substance universals cannot simply be reduced to that of primary substances. Primary and secondary substances mutually depend on each other for exercising their capacities to function as subjects. Thus, subjecthood can be regarded as a philosophically informative criterion for substancehood in the Categories."

  10. Kosman, Louis Aryeh. 1967. "Aristotle's First Predicament." Review of Metaphysics no. 20:483-506.

    Reprinted in: Mary L. O'Hara (ed.), Substances and Things. Aristotle's Doctrine of Physical Substance in Recent Essays, Washington: University Press of America, 1982, pp. 19-42.

    "Is the aristotelian list of categories, enigmatically entitled "κατηγορίαι-predicates," a list of terms classifying types of predicates, or a list of predicates classifying types of entities? Consider two ways in which a list of categories might be generated. Given some entity, we may distinguish different types of questions which we ask about it, such that each type determines a limited and exclusive range of appropriate answers."


    "Alternatively, we might attend not to the different answers appropriate to different questions asked about the same entity, but to the different answers which result when, about different entities, the same question is asked repeatedly, the question "What is it?"


    "Each ultimate answer will signify a supreme and irreducible genus of entity, not a type of predicate, but a predicate, effecting a classification of things into their ultimate types." (pp. 483-484)

  11. Kunkel, Joseph C. 1971. "A New Look at Non-Essential Predication in the “Categories”." The New Scholasticism no. 45:110-116.

    "Recent commentators appear in general agreement over the essential nature of the expression 'predicated of' in Aristotle's Categories(1) 'Predicated of' denominates the genus-species-individual or essence-singular relationship. Only the species, genus, or essence is predicable of the individual subject. Accidental predication is prohibited. Moreover, the species and genera can be subjects, but individuals can never be predicates.

    My opposition is not to the expression 'predicated of' including the species, genera, or essences as predicable of individuals, but to this expression as only including, or being equivalent to, that type of predication. Does 'predicated of' exclude accident. as predicable of substances? Reflecting the thinking or the other commentators, C.-H. Chen says, "What it is still more important to observe in this connection is that in the Categoriae no intergeneric predication and, therefore, also no intercategorical predication are conceived to be genuine predication.(2) I think the limitation of predication to essential, categorical lines is untenable for three reasons." (p. 110)

    (1) Cf. S. Mansion, "La doctrine aristotélicienne de la substance et le traité des Categories," Proceedings of the Tenth International Congress of Philosophy, I, pt. II (Amsterdam, 1949), pp. 1097-98; L. M. de Rijk, The Place of the Categories of Being in Aristotle's Philosophy {Assen, 1952), p. 70; C.-H. Chen, "On Aristotle's Two Expressions: ϰαθ᾿ ὑποϰειμένου λέγεσθαι and ἐν ὑποϰειμένῳ ἐιναι" Phronesis, 2 {1957), 149-50; J. Owens, "Aristotle on Categories," Review of Metaphysics, 14 (1960-61), 75-76; J. L. Ackrill, Aristotle's Categories and De Interpretatione (Oxford, l963), pp. 74-76 ; G. E. L. Owen, "Inherence," Phronesis, 10 (1965). 97-98; and J. M. E. Moravcsik, "Aristotle on Predication," Philosophical Review, 16 (1967), 85-93.

    (2) Chen, Phronesis, 2, 150.

  12. Kwan, Tze-Wan. 2008. "The Doctrine of Categories and the Topology of Concern." In The Logic of the Living Present (Analecta Husserliana, Vol. 46), edited by Tymieniecka, Anna-Teresa, 243-301. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

    "Introduction. There is little doubt that the problem of categories has been among one of the most frequently discussed topics in philosophy ever since Aristotle.

    Important as it was, the problem of categories has however become in the eyes of todays' students of philosophy an old-fashioned or even out-dated problem. If philosophy itself is for most people a marginal discipline of little practical value, then the problem of categories would turn out to be the most abstract and most detached issue of all. But is the problem of categories really that abstract?

    Compared with more sensuous problems such as "Life and Death", "Freedom" or "Justice", the problem of categories gives us the impression of being a matter of theoretical technicality that is of mere scholastic interest. However, we will see bit by bit in the following, that the problem of categories has in the last analysis a strong relevance to the basic concerns of philosophy as well as to the very world perspective of man.

    We will also show that as man's basic concerns vary from culture to culture and from one age to another, the respective systems of categories will take up an utterly different structural outlook." (p. 243)


    "If we examine the original Greek expressions of the ten categories, we discover that they are not at all abstract conceptual expressions, but rather a checklist of some very commonly used everyday locutions. Take the categories 1t0'O and 1to't~ for example: if

    it was Aristotle's wish to express what we now call Place and Time, he could have readily used expressions such as 't61to~ and Xp6vo~ which were already very common in those days.

    Taking this point into consideration, one can decide upon another principle of translation. Instead of rendering the ten categories as ten abstract conceptions, one might describe them as ten basic patterns of ordinary locution (or better, interrogation) arriving thus at the following table: (19)

    Οὐσία [τί ἐστι] Substantive

    Ποσόν Adjective (quantitative)

    Ποιόν Adjective (qualitative)

    Πρός τι Adjective (comparative)

    Ποῦ Adverb of place

    Πότε Adverb of time

    Κεῖσθαι Verb - middle voice

    Εχειν Verb - perfect

    Ποιεῖν Verb - active voice

    Πάσχειν Verb - passive voice

    (19) See Aristotle's Categories, translated by Harold P. Cooke, Aristotle in Twenty-three Volumes, Vo!. 1; The Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1938/1973), pp. 16-19.

  13. Lang, Helen. 2004. "Aristotle's Categories "Where" and "When"." In Categories: Historical and Systematic Essays, edited by Gorman, Michael and Sanford, Jonathan J., 21-32. Washington: Catholic University of America Press.

    The word “category” itself comes from the verb κατηγορέω, meaning “to denounce,” “to accuse,” or, as we shall see in Aristotle, “to be predicated.” In his entry “Categories” in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Manley Thompson turns first to “Aristotelian Theory” and asserts:

    The word “category” was first used as a technical term in philosophy by Aristotle. In his short treatise called Categories, he held that every uncombined expression signifies (denotes, refers to) one or more things falling in at least on of the following ten classes: substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, posture, state, action, and passion.(1)

    This list of categories is almost always attributed to Aristotle. But in fact it does not reflect Aristotle's language either in the Categories, which Thompson cites, or in the rest of the corpus. With the exception of the first category, substance, none of Aristotle’s categories is a noun;(2) they are adjectives, adverbs, infinitives, and in one case (“relation”) a prepositional phrase, made to stand as substantives. Although classical Greek certainly allows for the formation of substantives by means of a definite article, Aristotle does not always use an article when specifying categories, and even when he does, these expressions seem odd. Indeed, they are part of the reason why Aristotle’s Greek is often thought of as Hellenistic rather than “classical,” strictly speaking.

    The question for a philosopher is not translation per se but what is at stake substantively in this apparently linguistic matter. Here I shall consider two of Aristotle’s categories. They appear above as “place” and “time,” but I shall argue that they are more properly “where” and

    “when”—indefinite adverbs that are sometimes best translated as “somewhere” and “sometime.” I shall conclude that the translations “place” and “time” obscure important substantive issues at stake in these categories. These issues appear clearly in both the historical origins of these categories in Plato and in the relation of these categories to Aristotle’s physics." (pp. 21-22)

    1. Manley Thompson, “Categories,” in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan, 1967), 2:46–47.

    2. A good deal of work has been done on the etymology of Aristotle’s word οὐσία. For example, see the excellent discussion in Joseph Owens, The Doctrine of Being in the Aristotelian Metaphysics, 3d ed. (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1978), 137–54.

  14. Leszl, Walter. 1970. Logic and Metaphysics in Aristotle (Aristotle's Treatment of Types of Equivocity and Its Relevance to His Metaphysical Theories). Padova: Antenore.

    Contents: Preface 1; Introduction 7; Part I. Aristotle on Meaning and What Is Meant 23; Chapter I. The meaning of words 25; Chapter II. The unity of the components of definition 50; Chapter III. The structure of reality 60; Part II. Homonymy, Sinonymy and Related Concepts 81; Chapter I. Aristotle’s classification of the uses of predicate words and expressions and of sentences 83; Chapter II. Generalities on focal meaning and on analogy 114; Part III. Some Intepreters Treatment of Focal Meaning and Analogy 133; Chapter I. The prevailing accounts of focal meaning and of analogy and of Aristotle’s employment of them in the context of his metaphysics 135; Chapter II. The synonymy account of focal meaning as applied to the being of the categories 162; Chapter III. The synonymy account of focal meaning as applied to the model-copy situation 182; Part IV. Close Analysis of the Logical Mechanism of Focal Meaning and f Analogy According to the Various Competing Accounts 203; Chapter I. Criticism of the synonymy account of focal meaning as applied to the being of the categories 205; Chapter II. Criticism of the synonymy account of focal meaning as applied to the model-copy situation 252; Chapter III. Introduction of some logical distinctions concerning relations and related terms and of some other accounts of focal meaning 285; Chapter IV. The homonymy account of focal meaning and of analogy 303; Part V. Evidence for and Againt each of the Competing Accounts of Focal Meaning and of Analogy 327; Chapter I. Examination of the evidence concerning Aristotle’s alleged changes in his treatment of words with focal meaning and with analogy 329; Chapter II. Interpretation of the evidence concerning analogy 373; Chapter III. Interpretation of the evidence concerning focal meaning 387; Part VI. Aristotle's Criticism of Platonic Metaphysics 451; Chapter I. Self-defeating character of Aristotle's objections to Plato on the traditional account of his metaphysical thought 453; Chapter II. Suggestions towards the elimination of the alleged contradictions in Aristotle's metaphysical thought 486; Chapter III. Aristotle's methodology as contrasted with the methodology of the Academics 539; Bibliography 553; Indexes 567; Index of Texts 569; Index of Greek terms 579; Index of Subjects 583; Index of Persons 595-601.

    "The generality of the main title of the present work may be misleading as to its actual scope, which is more appropriately defined by its subtitle. It is an inquiry into Aristotle’s treatment of ομωνυμία and of its species, considered in the background of his metaphysical theories, which both condition and are conditioned by that logical treatment. It is the prevalence of an interest in these two-way conditionings which is expressed by the main title.

    Tn spite of misgivings, then, I have preserved it on this ground, and also because the work is meant to be a part of a more comprehensive treatment of logic and metaphysics in Aristotle, which should include a detailed examination of the way in which the logical distinctions here introduced are used in dealing with fundamental words like “being”, “one” and “good”. At least in the conclusive chapter I have actually gone beyond (he theme defined by the subtitle by showing that Aristotle’s treatment of types of equivocity is only one instance, if probably the most important and interesting one, of his methodology of definition." (from the Preface, p. 1)

  15. Lewis, Frank A. 2004. "Aristotle on the Homonymy of Being." Philosophy and Phenomenological Research no. 68:1-36.

    "The topic of homonymy, especially the variety of homonymy that has gone under the title, “focal meaning,” is of fundamental importance to large portions of Aristotle’s work-not to mention its central place in the ongoing controversies between Aristotle and Plato. It is quite astonishing, therefore, that the topic should have gone so long without a book-length treatment.

    And it is all the more gratifying that the new book on homonymy by Christopher Shields should be so comprehensive, and of such uniformly high quality.(1)

    Everyone who cares about Aristotle will be in his debt.

    Shields’s book falls into two parts. In the first, he is concerned to lay out the basic structure of Aristotle’s views about homonymy; in the second part, we are led through the various applications of the idea, to the analysis of friendship, for example, the homonymy of the body, the account of goodness and, not least, the homonymy of being. Shields’s book brings out well how the topic of homonymy weaves in and out of the fabric of Aristotle’s thinking in a variety of areas. I will resist the temptation to follow Shields through these various subject-matters, and instead take up essentially two topics. First, (I), the basic outline of Aristotle’s notion of homonymy, more or less independently of its different applications (here, I follow Shields’s example in the first half of his book). Thereafter, I discuss a single application: the homonymy of being (this is the subject of Shields’s last and longest chapter). Here, I will be interested (II) in how homonymy relates to the theory of the categories; and (III) in the application of homonymy to the analysis of substance in the Metaphysics." (p. 1)

    (1) Shields, Christopher (1999), Order in Multiplicity: Homonymy in the Philosophy of Aristotle, Oxford.

  16. Lloyd, Antony C. 1966. "Aristotle's Categories Today." Philosophical Quartely no. 16:258-267.

    Review-article of: Aristotle's Categories and De Interpretatione, translated with notes, by J. L. Ackrill (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963).

    "The Categories have always had at least three centres of interest: the distinction of primary and secondary substances, the concept of homonymy and synonymy and its application to the concept of being, and the more or less formal properties discovered in the categories one by one. I shall be concerned mostly with the first.

    To my judgement there is a comparatively simply way into the categories according to which the word translated ' substance ' means 'being ' and the primary notion of being is existence. (This is the είναι απλώς opposed to είναι επί μέρους, i.e.είναι τοδί ή τοδί (of An. Post. II 2 and Met. Z 1, 1028a31.) About existence we can ask (or so it seems) " what is it to exist? " and "what exists" The first question is given, though not in the Categories, the answer "to be active " (energeia). The second question could be a request to identify everything that there is, which would not even prima facie be a sensible request. Or it could be a request to identify the sorts of thing that exist: this is given two answers in the Categories, individuals and those genera and species which are composed of individuals. But so as to understand the ten categories we can distinguish these two kinds of things from all the kinds of things-or, what it is superfluous to add, all the kinds of things there are (onta), which are the ten categories. The individuals and the species and genera are then called 'beings', in the plural and in the usage which has regularly been translated 'substances'." (p. 258)

  17. Malcolm, John. 1981. "On the Generation and Corruption of the Categories." Review of Metaphysics no. 33:662-681.

    "It is tempting to assume that an obvious way in which Aristotle determined his list of categories was to take a primary substance as subject and classify its predicates. (1) The advantage of this suggestion is that it appears to give us the list of categories given at Categories

    1 b25 ff. For example, if we take Socrates as subject, then, when we predicate man of him, we get a predicate which is a substance (ousia). When we consider "Socrates is grammatical" we get a predicate in quality or "how qualified" (poion). "Socrates is in the market

    place" gives us place or "where" (pou) and so on.

    Although I shall propose that, in the case of the first category, ousia, this is not how Aristotle, in fact, proceeds in the Categories (see p. 674 below), the major shortcoming of this procedure is that it cannot account for individuals, and a fortiori individual substances, as

    items in the categories." (p. 662)


    "My procedure, therefore, will not be to start with the SRPR [subject restricted to substance predicate relative] option and try to adjust it to harmonize with the doctrine of the work entitled Categories, nor indeed to take this work as my point of departure, for, somewhat paradoxically, I shall contend that the list of Categories 1b25 ff. was assembled in a rather haphazard fashion. I shall, in fact, begin with Topics 1.9 and, taking this as basic, endeavor to explain the other relevant passages in the Aristotelian corpus in the light of what is to be found there." (p. 663)

    (1) See J. Ackrill, Aristotle's Categories and De Interpretatione (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1963), pp. 78-79, for this alternative.

  18. Malink, Marko. 2007. "Categories in Topics I.9." Rhizai. A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science no. 4:271-294.

    "In the first sentence of Topics 1.9, Aristotle proposes to determine the γένη τών κατηγοριών. These are the ten categories he is going to discuss in this chapter. He seems to think of them as genera classifying items which are referred to as κατηγορίαι. What are these items? Commentators tend to agree that they are either predications or predicates.(1) In the first case, the categories would classify items such as ‘Socrates is white’ or ‘man is animal’. In the second case, they would classify terms such as ‘white’ or ‘animal’ which are able to serve as predicates of predications. The two options need not be incompatible with each other, for the categories might provide a classification both of predicates and of predications. At any rate, we should like to determine the criteria by which the categories manage to classify either predicates or predications or both." (p. 271)

  19. Mann, Wolfgang-Rainer. 2000. The Discovery of Things. Aristotle's Categories and Their Context. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Contents: Acknowledgments IX; A Note on Citations XI; Introduction 3; Part I. Setting the stage: The "Antepraedicamenta" and the "Praedicamenta" 39; Part II: Plato's metaphysics and the status of things 75; PART III. The categories picture once more: an alternative to Platonism and late-learnerism 184; Epilogue 205; Select Bibliography 207; Index Locorum 219; Index Rerum 226-231.

    "1. The Project

    In two of his early works—in the Categories especially, but also in the Topics—Aristotle presents a revolutionary metaphysical picture. This picture has had a peculiar fate. Its revolutionary theses are so far from being recognized as such that they have often been taken to be statements of common sense, or expressions of an everyday, pretheoretical ontology.2 The most striking and far-reaching of those theses is the claim that, included among what there is, among the entities (τά δντα), there are things. Aristotle, famously, goes on to maintain that these things are ontologically fundamental. All the other entities are (whatever they are)3 by being appropriately connected to the things, for example, either as their features (their qualities, sizes, relations-to-each-other, locations, and so on), or as their genera and species, that is, the kinds under which the things fall.4 These further claims and their proper interpretation have received considerable discussion. Yet the fundamental one has gone virtually unnoticed. To formulate it most starkly: before the Categories and Topics^ there were no things. Less starkly: things did not show up ^5 things, until Aristotle wrote those two works." (pp. 3-4)


    "With a better understanding of Plato’s metaphysical picture before us, we will be in a position to appreciate just how revolutionary and innovative Aristotle is being in the Categories and Topics. We will also be able to see how Aristotle set the stage for turning “the unaccustomed” into “longstanding custom” (Heidegger’s phrase). The unique and central role which the Categories played in the philosophical curricula of late antiquity and the Latin middle ages obviously contributed enormously to this philosophical picture’s successful ascendancy, to the point where it truly could appear to be nothing more than a reflection of common sense, precisely because it had become a part of common sense. And I am inclined to believe that this success, to a large extent, also explains why Plato is read in the ways he is commonly read: the mistake is neither one of simply overlooking something obvious—or not so obvious—nor one of inadvertently smuggling in Aristotelian notions. Rather, the ascent and dominance of the ontological picture of the Categories has so thoroughly eclipsed other pictures and interpretative possibilities that they cannot even come into view, much less be made to seem plausible, without considerable effort." (p. 6)

  20. Matthen, Mohan. 1978. "The Categories and Aristotle's Ontology." Dialogue.Canadian Philosophical Review no. 17:228-243.

    Abstract: "What where Aristotle's aims in the Categories? We can probably all agree that he wanted to say something about different uses of the verb 'to be' - something relevant to ontology. The conventional interpretation goes further: it has Books Γ and Ζ of the Metaphysics superseding theories put forward in the Categories. We should expect then that the Categories and these books of the Metaphysics try to do the same sort of thing. Most exegetes do indeed ascribe to the earlier work fairly elaborate ontologies, though they are in disagreement as to what theory Aristotle held while writing it. I shall argue in this paper that the whole enterprise of reconstructing the ontology of the Categories from its small stock of clues is misguided; that the business of the Categories is to set out data for which the Metaphysics tries to account. This view is not without consequences relevant to some widely held theses. I shall claim that the differences between the Categories and the Metaphysics cannot uncritically be used to trace the development of Aristotle's ontology, that the differences between the two doctrines has been greatly exaggerated. More of this later: let me first explain the distinction on which I shall depend."

  21. Matthews, Gareth B. 1989. "The Enigma of Categories 1a20ff and Why it Matters." Apeiron no. 22:91-104.

    Of things there are: (a) some are said of a subject but are not in a subject ... (b) some are in a subject but not said of any subject. (By 'in a subject' I mean what is in something, not as a part, and cannot exist separately from what it is in.) ... (c) Some are both said of a subject and in a subject ... (d) some are neither in a subject nor said of a subject, ...'(1)

    Perhaps no passage in Aristotle has excited more attention in recent years, or aroused more controversy, than the second paragraph of Chapter 2 of the Categories, from which the above quotation is taken.

    I want to offer a fresh assessment of this recent discussion, as well as some thoughts on why the controversy remains philosophically important.

    Paradoxically, I shall offer my fresh assessment by presenting some of the discussion of an ancient commentator, Ammonius.(2) After we have learned what we can from Ammonius, I shall say a little about why it matters which interpretation of Cat. 1a20ff we accept." (p. 91)

    (1) Categories 1a20ff. The translation is by J.L. Ackrill, Aristotle's Categories and De Interpretatione, (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1963).

    (2) I choose Ammonius, not because he is especially original, but because I am currently working with Marc Cohen on an English translation of his commentary on the Categories and hence am most familiar with it. [Ammonius, On Aristotle’s Categories, translated by

    S. Marc Cohen and Gareth B. Matthews, Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1991]

    Citations of Ammonius will give the page and line numbers in volume IV.4 of Commentaria in Aristotelem graeca, Berlin Academy edition of 1895, edited by A. Busse.

  22. ———. 2009. "Aristotelian Categories." In A Companion to Aristotle, edited by Anagnostopoulos, Georgios, 144-161. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.

    "That which is there to be spoken of and thought of, must be.

    Parmenides, Fragment 6 (McKirahan trans.)

    The short treatise entitled Categories enjoys pride of place in Aristotle's writings. It is the very first work in the standard edition of Aristotle's texts. Each line of the thirty columns that make up this treatise has been pored over by commentators, from the first century BCE down to the present. Moreover, its gnomic sentences still retain their fascination for both philosophers and scholars, even today.

    In the tradition of Aristotelian commentary, the first works of Aristotle are said to make up the Organon, which begins with the logic of terms (the Categories), then moves on to the logic of propositions (the De Interpretatione) and then to the logic of syllogistic argumentation (the Prior Analytics). But to say that the Categories presents the logic of terms may leave the misleading impression that it is about words rather than about things. That is not the case. This little treatise is certainly about words. But it is no less about things. It is about terms and the ways in which they can be combined; but this "logic" of terms is also meant to be a guide to what there is, that is, to ontology, and more generally, to metaphysics.

    The Categories text was not given its title by Aristotle himself. Indeed, there has long been a controversy over whether the work was even written by Aristotle. Michael Frede's discussion of this issue in "The Title, Unity, and Authenticity of Aristotle's Categories" (Frede 1987: 11-28) is as close to being definitive on this issue as is possible. Frede concludes that the Categories can only be the work of Aristotle himself or one of his students.

    The question of authenticity is often connected with the issue of whether the last part of the Categories, chapters 10-15, traditionally called the "Postpraedicamenta," and the earlier chapters really belong to the same work. We shall have very little to say about the Postpraedicamenta here." (p. 144)

  23. Matthews, Gareth B., and Cohen, S. Marc. 1968. "The One and the Many." Review of Metaphysics no. 21:630-655.

    The Platonic argument that Aristotle calls "The One Over Many" ([Metaphysics, Book 1] 990b13; 107B69) (1) doubtless had something like this as its key premiss:

    Whenever two or more things can be properly said to be F, it is by virtue of some one thing, F-ness, that they are properly called F.

    The following sentence from Plato's Republic suggests such a premiss:

    We are in the habit of assuming one Form for each set of many things to which we give the same name.(2)

    The pattern of reasoning is familiar. x and y are round. It must be in virtue of roundness ( or in virtue of their participating in roundness) that they are properly said to be round. Exactly what is established by the reasoning -- for that matter, what is supposed to be established-is not obvious. Taken in one way, Plato's Theory of Forms presents us with nothing more than a manner of speaking.


    But if we take Plato's theory this way, we ignore the perplexities that give rise to it. There are at least two distinguishable perplexities that lead to a doctrine like Plato's.(3) One perplexity is ontological: Why is it that things naturally fall into kinds? The other - -and it is this perplexity especially that gives life to the One-Over-Many Argument -- is linguistic.(4) The puzzle is this: How can it be that many things are properly called by one name? To take this puzzle seriously we must indulge (I) the inclination to take the case of one name for each thing named (i.e., the case of an ideal proper name) as the paradigm case of a name, and also (II) the inclination to suppose that 'wise' in 'Pericles is wise' and 'a man' in 'Callias is a man' are names. If we go along with these inclinations,• then the puzzle, How can it be that many things are properly called by one name?, becomes real.


    We want to try to show that the Categories, on at least one plausible interpretation, offers a more general answer to Plato than has usually been thought to be the case. We shall then make some comments toward assessing the philosophical strengths and weaknesses of this Aristotelian answer." (pp. 631-632, some notes omitted)

    (1) Line references, unless otherwise identified, are to the works of Aristotle.

    (2) Republic 696A. Translations of passages from Plato and Aristotle are our own.

    (3) Cf. David Pears's two questions, "Why are things as they are?" and "Why are we able to name things as we do?" in his article, "Universals," in Logic and Language (2nd series), ed. by A. Flew (Oxford, 1963), pp. 61-64.

  24. Menn, Stephen. 1995. "Metaphysics, Dialectic and the Categories." Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale no. 100:311-337.

    Abstract: "I examine the status and function of the Categories in Aristotle's philosophy. The work does not belong to «first philosophy, » or indeed to philosophy at all, but to dialectic; not as a « dialectical discussion » of being, but in the strict sense that it is intended, together with the Topics, to help the dialectical disputant to decide whether a given term can fall under a proposed definition or a proposed genus. Although the Categories, like dialectic in general, has uses in philosophical argument, the supposed opposition between the accounts of substance in the Categories and in the Metaphysics depends on a misunderstanding of the different aims of the two works."

  25. Mignucci, Mario. 1986. "Aristotle's Definitions of Relatives in Categories Chapter 7." Phronesis.A Journal for Ancient Philosophy no. 31:101-127.

    "Chapter 7 of Aristotle's Categories is dedicated to a study of relatives, which are called "πρός τι". (p. 101)


    "To sum up, I take Aristotle's definition of relatives to mean exactly that a property F is said to be a relative property if, and only if, it can be expanded into a relation that determines F univocally." (p. 104)


    "Aristotle does not clarify the nature of the link that there is between a relative property and its constitutive relation. As we have seen, it is surely an intensional connection, which involves the senses both of the property and of the relation. But how senses are implied is not explicitly stated by him. Shall we leave the problem here? Perhaps an advance can be made if the definition of P1-relatives [the class of relatives identified by Aristotle's definition] at the beginning of Cat. 7 is compared with another definition of relatives which is discussed at the end of the same chapter." (p. 106)


    "Many problems remain. One concerns the nature and meaning of stereotypes. Can they be conceived in the way in which Johnson-Leard has devised them, i.e. as frame systems in which default values are given?(26) And is this view consistent with Aristotle's doctrine about meanings and concepts?

    I cannot try to answer these questions here. What my attempt to explain Aristotle's view aims at is to show that his position is far from being trivially false, as it is on the traditional interpretation, and that it can be credited with having some philosophical importance. Moreover, his attempt is stimulating because it approaches a modern problem from a different point of view. Nowadays we are accustomed to consider what is entailed by the fact that substitutivity does not hold in cognitive contexts, and we try to explain why it does not obtain. Aristotle is well aware of these restrictions, (27) but he is more interested in isolating cases in which substitutivity can be safely applied. Perhaps this change of perspective may help to refresh our own patterns of analysis." (p. 126)

    (26) Cf. Johnson-Laird, pp. 26-29.

    (27) Cf. e.g. SE [De Sophisticis Elenchis] 24, 179a35-b5.


    Johnson-Laird, P.N.: "Formal Semantics and the Psychology of Meaning", in Peters, S. and Saarinen, E. (eds.), Processes, Beliefs, and Questions, Essays on Formal Semantics of Natural Language and Natural Language Processing, Dordrecht 1982, pp. 1-68.

  26. Minio-Paluello, Lorenzo. 1945. "The Text of the Categoriae: the Latin Tradition." Classical Quarterly no. 39:63-74.

    Reprinted in: L. Minio-Paluello, Opuscola: the Latin Aristotle, Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert 1972, pp. 28-39.

    Abstract: "The Latin versions of Aristotle's Categoriae have never received much attention from the editors of the Greek text. J. Th. Buhle (Arist. Op. Omn. I, Bipont. 1791) and Th. Waitz (Arist. Organ. I, Lpz., I844) availed themselves of Latin texts, but in a very unsatisfactory way; and since them the Latin field has remained unexplored throughout the last hundred years, in which both Hellenists and Orientalists have done much to increase our knowledge of the textual tradition of the Categ. It is the purpose of these pages to give a summary account of the Latin tradition and to contribute to a revision of the Greek text by a collation of Boethius' recently discovered translation with the best printed Greek and Oriental sources."

  27. Morales, Fabio. 1994. "Relational Attributes in Aristotle." Phronesis.A Journal for Ancient Philosophy no. 39:255-274.

    Abstract: "Aristotle's theory of relations involves serious difficulties of interpretation. By attempting to solve some of the problems posed by J. L. Ackrill in his famous commentary on the Categories (Ackrill, 1963), I hope to contribute to a better understanding of Aristotle's statements on the nature and status of relational attributes. In general, my procedure has been to analyze the criteria by which entities are supposed to fall under the category of 'the relative'. The following topics will be considered: i) Aristotle's two definitions of relatives in Categories 7, ii) the pseudo-relational character of the parts of substances, and iii) the threefold classification of relatives in Metaphysics chapter 15. A corollary of these discussions will be that relations may have played for Aristotle a far more conspicuous role in the 'definition' of substances and attributes than has been hitherto acknowledged."

  28. Moravcsik, Julius M. E. 1967. "Aristotle's Theory of Categories." In Aristotle. A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Moravcsik, Julius, 125-145. New York: Anchor Books.

    "In several of his writings Aristotle presents what came to be known as a "list of categories." The presentation of a list, by itself, is not a philosophic theory.

    This paper attempts a few modest steps toward an understanding of the theory or theories in which the list of categories is embedded. To arrive at such understanding we shall have to deal with the following questions: What classes of expressions designate items each

    of which falls under only one category? What is the list a list of? and what gives it unity? To show this to be a worthwhile enterprise, let us consider a few passages in which the list of categories is introduced or mentioned." (p. 125)


    "Conclusion. The theory of categories is partly a theory about language and partly a theory about reality.

    With regard to language it states that certain elements of a language have key-designating roles, the full understanding of which requires that we understand the designata as falling within those classes which jointly form the set definitive of that to which a sensible particular must be related. We can see from this that Aristotle did not think of the structure of language as mirroring the structure of reality. But he did believe that there are specific items of language and reality the correlation of which forms the crucial link between

    the two." (p. 145)

  29. ———. 1967. "Aristotle on Predication." The Philosophical Review no. 76:80-96.

    Erratum, The Philosophical Review, Vol. 76, No. 4 (Oct., 1967), p. 543.

  30. Morrison, Donald. 1992. "The Taxonomical Interpretation of Aristotle's Categories: A Criticism." In Aristotle's Ontology, edited by Preus, Anthony and Anton, John Peter, 19-46. Albany: State University of New York Press.

    "In the Topics, Categories, and De Interpretatione, Aristotle is struggling with a variety of problems that span the fields of metaphysics and philosophy of language. Both the problems and the attempted solutions have much relevance to some of the main issues in contemporary British and American philosophy. Thus it is unfortunate that though there is a large number of ancient commentaries on these texts, little has been written on these matters in modern times that is of genuine philosophical significance. Professor Ackrill's new translation and notes (1) make a fine contribution toward remedying this deficiency."


    "One of the reasons for selecting predication as the nest of problems to be discussed is that though much has been written on this during the past sixty years, we seem far from any adequate solution." (p. 80)


    "The point of this review is not to show that Aristotle succeeded in answering the general question that contemporary philosophers failed to answer. Aristotle did not attempt to answer that general question.

    He discusses in the Categories -- to which we shall limit our attention several interesting features of predication, and then distinguishes between at least two different types of configuration that underlie predication. The suggestion of this review is that paying attention to

    these less sweeping problems of predication might be a useful way of adopting a fresh approach to this topic.

    The following four claims will be discussed. (a) Ackrill interprets Aristotle as holding that general terms and the correlated abstract singular terms, whether in subject or predicate position, introduce the same entity. (b) Aristotle seems to be committed to the view that

    general terms have meaning both inside and outside of sentences. (c) Aristotle distinguishes at least two different ontological configurations underlying predication. (d) Aristotle takes predication to be showing the ontological dependence of the entity denoted by the predicate on the entity denoted by the subject." (p. 82)

    (1) Aristotle's "Categories" and "De Interpretatione," trans. with notes by J. L. Ackrill (Oxford, i963), pp. VI, 162.

  31. Novak, Michael. 1965. "Toward Understanding Aristotle's Categories." Philosophy and Phenomenological Research no. 26:117-123.

    "There are three positions one must gain in order to interpret the first five chapters of the Categories and, specifically, the meaning and role

    therein of 'present in a subject'. The first of these positions is a rejection of univocity; the second is the dual conception of accident; the third is

    the principle of discrimination on which Aristotle (implicitly) relies in sorting out the strands of his description "of things," (1a20)." (p. 117)


    "'Present in a subject' thus operates in Categories 1-5 as a definition of accident, inadequately distinguished from secondary substance. It is inadequately distinguished because its meaning (incapable of existence apart from a subject) applies just as well to secondary substance, though for a different reason, and this reason is never stated by Aristotle. He says (3a8-10) that secondary substances are not present in a subject, while of course (1a24.1) accidents are. But neither accidents nor secondary substances are; capable of existence apart from primary substances (2b5-6). Some unspoken criterion is therefore operating to distinguish the exact natures of secondary substance, accident, and primary substance.

    I have argued that the discriminating factor is the differing relation which each bears to the act of intelligence operating with imagination.

    Secondary substances are universalizations of the necessity grasped in insight, are essences, apart from particulars, and yet arising exclusively from insight into concrete particulars. They are not 'present in a subject', yet are incapable of existence apart from a subject. Accidents are, on the one hand, incapable of science because, occurring neither always nor for the most part, they are not necessarily relevant to any particular thing; and, on the other hand, are not capable of being pointed to as a 'this'. They alone are properly 'present in a subject.' Primary substance can be pointed to as a 'this', a unity, grasped not, however, by mere sense knowledge, nor imagination, but by intelligence which distinguishes the inessential from the essential, the permanent and independent from the adventitious, in the presentations of sense and imagination. They are not 'present in a subject,' but are subjects." (pp. 122-123)

  32. O'Farrell, Frank. 1982. "Aristotle's Categories of Being." Gregorianum no. 63:87-131.

    "It is no exaggeration to say that the understanding of Aristotle's First Philosophy and hence of his philosophy as a whole depends largely on the interpretation one gives to his categories of being. For as far as they express the theme itself of First Philosophy - being as being - to their understanding can be justly applied Aristotle's oft quoted words: « The beginning is greater in potentiality than in magnitude and therefore a small mistake in the beginning becomes immense in the end» (1).

    But though one must agree with Brentano when he writes « Aristotle's division of categories has in a wonderful way defied the change time brings. When one follows the history of the doctrine of the categories, one sees how even their adversaries unconsciously pay homage to them » (2). Yet in the course of the two thousand odd years since Aristotle formulated them they have met with very varied and opposed interpretations. These changing interpretations have acted as a sort of apriori, a kind of pre-judice for each succeeding age trying to reach Aristotle's thought. For they formed part of the history of being in the Heideggerian sense of the word (3), i.e. what has become the universal unquestioned foreknowledge according to which and in function of which in each epoch one encounters reality."


    "Being for Aristotle is not a subsistent idea - auto to on - as it is for Plato, but it is the categories (162). And being is the categories because of the plurality implied by hupokeimenon in its to be. And hupokeimenon in its to be is being as being according to Aristotle's way of conceiving it. Because therefore Aristotle understands being itself as meaning the categories, being is perceived by the ways of necessary predication (163).

    Hence it is not the modes of necessary predication which found the categories of being, as Aubenque seems to believe (164), but it is the categories of being which require these modes of predicating to bring themselves to view and to be known in their truth. « For as each thing is as regards to be so is it as regards truth» (165)"."

    (1) De Coelo, 1.5. 271 b 13.

    (2) Franz Brentano, Von der mannigfachen Bedeutung des Seienden nach Aristoteles, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1862, 193.

    (3) Cf. M. Heidegger, Die Metaphysik als Geschichte des Seins (1941) and Entwürfe zur Geschichte des Seins als Metaphysik (1941) in Nietzsche, Bd. 2, 399-457; 458-480.

    (162) I. Düring, (Aristoteles, Darstellung und Interpretation seines Denkens, Heidelberg, 1966, 60) remarks appositely: « The word Kategoria in the sense of predication (Aussage) does not occur in Plato: we find it only once (Theait. 167 a) in this sense. The choice of this word shows that Aristotle wanted consciously to distance himself from his older contemporaries in the Academy».

    (163) E. Tugendhat, Ti kata tinos, Freiburg-Miinchen, 1958, 23.

    (164) P. Aubenque, Le probleme de l'être chez Aristote, Paris, 1962, 170.

    (165) Met. α (2), 1, 993 b 32.

  33. Owen, Gwilym Ellis Lane. 1960. "Logic and Metaphysics in some Earlier Works of Aristotle." In Aristotle and Plato in the Mid-Fourth Century. Papers of the Symposium Aristotelicum held at Oxford in August, 1957, edited by Düring, Ingemar and Owen, Gwilym Ellis Lane. Göteborg: Elanders Boktryckeri Aktiebolag.

    Reprinted in: G. E. L. Owen, Logic, Science and Dialectic. Collected Papers in Greek Philosophy, Edited by Martha Nussbaum, Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1986, pp. 180-199.

    "Much of Aristotle’s early work in logic sprang from the practice and discussions of the Academy in Plato’s lifetime. This is a commonplace, but I have tried to illustrate it here by evidence which throws an unfamiliar light on the development of some of Aristotle’s most characteristic theories.The commonplace itself is not to be confused with a narrower thesis about the origins of the theory of syllogism: on that well-worn issue I have nothing to say here. I have confined myself to another part of Aristotle’s logical studies, namely that part which shaped his views on the nature and possibility of any general science of to on hêi on (‘being qua being’), any inquiry into the general nature of what there is. Here his major issues were problems of ambiguity, particularly the ambiguity that he claimed to find in ‘being’ or to on as that expression is used in the different categories. And his problems were shared by his contemporaries in the Academy. By opposition and by suggestion they helped to form the logic that underlay First Philosophy." (p. 180)


    "In sum, then, the argument of Metaphysics IV, VI seems to record a new departure. It proclaims that 'being' should never have been assimilated to cases of simple ambiguity, and consequently that the old objection to any general metaphysics of being fails. The new treatment of to on and cognate expressions as pros hen kai mian tina phusin legomena, - or, as I shall henceforth say, as having focal meaning - has enabled Aristotle to convert a special science of substance into the universal science of being, 'universal just inasmuch as it is primary." (p. 184)


    "Nor does focal meaning find formal recognition in the class of paronyms which is introduced in the Categories and recognized in the Topics, for the definition of paronyms is merely grammatical. It shows, not how subordinate senses of a word may be logically affiliated to a primary sense, but how adjectives can be manufactured from abstract nouns by modifying the word-ending. Plainly the Categories does not and could not make any use of this idea to explain how the subordinate categories depend on the first. Nor does it use focal meaning for that purpose (2b4-6). If focal meaning can be seen in the Categories it is in the analysis of some one category - clearly enough in the definition of quantity (5a38-b10), ) far more doubtfully in the account of the two uses of 'substance' (2b29-37, 3b18-21) - but not in that logical ordering of different categories and different senses of 'being' which lies at the root of the argument in Metaphysics IV." (pp. 188-189)

  34. ———. 1965. "Inherence." Phronesis.A Journal for Ancient Philosophy no. 10:97-105.

    Reprinted in: G. E. L. Owen, Logic, Science and Dialectic. Collected Papers in Greek Philosophy, Edited by Martha Nussbaum, Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1986, pp. 252-258.

    "Often in the Categories and once in the Topics Aristotle draws a distinction between being in a subject and being said, or predicated, of a subject (Cat. 1a20-b9, 2a11-14, 2a27-b6, 2b15-17, 3a7-32, 9b22-24; Postpred. 11 b38-12 a 17, 14a 16-18; Top. 127b 1-4). Elsewhere

    he makes no use of the distinction, at least in this form. Once in the Categories he blankets it under the formula belonging to something (11b38-12a17). But it has earned a good deal of attention, and there is a fashionable dogma about it that I should like to nail. Hints of the dogma can be seen in older writers such as Porphyry and Pacius. Its modern exponents are Ross, Aristotle p. 24 n. 1; Jones, Phil. Rev. 1949 pp. 152-170; and most recently Miss Anscombe in Three Philosophers pp. 7-10, and Mr. Ackrill in Aristotle's 'Categories' and 'De Interpretatione' pp. 74-5, 83, 109." (p. 252)


    "To say

    that if the Idea of man is a substance it cannot exist apart from that of which it is the substance is to say that its existence requires (indeed consists in) the existence of at least one individual falling under the classification human. And to say that pink or a particular shade of

    pink cannot exist apart from what contains it is to say, as Aristotle always says against Plato, that something must contain it if it is to exist at all." (p. 258)

  35. ———. 1965. "Aristotle on the Snares of Ontology." In New Essays on Plato and Aristotle, edited by Bambrough, Renford, 69-95. New York: Humanities Press.

    Reprinted in: G. E. L. Owen, Logic, Science and Dialectic. Collected Papers in Greek Philosophy, Edited by Martha Nussbaum, Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1986, pp. 259-278.

    "Aristotle’s commonest complaint against other philosophers is that they oversimplify. One oversimplification to which he is especially attentive is the failure to see that the same expression may have many different senses. And among such expressions there is one arch-deceiver against which he often issues warnings: the verb ‘to be’, ‘einai'. I shall discuss part of his attempt to unmask this deceiver, namely his account of the verb in what is ordinarily, and too sweepingly, called its ‘existential’ use." (p. 259)

  36. ———. 1965. "The Platonism of Aristotle." Proceedings of the British Academy no. 50:125-150.

    Reprinted in: J. Barnes, M. Schofield, and R. Sorabji (eds.), Articles on Aristotle, Vol. 1 (Duckworth, 1975), pp. 14-34 and in G. E. L. Owen, Logic, Science and Dialectic. Collected Papers in Greek Philosophy, Edited by Martha Nussbaum, Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1986, pp. 200-220.

    "Eight years ago, in a memorable Dawes Hicks Lecture to this Academy ,(1) David Ross spoke of Aristotle’s development as a philosopher. One theory of that development he singled out as having established itself in the fifty years since it appeared. It was pioneered in this country by Thomas Case and in Germany, with great effect, by Werner Jaeger. It depicts Aristotle, in Sir David’s words, as ‘gradually emerging from Platonism into a system of his own’. Aristotle’s philosophical career began in the twenty years that he spent learning and practising his trade in Plato’s Academy, and it ended in the headship of his own school. So it is tempting to picture him first as the devoted partisan, then as arguing his way free of that discipleship." (p. 200)


    "Next, in saying that Aristotle’s logic was bred of discussion in the Academy, I do not imply that it was a donation from his colleagues. There used to be a myth, promoted by Burnet and Taylor, that the theory of categories was a commonplace of the Academy, derived from scattered hints in Plato’s writings. This myth was exposed, not simply by the obvious lack of system in the supposed hints, but by the fact that no other Academic known to us endorsed the theory and that Xenocrates, Plato’s self-appointed exegete, denounced it as a pointless elaboration and went back to a simpler distinction derived from Plato’s dialogues. Nor again do I mean that Aristotle’s logic had come to full maturity before Plato’s death. The division of the categories and probably the general theory of the syllogism, had been worked out by then; but Aristotle continued to review and develop these doctrines in his later work. The same is true of his theory of definition and, more generally of his theory of meaning. What is beyond question is that these theories wera developed in practice and not as an independent exercise. The theory of definition was modified to keep pace with the work of a biologist who had once held that a definition could be reduced to a single differentia and then found himself, when he set out to define any natural species, faced with a set of competing criteria. The theory of meaning, of synonymy and homonymy, was enlarged to allow a value to philosophical inquiries which had been earlier denounced as trading on an equivocation. At every stage Aristotle’s logic had its roots in philosophical argument and scientific procedure: it would be an anachronism to think otherwise. So what arguments lie at the root of his early account of substance and the categories?" (p. 207)

  37. Owens, Joseph. 1960. "Aristotle on Categories." Review of Metaphysics no. 14:73-90.

    Reprinted in J. Owens, Aristotle, the Collected Papers of Joseph Owens, Edited by John R. Catan, New York: State University of New York Press 1981, pp. 14-22.

    "In particular, the present paper would inquire whether the notion of category construction was intended in its beginnings to be an arbitrary procedure, whether it was meant to categorize words, and how it stands up to later examples of category mistakes. The paper,

    accordingly, will first examine briefly the doctrine of categories in its original Aristotelian setting; secondly, it will try to determine the type of treatment found there; and finally it will confront the Aristotelian doctrine with some irritant instances of category mistakes." (p. 14)


    "This brief glance at the Aristotelian doctrine of categories and its confrontation with instances of category mistakes will indicate, it is hoped, some pertinent features of the earliest explicit category construction. It was based upon the natures of things and not upon the use of language. Because it was concerned with natures and not primarily with words, it was not at all an arbitrary procedure. The natures of things resist the manipulations of human whims, and keep the universe from becoming a world where everything is nonsense. But these natures exist in two ways, in reality and in cognition. Some predicates will belong to the nature just of itself, no matter where it is found. Other predicates ·will belong to a nature only in real existence. They are those concerned with its real history in some individual. Still other predicates will belong to it only as it exists in intellectual cognition, for instance that it is a species or a genus. These considerations show why categories are the concern of both the metaphysician and the logician, and why confusion in the three ways in which predicates apply will necessarily give rise to category mistakes. The Aristotelian doctrine likewise shows why the intrinsic principles of things cannot be placed directly in a category.

    Its basic grooves of category construction, along with this warning, still serve quite well as dissolvents for such category mistakes as the ghost in the machine, the elephant with the baggage, or murder a relation. The category doctrine as found originally in the Stagirite's works is open to a great amount of development and elaboration, both to smooth out its own difficulties and to meet problems of current discussion. It offers a solid basis for profitable philosophic construction. It is far from complete, but what is there is very good." (pp. 21-22, notes omitted)

Related pages

On the website "Theory and History of Ontology" (

Semantics and Ontological Analysis in Aristotle's Categories

Aristotle's Categories. Annotated Bibliography of the studies in English:

First part: A - C

Second part: D - H

Fourth part: P - Z

Bibliographie der deutschen Studien zur Aristoteles Kategorien

Bibliographie des études en français sur les Catégories d'Aristote

Bibliografia degli studi italiani sulle Categorie di Aristotele

Aristotle: Bibliographical Resources on Selected Philosophical Works

Index of the Section "History of the Doctrine of Categories"

Index of the Section: Ancient Philosophy from the Presocratics to the Hellenistic Period