Categories (Aristotle)
The Categories is a text from Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

's Organon
The Organon is the name given by Aristotle's followers, the Peripatetics, to the standard collection of his six works on logic:* Categories* On Interpretation* Prior Analytics* Posterior Analytics...

 that enumerates all the possible kinds of thing that can be the subject
Subject (grammar)
The subject is one of the two main constituents of a clause, according to a tradition that can be tracked back to Aristotle and that is associated with phrase structure grammars; the other constituent is the predicate. According to another tradition, i.e...

 or the predicate
Predicate (grammar)
There are two competing notions of the predicate in theories of grammar. Traditional grammar tends to view a predicate as one of two main parts of a sentence, the other being the subject, which the predicate modifies. The other understanding of predicates is inspired from work in predicate calculus...

 of a proposition
In logic and philosophy, the term proposition refers to either the "content" or "meaning" of a meaningful declarative sentence or the pattern of symbols, marks, or sounds that make up a meaningful declarative sentence...

. They are "perhaps the single most heavily discussed of all Aristotelian notions".

The Categories places every object
Object (philosophy)
An object in philosophy is a technical term often used in contrast to the term subject. Consciousness is a state of cognition that includes the subject, which can never be doubted as only it can be the one who doubts, and some object or objects that may or may not have real existence without...

 of human apprehension under one of ten categories (known to medieval writers as the praedicamenta). Aristotle intended them to enumerate everything that can be expressed without composition or structure, thus anything that can be either the subject or the predicate of a proposition.

The Antepraedicamenta

The text begins with an explication of what is meant by "synonym
Synonyms are different words with almost identical or similar meanings. Words that are synonyms are said to be synonymous, and the state of being a synonym is called synonymy. The word comes from Ancient Greek syn and onoma . The words car and automobile are synonyms...

ous," or univocal words, what is meant by "homonym
In linguistics, a homonym is, in the strict sense, one of a group of words that often but not necessarily share the same spelling and the same pronunciation but have different meanings...

ous," or equivocal words, and what is meant by "paronymous," or denominative (sometimes translated "derivative") words.

It then divides forms of speech as being:
  • Either simple, without composition or structure, such as "man," "horse," "fights," etc.
  • Or having composition and structure, such as "a man fights," "the horse runs," etc.

Only composite forms of speech can be true or false.

Next, he distinguishes between what is said "of" a subject and what is "in" a subject. What is said "of" a subject describes the kind of thing that it is as a whole, answering the question "what is it?". What is said to be "in" a subject is a predicate that does not describe it as a whole but cannot exist without the subject, such as the shape of something. The latter has come to be known as inherence
Inherence refers to Empedocles' idea that the qualities of matter come from the relative proportions of each of the four elements entering into a thing. The idea was further developed by Plato and Aristotle....


Of all the things that exist,
  1. Some may be predicated of a subject, but are in no subject; as man may be predicated of James or John, but is not in any subject.
  2. Some are in a subject, but cannot be predicated of any subject. Thus a certain individual point of grammatical
    In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

     knowledge is in me as in a subject, but it cannot be predicated of any subject; because it is an individual thing.
  3. Some are both in a subject and able to be predicated of a subject, for example science
    Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

    , which is in the mind as in a subject, and may be predicated of geometry
    Geometry arose as the field of knowledge dealing with spatial relationships. Geometry was one of the two fields of pre-modern mathematics, the other being the study of numbers ....

     as of a subject.
  4. Last, some things neither can be in any subject nor can be predicated of any subject. These are individual substances, which cannot be predicated, because they are individuals; and cannot be in a subject, because they are substances.

The Praedicamenta

Then we come to the categories
Category of being
In metaphysics , the different kinds or ways of being are called categories of being or simply categories. To investigate the categories of being is to determine the most fundamental and the broadest classes of entities...

 themselves, whose definitions depend upon these four forms of predication. Aristotle's own text in Ackrill's standard English version is:

Of things said without any combination, each signifies either substance or quantity or qualification or a relative or where or when or being-in-a-position or having or doing or being-affected. To give a rough idea, examples of substance are man, horse; of quantity: four-foot, fivefoot; of qualification: white, grammatical; of a relative: double, half, larger; of where: in the Lyceum, in the market-place; of when: yesterday, last-year; of being-in-a-position: is-lying, is-sitting; of having: has-shoes-on, has-armour-on; of doing: cutting, burning; of being-affected: being-cut, being-burned. (1b25-2a4)

A brief explanation (with some alternative translations) is as follows:
  1. Substance
    Substance theory
    Substance theory, or substance attribute theory, is an ontological theory about objecthood, positing that a substance is distinct from its properties. A thing-in-itself is a property-bearer that must be distinguished from the properties it bears....

    . Substance is that which cannot be predicated of anything or be said to be in anything. Hence, this particular man or that particular tree are substances. Later in the text, Aristotle calls these particulars “primary substances”, to distinguish them from secondary substances, which are universals and can be predicated. Hence, Socrates is a primary substance, while man is a secondary substance. Man is predicated of Socrates, and therefore all that is predicated of man is predicated of Socrates.
  2. Quantity
    Quantity is a property that can exist as a magnitude or multitude. Quantities can be compared in terms of "more" or "less" or "equal", or by assigning a numerical value in terms of a unit of measurement. Quantity is among the basic classes of things along with quality, substance, change, and relation...

    ( poson, how much). This is the extension of an object, and may be either discrete or continuous. Further, its parts may or may not have relative positions to each other. All medieval discussions about the nature of the continuum, of the infinite and the infinitely divisible, are a long footnote to this text. It is of great importance in the development of mathematical ideas in the medieval and late Scholastic period. Examples: two cubits long, number, space, (length of) time.
  3. Qualification or Quality
    Quality (philosophy)
    A quality is an attribute or a property. Attributes are ascribable, by a subject, whereas properties are possessible. In contemporary philosophy, the idea of qualities and especially how to distinguish certain kinds of qualities from one another remains controversial.-Background:Aristotle analyzed...

     (poion, of what kind or quality). This determination characterizes the nature of an object. Examples: white, black, grammatical, hot, sweet, curved, straight.
  4. Relative or Relation (pros ti, toward something). This is the way one object may be related to another. Examples: double, half, large, master, knowledge.
  5. Where or Place (pou, where). Position in relation to the surrounding environment. Examples: in a marketplace, in the Lyceum.
  6. When or Time
    Time is a part of the measuring system used to sequence events, to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change such as the motions of objects....

     (pote, when). Position in relation to the course of events. Examples: yesterday, last year.
  7. Being-in-a-position
    Human position
    Human positions refers to the different positions that the human body can take.There are several synonyms that refer to the human position, often used interchangeably, but having specific flavors....

    , posture, attitude (keisthai, to lie). The examples Aristotle gives indicate that he meant a condition of rest resulting from an action: ‘Lying’, ‘sitting’, ‘standing’. Thus position may be taken as the end point for the corresponding action. The term is, however, frequently taken to mean the relative position of the parts of an object (usually a living object), given that the position of the parts is inseparable from the state of rest implied.
  8. Having or state, condition (echein, to have or be). The examples Aristotle gives indicate that he meant a condition of rest resulting from an affection (i.e. being acted on): ‘shod’, ‘armed’. The term is, however, frequently taken to mean the determination arising from the physical accoutrements of an object: one's shoes, one's arms, etc. Traditionally, this category is also called a habitus (from Latin habere, to have).
  9. Doing or Action (poiein, to make or do). The production of change in some other object (or in the agent itself qua other).
  10. Being-affected or Affection (paschein, to suffer or undergo). The reception of change from some other object (or from the affected object itself qua other). Aristotle's name paschein for this category has traditionally been translated into English as "affection" and "passion" (also "passivity"), easily misinterpreted to refer only or mainly to affection as an emotion
    Affection or fondness is a "disposition or rare state of mind or body" that is often associated with a feeling or type of love. It has given rise to a number of branches of philosophy and psychology concerning: emotion ; disease; influence; state of being ; and state of mind...

     or to emotional passion
    Passion (emotion)
    Passion is a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing. Passion is an intense emotion compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something....

    . For action he gave the example, ‘to lance’, ‘to cauterize’; for affection, ‘to be lanced’, ‘to be cauterized.’ His examples make clear that action is to affection as the active voice is to the passive voice — as acting is to being acted on.

The first four are given a detailed treatment in four chapters, doing and being-affected are discussed briefly in a single small chapter, the remaining four are passed over lightly, as being clear in themselves. Later texts by scholastic philosophers also reflect this disparity of treatment.

The Postpraedicamenta

After discussing the categories, four ways are given in which things may be considered contrary to one another. Next, the work discusses five senses wherein a thing may be considered prior to another, followed by a short section on simultaneity. Six forms of movement are then defined: generation, destruction, increase, diminution, alteration, and change of place. The work ends with a brief consideration of the word 'have' and its usage.

See also

  • Category of being
    Category of being
    In metaphysics , the different kinds or ways of being are called categories of being or simply categories. To investigate the categories of being is to determine the most fundamental and the broadest classes of entities...

  • Categorization
    Categorization is the process in which ideas and objects are recognized, differentiated and understood. Categorization implies that objects are grouped into categories, usually for some specific purpose. Ideally, a category illuminates a relationship between the subjects and objects of knowledge...

  • Category (Kant)
    Category (Kant)
    In Kant's philosophy, a category is a pure concept of the understanding. A Kantian category is a characteristic of the appearance of any object in general, before it has been experienced...

  • Schema (Kant)
    Schema (Kant)
    In Kantian philosophy, a schema is the procedural rule by which a category or pure, non-empirical concept is associated with a mental image of an object...

  • Categories (Stoic)
    Categories (Stoic)
    The term Stoic Categories refers to Stoic ideas regarding Categories: the most fundamental classes of being for all things. The Stoics believed there were four categories which were the ultimate divisions...

  • Category (disambiguation)
  • Simplicius of Cilicia
    Simplicius of Cilicia
    Simplicius of Cilicia, was a disciple of Ammonius Hermiae and Damascius, and was one of the last of the Neoplatonists. He was among the pagan philosophers persecuted by Justinian in the early 6th century, and was forced for a time to seek refuge in the Persian court, before being allowed back into...

External links

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