Relatives in Aristotle's Category

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RELATIVES IN ARISTOTLE 'S CATEGORIES : RESEARCH FOR A DISCRIMINATING CRITERION

In the treatise of Categories, after enumerating the ten categories in Chapter IV, Aristotle undertakes to examine each of the principle four in a separate Chapter. On the first reading, it seems difficult to understand Aristotle 's goal in this detailed study. The unity of the inquiry is not really evident: Aristotle tests certain criteria (contrariety, a more and a less, simultaneity) for each category. Nevertheless, when we more closely compare the structure and the results of Chapters V, VI, VII, and VIII, we can put forward an idea of Aristotle 's aim and propose an interpretation in which he would look for determining a distinctive character (idion) of all items that belong to one and the same category and of them only. Indeed, Chapters V and VI both end in the same way: Aristotle concludes with what is most distinctive of substance and quantity, respectively being "numerically one and the same [and being] able to receive contraries" (4b17) and "being called both equal and unequal" (6a35). To the contrary, at the end of Chapter VII, instead of the statement of relatives ' distinctive character that we would expect there, we are faced with a puzzled and perplexed conclusion that we can understand as a confession of failure. Aristotle refuses to make a peremptory (sphodrôs) ruling on the questions that touch relatives without having reexamined them. Thus, he does not offer what is the most distinctive of relatives. In this regard, the category appears as an exception, although Chapter VIII represents a return to the normal case, except that the determination of quality 's idion ("being called similar and dissimilar" 11a18-19) does not close the Chapter. Aristotle continues with a discussion of the way in which certain things seem to fall at the same time into the category of relatives and into that of quality. According to Caujolle-Zaslawsky , it is precisely



Bibliography: Aristotelis categoriae et liber de interpretation, Ed. Minio-Paluello, 1949 Aristotle, Categories, translated by Ackrill, Oxford, At the Clarendon press, 1963 Caujolle-Zaslawsky, « Les relatifs dans les Catégories », in Aubenque, Concepts et catégories dans la pensée antique, Vrin, 1980 Hamelin, Le système d 'Aristote, Ed. Robin, 1920

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