The Categories of Aristotle

Topics: Metaphysics, Ontology, Thing Pages: 7 (1465 words) Published: April 16, 2014



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Aristotle (384-322BC) is one of the most influential philosophers of the western tradition and had many philosophical works credited to him. In his treatise on logic collectively known as “Organon”, Aristotle gave two preliminary treatises; “The Categories and De Interpretatione (on interpretation) dealing with terms and with propositions respectively. This paper is an attempt to look at the categories from Aristotle’s perspective. Hence it is necessary to define the term category (ies) from a general point of view first, so as to create enabling environment to delve into the categories of Aristotle. THE TERM CATEGORY (IES)

In singular form, category according to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is a class or group of people or things regarded as having certain features in common. Etymologically, the word itself is derived from the Greek word “Kategorein” which has the meaning of “predicate”. Thus, the categories signify different ways of predicating something or better still, different modes of existence. The exact same meaning is also found in the Latin interpretation “praedicamenta” from the verb “praedicare” meaning to assert. ARISTOTLE’S CATEGORIES

Aristotle’s categories is a singularly important work of philosophy, which not only presents the backbone of Aristotle’s own philosophical theorizing, but has exerted an unparalleled influence on the systems of many of the greatest philosophers in the western tradition. The set of doctrines in the categories provides the frame work of inquiry for a wide variety of Aristotle’s philosophical investigations, ranging from his discussions of time and change in the physics, to the science of Being qua being in the metaphysics, and even extending to his rejection of Platonic ethics in the Nicomachean Ethics. In his treatise, the categories deal with terms in isolation and he used it to show the different classification of things, which for him, can be in ten different classifications namely; substance, quantity, relation, quality, place, time, position, possession, action and passion. He considers these categories to have actually been in existence outside the mind and in things and not as artificial creations of the mind. Things for him fell into various classifications by their very nature and we think of them as members of a species or genus because they are. Thus, thinking was connected with the ways things are, and this underlies the close relation between logic and metaphysics. Furthermore, the ten categories are divided first into substantial and accidental things. The substantial which is the substance states whatness or essence/substance, that is a thing which cannot exist in its own right, rather does exist in another thing as in a subject. THE TEN-FOLD DIVISION OF THE CATEGORIES

1 SUBSTANCE: this is a thing which can exist in its own right, not just as a modification of something else. Substance is the one, like human being, animals, and plants. It is identified from question like; “what is the thing?” 2 QUANTITY: in relation to the substance, the quantity talks about the amount or number of something that can be measured or that is fixed. For example; the man is six feet tall. It is fixed. It is elucidated in questions like; how many or much of it is there? In other words, quantity is an accident of material things whereby they are extended into space, measureable by some mathematical standard, and capable of being divided into separate parts. It is either diescrete quantities or continuous. Discrete quantities are number abd speech; that of continuous are lines, surfaces, solids etc. 3 Quality: this is a term that is used in many senses....

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