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In the Categories (text), Aristotle enumerates all the possible kinds of thing that can be expressed without composition or structure, and be the subject or the predicate of a proposition. Thus he places every object of human apprehension under one of ten categories (known to medieval writers as the praedicamenta). The work begins with the four forms of predication or antepraedicamenta. Aristotle explains what is meant by "synonymous" or univocal words; what is meant by "homonymous," or equivocal words and what is meant by "paronymous," or denominative (sometimes translated "derivative") words. Forms of speech are 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. The forms of predication are

  1. When something is predicated of a subject, but is in no subject; as man may be predicated of James or John, but is not in any subject.
  2. When something is in a subject, but cannot be predicated of any subject. Thus my knowledge in grammar is in me as its subject, but it can be predicated of no subject; because it is an individual thing.
  3. When something is both in a subject and able to be predicated of a subject; for example science, which is in the mind as in a subject, and may be predicated of geometry as of a subject.
  4. When something 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 ten categories, or classes, with the medieval Latin terms for them are:

  1. Substance (substantia). 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 (quantitas). The extension of an object, which may be either discrete or continuous. Its parts may or may not have relative positions to each other. Medieval discussions about the nature of the continuum, of the infinite and the infinitely divisible, are a footnote to this text. It is of great importance in the development of mathematical ideas in the medieval and late Scholastic period.
  3. Quality (qualitatis). This determination characterizes the nature of an object. Examples: white, black, grammatical, hot, sweet, curved, straight.
  4. Relation (ad aliquid, relatio). This is the way one object may be related to another. Examples: double, half, large, master, knowledge.
  5. Place (ubi). Position in relation to the surrounding environment. Examples: in a marketplace, in the Lyceum.
  6. Time (quando). Position in relation to the course of events. Examples: yesterday, last year.
  7. Position (positio). 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. State (habitus). 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.
  9. Action (actio). The production of change in some other object.
  10. Affection (passio). The reception of change from some other object. It is clear from the examples Aristotle gave for action and for affection that action is to affection as the active voice is to the passive. Thus for action he gave the example, ‘to lance’, ‘to cauterize’; for affection, ‘to be lanced’, ‘to be cauterized.’ The first six are given a detailed treatment in four chapters, the last four are passed over lightly, as being clear in themselves. Later texts by scholastic philosophers also reflect this disparity of treatment.

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.


Logic Museum

The Greek text is taken from Bekker, Aristotelis Opera edidit Academia Regia Borussica, Berlin, 1831–1870. The Latin is from Aristoteles Latinus (see below). The English is Edghill's translation from the Greek (not the Latin).


  • I 1-5 Categoriae vel Praedicamenta. Translatio Boethii, Editio Composite, Translatio Guillelmi de Moerbeka, Lemmata e Simplicii commentario decerpta, Pseudo-Augustini Paraphrasis Themistiana, ed.L. Minio-Paluello, Desclée De Brouwer, Bruges-Paris 1961. Contains five Latin versions of Aristotle's Categories. "Numbers 1 and 2 both stem from Boethius, who is responsible for the Latin translations that were most widespread. One of them is more literal, the other more elegant. William of Moerbeke, on the other hand, was the author of a Latin version not only of Aristotle's work, but also of Simplicius' commentary, which contains the abbreviated lemmas of the Aristotelian text. Moreover, Aristotle's work was known by means of a Roman paraphrase attributed to Augustin and influenced by Themistius".



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