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Two Doctrines of Categories in Aristotle: Topics, Categories, and Metaphysics

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Part of the Philosophers in Depth book series (PID)

Abstract

The aim of this chapter is to offer support for the view — one contrary to the main tradition represented by Alexander and most more recent commentators — that there are, in fact, two different sets and two different, and incompatible, doctrines of categories in Aristotle. I do not have in mind here any difference between the Categories, or the Organon, and the Metaphysics. Rather, both doctrines are present in the Organon and even in a single chapter of the Organon, Topics I.9. The proper explanation for this striking fact is not, as some would suggest, historical or developmental — that one doctrine came earlier in Aristotle’s thinking, the other later. Nor is it, as others have suggested, that both doctrines need to be mastered to adequately employ dialectic, so that both are present in the Topics. Instead, as we shall see, one doctrine, for Aristotle, is precisely suited to the needs of the art of reasoning kata doxan, i.e. to the practice of dialectic, the other to procedure kat’ aletheian, or to the needs and the practice of science, indeed of metaphysical science. I go on to consider a main question for this result, one whose proper resolution helps us to understand better Aristotle’s scientific method overall and the special, if limited, role of dialectic in it. I begin by developing a problem for the interpretation of Topics I.9.

Keywords

Primary Substance Ancient Philosophy Linguistic Item Metaphysical Doctrine Primary Reality 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Robert Bolton 2013

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