aristotle_the predicables.pdf

Aristotle's Doctrine Of Predicables And Porphyry's Isagoge C HR I S T OS E VANGE L I OU 1. FOR THE PERCEPTIVE STUDENT o f t h e h i s t o r y o f i d e a s , P o r p h y r y i s a n e n i g - ma t i c a n d i n t e r e s t i n g p h i l o s o p h e r . Hi s t h i n k i n g is c l e a r a n d hi s Gr e e k is u n u s u a l l y e l e g a n t f o r a wr i t e r o f t h e t h i r d c e n t u r y A. D? He wa s a b l e
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  Aristotle s Doctrine Of Predicables And Porphyry s sagoge CHRISTOS EVANGELIOU 1. FOR THE PERCEPTIVE STUDENT of the history of ideas, Porphyry is an enig- matic and interesting philosopher. His thinking is clear and his Greek is unusually elegant for a writer of the third century A. D? He was able to produce excellent commentaries on Plato and Aristotle? Although he re- spected his renowned teacher, Plotinus, he did not always follow his teaching. 3 He was a formidable foe of Christianity and a very capable de- fender of Hellenism. 4 Above all, he was the author of a relatively small treatise 5 which was destined to have a brilliant career during the Middle Ages, ''6 and a great impact on Western philosophical thought. I am referring to the famous Eisag6g~ or Isagoge, as it is known in the West. 7 Subsequent generations of commentators on Aristotle's logical works admired Por- , Porphyry's style was praised in ancient times by Eunapius, The Lives of the Sophists (Lon- don: W. Heineman, t92~), 456 and in recent times byJ. Tricot, lsagoge (Paris: J. Vrin, 1947), 7. For a complete list of Porphyry's commentaries, see J. Bidez, Vie de Porphyre, ~d ed. (Hildesheim: G. dims, x964), 65-67. 3 For example, Porphyry defended Aristotle's theory of categories which had been criti- cized severely by Plotinus. On this see my paper The Ontological Basis of Plotinus' Criticism of Aristotle's Theory of Categories, in R. B. Harris, ed., The Structure of Being: A Neoplatonic Approach (Albany: SUNY Press, 1982), 73-83. 4 Porphyry is the author of a treatise entitled Against the Christians which was considered a mine of anti-Christian arguments in the long struggle between Christianity and Hellenism. See A. Hulen, Porphyry's Work Against the Christians: An Interpretation, Yale Studies in Religion, No. 1 (Scottdale, Pa.: Mennonite Press, x933), 5-1o. 5 The Isagoge's length is less than fifteen full pages. 6 I. M. Bohefiski, Ancient Formal Logic (Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Co., t963), to4. 7 The Greek title is rendered into English as Introduction. [ 5]  16 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 23:1 JANUARY 985 phyry's book so much that the Isagoge was incorporated into the Organon in later antiquity, s Traditionally, dialecticians have found in Porphyry's book useful infor- mation pertaining to such philosophical methods as definition, division, demonstration and the like, 9 all of which make use of the important quinque voces or ph6nai: genus, differentia, species, property, and accident? ~ During the Middle Ages and later, metaphysicians have debated the difficult ques- tions raised in the opening paragraph of the Isagoge regarding the ontologi- cal status of genera and species : Whether they exist in themselves or reside in mere concepts; whether they are corporeal, if they exist, or incorporeal; whether they are apart from sensible things or dependent on them?' Histo- rians of philosophy have noticed with amazement that Porphyry's treatise was deemed worthy of attention and commentary by Greek, Latin, Byzan- tine, Armenian, Syrian, and Arabic commentators alike. '~ In other words, for many centuries the Isagoge had only admirers who did not hesitate to make statements like the following: In fact Porphyry's Isagoge and his ele- mentary commentary on the Categories are admirable introductions to the concepts of Aristotelian logic. ''~3 However, in this century Porphyry has been criticized rather severely by some historians of logic and Greek philosophy ~4 who think that they have found serious logical and other errors in the Isagoge For example, Porphyry has been accused of Platonizing Aristotle and inventing the problem of universals ; he has been blamed for being a nominalist and a syncretist : he has also been held responsible for muddling Aristotle's doctrine of the predicables by introducing certain changes which, according to his critics, have made this doctrine both non-Aristotelian and unintelligible.'5 One may wonder whether Porphyry could have avoided detection, had he really com- mitted all these errors. On the other hand, it is not impossible that he has been accused of mistakes which he did not make. I think that this is the case, s Even as late as the nineteenth century, O. F. Owen included the Isagoge in his translation of The Organon of Aristotle (London: H. G. Bohn, 1853 ). These dialectical methods obviously have a Platonic srcin. '~ The Greek names of the predicables are: genos, diaphora, eidos, idion, and symbeb~kos. Isagoge, 1 a 8-14. '~ Cornnrnentaria in Aristotelem Graeca (hereafter abbreviated as CAG), vol. 4, ed. A. Busse (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1887), L. ,3 A. H. Armstrong, ed., Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy (Cam- bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), 281. ,4 W. D. Ross, Aristotle (London: Methuen and Co. Ltd., 1949, Fifth Edition, Revised), 56- 59; E. Moody, The Logic of William of Ockharn (New York: Russell and Russell, 1965), 66-117; W. and M. Kneale, The Development of Logic (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 33-36 and 187-88. ,5 For a more complete list of charges, see A. C. Lloyd, Neoplatonic Logic and Aristotelian Logic. l-Z, Phronesis, vols l, ~ (1955-56): 58-7 ~, and 146-59.  PORPHYRY'S ISAGOGE t 7 at least with regard to the last charge which I intend to discuss in this study. In my view, to claim that the author of the Isagoge, intentionally or not, misinterpreted Aristotle's doctrine of the predicables is a serious charge, but entirely ungrounded because it rests on the assumption that Porphyry's trea- tise is an introduction or commentary on the Topics or the Categories, which is not the case. In what follows the reason why Porphyry's critics failed to see this will become clear. It may be well to begin with a brief account of Aristotle's doctrine of the predicables, so that we will have a clear understanding of the problem under consideration. The Topics, where Aristotle's doctrine is to be found explicitly expressed, opens with a statement designed to (1) delineate the purpose of the treatise, (2) distinguish the different kinds of syllogism, and (3) enumerate the uses of the dialectical method. Immediately after these preliminary remarks, Aristotle proceeds to introduce the four predicables in the following manner: Now every proposition and every problem indicates either a genus or a peculiarity or an accident; for the differentia also, being generic in character, should be ranged with the genus. But since part of the peculiarity indicates the essence and part does not do so, let the peculiarity be divided into the two above-mentioned parts and let that which indicates the essence be called a 'definition' and let the remaining part be termed a 'property' in accordance with the nomenclature usually assigned in these cases. It is clear therefore, from what has been said, that, as a result of the division just made, there are four alternatives in all, either property or definition or genus or accident? 6 Two observations are in order here. The first concerns the key terms proposition protasis) and problem problema), both of which are used in connection with Aristotle's predicables. As is evident from the above quoted passage, the specified four predicables are the necessary ingredients in every dialectical proposition or problem. Now, for Aristotle, there are certain re- strictions as to which propositions and which problems can pass as dialecti- cal. For instance, if someone were to put something into a proposition which is nobody's opinion or to state as a problem that which is manifest to every- one, he would make a fool of himself because the latter raises no question while the former no one would accept (lo4a 7-8). Similarly, if someone doubts that the snow is white or that parents ought to be loved, he needs, according to Aristotle, no argument but castigation or an ophthalmologist to examine his eyes. Aristotle's advice is that We ought not to discuss subjects the demonstration of which is too ready to hand or too remote; for the former raise no difficulty, while the latter involve difficulties which are out- ,6 Topics, lolb 17-26, Foster's translation in The Loeb Classical Library.
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