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By John Marenbon

Compact yet singularly good suggestion out fabric of a theological, logical, poetic in addition to philosophical nature.

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The philosophical character of the Categories is particularly evident. The Categories is not a study of arguments, nor even, save indirectly, of the terms used to express arguments. It is an attempt to explore the way in which reality, as represented accurately by language, can be divided and categorized. Aristotle’s concern here is with things that can be said ‘without combination’ (‘man’, ‘runs’; as opposed to ‘man runs’). Such things may be divided into ten classes (1b25). Nine of these are self-explanatory: quantity, qualification, relation, place, time, being-in-a-position, having, doing and being-affected.

Aristotle’s logical works raised, but did not solve, a deep problem about the relation between the terms and concepts of the logicians and reality. Are the Categories divisions of language or of the world? Do genera and species constitute another set of real beings, besides the sensibly-perceptible objects which they classify? In what way do words, and statements made up from words, represent things? These questions do not belong to the province of formal logic, in the modern sense; but Boethius followed that school of ancient opinion which held that logic was not just a tool for philosophy, but a part of it (In Isagogen edition II 142:16–143:7).

The work is remarkable for its linguistic approach to dialectic. Having separated words into single and combined (1) —as Aristotle 26 The antique heritage distinguishes at the beginning of the Categories between things said with and without combination—Augustine devotes most of his energies to discussing single words, how they gain their meaning and how ambiguity is possible. Dialectic includes, says Augustine (IV), the discussion of the truth or falsity of sentences and conjunctions of sentences; but the treatise does not go on to consider this topic.

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