Primary and Secondary Substances in Aristotle's "Categories" Analytical Essay by Righter

Primary and Secondary Substances in Aristotle's "Categories"
An analysis of Aristotle's notions of primary and secondary substances, as outlined in his "Categories".
# 153831 | 1,853 words | 2 sources | MLA | 2014 | US
Published on Feb 20, 2014 in Philosophy (Ancient Greek)

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This author looks at the differences and similarities between primary and secondary substances according to Aristotle and then discusses Aristotle's definition of homonymy. The author explains the two views of homonymy and analyzes whether Aristotle sees the two types of substances as homonymous. The author concludes that in the moderate view, both are homonymous, whereas in the extreme view, both are non-homonymous.

Primary and Secondary Substances
The Homonymous Use of Substances in the Categories

From the Paper:

"Aristotle divides substance into primary and secondary classes. A primary substance is, according to Aristotle, "neither said of a subject nor in a subject." A secondary substance, however, consists of the species and genera that encapsulate a primary substance. As examples, Aristotle says that the individual man is a primary substance, whereas the individual man's species (i.e. man) and genera (i.e. animal) are secondary substances.
"In his Categories, Aristotle goes into much more detail about the differences (and similarities) between primary substances and secondary substances. For example, Aristotle says, "Of the secondary substances the species is more a substance than the genus, since it is nearer to the primary substance." This seems clear enough: if we take one primary substance to be an individual man, then the species will be "man" and the genus will be "animal". It is obvious enough that "man" is closer in name and definition to an "individual man" than "animal". As Aristotle says, "If one is to say of the primary substance what it is, it will be more informative and apt to give the species than the genus...the one is more distinctive of the individual man while the other is more general.""

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Aristotle. Categories and De Interpretatione. Translated by J.L. Ackrill. New York, NY: Clarendon Press, 2002.
  • Irwin, T.H. "Homonymy in Aristotle". Review of Metaphysics 34. March 1981.

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