Aristotle on Definition by M. Deslauriers

By M. Deslauriers

This paintings examines Aristotles discussions of definition in his logical works and the Metaphysics , and argues for the significance of definitions of easy elements, drawing the relationship among definitions as first ideas of demonstration and as statements of essence.

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Plato’s understanding of form as the object of definition is indicated by the passage in the Statesman at which the Stranger explains that it is easy to define those things that have visible likenesses, since we can simply point to those likenesses (285e–286a). Of course, only material objects can have visible images. And since immaterial objects do not have visible images, some other method of giving an account of them must be provided. In the case of the greatest, most honourable things, there is no visible image produced for people, by pointing to which someone who wished to satisfy the soul of an inquirer might satisfy it adequately according to what is suitable for sensible things.

Such and such an animal”) to “animal”. D. W. Hamlyn, “Aristotelian Epagoge,” Phronesis 21 (1976), 167–184; Robert Bolton, “Aristotle’s Method in Natural Science: Physics I” in Aristotle’s Physics: A Collection of Essays, ed. Lindsay Judson (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991) 1–29, especially 2– 9; Greg Bayer, “Coming to Know Principles in Posterior Analytics II. 19,” Apeiron 30, no. 2 (1997): 109–142; Richard D. , Principles and Proofs: Aristotle’s Theory of Demonstrative Science (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 235–259; Jonathan Barnes, Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, 2nd ed.

32 By contrast, Plato’s interest in dialectic in the Sophist is, Moreau argues, only as a method of establishing the possibility of discourse. In other words, while Plato assigns to dialectic a metaphysical function in the Republic, by the later dialogues its function is strictly logical. L. Ackrill, “Symploke Eidon,” in Studies in Plato’s Metaphysics, ed. E. Allen (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965), 204. 31 J. Moreau, “Aristote et la dialectique Platonicienne” in Aristotle on Dialectic: The Topics, ed.

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