05 May 2006

What? --A substance.

What is at issue is whether a primary substance in the Categories is an individual (the usual view) or 'an instance of a nature' (as I now think).

One might argue that it must be the latter, from the way in which one arrives at categories at all.

It is commonly held that: we arrive at the categories by considering ranges of response that one might give, without absurdity, to the most general sorts of questions. (E.g. to the question, 'How many?' it would be absurd, not merely wrong, to answer 'white', but not absurd to answer 'two feet'.) Those responses that fall within the appropriate range of response, for a question of a most general sort, indicate items that are all within the same category.

But note: to the question, 'What?' (or 'What sort'?), one might say in response, without absurdity, 'man' or 'animal', but one could not say 'Callias'. (The term 'Callias' does not tell us what something is.) Thus only a term such as 'man' or 'animal' indicates an item in the category of substance, not a proper name. Thus nothing indicated with a proper name is a substance. Thus no individual is a substance or, a fortiori, a primary substance.


Anonymous said...

Forgive a naïve question/observation but doesn’t Aristotle repeatedly revert to thinking of kategoriai simply as predicates? As in Cat. V, for example. Thus the question TIS, to which “Socrates” or “this man here” would be an appropriate answer, is never even considered as a category-generating question. TIS or equivalent relatives would lead us to individuals, but we are studying categories, ie., predicates, and individuals are not predicates.

Michael Pakaluk said...

Dear Anonymous,

I don't know whether your question is naïve, but it is certainly not simple.

If by a 'predicate' one means a word as applied to something, then, in my view, in the Categories, Aristotle is interested in how we apply words to things, because he is interested in the things indicated when we apply them. He evidently thinks that in some cases, when we apply a word to a thing, we mean an individual, and in other cases we mean a kind.

Your observation points out, however, that he is not interested in individuals except as admitting of being sorted. (In my view, that is bound up with his understanding of ousia.) That is why he doesn't consider questions such as 'who?' or 'which?' as generating categories.