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Predication and Ontology

Predication and Ontology - Predication and Ontology The...

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Predication and Ontology: The Categories A theory of ontology attempts to answer, in the most general possible terms, the question what is there? A theory of predication attempts to answer the question what is it to say something about something? This is a book about ontology and predication. 1. Ontology: The Ten Categories In the Categories , we get this list (1b25): 1. Substance 2. Quality 3. Quantity 4. Relation 5. Where 6. When 7. Position 8. Having 9. Action 10. Passion This is presumably a list of the ten fundamentally different kinds of things that there are. The first category—substance—is the most important in Aristotle’s ontology. Substances are, for Aristotle, the fundamental entities. To see why this is so, we will have to understand what Aristotle says about predication. 2. Predication 1. A subject ( hupokeimenon ) is what a statement is about. 2. A predicate ( katêgoroumenon ) is what a statement says about its subject. Examples: 3. This (particular animal) is a man. 4. Man is an animal. 5. This (particular color) is white. 6. White is a color. The same thing may be both a subject and a predicate, e.g., man and white above. Some things are subjects but are never predicates, e.g., this (particular) animal, or this (particular) color. 2. Two kinds of predication Consider the following pair of simple (atomic) sentences: 1. “Socrates is a human being” 2. “Socrates is wise” Do both of these atomic sentences have the same kind of ontological underpinning ? I.e., is the structure of the fact that Socrates is a man the same as the structure of the fact that Socrates is wise? Plato’s account suggests that it is. 3. For Plato:“ x is F ” means that x partakes of the Form, F -ness. According to Plato, predication, in general, is explicated in terms of the notion of participating in a Form . In response, Aristotle thinks this oversimplifies. On Aristotle’s account:
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4. “Socrates is a human being” tells us something fundamental about what kind of a thing Socrates is: it is an essential predication. 5. “Socrates is wise” tells us something less fundamental, something that merely happens to be the case: it is an accidental predication. This idea emerges in the Categories distinction between what is said of a subject and what is in a subject, introduced as part of the four-fold distinction drawn at 1a20. Since Aristotle is using the terms ‘said of’ and ‘in’ in a somewhat technical way, we will write them, from now on, in SMALL CAPS in order to indicate this technical use. 3. Two fundamental relations Aristotle distinguishes two fundamental relations: being SAID OF a subject and being PRESENT IN a subject. These correspond, respectively, to the notions (that Aristotle later develops) of essential and accidental predication, and they cut across all ten categories.
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