Aristotle's Rivals: Early Categorialism in Ancient Greek Philosophy

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Abstract Summary
Aristotle's Categories is one of the most influential and heavily commented on texts to survive from antiquity. It is so influential, and presents such a neat contrast to Plato's Theory of Forms, that he is often taken as virtually inventing categorialism as a tradition single-handedly. Yet this is far too neat a picture as his contemporaries Hermodorus (Simp. Phys. 247,33-248,20), Xenocrates (Fr. 12 Lang), and Speusippus (Simp. Cat. 38,19-24; SE Adv. Math. vii 145-146) are all attested as having posited their own categorial schemes. Late Classical Greek philosophy presents us with an abundance of attempts to "carve nature at its joints," but I will be focusing on Speusippus' categorialism as it is the most attested and is likely the one Aristotle was most concerned with given his comments at Posterior Analytics II 13. 97a6-11 and in Parts of Animals I.2-3. I will examine Speusippus' "categorial holism" in this paper, particularly as he applies it in the surviving fragments of his scientific works Likes and Definitions. I will examine how divisions of plant species in Likes depart from Aristotle's own criteria for definitions in the Topics while also addressing some of the potential problems of Speusippus' approach (particularly that objection that it is too epistemically demanding). Despite some shortcomings, however, I will argue that Speusippus and Early Academics were establishing their own unique taxonomy of the world, revamping Plato's method of division to present a powerful alternative that avoids some of the shortcomings of Aristotle and Theophrastus.
Abstract ID :
HSS346
Submission Type
Chronological Classification :
Ancient Greek and Roman

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