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Aristotle’s Ten Categories

The ten Categories of Aristotle are derived from Aristotle’s Organon (Evans) and are classifications of individual words (as opposed to propositions) They consist of substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, situation, condition, action, and passion (Robin, 2004). Of the ten categories, Substance (ouisa) is consistently considered to be the most important as it is the fundamental element of all living things. Each individual thing has its own substance that is unique to that thing and does not belong to any other individual thing.

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Substance exists in two forms; Primary Substance and Secondary Substance. Primary Substances are absolute, concrete individual things that can exist in isolation to other things. Aristotle specified elements such as air, water and earth as primary categories because they are entirely independent of other beings. Secondary Substances are essentially properties of the primary substances and therefore cannot exist in their own right (Smith, Robin, 2004).

Aristotle specified that whilst primary substances were restricted to genus, secondary substances were restricted to the individual species to which they belonged, “’man’ is predicated of the individual man; but ‘animal’ is predicated of ‘man’; it will, therefore, be predicable of the individual man also: for the individual man is both ‘man’ and ‘animal’. ” (Edghill, 2000). The remaining nine categories are utilized to help define and determine the details of the substance and what it is similar to and much of Aristotle’s discussion of these categories concerned the way the categories are used in language.

The second of Aristotle’s categories is Quantity, which as per the conventional meaning of this word, refers to the physical size of something. Quantity can be measured by numbers, weight, volume, area etc and thus the category is intended as a means by which substance can be measured and interpreted relative to one another. Quality is related to the inherent nature of something, that is its attributes or characteristics. Quality aspects generally cannot be described mathematically. Descriptive words such as “white”, “fat”, “larger” etc. ould generally characterize the quality aspect of the categories. Relation concerns the way in which one thing is related to another. This relationship could be a cause and effect relationship, a physical relationship or an equivalent relationship. The next category is Place. This refers to the physical location of an object or thing in its environment. Following this is Time. This category is concerned with a thing’s position with regards to the passage of time in the conventional sense or in relation to other events.

The seventh category, Position, addresses the relative position parts of an object in relation to each other or the position of one object in relation to other objects. State is similar to quality but is concerned with the ongoing nature of an object as opposed to the inherent nature. So, for example, “easy going” would be classified as a quality whilst “depressed” would be classified as a state. The ninth category, Action, refers to the way in which a change to one object could impact another object or thing.

Conversely, the tenth category, Passion or Affection, is concerned with the reception of a change and relates to the alteration that something else has on the object. Aristotle’s theory states that every single part of a sentence will fall into one of these categories. An example of a sentence that uses them all is as follows: “ The naughty (quality), lone (quantity) boy (substance) crouched (position) beside his sister (relation) in their playroom (place) one afternoon (time), happy (affection) and content (state) as he stole her toys (action). ”