Skip to main content

Homonymy in Aristotle and Speusippus

  • Jonathan Barnes (a1)

There are important differences between Aristotle's account of homonymy and synonymy on the one hand, and Speusippus' on the other; in particular, Aristotle treated homonymy and synonymy as properties of things, whereas Speusippus treated them as properties of words. Despite this difference, in certain significant passages Aristotle fell under the influence of Speusippus and used die words “homonymous” and “synonymous” in their Speusippan senses.’

Hide All

page 65 note 1 Hambruch E., Logische Regeln der platonischen Schule in der aristotelischen Topik, Berlin, 1904. PP. 28–9.

page 65 note 2 Lang P., De Speusippi Academici scriptis, Bonn, 1911 (Hildesheim, 1965), pp. 25–6.

page 65 note 3 Stenzel J., art. ‘Speusippos’ RE iiia, 1929, 1654. 444

page 65 note 4 Cherniss H., Aristotle's Criticism of Plato and the Academy, Baltimore, 1944, pp. 56–8; cf. The Riddle of the Early Academy, Berkeley, 1945 P. 40.

page 65 note 5 Anton J. P., ‘The Aristotelian Doctrine of Homonyma in the Categories and its Platonic Antecedents’, JHistPhil vi (1968), 315–26, p. 323. Anton 's other articles are: ‘The meaning of ό λόγςinline-graphicύσία in Aristotle's Categories Ia’, Monist lii (1968), 252–67Ancient Interpretations of Aristotle's Doctrine of Homonyma’, JHistPhil vii (1969), 118.

page 65 note 6 Owen G. E. L., ‘A Proof in the Πєρί ’ Iδєŵν, JHS lxxvii (1957), 103–11, reprinted in Allen R. E. (ed.), Studies in Plato's Metaphysics, London, 1965: see p. 104 n. 1 ═ p. 295 n. 1. Merlan P., ‘Beiträge zur Geschichte des antiken Piatonismus: I, Zur Erklärung der dem Aristoteles zugeschriebenen Kategorienschrift’, Phlg lxxxix (1934), 3553, criticizes the Hambruch thesis on the grounds of triviality (pp. 47–53): see below, p. 70 n. 2.

page 65 note 7 See Porphyrius , In Aristotelis Categorias Expositio per interrogationem et responsionem, ed. Busse A., Berlin, 1887 {CIAG iv. 1), 59. 34–67. 32. (This is Porphyry's minor commentary on the Categories; his larger work, inscribed to Gedaleius, is unfortunately lost: cf. Simplicius , In Aristotelis Categorias Commentarius, ed. Kalbfleisch C., Berlin, 1907 {CIAG viii), 2. 59;Beutler R., art. ‘Porphyrios’, RE xxii. i, 1953, 283). Porphyry's is the earliest of the seven commentaries on the Categories published in CIAG; the other six, in chronological order, are those of: Dexippus (mid 4th century); Ammonius (end of 5th century); Ammonius’ three pupils, Simplicius, Olympiodorus, and Philoponus; and Olympiodorus’ pupil Elias. CIAG also prints a paraphrase which may be the work of the 13th-century monk Sophonias; there is an anonymous introduction to the Categories among Brandis's Scholia in Aristotelem, 30a27–34b20; and there is much unpublished material.

The later commentators are heavily dependent on their predecessors, especially Porphyry; this is well illustrated by their remarks on Aristotle's definition of homonymy (cf. Praechter K., review of CIAG, ByzZ xviii (1909), 526–31; Westerink L. G., Anonymous Prolegomena to Platonic Philosophy, Amsterdam, 1962, pp. 26vii).

page 66 note 1 See, e.g., Porphyry, 61. 14; 68. 12; Ammonius , In Aristotelis Categorias Commentaria, ed. Busse A., Berlin, 1895 (CIAG iv. 4), 18. 16; Joseph H. W. B., An Introduction to Logic2, Oxford, 1916, p. 47; Hintikka K. J. J., ‘Aristotle and the Ambiguity of Ambiguity’, Inquiry ii (1959), p. 140; Ackrill J. L., Aristotle's Categories and De Interpretatione, Oxford, 1962, p. 71. But note the opposite sentiment in Simplicius, 25. 7–9 (cf. 28. 1); and see below, p. 73. In practice the commentators occasionally speak of homonymous words: e.g. Ammonius , In Porphyrii Isagogen Commentarius, ed. Busse A., Berlin, 1891 (CIAG iv. 3), 81. 23; 83. 21; 84. 21.

page 66 note 2 This loose phrase is intended to cover phrases, sentences and the like, as well as words.

page 66 note 3 (D20) synonymy is quite different from what English grammarians generally mean by synonymy, namely sameness of meaning: ‘equivocal’ and ‘univocal’ are better words for the properties defined in (Dio) and (D20).

page 67 note 1 And it fails to remark on another significant distinction between the pairs of definitions: that (Di) and (D2) define polyadic predicates or relations, whereas the definiendo of (D10) and (D20) are monadic.

page 67 note 2 Merlan P., ‘Zur Biographie des Speusippos’, Phlg ciii (1959), 198214.

page 67 note 3 See now Brunschwig J., Aristote: Topiques i-iv, Paris (Budé), 1967, pp. lxxiilxxvi; lxxxiii-civ.

page 67 note 4 Poste E., Aristotle on Fallacies, or the Sophistici Elenchi, London, 1866, p. 151. He offers no reason for the identification.

page 67 note 5 The classifications are no doubt compatible; but they are logically independent. There is more reason to connect the men of chapter 20 with the persons criticized at 24, 179b38–180a7, and 33, 182b22–7; we do not know who these persons are.

page 67 note 6 He refers to ‘the importance which Speusippus attached to the division of words and the relation of word to concept as the basis of this division–. But there is no evidence that Speusippus attached any importance of the required sort to this division; and if there were, that would be curious ground for ascribing to him the view that all fallacies are due to equivocation.

page 67 note 7 The passage was discussed and the attribution to Speusippus suggested by Bywater I., ‘The Cleophons in Aristotle’, JP xii (1883), 1730.

page 68 note 1 Cf. Stanford W. B., Ambiguity in Greek Literature, Oxford, 1939, pp. 25.

page 68 note 2 Peter Lambeck found lines 2 {τwν γάρ …) to 5 (… τєρωύµων) under the heading ‘Η Σπєνσίππou Δίρєσις in one of the MSS. he catalogued (Lambecius Petrus, Commentaria de augustissima Bibliotheca Caesarea Vindobonensi, vii, Vienna, 1675, p. 135— Lang's ‘185’ is a misprint). See Westerink L. G. and Laourdas B., ‘Scholia by Arethas in Vindob. Phil. Gr. 314’, Hellenika xvii (1962), 105–31: ‘Η Σπєνσίππou Δίρєσις heads a miscellaneous appendix to the MS. (published on pp. 127–31), only the first entry of which has anything to do with Speusippus. This reads: inline-graphicinline-graphicinline-graphic. This is doubtless a careless excerpt from Simplicius. The MS. dates from 924 or 925 and was copied from a codex belonging to Arethas; Arethas is known to have read and excerpted from Simplicius' commentary on the Categories (see Kalbfleisch in Simplicius, p. xiv). See also Schubart J. H. C., ‘Einige Bemer-kungen über das griechische Scholienwesen’, ZfdAltwiss i (1834), 1137–44.

page 68 note 3 Waitz T., Aristotelis Organon, Leipzig, 18441846, i. 45. This Boethus, number 9 in Pauly–Wissowa, should be distinguished from his homonym and compatriot, the peri-patetically inclined Stoic.

page 68 note 4 Lang, p. 66, says that Simplicius quotes Boethus at second hand, from Porphyry's lost editio maior. He certainly does this in the case of F32c of Speusippus (cf. 11. 23; 29. 30; 78. 20; and see p. 69 n. 1 below); and he expresses a general debt to Porphyry whom he claims to follow closely (2. 5–9; cf. 559b). But Simplicius was a learned man (cf. 1. 1–3. 17), and he admired Boethus; we need not assume that he was not directly acquainted with Boethus' commentary.

Simplicius did not have first-hand knowledge of Speusippus' works; the wς øασιν in F32b shows that.

page 68 note 5 Of course the very first sentence is not Speusippan, though Lang prints it large and bold. I do not know what παραλαµβ;άνєιν means in line 1; perhaps it is corrupt: something like παρασinline-graphicησαι, would be better.

page 69 note 1 But see Porphyry, 68. 28–69. 13:1 guess that this is a reflection of Boethus’ commentary (note that F32a occupies a place in Simplicius’ commentary analogous to this section in Porphyry; perhaps this supports Lang's conjecture—above, p. 68 n. 4— that Simplicius got F32a from Porphyry's major commentary). It may be that Porphyry's debt to Boethus was no smaller than his successors’ debt to him.

page 69 note 2 Similar contentment (inline-graphic) is mentioned, without definite ascription, by Porphyry, 63. 1–2; 64. 25; and Dexippus , In Aristotelis Categorias Commentaria, ed. Busse A., Berlin, 1888 (CIAG iv. 2), 20. 21–3. It is likely that Simplicius is relying on Porphyry's major commentary.

page 69 note 3 Platonist, teacher of Marcus Aurelius, and author of a minute and critical examination of the Categories: see Praechter K., ‘Nikostratos der Platoniker’, Hermes lvii (1922), 481517.

page 70 note 1 This tells against the conjecture (noted in Waitz, i. 270; supported by Anton, ‘The Meaning …’, pp. 258–9) that Speusippus’ influence accounts for the omission ofinline-graphicouσίας in some texts of the Categories at ia2 and ia7.

page 70 note 2 Merlan, ‘Beitrage …’, p. 50, offers the same reconstruction; but he wrongly supposes that it is only trivially different from a ‘Speusippan’ account of homonymy.

page 70 note 3 Though the question was discussed by Porphyry it was apparently raised again only by Simplicius and Olympiodorus (In Aristotelis Categorias Commentarium, ed. Busse A., Berlin, 1902 (CIAG xii. i), 38. 612).

page 70 note 4 The contrast between oἱ νєώτєρoι andinline-graphicis common in Alexander's logical works (cf. In Aristotelis Analyticorum Priorum librum I Commentarius, ed. Wallies M., Berlin, 1883 (CIAG ii. 1), 422a and 423a); it is clear that ‘the moderns’ are always the Stoics, whereas ‘the ancients’ are regularly (if not always) the older Peripatetics.

page 70 note 5 Perhaps a standard Stoic example: Empiricus Sextus, Pyrr. Hyp. ii. 227.—Who are ‘the Stoics’ here? Von Arnim gives the sentence to Chrysippus (F150 ═ SVF ii. 45. 19), who is known to have written at length about ambiguity (see F152, F153— and especially Galen, Πєpìinline-graphicπαρά τἠν λ຾ιν σoøισµάτωxsν (Kühn xiv, pp. 582–98)– and cf. the book-titles at SVF ii. 6. 2330). But it is possible that Simplicius’ sentence stems ultimately from one of the many Stoic critics of the Categories (on whom see Praechter's article above, p. 69 n. 3).

page 71 note 1 The standard examples, an iambic line, are inline-graphic(cf. Porphyry, 69. 1–2—ultimately from Boethus, if my attribution to him of the definitions in f 32a is correct).

page 71 note 2 Alexander , In Aristotelis Metaphysica Commentaria, ed. Hayduck M., Berlin, 1891 (CIAG i), 247. 27–9: … inline-graphicinline-graphicinline-graphic Cf. 281. 24.

page 71 note 3 See Porphyry, 69. 12: inline-graphicinline-graphic.

page 71 note 4 Buck and Petersen list 91 -ώνυµoς compounds in their reverse index; 22 are found before Speusippus’ time. Liddell and Scott give F32a as the first appearance of πєρώνυµoς (which they translate ‘having a different signification’) and as the sole appearance of παύπώνυµoς (which they better translate ‘of the same name’). The proper ‘Speusippan’ words would be the late τєpo σµαντ0ς and (or ταύτόσηµoς —cf. πoλύσηµoς already in Democritus B26).

page 72 note 1 Why does Aristotle include kaτά τouνoµa in (Ai) and (A2)? (Cf. Porphyry, 62. 34–64. 22: confused, but influential.) Both Plato and Socrates have a name in common, viz. ‘man’; and they have different definitions, inasmuch as what it is for Plato to be flat-footed (e.g.) is different from what it is for Socrates to be snub-nosed (e.g.). An unkind reading of (S1) would allow these facts to qualify Plato and Socrates as homonyms. But obviously such facts are not sufficient to produce anything we should want to call homonymy, and (AI) makes this explicit. The qualification in (A1) and (A2) is implicit in (S1) and (S2) in that anyone who uttered (S1) and received the objection I have just sketched would reasonably retort that this was an ineffective objection, since what he meant was (A1). At Categories 5, 3b7, Aristotle expresses (D2) by the sentence:


This has one qualification less than (S2); but Aristotle means by it what he meant by (A2).

page 72 note 2 As in the paraphrase of the Categories (In Aristotelis Categorias Paraphrasis, ed. Hayduck M., Berlin, 1883, {CIAG xxiii. 2), 1. 25); see also the opening of the ‘alternative’ Categories (Ross , Aristotelis Fragmenta Selecta, pp. 103–5—Ross's first testimonium is more readily found at Philoponus , In Aristotelis Categorias Commentarium, ed. Busse A., Berlin, 1898 (CIAG xiii. i), 7. 2530).

page 73 note 1 There is a good history of the controversy in Simplicius, 9. 4–13. 26; the later commentators include briefer and inaccurate accounts. Andronicus may have opened the discussion (Simplicius, 379. 9); the various arguments were schematized in a pamphlet by Alexander's teacher Sosigenes (see Dexippus, 6. 27–10. 32); Iamblichus produced a solution which purported to reconcile all the opposing views (cf. Olympiodorus, 19. 36–20. 12), and this became the orthodoxy of the later commentators.

page 73 note 2 Compare the difficulties Porphyry finds at 61. 13–27, and the odd statement by Simplicius at 25. 7–9.

page 73 note 3 The question became a stock one, and the substance of Boethus’ answer was taken over by all the commentators (e.g. Porphyry, 62.1; Ammonius, 18.21); however, they all ignore the ‘Speusippan’ implications of what Boethus said. Boethus’ answer is fundamentally mistaken.

page 73 note 4 See Mutschmann H., Divisiones Aris-toteleae, Leipzig (Teubner), 1907. These ‘divisions’ are highly stereotyped in form; Mutschmann supposes that they were collected for school use (they are ‘ad discipulorum quamvis brutorum intelligentiam accommodatae’, p. iii). They should not be taken as accurate reproductions of the ‘divisions’ produced by the Academy.

page 73 note 5 Compare the definition of eτєρoς where it is opposed to τєρώνυµoς: Ammonius, 16. 24–17. 3; Simplicius, 22. 31–3. This distinction lies behind the remarks of Alexander , In Metaphysica …, 247. 9–24 (cf. 366. 31; 377. 25–7: note the examples, which probably go back to Physics Г 3, 202b14 and De Generatione Animalium A 18, 724b19–21); conceivably it grew out of reflection upon the account of heteronymy in F32a.

page 74 note 1 Of course Aristotle does not himself offer the full-blown Aristotelian ‘division’; the commentators, answering Boethus’ complaint (Simplicius, 36. 28–30 ═ F32C), offered explanations and excuses (see Porphyry, 60. 34–61. 4—followed with embellishments by all later writers).

page 74 note 2 The contradictory seems to be asserted by Dexippus at 20. 24–7 and by Simplicius at 29. 5–12 (cf. Olympiodorus, 31. 19–26); but their point is presumably the one made more clearly by Ammonius 19. 18.

page 74 note 3 See, e.g., the standard way of introducing the four onymies as the four possible inline-graphicinline-graphic (Porphyry, 60. 22–34—note the definite articles; cf. Ammonius, 15. 16–16. 6).—In his definition of synonymy Aristotle talks of the name (τό őνoµa: ia6; cf. 3b7); I do not know if there is any significance in this.

page 74 note 4 As the word πoλυώνυµoς suggests: πoλύς is not a relational adjective.

page 75 note 1 This is based on consideration of (a) all occurrences listed in Bonitz's Index Aristo-telicus, and (b) all occurrences in the Topics; my impression is that this sample is fair. Similar things could be said of Aristotle's use of συνώνυµoς. It is not always easy to decide how to classify a given occurrence; and there are some occurrences which fit none of the classes very well.

page 76 note 1 Why, then, is (i) Aristotle's ‘official’ sense ? I suggest that it is just in his ‘official’ account of homonymy and synonymy that Aristotle is most indebted to Speusippus; when he comes to put the terms to use he rejects the Speusippan account as too cramping (Merlan , ‘Beiträge …’; H. J. Krämer, ‘Zur geschichtlichen Stellung der aristotelischen Metaphysik’, Kant-Studien lviii (1967), p. 341).

page 76 note 2 In his notes on the second passage {In Aristotelis Meteorologica Commentarius, ed. Hayduck M., Berlin, 1899 (CIAG iii. 2), 223. 27) Alexander correctly contrasts όµωνύµως with kυpίως.

page 76 note 3 In the Topics at least this phrase is interchangeable with (v); in later works Aristotle sometimes distinguishes between homonymy and ‘being said in many ways’ (see, with circumspection, Hintikka's article above, p. 66 n. 1).

page 76 note 4 Quite distinct of course are the cases in which Aristotle uses όµώνυµoς in its non-technical sense of ‘having the same name as’: references in Bonitz 's Index Aristotelicus, 514b1318; Alexander , In Metaphysica …, 51. 15 77. 12 (Alexander says that Aristotle took this use over from Plato: Anton , ‘The Aristotelian Doctrine …’, p. 318, with references).

page 77 note 1 See in general Kühner-Gerth i. 586–97; and for Aristotle e.g. Topics I 32, 182a18; 21; 30; MetaphysicsГ4, ioo6a3i; b2; 14; 17; 23; 26 (cf. Boethus (Simplicius, 25. 18–26); Porphyry, 61. 31–62. 6).

Thus Aristotle has the means of distinguishing between the ‘use’ and the ‘mention’ of an expression. But the situation is complicated by three factors: (a) sometimes the definite article takes the gender of the term it governs, even when the term is masculine or feminine and the article has its inverted-comma use: cf., e.g., Categories, 5, 3b17; Topics E 2, 130b3; Z 3, 141a13; 4, 142b5; Poetics 20, 1457a28. (b) Aristotle subscribes to the view that every term can be used autonymously—that A means both ‘A’ and ‘(the word) A’: cf. Topics I 14, 174a8–9 (presumably the source of the medieval distinction between formal and material supposition: Moody E. A., Truth and Consequence in Mediaeval Logic, Amsterdam, 1953, pp. 23–5). (c) In practice, Aristotle sometimes at least ignores the ‘use’/‘mention’ distinction; a peculiarly discordant example is Posterior Analytics A 1, 71a15–16.

page 77 note 2 Viz. cases involving such curious but characteristically Aristotelian nominaliza-tions as τò kαθ’ ő (e.g. Metaphysics Δ 18, 1022a14) and to τò ek τιν0ς єίνaι (24, 1023a26). But Aristotle uses nominalizations of this sort in contexts where the inverted-comma reading of the definite article is out of the question; see almost any occurrence of inline-graphic.

page 78 note 1 In this, as he says, he follows Waitz (ii. 452). Hambruch does not explicitly assert that the occurrences of òµώνυµoς in A 15 are ‘Speusippan’, but I assume he thought they were: (a) he identifies ‘Speusippan’ òµώνυµα.a with inline-graphic (p. 28 n. 1), and òµώνυµoς is used synonymously with inline-graphic in A 15; and (b) Waitz's argument that the συνώνυµa of A 15 are ‘Speusippan’ depends on his construing the òµώνòµa in the same context as ‘Speusippan’. Waitz, however, is far from clear on this issue; in his notes on the Categories he says in general: ‘definit [sc. Aristoteles] vocum et homonymiam et synonymiam, non rerum’ (i. 272).

The translators implicitly side with Hambruch: see, e.g., Pickard-Cambridge's Oxford Translation, Forster's Loeb, Brunschwig's Budé.

page 78 note 2 Hambruch (p. 29 n. 1; Robin L., La Théorie platonicienne des idées et des nombres d'après Aristote, Paris, 1908, p. 138) also suggests that the account of numerical identity in Topics A 7 is influenced by Speusippus: the first definition of ‘one in number’ (103a9–10; 25–7) is, he claims, at once inconsistent with what Aristotle says elsewhere about numerical identity and identical with what Speusippus says about polyonymy. (Alexander , In Aristotelis Topico-rum libros octo commentaria, ed. Wallies M., Berlin, 1891 (CIAG ii. 2), 58. 8–11 takes things numerically one to be polyonymous; cf. In Metaphysica …, 281. 24). If Hambruch is right, then Speusippus’ polyonymy is not ‘Speusippan’; for Aristotle's numerical identity is not a relation that holds only between linguistic items.

page 79 note 1 Ross W. D. (Aristotle's Prior and Posterior Analytics, Oxford, 1949, p. 668) paraphrases: ‘If the major is ambiguous, so is the middle. If the major is a generic property …, so is the middle term.’ The reference of ‘the major’ and of ‘the middle’ shifts from the first to the second of these sentences. It may be that Aristotle is guilty of some such shift; but he need not be.

page 79 note 2 We naturally suppose that a λóγoς is a sentence, or at least some sort of concatenation of linguistic items; and so it often is. But of course Aristotle regularly takes the Aoyos of a thing to be the same as its ovala or eloos; and these are certainly not linguistic entities.

page 79 note 3 Porphyry (Simplicius, 36. 27) commented that συνωνυµía. here is used in an unusual sense, and he reports that it appeared in the Poetics too (═ frag. Ill Kassel: the passage is not identical with the Rhetoric passage as Waitz i. 272, Lang, p. 66, and others suppose). Alexander detected further examples of this use of συνώνυµoς in Aristotle: cf. In Metaphysica …, 280. 20 (cf. 32–5), on Metaphysics Г 4, ioo6b14; In Topica …, 577. 18, on Topics, Θ 13, 162b36 (but see Trendelenburg F. A., Elementa Logices Aristoteleae6, Berlin, 1868, pp. 126–7).

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Classical Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0009-8388
  • EISSN: 1471-6844
  • URL: /core/journals/classical-quarterly
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 10 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 115 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 17th January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.