It's all Greek to me!

Did you notice in the last article that I tended to group examples in threes? Isn't this a well known example of assumptions in rhetoric? Don't we think of the magic numbers three, seven and ten? No? Not ten? Well the ancient Pythagorians did and when Aristotle listed his 10 categories, was he acting under that assumption? Can our assumptions therefore block the truth? What about the 13 essential steps to be successful? Negative, even if is true? Wouldn't we wangle it to 12 or 14?

Aristotle named 10 categories:

  1. substance,
  2. quantity,
  3. quality,
  4. relation,
  5. place,
  1. time,
  2. position,
  3. state,
  4. action, and
  5. passion.


For example, "A five-foot tall (quantity) man (substance) who was a thinker (quality) sat (position) on a bus (place) one morning (time), feeling hungry (state), but continuing to do a crossword puzzle (action) enthusiastically (passion)."

One thing should not be capable of being placed in more than one category. Categories should be exclusive. So mind can be placed in substance, but nowhere else.

For example, if we have two categories, 'People who eat' and 'People who drink' and we call the first group good and the second group bad, we get an immediate contradiction because we must place all human beings into both categories and so we would call them both good and bad! This principle, that categories or classifications should be exclusive has been adopted both in the East and the West. Even this principle is possibly self-contradictory! Self-contradiction is going to dog us from now on until Hegel or Avolokiteshvara dig us out of it ...

Substance can at a basic level be mind and matter. Matter can be subdivided into living things and non-living things. Biologists developed a set of criteria or qualities for living things, but, of course, the virus did not easily fit into either! Still, let's plod on to make our point.

Living things can be divided into mammals, fish, birds reptiles, insects.

Whatever, the substance, it can have certain qualities - red, courageous, self-contradictory, etc.

Relationship can be broken down into:

  • Cause and Effect
  • Equivalence and Equality
  • Identity
  • Similarity
  • Family - mother of, etc
  • Inside of
  • Bigger than
  • Earlier than
  • Etc


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Most recent revision 3 August 1998
Copyright © 1998 Ken Ward,
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