By M. Deslauriers
This paintings examines Aristotles discussions of definition in his logical works and the Metaphysics , and argues for the significance of definitions of straightforward components, drawing the relationship among definitions as first ideas of demonstration and as statements of essence.
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Additional resources for Aristotle on Definition
But this much is clear—that Aristotle agrees with Plato that there is a place for division in philosophical method, and that its products are deﬁnitions. 22 chapter one i. The method of collection and division I have been arguing that Aristotle agrees with Plato that collection and division are useful, and indeed that we should routinely use collection and division to produce deﬁnitions. The method of collection and division as described and used by Plato is not, however, adequate to the task of deﬁning what Aristotle takes to be the objects of deﬁnition (I will say more about those objects below).
Po. 97a28–34; Meta. 1038a8–14). So, for example, “biped” and “quadruped” are not predicable of “footed”. That is, we cannot say that footed things are biped (because some footed things are not biped, but quadruped), and similarly we cannot say that footed things are quadruped. But “footed” is predicable of each of the terms by which it is divided. We can say that biped things are footed, and that quadruped things are footed, just because what it means to be biped or quadruped is to have a certain number of feet.
That is, Aristotle’s concern with deﬁnition, and therefore with division, is not solely a concern with its formal function in his logic, but also a concern with its adequacy for giving us accounts of natural kinds. 35 These are only hints of a phenomenon (hints which I will pursue and elaborate in Chapters Two through Five), but suﬃcient to show that Aristotle’s discussion of division and deﬁnition is motivated by more than an interest in logical structures, or, put another way, motivated by an interest in logical structures as they reﬂect natural structures.
Aristotle on Definition by M. Deslauriers