Order in Multiplicity: Homonymy in the Philosophy of Aristotle

By Christopher Shields | Go to book overview

1
The Varieties of Homonymy

Aristotle opens an early work, the Categories,1 by distinguishing between synonymy, homonymy, and paronymy (1a1-15). I begin by considering this early characterization, which has come to be regarded as his canonical statement of the natures of homonymy and synonymy, with an eye toward assessing their eventual roles in his mature critical and non-critical philosophy. When first characterizing these notions, I avoid relying, as far as possible, on their most important and heavily disputed applications. I especially set aside Aristotle's treatments of being and goodness, the

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Some of Aristotle's interpreters, including e.g. Cherniss ( 1935) and Gill ( 1989), are unitarians, adopting a characteristically medieval hermeneutical method, according to which the extant corpus of Aristotle's works can be interpreted as adhering to a single, overarching philosophical system. On this approach, it is entirely appropriate to appeal indifferently to any given work by Aristotle to explicate remarks contained in another. More characteristic of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is developmentalism, pioneered by Jaeger ( 1948) and upheld in various ways for portions of Aristotle's corpus by Solmsen ( 1929), Nuyens ( 1948), Gauthier and Jolif ( 1970), Owen ( 1965b), Wieland ( 1970), and Ross ( 1924 and 1957); developmentalists hold that Aristotle's views change and evolve throughout his productive life. In the current study I accept, without argument, a form of developmentalism, though not of the sort expounded by the developmentalists cited; the debate they have framed centres far too narrowly and constrictively on Aristotle's relationship to Plato. A better form of developmentalism recognizes that Aristotle accepts some features of Plato's metaphysics and epistemology while rejecting others throughout his life and focuses instead on the doctrinal and methodological dynamics internal to the progression of Aristotle's own thought. Graham ( 1987) appropriately relies on the introduction of hylomorphism as central to a shift in Aristotle's philosophical doctrine.

I accept the Categories, De Interpretatione, Topics, Sophistici Elenchi, Eudemian Ethics, Prior Analytics, and Posterior Analytics as comparatively early. I accept the Physics, Nicomachean Ethics, De Anima, Politics, and most of the Metaphysics, as comparatively late. Strikingly, regarding the topic of this study, it seems clear that Aristotle developed an account of homonymy very early and that he relied upon some notion of homonymy - whether or not this notion itself varies -- from his earliest to his latest works. In a general way, it is safe to say that Aristotle found appeals to homonymy appropriate in nearly every subject he investigated in virtually every period of his life. More difficult is the question of whether his appeals to homonymy always come to the same; and more difficult still is the question of whether Aristotle's occasional reversals about whether a given concept qualifies as homonymous reflect a change in attitude about the concepts in question or a broader shift in his attitude about homonymy itself. I approach these questions as they arise in the text.

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Order in Multiplicity: Homonymy in the Philosophy of Aristotle
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • I - Homonymy as Such 7
  • 1 - The Varieties of Homonymy 9
  • 2 - The Promises and Problems of Homonymy 43
  • 3 - Homonymy and Signification 75
  • 4 - Core-Dependent Homonymy 103
  • II - Homonymy at Work 129
  • 5 - The Body 131
  • 6 - Oneness, Sameness, and Referential Opacity 155
  • 7 - The Meaning of Life 176
  • 8 - Goodness 194
  • 9 - The Homonymy of Being 217
  • Afterword: Homonymy's Promise Reconsidered 268
  • Bibliography 271
  • Index of Passages Cited 281
  • General Index 287
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