The Promises and Problems of Homonymy
Having established the general framework of Aristotle's approach to homonymy, I turn to a consideration of his reasons for believing that we should take his various appeals to homonymy seriously. We have seen that Aristotle recognizes both discrete homonyms and associated homonyms and that, crucially, among the latter, he sees a special philosophical role for core-dependent homonyms. We have not seen, however, that he is right to detect homonymy as often as he does; nor have we seen that any given concept of philosophical significance actually behaves in the way Aristotle maintains. So, we do not yet know whether Aristotle's various appeals to homonymy should sway us.
One way of beginning to assess the force of Aristotle's claims involves reflecting on the uses to which he puts homonymy. There are two principal uses, one critical and one constructive. These uses correspond in a fairly direct way to the two kinds of homonymy we have identified. On the critical side, Aristotle needs to show that his predecessors go wrong by assuming univocity when a term is in fact equivocal; on the constructive side, he needs to show that a term, though equivocal, is nevertheless not discrete, but associated, perhaps in a core-dependent way. I begin by considering Aristotle's critical and constructive uses of homonymy. I then turn to the sorts of tests for establishing non-univocity upon which Aristotle relies. Next, I reflect more deeply on what is required for establishing association and core-dependence. I do not claim in any general way in this chapter that Aristotle's methods for establishing non-univocity and association fail or succeed; indeed, we must determine success or failure on a case-by-case basis. Instead, I sketch Aristotle's general methods, together with the sorts of problems they invite. These problems, as I conceive them, are the sorts of objections likely to be mounted by a Platonist who is unprepared to take Aristotle's appeals at face value. The degree to which we should take Aristotle's appeals to homonymy seriously depends upon his ability to meet these sorts of objections.