Aristotle, Categories, Section 1

Discussion of Greek texts that do not fall into the other categories, including texts in other dialects or texts from other periods.
Forum rules
This is not a beginner's forum, competence in Greek is assumed.
Post Reply
Mike Baber
Posts: 97
Joined: May 30th, 2011, 11:25 pm
Location: Texas

Aristotle, Categories, Section 1

Post by Mike Baber » November 12th, 2013, 8:00 pm

I have a general understanding of Aristotle's philosophy, but I want to have a precise understanding of his Greek.

So, here's the first line of Categories.
Ὁμώνυμα λέγεται ὧν ὄνομα μόνον κοινόν, ὁ δὲ κατὰ τοὔνομα λόγος τῆς οὐσίας ἕτερος...
λέγεται - "is called"
Ὁμώνυμα = "homonyms"
ὄνομα μόνον κοινόν = only a common name
ὁ δὲ κατὰ τοὔνομα λόγος τῆς οὐσίας ἕτερος = but the definition of the essence corresponding to the name is different

1. Do you have any critiques of the above?
2. Also, I don't know about ὧν...I suppose it's neuter gender in this context, definitely genitive case. But, how to translate it?
3. Finally, what is the subject of λέγεται (which appears to be conjugated according to a singular subject)?

Thank you in advance.
0 x



cwconrad
Posts: 2112
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:52 pm
Location: Burnsville, NC 28714
Contact:

Re: Aristotle, Categories, Section 1

Post by cwconrad » November 15th, 2013, 10:38 am

Mike Baber wrote:I have a general understanding of Aristotle's philosophy, but I want to have a precise understanding of his Greek.

So, here's the first line of Categories.
Ὁμώνυμα λέγεται ὧν ὄνομα μόνον κοινόν, ὁ δὲ κατὰ τοὔνομα λόγος τῆς οὐσίας ἕτερος...
λέγεται - "is called"
Ὁμώνυμα = "homonyms"
ὄνομα μόνον κοινόν = only a common name
ὁ δὲ κατὰ τοὔνομα λόγος τῆς οὐσίας ἕτερος = but the definition of the essence corresponding to the name is different

1. Do you have any critiques of the above?
2. Also, I don't know about ὧν...I suppose it's neuter gender in this context, definitely genitive case. But, how to translate it?
3. Finally, what is the subject of λέγεται (which appears to be conjugated according to a singular subject)?.
ὁμώνυμα is a predicate of an implicit neuter plural substantive meaning "things"; λέγεται is singular because neuter plural subjects commonly do take singular verbs; hence, λέγεται = "are called" or "are termed"; ὁμώνυμα = "homonymous" or "having the same name".

ὧν is gen. pl. n.; its antecedent is that implicit substantive meaning "things" (it might be χρήματα, it might be πράγματα, it really doesn't matter).
In the clause, ὧν ὄνομα μόνον κοινόν, understand κοινόν ἐστιν: "the name of which only is common" or "of which only the name is common."

You've understood the final clause correctly. In sum: "Things that have only the name in common but are different in substance are called homonymous." That's not literal, but the Greek doesn't lend itself to decent literal formulation in English.

Aristotelian style takes some getting used to; it's very economical/elliptical -- whatever can be understood as implicit is omitted. I remember working through the Nicomachean Ethics in my third year of college Greek and gradually realizing that the "trick" in reading Aristotle is to get a handle on how pronominal reference works in his sentences; the greatest puzzle was often determining the referent of a neuter pronoun. The economy of expression requires the reader to expand what's offered in the Greek text to expose what's not directly stated but implicit there.
0 x
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Post Reply

Return to “Other Greek Texts”