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Porphyry and Iamblichus on Universals
and Synonymous Predication*
In two crucial passages of the Isagoge, Porphyry presents the genus/
species relation as a kind of genealogy, the origin of which is situated in the
highest genus:
a) First, the origin of anyones birth was named a genus; and after that, the
plurality of people coming from a single origin (for example, from Hercules),
demarcating which and separating it from the others we say that the whole
assemblage of Heraclids is a genus. Again, in another sense we call a genus that
under which a species is ordered, no doubt in virtue of a similarity with the
former case; for such a genus is a sort of origin for the items under it, and it
seems also to contain the whole plurality under it
(Isag., p. 2, 7-13 Busse).
b) The items before the most special, ascending as far as the most general, are
said to be genera and species and subaltern genera
. As Agamemnon is an Atreid
and a Pelopid and a Tantalid and, finally, of Zeus. But in the case of genealogies,
for the most part they trace back the origin to a single person say to Zeus
whereas in the case of genera and species this is not so (Isag., pp. 5, 23-6, 5 Busse).
* I wish to thank Concetta Luna for reading and commenting on a earlier draft of this study.
I will make use of Jonathan Barnes translation with a few changes. Cf. J. BARNES, Porphyry.
Isagoge, Translated with an Introduction and Commentary, Clarendon Press, Oxford 2003. The
Greek text at p. 2, 12-13 reads: xoi yo p o pp ti r oti to toiou to yr vo te v u r outo xoi ooxri
xoi to ap 0o arpir riv ao v to u r outo . Barnes translation runs as follows: For such a
genus is a sort of origin for the items under it, and a plurality is held to contain everything under
it. Unfortunately, such a translation is wrong: the subject of ooxri is not to ap 0o (which can
hardly be translated as a plurality), but to toiou to yr vo; to ap 0o [] ao v to u r outo is
the object of arpir riv. The sentence is correctly translated by E. W. Warren: and it seems
also to contain the whole subordinate multitude (E. W. WARREN, Porphyry the Phoenician.
Isagoge, Translation, Introduction and Notes, The Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies,
Toronto 1975, p. 29) and by A. de Libera and A.-Ph. Segonds: et il semble embrasser toute la
multiplicit qui est sous lui (A. DE LIBERA-A.-PH. SEGONDS, Porphyre. Isagoge, Texte grec et latin,
traduction par A. D. L. et A.-PH. S., introduction et notes par A. D. L., Vrin, Paris 1998, p. 2). Also,
see Boethius translation: videturque etiam multitudinem continere omnem quae sub eo est.
Barnes suggests that a line might have dropped out of the text after u ao po yr vp at p.
6, 1 Busse. Cf. BARNES, Porphyry. Isagoge cit., p. 116.
There is a slight difference between these texts: while at p. 2, 12 Busse
Porphyry presents the whole genus as the origin (o pp ) of the items under
it (te v u r outo ), at p. 6, 4 Busse he limits the term origin to the ancestor
of the genealogy, i.e. to each of the supreme genera (the genus substance and
each of the first categories) (see Isag., p. 6, 7 Busse). However, this difference
is not highly significant and can easily be explained as a simple nuance in the
presentation: in both passages Porphyry conceives of the relation between
the genus and the subordinated items (i.e. the subordinate genera and species
down to the o toov ri oo) as a kind of genealogy, where the highest genus acts
as an origin. The genus substance is thus an analogon of the genus Heraclids,
which takes its name from the ancestor Heracles.
In Metaphysics, A, 28, Aristotle provides a list of the different meanings of
the term genus. The genealogical meaning plays an important role in this
classification (cf. Metaph., A, 28, 1024a31-36), but to the best of my
knowledge neither in Metaphysics, A, 28 nor anywhere else does Aristotle
ever describe the genus/species relation as a kind of genealogy
. Rather,
Aristotle carefully aims to distinguish the genealogy and the genus species/
relation and he conceives of the genus as a kind of matter
. Whatever the exact
meaning of this theory may be
, it obviously conflicts with Porphyrys
genealogical analogy: the progenitor of a genealogy is not a sort of material
cause of his offspring. Aristotle points out that genealogies are regularly,
though not always, named after the male ancestor, who is a first moving cause
for his offspring, rather than after the female, who only provides the matter
Porphyry presents the highest genus as the first male ancestor of a genealogy
(Zeus, Heracles), whereas Aristotle s logico-philosophical genus is a
u aoxri rvov for differences; it plays the role of a material cause for the
species and cannot be regarded as an autonomous entity acting as a moving
cause for subordinated items. According to the Porphyrian classification of
principles apud SIMPL., In Phys., 10, 25 ff. Diels = Porph. Fr. 120 Smith,
material and moving principles are designated by two different prepositional
Cf. R. CHIARADONNA, Sostanza movimento analogia. Plotino critico di Aristotele, Bibliopolis,
Neaples 2002, p. 251.
Cf. ARIST., Metaph., A, 6,1016a25-28; A, 28, 1024b6-8; Z, 12, 1038a5-6; I, 8, 1058a23-24.
On Aristotles theory of genus as matter see now M. Rasheds remarkable discussion in M.
RASHED, Aristote. De la gnration et la corruption, Texte tabli et traduit, Les Belles Lettres, Paris
2005, pp. XCVII ff. The issue was controversial also among ancient commentators: cf. ALEX.
APHR., Quaest., II. 28 o ti p p u p yr vo. The genus as matter analogy, however, was widely
accepted: cf. BARNES, Porphyry. Isagoge cit., pp. 194-197. On Alexanders views on genus and
differentia see M. RASHED, ALHQEIA FUSIS. Alexandre dAphrodise entre logique, physique et
cosmologie, De Gruyter, Berlin-New York, forthcoming.
Cf. ARIST., Metaph., A, 28, 1024a34-36.
: matter is the r ou and the moving efficient principle (to aoiou v)
is the u ou . It is not implausible that a Peripatetic genus might play the role
of an r ou , whereas Porphyrys highest genus in the Isagoge is a u ou for its
subordinated objects. Accordingly, Porphyrys genealogical conception of the
genus/species relation appears un-Aristotelian.
This is not surprising: the fact that at the very beginning of the Isagoge
Porphyry declares that he will attempt to show how the old masters and
especially the Peripatetics among them treated genera and species (Isag., 1,
14-16 Busse), should not imply that Aristotelianism is the sole philosophical
component of the Isagoge
. The same genealogical conception of the genus/
species relation is found in the pre-Porphyrean tradition
, and was widely
employed by Neoplatonists, who conceived of the o r vo relation (i.e. the
relation of dependence upon a single origin) as a derivative structure mirroring
the hierarchy of beings
. Plotinus opposes the predicative (xoivo v xoto
ao vtev) and the genealogical (o r vo ) genera, and tentatively suggests that
the o r vo relation helps explain how prior and posterior substances (i.e.
intelligible substance, matter, form and the composite of both) belong to the
same genus (VI 1 [44], 3.1-4)
The o r vo Neoplatonic genus is a hierarchy encompassing entities
which are prior and posterior by nature (e.g. the intelligible substance and the
physical one). In an important passage of his commentary on Aristotles
On this passage and its sources see J. MANSFELD, Plato, Pythagoras, Aristotle, the Peripatetics,
the Stoics, and Thales and his Followers On Causes (Ps.-Plutarchus Placita I 11 and Stobaeus
Anthologium I 13), in A. BRANCACCI ed., Antichi e moderni nella filosofia di et imperiale, Atti del
colloquio internazionale, Roma, 21-23 settembre 2000, Bibliopolis, Neaples 2001, pp. 17-68,
esp. 52-54.
According to P. Hadot the Isagoge is a blending of Platonic, Aristotelian and Stoic notions
(see P. HADOT, Porphyre et Victorinus, I, tudes Augustiniennes, Paris 1968, pp. 231-232, n. 5).
I agree with Hadots general assessment, although specific points, such as the question of
Porphyrys relation to Stoicism, are controversial. Barnes argues for a different interpretation
and maintains that many of Porphyrys doctrines in the Isagoge were current logical theories
shared by school professors; they did not convey any distinctive philosophical (Platonic,
Peripatetic or Stoic) meaning (cf. BARNES, Porphyry. Isagoge cit., pp. 129, 140 etc.). At least in the
case of the genealogical conception of the genus/species relation, Barnes conclusion does not
seem correct to me.
Cf. CIC., Top., 31; SEN., ep. 58, 8 and 12. Cf. J. MANSFELD, Heresiography in Context.
Hyppolytus Elenchos as a Source for Greek Philosophy, Brill, Leiden-New York-Kln 1992, p.
123. Further references in CHIARADONNA, Sostanza movimento analogia cit., p. 229.
See, e.g., SIMPL., In Cat., p. 77, 16 ff. Kalbfleisch. Cf. also, in previous tradition, ALCIN.,
Didasc., 163, 19-20 Hermann (use of o ao ).
Plotinus, however, does not regard the genealogical notion of genus as an appropriate way
of representing the relation between intelligible and corporeal substances. Cf. CHIARADONNA,
Sostanza movimento analogia cit., pp. 238 ff.
Physics, Simplicius argues that Aristotle was right in maintaining that motion
is not a single genus in the Aristotelian meaning of the word; motion,
however, is a genus in the Platonic hierarchical sense. This makes Aristotles
theory on the homonymy of motion in Physics I and Platos doctrine of motion
as one of the five highest genera in the Sophist two compatible alternatives:
Therefore this is one signification of genus that which is divided into
species which share equally in genus, which Aristotle rejects for change, because
the many sorts of change differ in degree of change from each other, but there
is another signification of genus by which Plato calls genera of being those
things which pervade all things in turn (to oio ao vtev te v r rp oip xovto) even
if they are not present equally nor in the same particular way to all in turn. So
it is nothing surprising if Plato calls change a genus according to this signification
of genus (SIMPL., In Phys., p. 405, 10-17 Diels, trans. J. O. Urmson).
According to Simplicius, Aristotle conceives of genera and species as
elements in individuals (otoiri o te v o to ev) and not as transcendent causes
(oi ti o r p ppr vo)
It is worth noting that in the Isagoge Porphyry mentions both the
genealogical and the hyletic meaning of the term genus. In the passages
quoted above, Porphyry presents the genus/species relation as a kind of
genealogy, but at p. 11 he expounds the standard Aristotelian doctrine of
genus as matter:
For in the case of objects which are constituted of matter and form or which
have a constitution at least analogous to matter and form, just as a statue is
constituted of bronze as matter and its figure as form, so too the common and
special man is constituted of the genus analogously to matter and of the
difference as shape, and these rational mortal animal taken as a whole are
the man, just as there they are the statue (Isag., p. 11, 12-17 Busse).
Porphyry does not point to any difference between the two meanings: the
genealogical analogy and that of genus as matter are simply used in different
passages of the Isagoge and their different meanings are never discussed. It
seems to me that the introductory character of the Isagoge offers a
straightforward explanation for this apparently disconcerting fact. At the
SIMPL., In Phys., p. 405, 21 Diels. Cf. C. LUNA, Simplicius. Commentaire sur les Catgories,
Traduction et commentaire sous la direction de I. HADOT, III, Commentaire au premier chapitre
des Catgories (p. 21-40, 13 Kalbfleisch), trad. de PH. HOFFMANN (avec la collaboration dI. HADOT,
P. HADOT et C. LUNA), commentaire et notes la traduction par C. LUNA, Brill, Leiden-New York-
Kbenhavn-Kln 1990, pp. 92-93.
beginning of the Isagoge Porphyry declares that he will limit his discussion to
an introduction and steer clear of any deep (metaphysical) account (Isag., p.
1, 7-9 Busse). Porphyrys introductory programme has often been understood
as a radical separation of logic from ontology: Porphyry would be presenting
logic as an autonomous subject, independent from ontology
. As I have
argued elsewhere in detail
, this interpretation is misleading. It would be
wrong to believe that the Isagoge has nothing to do with ontology. The set of
doctrines Porphyry is presenting in the Isagoge are not bereft of ontological
significance; rather, Porphyry simply avoids discussing this particular aspect,
which is too difficult for beginners (ontology then is not absent, but only
latent). He never claims logic to be an autonomous discipline completely
separate from ontology; what he argues is that a full account of the doctrines
he is introducing in his logical writings would require in-depth ontological
discussions, which are not suitable for an introductory work (cf. PORPH., In
Cat., p. 75, 26-29 Busse). Porphyrys Isagoge and commentary on Categories are
thus partial, introductory accounts of doctrines, the complete presentation of
which is to be found elsewhere. Porphyrys reticence is only due to pedagogical
reasons and does not point to any separation between logic and ontology.
The account of genus in the Isagoge proves this point. While Porphyry
briefly mentions the key elements of his theory of genus, a full development
of the theory, including the clear distinction between the two meanings of
genus and the discussion of their respective ontic status, is not to be found in
an introductory work such as the Isagoge. This does not imply that the
treatment of genus in the Isagoge bears no relation to such profound
developments : in the Isagoge Porphyry mentions two doctrines (the
genealogical conception of genus and the analogy of genus as matter), which
can only be properly appreciated in a wider ontological framework. The fact
that Porphyry refrains from carrying out a more detailed discussion, which
would be pedagogically inappropriate in the context, does not imply pace
Barnes that he is simply describing current logical doctrines with no
specific philosophical connotation. This point requires further clarification.
Does Porphyrys Isagoge contain any Platonic theories? This question has
often been raised, but the answers provided are often unsatisfactory. Scholars
assume that Platonism can only be said to be present in Porphyrys discussion
of genera and species to the extent that Porphyry describes universals as
autonomous entities separate from particulars (i.e. to the extent that Porphyrys
Cf. BARNES, Porphyry. Isagoge cit., and S. EBBESEN, Porphyrys Legacy to Logic. A
Reconstruction, in R. SORABJI ed., Aristotle Transformed. The Ancient Commentators and Their
Influence, Duckworth, London 1990, pp. 141-171.
genera and species in the Isagoge are conceived of as ante rem universals). One
passage in particular has occasionally been quoted to support this view:
Accidents subsist principally on (r ai ) individuals, whereas genera and species
are prior by nature to individual substances (Isag., p. 17, 9-10 Busse).
The words prior by nature (u ori apo trpo) have been interpreted as
referring to the priority of Platonic ideal genera and species. Such a view,
however, which is endorsed e.g. by Giuseppe Girgenti
, can easily be disproved.
Elsewhere (In Cat., p. 90, 12 ff. Busse) Porphyry claims that in re universals
are prior to particulars. For instance, should the universal man be removed,
Socrates would also be removed, whereas removing Socrates would not do
away with man. A species exists independently of each particular, although
each species is posterior to the whole extension of the objects under it. The
assumption that universals are prior to each subordinate particular was a
commonplace in the Peripatetic tradition
, and does not entail any Platonic
theory of ante rem universals. As Jonathan Barnes aptly observes, Porphyrys
assertion of the natural priority of genera and species is not a piece of
Platonic metaphysics
. Isag., p. 17, 9-10 Busse tells nothing about Platonic
ideas: Barnes is certainly correct in rejecting the idealistic interpretation.
This, however, does not mean that these lines have no Platonic implications.
Both Barnes and Girgenti share an over-simplified conception of (neo)Platonic
ontology. They conceive of (neo)Platonic ideas in terms of hypostatised ante
rem universal genera and species. On their view, Platonism is only found in
Porphyrys Isagoge to the extent that this work includes a reference to ante rem
Platonic universals. Things, however, are more complex than that. As a
matter of fact, Porphyrys ontology includes both transcendent and immanent
forms (cf. Sent. 19 and 42). Porphyrys theory of immanent incorporeal forms,
Cf. R. CHIARADONNA, Concetti generali, astrazioni e forme in Porfirio, in C. ERISMANN ed., De
la logique lontologie. tudes sur la philosophie de Porphyre et son influence durant lAntiquit
tardive et le haut Moyen ge, Vrin, Paris (forthcoming).
Cf. G. GIRGENTI, Porfirio. Isagoge, Rusconi, Milano 1995, p. 28.
See ALEX. APHR., Quaest., I 11, p. 24, 11-15 and 19-22 Bruns. There is a close parallelism
between Porphyrys and Alexanders views on in re universals: cf. CHIARADONNA, Concetti generali,
astrazioni e forme in Porfirio cit. (with further references); R. SORABJI, The Philosophy of the
Commentators, 200-600 AD. A Sourcebook, III, Logic and Metaphysics, Cornell University Press,
Ithaca, NY 2005, pp. 130 and 157. On Alexanders theory of universals cf. (among several
contributions) M. RASHED, Priorit de lei\ do" ou du gev no" entre Andronicos et Alexandre. Vestiges
arabes et grecs indits, Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, 14, 2004, pp. 9-63; R. SHARPLES,
Alexander of Aphrodisias on Universals. Two Problematic Texts, Phronesis, 50, 2005, pp. 43-55.
Cf. BARNES, Porphyry. Isagoge cit., p. 272.
though indebted to Peripatetic doctrines
, is part of his overall Platonic
, and is crucial to understand his conception of universal genera
and species. Words stand for
sensible entities (intelligibles are outside the
scope of ordinary language)
and immanent forms provide the ontological
correlate of Porphyrys logical universals. This doctrinal framework is partially
latent in the Isagoge and in the short commentary on Aristotles Categories,
but other non-introductory works, such as the Sentences and the commentary
on Ptolemys Harmonics, give the full logico-physical context of Porphyrys
doctrine of universal genera and species
. As I see it, then, Isag., p. 17, 9-10
Busse provides a cursory reference to Porphyrys doctrine of in re universals;
there is no reason to read transcendent forms into this passage. However,
since in re universals are part of Porphyrys Platonic ontology, Isag., p. 17, 9-
10 Busse is neither a-Platonic nor ontologically neutral.
Furthermore, it is simply wrong to state that a committed Platonist should
regard universal predicates as transcendent forms. As a matter of fact,
Neoplatonic intelligibles are universal in a qualified way
. In Plotinus, e. g.,
intelligible forms are parts of a perfectly unified whole where universality
and particularity are fully interpenetrated (Plotinus vou is an auto-reflexive
plurality aptly grasped by a self-validating intellectual intuition)
. It is worth
noting that the difference between Neoplatonic intelligible substances and
their corporeal images is not merely the difference between universal and
particular entities: the distinction between transcendent forms and sensible
substances lies rather in their respective ontological degree and causal
power. Universality and particularity exist both in the intelligible and in the
physical world, but their mutual relation varies: intelligible universals contain
their particularising differences in a perfectly unified form, whereas physical
See above, n. 16.
On Porphyrys thesis that Aristotle essentially agrees with Plato, see now G. KARAMANOLIS,
Plato and Aristotle in Agreement? Platonists on Aristotle from Antiochus to Porphyry, Clarendon
Press, Oxford 2006, pp. 243-330.
Clearly, Porphyrys notion of meaning implies no distinction between meaning and
reference. Cf. A. C. LLOYD, The Anatomy of Neoplatonism, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1990, p. 48.
PORPH., In Cat., p. 91, 7-12; p. 91, 19-27 Busse.
More details in CHIARADONNA, Concetti generali, astrazioni e forme in Porfirio cit., ID., Porphyrys
Views on the Immanent Incorporeals, in G. KARAMANOLIS-A. SHEPPARD eds., Studies in Porphyry,
Institute of Classical Studies, London, forthcoming; see also my study quoted above, n. 14.
Cf. SORABJI, The Philosophy of the Commentators, 200-600 AD. A Sourcebook, III, Logic and
Metaphysics cit., pp. 129-130.
More details in R. CHIARADONNA, Plotino e la teoria degli universali (Enn. VI 3 [44], 9), in
V. CELLUPRICA-C. D ANCONA eds., con la collaborazione di R. CHIARADONNA, Aristotele e i suoi
esegeti neoplatonici. Logica e ontologia nelle interpretazioni greche e arabe, Bibliopolis, Neaples
2004, pp. 1-35.
in re universals are somehow split among their particular instantiations
and post rem universals are abstractions of the immanent forms.
The notion of ante rem universals requires further scrutiny. Transcendent
forms can certainly be presented as universals
, but the notion of universal
as such does mostly apply to post rem abstractions and does not in itself convey
the ontological priority which characterises intelligibles. Simplicius excursus
on the three universals is particularly clear on this point. Simplicius writes:
Perhaps one should take common item (xoivo v) in three ways, the first
transcending the individuals and being the cause of the common item in them in
virtue of its single nature, as it is also the cause of the difference <between them>
in virtue of its pre-encompassing many species. [] The second common item is
the one that the different species are endowed with by their common cause and
which resides in them, like the one in each animal. The third is the common
feature established in our thoughts by means of abstraction, which is later-born
and most of all admits the notion of the non-differentiated and common
feature (SIMPL., In Cat., pp. 82,35-83,10 Kalbfleisch, trans. F. A. J. de Haas).
While all of the notions mentioned above (logical interpenetration,
intellectual intuition, degrees of being, incorporeal causal power) have
acquired a bad name among contemporary (esp. analytical) philosophers,
they are central to any understanding of later Platonism in its own terms. It
would be wrong, therefore, to identify Porphyrys Platonism with the doctrine
according to which genera and species are self-subsistent universal entities
independent of particulars and prior to them. It is worth noting here that in
his short commentary on the Categories Porphyry clearly regards 1) the
relation of particular sensible substances versus universal genera and species
and 2) the relation of particular sensible substances versus intelligible realities
as two different and separate problems
. Intelligible substances are not (or
not simply) self-subsistent universal concepts.
To sum up: some scholars argue in favour of the presence of Platonist
notions in Porphyrys Isagoge while others reject the idea. Both views share
a common assumption, i.e. that intelligibles are universal hypostatised
concepts and that Platonism can only be said to be present in Porphyrys
Isagoge if the work contains explicit references to ante rem universals. This
Cf. PORPH., Sent. 22, p. 13, 14-16 Lamberz: .. in the universal intellect even particular
beings are found in a universal mode, whereas in the particular intellect even universals are
found in a particular mode (trans. J. Dillon).
Cf. K. KREMER, Der Metaphysikbegriff in den Aristoteles-Kommentaren der Ammonius-
Schule, Aschendoffsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Mnster Westf. 1961, pp. 46 ff. and passim.
Cf. PORPH., In Cat., p. 91, 5-12 and p. 91, 23-27.
assumption, however, is wrong, and Platonism is rather to be found in the
Isagoge in the partial form we would expect to find in an introductory work.
What I have argued so far is that there are two ways in which Platonism
emerges in the Isagoge. On the one hand, the doctrine of universal genera and
species points to Porphyrys physical ontology, which is part of his broader
Platonic conception of being; on the other, in the Isagoge Porphyry briefly
describes genus in terms of an o r vo relation, and the full significance of
this theory can only be appreciated in the wider context of the Platonist
hierarchy of beings. I am not suggesting we should regard the above quoted
passages on genus as a short account of the Neoplatonic hierarchy of beings
nor do I intend to present genus in the Isagoge as a metaphysical causative
principle of the species. What I suggest is that Porphyrys remarks about the
genealogical meaning of the genus/species relation represent an initial,
partial and introductory account of a doctrine which can only be fully
appreciated in the wider framework of the Platonic hierarchy of beings.
Since the Isagoge is not a metaphysical treatise, it does not discuss the
metaphysical relevance of the genealogical meaning of genus. In this work
Porphyry mentions both the geneaological analogy (metaphysical meaning of
genus) and that of genus as matter (physical meaning) without elaborating on
their ontological basis. Simplicius commentary on the Physics provides an
idea of what Porphyrys discussion of the different meanings of genus might
have appeared like in a different context, where the ontological significance
of the doctrines presented in the Isagoge would have been clarified.
The first part of this study leads to the following conclusions: 1) Porphyrys
universal genera and species are not Platonic intelligibles; 2) Platonism in
Porphyrys logical writings takes the form of an indirect and partial allusion
to doctrines (the theory of immanent bodiless entities and the doctrine of the
hierarchy of beings), the complete significance of which only emerges in a
wider context. Two fragments of Porphyrys large commentary on the Categories
apparently contradict this interpretation, and seem explicitly to refer to
Platonic intelligibles in their account of substantial predication. Porphyry
asserts that subject and predicate in synonymous de subiecto predication
denote two different items, the o xoto toxtov and the xototrtoyr vov:
a) Porphyry says that the concept (r ai voio) of animal is twofold: one is of the
coordinated (p r v tou xototrtoyr vou) animal, and the other of the
Contra KREMER, Der Metaphysikbegriff cit., pp. 37 and 40.
uncoordinated (p or tou o xototo xtou). Thus, the uncoordinated is predicated
of the coordinated, and thereby it is different (SIMPL., In Cat., p. 53, 6-9
Kalbfleisch = Porph. Fr. 56 Smith, trans. M. Chase).
b) that which is said of a subject is not said in the same way as that which
is in a subject, but as that which is not co-ordinated is predicated of that which
is (e to o xoto toxtov tou xototrtoyr vou xotpyopri toi). For to call a particular
human being a human being is not different from calling Socrates Socrates. In
a way then it is said about itself, and it will not be predicated of something else
nor will it be in something else. In this way Porphyry too resolves the aporia,
as well as Iamblichus, who follows Porphyry to the very words (SIMPL., In Cat.,
p. 79, 24-30 Kalbfleisch = Porph. Fr. 59 Smith, trans. F. A. J. de Haas)
The word o xoto toxtov is sometimes (though not always) used by later
Platonists to denote the Platonic ante rem form
. Pierre Hadot assumed that
o xoto toxtov has the same meaning in Porphyrys account of synonymous
predication. Substantial predication would then express the metaphysical
relation of participation between sensible objects and their transcendent
forms : Le passage de l incoordonn au cordonn correspond une
concrtisation et une particularisation: le genre animal par exemple
devient sensible et visible en devenant tel animal raisonnable, tel homme
Hadots interpretation, authoritative as it may be, does not convince me.
In his short commentary on the Categories Porphyry conceives of the universal
synonymous predicate as a post rem notion:
You must recognise that individual substance does not mean just one of the
particulars, but rather all of the particular men, from whom we conceive the man
that is predicated in common, and all the particular animals, through which we
think the animal that is predicated in common. These are the cause of the being of
the common predicates (PORPH., In Cat., p. 90, 31-91, 1, Busse trans. S. K. Strange).
I fail to see how Porphyry could hold such a view in his short commentary,
only to argue in favour of a completely different doctrine in his large
commentary on the Categories (where universal predicates equal intelligible
forms). One might object that the short commentary provides a logical
Cf. SYRIAN., In Metaph., p. 98, 35 Kroll; PROCL., In Parm., II, p. 727, 19 Cousin; etc. Cf.
LLOYD, The Anatomy of Neoplatonism cit., p. 67; R. CHIARADONNA, Essence et prdication chez
Porphyre et Plotin, Revue des Sciences philosophiques et thologiques, 82, 1998, pp. 577-606,
esp. pp. 591-595 (with further references and a discussion of the previous literature).
P. HADOT, La mtaphysique de Porphyre, in Porphyre, [casa ed.], Vanduvres-Genve 1966
(Entretiens sur lAntiquit classique, XII), pp. 127-163, repr. in P. HADOT, Plotin, Porphyre.
tudes noplatoniciennes, Les Belles Lettres, Paris 1999, pp. 317-353, esp. pp. 340-341.
account of predication, whereas the larger commentary offers an ontological
interpretation of it. However, I do not find this a persuasive argument. Here
it is not correct to oppose a logical and an ontological account of synonymous
predication; rather two different ontological accounts can be opposed: one
referring to transcendent principles and the other referring to the ontology of
the physical world (immanent forms and their abstractions). As noted above,
Porphyrys account of predication in the short Categories commentary is not
merely logic, as it entails a precise ontological doctrine fully expounded in
Porphyrys Sentences and in his commentary on Ptolemys Harmonics. The
ontological basis of Porphyrys view on universals is provided by the doctrine
of immanent incorporeal forms (Sent. 19 and 42): immanent bodiless entities
are not corporeal by nature, although their actual existence is always linked
to a concrete body. According to Porphyrys conception of the physical world,
immanent forms are embodied (oeotou toi) when they are transferred into
matter (In Ptol. Harm., p. 14, 20 Dring). The soul takes the form and restores
it to its bodiless status via the process of abstraction (In Ptol. Harm., p. 14, 2-
3 and 20-21 Dring). Consequently, abstraction is not merely a logical
construct, but the act of tearing (o aooao v: cf. In Ptol. Harm., p. 13, 22 Dring)
what is immanent from matter: form is de-materialised and stored in the
. As I have argued elsewhere
, parallels between the short commentary
on the Categories, the Sentences and the commentary on Ptolemys Harmonics
strongly suggest that Porphyry identified the universal synonymous predicates
with the abstractions of immanent incorporeal forms. For instance, if one
claims that Socrates is a man, the universal man an abstraction of the
immanent form man is being predicated of one of its particular
instantiations, i.e. the form man in Socrates
See the list in PORPH., Sent., 42, p. 53, 6-11 Lamberz.
Cf. I. MUELLER, Aristotles doctrine of abstraction in the Commentators, in SORABJI ed.,
Aristotle Transformed cit., pp. 463-480 esp. 479.
See CHIARADONNA, Concetti generali, astrazioni e forme in Porfirio cit., and Porphyrys Views
on the Immanent Incorporeals cit.
The xototrtoyr vov is the immanent common nature residing in things, which is distributed
among its instances (cf. SORABJI, The Philosophy of the Commentators, 200-600 AD. A Sourcebook,
III, Logic and Metaphysics cit., p 133). See also the related (probably Iamblichean) notion of to
o toe0r v ri oo ([SIMPL.], In De An., p. 217, 36 Hayduck): cf. M. RASHED, Un texte proto-byzantin
sur les universaux et la trinit, forthcoming). I cannot discuss here the following questions which
deserve further scrutiny: 1) What is the status of the xototrtoyr vov in Porphyrys hierarchy of
beings (the xototrtoyr vov man is certainly not the individual intelligible soul, but it should be
conceived of as a derivation of it: on Porphyrys distinction between transcendent and
embodied soul cf. KARAMANOLIS, Plato and Aristotle in Agreement? cit., pp. 287 ff.)? 2) How can
statements about non-existent objects be accounted for (for a tentative hypothesis cf. CHIARADONNA,
Essence et prdication chez Porphyre et Plotin cit., p. 595 n. 90)? 3) What is the logical and
ontological structure of false predications?
If one assumes the xototrtoyr vov to refer to the immanent incorporeal
form, and the o xoto toxtov to its abstraction, all opposition between Porphyrys
short and larger commentaries on the Categories disappears. In his Ad Gedalium
commentary Porphyry would then be providing a more detailed account of
the same doctrine discussed in his short commentary on Categories, where the
ontological background of the doctrine of universals and synonymous
predication is made explicit. This appears a plausible solution, which is
substantiated by further considerations. Transcendent forms and sensible
objects are not synonymous, since they belong to different levels in the
metaphysical hierarchy of being. The Idea of man and the physical man are
not man in the same sense. This being the case, I fail to see how Porphyry
could straightforwardly present the ante rem form as a synonymous predicate
of its sensible particular instantiations. Such a problem, however, does not
present itself on my interpretation, since the immanent form and its abstraction
are the same form in two different conditions: in the first case the form is
associated with matter as it actually exists, whereas in the second case it is
separated from matter by the soul. The two conditions are synonymous in the
Aristotelian sense and nothing prevents the abstraction of the immanent form
from being a synonymous predicate of its particular instantiations.
In his exegesis of Aristotles Categories Porphyry carefully makes limited
references to transcendent forms. He clearly maintains that logical genera
and species refer to sensible beings (PORPH., In Cat., pp. 56, 29-32; 58, 5-29;
91, 5-12 Busse), whereas intelligibles lie outside the scope of the categories
(PORPH., In Cat., p. 91, 25-27 Busse). The ontological foundation of Porphyrys
logic lies in his conception of the physical world. This situation radically
changed with Iamblichus exegesis
. According to Simplicius, Iamblichus
mostly followed Porphyry, but with some crucial differences:
After Porphyry, the divine Iamblichus also devoted a lengthy treatise to this
book. For the most part, he followed Porphyry right down to the letter, but he
picked out some things and articulated them in order to make them more clear.
At the same time, he contracted the scholastic long-windedness Porphyry had
used against the objections; and he applied his Intellective Theory (tp v vorpo v
0repi ov) everywhere, to almost all of the chapter-heading (SIMPL., In Cat., p.
2, 9-14 Busse = fr. 00 Larsen, trans. M. Chase)
D. P. TAORMINA, Jamblique critique de Plotin et de Porphyre. Quatre tudes, Vrin, Paris 1999
(Tradition de la pense classique) provides a detailed assessment of Porphyrys and Iamblichus
different positions.
Simplicius points to a second peculiarity of Iamblichus commentary, i.e. the reference to
Ps.-Archytas Phythagorean treatise on categories (SIMPL., In Cat., p. 2, 15 ff. Kalbfleisch).
Iamblichus vorpo 0repi o certainly entailed a thorough Neoplatonisation
of Aristotles Categories
, and the theory of intelligible, transcendent beings
played a decisive role in Iamblichus exegesis. Iamblichus commentary no
doubt included several passages on metaphysics
. Such an attitude conflicts
with the physical foundation of Porphyry s conception of categories.
Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to get a precise idea of what exegetical
methods Porphyry and Iamblichus employed in their large commentaries on
the Categories, since both these works are now lost. Simplicius commentary,
however, makes it possible to get an approximate idea of what Porphyrys and
Iamblichus different approaches might have been. Simplicius repeatedly
points out that Iamblichuss work was very close to Porphyrys (SIMPL., In
Cat., pp. 2, 11; 79, 29-30). It seems plausible, then, to infer that Iamblichus
began with Porphyrys interpretation and presented his vorpo 0repi o as its
development. I believe the first of the two passages on the o xoto toxtov/
xototrtoyr vov distinction quoted above provides a good example of this
attitude. Just after the reference to Porphyry, Simplicius adds:
Iamblichus, however, says that it is not genera which are predicated of
substrata, but other things in virtue of these (r trpo oio tou to). For when we say,
Socrates is a man, we are not saying he is the generic (yrvixo v) Man, but rather
that he participates in the generic Man, just as saying that the vine is white is
the same as saying it bears white grapes, since the vine is so called by reference
to its fruit. Aristotle made clear distinctions with regard to these matters in the
Metaphysics. Here, however, he has used meanings in a more common way, as
we also do when we say that definitions are from genus and differentiae: here
we do not take genus in the proper sense, but are using it instead of case (o vti
tp ate ore), which is explained by participation in the generic (SIMPL., In
Cat., p. 53, 9-18 = fr. 16 Larsen, trans. M. Chase slightly modified).
This passage is extremely obscure
. As I previously argued, Porphyry
conceives of the substantial genus of Aristotles Categories as an in re physical
Cf. J. M. DILLON, Iamblichus Noera; Qewriv a of Aristotles Categories, Syllecta Classica,
8, 1997, pp. 65-77; R. L. CARDULLO, La Noera; Qewriv a di Giamblico come chiave di lettura delle
Categorie di Aristotele: alcuni esempi, Syllecta Classica, 8, 1997, pp. 79-94.
Cf. P. HADOT, Lharmonie des philosophies de Plotin et dAristote selon Porphyre dans le
commentaire de Dexippe sur les Catgories, in Plotino e il Neoplatonismo in Oriente e in
Occidente, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Roma 1974, pp. 31-47, repr. in HADOT, Plotin,
Porphyre. tudes noplatoniciennes cit., pp. 355-382.
Cf. A.C. LLOYD, Neoplatonists Account of Predication and Medieval Logic, in Le
Noplatonisme, Actes du Congrs international sur la Noplatonisme, Royaumont, 9-13 juin
1969, CNRS, Paris 1971, pp. 357-364, esp. p. 359 and C. LUNA, Simplicius. Commentaire sur les
Catgories dAristote. Chapitres 2-4, Traduction par PH. HOFFMANN avec la collaboration de I.
HADOT et P. HADOT, commentaire par C. LUNA, Les Belles Lettres, Paris 2001, pp. 429-430.
form, the actual existence of which is always linked to a concrete body. The in
re form is separated from matter by the soul, and the synonymous predicate of
Aristotles Categories is the universal abstraction of the immanent form. Porphyry
certainly regarded immanent forms and incorporeals as derivative beings, the
existence of which ultimately depends on transcendent realities; the reference
to intelligible beings, however, remains outside the scope of predication and
categories. The real correlate of universal genera and species is provided by
physical incorporeals and not by transcendent forms. Apparently, Iamblichus
took over Porphyrys formulas (SIMPL., In Cat., p. 79, 29-30 Kalbfleisch),
starting from the o xoto toxtov/xototrtoyr vov distinction, and further developed
Porphyrys speculations in a different direction. While Porphyrys genus is a
physical form, Iamblichus points out that the genus is a transcendent ante rem
form and that physical individuals participate in it (SIMPL., In Cat., p. 53, 10-12
Kalbfleisch). For Iamblichus, the generic man is not the embodied form of
man, but the transcendent form. Such an interpretation gives rise to a crucial
exegetical problem: how can the generic/intelligible form of Man be a
synonymous predicate of its corporeal instantiations? As I understand it,
Iamblichus solution presents the synonymous predication as an improper way
of expressing the participation of corporeal beings in their transcendent form.
Unsurprisingly enough, Iamblichus insists that (intelligible) genera are not
properly predicated of physical individuals: they belong to different levels in
the hierarchy of being and it cannot be maintained that Socrates, for instance,
is the intelligible form of Man. Rather, other things (r trpo) are predicated
in virtue of the genera (oio tou to: SIMPL., In Cat., p. 53, 10 Kalbfleisch)
Obscure as it may be, this formula suggests that essential predication properly
refers to the participation of corporeal beings in their intelligible forms, and
not to the forms themselves (SIMPL., In Cat., p. 53, 17-18 Kalbfleisch). Iamblichus
would then be arguing that the genus (i.e. the intelligible) is not a proper
predicate of the corporeal individual: in essential predication other things
(i.e. the sensible participations of the intelligible forms) are predicated of the
individuals in virtue of the transcendent genera. Socrates is man is thus an
According to Iamblichus, other things (i.e. the participations of the genera) are predicated
of their subjects in virtue of the genera (oio tou to: tou to is anaphoric), since transcendent
genera provide the basis (oio ) for this kind of predication (cf. the vine is white example in the
following lines), though they are not properly predicated in themselves. As I understand it, the
oio tou to refers to the peculiar function of the transcendent genus in xoto o voopo v predication.
I am inclined to disagree with C. Lunas interpretation of this passage. According to LUNA,
Simplicius. Commentaire sur les Catgories dAristote. Chapitres 2-4 cit., p. 430, n. 1, oio tou to
does not refer to yr vp but means pour les raisons que voici, car il est absurde de dire que
des choses autres que les genres (r trpo) sont prdiques des sujets laide des genres ou
travers les genres ou par lintermdiaire des genres.
inadequate way of expressing the fact that the corporeal Socrates participates
in the transcendent form of Man.
Porphyrys and Iamblichus accounts of predications are based on different
ontological foundations. Porphyrys predication mirrors the physical relation
between a sensible particular and its immanent bodiless form; Iamblichus
predication (improperly) mirrors the metaphysical relation between a sensible
particular and its ante rem form. Hence, in his exegesis Iamblichus refers to
the notion of ontological derivation. Iamblichus compares the synonymous
predication Socrates is Man to the formula the vine is white (SIMPL., In Cat.,
p. 53, 12-14 Kalbfleisch). Both are improper ways of expressing a condition
which involves a reference to something else not explicitly mentioned in the
predicative statement: Socrates is man means that Socrates participates in
the form of man; the vine is white means that the vine bears white grapes.
Accordingly, Socrates is called man in virtue of the reference to his ante rem
form; the vine is called white in virtue of the reference to its fruit.
The vine is white example was not new. It also occurs in the pseudo-
Galenic treatise De qualitatibus incorporeis (ll. 306-317 Giusta). In his anti-
Stoic polemics, the author of this treatise
opposes two ways of treating
corporeal affections (ao 0p). The Stoics mistakenly conceive of affections as
bodies. While this view should be rejected, affections may correctly be termed
bodies via reference to something else: they are not bodies in their own
nature, but they always occur in bodies (there is no affection if there are no
agent and patient bodies). The vine is white example instantiates the method
of naming in accordance with reference-back (xoto o voopo v) (ll. 308-309
Giusta, trans. I. Kupreeva)
. The vine is not white in itself, but is called white
in virtue of its white grapes
. Iamblichus certainly took this textbook example
from the previous tradition and employed it in his own account of predication.
The predication Socrates is man is thus analogous to the predication the
affection is a body: in both cases, the predicate is not a proper attribute of the
subject, but it refers to something else (the bodies that act or are acted upon
and the ante rem form) which provides the basis for the predication.
Ingenious as it may be, Iamblichus interpretation clearly has no textual
basis in Aristotles Categories
. This is the chief problem the second part of
The treatise is usually dated to the second century AD, see I. KUPREEVA, Qualities and
Bodies: Alexander against the Stoics, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, 25, 2003, pp. 297-
344, esp. p. 304.
Cf. IAMBL. apud SIMPL., In Cat., p. 53, 13-14 Kalbfleisch: xoto o voopo v tp v r ai to v xopao v
ou te ou tp xoour vp.
For a detailed discussion of this text cf. KUPREEVA, Qualities and Bodies: Alexander against
the Stoics cit., pp. 318-319.
According to LLOYD, Neoplatonists Account of Predication and Medieval Logic cit., p. 359
Iamblichus position is totally non-Aristotelian.
the passage quoted above is faced with. Iamblichus briefly refers to the
Metaphysics in order to find clear distinctions concerning these matters (SIMPL.,
In Cat., p. 53, 14-15 Kalbfleisch). The general purpose of Iamblichus reference
is clear: in his Metaphysics Aristotle provides a full treatment of his ontological
theory of substance and predication which involves a detailed discussion of the
notion of form. I must admit, however, that I am unable to provide an exact
parallel for Iamblichus developments. The final lines of the passage refer back
to the Categories (SIMPL., In Cat., p. 53, 15 ff. Kalbfleisch). Following conventional
exegetical methods, Iamblichus emphasises the introductory character of the
treatise, which explains why Aristotle presents the generic man as a proper
predicate of the sensible particulars. Aristotle does not discuss the ontological
basis of this doctrine in depth, nor does he make it clear that the generic man
is not properly predicated of its sensible instantiations.
Iamblichus closing remark deserves close scrutiny. Iamblichus significantly
employs the notion of ate oi: when, in his introductory discussions, Aristotle
presents the genus as a predicate, he improperly uses the genus instead of its
case (SIMPL., In Cat., p. 53, 13 Kalbfleisch). I am inclined to believe that ate oi
here should be read in its Aristotelian sense, i.e. as a derivative flexion(such
as grammatical or courageous) which is paronymous to the substantive form
and derives from it (grammatical and courageous are both adjectival forms
which derive from grammar and courage respectively)
. The philosophical
significance of Aristotles paronymy is still an open question: does the linguistic
derivation of the ate oi also express an ontological relation of dependence?
Whatever the original Aristotelian meaning of this doctrine
, it is well known
that later Platonists used paronymy to describe the derivation of lower realities
from their principles
. Iamblichus reference to the ate oi broadly agrees with
this Neoplatonist conception: he points out that Aristotle improperly uses the
genus instead of the ate oi, where this notion refers to to the participation of
physical things in their ante rem form.
Iamblichus exegesis bears remarkable consequences. Aristotle sharply
distinguishes essential predication from paronymous predication (Top., II, 2,
109b4-12; 111)
: substantial predicates are synonymous and are not
predicated of their subject in the paronymous form, whereas non-substantial
predicates need to be declined in order to be attributed to substances. It
Cf. ARIST., Cat., 1, 1a12-15.
Cf. K. OEHLER, Aristoteles. Kategorien, bersetzt und erlutert, Akademie, Berlin 1997,
pp. 198 ff.
Cf. HADOT, Porphyre et Victorinus, I cit., pp. 361-363.
Cf. J. VUILLEMIN, De la logique la thologie. Cinq tudes sur Aristote, Flammarion, Paris
1967, p. 73: Aristote ne donne jamais dexemple de paronymes tirs de substances.
cannot be said that Socrates is courage: the paronymous form Socrates is
courageous is required. Instead, it would be correct to claim that Socrates is
man. According to Iamblichus, however, this is not the case, and the
predication Socrates is man is as improper as Socrates is courage. Man
improperly occurs in the predication instead of its ate oi: it is tempting to
suppose that Iamblichus is referring here to an adjectival construction like
human. Such a paronymous form would correctly refer to the participation
of Socrates in its transcendent form.
Iamblichus, then, presents the synonymous predication Socrates is man
as an improper way of asserting that Socrates is human, i.e. that Socrates
participates in the intelligible form of man. This exegesis blurs Aristotles
distinction between essential synonymous and accidental paronymous
predication and gives rise to several problems. For instance, it would be
interesting to know whether, and in what way, Iamblichus distinguished the
status of the paronymous predicates human and courageous with respect to
the subject Socrates. Difficulties such as these, however, cannot be avoided
if Aristotles theory of predication is used (as is the case in Iamblichus vorpo
0repi o) to express the Platonic relation of participation.
Porphyrys interpretation of Aristotles theories of genus and substantial
predication is based on two related assumptions: 1) that a clear separation
exists between logic and metaphysics (= doctrine of transcendent realities);
2) that there is a close relation between logic and physics. Since Porphyrys
physics is part of his ontology, logic and ontology (i.e. the logic and the
ontology of the physical world) stand in close relation with each other.
Porphyry only makes very partial references to metaphysics in his logical
works. What I have argued is that Porphyrys conception of genus in the Isagoge
reflects the Platonic theory of the hierarchy of beings, since Porphyry presents
his genus as a o r vo hierarchical relation. This, on the other hand, does not
imply that Porphyrys treatment of genus in the Isagoge refers to transcendent
ante rem principles. Porphyry carefully introduces a doctrine in the Isagoge, the
complete significance of which emerges in a different context: the Porphyrean
tree is thus a mere analogon of the Platonic hierarchy of beings.
The presence of physical doctrines is far more essential to Porphyrys
views of universals and predication. Physical entities such as bodiless
immanent forms provide real correlates for Porphyrys universal predicates:
Aristotles substantial predication mirrors the relation between a particular
and its immanent form. Physical forms are not outside the scope of logic;
rather, they provide the real foundation for Porphyrys views on predication.
Such a foundation is presented in a introductory way in Porphyrys logical
writings, and is only made explicit in his more systematic works.
Iamblichus attitude is different in that his Platonising of Aristotles logic
is more direct and pervasive. Consequently, Iamblichus offers a Platonising
reading of the Aristotelian theory of substantial predication which refers to
ante rem genera and to the metaphysical relation of participation. Iamblichus
is well aware that an ante rem form cannot be a universal synonymous predicate
of its particular instantiations, and he conceives of substantial predication as
a paronymous relation. Neither Porphyry nor Iamblichus believe that an ante
rem form can be predicated synonymously of corporeal individuals.